By the time a potential suicide is headed for the bridge, or finishing his final note and turning on the gas jet, he's beyond looking in the yellow pages for a psychologist. By the time the screaming match ends in physical injury or death, it's too late to call a professional marriage counselor. When the teen-ager is already halfway to the anywhere destination, running away from home, it's a little late to seek help in how to rear children. Most of us seek help inside ourselves, or from close friends who will commiserate. Trouble is, if the answer were inside us, or even to be found in the minds of our closest friends, the chances are we wouldn't have the problem!
THE police were called by a passing motorist. Shocked — almost too nervous to continue driving across the bridge and find the nearest phone, the woman couldn't get out of her mind the indelible, never-to-be-forgotten horror of seeing that young man teeter precariously for an instant, and shove himself out into empty air, more than a hundred feet above the pavement waiting below the high-arched bridge. The boy had quit. He resigned. He was through. He was leaving the human race. He didn't really know what next; death was mysterious — his mind was filled with dozens of possibilities, not the least of which were the many fantasies he had daydreamed about the looks on the faces of his friends, their shocked conversations, and the way his parents would react when they heard. But somehow, in all these thoughts, he was still a part of the scene. The police siren wailed mournfully through the midday traffic, converging with the fire department rescue squad truck and the ambulance to the precise spot the lady had reported to the department's busy switchboard. It was the eighth death of the day: one hit-and-run school child, a husband-wife domestic homicide, a suicide, a murder and three traffic deaths. Nothing was left but the stain on the pavement now. The ambulance took the body to the morgue. The police snapped their notebooks shut after gathering the meager details for their report. The fire department rescue squad wrapped it all up and headed back to the station to await their next call — hopefully, finding the next one still alive, and thus discovering reason for their being. Cancel one life. If I could just have TALKED to him, I thought. Surely there would have been SOME way to have saved him. I could have asked, "What's wrong — what's the big hang-up?" Hopefully, when I found what the deep-rooted problems were, I could have patiently helped solve the problem. Hopefully. Every day, thousands quit. Tens of thousands toy with failure, skirt disaster, barely exist on the fringe of total frustration — keep right on "existing." People quit hobbies just short of full-time careers; quit working on that bulging waistline and rationalize it away with vague, personal excuses about looking more "dignified"; quit a home and marriage after 30 or 40 years; quit quitting smoking, and start again. It's an age of quitters! Violent change in government; traumatic, global economic sickness; dramatic realignment of defense organizations; proliferation of atomic weapons amidst official cries for arms limitations; gigantic, runaway inflation and soaring joblessness; erosion of the dollar; bad weather, with floods, droughts and an incredible number of destructive tornadoes — makes our day-to-day life increasingly irrelevant. A surprising suicide rate among youths from 15 to 24 — the very muscle and backbone of the nation we should become — stems from the futilized feelings of frustration of a world grown too ugly to contemplate, and personal lives too meaningless to continue.
Enter religion, occultism, spiritism, ESP, witchcraft, demonism, satanism, and the "Exorcist." Millions play the game. Find escape. Since the problems are too big to invite solution, find the ultimate cop-out. And millions manage to hang on to an otherwise dull, ugly existence, merely by seeking the vicarious thrills of wild, weird entertainment; creating their own inner tranquility by loading up on alcohol or drugs, or searching for some "new truth" and meaning in life through religion in some form or shape. Waiting for those millions of human beings are the professionals. Experts, sages, savants, psychologists, quacks, marriage counselors, charlatans, frauds, ministers and broken-hearted, sobbing evangelists; all either quietly advertize or blatantly shout their own perfect solutions for the lonely, the distraught, the suicidal. Some of them help. We live in a world of specialization. All the technologies, from medical science to aerospace, have created their own insatiable needs for greater specialization. The area of human emotions has become increasingly specialized, too. We kid each other about going to the "shrink" for an emotional pacifier; but behind all the kidding lies the stark fact that multiple millions simply can't cope with the enormous burden of life any more. Life is specialized. It's complicated. It's loud, hurried, frantic, worried, frightening, and sometimes nihilistic. As the daily pressures have increased, so have the specialists who claim they can help you cope with them. The very mildest of these are the talk shows, where opinion sampling usually ranges from the lonely widows to the faithful collection of drunks whose egos swell proportionately with the number of times they can have their friends comment that they heard them on the radio. The "dear" columns in the newspapers pass out advice on impotence, venereal disease, wife-swapping, smoking, divorce, obesity and pimples. Then there are the "specialized" religions. "Scientific" in their approach, they hawk a gospel of practical psychology laced with biblical generalities, couched in ego-serving terms about the self. Tell people there is a veritable giant of