How To Shine On Purpose
Lacey recently posted her response to Chester Bennington's Suicide here on The Edges. Since then, she's interacted with fans who still have questions about their own personal worth, and God.
And some view suicide as a real alternative to the pain in their lives.
Netflix put suicide in the spotlight this year with a show called "13 Reasons Why." Many condemn the show because they say it glorifies suicide. Others, think it accurately deals with a real problem in our society.
But Lacey has her own views on the show.
I (Tim Willard) caught up with Lacey to get her thoughts on this very serious topic. I encourage you not only to read, but to share with friends and relatives who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Tim: Lacey, you get a lot of questions about your own past and how you were literally saved from suicide as a teenager. But some people think, well, Lacey was lucky, she's special. Not everyone get's saved. One fan recently told you, "Not everyone is as special as you." What is your response to this point of view?
Lacey: Well, first of all, this is a very real response that I received from a real person with real feelings. She is beautiful. She’s brilliant. She’s brave and thoughtful.
I have often considered that someone may feel this way when I share my story and I have to push through the temptation to stop talking once this sad thought comes up in my own mind.
I know others out there feel the same way. I’m thankful to have someone voice this perspective so I can respond to it.
My first thought is actually a question: "Are you saying this because someone you love didn't make it? If this is why, I’m so sorry. I wish I could hug you and tell you I'm sorry for your pain."
Then I want to explain why I speak up.
My answer to her sad but mistaken belief that "not everyone is as special" as me is this truth: EVERYONE has incredible value.
But, as this beautiful girl showed by her comment, not many people realize it.
Many people feel hopeless, but there actually is real hope to cling to. I respond because there are people who really want to know whether anyone can face tragedy and still breathe afterwards.
I respond for those who are searching for truth, not for those searching for excuses to end their lives only.
I know from my own seasons of making excuses, that people only looking for excuses to discount hope won't hear truth because they don't want to and aren't willing to.
I can only pray for them, like many people prayed for me when I was willingly running into death.
But not even God violates our free will, so who am I to try and demand someone change their will? Love doesn't demand its own way, and I long to love like God does.
I have seen His love transform lives so much more powerfully than any of my puny counterfeit versions of love that are riddled with control and strife and me playing God and being bad at it.
So I post for those searching for truth and a reason to hope.
Tim: But what do you say to the person who believes the pain is too big to bear? That a real life is not possible after so much pain.
Lacey: We all have the God-given freedom to make choices about life and God is no respecter of persons.
What I mean by that is God considers all people worth redeeming and he made a way for all to come to him for healing.
Some people think they are beyond hope and some people choose not to believe.
But in the face of public choices to give up and not believe that life is possible after pain and tragedy, I want to make a public choice to believe that it is.
And I do that by purposely remembering the many times when I've seen glory after pain that didn't seem possible.
God is love, and love honors our freedom.
As dangerous as freedom can be, it's the only way for love to be proven genuine.
The Scriptures say in 2 Peter 3:9, "It is not God's will that any would perish but that all would come to repentance through the knowledge of Christ."
God says in Deuteronomy 30:19 "I've set before you life and death. Oh that you would choose life so that you may live."
So we are free to choose.
My hope is that those searching for truth and hope will find it in a post that believes, set down right beside one that doesn't.
Tim: What do you say to the person who asks, "Where is God in the midst of this blackness? Why didn't he stop it? Why can't he bring these broken people back to life?
Lacey: This is exactly the struggle I had after Amy Bluell's death.
For those who don't know, Amy Bluell was the founder of Project Semicolon. A semicolon in a sentence indicates the sentence isn't over yet. And that's how her organization used it. Anyone who struggled with mental illness would draw it on their wrist to show that their life isn't over.
Every time I hear of a suicide or a terrorist attack or tragedy I immediately pray for people who don't know Christ to rise from the dead. And after her death I got into a spiral of questions that kept me heavy and down until now.
I want to acknowledge that these are exactly the questions to ask when we have faith.
They are meant to make us run to God. They are meant to make us cry out for better answers and cry out for understanding and for peace.
It is meant to make us seek.
It makes me think of the scriptures from Haggai 1 that talk about putting money in pockets with holes in it and working all day and getting little results.
The writer of that book says we are meant to consider these things and ask why.
We are meant to seek Him [God] honestly in these moments and pursue understanding, which the Bible equates with knowledge of the Holy One (Proverbs 9:10)
More recently, these same questions are the ones that prompted me to go back to school (college) and learn more.
Right now I'm taking a course with RZIM Academy. The course addresses many of my questions, and gives me so much to consider; so much insight. But I know there is much more to uncover in seeking understanding about these questions.
The core of these question deal with the mystery of freedom given by God to us in order to create a true love relationship.
They also deal with the sovereignty of God; that he is so merciful in His interventions and so puzzling in his allowances of us to follow through with our choices to destroy ourselves and others.
In the end, we can always look back and recount his goodness and power in our lives and in the lives of those who will testify, and have good reason to choose to trust him in the difficult and painful moments when we don't understand everything.
This is the cosmic battle as well:
Hell: the accusation of hell that God is evil
Heaven: the testimony of heaven that all God's judgments are right and good and true and everything he does is good.
And then there's the testimony of God's children; that he is a good Father. In the end, we will see clearly while here, right now, we see only dimly.
But we still see enough to choose to trust Him.
To choose to love Him.
To choose to believe in Him and His promises.
I believe we will see the power of God raising the dead in this last great move of God in the earth, like its normal. So much so that the world will run to find a Christian when a loved one dies before they even call an ambulance, because it will be so normal that Christians resurrect the dead.
But the path in this overgrown forest of American Christianity must be cleared to make it normal, by continuing to contend for resurrection, as Christ commanded us to, when he said heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and these miraculous signs shall follow those who believe.
