TR:DR God knows that anyone, even the best of us, when confronted by prolonged injustice or suffering will eventually cause us to revolt somehow. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But by the end of the post, I want to show you that with God, you can choose to revolt in a totally different way, a more glorious way, it doesn’t matter how hopeless your situation is because “with man it is impossible, with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26)
Suicide, Batman’s Joker, Sisyphus and the Gospel Revolt
If you are contemplating suicide because the world has been unfair to you, don’t.
It is so easy to contemplate suicide when confronted by a world that seems so unfair, especially when we feel the deck is stacked against us to begin with making us feel that the system put us at the bottom of the barrel and it’s too difficult to work your way up.
If only I were born pretty, a girl would ask as we observe how guys become sycophants to those who are sexy while no one bats an eye on you.
If only I were born into wealth, a guy might ask as we observe how wealth seems to unlock so many more opportunities in life.
Worse, those who are born into big privilege don’t understand the plights of those who are on the other extreme end.
I’m in that rare box because my life has been fully both. Before college, I was on the top of the totem pole. Good family. An honors student in an ivy-league. Christian youth leader. A sportsman and musician. But after college, I was fully at the bottom. Perpetually sick and disfigured. No career. No prospects.
All of these made me want to escape, somehow. And then thoughts of escape turned to thoughts of revolt against a system that was so superficial and unfair, and then to revolt against God himself.
I am not talking about small adversities that many motivational speakers cite to cash in on feel-good stories to help you “grow” to be the best versions of yourself. I am talking about adversities that have no end in sight, crippling, and lead to systemic rejection by society. I am talking about the type of pressure that brings a person to the end of himself.
Once again, if you are contemplating suicide because the world has been unfair to you, don’t. Please read on.
YOU are not alone.
Please know that many people are feeling a “quiet desperation”, that something is wrong with the world and themselves. They feel it but don’t talk about it. It may seem hard to believe in an era of unprecedented average wealth, and social media stories of beautiful pictures, beautiful people and people preaching at you that we create our own meaning, and we are special no matter what. Deep inside, all of us know these ideas are bankrupt. Those that the world has been grossly unfair to have to confront these realities head-on, while those who are privileged have the luxury of being distracted by frivolous things that shield themselves from acknowledging those unsettling realities.
The fact that The Joker had become the top-grossing superhero movie of all time also strongly suggests this. The movie is far from the big explosions, high CGI and sexy leads, instead it is gritty, dark and a personal journey of how unjust suffering and meaninglessness can lead to the nihilism that leads to thoughts of suicide and then to revolt against the structures in society that is perceived to be responsible for that unfairness. This movie really resonated with people of today, and it’s big box office numbers of greater than 1 billion from its release not too long ago surprised many movie executives. They thought it was going to be good, but not that good. The “surprising” fact to Hollywood liberals is accentuated because not only did The Joker because the top-grossing superhero of all time, it happened in a time where the superhero movie genre is already mature and milked to death. Just between 2015 and 2020, there has been about 29 DC and Marvel movies alone. It seems that in a world of beautiful ponies and unicorn farts, people are wanting something real. Darkness and unfairness are real.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
Those movies like Marvel’s Avengers are filled with men with washboard abs, attractive women (here’s looking at you Elizabeth Olsen), high EPM (explosions per minute) and grandiose cosmic drama where the whole universe is at stake. Things are more black and white, the good is obviously good, the bad is obviously bad. The Joker has a much “smaller” scope but that smallness makes it infinitely bigger because it puts the darkness of human hearts and society under a microscope instead. Much less action. Much less explosion. Instead of trying to frame the entire universe, the focus is on only one man’s descent to destructive nihilism. The main theme alludes to the inevitability of going mad in a fallen world where unfairness is rampant and the subsequent equally unfair personal response to destroy those who are deemed responsible of the unfairness.
As the unfairness of his world starts increasing like a flood, with one misunderstanding leading to the path of destruction like a chain reaction, Arthur, the real name of the titular Joker character, says a few things that describe his mental frame of mind. We can see his evolution of thought by tracking key things he was saying throughout the film.
He feels horrible because the world had no place for what they deem a loser. He tells his psychologist:
“I just don’t want to feel so bad”
He wanted to escape (he thought his life is a tragedy and rehearsed how he might kill himself again and again), but it evolved to revolt (at the critical moment, he decides to destroy the absurd world that was unfair to him instead).
“I used to realize that my life was a tragedy, now I realize it’s a fucking comedy.”
He proceeds to kill his mentally ill mother that he believed was partially responsible for all the bad luck in his life. More tragic is that he spent the entire movie to that point looking after her. He was trying to erase his past, to prepare the way to end himself. He then starts rehearsing how to kill himself on a live prime time TV show as he recalls what he wrote in his diary long ago,
“I hope my death makes more cents (sense) than my life.”
At the TV show, he was made fun of by the talk show host, tells morbid jokes and even finally confesses on prime time live TV to killing 3 wall street brats, a fact that he was trying to hide before. He gives the reason or non-reason if you can call it that, to the booing TV audiences:
“All of you, the system that knows so much, you decide what’s right and wrong; the same way you decide what’s funny and what’s not… I killed those guys because they were awful. Everyone is awful these days, and it’s enough to make anyone crazy.”
