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Chester Bennington’s death: Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it

Written By Priscilla G., Singapore

It was just one of many suicides among celebrities. But the death of Chester Bennington, the frontman of American rock band Linkin Park, struck a chord among many fans of my generation.

The 41-year-old was found dead in his home two days ago (July 20), on the birthday of his close friend Chris Cornell. Media reports say Bennington’s suicide is similar to that of Cornell, the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, who also hanged himself two months ago.

The news triggered memories of the rasp in Bennington’s voice on songs like “Numb” and “Somewhere I Belong”, which captured the angst I felt as a teenager. Millions of people felt the same way—the music video of “Numb” has had more than 560 million views since it was posted in 2007.

I remember particularly liking that song, which is about the frustration of failing to meet people’s expectations, when I was 14 years old.

I was a head prefect in my primary school when I was 12, and I was very disappointed when I failed the probation to become a (normal) prefect in my secondary school. Becoming a little more rebellious seemed like a cool idea, although I was really more of a closet rebel with angst that I kept to myself. The “Numb” lyrics also expressed how I felt towards my father, whose words typically came in the form of scoldings or instructions instead of encouragement or concern.

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there / Become so tired, so much more aware / I’m becoming this, all I want to do / Is be more like me and be less like you”. I thought of my father’s weaknesses as I sang that last line, about wanting to “be more like me and be less like you”.

But all the times I screamed out the chorus could not drown out the voice of God in my heart. Towards the end of that year, I rededicated my life to Jesus.

Shortly after, I stopped listening to Linkin Park’s songs, because I grew to realize that the message in many of their songs did not align with Christian values. The last line in the “Numb” chorus suggests self-centeredness, pride and an attitude of ‘I am better than you’ towards authority figures whom we disrespect. The song’s suggestion to numb emotional hurts is also not helpful.

To numb something is to ‘deprive of feeling or responsiveness’. But to be able to feel pain is to be able to sense that something is wrong, and that ability is important. Without pain sensors in our body, a person’s hand on a stove could be burning without him even realizing it. As American Christian author Philip Yancey, writes in his book, Where is God When It Hurts?: “By definition, pain is unpleasant, enough so to force us to withdraw our fingers from a stove. Yet that very quality saves us from destruction. Unless the warning signal demands response, we might not heed it.”

Having read about Bennington’s life from media reports, I see a man who was in pain. My own experiences cannot begin to compare with his, but it seems that he didn’t deal with it in the best way.

From the age of seven or eight, he was frequently molested by an older friend till he was 13. His parents divorced when he was 11. His first marriage ended in divorce in 2005. His struggles with drug and alcohol addiction inspired some of Linkin Park’s top hits, but did not end despite the band’s success.

Bennington said in an interview in 2009: “I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.” Bennington added earlier this year: “If it wasn’t for music, I’d be dead. 100 per cent.”

While venting negative emotions through music or other avenues (such as drawing, poetry, or running) may be better than bottling all the feelings inside, it doesn’t result in a complete healing of emotional wounds.

Numbing pain is like using fingers to plug the holes in a leaking water bottle: the leaks stop temporarily, but it is pressurizing (literally) to keep plugging those holes, and all this does not address the ultimate problem.

If you are feeling broken, know that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Broken cisterns that cannot hold water will not help, but the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13) will. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

I pray that you will find the true source of comfort and joy.

 

Photo credit: Kristina_Servant via Foter.com / CC BY

The Compulsory Queue

Title: The Compulsory Queue
Materials: Illustration
Description: 
In life, sometimes it feels like we are standing in a line. We move along the line — step by step — until we reach our journey’s end… and along the way, we collect things — memories, relationships, possessions, achievements, etc… These worldly treasures pile up over time and can cause us to get caught up in the hustle for more. We pile one thing on top of another as if we have to scramble to fill up an empty warehouse.

However, when we reach the end of the line — the end of our life — what worth do these worldly treasures hold? Whatever we have stored up here on earth will all be left behind. Everything from our hands will disappear but the treasures stored in our hearts will remain. What we store in our heart is our true treasure.

What are the kinds of treasures that God calls us to store up in heaven?

 

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2016: When Death Is On A Roll

As if the sudden deaths of British pop singer George Michael, 53, and American actress Carrie Fisher, 60—just four days apart—weren’t shocking enough, Fisher’s mother, renowned US actress Debbie Reynolds, also passed away yesterday, just one day after her daughter’s death. It was reported that she had suffered a stroke while planning for her beloved daughter’s funeral arrangements and never regained consciousness. She was 84.

The untimely deaths of these three entertainers, all within the span of a week, wrap up a year that has seen the demise of many beloved celebrities. They include rock legends David Bowie and Prince, as well as British actor Alan Rickman of Harry Potter fame. For me, it was the death of American YouTuber Christina Grimmie that affected me the most as I had been following her journey as a singer since she first started.

But while there is nothing surprising about death (after all, people die every day), there’s no way of getting used to it—especially if it involves our loved ones or someone we know.

Perhaps it was the fact that I had just watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a day before Fisher’s passing, and Princess Leia (acted by Fisher) was the last person that appeared before the credits rolled. Or maybe it was because Fisher had been in the headlines lately after her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist, revealed that she had had an affair with fellow actor Harrison Ford while filming the original Star Wars trilogy. For some reason, I felt like I had lost a friend when I heard the news of her death.

And then to hear that her mother passed away merely one day later—I can’t even imagine what the family must be going through. I wonder what they had talked about the week before as they gathered around the family table. Did they discuss plans for the future? Their dreams for 2017? Did anyone have any premonition that a double tragedy would happen just a week later?

