Suicide Thoughts

Help When Thinking of Suicide

By Grantley Morris

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Suicide Thoughts

Help When Thinking of Suicide

You matter. Tremendously. If this thrilling truth seems unbelievable to you, I understand. I hurt to even imagine how much you have been beaten up. Nevertheless, the fact remains that your life matters not just more than you realize but more than anyone is capable of comprehending.

That’s why I have agonized over this webpage, devoting countless hours to wrestling with words and seeking more and more insight in my quest to better serve you. Regardless of the value you put on your life, I am acutely aware that if I were to fail to inspire you to keep on living, the loss would be so incalculably enormous.

I need your help, however. I plead with you not to act like a drowning person fighting off someone risking everything in an attempt to rescue him. Not only do I respect you, I could never overpower or outsmart you. I’m just a human desperate to encourage someone whose life matters stupendously more than he or she realizes.

Despite having devoted my life to writing about devastating issues that make people feel suicidal, I was rather staggered to realize that until commencing this latest project I had written little specifically about feeling suicidal. This webpage must be written. Nevertheless, while remaining convinced that you are far too important for me to give up trying, I have agonized almost to the point of despair over how best to serve you. Since it affects you directly, I should briefly explain why writing this has been one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted.

Parts of this webpage will comfort, encourage and help you – probably to life-changing levels. I am horrified to realize, however, that other parts might so atrociously miss the mark as to be significantly worse than nothing.

Our uniqueness means that what uplifts you might make me even more suicidal, and what brings peace to me could infuriate you. Of course, if only I knew which parts do not work for you I would remove them in a heartbeat. The dilemma is that any attempts to do this for one person could result in the removal of what to you are the most precious parts. Still more disconcerting is that experience has convinced me that everyone is so unique that even if I knew you quite well, I could not predict your reaction to every part. To further compound my sleepless nights, I am painfully aware that anyone so stressed as to be contemplating suicide is likely to be too overwhelmed to read much. At any moment, someone could stop reading and commit the ultimate tragedy before discovering all I have to offer. Individual responses vary so wildly that I don’t even know which parts to put first.

Despite yearning for a neater solution, the best I can devise is to include everything that could possibly assist, and prayerfully trust you to focus on those parts that help you and skip over and try not to be offended by parts that do not work for you.

Although it does not solve the problem, I might later plunder the following material; slicing it up into smaller segments for those who feel too distressed to read much. In fact, by the time you read this I might have already begun this process. So if you happen to find something you have already read, feel free to skip to the next section. Parts of this webpage that appear elsewhere in my huge website are displayed in darker color, like this sentence. You are unlikely to have already read all of those parts but for any that you have and that you prefer not to re-read, the color scheme will help you know where to scroll down to in order to skip to the new section.

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There is no shame in feeling suicidal. Indeed, it is the path to great honor for anyone who staggers on despite the oppression. And, in actual fact, the more suicidal one feels, the greater the honor.

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When Death Comes as a Friend

Death comes as a friend offering hope. It says it understands and can end your overwhelming grief, shame or suffering.

If you were convinced of death’s claims, however, you would not have sought out this webpage. You are reading because, for good reason, serious doubts are throbbing deep within you.

Death makes a big show out of being a friend because it is a con artist plotting to cheat you not just out of your life savings, but infinitely worse: to cheat you out of your very life. It is scheming to con you not only out of everything you have but everything you are and everything you would have had and would have risen to, if you had refused to let it dupe you. It is conniving to rob you not just of everything you own and all the possessions you would have enjoyed in the future, nor even rob you of your current relationships, but to steal all your future relationships, achievements, rewards and fulfillment that in your present despair you cannot even imagine.

A death wish is the most disgusting of all swindlers, both because of what it wants to dupe you out of and because it is unspeakably cruel to prey on someone’s vulnerability when weakened by a haze of physical or emotional pain. Isn’t it time you exposed this loathsome lowlife? Shrink from this fraudster as you would from a stinking, maggot-infested corpse.

Reclaim your dignity. Rise up in anger against anything so despicable that it actually wants to kill you. Refuse to let it make a fool of you.

Imagine what a harrowing ordeal it would be to be stalked by someone armed with the means to kill you and intent on hunting you down like prey to be slaughtered. Would you knowingly give such a person free access to your private dwelling, while he lurks around hatching plots to murder you? No one in his right mind would allow it. Wouldn’t you bolt the door and strive to put as much distance between him and you as you possibly can?

So it is with suicidal thoughts. Never willingly let them in.

Here’s how fiercely we should oppose suicidal thoughts:

    Mark 9:47 43-48 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Although talking figuratively, Jesus deliberately used the strongest possible language to ram home just how ruthless you and I must be in denying ourselves things that could harm us spiritually. What we should add to that revelation is that nothing harms our ability to love, obey and serve God like suicide.

No matter what atrocious sin you commit, you could later have a change of heart and, if you are genuine, your loving Lord would eagerly accept you back and you could spend the rest of your life – perhaps decades – faithfully serving and delighting God; achieving things of incalculable significance. The only exception is suicide. Kill yourself, and you have forever denied God all those years of earthly service he deserves. In practical terms, the result is the same as if you had acted in rebellion against the Almighty, not once, but every moment of every day for however many years you could have lived.

And God really is that practical. What matters is not all our good intentions but what we end up doing. God feels our pain, he admires our sacrifices and praises and rewards our faithfulness, but he sees right through our excuses and hypocrisy. Jesus made this crystal clear when he said:

    Matthew 21:28-31 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. . . .”

One son says all the right things, and perhaps had all the right intentions, but ended up not serving his father. He seems so much better than the rebellious son but all his words and good intentions are useless and it is the other son who ends up delighting the father. So it is with suicide: anyone can claim to love God and to serve him but if he kills himself, he ends up doing as little of God’s will as if he had hated God and had spent the rest of the life he would have had angrily defying him. No matter how good his intentions, he ends up opting to deny God all the years of service that were rightfully God’s. On the other extreme, no matter how anti-God a person is, if he keeps on living, he keeps open the possibility of repenting and serving God, devoting years to achieving things of eternal value.

When it comes to the serious ramifications, suicide is without rival. That being so, and with Jesus speaking figuratively of ruthlessly hacking off body parts, it becomes devastatingly clear just how vehemently we must attack suicidal thoughts when they seductively knock on our door. You should treat them with the horror and disdain that you would snakes and scorpions in your bed.

You, however, have something profoundly significant to rejoice in. Despite appalling oppression, perhaps harrowing near-misses and traumatic events, you are still alive. Your situation might have been as precarious as David’s when King Saul, backed by his entire nation’s military might and resources, was continually trying to murder him. Despite all that has been hurled at you, however, you are precious to God and, just as the Almighty believed in David, he believes in you. He has kept you safe and is planning something wonderful for you.

No matter how much of a mess we might have made of things in the past, none of us need resort to anything dishonorable, like trying to block reality from memory or trying to excuse our sin. God freely forgives, not because of the smallness of sin, but because of the enormity of his love and the enormity of what Christ earned for you and me on the cross by trading places with us; fully taking upon himself all the horrendous consequences of our sin and, in exchange, lavishing upon you his status and all his divine perfection.

Let’s forgive ourselves the same way – by seeking to rise to Godlike levels of love and by honoring the magnitude of what Christ achieved on the cross.

There is no need to act like someone desperately needing half a billion dollars to avoid disaster, who is eagerly offered the full amount with no strings attached but, feeling too embarrassed to accept it all, pathetically tries to make do with accepting a paltry few dollars.

Please don’t keep yourself needlessly miserable by treating God as if he were stingy. Let God be God. Let him be the effervescent, stupendous, extravagant Being he is. Whether you can get your head around it or not, through Christ erasing every trace of your sin, the Lord of Creation is your delighted Father. His eyes sparkle with pride as he beams at you. Honor him and complete his joy by reveling in the staggering infinity of his love and generosity. Thrill him and yourself by being a gracious, ecstatically thankful receiver.

So snuggle into God. Relinquish any tendency to resist his tenderness. Instead of unknowingly fighting him by being hard on yourself, sink into his loving arms. Let him soothe your wounds. Thrill him by letting him comfort you and affirm your worth.