When the crowd boos him for making light of his murders, he points out poignantly,
“Oh, why is everyone upset about these guys? If it were me dying on the sidewalk, you’d walk right over me. I pass you every day and you don’t notice me.”
And the final “joke”, after the TV host judges him,
“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that treats him like trash?”
At this point, you think he would shoot himself because he was practicing it just minutes before the interview, but he snaps and decided to shoot the TV host instead.
So unfairness led to thoughts of suicide to escape, but soon it evolved to thoughts to revolt. He revolted by killing those who were unfair to him, including the TV host that represented that system.
In the show, people called him mad.
But is he really? Or did he have the most clarity that nihilism, combined with severe unfairness, inevitably leads to escapism and revolt that is as a natural progression just like an egg naturally leads to a chicken? That is what he was convinced of before administering the killing joke. Some people label him as mad because those same people have not gone through the severity of unfairness and who are likely just blissfully unaware. These people judge instead of reflecting deeper in order to avoid popping their bubble. Because the popping of their bubble just might show them that they are indeed not enough.
This tells me that the contemplation of this darkness is on more people’s minds than we think. If top Instagram posts are all beautiful girls, beautiful tourist spots and wonderful food, how could something so dark gross so much money?
When I heard the line “If it were me dying on the sidewalk, you’d walk right over me.”, I shuddered. I remember feeling the same way years ago. In fact, I still feel the world is like that today, except I have a different mindset now that I will share later. My fear that we live in a fickle world that can turn on you on a dime still exists, it didn’t disappear. The difference is that I found out that the world doesn’t have to the last word in your life.
The critical and unexpected financial success of the Joker surprised many Hollywood liberals that control the narrative and popular culture of today. This hints that deeper truths exist, of which includes the acknowledgment that we live in a world almost hopelessly flawed and darkness lay dormant in our sinful natures. The Postmodern fantasies that the empty Hollywood leftist culture tries to push are not that convincing – that all of us are good, we can choose our own meaning, our own genders, and no one should be able to tell us anything different.
Reality has a way to pop illusionary bubbles.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geogehan, an idealistic young couple in their late 20s that were fully immersed in today’s postmodern culture loved to travel and be active on social media. In those travels Austin documents:
“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Austin wrote. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.”
“I don’t buy it,” he continued. “Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own … By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”
Soon after, they got killed by ISIS.
They were killed in late July 2018 when a car intentionally plowed into them on a rural road in the mountains of Tajikistan. After the crash, the attackers also stabbed their victims, as reported by the US Embassy. I repeat, they stabbed their victims even after crashing their vehicle into them.
ISIS took responsibility for the brutal killing. (https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Young-couple-trying-to-prove-human-kindness-among-cyclists-killed-by-ISIS-565055)
The couple, having faith in the religion of postmodernism, believed nothing is wrong with us humans, that we are inherently good people but only we have a tendency of selfishness or misunderstanding. But reality shows that the inherently sinful nature of man, combined with bad ideologies, or ideas, can lead to objectively evil acts.
As Morpheus said to Neo in the movie, the Matrix said, referring to people sensing they are living in the ultimate delusion of a perfect computer simulation, “Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
People are definitely thinking about this today.
But guess what, people have been wrestling with this in ALL of history.
You are not alone.
The success of the Joker shows that today, people are resonating with the “absurdity” of life. But the Joker is an extension of an idea more than 60 years ago – Camus’ Sisyphus. And Sisyphus is an idea co-opted from the oldest preserved, best-selling, written story in ALL of history, the Book of Job in the Bible almost 3000 years ago. (around 1700-1900 BC).
The Myth of Sisyphus (French: Le Mythe de Sisyphe) is a 1942 philosophical essay by Albert Camus.
In the essay, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd, man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again.
Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers, “No. It requires revolt.”
The essay concludes, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” (1)
Like the Joker, Sisyphus was put under the hopeless adversity of a system against him. The superficial intuitive thought of suicide will not suffice, and a revolt, a revolution comes naturally. And, Camus captures the convenient avoidance of those issues by those who are “winners in life” – they must imagine Sisyphus happy. If they don’t delude themselves this way, it means they have to do something about Sisyphus, and even worse, contemplate the possibility that it wasn’t Sisyphus’ decisions that landed him to that spot, meaning that the hopelessness and rejection from the world can happen to them as well despite their own idea of “good works”, “wise choices” or how they “obviously deserve much better” for whatever reason.
The majority of us have never been in impossible situations like Sisyphus and so cannot empathize with people who are living with difficulty levels like Sisyphus. I remember I was sitting with a group of seventeen-year-old students trying to discuss General Paper. They were discussing a passage on obstacles and the topic of suicide came out. When the facilitator asked why some people commit suicide, a female student with glasses immediate voiced out, “because they were weak”.
