~ What strength do I have that I should still hope? ~
How can the justice of an almighty God be defended in the face of human suffering- especially when the sufferer is a child? None of us are without sin, though there are those who are truly righteous, obedient, and genuine- yet they, too, suffer terribly.
The relationship between God and man is not a closed relationship, and since satan himself is incapable of defeating God, he searches for any sign of spiritual weakness in man, and attempts to completely separate that man from God. God’s enemy is very, very good at his job.
~ Certain men have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality. ~ Jude 1:4 ~ These men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand- by instinct, like unreasoning animals, are the very things that destroy them. ~ Jude1:10 ~ They are men for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. ~ Jude 1:13
As a modern-day Christian parent, confronting and addressing human evil, in a fallen world where human evil laughs in the face of Christ’s love, feels overtly taboo. I’m not sure I possess the courage to discuss the sufferings of those known personally to me- especially the suffering of children. And trying to convince other adults of God’s directive to protect and treasure children always leaves me disheartened.
I believe with all my heart that nothing happens outside God’s sovereign will. But I contend that plenty happens outside God’s moral will. Man does, after all, have inherent free will. It is not God’s will, but man’s will, that inflicts suffering upon children. It is not God, but men, who invite evil into our hearts. It is not God, but men, who remain silent when faced with such evil. And God will not be happy about our silence.
~ See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 18:10
Consider Job. He was a highly favored man of God, one of God’s own beloved, and one of God’s most devout. Job’s story is arguably the best biblical account of a believer’s ultimate perseverance in times of hardship. He felt pain; he felt loss; he felt forsaken; he complained in prayer.
When satan came to God directly to challenge Him regarding the righteousness of Job- God assured satan Job would remain faithful. And so satan went to work, trying mightily to dismantle Job’s faith with one hardship after another. Job lost his crops, his livestock, his own children, and his friends.
Job was surely tested, as satan used Job’s every weakness to try and provoke him into unbelief. Job did plenty of complaining, but he never once spoke against the sovereign power of God. In the end, satan was defeated by the dauntless faith of a tested man. And for his faith, Job was blessed far more in his later life than when he was a younger, impatient man.
But biblical Job was already a grown man of firm faith before satan issued his challenge.
What if Job had been a young child, ostracized by other children for circumstances beyond his control? His size, hair color, or skin color? What if he arrived to school dirty, his hair greasy and matted? What if adults turned a blind eye, passively encouraging Job’s peers to continue their painful mistreatment, day after day, year upon year?
~ And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. ~ Psalm 36:7
Where are God’s children today? We are surrounded by gluttony, greed, idolatry, and envy. If Little Job comes home one afternoon and tells his mother another boy took his food away, for the third day in a row, would his mother be prudent to instruct her son to “turn the other cheek”? Let’s follow a runaway train for a minute.
Suppose the following afternoon, Little Job comes home missing handfuls of hair- pulled out by the same boy, because his hair was an odd color. Does Mama intervene yet? Will Little Job ever run out of cheeks?
Soon enough, Little Job wakes up with a stomach ache every day and begs to stay home “sick”. Mama has other things to do, Little Job has no fever, so he is sent on to school. After lunch, Mama is called to pick up Little Job at school immediately. He has been suspended.
His mother is so angry and embarrassed about his suspension, she shuts him in his room, and his father gives him a whipping when he gets home. No one ever asks Little Job why he was suspended. No one notices that his clothing smell of urine, and the blood stains on his shirt are his own. No one stands up, or speaks out.
~ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ~ Matthew 25:45
Little Job reaches adolescence, but has been held back academically due to his now routinely excessive absences. Administrators and teachers insist he is “incorrigible”. He is withdrawn, but hostile when approached, so no one approaches him- at all.
He has a sister, and four half brothers. If he isn’t around for a few hours, no one notices. Little Job believes he has been discarded- exchanged for “better” children at home.
Because of his disciplinary problems at school, he has not been invited back to the church he attended for all his early years. His Sunday School teacher felt best that Little Job be excluded, so as not to taint the other “good” children. Whatever tenuous connection Job may have had with Jesus has long been rejected, because the Sunday School teacher DOES represent Jesus, right? His sister is no longer allowed to attend, either, since she is a product of the same environment, and filthy by default. Church “leaders” reject the family, treat them callously, hope they will simply leave and not come back.
Complacency and displacement have now hardened Little Job’s formerly soft spirit. He begins to internalize.
Little Job suffers from extreme anxiety both in and outside his home. His sister is angry because the other girls make fun of him even when he isn’t present, and she has now taken his place as the “target” for both male and female bullies.
Little Job cries, every night. He feels terribly that his sister is being treated in such as a manner. He shoulders the weight of not one, but two victims of cruelty. Little Job doesn’t sleep without feeling anguished all over again, every time he closes his eyes.
~ When I believe my bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. I despise my life, I would not live forever. Let me alone. My days have no meaning. ~ Job 7:13-16
Biblical Job’s words, here, reveal the highest possible level of human despair, and the lowest point of human spirit. Remember, the Job of the Bible was not a child.
Little Job feels unloved. He feels worthless. He feels hopeless. Little Job concludes his life in no longer worth living. He decides to relieve his family. Little Job believes no one will remember him. When his sister finds him, he is already free from his burdens. Hers are just beginning.
