A young man RJ mentored for a summer took his own life two days ago.
RJ spent the summer with Salvie in Estes Park as his team leader a few summers ago. That summer, I visited a few times because RJ and I had just started dating, and a lot of people who I really love were going. Because RJ was his “spiritual dad” for the summer, I remember assuming the role of “mom” to him and his teammate.
I remember RJ telling me about how Salvie was doing well, how excited he was about reading the Bible, how he wanted to meet with RJ twice a week for discipleship, how he frequently gathered men and women for hiking day trips, I just remember him doing WELL. RJ said he reminded him of a “more macho, younger version” of him. After Estes Park, when I’d see Salvie around, I would always make a point to check up on him because of the bond developed through RJ, and then share with RJ how his “kids” were.
I remember one particular conversation I had with him shortly after this summer program, where he shared that he was struggling with his walk with Jesus, that he was having the hardest time he ever had with school and grades (he was pretty driven and had perfect grades), etc. I remember brushing it off, thinking it was just a temporary thing, thinking it would pass.
The next time RJ met with Salvie was the summer we got married. They went to a shooting range together, and Salvie seemed fine.
The last time they met, Salvie shared with RJ how he felt God had deserted him, and that he could almost pinpoint when it began. He shared that he felt God was asking him to obey, but he refused to listen. The more he refused to listen, the more he had driven a wedge between him and God. RJ spoke truth to him, that God is ALWAYS with him no matter what, and that all he needed was to turn back to God. That was the last time they spoke.
We received the news this morning from Salvie’s mentor at UCSD. RJ and I were both pretty shaken up. His mentor made it a point to tell RJ that he had never seen Salvie thrive as much as he did when he was there at Estes Park. I know that was an encouragement to RJ, as the natural response to such an event is, “What could I have done differently?”
People always wonder how anyone could feel such hopelessness and despair so as to take their own life. As someone who has struggled with severe depression (and probably will again), I get it. I wonder if despair and hopelessness is just a natural part of life, that there are seasons of mourning and seasons of joy, that God leads us in the wilderness just to show us more of Himself. King David had those times of hopelessness, but he almost always ends in looking to God as his final thread of hope. But what about those who don’t have God, or believe that He’s deserted them? Without Jesus, there really is no hope. Without Jesus, maybe the greatest comfort is death.
I am thankful Salvie is with Jesus. I am thankful he is free from mourning, free from hopelessness, free from despair. I’m thankful that he will finally know that Jesus was always at his side, and that He will be for eternity.