I looked at her, I was 33 years at the time, I had just finished my three-year stint as a physics teacher and had to quit because I could no longer be physically functional as my ravaging eczema spread too wide and too deep, and any higher immuno-suppressant doses will be out of allowable limits. I smiled, and spoke with a soft but assertive gravitas, “You guys are struggling to pass your “A” level exams, I got straight As which is a statistical impossibility because my PSLE score qualified me between normal and express stream. I had to struggle with a debilitating illness that is distracting and painful. None of you have probably achieved anything on the national level, but worked my way to eventually become an interschool chess champion, and eventually the top-rated player at my university. Most of you are still struggling with identity and are self-conscious, but, with sores all over my body, I have performed on stage for people for thousands to see, risking great embarrassment. By many people’s definitions, all that required strength and resilience. I say these things not to shame or to compare, but just to give you a glimpse behind my life. However, my health problems went from very challenging to downright impossible, there is a vast difference dealing with things that are difficult compared to close impossibilities. The world stopped interacting with me, and I was draining my parent’s money every month. Was I a coward or courageous when I thought of ending it? Death would save my parents a lot of money, and it might have also been a statement to those around me that could not have been spoken when alive. When I stopped believing in God, suicide, rebellion, revolt comes naturally. So, are suicidal people all weak? Or are suicidal people more clear on certain things depending on what our convictions are? Perhaps it is the world around that is too oblivious to the unfairness waiting around the corner. Or perhaps it’s not about weakness but what we really believe about the world. Is there a God or not? Is there a purpose or not? Are people around us reliable or not?”
They were silent, deep in thought. I wished them well and glad I gave them more to think about.
But the student’s initial response was typical. We are all trapped within our worldview and try to make sense of life based on that worldview we constructed. But unless something extraordinary comes to rock that worldview, we become more and more confident in it until we make snap judgments even on things that we haven’t experienced. I don’t really care these days to change people’s minds about things, however, when it comes to this, I have to try… or at least introduce more questions to think about. Because, if the majority of people assume weakness to those who are despondent and are close to “losing it”, if they are wrong, it causes more harm because you are confirming in their minds how lacking of empathy the world is. In causing more harm, those who wrongly assume are actually catalyzing that person’s already high levels of indignance with the world and accelerating the sufferer’s path towards the “ultimate revolt”.
In the movie The Joker, the titular character acts like the world is hopeless flawed. People’s fates are determined. People too easily stay comfortable in their bubbles, leaving those who suffer alone even more isolated and more reminded how cheap their own lives are since their “molecular” brothers behave as though they are more deserving. People are just dancing to the tune of their selfish DNA. In seeing clearly how absurd the world is, perhaps the logical action that follows is to destroy the world since it cannot change.
Similarly, if we can imagine life overwhelming unfair to us, at a certain point, when we have nothing left to lose, to appease our own sense of justice (which ironically proves God or a higher purpose exists), we want to destroy the world that is hopelessly unfair and ugly to us. It is the world and the random bad hand of fate that it dealt to him that is wrong, not the person himself that is wrong. Hence, why destroy himself when the world deserves destruction?
In the story we call such people like the Joker “mentally ill”, but is he mentally ill? Or perhaps he is actually the most lucid in thought with a great conviction to act if he truly believed the premise that there is no God and the world is blatantly unfair with humans always tripping on themselves or stepping on others to get ahead with their vain and empty ambitions.
Atheist scientist Richard Dawkins paints a picture of how we should view life if there is no God, no real life fairy tales and we are left with a meaningless universe surrounded by automatons with selfish genes.
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” ― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
It is a cruel realization that the vast universe has no ultimate purpose for you and that there is no defense for a world that turned against you. Akira Kurosowa, one of the most Japanese influential filmmakers, had an insight of this, “in a mad world only the mad are sane.” Once the world determines that you are insane and they are sane, very little you say may convince them otherwise.
But an even crueler realization of his own inability to do anything about it. It is this further realization that actually brings back thoughts of suicide again, but the reason is no longer about escaping, it’s about revolting against a mad world. A person then goes from destroying himself to escape to destroys himself instead because in doing in effect he destroys the world. GK Chesterton describes this kind of suicide as the ultimate evil, and then alludes that there is a more rational and better truth… that thinking about the death and rising of Jesus Christ is better than thoughts of the death of ourselves or the world that treated us badly.
“It is the ultimate and absolute evil … The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront… But if it comes to clear ideas and the intelligent meaning of things, then there is much more rational and philosophic truth in the burial at the cross-roads and the stake driven through the body, than in Mr. Archer’s suicidal automatic machines.”
GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 5: The Flag of the World
* Mr Archer’s suicide machines are machines you use to kill yourself. In a nihilistic world where there is no ultimate purpose other than which you made for yourself, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with using a machine to kill yourself if you want to. Chesterton says that Jesus’ death on the cross has more rational and philosophic truth than the existence of those machines. We can discuss that later.
