Rob Bell, Suicide, and Reconciliation

Last night Ashley and I watched The Rob Bell Show.  If you don't know, Rob Bell is an author, speaker, and former pastor who has faced some significant criticism from evangelicals for his thoughts, writings, and theological evolution.  Recently he has surfaced with the Queen of quasi-spiritualism herself Oprah Winfrey.  His new show even airs on Oprah's network.

This blog post is not about the beliefs of Rob Bell.  You can find plenty of information regarding Rob with a simple Google search.  I thought the show was typical Rob Bell. He said a lot and very little at the same time while keeping me engaged throughout.

What caught me by surprise last night was one of the people Rob interviewed for his episode on reconciliation. Rob interviewed a young lady named Rachel whose father was a pastor who went through a moral failure, lost his family and church, and eventually took his own life. His name was Doug and he was a friend of mine.  Rachel was just a child when I knew Doug.

Doug's father and my dad were close friends. His father died of cancer many years ago and Doug eventually became the pastor of his father's church.  He and I knew each other from the time I was just a teenager and in my early twenties I even spent about 9 months helping him at his church while I attended seminary in the evenings. We spent a lot of time together and had a ton of fun in the process.  When our lives took different paths, Doug and I did not keep in contact as much.  Eventually I heard that he had left ministry and some time later my heart was broken when I was told he took his own life.

Years later my life would take a somewhat similar path as Doug's.  To this day, I can remember my dad saying to me repeatedly during some of my toughest moments to never lose hope. He did not want me to end up making the same life-ending decision as Doug.  Even though I have been through some dark and lonely days, by God's grace I never faced suicidal feelings or thoughts.  But I do get why Doug made that fateful choice.

This particular episode of the The Rob Bell Show focused on reconciliation and how God desires for people to be reconciled with Him, others, and our own hearts.  Our story is a part of who we are and yet our tendency is to live apart from those chapters of our lives that create pain and hurt.

As Rob points out, reconciliation allows us to identify those parts of our lives that tend to disrupt our path, to own those parts of our story, and to use them to bring healing to others who are facing similar struggles.

Some of the most difficult chapters to name, own, and share are those we created or caused.  And yet God in his grace redeems those chapters to make us whole in Him and for the sake of those who cross our paths.  We should not live in shame, guilt, and embarrassment over those chapters. Instead we should allow them to reconcile our hearts to God for His purposes.

As Rob pointed out on his show, the cross is the ultimate sign of God's desire for our hearts and lives to be reconciled to Him.  The death of Jesus points toward redemption and healing.  It is because of His death that we can experience the peace of reconciliation.

"Me too" are not always words to be proud of when someone is telling you their darkest struggles or experiences. And yet the words "me too" bring a healing and identity that allows us to experience the reconciling grace of God that makes spiritual healing and wholeness possible.

Whatever you are facing today - know there are others who have faced or are facing the same situation. Name it. Own it. And allow God to use it for both your healing and others on this journey.

Thankfully God is using Rachel's story to bring hope and healing to others.  She has learned that tragedy and hurt are chapters that God can use for our own reconciliation and healing and to speak into the lives of others.

So thank you Rob Bell for highlighting this story in a way that reminds us that God's ultimate purpose is to reconcile all things to Himself (2 Cor 5:19).

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