Last week beloved pastor Jarrid Wilson took his own life. He was thirty years old.
In the days that followed, social media blew up with grief and mourning, well-wishes and funds for his young family, questions about the isolation pastors can face, the pressures of the job. People talked about mental illness, suicidal ideation, depression, and hopelessness.
No one had any answers.
There aren’t any easy answers–or perhaps any answers at all–to the deepest, harshest, most tragic questions of our lives. I will never understand why a dear six-year-old friend of my son’s has ovarian cancer, or why the beloved father of my childhood hockey teammate is on hospice care in his early sixties. I can’t explain Jarrid Wilson’s death. I couldn’t explain my friend Matt’s when he, too, took his own life years ago, a brilliant Northwestern graduate and a rising star musician.
After I graduated from seminary I spent months as a hospice chaplain, watching tragedies of all ages unfold in real time, up close. It nearly broke me.
At one of my teaching sessions, I lamented to the program’s supervisor that I was overwhelmed with all the grieving families, the heaviness and despair that hung in each patient’s room as they waited for their end, the emotion that broke free after a person’s final breath.
“I just don’t understand it,” I told him. “And I don’t feel like God is answering any of my questions.”
He let that statement hang in the air for a moment, listening patiently to my own pain in holding space for the grief of so many others.
“I’ve found,” he said finally, “that God doesn’t offer me very many answers. But he does help me to live with the questions.”
In the book of Exodus, God calls Moses to climb up Mount Sinai and receive ten commandments to help him lead and guide his people. Thunder booms and lightning strikes and down below, the people are, very rightly, terrified. Yet at the end of this Scripture passage is a verse we often gloss over. After hearing from God about how to live–without murdering or bearing false witness, without adultery or envy, free from idols and honoring the name of the Lord–and reassuring the people, he goes back to talk to God. But not in the light. Instead, into the darkness.
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21, NIV).
God is light, yet in this passage Moses finds him in the thunderclouds, amidst deep and abiding darkness.
I don’t know about you, but in a world filled with more questions than answers, foggy horizons when we long to see, and the heavy sadness of grief and loss, that gives me a lot of hope.
No matter how deep your darkness, God is there.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out to someone near you. This world needs you! The Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.