For me, the term “ultimate” refers more to the logically fullest extension of an evil worldview rather than the “biggest” evil there is. I think that believing a world without God and ultimate meaning is actually evil, even if the practitioners don’t realize it. If God created the world He deserves the greatest credit. If God gave us a purpose and instructions for our lives, we should follow it for the maximum human flourishing. Those who act like God doesn’t exist, and nature is all there is, not only doesn’t give God His due, they also destroy themselves because they are not living the way they are meant to be living. Imagine if an arrogant person claimed that Steve Jobs didn’t exist and decided to use his iPhone 11that his parents gave him and used it like a hammer to nail things down. The furniture you were building will be unstable for use and the iPhone which could have worked wonders if used the right way gets ruined. When we don’t try to understand what we were made for, we end up shortchanging and even hurting ourselves and God’s purposes for the world around us. It also insults Steve Jobs’ intelligence and drive to produce that iPhone 11 by treating it like a common rock.
This means that in a world that is devoid of a wise Creator that begets an ultimate purpose for our lives, inevitability man-made purpose becomes the default substitution – but what a poor substitution it is. In fact, you might as well change the sugarcoated euphemism “man-made purpose” into a more practical word “satisfying our carnal desires that don’t ultimately satisfy”. Doing man-made SOCDTDUS gives us moments of euphoria or numbs the deep feeling of dread but there is no rest for our souls.
Imagine you are trapped in a dark tunnel. There is a light shining from the end of the tunnel. On one hand, you can say that the light that just started shining is allowing you to play with the toys that are scattered on the tunnel floor. Your curiosity is peaked, you have something to do. Yet there is no rest in any of it because deep inside, your soul knows that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming training despite your conscious mind trying to delude ourselves that the light is just there for no reason. Pursuing “man-made purpose” is like playing with toys on the ground while simultaneously not pursuing the reasons why there is an oncoming light. Those who blindly assert there is no God will not be prepared when the train runs them over. The realization that the coming light that allows them to play is also the thing that ultimately destroys them is difficult to bear. And yet, ironically, if one decides to confront the uncomfortable truth that the oncoming light is a train, perhaps there is something can do about it. Maybe the train doesn’t have to run us over, maybe the train can be a ticket out of the tunnel, if only there was a way to board and use it instead of getting in its way.
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C.S. Lewis
When light shines, don’t immediately use it to play with the toys scattered on the ground to avoid thinking about the light, investigate what is the origin of that light to begin with.
Here’s the rub. If there is no God, the ultimate reality for everyone is a chaotic inanimate pitiless universe with people all walking to the tune of their selfish DNA is an oncoming train that will run you over. There is no escape from an ultimately meaningless life and death, or from a great regret at the end of your life that you missed out investigating a whole new world that was hidden in plain view.
Those who are less fortunate have no chance to earn the man-defined “meaning” in a fallen and hopeless world and are forced to confront reality faster. Those who are more fortunate in life might suspect that pursuing man-defined “meaning” is actually meaningless but at least they have the toys to perpetually distract themselves. Those who might be intelligent enough to use intellectual sleight of hand claim without any objective proof from first principles of any kind that the “struggle” is what should us happy. But a struggle without a purpose that transcends it is as empty as the notion that it came from. The delusional man paints a rosy picture with his conscious mind, but his unconscious soul is screaming at him from deep inside.
The unjust manner of the struggle itself, and that it leads to nothing ultimately meaningful is the problem itself; claiming that the struggle is what “should” make us happy is like painting lipstick on a pig. Or claiming the light at the end of the tunnel gives us meaning when actually the lights at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming training that will overrun us.
All this shows the inevitability that when confronted by Camus’ absurdity of life, characterized by a futile search for meaning in a world devoid of God, the prideful ones will revolt. And, the greatest revolt is to destroy the world that was so very flawed and unfair. And due to our own inability to actually destroy the world, we can only do the next best thing; and that is to destroy ourselves to effectively destroy our perception of this world, and also to leave a middle finger for the rest of the world that the world was so ugly that you had to leave it.
BUT, if there is a Christ, and the if Bible is to be believed, then there is another way to revolt.
My own “absurd” journey followed those exact progressions of thought, but the conclusion that the struggle itself is meaningful is as empty to the degree one believes the pitiless indifference of the world that caused that struggle. In other words, if you believe there is no ultimate purpose for the universe, then there is no purpose for the struggle as well. This is not true for those who are God’s children in Christ,
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecc 3:11
God also knows that anyone, even the best of us, when confronted by prolonged injustice or suffering will eventually cause us to revolt somehow. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But by the end of the post, I want to show you that with God, you can choose to revolt in a totally different way, a more glorious way, it doesn’t matter how hopeless your situation is because “with man it is impossible, with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26)
I hope my testimony can show you can revolt in a different way, a better way.
You can revolt by putting yourself under the authority of the Gospel and see how God can create meaning out of chaos, be provided a love like no other in a world might be indifferent to you, and help you succeed in ways that the world claims you have no right to succeed in. But following the Gospel effectively means to allow God to change your identity, your affiliations, work in your life, revealing things deep within we might want to keep hidden, receive when we don’t care to receive, to give when we don’t care to give. To do this when everything has fallen apart is ballsy and requires a heart of revolution. But, instead of killing yourself physically in cowardice or indignation, you have to die to yourself to allow God full reign in your life and let God show the world what they could not see in you before.
