It happens to just about everyone at some point in life. It happened to me when I was seventeen years old and my girlfriend, my fist love, unexpectedly broke up with me. I remember leaving her house and driving down Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley, crying so hard that I couldn’t see the road. At 55 mph, a brief thought entered my mind: “Why not just swerve over into the oncoming traffic and then the pain will be gone.” It sounds so trite now, but at seventeen that was my world.
Fast forward twenty some years and my five year old daughter (Jackie) dies in my arms from a brain tumor. Her death sucked the life right out of me. I didn’t want to go on – I’d lost my will to live. Life became dark. A gray cloud of depression hovered over me. The pain wouldn’t go away. It seemed like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. Like King David said, “My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3).
In both cases, the desire to not go on living came as a result of loss. The loss of someone I loved. The deeper the love the greater the impact of the loss. When I lost my daughter I lost myself in one sense. Words can’t describe the excruciating pain.
For me, I had a couple reasons to live. I knew God loved me even though Jackie’s death didn’t make sense. I hung onto the reality that “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). I also knew I loved my other two kids (Joshua and Jessica) more than I loved myself, so I focused my energy on pouring myself into them.
The concept of the will to live can be seen as directly impacted by hope. It’s been said, “Man can live forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” I’d say, “The church is in the hope business.”
I like the acrostic HOPE – “Hold On, Pain Ends.” In reality, the pain of losing a loved one doesn’t end in this life. You absorb it into your being. However, we do have this hope in heaven, “God will wipe every tear … there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
The good news is God’s love for us never ends. Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day.” I live with an awareness each day of his loving-kindness. I view each day as a gift from God because I know how precious and fragile life really is. I also know that we have a living hope in Jesus (1 Peter 1:3) and his resurrection authenticates it and guarantees it.
Over time I found that life can be good again, REALLY GOOD! My joy was restored and it’s an even greater joy now because of the deep sorrow.
Last weekend was a milestone in my life. Jessica graduated with honors from UCLA. Jackie was not there physically but she was cheering her sister on from heaven!
John Steinbeck wrote a book called “The Red Pony” that deals with a boy who loses his pony to death. After reading the book Jessica summarized the book this way:
So while death is raw and makes one think they’re in a nightmare of eternal sleep, it is a part of life. Most people don’t want to read about death, but need comfort – and knowing someone else has gone through it is comforting to some. Just keep living.
In the words of Jessica, “JUST KEEP LIVING!”