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Be Gentle with Yourself

On an emotional level, put your feet up and treat yourself to a luxurious vacation. Congratulate yourself on having come this far through a horrific ordeal that some would not have survived. Put an end to giving yourself a hard time and reprimanding yourself for perceived failings. It achieves nothing, since Christ has wiped your record clean. Instead, do something productive that will fire you with enthusiasm for future victories: let the Almighty soothe and pamper you. Kick off your shoes and bask in his love.

At the heart of godliness is being kind, gentle, patient and loving. These exquisite qualities belong, of course with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the product of a life overflowing with the divine. To that list – or perhaps as proof that we truly have these virtues – we should add being forgiving.

Everyone is far from the heart of God who is lacking any of these qualities, or who thinks there is someone he has divine approval for not treating this way. For example, over and over God’s Word insists we must honor even our enemies with such compassion and tenderness (Scriptures).

As Christ genuinely loved to the extreme those whom the “righteous” considered scum, so must everyone hoping to be Christlike. (“Righteous” must be placed in quotes because treating anyone as scum proves one is not righteous.) Anyone grieves God who seeks to find an exception as to whom one should be kind, gentle, patient and loving toward.

“No exceptions” means no exceptions.

Some people who are genuinely seeking to please God, however, mistakenly think they have divine license – even approval – for maintaining a harsh, ungodly attitude toward one person – themselves. I am one of those who fell deeply into this error – and I wallowed there for years.

At the heart of this misunderstanding is this Scripture: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate . . . his own life – he cannot be my disciple,” ( Luke 14:26).

For an accurate understanding of this important Scripture we need to note that Jesus did not say anyone should hate himself but hate his life. This might seem to be splitting hairs, but it isn’t.

Jesus was talking about one’s earthly life and earthly comfort, which to be Christlike we must be willing to sacrifice whenever required for the glory of God, just as Christ did. (For similar scriptures affirming we must be willing to sacrifice our earthly lives when required for God’s sake, see Acts 20:24, Revelation 12:11.)

Who in their right mind, however, imagines Jesus hated himself or despised himself? Who imagines it would be honoring to the One who was tortured to death to cleanse us from all sin if we were to treat ourselves with disgust, as if Christ’s sacrifice were a useless waste? Since the Holy Lord loves us with all that he is and pronounced us cleansed, who dares think it honoring to him if we consider ourselves “holier” than God by holding ourselves to a “higher” standard than him by despising ourselves as if we were still defiled?

Elsewhere, Jesus assumed godly people love themselves as God loves them, and if he had not done so he would have been at odds with Scripture, since he was quoting God’s Word when he said:

    Matthew 19:19  . . . ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’

    Matthew 22:39  . . . ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Yes, he cited it more than once.

We must not distort this into an excuse for seeking a soft life or falling into conceit or becoming preoccupied with ourselves. We must continually set our “minds on things above, not on earthly things,” (Colossians 3:2). Nevertheless, we must not erase from our consciousness this, and other biblical references, (such as Ephesians 5:29) to there being a godly way to love and be kind to oneself.

For deeper insight into Jesus’ meaning, we need to examine the context:

    Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.

It would be a travesty to grieve our Lord by twisting Jesus’ words into license to being less than loving toward those dearest to us. The Jesus who emphasized doing good even to our enemies clearly did not mean that because of our devotion to God we should not love our family. In fact, he tore strips off the Pharisees and teachers of the law for teaching this very thing:

    Matthew 15:3-9 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ ”

Likewise, Scripture says:

    1 Timothy 5:8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Strong language!

If, however, it is a serious error to twist Jesus’ words into an excuse for not being loving toward one’s parents, it is equally perverse to use this same Scripture to conclude it is godly to be cruel, harsh or unforgiving toward someone else God is fiercely devoted to – ourselves. I feel tenderly toward those who treat themselves this way. After all, I have languished in their ranks despite claiming to know the Scriptures I have quoted. Nevertheless, if you, too, are floundering in this cesspit, I ache to lift you out.

To be godly is to be Godlike. That hardly requires a doctorate in semantics. Only a hypocrite could claim to be godly and set a different standard to God’s. Since God loves you and forgives you and is patient and kind, dare any of us think it righteous to act differently?

If it is true that “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) then you are God’s child, not your own, and just as it is wrong to punish someone else’s child, it is equally wrong to usurp God’s authority by beating yourself up. You are God’s, not your own.

I get down on my knees and beg you: please honor God by being kind to yourself as unreservedly as he is kind to you. Generously forgive yourself. View your past as wiped spotless. It is the only way to honor your Savior. See yourself as divine royalty; adopted into God’s inner family as his darling child, being lovingly prepared to rule for eternity with the glorious Son of God. To believe anything less is heresy. It is to swallow a lie and make a mockery of what Christ sacrificed everything to do for you. Too many of us break God’s heart by confusing that travesty with humility or righteousness. Please don’t do that.

Honor your Lord by emulating him in being kind, gentle, patient and forgiving not merely toward those who mistreat you, but toward yourself. That is being Christlike. It is dying to self (especially when treating ourselves that way is contrary to our preference). It is taking upon yourself God’s values and living them.

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When Life is Impossible

Right now, life might seem impossible but with the God who loves you, nothing is impossible. He is the God of the unexpected, who “rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6). He is the “God, who gives generously to all without finding fault,” (James 1:5) and declares, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete,” (John 16:24). Nevertheless, the Almighty is so different from us. With his infinite intellect he foresees complex chains of events triggered by the tiniest action – all the intricate factors that defy our ability to grasp. And the Eternal Lord operates on a totally different timescale. What seems forever to us is not even a microsecond to him, and he can squeeze into one of our microseconds what would take all of humanity millions of years even to think of.

As I wrote in my book:

    When the doubled-over woman met Jesus (Luke 13:10-16) he could have said, “See me at sundown.” That was the end of the Jewish Sabbath and presumably no more than twelve hours away – a mere 0.0076% extension to her eighteen-year wait for healing. To heal on the Sabbath was to gush petroleum upon the smoldering wrath of his enemies. The inferno could even offend sincere believers and convince the undecided that his powers were Satanic. But to the eternal Son of God those few uneventful hours in the life of a nameless woman – a 0.0076% deferral – was too high a price.

    Infinite Love will restrain himself until the perfect time, but not one second longer.

The perfect God will wait for the perfect time to shower you with even more rewards and more compensation than you are capable of imagining for all that you have endured.

Amazing things come to those who wait. In fact, waiting is one of the Bible’s main synonyms for faith (Scriptures). Neither of us knows if 99.99% of your waiting time has already passed. Whether the breakthrough is moments away or longer, you have done superbly in holding on. It would be an appalling tragedy to waste it all and miss out by killing yourself after coming so far.

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I am still in awe that years ago the Lord granted me the immense honor of using my writings to save a man from suicide. He prefers to be known to you by the pen name, Ralph. I rejoice that he continues to have the tenacity to remain alive, though I am grieved that his anguish has actually worsened over recent years. Now thirty years old, and knowing a little of my own suffering, he recently e-mailed me, telling how he still daily wrestles with suicidal thoughts and ending with this:

    But, fortunately, you are alive and have lived vastly longer than me, even though it cost you so dearly. Please tell me, as you look back on your worst moments, did things get better and are those horrible times now mere memories you just brush off?

I loathe talking about myself. On the rare occasions that I put the spotlight on myself I feel like a repulsive cockroach wanting to scurry from the light; desperate to find some dark hole to hide in. Part of my personal pain is that I’ve come to think that other people despise me as much as they would a cockroach. Even many of my readers who cannot know me well enough to think ill of me, end up despising me when I admit to feeling this way. Thankfully, I know God well enough to realize that he sees everything through eyes of love and that love is blind to flaws (“covers over a multitude of sins” – 1 Peter 4:8) and sees the best in a person. Solely because of who he is and what Christ has done, the most important, most knowledgeable and most magnificent person in the universe thinks warmly and even admiringly about me. I am so sure of this but my guess of how others see me matters little to me, though it still leaves me squirming about sharing anything about myself. At the end of this age, the secrets of every heart will finally be exposed for all to see (Scriptures). Every opinion other than God’s will be proved wrong. For the rest of eternity, everyone who has seen things differently from God will be ashamed of their error. This is of such profound significance that nothing that happens in ignorant minds before that Day is worth losing sleep over, even if, as I have admitted, I still foolishly squirm a little. Nevertheless, this man’s question has moved me to think that sharing a tiny bit about myself might possibly encourage you, and if I could achieve that, I will willingly endure any shame.