You have to be born again.
Please allow me to give you a glimpse of my hopelessness and what was going through my mind as I wrestled through it. For those who already know my story, you can skip the entire section of “Sisyphus has nothing on me. My Absurdity.”
Sisyphus has nothing on me. My Absurdity.
My incurable progressively worsening eczema was the catalyst that produced a continual debilitating spiral in my life characterized by great physical suffering, the greater suffering of isolation and even greater suffering of being judged by others. Not only did I feel I was going in circles, much worse than Sisyphus that kept returning to square one, but each cycle also made me worse off than the one prior. With each cycle, my physical pain levels increased, my career and social life declined further and further and every goal in life (no matter how noble they were) that I might have wanted to pursue because elusive to the point where I was trying to find reasons to stay on earth. No medicines could help me. No chance to build a career. Church people left me to my devices. Those that didn’t judge as deserving did not know what to do with me. I am draining thousands of dollars every month on medical bills only to slowly get worse? My mind couldn’t find a reason to stay on.
In the course of this setting, I contemplate suicide more than once.
In my disfigurement, I also avoided taking pictures or looking at the mirror. Up to now, I only have 1 full-body photograph where my body was riddled with burn-like sores. But on those chance occasions when I glimpsed myself in the bathroom mirror I would be reminded how a once strapping successful young man with ivy-league aspirations had been degraded to someone that could have been an extra on the Walking Dead with my faith in the world that was even more dead than the blood, plasma and skin cells I would leave as a trail as I walked.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to smash that mirror, take an unwilling shard and slice my carotid.
But something I couldn’t understand just stopped me just in time for my hatred for the world, myself, and God to dissipate. It wasn’t my mind. It wasn’t my own soul. I was burning with nihilism. It wasn’t my “faith” in God. By this time, I effectively stuck my middle fingers at God and found myself saying the same thing as Job in the Bible.
During my college days and the first 5 years of suffering after, my attitude was “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:22)
I was celebrated by Christian circles in those days. Future alumni from my college Christian fellowship met me years later and told me that stories of Ken was “legendary”. Apparently, people were still talking about me years after I left. They said my story encouraged many who were struggling – my obviously painful existence with no cure in sight, coupled with my mum untimely passing due to cancer, my girlfriend dumping me for someone else while blaming me for things that were not my fault … yet I was still praising God, helping others in their studies, leading worship, leading other students to Christ and still managed to get good grades, albeit just barely. I was a symbol of an unknown curse, but also of unknown strength from God.
But… as the disease continued to get worse. What was already very painful and challenging became unimaginably painful and crippling. I couldn’t concentrate on anything as the physical pains were too distracting. I forgot all that I learnt in college because my mind turned forgetful due to all the drugs I was taking to numb the pains. Once I couldn’t hold on to any job anymore, my mind crossed the threshold into dissonance. In college, although I had great challenges, I had just enough health to do well. I could see that “God is using me to show the world what He can do with a broken jar of clay” (2 Cor 4:7). Once the mind can rationale at least one reason, it is tethered enough to your original belief and you can soldier on. But what happens when the mind cannot rationale any reason?
As the unrelenting disease continued, I could not see ANY possible purpose in it. I gave God my life years ago. I endured scorn from worldly cousins that thought I was wasting my time sharing the Gospel on the streets as a 17-year-old. I was willing to give up my ivy league education to be a missionary doctor, and yet, I got the exact opposite. Instead of being used by God to heal and to spread the Good News, I got hit with an unrelenting disease that disfigured and incapacitated me. My body was a symbol that Jesus doesn’t save or heal.
To add to the agony, I couldn’t understand why the severity and type of disease were the worst of all possible worlds. It wasn’t quick enough to take me quickly. Many people die early and I don’t mind being one of them. I would have my stellar reputation, a great testimony, my faith in God intact and great fellowship as I walked into the unknown. Simultaneously, it was so severe that I couldn’t do anything with my life. I couldn’t go to heaven, and I couldn’t conquer this problem on earth. Instead, I seemed to be this sad decaying clown for all to see. A once passionate minister of Christ that became an irrelevant joke no one knew what to do with… an animal on display in the prison of my bedroom, moody, depressed, laughing in irony at times, worshipping God at times out of desperation, cursing God at times out of frustration. Quiet. Angry. Hopeful. Insightful in the dark things of life. And yet, strangely, I still had people wanting to talk to me about their problems, because they felt they couldn’t share it with the church they were in. They appreciated my honesty. The irony.
What a mind screw. What a cruel joke. I was the cosmic joke. Perhaps this is why watching The Joker sent chills down my spine. I saw myself in him.
