Hello? Is Anybody Home?
[ Extracted and edited from D2Y2 Magazine, May – June 1996, Issue 3]
“I wake up almost every morning thinking about my life and what I see just makes me want to go back to sleep. In fact I think of sleeping and not waking up, if you know what I mean.”
These were the words of a friend of mine who had openly shared his personal worries with me. These were very honest words shared in an almost too relaxed and jovial manner. He laughed at himself right after finishing that sentence. I didn’t. I could only manage a smile as I fixed my eyes directly into his, drew closer to him with the most sensitive and loving approach I knew how.
His laugh tried to hide the real issue that was in his heart. My seriousness attempted to assure him that I was there for him, ready to listen, to counsel, to help and to draw out of him the truth of the matter. Too many times people come together putting on face masks. They joke, they laugh, they make small talk.
Artificiality Fills The Air
There are no true friendships built in these gatherings and none strengthened. There is very little help a weary soul can get in a party of friends these days. I have been guilty of being all talk but no substance. The “live wire” of a party they would call me, only to find myself going home empty, unfulfilled and sometimes frustrated.
I was not prepared to make the same mistake again. I wanted to make this party worthwhile. I wanted to encourage this friend of mine before the night was over. And so I did. I spent just about the whole evening making him see that there was hope. This is extremely important when dealing with a person who is thinking about ending it all.
My thoughts have returned often to that night when my friend left the party with a big smile of relief and hope on his face. One day in particular, this memory provoked a whole army of other related thoughts which have formed in essence the way this article has been written.
I believe that there exist a deeper issue than mere success. It is the issue that every human heart has to deal with – the issue of acceptance.
The Pressure To Succeed
It is well known by many that Japan was once with the highest suicide rate in the world. Whether the statistics were true or not was not my concern, what I was interested to find out was the root cause for such fatal actions. A quick look at Japan and one would agree that the pressure to succeed has become a stronghold in the lives of the majority.
Many of those who have been found to have taken their own lives are those who did not do well in their exams. Doing well in their exams was their only hope to succeed in life. It was difficult for me however to accept that the reason why young people or anyone for that matter would commit suicide was because of a piece of paper or the lack of it. I believe that there exist a deeper issue than mere success. It is the issue that every human heart has to deal with – the issue of acceptance.
Achieving success is equally important even in our own Malaysian context. Do our Malaysian youths face less pressure? No way. Ask any student who is preparing for a major exam and they will let you know quite clearly that they are only this far from throwing in the towel.
I remember the days when I had to sit for my law exams. My parents were not financially strong. I could not afford to retake any of my exams. My seniors had conflicting views of how difficult the papers were going to be. I wanted to do well. I could already see myself as a lawyer, making lots of money, driving around town in my favourite car, wearing designer clothes and travelling first class to my dream destinations. Oh! the pressure to succeed.
Such anxiety has the power to make your whole future past before your eyes, and oh, how bleak and dark it looked.
Then I remembered on one occasion, while sitting for a tough paper, how the dissatisfaction of not being able to answer the questions in full got me really worried. I still remember breaking out in cold sweat just thinking about the likely possibility of failing that paper. Such anxiety has the power to make your whole future past before your eyes, and oh, how bleak and dark it looked.
Rise Above Circumstances
Before I turned into a complete wreck, God was merciful to show me the faces of my parents. Facial expressions that I had seen before, when I last failed an exam. They were faces of love and understanding. I would not say that they were not disappointed, but what I will say is that despite the disappointment, they still accepted me as I was – their beloved son. And I knew I could count on that again.
As I concluded with this thought, the anxiety left me. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of me. I chose to surrender the result of that paper to the Lord.I was going home to a family who loved me and who was ready to stand by me no matter what happened. I began to have hope again.
I dwelt only on the positive and as I did that, I was able to recollect my thoughts and focus on what I had to do. With this, I knew I had done my best, and to my parents, that was good enough. You could say that I had received the faith to rise above my circumstances. To have faith is to have hope (Hebrews 11:1). And hope comes from knowing that you have a home to return to (Hebrews 11:9-10 & 14-16).
Hope Is Having A Home To Go Back To
These days many families return to their houses, not their homes. Hope is being accepted by those who are closest to you. Hope is knowing that you need not stand alone. Hope gives a sense of purpose to persevere. It gives a sense of self-worth.
With this in mind, I began to think again about the suicide cases I had come to hear about. How many of them had this hope that I had just mentioned? In fact many, if not all, had come from homes which were broken.
Broken in the proximity which children were made to have with their parents and parents with their children. Homes in which the children are left with the perception, whether true or false, that acceptance is to be earned with a heavy price.
Homes where though the whole family may be intact yet each individual member felt so alone inside. The modern day broken home is a situation where either everybody is out of the house all the time or where everybody’s in but really, no one’s home. These are homes that suffer from communication breakdown.
