Happiness Preacher Commits Suicide

A news story last Friday read as follows…

“Happiness Preacher” Commits Suicide
Updated: Friday, 08 Oct 2010, 9:03 AM EDT

AFP – A South Korean television personality known as the “happiness preacher” and her husband were found dead in a motel room in an apparent joint suicide, police said Friday.

A motel employee in the town of Goyang, north of Seoul, found Choi Yoon Hee, 63, and her 72-year-old husband hanging in their room Thursday night, they said.

A note left by Choi and released by police read: “I’ve felt something wrong with my body from two years ago. I have a hard time, suffering from lung and heart diseases.”
She apologized to her family and friends for giving in to “unbearable” pain.

Police said the husband was believed to have helped his wife commit suicide before killing himself.

Choi wrote about 20 books about happiness and hope and earned her nickname for inspiring people to live happily through her TV programs. (You can read the whole story here.)

Albeit the headline brings out the irony of these “optimistic” lives ending in such misery and unhappiness, I’m not citing this news to mock this couple in any kind of way. Reading this story saddened me. I hurt for how this woman and her husband’s lives ended so painfully and desperately.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? We can live as happily and optimistically as we can muster, but the end of our story is always a sad ending. And I cite this story because it provides a perfect kind of microcosm—a little picture—of the real human condition apart from God’s redemption.

Here is a woman who made a living by being positively happy and buoyantly optimistic. And she wrote 20 books and did numerous TV shows convincing others to live likewise. But regardless what she or anyone who followed her teaching tried to convince themselves to believe about life, reality always wins. Everyone still lives inside God’s universe.

And the reality of the human condition that the Bible depicts always ends up being the final chapter that defines our lives. Death (and the pain of dying) always has the final word pronounced upon us and everything we have lived for and everyone we’ve loved. All of our lives, and the lives of all those we love, will end sadly.

And any story that ends sadly is a sad story no matter what happens in the middle of it.

It was the French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who described it this way back in the 1600’s—

“Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition” (Pensee #434 in Krailsheimer’s translation).

Woody Allen would have enjoyed Blaise Pascal, I think. Pascal indicts all of us as being far too easily offended and bothered and worried and upset by the trivial while we haplessly go about our distracted and diverted days completely ignoring the weightier tragedy of our lives—

“…The same man who spends so many days and nights in fury and despair at losing some office or at some imaginary affront to his honor is the very one who knows that he is going to lose everything through death but feels neither anxiety nor emotion. It is a monstrous thing to see one and the same heart at once so sensitive to minor things and so strangely insensitive to the greatest” (Pensee #427 in Krailsheimer’s translation).

Once we understand that death occurs at rate of 100%, and therefore all of our lives will have a sad ending, we realize that it’s not morbid to see our final chapter of death and the pain of dying as the ultimate defining reality of our own story. It’s wise. Wisdom is living according to the reality of God and his universe. It’s living in the real reality rather than trying to pretend there is another “reality” through some sort of false optimism. That’s foolish.

Wisdom makes us willing and able to seek and embrace our True and Only Redeemer. Nothing else and no one else can redeem you or me from the ultimate and tragic reality of death.

But because Jesus—the Creator of all life!—became a human being and died and was resurrected from death forever, my final chapter is simply the cliff-hanging prelude to the next sequel.

And it’s always the sequel that defines the prequel.

This is why the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54–55 TNIV, speaking of the believer’s own resurrection in the kingdom of Christ on earth forever—

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Now that’s a real reason for optimism that faces all the real pains and tragedies of death.

So what is the basis for your outlook on life? A falsely optimistic, self-help pretending that life is what you make of it? Is it some sort of conjured up means for practicing positive thinking?

Or is it reality? The reality the Bible shows us—that life is hard because of sin’s ravage upon our world and within our lives, yet there are still times of refreshing from God’s gracious gifts, and then we and everyone we love dies. And for those who have their faith in the Redeemer, that death is just a sad kind of cliffhanger. Then comes the glorious, imperishable, immortal, victorious sequel! And what matters in that sequel is the only thing that truly matters in this life, …and death.

Yes, it’s true. Your life will have a sad ending. But are you living for the real sequel?

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