By the 8th year I would be found in my bedroom. I’ve spent the greater part of 2 years trapped in there. My doors are closed, no one knows that I do in there. I was double bent over in a fetal position. I’m on the floor, as a courtesy to the domestic helper who would clean my room because everywhere I go I would leave behind dead skin and bloodstains. My eyes are crusted and swollen. My lips are cracked, I cannot smile. Searing pains shoot across parts of my body due to inflammations and broken skin. I smell the decay of my body. I stink. Soon, I would have to go through the most torturous time of the day – the shower. I want to avoid showering, but if I do not, my wounds will fester. Just like every day before it, the water would burn across my body as you can imagine water flowing past open wounds. The doctor estimates in my medical report that 70% of my body is covered with sores and wounds. NO one will ever know what this excruciating pain feels like. Last week, the pains were so unimaginable that I let loose a guttural screamed that got choked in silence and I momentarily fainted. I crawled out of the bathroom on my knees and elbows as if I was a partially-burnt survivor crawling out of a burning building. But there was no burning building. This was not a one-off event. This is every day. You know the say that “one man’s garbage is another one’s treasure”? This is “one man’s comfortable cleaning apparatus is another man’s torture device”.
And worse, no one will know what was even more excruciating, the increasing realization that is no doctor, no God can help this. And, to preserve their own idea of God and the source of their pride, many church folks, including leaders, HAD to assume I was doing something wrong or else why would God let “a little problem like eczema” overtake me?
I could never imagine such excessive physical pains, the depths a man could go, and how ugly the world can be when they deal with something they don’t understand but think they do.
But guess what?
The oldest and bestselling book is the Bible. The oldest book in the Bible is the book of Job. The story of Job is exactly how a man God called “blameless” and “the greatest in the East” had experienced the maximum of curses. He lost his health, wealth, family, reputation and his theological friends that once honored him assumed he was evil. Job lamented in his absurd life, I have said the exact same thing to God even before I read it in the Bible.
“Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired laborer waiting to be paid, so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering.” (Job 7:2-5)
Floating around the internet are many feel-good stories that try to uplift you, and 1-minute readings to “impact” your life. I find them a little useful for the masses, and not useful at all, and in fact counter-productive for those who are in extreme suffering due to real impossible challenges.
There is a moral fable that talks about a potato, egg and coffee bean that is thrown into boiling water. The potato jumped in all hard but ended up soft and weak. The egg looked unaffected on the outside, but inside became hardboiled. The coffee bean released its essence and changed the water itself into something more beautiful and aromatic. The fable then asks, which one are you? Too many authors then continue to push their self-help worldview by touting “we have the power to choose new ways to responding to life at any moment.”(*)
I agree with the fable. This definitely is an observation in human history. It tells you what you should do, but doesn’t tell you how. But, as usual, it doesn’t tell you how we can have the essence of a coffee bean. The reason the coffee bean can do that is because of the coffee bean’s nature and essence. You cannot change your own being.
The Joker shows there are other options than just the potato, egg and coffee beans. For example, there are people who are like rotting meat. You put the piece in boiling water and it makes the whole system even more toxic. That’s what happened to the Joker. He started off sad, then hardened and eventually he was an agent of chaos, increasing the troubles in the world. He became something that was arguably worse than the people who acted out of ignorance and indifference. He couldn’t choose to become a coffee bean.
Great perceived injustice “produced” an Adolf Hitler, but it also “produced” a Mother Theresa.
As an ex-high school teacher, I’ve seen for myself spoilt kids that have an unhealthy sense of entitlement that comes even from the lower, not only the higher echelon of society. That’s not intuitive, yet it happens. I brought one of the lower standard classes (that often made fun of by the higher classes) to the movies. Most of them were from low social-economic status and had hang-ups, so I wanted to give them some encouragement. I bought them all a ticket, drinks, and popcorn. I was in disbelief when I saw that they had a food fight and littered popcorn all over the floor. There was so much popcorn that you couldn’t even see the floor of the aisle they were sitting on. When I asked them to pick it all up, they refused to do so and actually told me, “it’s the cleaner’s job”.
The people that were judged by their parents and higher SES kids where subsequently judging people they perceived was lower than them.
I told them, “okay, you guys can do now. I will pick it up. Join me if you wish.”
They came in 5 minutes later.
This shows that poverty and suffering don’t naturally produce “good” people.
Looking carefully, this is not about smart decision making, or behavior modification, it’s about the core of who you are. If your heart is selfish, and also believe that there is no ultimate purpose, then being soft, weak, hardened and chaotic is inevitable. These are just different sides of a dice. But what can change a heart? How can we replace the dice altogether into something else? How can we be… a new person?
A REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE
Contrast this to a Nick Vujicic, who was born without fully formed limbs. He is a true example of a coffee bean. Can you imagine how hard it is for a man to progress in this world without arms and legs? If anyone has a reason to feel life is unfair, it is him. If anyone has a reason to not be charitable, it is him. These are disabilities that no one can solve. Instead of wanting to escape this world or revolt in the great cosmic unfairness, he ended up graduating from Griffith University at 21 with a commerce degree and then became a worldwide motivational speaker and founder of Life Without Limbs.
He has touched thousands of people across the globe, has a wife and kid.
Vujicic attempted suicide before, but when the progression of suicide turned to revolt; he revolted in a new way. Instead of railing against an unfair system, he looked inward towards the Creator of the Universe that was in his heart.
