The Emptiness that Leads to Suicide

Acton Forum contacted several religious leaders in Acton and Boxborough requesting a seasonal message. After reading the article in the Boston Globe from 12/16 about suicides among young people from our communities, many of us are left with more questions than answers. Perhaps some inspirational messages from the leadership from our representative faiths can bring us together and offer support to our community in this Holiday season. The second response is from Reverend Bradley Johnson

The recent suicides over the last several years in Acton and Boxborough are in every way painful tragedies. Family and friends will often struggle for years to face the loss of someone who has taken their own life. The questions and self-guilt may never go away. The grassroots group AB Cares has coordinated many resources to both help after a suicide event and to discuss and provide possible preventive measures. This brings me to my thoughts for writing. As a member of the clergy who has devoted my life to sharing with people about the God who loves them, I sometimes find it almost impossible to know how to help people apart from my faith. Our post-modern culture is more and more distancing itself from religion of any kind. Hear me, I’m not even advocating for evangelical Christianity (my personal belief system). In regards to suicide, I’m advocating for the place a person’s spiritual life carries in giving purpose and understanding to the world we live in. Blaise Pascal said,

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

I believe this “God-shaped vacuum” in each of us can only be filled by one’s spiritual life. The emptiness and despaired that leads to suicide can’t be filled with a sports championship or a college degree or a successful job or deep relationships with others (all of which I’ve experienced). These can be very important to a person and certainly life goals are often what motivate us. But I don’t believe this is all that life is about.

In a few days many will be celebrating Christmas Day. Christians believe that Jesus came to fix the mess of this world and offer us a hope and a future that can decrease the stress and despair of the world. I know it’s not some fool-proof method to eliminate suicide, since a few years ago a young lady I know, who was a 2001 AB grad, committed suicide and she was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. But what I do believe is that God is a major answer to the emptiness that many feel in this fast-paced, often lonely, and harsh world.

During this holiday season, find a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service to attend. Make a New Year’s resolution to seek out a place of worship and ask God to meet you there. My personal suggestion is to find a place that teaches about the biblical message of Jesus Christ.

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