David was born nearly 60 years ago. Soon after his birth his mother and father were told that he had Down’s syndrome. They didn’t know anything about the condition but began to find out about it. They knew that David, just like any baby, needed a secure and loving family in which to thrive. They, and David’s two older sisters, watched him grow and develop. David’s father took him out to enjoy a wide range of experiences and, every year, the family went on holidays together. David has always known that he belongs to a family who love him.
When David was a teenager, he and the family became involved in a local church. David was warmly welcomed into the fellowship of the church family. One of the highlights of his week was going to church on Sundays. He loved greeting his friends in the church and was often one of the first people to welcome newcomers to the church. He would say, “I’m David, what’s your name?” David loved reading the Bible and learning about Jesus. He received a certificate from a church in Scotland he used to visit, “In recognition of extensive study of the Holy Bible and by giving encouragement to others, by his example.”
When you talked to David he would often hold up a finger and say, “One thing…” Over the years the one thing that came to mean most to David was knowing Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. When he was 30 years old he was baptised and became a member of the church. It was a special day for David and his family and for the church. As he came out of the baptistry David gave a joyful double thumbs up!
Just by being the person he is, David has enriched the lives of many people. For nearly 40 years one of his sisters has led a special ministry of the church to people in the community with learning disabilities. Christians in the church have come alongside families and a weekly meeting is held for people with learning disabilities and their carers. They enjoy being together and praying for one another. Several young people from the church are working with people with special needs.
David now has dementia and is living in a nursing home. His family and friends from the church often visit him. One day David will go to be with his Saviour who loved him and gave himself for him; he will see Jesus face to face and will be with him for ever.
Some news stories are heart breaking. A few weeks ago a man in our town went into the hairdresser’s shop where his estranged wife worked and shot her with a shotgun. She was seriously wounded and has only recently been released from hospital. After shooting his wife the man went to local woods near their home and killed himself. A few days after his mother came out of hospital the couple’s 16 year old son hung himself in the same woods where his father died, and where his ashes had been scattered.
The background to this tragic situation is that the couple had separated and the wife wanted a divorce. The husband was angry and decided to shoot her. As he entered the hairdressers shop he shouted “I love you!” and then shot her. It is not clear whether he decided to kill himself beforehand or made this decision after he had shot his wife. I’m sure it never occurred to him that his actions would lead to the death of their son, who was a sensitive boy and was deeply affected by what happened.
Life can be very difficult. When big problems come it can be hard to see our way past them. Problems in family relationships are especially painful. When we are in the midst of the problem it may seem that life is not worth living. We may even think that everyone would be better off if we were not around, but that is never true. Our lives, especially in the family, are closely intertwined and suicide is devastating for all who are near to us. Those who are left often feel guilty and think they are responsible for what has happened or that they should have done something to help.
So what should we do when we find ourselves in desperation? It’s important to talk to someone we trust and to seek their help. It is also important to pray to God for his help. In Psalm 34 we read, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” A well-known hymn says, “Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness: take it to the Lord in prayer. In his arms he’ll take and shield you, you will find a solace there.” So don’t give up hope. With God there is always a way forward from where we are.