Vujicic credits the foundation of his strength and success not from anything he did (they were not the root cause). He didn’t say that he succeeded because he decided to be strong and virtuous. He didn’t say he succeeded because he chose to be better. You can want to do those things, but by your own strength, when faced with the real selfishness of the world, you can’t stay resolved forever. Soon, you will also turn dark and want to fight fire with fire.
Born with no arms and no legs, Nick Vujicic has overcome life’s challenges through strength & hope found in Jesus Christ. http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.com
Why would we be surprised?
If you are a potato, you can’t change to be an egg by yourself, you can’t be a coffee bean by yourself. You can change your behavior for a short time but you cannot change the core of your being. Long term actions are defined from the core of your being. Your core influences what you do and not the other way around.
Jesus promises that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17)
The Bible doesn’t say to “follow” Christ, but to be in Christ. When we accept Christ into our hearts, a qualitative change of your core begins. Christ is not a Mr. Rogers type teacher that you “follow”. Christ is meant to be your medicine, your substitute, your agent of change. Christ is meant to be your savior. “Following His teachings about conduct is the far lesser blessings that you do later. Letting Him save you is the crucial thing.
When we accept the free gift of salvation, the free gift of God’s atonement for your sins, you can now freely come into God’s presence, totally forgiven for your sins and also the curses on your life due to the sinful world. Not only did your relationship with God change… you are now a Son or Daughter of God.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12)
Your relationship status has changed and no one can take that way. You became a New Creation and the old ways no longer have a long-lasting influence on you. You are no longer a slave to your sinful nature and you are no longer under the spiritual authority of the world but under God.
From this core will produce good fruits for your own life despite your adversities around you.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
BUT, God can work to change your headwinds into tailwinds, and make sure that the world does not get the last word in your life.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Christ Jesus is the fullness of redemption in Grace that the whole Bible was pointing to from the start.
Nick’s life is just another in a long line of redemption stories that go all the way back into the Old Testament. He is part of a great heritage and he is part of this heritage because Nick is in Christ. In Christ, I am a spiritual brother to Nick, as we are spiritual brothers to Joseph and Job and Christ himself.
Joseph had tremendous setbacks time after time. He was betrayed to slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault, forgotten in jail. But through Grace, God used every bad thing that happened to him for God’s wonderful purposes for both Joseph and for the world around Joseph. Joseph became the governor of Egypt and saved Egypt from the coming famine. Joseph, in his new position of influence, even saved his own family back in Canaan, including the brothers that despised him. So overwhelmed by how God broke the unfair power of the world on his life that he could say, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20)
THE OLDEST BOOK IN HISTORY is about salvation not from works, but from redemption by Grace.
Remember Job that we mentioned earlier? He was a “blameless man” and was the “greatest man in the east” but God allowed an evil ordeal more torturous and arduous than the Joker, Sisyphus and myself. Job lost his health, wealth, family, reputation and most everyone went from respecting him to despising him. Yet, Job called out for “a Redeemer” even before the covenant of grace had a formal name.
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
3000 years before Christ, Job was calling for what Christ was going to give. Christ was the ultimate expression of God’s grace. This grace was to fulfill all the requirements of the law that makes us righteous and to break the curse of the sinful world that has influence over us.
“In him [Jesus] WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his [God’s] grace;” Ephesians 1:7
After a series of bitching, moaning, lamenting, being angry with his friends, being angry with God, we find that in the deepest part of Job came out a cry for redemption, and prophetically he looked for a savior because Job knew he cannot save himself. He called for a Jesus before a Jesus was known historically.
Later, God changed Job’s headwinds into tailwinds, restored Job, gave meaning to all of Job’s arduous experiences and Job transcended his part life, having the enlightenment that transcended the pains and politics of the world into a New and Living way. And God gave Job the grace that is available to us today. That Grace turned Job’s fortunes around and used Job’s story to encourage billions of future readers who are struggling and get a glimpse of God’s future redemptive work in Jesus. God gave him double the health, wealth, family and reputation and additionally added even more.
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. Job 42:7
Before Job’s ordeal of suffering, he was “a king”. He was a king in the sense that he was very rich and influential in the world. Yet, after calling for a redeemer, and fulfilling what God wanted Job to do. God let him transcend his office as a mere human king that had to worship God and offer sacrifices to someone that represents God and accepts sacrifices on people’s behalf. God would only forgive Job’s friends through Job! A sinful man can never be God’s conduit for forgiveness. Only a blameless person that is worthy. Job only became worthy after calling for a redeemer and finishing the process of what God had planned for him. In that sense,
Job is “a New Creation” with the old gone, with the new that had come. The Job of yesterday was just a great man, the Job of today is redeemed and glorified. The Job of yesterday can only come before God hoping God will accept him. The Job of today has people coming to Job in order for Job to help them be accepted.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Job was now a conduit to create peace between man and God, something Jesus described the church of Christ was to become in Christ.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Job was also a picture of a King and Priest as stated as the primary identity of all those who are in Christ.
from Jesus Christ … To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. (Revelations 1:9)
The oldest book that’s been preserved is a prophetic book that points not only points to what we can be through Christ Jesus 3000 years later, in a world that can be extremely unfair and unjust. But also that no one had to tell Job about needing redemption. When there is truly no way out, we find deep in our hearts that we yearn for God’s Grace and the gift of grace through faith in Christ is the manifestation of God’s grace to us.
