Twenty years old, scholarships, friends, big dreams of success, dead. Why would this young person, and many others, throw his or her life away? For the sake of information I will make generalizations based on personal experience both direct and indirect. It might seem arrogant—and it might well be—but I will try to tell you why the young die.
Sure, we have our whole lives ahead of us, so much potential, so many opportunities, so much to live for, but to what end? The problem is the culture we live in now. We are an instant society: instant potatoes, instant TV, instant information, instant gratification. This generation, my generation, has no patience. We don’t take the time to think, the time to express, the time to find a solution to our instant problems. Society sets goals like fame and wealth in front of us and then asks us why we haven’t gotten there yet.
Our generation is one of pessimism. There is no hope for the future. The economy is tanking, Social Security won’t exist by the time we retire, and the world sure won’t be the same. Every day seems to paint our world a little darker. Crime is on the rise. The news is saturated with tragedy, horror, and grief. God is disappearing from our schools, being shoved out of our government, and fading from our lives.
We are wandering around in a world we no longer recognize, making mistakes that could have been avoided. Anger and rebellion cause us to act foolishly and live with consequences and regrets. We can’t stand to be around other people because we look at their actions through a lens of failure. We can’t stand to be around ourselves because of what we have been or done.
When there is no patience, no hope, and no one to turn to for comfort or support, what is left? I’ll tell you: darkness, pain, hate, revenge, guilt, self loathing, confusion, fear, despair, and worst of all nothing. We are left in a vacuum, trapped, with all of these negative emotions piling on top of us without being able to hold onto anything. Can you fathom feeling the crushing guilt because you tried to stop loving your alcoholic mother because she can’t love herself and keeps trying to kill herself? All the while you can’t bring yourself to blame her because you understand the unbearable nothingness. Can you grasp the pain of knowing that the only place that has felt like home in years is closing and the only people who have felt like family are dispersing? Now can you imagine feeling all of those things like they were happening to someone else standing inside your skin? Can you imagine a numbness so powerful that all emotion is blotted out and even physical pain stops short to the point that you can’t even build up to a full headache? Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that the world as you know it is ending and not feel the slightest hint of fear or remorse or pain?
The non-feeling creates a conflict. You know you should be feeling something and you’re not. It’s like having dry heaves: the constant need but inability to purge. The discomfort is so intense you wish you could just eat something so you could throw up and be done with it. You want to play chicken with another car or a freight train to force adrenaline through your body in hopes of feeling a surge of something, anything. You want to cut yourself, to feel physical pain as a replacement for the emotional pain you can’t feel. You want to bleed it out, feel something just to know that you’re still alive though you wish you weren’t. You try everything to keep yourself alive but when that fails you want to put a bullet in your head or poison in your body to end the nothingness, the non-feeling.
You ask me how I can say all these horrible, morbid things. Who am I and why should you listen to me? The answer is simple. I am nobody, but I have been to Nowhere and drank deep of the nothingness. When you are there the bitterness is so strong all you want to do is spit it out. You can’t think of a way to escape because the desire to purge is so strong. The only way to get out of Nowhere is for someone to voluntarily go there and take you away. Someone has to intentionally immerse him/herself in your pain and carry you out.
The scary thing about Nowhere is that it distorts things in your mind. It turns friends into enemies, and hope into despair. You fight against hope because you feel it just isn’t worth the pain. You fight against love because you are convinced it is a lie. You fight against your friends because you don’t understand why they want you back. You fight against life because it has no point and you believe everyone would be better off without you dragging them down.
I was fortunate. I had multiple people who entered my personal Hell and refused to leave without me. They prayed for me, waited for me, pushed me forward, shouted their encouragement, refused to coddle me, and never gave up on me. They didn’t pretend to understand and they didn’t tell me to just get over it. They didn’t have to understand what I was going through exactly as long as they showed me they cared.
Jesus died so we could have a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). But how can this generation know of a hope that is true, a hope that won’t let them down, when God is being crowded out of the picture? The best thing we can do to stop the death of our young people is show them Jesus, show them love, show them hope before it is too late. Now, don’t rush out with your Bible in hand and beat it into your friends. I said “show” them not “tell” them. Words are empty but actions cut deep and heal deeper. Even Christians struggle with the lack of hope in our world. We are not perfect. We can’t be when we prefer to talk rather than act. There is even hope for us. Yes, I am one of those Christians that likes to talk too much but I am learning to listen more.
I believe the only two things that kept me alive through this horrible ordeal were the knowledge that an all powerful and loving God held my life in his hands, and the love and support of my family and friends. I hated being lost in depression, but what I hated worse was being ignored and misunderstood. My goal in life is to help people find their second, or third, or fiftieth chance, however many it takes to save a life.