The Game of Life

Summary: There is a growing number of people who premeditatedly and willfully take the life of an innocent person, and more and more frequently that life is their own. The rate of suicide among children between the ages of 10 and 17 has risen dramatically in the past ten years and, unfortunately, this tragedy is not limited to a certain race, income level, amount of education, religious background or geographic location. This disease truly is no respecter of people. The article examines the reasons why young people take their own life and offers a way to help save them from a fate that is worse than death.

From Mount Sinai the Lord told Moses “Thou shalt not kill,’ (Exodus 20:13) and he wrote that commandment in stone. The Hebrew word for “to kill” is ‘ratsach’ which means “to murder an innocent person, to slay with premeditation, or to kill, to avenge” (Strong’s Concordance).

Today there is a growing number of people who premeditatedly and willfully take the life of an innocent person, and more and more frequently that life is their own. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate of children between the ages of 10 and 17 has risen by 70% from 2006 to 2016. This tragedy is not limited to a certain race, income level, amount of education, religious background or geographic location. This disease truly is no respecter of people.

There are many reasons why teenagers want to take their life but the one common thread is that they have reached an emotional point in their life where they can no longer bear to keep living. At a time like this, suicide seems like the easy way, and sometimes the only way, to solve their problem. To understand why, we have to understand how and why a young person between the ages of 10 and 17 thinks.

In the first five years of a child’s life they are just beginning to learn and explore the world around them and they see things in very simple terms. At this age they are learning to recognize sounds, speech, people, and other concrete things they can observe with their five senses. At this age they are very much dependent on others to provide for their needs and therefore tend to be close to their parents, especially if those parents are loving and kind to them.

Between the ages of five and ten, children begin to learn to be more independent yet they still tend to see life in concrete, black and white, good and bad terms. Although they can make friends, they still feel very much dependent on their parents and look to them for how to behave and think. Up until this time their bodies are growing at a rapid rate but, although they are learning much, their emotional development lags very much behind.

But all of this changes when they enter puberty. Suddenly, their bodies are producing hormones that have a tremendous effect on their outlook on life. When this happens, there is a strong urge for them to be independent, especially from their parents. Even in the most loving families, when a child enters their pre-teenage years they no longer want to hold their parent’s hand like they once did, and as they get older, they tend to become embarrassed even to be seen with their parents.

During this time children are trying to find themselves. Their desire is to be their own person. As such, they no longer want to be like their parents, which is the way they used to feel when they were younger. But, being young, immature, and inexperienced, they don’t know what or who they want to be and so they can often feel confused, unsure of themselves, and vulnerable. This can be a scary time for them, that leaves then fearful, anxious, nervous, and prone to depression.

But instead of looking to adults as their example, pre-teenagers and teenagers often look to each other for the answers in life they are so desperately seeking, not realizing that the very people who they seek to emulate are just as confused about life as they are. Yet, to a teenager, their friends are the most important people in their life. They long to be accepted by their peers, even if those individuals have a different value system than the one they were taught by their parents. Instead of wanting to be with their own family, teenagers tend to want to constantly hang out with their friends, and will accept what they say much more quickly than they will the advice of an adult, especially if it comes from their own parents.

At this stage of their development, teenagers tend to think that they know everything. As a result they can be argumentative, rebellious, and disrespectful to their parents and sometimes even to other adults. To them, their needs come first and they want to do things their way. As a result, they tend to rebel against following the rules of society. At this age they are idealistic and think that their ideas are better than anyone else, and because of their immaturity and inexperience, they tend not to listen or accept the ideas of those older than them.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part, this is the kind of behavior and thinking that the average teenager exhibits. This is even true for children who have been raised in a loving, Christian home, although these symptoms may not be as prominent, or observable, yet they are still there to some degree. Therefore, when dealing with this age group, it is essential to understand what is going on in their mind because if we treat them as children or as adults, we will not have very much success getting through to them. If we hope to have any influence over them, we have to know how to talk with them on their level of understanding, otherwise they will tune us out and dismiss out of hand whatever we say to them.

The reason why teenagers find suicide so appealing is because if one of their friends commits suicide, this can reinforces in the mind of someone who is struggling with similar problems in their life that this must be an acceptable solution to the fear they are feeling because they can empathize and relate to what drove their friend to take their own life.

