"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).
This small verse from a Scriptural song conveys the large message of assurance that prayer-guided lives are worth living, even loving. This path leads in the opposite direction of death, and certainly promises something other than disappointments, emptiness, and a yearning to end it all.
The Bible calls death an enemy. No matter how much trust, consciously or unconsciously, we may have placed in this enemy, a turning to God dispels that trust and renews a love of life that is so essential to worthwhile living.
I saw this operate in the life of a young person who had attempted suicide. I sat by the bedside and listened as a recounting of mistakes, disappointments, shame, and despair rolled out. "Friends" had influenced this young person to do things contrary to natural, moral inclinations and earlier training.
The mental turmoil became so great that suicide seemed the only way out. After the attempt, and the rescue, this young person turned to God for direction. Everything changed. And a life became more worthwhile and productive.
Today, we constantly hear of suicide, and not just attempts. Too many of these involve murder as well. The circumstances are as varied as the incidents.
The New York Times reported, "The classic profile of a suicide bomber has been an impoverished, uneducated, rootless young man with nothing to lose. But there are exceptions. Most of the Al Qaeda terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were middle-class Saudis. The Palestinian who blew himself up in East Jerusalem ... was in his mid-40's and had eight children" (Dec. 9, 2001). And now women, as well as men, have acted as suicide bombers.
Whether the reason for seeking suicide is identity confusion and low self-esteem, as in some school shootings; or self-disappointment and despair or betraying one's moral convictions, as it was with my friend; or a misguided seeking of martyrdom, as with the suicide/homicide bombers, the underlying mindset is that dying is more effective than living. What a travesty.
In her seminal work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Death is not a stepping-stone to Life, immortality, and bliss. The so-called sinner is a suicide" (pg. 203). Considering sin as action taken not according to God's direction, we might say that any failure to walk in the path of life is suicidal. Our love of life, and seeking to live it ever more fully through spiritual impulsion, is what rescues us from suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, the more we entertain a zest for living, the fuller our joy, the more secure our pleasures, and the greater use we are to others.
One time, I was advised to declare to myself that I loved all the experiences of living, even the vicissitudes, because they would turn me more wholeheartedly to God. I have followed this advice for many years, and it has never led me to contemplate suicide or to think of death as a means for solving problems. Rather, challenges, when met with an assurance that God would lead me, have turned me to more spiritual and more satisfying living.
Any conclusion that death is a means of attaining good must yield to a more spiritual understanding of God as Life. This may lead us to think differently about social issues such as euthanasia, the death penalty, political assassinations, and war. It is God- inspired, vigorous living that solves both individual and societal problems.
In another of her books, Mrs. Eddy writes, "Life is the spontaneity of Love, inseparable from Love ... for Life is Christ, and Christ, as aforetime, heals the sick, saves sinners, and destroys the last enemy, death" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 185).
Accepting our genuine selfhood as forever flowing from God, who is Love, we find ourselves expressing goodness and joy. Continuing on the path of life, where "at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore," we naturally eschew merely sensual pleasures. There is great delight for ourselves and others in being God's right-hand man or woman, daily seeking and doing Life's will.