The following is a newsletter article I wrote when I was on staff at First Baptist Church of Lemay just outside St. Louis, Missouri. The article was written the day of the funeral of one of my former students who had committed suicide.
I buried a kid today. As I sit here trying to record my thoughts, my heart is aching. Kim was the sunshine of life. She was a beautiful girl. Her outer beauty was apparent to everyone but those who knew her saw her inner beauty as well. She had a big, broad smile that was gentle and sweet. But something went wrong. She decided that life wasn't worth the sacrifice. She decided that the day to day struggles of making it work were too difficult. She took her own life.
As I held her mother in my arms and tried to comfort her, I knew there are no words for a time like this. There is no miracle healing balm that makes the wounded whole. My feelings are an odd mixture of disbelief, deep sorrow, and guilt. Inevitably I wonder if I could have been a better youth minister. What could I have done with this child whom God entrusted to my care? What could I have done that may have helped her to find a hope in the hopelessness? Could I have prayed for her more? Could I have challenged her more? Could I have made Jesus more real to her? Could I have done something to show her that 17 years are only the beginning of life and there are so many joys to come that completely outweigh the sorrows?
There are too many questions and not enough answers. I cling ever so tightly to my favorite passage of Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11. Here God promises me that there is a future and a hope. Right now both are hard to see. Somehow God will use Kim's death for His glory. Right now, I wish she was alive and He was using her life.
As much as I hurt, I cannot help but think of her mother. A Christian for only a few years, I remember when Pat "walked down the aisle" of the little inner city church where I was serving. Her mother, who had prayed for her for years, cried. My mother, who had also prayed for her salvation, cried. And as I led music that morning, I fought back tears of joy as well. Pat faced great opposition to her Christianity at work, but she always persevered. Yesterday she could not speak due to the overwhelming grief. I worry what will become of her. I pray diligently and with all the strength I can muster that God will give her peace. I pray that He will show her, before any of the rest of us, a future and a hope.
There is so little time to make a difference. I was Kim's youth pastor for three years and then God called me to another place of service. There is little I wouldn't do now to go back and spend all the one on one time I could, training and loving a hurting girl. I know I must look to the future. I know I must learn from this tragedy. With all that I am as a minister I have to instill in the hearts of young people that God does give hope. Our lives are never without a future. God loves us. As I look into the faces of the youth I have now, I want to see hope. I find myself wanting to hold them tightly and just yell, "Never let go of Jesus!"
Kim felt that ending her life would end pain. It has only increased it for those of us left behind. Together we can help one another find the hope we will all need. The Christian life is all about hope. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for. I want to dedicate my life to sharing and growing that hope in my own life as well as the lives of all those whom God makes me a watchman. Kim may not have seen that hope but I will do all I can to make sure that no one else in my life is ever blind to the hope of the living God.
I buried a kid today. I pray that with her I buried hopelessness. I pray that I will be resurrected a different man of God. I pray that I will be a lighthouse to guide others to hope.