I believe God has given parents the responsibility to always instill hope into the lives of their children. They are to encourage them, never to discourage. To build up and not to tear down. To understand and not to misunderstand. Accept, not judge.
Children must be given the confidence, liberty and most importantly time, to approach their parents as their best friends, their role models, their confidantes, their mentors and even their refuge and only hope who will stick by them no matter what. If they can’t find these in their parents, they will look elsewhere for sure. And if that elsewhere is not in God, then they are sure to be disappointed again.
When everyone else said they were going to die, you spend your time looking for the only thing that could keep them alive.
Story Of A Lost Hope
One particular example will forever remain in my memory. It is the story of one so very close to me who had ended her life for the lost of hope. (For the sake of identification within this article, she will be referred to as “A”.)
A’s father and mother had been divorced since A was three. For many years, A was very close to her father. He was A’s role-model and hero. Through the years, as A was growing, communication between her and her father became less frequent, less personal.
A went overseas for a year. When she came back, he noticed she had changed. Although the change was not all that bad, A’s father found it hard to adapt to her newly found philosophies of life. She believed in her freedom, in her privacy. She had all the Western arguments to back up her actions as well as her new attitude.
She was no longer Daddy’s little girl. He was no longer her role-model, hero, best friend and confidante. However, there was no lost love between them, only a breakdown in communication, but that was bad enough.
She could not see that her father was there for her. He did not say.
It was not long before A find hope in B – her boyfriend. A and B went out a lot. She merely informed her father that she was going out. There was no discussion, no advice given, none sought. There was no working out of the new relationship between father and daughter. The father hoped that it would only be a passing thing, that she would soon forget the guy. (If you’re following the story, you would know that it was not going to be as easy as that.)
The problem as you would have already noticed was not between A and her new found friend, but it was between A and her father. A’s father became very concerned. He couldn’t get through to his daughter concerning her relationship with B. He, of course, should have settled his own relationship with his daughter first but this was not the case.
He got really desperate. He wanted to know what was happening with his beloved daughter, so desperate that he had to resort to things that he would later regret like reading her diary and looking through her handbag, and even hitting her on one occasion.
Finally, he called B’s parents. B’s parents immediately summoned their son back home. When B had to leave for home, A thought that that was final. All her hope was now gone. Life was not worth living anymore. That afternoon, she took her life.
A not only saw that she had lost her new hope, she also believed that she had no hope to return to. No hope to fall on if she was to fail. She could not see that her father was there for her. He did not say.
Malachi 4 :5 – 6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
There is nothing like being reconciled to our loved ones.
It is my prayer that parents will take this time to redeem all that enemy has robbed. The Bible teaches us to work while it is still ‘day’. I know it will take a lot of humility, a lot of patience, a lot of repentance and forgiveness, a lot of hugging, a lot of attitude changing and a lot of rearranging of priorities. But I assure you the fruit thereof is sweet and fulfilling.
My prayer for young people is that they never consider suicide as an option. Be strong. Miracles can happen in a day. Look harder at your situation. You are sure to be able to find at least one thing that can keep you going. Don’t give up! Look at all the heroes. They are heroes only because they stuck it out. When everyone else said they were going to die, you spend your time looking for the only thing that could keep them alive.
And if you think your life has no worth, you should see the tract that I have pinned right in front of my work desk. It says that, “God thinks you are worth the death of His Son.” As a pastor once explained, the only thing that kept him from killing himself during his rough teenage years was the fear that the life after was going to be far worse than his present life.
I think that made him see that all was not that bad after all. Many who have survived the storms of life usually laugh at their past incidents. Do not let the devil deceive you. He is the father of lies. The lie of suicide is that those who have hurt and rejected you will regret for the rest of their lives if you were to take your own life. The truth is, life goes on for them. People are very forgetful. Even the deepest sorrow can be forgotten.
God is worth living for.
And concerning your parents, try to give them a break. They do not have a degree in parenting. They are also learning through practice. Give them a chance. They love you and only want things for your own good.
Their approach may not be all that wise sometime, and they may even take drastic measures to see that you are not hurt. People do crazy things when they are desperate. So, humble yourself and work things out with your parents. Let me encourage you to look up. God is worth living for. He will never fail us. He promised never to leave nor forsake us. He is our best hope.
There is nothing like being reconciled to our loved ones. The experience is breathtaking, the feeling is full of joy and happiness and the fruit ever fulfilling. Above all that, there is yet another open invitation to all of us which to date has no comparison, that is to be reconciled to God our Father through Jesus Christ His Son. He was sent to heal the broken hearted and to set the captives free. It was for this purpose that He came – to give us life and life more abundantly. He came to bring us hope.
Colossians 1:27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
D2Y2, which stands for Don’t Despise Your Youth, was an official Asian Youth Ambassador (AYA) magazine birthed out in the late 90s. The printed materials communicated dynamic and effective encouragement to and from the Church, with special emphasis on the knowledge and experiences of our Christian youths, which we believe the content is still relevant and applicable in this current generation.