Encouragement From The Word

A lesson from the death of Wade Belak

Some people say things happen in “threes”.  I don’t know about that, but at the moment, the hockey world is reeling from its third player death in four months.  Wade Belak played for several professional hockey teams.  (He also played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.)  He was well liked, and wasn’t the sort to take himself too seriously.

It has been revealed that Belak took his own life in a downtown Toronto hotel.  The circumstances surrounding this are unknown, but everyone is surprised, because Belak seemed happy-go-lucky; he was a family man.  He didn’t seem like the stereotypical candidate for suicide.

As I said, we don’t know the circumstances surrounding why he took his own life – nor should we.  This is not our business to know.  But there is something instructive for us in this situation.  It’s not common for people who are happy to end their own lives.  Was that happiness a façade?  Was it a wall he built to protect himself (and others) from a more painful true self?

We don’t know.  What we do know, however, is that using façades and walls to hide our true selves from other people is not healthy.  If we are in pain – physical, emotional or spiritual – we should not try to hide it from other people in the name of ‘not wanting to be a burden’ or ‘not wanting to steal the show’.  It’s one thing to be asked, “How are you?” and go on for ten minutes about every ache and pain you’re experiencing, but it’s another thing to simply smile and say, “I’m fine”, when you’re aching inside.

God, after all, sees us as we are.  We can hide nothing from our Creator.  So why do we hide from others?

Often, we hide from others out of fear of judgment.  We don’t want people to look down on us because of some real or perceived affliction.  We all fear this!  None of us thinks we look just right or act just right.  If only we all would acknowledge our fear, and our frailties, it would be much easier for us all to be ‘real’ with each other.

I don’t know what led Wade Belak to his decision to terminate his life.  But I do know this:  whatever it was, God’s love is greater than that.  Whatever may be our foibles, God’s love is greater than those things.  Whatever may keep us hiding our real selves – God’s love is greater.

Let’s agree to be real with one another, so that if there is something getting us down, we will allow others to speak into our lives, to help us, to encourage us.  That’s what Christian community is all about:  being real. 

Psalm 139.1-14 (NLT) encourages us:

O Lord, you have examined my heart
      and know everything about me.
 2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
      You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 3 You see me when I travel
      and when I rest at home.
      You know everything I do.
 4 You know what I am going to say
      even before I say it, Lord.
 5 You go before me and follow me.
      You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too great for me to understand!

 7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
      I can never get away from your presence!
 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
      if I go down to the grave, you are there.
 9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
      if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
 10 even there your hand will guide me,
      and your strength will support me.
 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
      and the light around me to become night—
    12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
   To you the night shines as bright as day.
      Darkness and light are the same to you.

 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

We are God’s workmanship!  Embrace that reality.  Live and love.