When People Hurt…

I’m (John A.) reading Columbine by Dave Cullen.

It’s a truly fascinating examination of the horrific event that occurred at Columbine High School over a decade ago. Cullen does a marvelous job of wading through the myths, theories, and gets right to the heart of the event. I’ll post more on it later.

For now, as a person who works with youth, I’m struck by this journal entry by Dylan Klebold (one of the two shooters at Columbine). This came about two years before he began that fateful day on April 20, 1999.

“Thinking of suicide gives me hope that I’ll be in my place where I go after this life – that I’ll finally not be at war w. myself, the world, the universe – my mind, body, everywhere, everything at PEACE – me – my soul (existence).

How many people write – consciously or subconsciously – similar thoughts every…single…day?

How many people truly believe that suicide is the best way out?

How many people are hurting so badly that they will do whatever it takes to ESCAPE?

With all these people hurting, I believe, how can we possibly begin to help them?

I certainly don’t have definite answers.

The CLC Emerging Generations Resurgence ministry is beginning a series on “To Save a Life.” It’s based on the movie, set to be released January 22. I haven’t seen it, but I wrote up a fourteen day manual on depression, suicide, and addiction to provide some guidance throughout this journey.

In my experience, there are large percentages of kids who are as lonely and hurting as Dylan Klebold. They are dying for people to understand them without an agenda, without definite answers.

The tragedy at Columbine created a heartfelt and genuine religious response. I was fascinated as Cullen recounted all the “answers” various members of the clergy provided around Denver.

Some believed it was the work of Satan.

Others saw it as just a physical act of hate.

The late Reverend Jerry Falwell, a so-called “Christian” leader, issued a media alert saying: “Two filthy fags slaughtered 13 people at Columbine High.” (Two things: This is a horribly un-Christian and disgustingly hateful thing to say, and Dylan and Eric were not homosexuals).

Others saw it an opportunistic time to get people to convert to Jesus. In one prayer vigil, a silly little Youth Pastor decided he would make an altar call to the 800 students present. No one went forward.

When people are hurting and tragedy strikes, Christians often want to play the role of God. We want to be able to provide definite answers. We want to say: “Hey, I know exactly how you can be healed and why you are hurting.”

Here’s what I believe: There are certainly some essential definites when it comes to joining the road to healing. God (the right understanding of) is one of these definites.

However, by and large, we are called not to provide answers to those hurting, lonely, suicidal, and depressed.

Instead, we are called to say something similar to what Pastor Marxhausen, a Lutheran pastor who performed Dylan’s funeral, said: “I have no idea how you are going to heal. But God still wants to reach out to you and will always reach out to you in some way.” All the while, we’ll be right beside you, willing to join you in the road of suffering.

Instead of seeking answers with those hurting in your life, simply be present with them. Point them to the road to healing, but don’t arrogantly claim to possess all the answers.

When people hurt, be present with them. Know, carry, and engage their stories. Join them on the road to suffering.

Let them know there is a God who has suffered through the work of Jesus and is willing to suffer even more with them.