I’m alive solely because I’ve never considered suicide an option for a Christian. Nevertheless, I’ve staggered through torturous years and years and years of wishing it were an option – seemingly endless years of agony that, amazingly, I now look back on and joyfully praise God for.

Someone awarded the nation’s most prestigious medal for military bravery might look back on the events for which he is now repeatedly honored and regard them as, in one sense, the worst time of his life and, in another sense, the best time of his life because all his subsequent acclaim stems from those events.

I was pleased when I thought of this analogy of a highly decorated hero because I think it explains well how it is possible to view the most awful time in one’s life as also the most glorious time in one’s life. When I typed it out and stared at it, however, it seemed most inadequate because it fails to explain how I could have the audacity to see myself in that light. I guess the answer is that God has graciously allowed me to see my saga as he sees it.

People don’t honor me as a hero. In fact, most probably see me as an idiot or a failure for suffering the way I did. Though, of course, not in the same league, their reaction is somewhat like the way some of those who do not know Jesus’ heart view his humiliation on the cross as a shameful failure. And I doubt that anyone comprehends the depth of my past suffering. I’m unmoved by that, however, because I know that the love of my life – the most important person in my life and, indeed, the most important person in the entire universe – knows exactly how much it hurt, and although, to me, the vividness of the memory is fading, he will never forget.

Regardless of how others see it, I have the immense satisfaction of knowing that it meant a lot to my Lord that I honored him by enduring the agony without seeking to lessen it by substance abuse or moral compromise or suicide. As it happened, I never wavered. Nevertheless, even if I had slipped up but had later picked myself up and eventually embraced the pain in a godly way, that would be sufficient satisfaction.

Like a girl-hating little boy who cannot understand what is so special about kissing girls, you might not understand the joy and satisfaction I gain from what I have just described. I had initially planned to say that if you do not understand why this means so much to me, it must be because you have yet to fall in love with God and discover how wonderful he really is. The truth, however, is that God is so astounding that none of us can fully grasp how wonderful he is. My prayer, nevertheless, is that your understanding of God deepens, because from this understanding flows the greatest joy – and the greatest reason for living – that anyone can ever know. That does not mean you will never know grief, but you will know something that far outweighs it and transforms what might otherwise have seemed a useless waste into something worthwhile. Jesus explained it perfectly when he said:

    John 16:21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.

Not only is the resulting joy of childbirth greater than the pain, the pain was not pointless but achieved something of immense value.

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For a complete answer to Ralph’s question, I had to add something that, during those awful years, I do not think I ever imagined I would say. In short: despite life now being exceedingly more pleasant, I actually find myself looking back with envy on a significant aspect of my torment. I have been reluctant to mention this because I expect that doing so will be a waste of time because you will be as convinced as I was that you could never end up looking back fondly on any aspect of your current distress. I can give no guarantee that you ever will, but I am fairly sure that it is considerably more likely than you realize, even though the exact details will vary from person to person.

I do not believe I will ever be able to convey just how intolerable my years of agony were for me, nor convince you that you, too, could end up lamenting the passing of any aspect of your current agony. So I will be brief. Please don’t fight me, however. This is not a competition as to whose life is the most intolerable. You might well have suffered more than me and if so, I am eager to hail you as a hero for staying alive and acknowledge that I am not worthy to clean your shoes. I covet only the honor of being someone who encourages you to reach the heights you were born for. All I ache for is that you don’t throw it all away but continue your heroic stance against the insidious enemy of suicide so that heaven will forever exalt you as one of its champions and reward you more than me for all eternity. True heroes are unlikely to be recognized this side of eternity because Jesus taught there are two types of people: losers who already “have received their reward in full,” (Matthew 6:2,5) and winners who by foregoing worldly acclaim and ease are cleverly accumulating eternal riches they will revel in forever and ever (Matthew 6:20).

All I am hoping to demonstrate through the following is that the passage of time can do some weird, unexpected things that play havoc with our plans to remain forever miserable.

You might not understand it – though I feel sorry for you if you do not – but I was continually hounded by an incessant yearning to glorify God. It was so overwhelmingly intense and focused that to fulfill it was my sole reason for living. Nothing else mattered. And it seemed nothing other than a full-time Bible-teaching ministry could ever satisfy this monstrously strong need. To my utter devastation, however, every opportunity for even minor, part-time service was mysteriously – at times almost miraculously – and excruciatingly closed to me.

The indescribable frustration and feelings of uselessness and failure and rejection were so intense and interminable that I do not know how they did not kill me – even without daring to dishonor my Lord by wrenching matters out of his hands and committing suicide. I consider it nothing less than a miracle that enormous pressure did not result in serious physical or mental illness.

With all other options heartlessly barricaded off, I could only write to a non-existent audience; working on a book that I faintly hoped might one day be read. To make it even more ridiculous and seemingly hopeless, I felt no peace about having my writings published, because normal publishing involves making the reader pay, and I could not bear that thought of putting in front of people the slightest monetary barrier to reading something I believed was from God. Again, I cannot expect any normal person to understand. Put simply: God was using my idiosyncrasies, inadequacies, and perhaps plain foolishness, to build a pressure cooker that would eventually explode into ministry.

So all I could do, year after year after year, was rewrite and rewrite and rewrite that same book that was reaching no one. It was common for me to devote an entire hour trying to perfect a single sentence. For me, writing – in fact, expressing myself in any form such that I’m almost satisfied with the result – has always been exceptionally difficult. Using my brain is like trying to escape prison by picking a lock using a cooked noodle.

I dare not stop writing for even a weekend, however, or my deep depression would do the seeming impossible: plummet even lower.

When ministry opportunities finally opened I still financially supported myself in what I regarded a degrading, though no longer mindless, secular job. From that moment, however, I have never had nearly as much time to perfect my writing. I have since written much more, but time pressures mean that the quality of my writing has had to be so much lower that I look back longingly at the days when I could pour so much more beauty, wit, research and skill into my words that the result was far more gripping, entertaining, powerful and concise. This is such an issue that not only is that earlier book on the web but I have felt compelled to pack subsequent webpages, and e-mail responses to people, with quotes from that book. And what is not a quote is, in my opinion, lamentably inferior in quality.

Also, in the years I despised I had time to become an expert in relevant computer programs. One needs to keep updating such skills. For example, my greatest expertise was in a now hopeless antiquated word processing program developed before Microsoft Windows® was even invented. And my needs completely changed. I now needed to understand webpage design, Internet Search Engines, and so on. My Internet presence is woeful, however, because I have had no free time to develop this new skill set. So again, I find myself looking back wistfully at my days of languishing in despair when life moved at such an agonizing snail-pace that I had time for such important things.

I had originally mentioned other factors compounding and intensifying my feelings of utter frustration and uselessness and longing that I had never been born, but to reduce your reading I removed it. I care only about your comfort, not in touting myself as deserving the tiniest footnote in this world’s massive record of human suffering. Since, however, I went to the effort of writing it – and all writing is an effort for me – I have placed it in this link: My Sob Story in a Few Words. It’s there if you are itching to know a little more about me, but don’t expect me to come up to scratch. (Yes, that was an attempt at humor, and yes, it was so woeful that you would probably have missed it without this comment and now that you have noticed it you are sure to wish you hadn’t, and, yes, I’ve just added another attempt at humor.)

* * *

There is one final aspect to a full answer to Ralph’s query. Most young men have a torturously strong sex drive and their self-esteem and feelings of intense loneliness depend on how much female companionship they have. My yearnings, however, were so off the charts from my early teens that it literally felt as if my very sanity hinged on marrying as soon as possible. It was not until my mid-fifties that I finally married and lost my virginity. I had long feared that if I were ever to finally marry and let myself savor its joys I would, even more than before, flood with regret over all the years I had missed through not being married. To my astonishment, this has never happened. Despite my marriage being in several ways even better than I had dared hope, I have never felt the slightest tinge of regret over God’s timing.

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The Surprise Beginning of Something Beautiful

The Almighty’s grasp of reality soars so staggeringly beyond our own that its heights are as unreachable to us as the stars in a dark sky. Our glorious Savior sees nothing from the perspective of defeat or hopelessness. He is the Lord of the impossible who always leads us in triumph and works all things together for good (see The Triumphant Lord Through Whom We Triumph).