compassion, knowledge, love, intelligence, ability, creativity, sensitivity and artistic talent lying just beneath the surface of what appears, in the mirror, to be ordinary, untalented, dull, ignorant, prejudiced, narrow, and crude, and you have the ready-made formula for a devoted following. So long as it's ego-serving, that is. Tell average people about the "inner-you" dynamo of ability and power that lies just barely concealed — like a tiger ready to be unleashed, and they want to believe you. The "pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps" philosophy actually WORKS, in many cases. People need a "faith" in something either outside or inside of themselves. In any case, it has become the philosophical hobby of millions, and the power of "positive thought" and personal worth is the opposite of despondency and a death wish. But these are human helps — temporary, of questionable value, and they never last long. It's about time you asked yourself some serious questions: Is THERE A GOD? Can you PROVE it? Is Jesus Christ REAL? Is He ALIVE right now, and IF He is, can YOU get in direct, personal contact with Him? If the answers are in the affirmative to all of these — then the real SOLUTION for lasting, REAL salvation — both physical and spiritual — is available to you! But how can you be SURE? Can YOU find the answers — or must you go to some HUMAN intermediary for support? Many look to some sort of third party — some expert, specialist, or sage — to solve all of their headaches and problems for them. They are conditioned to turning to paid professionals in circumstances that demand difficult decisions, maybe involving large sums of money — or even their very lives.
Unfortunately, in many professions some of these specialists forget that they too are merely human. They are sometimes prone to play God. Because of a piece of paper framed on the wall of the waiting room and a PH.D. after their name, they often consider themselves above the rabble of normal humanity. But all human beings are vulnerable flesh and blood no matter how much they may enjoy playing God. Every one who draws breath — regardless of how many high-sounding degrees (not that there's anything "wrong" with having a degree) are after his or her name — makes serious and sometimes, regrettably, irreversible mistakes! Such specialists are often preoccupied with abstract theories cloaked in mysterious, murky, obscure esoteric language and fail to offer practical solutions to people's problems. Inevitably many lose faith; become filled with doubt; become discouraged and disillusioned — with themselves and with their human counselors. And so they simply give up and quit somewhere along the line. Some of these discouraged, "down" human beings actually go to the terrible extreme of snuffing out their own lives (as described earlier) because they just couldn't seem to find real help to solve their personal problems. Apparently mere human help even in the form of a cadre of countless professional specialists didn't show them the way out of their many deep-seated difficulties somewhere this side of self-destruction. Ironically, "... the highest rates of suicides are among members of the upper middle professional and managerial classes" (The Futurist, April 1974, p. 71). Significant numbers of the very people that purport to help others are so turned off by our confused, chaotic, nerve-rending, mind-jangling, technocratic society that even they themselves choose to self-destruct long before their time.
A Source of Help
All of these poor unfortunate people, afflicted with myriads of nightmarish problems, didn't have the faintest conception of what they could have had going for them. There is a source of sheer energy; a source of absolute power; a source of confidence and complete faith that would have seen them through every conceivable problem all the way to the day of their death. There is One who will never let you down; never give you the wrong advice; never lead you down a primrose path to disillusionment; never allow you to go "down the drain." That Personage is Jesus Christ of Nazareth — someone who doesn't play at being God — because He is God! But even as He was a human being (actually God in the flesh), walking this earth, Jesus was the kind of person who knew how to deal with practical "people problems"; He knew just the right antidote for all the physical, mental, emotional and psychological ailments plaguing the people of that time.
The Lamb of God
The Bible pictures Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) — meek, lowly, humble, gentle, a real friend — not a "trigger-happy," shoot-from-the-hip type who would jump down your throat at the slightest provocation. Jesus said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). At the outset of His ministry in a small Jewish synagogue in Nazareth, Christ forcefully recited His commission of compassion — His absolute unwavering intention to relieve human suffering. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18; see Isa. 61:1, 2). This He did at every turn of His ministry. Jesus Christ pictured Himself as the good Shepherd — One who would very gently lead those that are with young (Isa. 40:11). He said: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
The Good Shepherd
He reiterated in verse 14: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." Jesus Christ knows exactly who you are — you are to be in His very capable hands, not exclusively in your own. Jesus would leave the ninety and nine dwelling safely in the sheepfold and go searching in a ravine or desert for that one poor lost lamb (Matt. 18:11-14). Before our calling and conversion, Peter pictures us "as sheep going astray," but when we really repent, we are portrayed as returning "unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (I Peter 2:25).
