Finding Reason: Tragedies Can Motivate Us to Look Out for Each Other Preventively

By Jeff Adams
Posted 2/16/22

We are not OK.

By now we’ve all heard about the man in his 50s who walked into a local gun shop this past Sunday afternoon on Feb. 13 and died by suicide in the store. Apparently, he asked …

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Finding Reason: Tragedies Can Motivate Us to Look Out for Each Other Preventively

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We are not OK.

By now we’ve all heard about the man in his 50s who walked into a local gun shop this past Sunday afternoon on Feb. 13 and died by suicide in the store. Apparently, he asked to hold a gun (normal practice before a purchase to see how it feels in one’s own hand), and once handed it, loaded a bullet into it which he had brought into the store, then ended his life with that single shot. Fortunately, no others were physically injured. Unfortunately, the event is forever etched into the minds of those who witnessed it. Now that we’ve heard about it, it’s in ours, as well.

And we’re not OK.

On Monday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., I was ministering to people inside one of our state’s maximum security prisons, and in there, one has no access to personal electronic devices. After I had settled down for the evening, I checked my social media platforms. It’s not the healthiest practice, but it’s one of the ways I stay connected to people I love near and far. One of the first posts I saw was of a friend who said something like, “Stress, anxiety, etc., are off the charts. I’m not looking forward to anything today. I always try to be positive and upbeat, but this is all overwhelming and unbearable.”

Now, I realize some people post things like that on a regular basis, demonstrating they use social media to find regular, ongoing attention. This person never does that. Clearly this individual was just laying out some deep, raw emotions.

Too many of us can relate all too well and we’re not OK.

As this plague lingers, and politicians continue to use their handling of it or criticisms of others’ handling of it to polarize us, increasingly more of us are getting worn down, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Media outlets, including social media ones — like the one on which I saw this post — aren’t helping much and neither are other major media sources.

It’s as if we are reaching a breaking point for many of us. Some might say in general “all of us.” We’re just not OK.

Immediately after I reached out to my friend who was so stressed and anxious, and prayed about it all, I saw the next post. It was about the suicide in the gun store. Wow. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” popped in my head.

I haven’t heard anything about the person who died by suicide in the gun shop, but couldn’t help but wonder who he left behind. Suicide is such a final thing for the person committing the act, but it never ends for those left behind. It lingers longer and hurts deeper than other deaths, even other tragic ones. Those left behind are left with so many unanswered questions — questions which will never have solid answers while on this earth.

I prayed for the man’s family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone impacted by this tragic event. Additionally, I prayed for my family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and others who may be struggling to navigate through these difficult times right now. I know so many of us are just not OK.

My recent studies through Paul’s Prison Epistles reminded me as I prayed for all these stressed and anxious people. It reminded me of other Biblical teachings supported by the Prison Epistles that God doesn’t always promise to stop the chaos or take away the problems, but does commit to grant us the strength to get through the hard times. Paul writes these encouraging words, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13, ESV).”

But we’re still not OK.

God does tell us He will not give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). So, when it all feels overwhelming and unbearable, we should find some comfort in knowing God knows we can handle whatever we’re going through. It could even be encouraging to realize God knows we are stronger than we think we are, especially when we rely on His unlimited power and capabilities.



Galatians is not considered one of the Prison Epistles, but it does offer some insight for us — insight which can help us be more preventive — potentially helping us help others, preventively. While we cannot go back and redo time, we can do what we can to prevent similar tragedies. One of the worst parts of losing someone to suicide is wishing we could have done something more to prevent it, in my personal experience.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Although we are to carry our own loads, we have an obligation to look out for others, and help them carry their loads when there is a need. 

When I was just a little boy in kindergarten I overheard chaos in the middle of the night as my dad and his friend were sharing with my mom what had happened. My dad and his friend had gone out to check on my grandfather at our family cabin on the lake. They found him, but not like anyone would want to find someone. He had committed suicide.

I didn’t really know what suicide meant, but understood my grandfather, whom I loved so very much, was dead. “Didn’t he know I loved him?” Thoughts raced through my little mind as I heard the adults clearly say they can’t tell the boys he killed himself. But I heard them. I knew and I had to keep it to myself.

Holidays would never be the same. Life would never be the same. To this day it all haunts me.

Earlier I mentioned I reached out to my friend who made a post about being stressed and anxious. I reached out face-to-face (actually facemask-to-facemask), and I was stiff-armed with a very firm, “I don’t want to talk about it.” So, all I could do was pray and be ready for whatever was needed.

Similarly, people who lose someone by suicide often stiff-arm others, thinking no one else can really understand. The reality is they’re right in that no one really knows how it is impacting them unless they articulate it well. Still, if they would let us, we can try to sympathize with them. Those of us who have been through it can likely sympathize the most.

In my mind it behooves us to follow Jesus’ command to love God and others by sharing the kind of love God had for us. If we can make sure others know we truly and deeply care about them on a regular basis, maybe they’ll be more receptive when we reach out. Maybe they’ll reach out to us in their darker moments, and let us go through it with them, and encourage them.

So, as we think about this recent tragedy in the gun shop, let’s not just wallow in the sensational news. Let’s let it motivate us to reach out to others we care about and remind them that we care about them. And if you take your Christian faith seriously, let’s look around and notice the unnoticed and reach out to them and love them, too.

We’re not OK. We need each other. Let’s live out our Christianity, effectively, and may we all be stronger as God strengthens us through these genuine efforts of Christian love. Then, maybe more of us will be OK.

The National Suicide Prevention hotline can be reached at 800-273-8255.

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Pastor Jeff Adams is a longtime community leader, victim advocate, counselor and chaplain. He ministers internationally, nationally and locally. His column appears online weekly and can be reached at jeffreydadams@hotmail.com.

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