First and foremost, I am a Christian. I also happen to be a law enforcement officer, which I have come to realize over the past 28 years of service, is a divine calling. A lot has changed in those 28 years, and not only in the southern city where I serve as Chief of Police but across the country. Sadly, most of the changes I have witnessed, up front and personally, have not been for the better. The deterioration of basic concepts like right and wrong have reached an all-time low, and the prognosis for a change in direction is grim. That is the bad news. Still, we must consider how decisions we make today affect our children because they deserve the opportunity to experience the future God has planned for them. Tragically, far too many perish before they ever get the chance.
Recently I was dispatched to (yet another) tragic death of a young person in our small town. On that particular morning, I arrived at the middle class home in a quiet neighborhood, and was met by the first officer on the scene, who informed me that the woman’s 16-year old son had committed suicide in their home by hanging himself in the adjacent garage during the night. After doing what needed to be done in the garage, I walked up a couple of steps and into the kitchen of the home. There I met the boy’s mother who had collapsed onto her hands and knees sobbing in the kitchen floor, while her husband stood helplessly, leaning against the counter and wringing his hands. When she was finally able to stand, the distraught mother grabbed my shoulders and began wringing my shirt and demanding answers. My heart ached for her, and I supported her weight as she clung to me until finally she was able to speak.
“I don’t understand!” she cried, “I have no clue why he would even think of doing something like this!” As she continued speaking through her tears, she told me she had not observed any indications in her son’s behavior to indicate he was depressed or struggling emotionally.
Feeling helpless, I tried to comfort her as best I could.
“Do you have a minister or someone in particular you would like us to call?” I asked.
“We don’t have a minister,” she said.
“Would you like us to contact our police chaplain? May I call him to come by?” I suggested.
“No. Please don’t,” she said. “We don’t need anyone.” But she would not let go of my arm.
After a bit she was able to direct me down the hall to a bedroom on the left, her son’s room. However, she could not yet bring herself to step inside; it was simply too painful. I walked through the thin hollow door and into the room alone, and she closed the door quietly behind me. I sighed inwardly as I looked around. I saw signs of anguish, desolation, and a general apathy toward life. And some were cries for help. I wondered if the boy’s mother and stepfather had ever really stopped to come in and look around.
Marilyn Manson and other fiendish characters glared at me from posters on the wall. A pile of video games including Mortal Combat, Doom, Warcraft, 25 to Life, and various versions of Grand Theft Auto, which were piled around the gaming console. Strewn on the floor were music CDs, none of which were appropriate for a teenager -or anyone else for that matter – as they glorified drinking, drugs and violence and even “…(expletive) ending it all.” What I did not find was evidence of personal accomplishments, or memberships in any type of club or team, no photos with friends, nothing healthy and wholesome in the entire room. I had not seen a Bible in the entire house or anything alluding to faith of any kind. Staring back at me was just an oversized Marilyn Manson promoting something called “Slipknot.” Ironic, I thought.
I could see the life this young man had been living, and it saddened me. I doubted most parents would consider any of the things in that bedroom to be little more than typical for a boy his age. Then again, many parents today do not even know what is even in their kids’ rooms. They tell me they respect their children’s rights to privacy and therefore do not inspect their rooms or anything therein without their knowledge or permission. But is it not a parent’s obligation to know his or her child and guard them in all aspects of their lives? Proverbs 20:11 says , “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”
Too often of late I have been astonished myself by parents who are unaware of what their son or daughter is posting on social media, who they are texting or “sexting” with, or who do not even know their kids’ passwords. I have met several parents who did not even know that their child was addicted to opioids or heroin until I informed them of an overdose. How is that possible? It is possible because we tend to trick ourselves into believing what we want to believe, and denying or minimizing what we do not. It’s simply easier that way.
A lack of supervision and discipline not only negligently fails to teach children of unwanted consequences for their actions, but it also leaves them to search for boundaries of security on their own. Not finding any, a child will naturally conclude that he or she simply does not matter. Proverbs 29:15 tells us, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.” Worse yet, kids who feel insecure and unloved often consider suicide to be a viable alternative.
I felt the familiar angst and frustration wash over me as I looked once more around the dark room. Loss of a human life at any age is tragic, but in the case of suicide, it is almost always preventable. But it requires paying attention and being involved, both of which require concerted effort.
As a society, we have committed the worst kind of disservice to our young people, and it has all been in the name of education and humanism. We have allowed – no, demanded – that our public schools teach our children that there is no God – and subsequently no divine creation, no Satan, no eternity, and no Heaven or Hell. All the while Satan has been raging, walking about “as a roaring lion… seeking whom he may devoir” (I Peter 5:8). What has resulted from Christians’ inaction has been an overwhelming attitude on the part of young people of a total lack of any sense of accountability, respect for authority (family, teachers, supervisors, law enforcement, the courts), family values, or concern for fellow man. Law enforcement encounters this phenomenon not just once in a while but daily, hourly even. Critical values such as honor, integrity, patriotism, are fast becoming foreign and meaningless to our future generations, and we have allowed it to happen.
Meanwhile, Christians are becoming more and more prohibited from teaching our children the truth, that they were created by loving God who has a meaningful purpose for their lives and an abundant supply of blessings just for them. In fact, society teaches the opposite, deceiving them into believing that they evolved from a pool of sludge, mere clumps of meaningless cells, thereby having no purpose in their lives whatsoever. Furthermore, if they find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy, it is perfectly acceptable to murder the human life that was conceived because it amounts to nothing more than an undesirable and inconvenient collection of cells that also evolved from a pool of sludge. Abortion is not only tolerated in our modern society, it is glorified by many, including those who offer abortion services to our young people. With such a lack of value for human life, how then can we expect our youth to reject suicide as an acceptable solution to their troubles? The sad reality is we cannot. When we take away from them the knowledge of an almighty God who lovingly created them and loves them unconditionally, and then leave them to their own devices without proper supervision and guidance, we rob them of their security, their self-worth, and their reason for living. Most importantly, we cause them to take paths that lead them away from God and into an eternity without hope.
As of 2014, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED. And every day in the United States, there are over 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12. Four out of five teens who attempt to commit suicide have given clear warning signs. These figures are positively unacceptable.
Parents, pay attention. Violate your child’s privacy. Hold them accountable.
Take them to a good Bible-believing church where they can hear God’s Word taught and preached. Teach them the truth at home. Pray for their souls. Love them with all your might.
We must teach our children the truth from God’s Word. We must let them know they are far more valuable than what they will be told by the world. We must teach them that God created them and has a very special purpose in life only they can fulfill, because God loves them unconditionally and wants only the best for their lives. That is the good news.