Then what can be done to help young men and women shun the idea of taking their life?

In most cases, taking a logical or spiritual approach has little effect because teenagers don’t see life in the same way that adults do. All they know is that they are hurting – in one form or another – and they don’t know how to deal with it, and many times when an adult tries to give them positive advice, they react by thinking that no one really understands what they are going through because they are totally focused on what is bothering them. They want someone to take away their pain, not tell them how to be strong in facing their problems. It means nothing to them that other people have been through similar or worse problems. All they want is for the pain and hurt to go away, and if someone can’t do that for them then, in their own mind, people don’t really understand what’s bothering them, which, to an immature mind, translates as people don’t really care about them, which only makes the teenager feel even more alone, depressed, frustrated, and scared.

When we see someone who has died, we see their lifeless body laying in a casket and it appears as though they are asleep. They don’t feel anything, see anything, hear anything, and are not conscious of anything. For this reason, to someone who is having trouble coping with the problems of life, death seems like the perfect way to escape what’s bothering them. This is the same reason why people take drugs or drink alcohol. It’s a way for their mind to escape thinking about their problems, and to many people death can seem like the ultimate way to escape whatever is torturing their mind.

Therefore, the best way to dissuade a teenager from committing suicide is to help them realize that death is not the end of living. When we die, all that happens is that our body stops functioning but our spirit lives on, and since it does, we don’t escape from our problems. Instead, we take them with us where they become magnified and more intense. Therefore, it’s crucial that teenagers realize that instead of suicide making their pain go away, it only increases whatever pain they’re already feeling.

But for them to truly understanding what will happen to them if they commit suicide, they have to have it explained to them in a way that they can relate to and accept, otherwise such advice will fall on deaf ears.

Let’s suppose that someone wants to take their life by driving a car off of a cliff because in their mind, they think that when the car crashes into the ground below they will be killed. But what if the crash doesn’t kill them? What if they survive? What happens to them then?

In all likelihood, their body will have sustained a tremendous amount of traumatic injuries, such as multiple broken bones. If those bones involve the neck or spine, they will be paralyzed for the rest of their life. Such a crash would most certainly result in vital organs being punctured, which may result in them having to be kept alive by machines. Most certainly they will have to live with chronic, debilitating physical pain that will require constant medication to make their pain at least bearable.

In such a condition, their life will consist of being confined to wheelchair or a bed for the rest of their life and will have to live with the knowledge that they will no longer be able to do many of the things they were once able to enjoy. In a situation like this, instead of getting away from whatever pain they were trying to escape through suicide, has now only been made much, much worse because of their suicide attempt.

We are eternal beings, possessed of a spirit body that briefly inhabits a physical body for a short period of time. When our physical body stops functioning, our spirit still remains alive. In other words, we don’t die. It’s just our physical body that has lost its life. That means, whatever pain drove us to commit suicide doesn’t go away just because we kill our human body. Instead, the pain we currently feel will actually become infinitely worse once we die, and that’s because of an eternal law that say, what we sow is what we reap.

For example, if we take one apple seed and sow it into the ground, then water it and nourish it, that seed will begin to grow into a mighty tree that will produce an abundance of sweet apples that we will be able to reap year after year. But is we take one thorn bush seed, sow it in the ground, water it and nourish it, that seed will also grow larger and bigger, producing an overabundance of thorns year after year. It is a law of nature that we cannot sow a thorn bush seed and expect to reap a harvest of sweet tasting apples.

When someone is depressed, anxious, fearful, upset or angry, and they constantly dwell on these feelings, they are watering them and nurturing them, which only causes those feeling to grow stronger and more toxic. When we commit suicide as a means of getting away from these feelings, that’s like feeding those feeling with fertilizer. Like an apple tree, when our spirit leaves the body, it reaps many times over what it has sown. If we continue to live on after our body is laid in the grave, we can’t expect to reap happiness if we have nurtured and nourished feelings of misery. Life doesn’t work that way, and it’s unrealistic to believe otherwise.

To illustrate this another way, it is not uncommon where two people have gotten into an extremely heated argument that one person goes home, gets a gun and comes back to kill the person they were arguing with. In their fit of rage, they imagined that they could commit murder and nothing will happen to them, but afterwards they suddenly realize that they are now in serious trouble. When their rage has subsided they realize that the police will be coming for them and suddenly the fear of spending the rest of their life in jail becomes an overwhelming dread.