So if we peer at life through the gloom of defeat or hopelessness, we are not seeing as God sees. Since God is truth, to not see as God sees is to miss the truth. No matter how much we suppose we are being realistic, to be gloomy is actually to have lost touch with reality and entered the dangerous realm of deception. It means we desperately need to refocus; to set our minds on things above; to renew our minds; to seek God like never before for spiritual enlightenment (Scriptures).

I should spend a few words helping you understand why seeing anything from the perspective of defeat or despair is to either be deceived or defrauded.

The astonishing change that occurs when a grub becomes a butterfly is merely physical. It is totally outclassed by what happened when you yielded to Christ. You might look and feel the same but you were spiritually transformed into an infinitely higher being.

As I wrote in my book:

    While some mental patients have delusions of grandeur, we suffer the opposite psychosis. Relative to who we are, God’s children – even those with dangerously inflated egos – have delusions of insignificance.

    The instant we were born-again, our status and potential rocketed out of this world, leaving our self-image floundering somewhere between earth and reality. The gulf between who we really are and who we think we are is so serious and so beyond our normal comprehension (Ephesians 3:19-20; 1 John 3:1-2) that we literally need divine psychiatric help. (Ephesians 1:16-19; Colossians 1:9; Philemon 6. The psychiatric definition of a delusion is a false notion that cannot be altered by reasoning or by demonstration of the facts.) A major task of the Holy Spirit is to help us grasp the enormity of what has happened to us (John 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:9-15; 1 John 4:13; Ephesians 3:3-5; John 14:26; 16:13). It is vital that we keep probing the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 4:6-7) and pleading for spiritual revelation. We are like paupers ecstatic because we think we have inherited $10,000, when we’ve actually received $1 billion. We live chronically impoverished lives and the less we know of our spiritual inheritance, the greater the tragedy.

The infinite Lord has chosen to make your mind and body his new home. He has clothed himself with your being. When God wanted to deck himself out in new clothes to show himself in public, he chose your mind and body. He has made you his expression of who he is. Where you go, he goes, and what you do, he does.

The union between you and the divine is even deeper and more wondrous than this suggests. You and God are indivisible. As sodium (a peculiar element that explodes in water) and chlorine (a poisonous gas) chemically unite to form a totally different substance (salt), you and Almighty God have been spiritually melded together to become an utterly unique life form that the Bible calls a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). His infinite intellect, power and perfection live and express themselves in you.

This melding is so total that not only is the divine Lord in you, you are in him (John 15:5; Ephesians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; 1 John 4:13). Not only is Christ the righteousness of God, so are you (2 Corinthians 5:21). Not only does Christ reign over the universe from God’s throne, you are spiritually on that throne reigning with him (Ephesians 2:6).

You have been exalted to the highest position of power in the entire universe. Christ’s victory is your victory. His power is your power. His glory is your glory. There is nothing defeated or gloomy about that!

Yes, as part of your earthly mission you will endure hard times when you look and feel like a loser, just as the eternal Son of God did on his mission to this planet. Nevertheless, like him, and through him, such times might be satanically inspired but they end up being divinely orchestrated tactical moves that will culminate not just in triumph but in eternal glory.

So to despair is to be duped into not realizing who you really are in Christ. If, on the other hand, you are not one with Christ, whereby his supreme victory and power is yours, then you have been robbed, because Christ sacrificed everything for you to have it. Please don’t let yourself be robbed for one moment longer. Ask Jesus right now to cleanse you from all sin, so that this union with the divine can instantly be yours. (For more help with this, see You Can Find Love: What your Fantasies Reveal.)

Doing this could literally be a matter of life or death, and if you are currently flooding with despair, your despair might just be the impetus you need to make discoveries that will propel you to a whole new realm of achievement and fulfillment. That would make this low point in life the beginning of something incomparably glorious.

So jettison human thinking. It’s killing you. Swap your human perspective for God’s perspective. Yield to the divine plea to “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know,” (Jeremiah 33:3). Forget instant results, however. Expect to have to prove that seeing things through God’s eyes – to have his heart and mind – is what you hunger and thirst for; the treasure you want no matter what the cost in time, effort and sacrifice. Persist in this and you will spend all eternity rejoicing over the glories this distressing time of despair has ended up driving you to achieve.

There is no higher honor and nothing as noble as soaring beyond human thinking to gain a divine perspective; being so breathtakingly close to Almighty God that you actually see through his eyes. This immense privilege can be yours. Too few of us bother to seek this thrilling and liberating experience, but God eagerly grants it to everyone – no exceptions – who keeps seeking it through Jesus. I plead with you not to be like the majority who are so twisted as to love darkness rather than light (John 3:19). You are capable of so much better than ruining your life with the arrogance of thinking yourself smarter and more realistic than God; supposing that your way of looking at things is right and that God is wrong. Why not release your white-knuckled death-grip on a worm’s eye view of life and rise to the heights you were born for? So much teeters on you attaining this lofty vantage point. Faith, for instance, is all about seeing things from God’s perspective, or at least choosing to act as if we had that revelation. We could also define wisdom the same way. Gaining such a viewpoint requires an utter transformation of our thinking.

For two reasons, dying to self is essential to see things from God’s perspective:

    1. To gain God’s perspective we must die to – that is, give up seeing things from – our own perspective.

    2. Since God is love, he sees everything through eyes of love, and God’s love is pure selflessness. Romantic love can be exceedingly selfish – our heart turns cartwheels over having found someone we think will make us happy. Divine love, however, is about sacrificially giving of oneself for the well-being of others who have nothing to offer us and might even hate us.

Ironically, dying to self can mean refusing to die physically when doing so seems selfishly desirable. To die to self is to fully embrace selflessness and live for God, not ourselves. It is to obey Jesus’ directive: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). It is to pray with Jesus, “. . . yet not my will, but yours be done,” (Luke 22:42) when everything within us screams against going the way God has chosen. It is to declare with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Dying to self (sometimes called taking up your cross, crucifying the flesh or losing your life for Christ’s sake) means reaching the point where you treat your own happiness as irrelevant. It means choosing to do what is right regardless of personal cost. That is true virtue and heroism, and it is the honor you were born for. It is choosing to live, not in order to feel good but in order to be good; not to bring a smile to your face but to bring a smile to God’s face.

* * *

Like a slap in the face, anyone who is hurting instinctively recoils from biblical exhortations to rejoice or be thankful or praise. We want to scream in fully justified rage at the inspired writer (and, ultimately, God) and vomit out the words in utter disgust, “You must be out of your mind!”

Any fool knows that suggesting to anyone teetering on the brink of suicide that he/she should try to rejoice is not only insanely unrealistic but is demanding the impossible. It is not just heartless but as sadistically cruel as ordering a dangerously exhausted ultramarathoner to sprint the next fifty miles when he should be rushed to hospital. Any fool knows this.

What is not only disconcerting but annoying to the extreme, however, is that God is no fool and no sadist and is infuriatingly realistic and practical. Besides having infinite knowledge that would outclass a supercomputer the size of the entire universe, the Almighty is so practical that every working thing in the whole cosmos was made or inspired by him. Moreover, his tender-hearted compassion for us is so extreme as to make the most caring and sensitive of us seem like an unfeeling machine.

Pamper yourself by basking in these moving Scriptures about God’s tender-hearted devotion to you:

    Psalms 27:10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

    Isaiah 49:15 Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

    Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

    Isaiah 63:9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

    Psalms 145:14 The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

    Isaiah 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

    Isaiah 41:13 For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

    Isaiah 46:3-4 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, . . . you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

    Hosea 11:3-4 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

Let’s briefly turn our attention to the human contributors to those Scriptures that urge us to rejoice.

The same Jesus who said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you,” (John 15:11) said just moments later, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”(Mark 14:34). Does that scramble your brain?

We would never need the divine revelation of the Bible if we could survive on what common sense tells us. Delve just a little into those infuriating Scriptures about rejoicing and thanksgiving and the compelling conclusion is that they are not theories formulated in some cushy academic hideaway. They are compassionate help that is so profoundly practical that it is no exaggeration to say they were hammered out in the torture chamber.