What an amazing day it will be when every Christian's response to death and funerals is what Jesus’ response was?!
He physically raised the dead when he encountered the dead and their mourners. But until we see it become normal, we stand, pray, believe, testify, and are always ready to give a reason for the hope that is alive within us.
Tim: I know you have strong feelings about the show "13 Reasons Why." Can you share your thoughts on how that show is damaging to viewers, especially someone, like yourself, who's been in that dark place and is contemplating suicide as an answer?
Lacey: It is my understanding that the show glorifies suicide.
Every time I go to watch that show I have a block; I feel something inside of me that says, "Don't watch this show!"
Fans who struggle with suicide shared with me how they found the show infuriating and triggering. The only people who I’ve found that praise the show are people who have not struggled with being suicidal.
But the ones that do struggle, strongly warned me not to watch considering my past and also how grief stricken I was with Amy's death.
So often when we struggle with something in the past, we need to be careful how, when, and if we even walk back into that, or anywhere near that world.
I didn't watch. I wanted to protect my own peace.
We each can chose to protect our own peace. When you find something that brings peace, you need to go after those things. I know I do.
Those things that do not bring peace, or trigger us, those are things we should avoid. We need to recognize those things that do not bring peace.
And so often, they actually rob us of peace.
Maybe when we are emotionally and spiritually strong we can come back. We can walk with someone and overcome that darkness. But until that time comes, I think it's important to recognize the state of our hearts.
Can we handle it? Is it good for me at this point in my life to watch?
We should use our discernment and understand the power of the medium, of watching a show like that glorifies suicide.
I can't stress enough how recognition is key. We need to recognize it.
In my book The Reason, I tell the story of how I encountered God right in the middle of planning to commit suicide, and how that totally changed how I interact with the world and other people.
In my second book The Mystery, I was right back in that suicidal place because I hadn’t learned to discern when my heart was being lead away from the God who healed me and into deception and destruction.
Now I understand how important peace is. I also understand, with a deep ache in my heart, how valuable each life is.
Think about this perspective.
If God created the world, and us, then we all have a unique purpose. Just like the sun was created in order to shine, and bring life to this planet, we also have a created purpose.
We were made by him. We have purpose. Like the sun.
And what else is involved with God creating us and giving us purpose?
Well, we also possess extraordinary freedom! But what will we do with that freedom?
I talk about this in my new book, The Return. If we really believe God created us and loves us and gave us a purpose, then what is our response to his love?
What's our response when someone here on earth loves us? We want to love them back.
It's the same with God. His gift of life, of love, of freedom, should encourage us to do the same.
Think about the power His love, purpose and freedom possesses.
When we use our personal freedom to love others, instead of spew hatefulness, we live within a heavenly calling that is from God himself.
For so long I struggled to understand my own worth and my God-given ability to overcome.
I was looking for an excuse.
But the truth is I didn't realize life can be a gift. Not can be, it is a gift!
I didn't realize that I can, with God's strength, overcome the pain.
He gives me His strength to overcome the blackest darkness in this world.
A friend of mine and I started an organization called Roses Without Thorns to help with the rape crises in South Africa. It began with a conversation where I was weeping over the tragic state of these helpless beautiful people and saying, "How can this happen? How can God let this happen?"
She said, "Lace, we can't stop evil from happening it the world. But we can overcome it."
I believe that if we've been through something heavy, hurtful and destructive, then we can use the enemy against itself!
I recognize death. And I know I can go back and overcome that enemy.
We can gain strength and compassion and wisdom. We can't save the world on our own. But we can do something.
We can be a light in the dark. We can come along side others, and help them.
We just need to keep shining. We have to keep going, so when we get there, we can shine. Because there is someone who believes they can't.
When I heard about this show, I was having a really hard time. I felt like I was suffocating emotionally. It was the same time I heard about Amy Bluell’s death.
I was so overwhelmed by that. I did not want that to be true.
I was so devastated.
I cried for three hours.
I got so angry. But at the real enemy! And that enemy is suicide.
Suicide is not our friend. No good will come out of that. It will not be good for anyone impacted by it.
It put a fire in me to shine all the brighter into the dark.
I am going to live to prove suicide wrong. It made me so much more determined to avenge her death by making sure I live.
I keep living, shining brighter, every time I think of it.
Tim: What is your message to someone reading this who may be looking for hope, who may be in a dark place like you once were? Is there an answer to all the despair in this world?
Lacey: I would say ...
We are valuable. We can overcome.
And when we do, we can bring people with us.
Have we forgotten the value of a human being in our society? We are created in the image of God Himself. Our potential is so much bigger than we could ever imagine.
If only we could step into what we were created for ... that brilliance.
My friend Jasmine loves to say: we're not human doings, we're human beings.
What she means is, being is greater than doing. Life is first about who you are. And you and I are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Our purpose is found in who we are, and what we do flows out of that.
And what about God?
Well, God thinks we're worth dying for.
He trusts us with a world; a life.
He made me a mother of these incredible human beings in my house, these little boys running around. He trusts me to help them grow up and live this beautiful life.
When you recognize how much God loves you, you want to love him back. What does that look like for each of us?
I remember when I first encountered God, I wanted to know what it meant to follow him. What did it mean to be in a relationship with him? How do I live?
Then I read about how Jesus says if you are faithful with little, then you will be entrusted with more.
So I tried to do whatever I could to love God back by pouring myself in the little things. Whether it was waiting tables at Shoney's or helping my little brother with his homework, cleaning the kitchen for my Granny, later on, screaming my lungs out on stage, or, now, choosing to love my husband with intentionality, and mothering two little boys.
I discovered that when we just respond to God, and love him back, we find ourselves in our purpose. And that's when we shine.
I want to shine on purpose.