Tragically, suicide is not just a trending topic, but a stark reality. Art and music are simply voicing the facts we see in a lost generation, facing a lack of meaning and purpose. The World Hope Organization reports that suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29. The problem was further highlighted by the sad loss of two major rock icons this year - Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington - both to suicide.
Clearly, people are searching for answers, and as Jesus followers, we need to know how to respond. How can we bring hope in a time seemingly so void of it? Writing and singing about it is important, but a lot of the answers offered in the current scene don’t sit right with me.
Rapper Logic raises awareness of depression and suicide in his song “1-800-273-8255”. It follows the story of a young guy coming out gay, and then contemplating ending his life amid that confusing lifestyle. As the title (the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) suggests, the answer given is to seek help when you’re down. This is, of course, sound advice, but it doesn’t really confront the true issue and cause of such hopelessness. It’s no surprise that a generation growing up without any clear reference for questions surrounding morality, sexuality and purpose, experiences confusion and despair. People need to know the truth about their souls, otherwise no helpline will do.
The duo Twenty One Pilots (TOP) often addresses deep issues through creative and poetic lyrics, and a couple of their songs talk about suicide. “Please Friend” seems to depict a conversation between friends, in which one seeks to convince the other not to take his own life.
The song that stood out to me, however, was “Kitchen Sink.” This song doesn’t specifically address suicide, but reflects on the question of purpose, or the lack of it. A friend recently shared a post about “Kitchen Sink” that read, “I feel like this song pretty well encapsulates that push and pull of who to trust, a search for identity, an exasperated rejection of those around, undercut by the four words, ‘Don't leave me alone’.”
In an interview last year, Tyler (lead singer of TOP), revealed some of his thoughts behind these lyrics. While his good intentions were clear - wanting to reach out to people facing depression and suicidal thoughts - his advice circling around self-help felt empty. Trying to derive strength and a sense of purpose from our own creativity and uniqueness just isn't enough. We all know that. If we have nothing but ourselves to trust, then we will be constantly frustrated. This is why a culture fixated on selfies and self promotion fails to find sense and purpose. We were made for more than this.
We need to be part of this conversation. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” My prayer is that we will create more art and music that brings a message of hope, not based on our own abilities and “inner self,” but on the hope we have in Jesus. If we stand on that solid rock, we can know what is right and wrong, what brings life and what destroys it, what is true and false, and ultimately what we were made for.
That’s not to say that followers of Jesus don’t experience depression or suicidal thoughts. The Bible is full of men and women who struggled through crises and big questions in life. Most of the book of Job is a heart-wrenching cry of despair, until finally Job finds consolation in his Creator. Many of the Old Testament prophets seemed to experience times of depression, such as Jonah, who told God he just wanted to lie down and die!
But the big question here is, where do we turn when we go through hard times? Do we look inside, or call a helpline... or is there something more? I think what bothered me about the TOP interview was being left with nothing but my own “creativity” or “inner strength” to turn to.
We will face trials in life—the Bible promises that. But the everlasting hope we find in Jesus, that remains constant despite circumstances, is the only answer that can truly satisfy our longing.