David’s psalms that keep insisting we should praise, thank and rejoice would be so much easier to dismiss if the writer were not the man, who, along with the others overwhelmed by the catastrophe, “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4). He is the one who, through no fault of his own, suffered not just the humiliation but the terror of having the king of his country and its entire army, backed by all the nation’s resources, intent on hunting him down and slaughtering him like an animal. Later he had the heartbreak of his own son, Absalom, doing the same thing to him. As if that were not enough to rip his father-heart to shreds, this disaster had begun years earlier with Absalom murdering another of David’s sons, Amnon, because Amnon had raped another of David’s children (2 Samuel 13:1, 14-17, 21, 28-32, 37).

Pondering just that horror is nightmare material. I will bounce over all of David’s other tragedies to land briefly on Paul, the most annoying of the New Testament’s writers when it comes to droning on and on about joy, rejoicing, thanksgiving and praise. This was the same man who had so little going for him that he wrote that if earthly life is all there is, “we are to be pitied more than all men,” (1 Corinthians 15:19). He had so little earthly comfort that he not only had no wife or children but often literally went hungry (see Paul Often Hungry). Of course, he was the one who was tortured, not just on one horrendous occasion but on occasion after occasion, after occasion, after occasion, after occasion.

I’ll leave this cursory mention, and bounce on to the New Testament book that is crammed with the most praise. I refer, of course, to Revelation, the book penned while its author was incarcerated on the Roman equivalent of Alcatraz.

You know I could devote pages to expounding the depth of suffering these Bible saints plumbed, but without even bothering to do so, it becomes undeniable that references to praising and thanking God are not the works of the insanely idealistic, but of flesh and blood people who had tapped into a spiritual reality so far beyond what many of us know as to seem impossible, and yet so within our grasp that Scripture was written for us.

Yes, at first glance those Scriptures seem totally unrealistic and impractical but they are so practical that your very life could depend on applying them.

A document for people who are about to undergo open heart surgery reads, “On the second day after surgery, you will typically be expected to walk two or three times.” (Source). Hidden in those few words are imperatives I would never have guessed had not I heard years earlier a nurse saying one of her most important duties was, despite their protestations, to insist her patients get out of bed soon after open heart surgery and get them walking, even if only a couple of steps at first. I was so horrified to hear it that I’ve never forgotten it. My eyes nearly popped out of my head as I began imagining myself as one of her patients. It would not just be the last thing I would feel like doing, but I would have thought it unbelievably cruel and so dangerous as to be crazy to ask anyone to get up so soon after an eight to ten inch incision, sawing through bone, wrenching it apart and operating on the most vital organ in my body (everyone knows I treat my brain as an optional extra). I was staggered to learn that research suggests getting out of bed so soon is not only sane but critically important to one’s survival. (I wish I could recall the exact statistics she gave of how many lives and serious complications are saved by doing this. It even ends up reducing pain.) This seems so counter-intuitive. I’d have thought that absolute bedrest would be essential for many days.

This closely parallels God urging deeply distressed people to praise, thank and rejoice. What seems so callously out of touch with reality as to be crazy, ends up being critically important to our welfare.

I was staggered when I first learned there actually is a significant body of scientific research that indicates that even forcing oneself to make a fake smile actually lifts one’s spirits. There is even a suggested physiological reason (human anatomy rather than psychology) as to why it works. It is hardly surprising, however, that when the Creator tells us to do something it works.

So there is a highly practical reason for Scripture telling us to have a positive attitude. Having this attitude is in our own best interest. It does us enormous good to put into practice such Scriptures as the following – Scriptures I am even now loathed to mention lest they raise your blood pressure and/or turn your stomach:

    Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

    Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Psalms 34:1  . . . I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

    Psalms 145:21  . . . Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

    Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise . . .

There is another, more basic and more wonderful reason for such Scriptures, however. Consider this:

    John 16:33  . . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! . . .

So far, this reads like yet another of those infuriatingly senseless Scriptures. Admittedly, having this attitude might be sensible in that it is as practical as following scientifically verified medical advice. It remains senseless, however, in that since Jesus insisted we are going to have trouble, there is nothing to “take heart” about, right? Wrong. Let’s let Jesus complete what he is saying:

    John 16:33  . . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Even if the world is giving us grief, Jesus has overcome the world that is currently opposing us. There really is much to “take heart” about. No matter how much it might seem that everything is against us, we are on the winning side. That renders it pointless to needlessly torture ourselves by taking on the mentality of losers. It might look as if everything will end up disastrous, but it won’t. We will have the last laugh, and that laugh will last for all eternity. So falling into despair is senseless.

There are other Scriptures that give us rational reasons for rejoicing in what seem to be ridiculous situations for doing so. Here’s a powerful one:

    2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

This is not just saying the eternal reward of the faithful will far outweigh any earthly suffering; it is saying that their suffering actually produces the eternal glory they will one day enjoy. “. . . our troubles are achieving . . . an eternal glory . . .” Still more Scriptures that give us rational reasons for rejoicing when things seem atrocious. For example:

    Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven . . .

    Romans 5:3-4  . . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. [James 1:2-3 is similar]

    1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
    (Emphasis mine.)

Regardless of whether other Scriptures bother to spell it out in the immediate context, anyone familiar with biblical teaching knows that every Scripture telling us to be thankful, rejoice and praise God in every situation does so not merely because such an attitude helps us psychologically and through this ends up helping us in very practical ways. These Scriptures were penned because no matter how dismal things might seem in the short term, there really is much to genuinely rejoice about and to be thankful and praise God for.

Rather than these Scriptures being unrealistic, it turns out that for those who are in submission to Almighty God, being miserable is out of touch with reality and is both impractical (it hurts us) and senseless (we actually have much to rejoice about).

God is truth and praising him enables us to get back in touch with reality. This makes praise and worship the most practical thing in the universe (to say nothing of it being the most fulfilling thing we could ever do and taking us to heights of love beyond what anything else could reach). This does not mean, of course, that praise and worship will always feel that way. There will be times when picking scabs off a wound will seem more pleasant.

After writing the above paragraph, I went to bed, only to wake in the middle of the night, appalled that that I had actually intended to leave the paragraph like that and say nothing more about love and fulfillment. In my (thankfully temporary) insanity I had thought that straying on to that topic would be getting sidetracked, but there is nothing more practical than love and fulfillment in that it provides the most powerful of all motivations both to live and to rejoice and praise. Indeed, you need go no further than the Song of Solomon to see that praise is the language of love.

Getting sidetracked? What was I thinking? Nothing could be more pertinent to a discussion of what we have to rejoice, be thankful and praise God for when life seems intolerable. And nothing could be more rewarding and central to gaining God’s perspective on life than seeing everything through eyes of love. And nothing could be more on target in a webpage about feeling suicidal, since love (both being loved and loving others) is vitally important to making life worthwhile. Without it, life becomes shallow and drains of so much meaning that it should come as no surprise if someone thinking himself/herself unloved has a pathetically weak will to live.

You might feel as if you are eking out your existence locked up in solitary confinement in a torture chamber. There are times when one’s feelings scream so loudly as to drown out reality, but if ever there is such a time, it is when a Christian feels alone. No matter how much you feel unloved, neglected and misunderstood, you are right to call such an awful trial a nightmare because it is nothing more than a terrifying fantasy. It’s time to wake up to the truth and enjoy the relief of knowing it was just a very bad dream.

You are so cared for and thoroughly understood, and God is so intensely and intimately with you and in you, that he literally feels your pain. When you hurt, God hurts. If you imagine having a passionate human lover to be a deeper, more real or more satisfying experience, it is because you are still in the nightmare and have yet to fully wake up to reality.

Nightmares happen and they seem frightfully real. The advantage of this type of nightmare, however, is that no matter how real it feels, you never have to be fooled into believing it.

Coming to understand the depth of God’s love for you is so critical to one’s fulfillment (and consequently one’s will to live) that I have invested years of effort into crafting a series of webpages devoted to helping increase your awareness of God’s love for you. I suggest that after completing this webpage you start with You are Loved! What Your Fantasies Reveal and then How Much does God Love Me? Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You and all the links there.

There is nothing that fulfills like love and there is no love as fulfilling and complete as God’s love for you. There is another aspect of fulfillment I should mention, however. Of course, like every good thing, it flows from God’s love – God gives it because he is love.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying (usually uttered at least partly in jest) “Life’s a ______ and then you die.” The implication is that all of life is awful until finally terminated by a distressing passage to bleak and never-ending nothingness. What makes this a malicious lie is that life is rewarding for those who, through spiritual union with Christ, live in submission to God. It is certainly not that life often feels rewarding at the time, but that everything we do will end up being rewarded for all eternity. This makes life – and even suffering – highly meaningful and worthwhile.

