Can God Help Us Work Through Death and Grief?

By Andrew B.

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When I was 17 I was given a responsibility in my church.  Along with two other boys, I was asked to look after and serve the other young men in my congregation. One was named Ryan. He was an outgoing, kind, 16 year old, but he struggled with his faith in Jesus Christ. He decided to no longer attend a church and began participating in a variety of things, including drugs and alcohol. Along with an adult leader, we three boys planned how we could help Ryan. I was given the assignment to reach out to him, be his friend, let him know I loved him, and be there to support him. Over the next several months, I neglected this duty entirely.

On January 1st, I walked into church. I sat and waited for the meeting to begin. A church leader walked to the microphone and informed us that Ryan had died the night before.  He asked us all to pray for him and reach out to the family. I was shocked. I texted Ryan’s sister, Sarah. I asked her what had happened, and if she was okay. She replied, “Ryan hung himself.”

Silence filled my entire being as I contemplated that sentence. Ryan hung himself. He had committed suicide. Although I had not reached out to him, I had noticed he had seemed less like himself. Less outgoing.  Less happy. Still, I had neglected my responsibility. I had done nothing to turn the tide. I thought, “What impact could I have had? If I had been his friend, would this have happened? My small contribution could have made him happier. What if we had each helped in the small way we were asked to?” Questions tormented me.

I learned he had been drunk the night before and made threats to kill himself, but his friends had not taken him seriously. He went to his room and hung himself in his closet. Sarah found him the next morning. I knew if his faith had been strong, it wouldn’t have happened. I knew I had not strengthened that faith. My soul ached under the strain of feeling responsible for his suicide.

That evening I went to the family’s home. I brought a gift and a guilty heart. I expected tears, agony, and confusion. I found none of that. As Sarah opened the door, I saw comfort on her face. Looking past her, I saw the family gathered together with a glow surrounding them. I felt sacred peace emanating from this home. In that moment the guilt was cleansed from my heart. I knew Christ was there with this family. I knew He was completely supporting them. I knew He loved them. The look on my face was enough of a question, and Sarah answered, “I know where Ryan is. I know God still has a plan for him. I know it’s going to be okay.”

That night their faith buoyed my own and cleansed me of guilt. Their example made me want to permanently obtain the same knowledge Sarah had. After that night I made many changes in my life. I began to study the scriptures daily. Having fallen out of the habit, I started to pray again.  Church changed from a three hour sentence each Sunday, to a vacation from the strains of life.  It was my favorite time to learn God’s will for me. My daily experiences became more meaningful to me and I started a journal to better reflect on God’s hand in my life each day. As the Spirit entered my life, it prompted me to be nicer to those around me, stop sinful behaviors, and try to honor my parents.

Though it took time, my relationship with God strengthened. I learned to trust in Him. Today I can say, as Sarah did, I know. For me it took an earth-shattering experience to shake me from my path and turn me to God. But it doesn’t have to. You can turn to God now. Give yourself to him. Follow His path. It does not matter if you are the happiest or the saddest you have ever been. If you turn to Him you will find more happiness than you ever dreamed possible.

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