It saddens me deeply to live in these times of extraordinary intelligence, where there is so much emphasis placed on “higher learning”, and no value at all placed on morality or conscience. “Bully” is a modern buzzword, not a modern concept. Suicide is the third leading case of death in late teens- and the sixth leading cause of death for children ages 6-14. Whether bullying goes so far as to end in suicide or not, it must surely break God’s own heart. An act of suicide leaves behind far more questions than answers. And teen suicide is again on the rise in the U.S.
How do I, as a Christian parent, explain such complex issues? I have no choice but to answer the inevitable questions, some of which I still struggle with on my own. I question how parents can be so blissfully unaware of how their children treat their peers. Can bullies be transformed?? Yes, of course. I was transformed from bully to advocate. God forgives all. He does not delight in pain.
Children, with genuine love, support, leadership, and protection, won’t be likely bully to begin with. If their parents were faced with answering the questions I’ve had to answer, I would bet they’d at least be a bit more contrite. And if you think such questions could not possibly come from the mind of a child, you are likely one of the blissfully unaware.
Here’s my qualifying experience with suicide: Meir’s daddy committed suicide when she was a young teen. A sixth grade teacher committed suicide when I was in 4th grade; a good friend’s brother committed suicide when we were in 7th grade; my own very good friend committed suicide when we were seventeen; two close family members have attempted suicide multiple times; one social worker at my second nursing job committed suicide; and now I’ve lost a nephew to suicide.
ALL of those people had three things in common: they were viciously bullied as children, lived in “Christian” communities, and were further victimized by trusted adults who failed to protect them. Three were young adults who were unable to overcome pain from childhood. Four were children.
‘Little Job’ is, well… was (literally) my friend Stan.
“Was he a Christian?”
I don’t know. He was very young. I don’t think he was.
“He killed himself, so he committed murder?”
Yes. And, well, technically, yes.
“Is he in hell? Great Aunt Cindy Lou said he was old enough to know better, so she said he is in hell. Mama, what does she mean? Please say he is not in hell, Mama!”
Please, Lord, don’t let me screw this up…
I’ve had years of personal, professional, and volunteer exposure to bullied, neglected children, and suicide. The number of new experiences, unfortunately, hasn’t decreased over time. Neither have Christian misconceptions. When I searched for reassurance after Stan died, I got lots of opinions, but no reassurance. I got Great Aunt Cindy Lou’s trite condemnation. I didn’t find answers in opinions. Great Aunt Cindy Lou’s opinion didn’t feel right and it doesn’t add up biblically. Meir helped me find answers (imagine that).
~ Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out. Even strife and dishonor will cease. ~ Proverbs 22:10 ~
Great Aunt Cindy Lou was referring to an errant concept better known as the “Age of Accountability”, which many believe is a set numerical age, somewhere around the time children enter adolescence, roughly twelve years old. The basis for the concept was originally a viewpoint formulated by considering Christ’s age when his parents delivered Him to Jerusalem. He was twelve.
~ and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” ~ Matthew 2:19
I have a crucial point of disagreement: I do not believe there was ever a numerical age of accountability. I believe in spiritual accountability.
No two people mature at the same rate, physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually. To reach a level of spiritual accountability, one must be able to comprehend, accept, and abide by God’s word. The Lord understands our struggles, whether mental or physical, and he accepts us according to our own level of understanding.
~ Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? ~ Genesis 18:25
There is no sin for which we cannot be forgiven, except outright rejection of Christ and His necessity as Savior.
~ ‘Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness’. ~ Mark 3:28,29
Suicide throws a curve ball to those without a clear understanding of grace. Every Christian is given ample opportunity to acknowledge and repent for sins. In the case of suicide, though, death would be immediate, and the sufferer would have no opportunity to repent. If we are to conclude those who die of self-inflicted wounds are destined for hell, we have to also consider victims of crime, accidents, and innumerable other sudden means of death. Your Daddy had a fatal heart attack while jogging, right after he cursed an old lady for wandering into his path. His death was instant. His sin not yet confessed. Is he now sitting in hell? No.
~ and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. ~ John 10:28
Do I imply that an unbeliever who dies by his own hand is given a free pass into Heaven. Not unless he’s a child, or rendered childlike by circumstances beyond his own control.
A thorough search of my Bible(s) revealed that there is neither condemnation nor redemption by suicide. There is only condemnation for the believer’s denial of Christ (see Mark 3:28-29, above).
Each believer’s soul is judged on its own merit, at the judgement seat of Christ. Suicide is murder, but even murder is forgivable. And each transgression is ultimately charged to the one that commits it. Paul the Apostle was a murderer, later sought and pardoned by Christ. Paul went on to change many hearts for Christ.
~ When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul (Saul was Paul the Apostle) Acts 7:58 ~ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15 ~ For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:10~
There are accounts of suicide throughout the scriptures.
~ Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. ~ 1 Samuel 31:4 ~ “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he (Samson) pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. ~ Judges 16:30
There is only one suicide for which scripture addresses eternal life.
~ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. ~ Matthew 27:5
Accepting Christ’s blood as our salvation places accountability squarely in the hands of those that then knowingly deny Him. Judas was grown. Judas was of sound mind and maturity. Judas made a conscious choice to deny Christ. And Judas was the only one who died lost.
~ …none of them is lost, but the son of perdition. ~ John 17:12
At no point is mental anguish unprotected. God formed us, and God knows each one of us, right though to our core. He meets each of us where we are.
~ The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all. ~ Proverbs 22:2
Christians really shouldn’t be caught up in squabbling about the end result of suicide. Our time will be better spent protecting blameless children from falling into the despair of wanting to die in the first place.
~For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.~ 1 Peter 3:17
Speak up when confronted by evil. Protect our children. Be blessed, Y’all.