    1 Peter 1:6 for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Meaningless suffering? No, the passage continues:

    1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Later on, it might seem that we “suffer grief” only for “a little while” but it is most unlikely to seem a “little while” at the time. We can suffer immensely but we will be stupendously compensated:

    Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

    2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Paul, who was granted a glimpse of heaven, was certain that the reward would totally eclipse the most agonizing and prolonged suffering. Regardless of how much it might later seem that our ordeal was “light and momentary,” however, let’s remember that this was not penned by some theorist but by Paul, the torture survivor.

As the Amplified Bible puts it:

    1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].(I’ve added the bold for emphasis.)

If everyone granted eternal life were rewarded equally, suffering – indeed much of life – would lose considerable meaning. To know that this is not true, however, we need go no further than here:

    1 Corinthians 3:12-15 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

(For more on this, see God Isn’t fair?)

To my shame, I confess that until recently I used to imagine that only those whose suffering resulted directly from serving God would be rewarded for their suffering. I used to object to people who referred to such things as unavoidable arthritis as “their cross.” Such suffering, however, turns into something for which we will be rewarded when we mix it with the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) by praising God despite the pain and by choosing to live despite the intense pressure to end our lives. (For more on this, see Types of Beneficial Trials.)

Now that I understand the reasons for getting up soon after open-heart surgery, if I ever found myself in that situation, I would do it, even if it were the last thing I felt like doing and it took considerable effort. It would no longer be a case of blind faith in a nurse.

The safest person in the universe to have blind faith in is the Almighty. Nevertheless, you now know a little about the practical and rational reasons for praising God even when doing it is the last thing you feel like doing. Because I care about you, it is my prayer that now that you understand, that you will do it, no matter how much persistent effort it takes.

* * *

We usually think that a zest for life produces joy, which leads to thankfulness, which leads to praising God, but we have it completely upside down. Because everything good flows from God, and praise ushers us into his throne room, everything worthwhile flows not from a zest for life, nor even from becoming a spiritual beggar but from praise and worship.

Christian joy comes not from circumstances but from making the determined, persistent effort to rejoice and to praise and thank God.

I understand someone pooh-poohing rejoicing in the midst of pain as shameless escapism, but anyone who thinks this has not bothered to think it through. Biblical rejoicing is not only firmly grounded on reality; it empowers us to face reality more than ever before. There are three aspects to this truth:


    Biblical rejoicing fully embraces the reality of current suffering and danger.


    Biblical rejoicing gets us in touch with positive, hard to accept realities we would otherwise be living in denial of.


    It empowers us to endure painful realities we might otherwise run from.

To confirm the first truth – that Christian rejoicing fully acknowledges the reality of current circumstances – consider such Scriptures as these:

    Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him . . .

    Psalms 56:8,10 Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll . . . In God, whose word I praise . . .

    Psalms 59:16 But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

    Psalms 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.

    Habakkuk 3:16-18 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. . . . Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, . . . yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn , for they will be comforted.

    Acts 5:41  . . . rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

    Romans 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings  . . .

    2 Corinthians 11:7-10  . . . there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. . . . Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses . . . I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. . . .

    Hebrews 10:34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property . . .

    James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds

    1 Peter 1:6,8 In this you greatly rejoice , though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. . . . you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
    (Emphasis mine.)

I suggest that you save it until later, but I have an entire webpage, Real Christians Grieve, that delves into the amazing frequency of Bible heroes shedding bitter tears and acknowledging deep sorrow.

It is languishing in despair, not biblical rejoicing, that is living in denial. To be nothing but miserable is to run away like a coward and hide from the complexity of the full truth. It is to lazily refuse to embrace half the facts, just because they are less obvious and harder to get one’s head around.

Hit by a raging torrent of emotions, will you let yourself be swept away like a lifeless twig, when you were made to heroically fight your way upstream like a real person? The shame of playing the helpless victim is not for you. You were born for greater things, and born again with the power to resist all the oppression that wants to rob you of the greatness you were born for. Resist, and win eternal glory for yourself and for your Lord.

There is nothing noble, heroic or smart about complaining. Praise, thanksgiving and worship, however, is all of these. Rise up and leave the masses whose wisdom is limited to hindsight (and even then they only beat themselves up over past mistakes instead of praising God for what they have learned.)

Eventually, the time will arrive when we can look back from eternity and see how God truly has worked all things together for good (Romans 8:28). We will then, of course, profusely praise God but such praise will bring us little glory. Indeed, we could flood with shame if we look back and see that we complained instead of praised when we could not see how our astonishing, loving Lord could possibly wring good out of the disaster we were suffering. The time will come when we will be unable to stop ourselves from rejoicing. Faith, however, empowers us to rejoice ahead of time and gain not just temporary relief we would otherwise have missed, but eternal honor.

* * *

Life is a bed of roses – complete with thorns. If we have been led to believe that life were meant to be easy, we might have every reason to angrily want to destroy ourselves when reality proves to be very different. But life is not about pleasure, ease or popularity. It’s not about the pursuit of happiness; it’s about the pursuit of God. It’s about delighting him and delighting in him, no matter what the cost. It’s about dying to sin and living to God and righteousness. It’s not about getting our own way. Neither is it about being loved (although we are passionately loved by the most wonderful Person imaginable); it’s about loving. It’s not about avoiding pain, hardship or challenges; it’s about service, sacrifice and what is right. Life is about developing a tough mental attitude, as indicated in such Scriptures as:

    Luke 9:23  . . . If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

    John 12:25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

    1 Corinthians 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

    Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

    2 Timothy 2:3-4 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.

    2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

    1 Peter 2:19-21 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. . . . if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

    1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ . . .

* * *

When it Seems Life isn’t Worth Living

If the thought, “I wish I’d never been born!” is no stranger to you, my heart goes out to you. I long not only to flood you with warm encouragement but for your tears to turn to joy beyond your wildest expectations.

One might expect any mention of a Bible saint to be quirky and irrelevant but since I am writing under the presumption that life currently seems overwhelming to you, my few words about this man must be neither. I dare not take a moment of your time on anything other than what I’m convinced is most helpful, practical and pertinent.

For years, Job has been to me like a soldier exhausting and endangering himself as he half-carries his dangerously wounded friend to safety. Over and over, Job’s deep experience has helped me through dark times. Recently, however, I’ve discovered a new way in which his experience offers valuable insight to all who say, “I wish I had never been born.” It’s this new discovery that I feel moved to share with you.

Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:1-26; 10:18-19). There is nothing even slightly unusual about that. Vast numbers of people – my guess is billions – have at some point in their lives wish they had never been born. The prophet Jeremiah, for example, wished he had never been born (Jeremiah 15:10; 20:14-15). Moreover, when Job expressed that heartfelt wish, his suffering was undeniably intense. He had lost everything – his beautiful family, his honor, his wealth, his health. He was reeling in hopeless and physical and emotional pain.

What grabs my attention, however, is that Job wished he had never been born, not after never having plumbed the delights that earthly life offers certain people, but after a long, exceptionally prosperous, successful, spiritually fulfilling life.

My yearning to comfort and encourage you makes me seriously reluctant to detail just how wonderful Job’s life had been. The last thing I want is to add to your misery by contrasting his life with what you have endured. I’ll simply note that I fail to imagine how anyone could have a more rewarding, enjoyable earthly life for all the years before pain and misery became Job’s constant companions. To ram home the comforting point I am about to make, I should also note that when Job wished he had never been born he was old enough to have ten children, most or all of whom were so mature as to not only celebrate key events independent of Job but they lived in their own houses (Scriptures).

When the fog of pain and misery closes in, we are left so disturbingly short-sighted that for as long as it lasts our perception of everything is grotesquely distorted. Through no fault of our own, we try to look back, and what had been bright now looks dismal and so far away that what had once brought us hope fades to nothing. We try to see ahead and everything looks miserably dark and uninviting. We can’t see back. We can’t see forward. Even things close at hand are so disturbingly murky that even what would look beautiful in the sunshine looks eerily dim. Everything out there that could lift our spirits and give us hope is hidden from us.

