On the other end of the call, Dennis could tell that Ian meant what he said. He knew this wasn’t a random comment. Ian’s suicidal depression was the result of a life gone completely awry.
In those brief moments before Dennis answered, he thought of Ian’s failing health caused by a workplace accident. He had gone from being very robust and active to being physically and mentally incapacitated. Dennis remembered how Ian had lost his job, friends, family, and his very identity as a result. His friends had abandoned him, his wife had divorced him, and his children had turned against him.
Dennis also thought back over the last year and the input he had been able to have in Ian’s life. He had spent a lot of time with him, helping him meet practical and physical needs. Dennis had invited Ian over for many meals, assisted him with legal matters, and had just been a friend. It had taken a long time to gain Ian’s trust, and now it looked like Dennis finally had the opportunity to share the gospel with Ian.
“Ian,” Dennis said, “I get it. Right now, life really stinks. We know that. We’re not in denial about the mess or the awfulness that you’re going through. We can’t say it’s not bad. It is bad. When life stinks as bad as it does right now, there’s only one way you can make sense of it. You have to understand it from the perspective of the Creator of life. I would love an opportunity to get together and explain it to you. It will take some time, but if you let me, I’d like to do it.”
Dennis glanced at his calendar. “Look, Ian, I get back home on Tuesday. I’ll see you Wednesday morning. But you have to promise me you won’t shoot yourself.”
The two men did get together that Wednesday and Dennis introduced Ian to By This Name. He explained how this book would give Ian that one good reason why he shouldn’t end his life.
They started getting together every other day for about an hour to ninety minutes at a time, going through By This Name, chapter by chapter. When Dennis’s friend began teaching a group through the book at a local coffee shop, Dennis and Ian joined them. This gave Ian the chance to sit back and listen, while enjoying the companionship of others in the group.
Once they had started into the book, there was no holding Ian back. He thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of it, Ian came to faith in Christ. The despair and suicidal depression left and never came back. Although the grief and loss were still real, Ian was now at peace with God.
Dennis continued to disciple Ian and took him to a church that readily accepted him as he was. Ian loved to get together with other believers and enjoyed the fellowship. In the past, he had some very bad experiences with the church, but this was all so very different. His whole disposition had changed and he was basking in his new-found spiritual peace.
Some time later, Ian’s health took a turn for the worse and it wasn’t long before he passed away. Before Ian died, Dennis contacted Ian’s ex-wife. She brought their children in to see him a final time, resulting in an emotional reconciliation.
Right before Ian passed away, Dennis sat with him and asked him, “Ian, is God at peace about you?”
Ian nodded. “Yeah, he is.”
Dennis asked, “How in the world can you say that, with everything that’s happened?”
Ian replied, “I know God is at peace about me, because Jesus made peace for me.”
As Dennis thinks over his friendship with Ian, he realizes how critical it was to build a friendship with Ian first. It would have been so easy to just jump in and throw God at Ian without context but the gospel would have gone nowhere without Ian’s trust in Dennis. He’d never have opened up. What’s more, a quick gospel presentation would have confused him. The time that Dennis invested in building a friendship of trust with Ian was well worth it.
But he sounds out a note of caution. “Being a friend of the world is compromise; being a friend of sinners is compassion.” Because of Dennis’s patience and faithful friendship, Ian was willing to open up and listen to what Dennis had to say about life from God’s perspective. And in the end, Ian’s life had gone from one of suicidal despair to one of hope and peace right up till he met his Saviour, face to face.
Related article: How to use GoodSeed resources in counselling a friend
(* All names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)