From the headline, I knew why my aunt had made the state news. Aunt Janis heads up the annual Suicide Survivors' Walk in Des Moines, Iowa each year, and she speaks regularly on suicide and drug abuse at churches, schools, and special events. I scanned the article, looking for a quote with my aunt's name behind it.
Instead, I found a whole page full of the stories of teen suicides. Not a line or two, but several paragraphs had been devoted to Neil Linquist. I tried to distract myself by reading other stories, but my cousin's name in bold type drew my eyes back. My throat constricted and my stomach tightened. It was like seeing his obituary all over again. As I read the column of print, I marveled at my aunt's courage to travel around the state telling his story in unashamed detail. Forcing down the last few bites of breakfast, I fled to my room.
Falling to my knees, I burrowed my head in my elbow and leaned against my the bed. Bitter tears and sobs shook my torso as memories of my little cousin played in my mind's theater. Would it ever be possible to "get over" this pain? Other hurts I have grieved over, forgiven, and nearly forgotten—others I am still working through. But more than six years since the day I got the horrific phone call, I found myself weeping as though it had been last month.
My mind drifted back to the days, weeks, and months following my trip to the funeral. The first few days, my friends had been sympathetic and freely asked how well I'd been coping. But all too soon I had found myself alone to deal with my pain—states away from my family, surrounded by an environment that felt too awkward to rehash the pain. I could understand. I wouldn't have known what to say to me either. Still, my ragged heart yearned for someone to listen and not act self-conscious about my family's dark sorrow.
I wanted to be able to share the tears of my soul. Instead, I cried them into my bottled heart and sealed the lid.
I'm not alone. Those few special people who share their hearts with me tell me of deep chasms of pain, anger, and confusion that go unspoken to the world. In the lives of many who don't tell me, I can read the story of neglect, abuse, disappointment, and bitterness—tears of the soul bottled up so well that often even their possessors don't know they exist. We buck up and bear it before our friends and colleagues, but inside we're ravished with pain, unfulfilled longings, and shame.
And yet, knowing this, I'm still guilty. I treat people as though they aren't hurting and longing for a deeper life. I let misdirected expressions of someone else's own pain offend me. I build walls around my heart and shut out those whose own stinging chronicle of woes prevents them from being able to understand mine.
To all of these troubles, there is one shining solution: Understanding my worth to God. For in doing so, I find One who will listen to every sad tale I could tell. In Him I have a Friend who doesn't feel awkward about my recital of the shame of my past or the ache in my heart. His love soothes the pain and fills the emptiness. And through His eyes of love for me, I begin to understand how He sees those who hurt and neglect me—how He loves them—how they, too, are suffering deep wounds.
"Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!" (Psalm 66:20)
"A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God" (Psalm 68:5).
"Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4). "In all their affliction He was afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9).
" 'With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,' says the Lord, your Redeemer. . . . For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you" (Isaiah 54:7, 10).
"Thus says the Lord . . . I have called you by your name; you are Mine. . . . Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you" (Isaiah 43:1, 4).
"He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:3).
"You hold me by my right hand" (Psalm 73:23).
"Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3).
"The Lord delights in you" (Isaiah 62:4).
"For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths. . . . You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!" (Psalm 86:13, 15, 16).
"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life" (Psalm 63:3).
Comforted in the realest love the universe knows, I find strength to continue my day. Challenged and humbled by that love, I join in a new resolution with a dear friend: "A friendship that dreams up ways to help and bless others instead of laughing at them or gossiping about petty annoyances." Stirred by the pain of unnumbered hurting treasures, I purpose to be a comforting, safe, encouraging friend—unashamed to hear, cry, and feel the tears of the soul.