Since most people don’t want to spend the rest of their life in prison, they will try to hide from the law, hoping to escape the consequences of their actions, but even in doing that, they end up living a life of fear. Although they have settled the argument with the other person, their life has now become infinitely worse than it was even during the argument. For one foolish act, done in a moment of thoughtless rage, they have ruined the rest of their life. Worse yet, if caught and sent to jail, they will have brought shame and heartache to those they love.

Suicide is an act of murder against one’s self over an argument about being able to cope with life. In the mind of the person doing the killing they think that nothing is going to happen to them for what they’ve done, but leaving this world doesn’t help them escape the law of justice. There is a reason why God said, “Thou shalt not murder,” because there is a severe penalty in the next life that must be paid by those who deliberately take someone’s life, including their own.

However, since the world teaches that there is no life after death, people think that death is nothing more than eternal unconsciousness. Therefore, people contemplating suicide convince themselves that there is no such thing as a human spirit that continues to live on after our physical body has stopped working. For this reason, those in extreme mental pain feel that death is the perfect solution to the suffering they can no longer endure.  But, before making this decision, there is an important question they need to ask themselves.

Scientists say that our bodies are made of nothing more than chemicals and that life is nothing more than the natural bonding that occurs between these chemicals. Therefore, they say that when these chemicals no longer react with one another, life ceases to exist. But just because there is no scientific proof that we continue to live on in a conscious state after death doesn’t mean that we don’t. There is also no proof that the human spirit doesn’t exist.

Science has been exploring our physical world for centuries but the fact that they have yet to develop anything capable of detecting the human spirit doesn’t mean that such a thing doesn’t exist. There are things that scientists are discovering every day that they didn’t know before. Therefore, what someone considering suicide needs to ask themselves, is, what if what they believe about death is wrong? Are they willing to take the gamble that what they are about to do will make their life immeasurably worse?

However, even though there is no conclusive proof that we have a spirit, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we do. There are thousands of people who have died and come back to tell about what they saw and heard. These are called Near Death Experiences and there is a growing body of evidence to support what they say. There are also stories of people who have had what is called out of body experiences, where their spirit has traveled outside of their physical body. There are also countless stores of people seeing ghosts or experiencing places that are haunted by ghosts of deceased individuals. Then there are those who claim they can communicate with those who have died. In addition to all of this, nearly all religions teach a belief in an afterlife. Although there are many who scoff at such stories, yet skepticism isn’t proof that these things aren’t real.

Someone who is considering suicide because they think it will end their life, along with their suffering, are playing mental Russian Roulette. When they pull the trigger they are hoping that the chamber is empty and that nothing bad will happen to them. But if the chamber isn’t empty, then committing suicide will do far more harm to them and worsen their situation rather than making it better. Therefore, someone contemplating suicide needs to ask themselves if they are really willing to take that risk? If they can’t stand the pain they are going through now, then how will they cope if suicide will make their suffering even worse?

But if suicide isn’t the answer to a person’s mental anguish, then the next logical question is, what will bring them the relief they’re seeking? Although there are many answers that a psychologist might offer, the best answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, talking about such things as the atonement of Jesus Christ, being worthy of going to heaven, keeping the commandments, and believing in living prophets does nothing to relieve the mental anguish that comes from fear, anxiety, depression, rejection, loneliness, or the inability to handle the stress and challenges of life that drives a teenager to take their life.

Telling a teenager that God is aware of what they are going through, that our Father in heaven loves them, and that trusting in Jesus can bring them comfort, peace, and happiness in times of trouble, sound very hollow when they are struggling with problems that seem overwhelming and almost impossible to bear. Therefore, in order for the gospel to have a meaningful impact on a teenager it must be something they can relate to and has real significance in their everyday life.

To illustrate this, let’s suppose that a teenager was in a tall building when an earthquake hit and they found themselves suddenly trapped under a rubble of steel beams and large slabs of broken concrete. In a situation like this, it is impossible for them to get themselves out. Let’s also say that the teenager has a cell phone and is able to call their parents.  Although the parents care deeply about their child, they are not able to personally come and rescue them.