Job’s circumstances were unavoidable but it shows that if we let ourselves enter the realm of wishing we had never been born, we end up with a grossly distorted view of reality. If, in the midst of it, Job could no longer see that his past was good and worthwhile, what hope did he have of grasping that his future would likewise be so much better than his present?

To abridge what I have written elsewhere:

    Life in the sunshine is so exhilarating that we seldom notice our faith beginning to droop. It’s when things are dim, that spiritual life mushrooms. In the gloom, qualities like faith, grit, and dedication, are stretched to limits we have never before reached. Yet life seems so oppressive we are oblivious to our triumphs.

    In pristine conditions eyes of faith can see forever. When storms close in, it is a mammoth task for those same eyes to even slightly pierce the swirling murk. It is the conditions, not you, that have deteriorated. Contrary to every feeling, you are not regressing.

    Though offered with the best intentions, much sentimental waffle is sometimes uttered about returning to one’s ‘first love’, as if the starry-eyed euphoria of new believers is greater than the mature depths of your average older Christian. Poppycock! Most spiritual honeymooners are radiant primarily because they think they have entered a blissful world of near-perfect Christians, instant answers to selfish prayers and a life forever free from pain, heartache and trials. Theirs is most likely mere puppy love, relative to the ardor moving you to tough it out.

When we can see nothing clearly, we are in grave danger of losing our way. In fact, every step is risky. At any moment we could trip or slam into things we would otherwise have avoided, perhaps even hurtling down a cliff we could not see.

There is no time we need eyes of faith more than when oppressive conditions limit or even distort what our natural senses can perceive. Our desperate need is the ability to see life through God’s eyes. Nothing empowers us to do this like praising God.

I hear your groan. The dilemma is that the times we most need the life-transforming insight that flows from thanking and praising God, are the very times we least want to. After the death of his wife, C. S. Lewis plummeted into depression. He described it as like lying in a bed, too cold to sleep but too tired to pull up a blanket. We perpetuate our despair because the very thing that will bring us the relief and comfort we crave seems too much effort.

We can break the cycle. We can break into praise and thanksgiving and soar heavenwards through the smog to the sunshine that only the eyes of faith can see. If we do it often enough it will not only lift our spirits but transform our outlook, empowering us to see like never before and inspiring us to greatness. Like a tired man stirring himself to pull up a blanket, however, it seems to take ridiculously more effort than it should. The sunshine is there but will you stay shivering in despair or will you do what it takes to break into heaven’s sunshine?

Job’s experience demonstrates how one’s present trial can be so intense as to obliterate one’s awareness of one’s past. Later on, one might be better placed to rationally evaluate things, but in the midst of a hard time we see everything through a distorted lens.

There is a positive side to Job losing awareness of his former happy times, however. If all Job’s “good times” (actually, what really matters is not feeling good but being good and Job maintained this throughout his ordeal) could seem to shrink to nothing, the same can happen to bad times. If, when things are horrific, his present experience could seem to totally eclipse his past experience, so the good Lord can give us times so wonderful that they totally eclipse any past horrific experiences. This latter point is a strong biblical theme. For example:

    John 16:21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world

    Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

    2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Once, when I was feeling down, I started imagining what it would be like to not exist. Life can throw much at us that is distressing but nothingness is not at all distressing. Dwelling on this slowly sent me on a downward spiral. I eventually learned what a destructive trick such thinking is and that I must never let myself slide down that slippery slope.

Job was special in being particularly righteous; not in how he felt. He was just as subject to deceptive feelings as any of us. Just as there is so much more to a delightful, sun-soaked beach than a single grain of sand, there is so much more to our lives than what we have been experiencing over the last little while. The disturbing tendency of even the most visionary of us, however, is to see life through a pin hole. Everything gets swallowed up by the now and we lose all awareness of the bigger picture.

Even the most visionary of us are like people failing to appreciate the grandeur of a masterpiece because we keep peering at it through a microscope and see only meaningless flecks of paint. We get too engrossed by our current situation to be able to step back far enough to see the big picture. Especially during hard times our entire field of vision gets swallowed up by whatever is happening right now.

Life is like a movie filled with twists and drama and a surprise end but, especially when things get tough, we get so engrossed by what is happening this instant that we keep viewing our life as if it were a mere snapshot and miss the whole storyline.

If viewed a frame a day – or even a few frames an hour – even the best movie drains of all meaning and seems pointless. Although, from the human perspective, life normally seems to move so slowly that we find it difficult to pick up the storyline, everything seems to freeze-frame when life gets hard. When we are in pain, for instance, a few moments can feel like forever. When meaning seems to drain from life, the will to live goes with it.

If you feel that life is not worth living, what has happened, is not that life has become meaningless but merely that we have lost the ability to see the meaning. This is when faith becomes critical. It is then that people suddenly find themselves seriously disadvantaged if they had previously floated through life content with living by what they see instead of developing faith.

Faith is the certainty that our lives have meaning. It is the realization that what we think, believe and do matters tremendously because they move the hand of the God who longs to reward us (Hebrews 11:6). Once we have this certainty, how quickly we are rewarded – and whether in this life or the next – no longer matters. In fact, the longer the delay, the better (Scriptures).

Those who have not made the most of past opportunities to build faith can still struggle on, but they will be so out of condition spiritually that it will be painfully difficult. Anyone who is spiritually fit delights in praising God because he/she knows from experience how essential it is for building faith, which in turn builds the will to live. Those who are spiritually out of condition, however, will balk at the thought of praising God as much as someone unfit balks at running up a hill. You’ll find a thousand excuses for not reaching the top.

There is no alternative, however. Praise is as critical to building faith as physical exercise is to building muscle. If you are wondering about ending your life, things have become so serious that your very life and eternity hinges on you building faith by continually forcing yourself to praise God.

You could not be further from the truth if you were to imagine that God emphasizes praise because he is egocentric. God is love and his definition of love is selflessness. The Bible stresses praising because we need it as much as plants need sunshine. There is no other way for anyone in hopeless despair to get his/her eyes off the problem on to the ultimate solution. It is the only way to restructure our thought life when we are drowning in despair, thinking that life is meaningless.

Many of Jesus’ miracles were not instantaneous but hinged on people putting in the effort to do ridiculous things. Ten lepers had to walk all the way to a priest to have themselves declared cured when it was obvious they still had the disease. A blind man was required to go to a specific pool and wash mud off his eyes. Peter had to catch a fish that Jesus claimed would have a coin in its mouth. And you could keep on finding examples throughout the Bible.

So it is not enough merely to pray for a miracle, you must force yourself to do something you do not feel like doing and seems foolish. That’s where praise fits it. I assure you, it will not be easy. Everything within you will rebel against it. You will continually feel like giving up. Nevertheless, your miracle – the ability to keep holding on to life and so receive your eternal reward – hinges on it.

Playing praise and worship music – and joining in – is likely to help keep you motivated to persist in this critically important discipline. For additional encouragement, see Praise: God’s Anti-Depressant.

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“I Wish I had Never Been Born!”

My passionate dream is that this section will help you feel valued and – dare I hope it? – cherished. My nightmare, however, is that I might fail to convey the depth of my compassion and how much I comprehend the horror of your torment; leaving you feeling misunderstood or even put down. If my attempt to uplift you fails, I am willing to bear the pain and shame of having messed up but I would be mortified if my incompetence were to cause you the slightest discomfort.

So the following is not intended in any way to trivialize the depth of your suffering. I would rather be stung by a swarm of bees than be guilty of that. Nor is there the slightest thought of criticizing anyone for acting normally in a situation, like yours, where pain blocks other considerations from one’s consciousness. This section is merely an attempt to provide a seldom-considered perspective, in the hope of distracting one’s focus from distressing matters.

You would have every right to be highly offended at my ignorance if I were guilty of downplaying your distress or of pointing a finger in your direction. Fear of mistakenly giving that impression almost stopped me from sharing this section. The stakes are high.

What has driven me to the madness of taking the risk of sharing it, however, is that to remove it might be to rob you. You see, pondering the things I am about to share has ended up touching me deeper than I ever expected. It helped me feel more a part of the human race; less spurned and more cared for; less of a misfit and more wanted and that I belong on this planet. If it does the same for you, I’ll be thrilled. If my attempt fails, I apologize and take all the blame. As always, feel free to scroll down a little if the following does not touch you or you have already discovered it elsewhere on this website.

