Choose Life

“Alicia died last night.”  

Today I am reminded of a young woman who came to a Bible Study I attended. I had counseled her, prayed with her and even visited her in a mental institution.  The pain of her childhood had dragged her down, and she could never pull her thoughts out of the pit of despair that buried her.

One-night Alicia called and asked if I wanted to get together. I said no, I was tired and not “in the mood.”  We agreed to talk later in the week.  The next morning another friend met me and told me Alicia had thrown herself in front of a train. She survived for a short time but died a few hours later.

A train? The news of how she died added to the weight of my mistake. I felt selfish for thinking of only myself and not of her that day. I failed her, and that thought haunted me.  

Her parents buried her secretly.  There would be no closure, no final goodbyes, and no apologies over her body. Her life was over. Final. Ended. “If only…” became the constant chant in my heart and thoughts for weeks, months, and years to come.

It took me a decade to find her burial plot. I nervously purchased a little handful of flowers and made my way to where they laid her to rest.  Seeing her name engraved on the headstone brought the shock of her death back to me. I sobbed uncontrollably and apologized.  I struggled to understand why she died.

I unfastened the ribbon of my small bouquet and spread the stems over the name on the plaque. Half of me wanted to cover her name, as if, I could hide the inscription beneath the petals, the other half wanted to bring something beautiful to an ugly end.

As I wept, I heard a couple of boys playing just a few feet away. I wiped my tears, as the boys began to argue.  One child finally yelled, “Stop; it’s my choice!”  Those words replayed in my head for the rest of the day: “It’s my choice.”

Sometime later while reading through the Old Testament, my eyes fell on the command, “Choose life,” in Deuteronomy 30:19-20.  The verses say, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So, choose life so that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.” (NASB – emphasis mine)

In the previous chapter, Moses rehearsed all that God had done for the nation of Israel, how God had conquered their enemies, and how He had supplied all their needs.  Now Moses instructs them for the future; he called them to live a life of surrender to God, to “hold fast,” in obedience and perseverance. 

It was their choice. The Israelites would either decide to live or pursue destruction.  Moses goes on to say, that, “the message provided is close at hand, it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.”  

I realized then that difficulties force Christians to make decisions based on information already learned. We will either bend our knee in humility or become stiff-necked and continue to suffer.

I know, I’ve been there. I see the depth of pain, and I’ve walked the fine line of choosing between death and life a few times.  Even so, I also understand how hurt can hinder your spiritual sight and limit your ability to see what’s ahead for you.  It’s ego that sees no God, finds no relief, and draws only on the energy produced by pride—and yes, it is pride that thinks we can pull ourselves out of trouble and decides we are our own master and have a right to take our lives.  Pride equals death. 

However, humility is power. It provides freedom to surrender to God and helps us to wait for God’s answer.  Humbleness allows God to work, trusts ultimately in His Sovereign care, and expects a solution knowing his plans for our lives are for a “future and a hope,” (Jer. 29:11)

I will always wish that I had another opportunity to spend that night with my friend—especially had I known how far her despair had taken her.  Still, that evening she sat alone with her suffering—and made a choice. 

If given another chance I would have told her that Jesus Christ understands pain. He knows the cruel world we live in, the effects of sin that surrounds us, and the loneliness of the darkest night.  He only asks us to choose Him and let him be the Lord of our lives.