Compassion – Now more than Ever

by Lester Young

Just a few days ago, I read of a young man, a 25-year-old pro football player, who [apparently] took his own life while sitting in his car in front of the high school he’d attended. During those earlier, more successful times, he was a highly-touted gridiron and track star. After graduation, he embarked on a college playing career that was full of promise. But (and I confess I don’t really know any of the details of his story – or his life), things didn’t unfold for him as I’m sure he had envisioned; and he wound up, for whatever reasons, at a junior college. So, as an NFL prospect, he went undrafted. However, he did eventually sign with a pro team, but injuries kept him from ever appearing in a game.

I suppose it would be pretty easy to use the scant information I’ve given about this young guy (which is really all I have) and form a conclusion that ‘failed and/or unfulfilled dreams’ caused him to take his own life. I don’t know if that’s true, partly true or completely erroneous. And for the point of this essay, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that something – whether it had anything to do with his athletic career or not – drove this kid past the brink of endurance.

Now, when I read a story online – which isn’t very often; and when I do, it’s much more likely to be a sports story than anything else – I’ll occasionally go a little further and check out a few of the ‘comments’ that other readers have left. I say “a few” because that’s literally about all that I can usually stand of them. Why? Well, I invite you to visit any online sports publication (especially now that the NFL season is about to start) and see for yourself. Just pick a story or a blogpost about a team – any team – and wade through the comments. Ninety-seven percent of them sound like six-year-olds on a playground arguing about whose dad is better. Literally! And these are grown folks – or, at least, they’re supposed to be.

What am I getting at? Well, as I read the comments following this young man’s story, I was saddened, shocked and eventually totally appalled at the things these people wrote (which, I feel compelled to bring up, is not particularly surprising given the fact that one can masquerade with great bluster and impunity behind a screen name and not have to sign what they said). Certainly, there were the three percent who actually seemed like human beings in their responses, and I will in no way lump them in with the rest.

But what was really distressing was not those who blatantly made fun of or completely disregarded this kid’s situation, his life and his memory. They’re actually pretty easy to deal with: you love them because God loves them, and we’re commanded to love them, too. But you don’t have to like them; and when they speak such ridiculousness (which, we come to find, is pretty much whenever their lips are moving), you just flush it away with the rest of the sewer-matter you come into contact with daily – there’s almost never a need to further empower them by even bothering to respond.

As I said, those are easy. To me, what’s much more difficult to overlook is the fundamental undertone of a lack of compassion on people’s parts. Here’s one actual response that summed it all up for me, after which I’d just had enough: “I don’t have any pity for anybody that takes their own life.”

You don’t, huh? Why not? So, you’re saying if people don’t cope with things exactly the way your dehydrated little brain is wired and directs you to cope with them, they’re automatically wrong? Have you been down the road they walked…in their shoes? Hmm…there you go again, judging somebody else according to your own [limited] knowledge [of their situation] and point of view. And here God said, “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1; Luke 6:37; James 4:11) – but, of course He didn’t mean you though, right?

Look, I’m not saying it was right or okay for that kid to kill himself – it wasn’t; it was completely wrong. What I am saying is that we don’t know the extent of the pressure that crept into his mind. But I do know who it ultimately was that was pressing him: the one whose only purpose here is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) – and he was somehow allowed to succeed in stealing, killing and destroying that young man’s life here on this earth.

But for us to look down our ‘stronger-and-holier-than-thou’ noses at others – especially if they’ve fallen – and not be compassionate? Would we do that to Jesus? Listen, all pressure and affliction – whether it manifests through circumstances or people – is ultimately from Satan, and it can get intense enough to drive you to want to do anything to alleviate it. Anything – including killing yourself. As long as we live here in this physical body, it’s something that we have to deal with – all of us.

Yes, I said all of us. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He Himself testified, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto [the point of] death” (Matthew 26:38). He was being crushed with sorrow, grief, heaviness of heart and depression – so much so that He longed and prayed to put an end to it (Matthew 26:39). (And that, by the way, is exactly what Satan wanted; he did everything he could to get Jesus to die anywhere but on that cross, as the payment for our sins [1 John 2:2, 4:10]). So you know if even Jesus thought about dying because of the pressure brought upon Him, who are we to condemn another for succumbing?

We should help shoulder the burdens of others whenever and wherever we can (Galatians 6:1-2) – and especially those of the heart and mind, because they can often be the heaviest, the most painful and the most enduring. Friends and loved ones are vital, as we also see by our Lord asking His three closest friends to come and stay with Him as He prayed in His temptation (Matthew 26:38). When that family member or friend calls you, be watchful for any signs or ‘feelings’ of trouble – and be there for them. It could really be important. That 25-year-young man died alone.

To all of his family and friends: In the Name of Jesus, may God’s love and blessing comfort and keep you always.

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6 Comments to “Compassion – Now more than Ever”

  1. Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” This is the way I would like to think of this young man, that he is home now and The Father is now giving him the unconditional love and comfort that the young man obviously didn’t feel. Once, in church, the sermon was on the love of God for us. He asked us to repeat God loves me, then he asked us to point to ourselves and say God love Me. That’s when I got the revelation we have to personalize God’s love for us. I,m sure many of us at one time or another have felt hopeless like the young man, but when we personalize God’s love for us it helps us just to rest in his love and gives us the strength to somehow put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

    • That personal revelation of His love is one of the most important (if not THE most important) revelations that we can ever have, and it makes all the difference. Thanks, Pat, for sharing that wisdom…

      Lester

  2. I can’t always get my thoughts from my mind to the paper lol. In thinking about how mean and unthoughtful people can be when you really realize how compassionate and loving God is with us, it becomes difficult not to show that same compassion and love to others. As you say it makes all the difference. Thanks for your writings, not only are they insightful, they make you think.

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