As I try to wrap my head around this spate of deaths, I reach the same conclusion I had three years ago when my own father passed away after a massive stroke: Death is no respecter of persons. It can strike anyone anytime, anywhere.

Even as I write this, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that my turn on earth could be up anytime. I may not make it into 2017. I may not be able to achieve or complete what I plan to. Life is fleeting. Tomorrow is never a certainty. Whatever I have now is temporary.

What’s with all this doomsday talk? you must be thinking. We’re on the cusp of the new year, you’re probably saying, let’s look forward to 2017 with anticipation and positivity.

I cannot agree more. But if it’s the “new year” we’re waiting for in order to make new resolutions, to set our priorities right, and to devote time to what really matters, I’d say we might be missing an important lesson.

If not for anything, this year’s spate of deaths should sound the alarm that life is fleeting. We simply cannot afford to put off what’s important. Let’s not busy ourselves with urgent but unimportant stuff. Let’s find time for the important (but not necessarily urgent) matters.

The parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) highlights the temporal nature of our earthly lives and what our preoccupations should be—certainly not our earthly possessions. Have we been spending our time, effort, and resources on storing treasures in heaven? Do we pursue God’s kingdom and live for others?

In Mitch Albom’s memoir of his sociology professor Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie, he quotes something his late professor said which has stuck with me all this while: “When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

I wonder how differently Michael, Fisher, and Reynolds would have chosen to spend their last days had they known those were their last. How would we spend our days differently if we knew they were our last?

If We Knew The Plane Was Going Down

Written By Jenna Wiley, USA

I was on a plane a few months ago flying to see my sister in Florida, US. I was gazing out the window, probably fidgeting and daydreaming about snack food, when the flight attendant began her safety presentation.

Conversations continued, people kept their headphones on, and almost no one paid attention to her, including me.

The irony struck me. While I was trying to get a sneak peek at the flight attendant’s cart—to see if snacks would be served or not—there were instructions being given on how to not die.

I have sat through at least 100 explanations of how to tighten the oxygen mask around my face, but honestly, I rarely listen. Due to my inability or unwillingness to think critically in problem-solving and my less-than-impressive attention span, my odds of survival are likely to be dismal in an emergency. I hope I’ll be sitting next to an engineer or someone from the American television drama series Lost when that happens. They have been through it all.

While the chances of a plane going down are incredibly slim, the information the attendants give us can really mean life or death. Yet, how casually we chat with the person next to us when we are told where to find our life preserver in case the plane lands in the ocean!

But what if we knew for sure that the plane was going down? How much differently would we behave during that demonstration? I would be hanging on their every word, taking notes, and preparing myself as much as I could to save my life, and also to help save the lives of those around me.

As morbid as it seems, this life we live is a plane that is eventually going down. Not one of us is getting out alive.

My heart has been breaking more than ever as I observe and read about the world around us. Yet, amid the heartache and trials and tribulations, I have hope. I have confidence. I have peace.

Truly, there is only one set of instructions that I need to listen to that matters: it’s the set of instructions that graces the pages of my Bible. The Gospel.

Because my plane is going down. Will I be ready?

I have no idea when this world will end nor when Jesus will come back again, nor when my last day on earth will be. But whether Jesus comes back in my lifetime or not, it is my job to do everything I can to point others to Him in this life.

I dove into the book of Revelation last year to study the end times. I wish I could tell you it’s all going to be okay.

But if there is one thing I took away from that confusing, often frightening book, it’s that unless you know Jesus, it’s not going to be okay. Fortunately for us, He is a patient God who wants all of us to know Him and be known by Him.

I’ve searched and I’ve looked for other ways for it to be okay. I’ve studied other religions, different interpretations of our Bible and at times, even wished that I was wrong about my faith. I wouldn’t have to ache for the people who don’t know Jesus.

I left that study with a feeling of urgency.

My life, at times, has been a really poor example when it comes to following that Biblical set of instructions. I have failed more times than I can count. I have made some decisions that I am ashamed of. I have hurt others with my words and with my actions.

Sometimes I am scared to loudly proclaim the name of Jesus because the last thing I want to be is a hypocrite or a poor representation of His name. I want to wait until I have that area of sin under control, until I don’t struggle with anxiety, or until I have every question answered and everything figured out.

But there is no time to wait. And that’s the amazing thing about grace.

In my weakness, in my imperfection, in my failings and shortcomings, I can still proclaim the name of Jesus. Because it isn’t about me.

It’s about Him. While my life can be a living sacrifice, I shouldn’t be pointing others to me. I should be pointing others to Him with my life. My messy, imperfect life. I don’t deserve it, yet it is freely given to me.

I can’t imagine being next to someone on a plane, knowing it was going to crash, and withholding the information necessary for them to survive.

So why do I sometimes cower in fear over sharing my faith? Why do I sometimes neglect to say anything, when all I was supposed to do was say something? I should be pointing others to the cross. In my words. In my actions. With my life.

The challenge to myself and to all believers is to live boldly and live loudly for Jesus. Don’t hide the life-changing knowledge you have. Wear it. Live it; not in judgment and arrogance, pushing others away in isolation, but in a way that draws others with gentleness and love.

Sometimes it is planting seeds. It doesn’t mean standing on a street corner shouting about eternal damnation. Sometimes it is laying the foundation for someone to notice something different about your life. I fully believe that one day we will all see the amazing intricacy that is God’s plan, and how all of our actions were woven together to fulfill His purpose.

I’ve got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do. Times are scary. But our God is big. Let’s get started.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.