To read more, check out my post about the secret of Job is that Job is pointing directly to Jesus, and the discovery of this hidden gem brings Life to the reader.
Both are shadows and a picture of God’s redemptive work on the Earth.
In Christ, God wants to change you from the inside out and not the outside in, and also supply you all you need to fulfill God’s purposes for you.
Now you have a reason to be a coffee bean.
In conclusion, impossible setbacks and unjust sufferings will also push one to want to escape through suicide, and then to revolt. And revolt you must.
But how you revolt is your choice.
If you go with your natural inclinations, you will end up hardened, nihilistic, and want to destroy the world around you.
The BETTER WAY TO REVOLT.
1) Go to the one who can make you a New Creation. (2 Cor 5:17)
2) Go to the one who is bigger than the world. (John 16:33)
3) Where your treasure is, there is your heart. (Matt 6:21) Make your desire the things of heaven, to forgive those who don’t deserve, to have the faith and determination to achieve worldly things even if the world doesn’t give you a chance. To remember God’s love when others don’t love you. To remember God’s power when the world makes you feel powerless.
4) Ironically, when we forget the ways of the world and make the things of heaven our goal, God blesses us on earth anyway. (Matt 6:33)
5) As you now fight your battles, you will find that God is fighting alongside you, and has already fought your future battles ahead of you.
Friend, if you are reading this and haven’t decided to look deeper into what Christ Jesus can do for you that no other religious leader can do for you please pause before lashing out. Instead of lashing out at people you deemed contributed to the unfairness around you. Let the reality of an unfair world and your suffering make you think deeper.
Every person on earth from every time frame had to deal with the meaninglessness of life with God in the face of unrelenting suffering. The oldest written book that is still well-circulated (the Book of Job) in the entire history of man, written some 3000 years ago is specifically about suffering, a judgmental world, a good God and hidden plans for redemption.
Think about that.
The OLDEST written and preserved book in all of history, and arguably the best literary work by multiple scholars, of all topics, is about impossible suffering, the rejection from the world, and a Grace the world couldn’t recognize, pointing to a person who’s historic event split history into two – before Him (BC) and after Him (AD).
Humankind had always tried to make sense of the real evilness and limitations of the human heart, the purpose of life, and the reality of gross unfairness to certain people. That something is wrong with the core of who we are is not an illusion that liberal social media or postmodern thought can do away with.
We all have an idea of perfection and yet we know we are so far from it. if we evolved from rocks from a totally chaotic universe, where did this idea of perfection come from in the first place? Chaos should be normal. The insane should have been considered sane. If perfection is never a reality, why are we hardwired to desire it? Could it be because there is a God, outside and above the physical universe, time and space, that put it there?
If so, why are we foolishly disregarding the oldest book when facing the same struggles 3000 years later? The book of Job points to JESUS as the solution to this problem. Yes. Read it here.
This is the ultimate way you revolt.
Jesus revolted and saved the world.
Paul revolted in Christ and changed the world.
Mother Theresa revolted and will now be remembered in history for addressing suffering and breaking down rigid religiosity.
Nick Vujicic revolted in Christ and has accomplished more with four limbs less than a majority of humans of the earth with all their limbs.
What about you? Are you ready to be a coffee bean?
Extra Interesting Points:
This post was to address suicide due to injustice due to you, but not suicide due to evil done by you. It doesn’t address suicide based on regret or a consequence of how you hurt society. Perhaps you did something so shameless. You cheated millions out of people in a scam company. You were unkind to your parents because they were hard people but they are now gone and you didn’t have a chance to reconnect. Maybe you were an ex-Nazi soldier that killed innocent people even when you knew you were wrong.
If you are considering suicide for this, don’t.
I will write another post for this.
Ideologues are trying destroy all sacred ideas of old, time-tested institutions of knowledge in order to validate themselves without merit.
They are literally just an extension of what you’d expect from people who learnt that all you have to do is participate in something and you get a trophy.
Indeed many people have pondered on the existence of God and the futility of the absurd life it’s just that they don’t talk about it. Ponies and unicorns do better on social media and Youtube, an acknowledgment that society is diseased is not. Today, embracing all ideas wins you likes, criticizing bad ones makes you a bigot.
The fact that this result surprised Hollywood liberals tells me how disconnected they are to reality as they stay in their ivory towers and virtue signaling bubbles.
Today. many people have entertained such postmodern thoughts, to believe “all of us are good”, “we define our own meaning” and “go and be yourself”. These thoughts are comforting and convenient, like drinking delicious Bubble Tea. However, like Bubble Tea, it can never nourish your body the way your body needs. It’s so easy to go with the pied piper, to assume that everyone else is wrong in order to avoid dealing with the darkness within ourselves. It is akin to a person that is slowly dying because he is eating too much fast food. To make him feel better, you let him pretend those burgers aren’t the problem, that there is no difference between a burger and a salad. This is evil.
The fact that Hollywood is surprised by the Joker’s success is telling.