Jesus the Redeemer
Jesus is willing to "go your bail" — literally willing to buy you back as His own purchased possession to redeem you. One of the Proverbs says: "... The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15). You have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and brought upon yourself all the wretched circumstances and boomeranging side effects that are the automatic product of transgressing God's law. And since you have broken most or perhaps all of God's Ten Commandments — at least in their spirit and intent — you have earned yourself, along with all the kicks and the curses now, eternal extinction — a final, ultimate death from which there is no future resurrection. But Jesus Christ is willing to totally and completely redeem you from that horrible fate, to apply His priceless blood sacrifice to wipe out all of your sins. The Apostle Peter, undoubtedly with great emotion and feeling, wrote: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation [conduct] received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Pet. 1:18-19). Who will save you? Jesus will! Your salvation is His responsibility! Maybe you've never thought about it in quite that way before. But if you are His purchased possession, if He has redeemed you, if you are bought and paid for and not your own anymore, then Jesus has the fantastic responsibility of saving you. He is pictured as your elder brother — a strong, masculine, mature older person who has been there before, who has been through the school of hard knocks, who knows what life is all about, who has had to fight His battles against sin, who has overcome the world. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is not a mere mistake-ridden human go-between; He is a perfect eternal, living Spirit Personality who is even now at the right hand of the Father as our High Priest — on the job daily to intercede with God for us. As a human being, Jesus constantly had to cry out to God day and night to keep Himself from falling. He had a tremendous battle, a lifelong struggle in overcoming the natural pulls of the world, the flesh and Satan the devil. And as a natural consequence: "... We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.... Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Heb. 4:15; 5:7). Your Saviour strove to withstand the temptations of sins; lived a perfect life in this restrictive flesh (He never sinned!); died on the stake with a perfect record — so He could be a merciful, compassionate High Priest — One with great empathy for the problems of His beloved brethren. "Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.... For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he [Jesus] is able to succour [aid and help] them that are tempted" (Heb. 5:2; 2:18). Jesus Christ lived His life in the human flesh for you and for me. "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham [human flesh and blood]. Wherefore [as a result] in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren [you and me], that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:16, 17). The Logos — the Word — the Creator — the One who formed atomic nuclei and fashioned galactic nebulae — is pleading and interceding for us with God the Father as our eternal High Priest. The very same Power that sustains the entire universe on its charted course; that keeps the Earth in proper relationship to the Sun and the Moon — is daily making intercession for our sins.
Who Will Pray for You?
I receive a lot of letters from people who want me — a fellow human being — to pray for them (and I do). But obviously when thousands of people are involved, I simply have to pray for many people all at once in a kind of general prayer. People by the tens of thousands say: "If I just knew brother so-and-so would pray for me, I would feel so much better about it." Human beings seem to want a man to pray for them. And, of course, the Bible does instruct the ministry and the brethren to pray for each other (James 5:14-16). But there is someone a good deal more capable than I, or any other human being, who can powerfully intervene. That same Jesus Christ of Nazareth is interceding on our behalf every single day as a living, personal, intelligent, dynamic High Priest. Is that concept too distant or difficult to comprehend? You might be tempted to ask: "You don't really think He's up there praying for me — do you?" Yes, I mean to picture Jesus Christ of Nazareth pleading before His Father's throne and saying: "Father, please forgive him (or her) for doing such and such. He's sorry. Father I know how it is to live in human flesh. Please forgive him." Is that picture too much of an extreme — too difficult a concept to grasp? If so, maybe Jesus Himself can help us achieve a sort of conceptual breakthrough. Just before His arrest at the hands of an angry mob, Jesus prayed the real "Lord's prayer" — recorded in John 17. "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (verses 1-2). Jesus Christ has the power to give you eternal life because God the Father has said in effect: "They're all yours, Son. You can have every last one of them." In His prayer, Jesus continued: "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me: for they are thine" (verse 9). And He added: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (verse 20). The book of Hebrews makes it crystal clear (in verses I have already quoted) that Jesus is enthusiastically interceding on behalf of the Church as a daily task — constantly and continually mediating for those God the Father has called to be members of His Church. If you have really accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, have repented of your sins, been baptized, and have received His Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38), then you are His! It is Christ's responsibility to save you — to see you safely into the Kingdom of God. Only you can prevent Him from doing it, if you give up and quit. Yes, your God is a personal God — concerned about you! Peter wrote: "You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern" (I Pet. 5:7, Phillips). Don't be unduly anxiously concerned. Look to Jesus Christ, who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 24, 25). "Don't worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6, 7; Phillips translation). Instead of always being tempted to throw in the towel, remember and read these words of Paul in time of severe trial and terrible personal trauma: "I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God's whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom. 8:38-39, Phillips.)