I recently attended a seminar held in my city about mental health, suicide, and crisis prevention. The statistics and stories from my part of the country are alarming, especially when it comes to youth. There are many young people who are starving for peace. Many adults are at a loss for what to do about it. A panel of professionals from various fields in our community shared their observations and strategies. There’s a lot that came out of the evening’s discussions. Here are just a few of the points shared about our community:
- Children are increasingly experiencing complex trauma (multiple, simultaneous, and serious distressing factors in their lives).
- Communities that demonstrate that kids are valued see lower rates of suicide.
- Many traumatic things that people in our community are dealing with don’t show up on screenings for adverse childhood experiences (like reading details about a recent mall shooting on Instagram, immigrating to another country at a young age, etc.).
- Talking about and asking about suicide doesn’t cause suicide; it actually helps prevent it.
- It’s proven to be a powerful positive force in a child’s life to have two adults (in addition to parents) who care about and encourage the child.
- Kids are expressing suicidal thoughts at younger and younger ages.
- Perpetrators of violent crimes include youth at younger and younger ages (and at an alarming rate).
- Our youth increasingly determine their value based on the reactions (or lack thereof) they receive on social media.
Most of these observations are true of your community too.
One of the profound things about Christmas is how it shows the way in which God came into the brokenness. The nativity scenes on Christmas cards don’t portray it accurately. It was a stressful, traumatic evening when the Son of God was born as a baby and placed in a manger. It wasn’t long before his family fled to spare him from a murderous king. Jesus experienced horrific abuse, ridicule, torture, and defilement. He laid down his life by enduring a slow, gruesome, public death on a cross.
God came to be a child, grow up, and live through that. Jesus understands trauma.
Even now Jesus is making all things new and will one day return to end all evil and injustice. He will deliver his people from their pain and give them eternal relief.
But he also sees what’s happening right now. He knows the loneliness and despair. He understands the very real struggles people are going through—especially our youth. And he still comes into the brokenness. He comes close. He walks with his little lambs through the darkest valleys and comforts them with his rod and his staff. He holds his hurting ones close to his heart and is gentle with them when they’re hurting. He’s the one who came to bind up the brokenhearted, and he wipes away the tears.
This Christmas, there are a lot of young ones who won’t be feeling the joy of the season. There are a lot of little pillows in the dark of night that are drenched in tears. On the playground, on the school bus, and riding their bikes on the sidewalk, there are little hearts in those little bodies—some hearts that ache with inexpressible sadness.
Jesus wants to give them his peace.
So he put us in their communities. He gives us the good news of Christmas. News he wants us to share. He gives us new hearts that seek the well-being of others. Hearts like Jesus’ that care for his little lambs. Jesus wants to give the youth around us his peace. In a gentle word, with a thoughtful question, through a caring act of love—he might just do it through us.