However, what the parents can do is call those who can help, such as the fire department, volunteers, and companies who have equipment that can move heavy beams and large pieces of concrete. But, while all of this rescue work is going on, the child is still trapped. Now imagine if the child comes to the conclusion that the rescuers aren’t working fast enough to get them out, and they decide it’s better to kill themselves rather than wait to be rescued.

Most people would agree that such a decision would be very foolish, yet when a teenager is contemplating suicide it’s because they feel trapped in a situation that they don’t know how to get themselves out of and which they think no one else can get them out of. We all have a direct line to our Father in heaven called prayer and can call on him at any time, but when someone feels as though they are in a helpless situation, and they call on God, they are expecting him to rescue them from their problems in a short period of time. When that doesn’t happen, it can seem to them that God isn’t listening to their prayers, and when that thought takes hold of their thinking then it becomes easy for them to assume that it’s because God – or anyone else – doesn’t care about them. That kind of thinking then leads them to conclude that their life is meaningless, even to God, so they begin to feel that there is no more point to living.

However, if we can think of life as a video game, or a math problem, we can more easily recognize that there is a solution to everything we face in life. In most video games there are obstacles that we have to find our way around in order to complete the level we are currently on, and in most cases, as we advance to the next level the obstacles become harder and more difficult to overcome.  Although a person may have to redo a level many times before eventually completing it, every video player knows there is a way to overcome whatever obstacles they face. Therefore, they keep working at it, no matter how many times they fail, knowing that eventually they will succeed in completing each level.

And the same is true in life. The older we get the problems we face become harder and more complex to solve, but if we keep trying to find a solution to the challenges that life throws at us, we will eventually succeed. And when we do, we will have learned through experience how to handle the more difficult challenges that the next level of life presents. It’s when we give up playing the game of life that we truly lose.

However, the way most video games are designed, there are no instructions that explains how to overcome each obstacle. For the most part the player has to figure everything out on their own. But with life, God has not only provided instructions that explains what kind of obstacles we will face but more importantly, how to overcome each one of them. In that sense, life is more like solving a math problem.

From the time we were in first grade we were taught how to do math and with each new grade the math becomes more complex. By the time a student is learning algebra 2, geometry or trigonometry, the math problems can become quite complicated. However, unlike a video game where we have to learn on our own, each math student is taught by a trained teacher how to solve for the various mathematical calculations.

Even so, many times a student will struggle to do the math problems assigned them. Although the student is well aware that there is a solution, they just don’t know how to find it. When that happens, it is natural for the student to ask for help. In fact, the student who doesn’t ask for help when they need it is not behaving very wisely.

As in math, in life there is a solution to every problem. Sometimes we can figure the solution on our own but there are other times when our problem seems so complex that despite our best efforts, we don’t know how to solve them, and that’s when we need to seek help. Yet, many times when teenagers are struggling with a problem in their life, such as facing peer pressure to do the wrong thing, being ostracized by their peers, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, being bullied or humiliated, feeling inadequate or like a failure, or any number of other troubling events in their life, they try to find a solution to their problem on their own rather than asking for help from someone who knows how to help them. At times like this, if they try to solve their problem by themselves, they will often make poor decisions because of their inexperience and limited knowledge, which then only makes matters worse from them.

Although there are many people who stand ready to help those in need, the best person to seek guidance from is God. However, like a good teacher, there will be times when he will give instruction and guidance but won’t give the answer because he knows that we learn best when we put forth some effort on our own to find the solution.

Yet, unlike a math problem that generally only has one correct answer, there may be several different solutions to some of life’s problems, and the best one may not always be the one we were hoping for. Sometimes the solution to a problem is to choose the lesser of two evils. Sometimes the solution is just to ride out the problem until it goes away on its own. Sometimes the solution may involve doing something we don’t want to do. At times like that, it’s not easy to accept a solution we don’t like, but if we trust in God, he will help guide us to make the decision that is best for us, even if we don’t think it is at the time.

But of all the choices we can make to solve life’s problems, suicide is always the worst. In fact, it is always the wrong solution. It’s like quitting a video game because we can’t figure out how to get through whatever level we’re on. There are always better solutions than quitting, especially when God stand ready to help us win the game of life.




Related articles can be found at The Nature of Man