You have most likely been repeatedly beaten up by the thought, “I Wish I’d Never Been Born!” or, “Life isn’t worth living!” My heart goes out to you as it would to an innocent person being mercilessly set upon by thugs. The following is my comeback but you will need to read at least a couple of paragraphs for the significance to hit you.

For me to think, “I Wish I’d Never Been Born!” is an insult to all the glorious sunrises and sunsets that have comprised my life, including the relative few I have ever bothered to gaze upon. It’s an insult to every jewel-like star in the night sky that ever winked at me and to every baby that has ever smiled or giggled in my presence.

“Life isn’t worth living!” is an understandable emotional response to overwhelming oppression. We are too crushed to realize that it is an insult to every bird that has ever sung or flashed its feathers in our direction; to every butterfly, every ladybird and the endless trips to every flower of every bee that has ever filled our mouths with drops of honey.

“I Wish I’d Never Been Born!” is to slight every raindrop, every cow, every microbe, every hand, every invention and every lorry driver that make it possible for you to have every mouthful of cheese or yoghurt you have ever enjoyed. If such products do not appeal, or eating is now only a dim memory, spare a thought for all the untold effort expended in seeking to thrill your taste buds with other delights. As if you were royalty, innumerable microbes keep serving you without your awareness. Until recently, I knew nothing, for instance, of the role of microbes in providing me with chocolate. Despite us dismissing them as insignificant – even repulsive – they keep on serving us.

Indeed, I understand you feeling too blinded by pain to consider it, but no matter how despised and spurned you imagine yourself to be by all of humanity, to consider life not worth living is to thumb one’s nose at every individual in the mind-defyingly vast chain of people involved in every aspect of the production, distribution, development of recipes, stocking of supermarket shelves – and on and on we could go – for every ingredient of every morsel of food you have ever consumed.

“Life isn’t worth living!” is an insult to everyone who throughout your life slaved away to provide your supply of water and electricity and invent and manufacture every machine and appliance that has ever warmed you or cooled you or fed you or in some way make life a little easier for you. It’s an insult to every artist, poet, musician, author, comedian; to every actor, movie director, script writer, camera man and make-up artist. It’s an insult to every medical advance; every bed your body has sunk into; to every Christmas present you have ever received. It’s an insult to all the countless millions of people who have one way or another make your life a little easier and more enjoyable. And add to that every sacrifice and every agonizing childbirth needed to bring you into this world, and all the myriads who for untold generations touched your every ancestor, without whom you could never have been born.

“I Wish I’d Never Been Born!” is not only an insult to every trace of beauty and goodness you have ever savored, it’s also an insult to everyone you have knowingly or unknowingly blessed and to all who will be blessed if you stay alive. It is an affront to everyone in need of a friendly smile or helping hand who could benefit from you staying alive.

I have to stop somewhere, but you know I could fill encyclopedias enumerating just a fraction of everything and everyone who has contributed to your life and has the right to feel slighted by you thinking it might have been better to have never been born.

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All of these insults, however, fade to nothing, in the glare of the ultimate insult. To think we have nothing to live for is to declare God to be nothing, just like saying “Nobody loves me,” is to reduce to the level of no one, the most beautiful, most important, most exciting Person in existence – the One whose stupendous love totally eclipses what anyone else is capable of.

What pushes many of us into the hole of thinking we have nothing to live for is the mistaken belief that what we do gives us value. As I often say:

    A diamond is just a piece of rock. It can’t love, talk, think. Its worth is based not on the work it does but on what people are willing to pay for it. Diamonds are considered of great value simply because people will pay much to have one. You are far more precious to God than tons of diamonds and he paid a far higher price than all the wealth of a million earths to have you as his best friend. You have an irreplaceable place in God’s own heart. He loves you dearly and tenderly and devotedly. He paid the highest possible price – the willing sacrificial death of his holy Son – to have you as his best friend.

Divine love is utterly selfless. It is not that he loves people because he needs them, but the other way around: they are of supreme importance to him because he loves them, just as it is because of their love that a helpless baby is irreplaceable to its parents, not because they need the baby to do anything for them. God loves not because he is needy but because he is unstoppably loving.

Divine omnipotence means that God needs no one. It also means that at any moment the Almighty can use his unlimited miraculous power to do the most astonishing, stupendously important things through anyone, no matter how useless or insignificant that person seems.

To God, you are irreplaceable. You are unique. Even if someone had your genes and your fingerprints, you have a different mix of experiences that would make you quite different from any clone. When God loves – and he always does – he loves with all his heart. He keeps nothing in reserve. That means there is no one in the universe God loves more than you. He has a God-sized yearning for your companionship, and for him there can be no substitute. He wants you.

Let me quote from more of my writings to further explode the myth that it is what we do that makes us of value:

    They had just brought in the washing when there was a knock on the door. ‘Oh no! The house is in a mess! And just look at me . . . !’ exclaimed Martha.

    ‘I’ll get it,’ called Mary. She opened the door and her heart skipped a beat. There was Jesus and all his disciples.

    ‘Come in!’ she gushed excitedly. ‘Martha! It’s Jesus!’

    Martha was in a panic. How was she going to feed them all? If only she’d had more warning. She had wanted everything to be so nice for Jesus. ‘Where’s Mary? She’s taking her time!’

    She ran next door to borrow some food. Still no Mary. She stoked the oven and got out the plates. Still no Mary. She peered out and there was Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet with not a care in the world! Martha exploded. Yet it was Mary that the Savior defended.

    I don’t question Martha’s love, but her sister was more perceptive. Mary had discerned that Jesus’ yearning was not primarily to be served. He craved intimacy. Cakes could never taste so good that Jesus considered it worth being robbed of Martha’s presence.

    Basking in the love of Jesus seems self-indulgent. We feel compelled to slip out of his embrace and whip ourselves into running errands for him. To sit with the King in the drawing room might be acceptable for royalty, but not for the class of people we see ourselves as. Slaving in the kitchen seems more appropriate.

    God, however, is a giver not a taker. If the Lord of hosts wanted slaves he could compel the entire human race to serve him. He yearns for love, not labor. An hour spent luxuriating in the King’s presence means more to him than a life-time of fear-motivated service. If it’s a genuine expression of love, sweat is beautiful. But service as an expression of a slave-mentality grieves him. God longs to lift us from viewing ourselves as heaven’s second-class citizens. He has made us royalty and he wants us to know it.

    Whether it is this particular revelation, or some other message he wants to share, sometimes the only way our Lord can get our attention is to block all opportunities to serve. Otherwise, we’d be in too much of a frenzy to hear him. We can only give to others what we have first received from above. Resting in God’s presence enables us to receive.

    Locked doors are infuriating. I rant. I rave. I kick the door. But when at last I see more clearly, I realize enforced rests are a precious manifestation of God’s love. How I thank God for not letting me smash down the door. What tragedies he saves us from! Father calls ‘time out’ and I’m given the opportunity to commune with the Lord of creation and receive whatever it is I need.

    We look to the day, however, when our Savior need no longer resort to compulsion before we ‘come aside . . . and rest awhile,’ (Mark 6:31). We are nearing graduation when we have learned to sit daily at Jesus’ feet.

    Divine service is being granted the honor of an assignment worthy of God himself. It is God doing us a favor, not the other way around.

The other thing pushing us into the hole of imagining we have nothing to live for is supposing that things turning sour mean God must be disappointed with us or even opposed to us. If this were true and there were no way back into God’s favor, it would indeed be depressing – even alarming – because, without God’s approval, life drains of meaning. But not only is God always passionately loving, his approval is always available. Even if we had utterly fouled things up, for as long as our heart is pumping, God’s forgiving arms are open wide, as in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20-24). Moreover, to think that hard times indicate divine disapproval is like thinking a coach giving his star athlete grueling training sessions proves anything other than that the coach believes in him.

It is important that we break free from this thinking. For help with this, see:

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Temptation will come. Self-destructive thoughts will gatecrash into your head but do your best not to savor them, cultivate them or fantasize about them. Work not on entertaining suicidal thoughts but ejecting them. Recognize them for the insidious deception that they are and treat them accordingly. Treat them as pests, not guests; as filthy invaders, not friends; as thieves, not salesmen; as con artists, not advisors; conspirators, not entertainers.

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2015 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site Freely you have received, freely give.

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