We’ve reached a point in history where meaningful human interaction is beginning to seem like a r ésum é skill. We live in a time when young people see, with alarming frequency, peers and loved ones ending their own lives because of forces that convinced them that their lives weren’t worth living. In fact, as of 2018, suicide is the 10th overall leading cause of death in our country. But, fortunately, there’s a catch: Life is very much worth living.
The secular culture doesn’t help young people understand this. We are not taught to deal with suffering or grief in a healthy way. The wildly popular show Thirteen Reasons Why, which sanitizes suicide, is marketed predominantly to teenagers. It doesn’t help when a young person who is a visual learner, and is struggling with bullying, low self-confidence, depression, or issues of sexual assault at high school, watches a show that justifies that this is enough of a reason to feel as if she or he no longer needs to live, followed by specifically how to “end ” these problems.
Social media doesn’t help kids to be any better-off, either. Following the carefully selected, highly edited moments of other people’s lives—with all of the sad times and struggles purposely left out—doesn’t exactly help an ordinary teen living an ordinary life feel as if his or her beautifully ordinary life is worth living. It diminishes joy and establishes deep roots of unworthiness upon comparison.
We all go through rough times when we lose people we love, miss out on something, or see our plans get derailed. Sometimes this punches us in the gut, and we really just want clarity, but instead we get confusion, pain, and suffering. These are all scary feelings that often don’t make any sense. But as Father Mike Schmitz says in his video with Ascension Press, there are two ways of looking at life: “that everything is worth it, or that nothing is worth it at all. ” It is the job of the individual to allow suffering to take place, but also to understand that there is a power and a purpose to the suffering he or she endures.
Be Not Afraid
We were born to live bravely. “Do not fear, ” God said both to Joshua (Jos 1:9) and to Abraham (Gn 15:1). Jacob was afraid (Gn 31:31; 32:8), and so were Moses (Ex 2:14), Peter (Mt 26:69), and the apostles (Mk 4:38‚Äì40). Jesus himself experienced fear and suffering (Mt 26:37; Lk 22:44). Pope Francis posed this thought in a March 2015 address: “Ask yourselves: What upsets me, what do I fear most in this specific moment of my life today? What blocks me and prevents me from moving forward? Why do I lack the courage to make the important choices I need to make? Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are, and to come to terms with them. “
Every day if we decide to trust that what is happening to us is intentional and embrace it fully with joy and wholeheartedly put our all into loving as Jesus did to each person we meet, can you imagine what joy and meaning we could bring to our peers? We were born to be disciples of Jesus’ joyful message.
The Bible talks about this idea in James 1:2‚Äì3, that when our faith gets tested, it gives us an opportunity to grow: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. ” You could also say that if we want our faith to get stronger, we need to experience and make it out of some challenging places.
Life is not meant to be overwhelming at all times. It also isn’t supposed to just be survived. It is meant to be lived joyfully. Pope Francis writes, “Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties ” ( “Joy of the Gospel, ” 167). There will certainly be times, though, when the storms are going to toss you around and you’ll be out of breath, but that’s when you start treading water until the sun starts shining again. That is when you smile because there’s a rainbow, and you finally make it to shore. This is your life, the one that is worth living. Do with it what you please, but you only get one, so I recommend letting go of fear and finding joy in Christ.
Some of you who are reading this may be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. You may be feeling broken, tired, and sad more often than not. You may be even contemplating suicide because you feel that things cannot possibly get better. Silence solves nothing. September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. One conversation can change a life. Be not afraid to ask for help.
If you think you or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours a day). For Catholic counseling, contact your parish priest, diocese, or local branch of Catholic Charities.