What if Hannah Baker had Jesus?
I, like many others, recently finished watching 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve likely heard of it. A teen girl commits suicide, but leaves behind her 13 reasons why for those she considers responsible. While certainly some useful themes and lessons can be gleaned from the show, there are just as many harmful themes: like blame, uncommunicated expectations, and retribution. Clay is right, we need to treat each other better, but the reality is: we all hurt and disappoint others, and we are all hurt and disappointed by others. Some things are way worse than others, but we are fallen, broken humans and can expect to be let down.
What is completely lacking in the show is Jesus. Lots of fallible human beings making lots of stupid mistakes and horrible decisions, but no Jesus. Which inevitably begs the question:
What if Hannah Baker had Jesus? Would the outcome have been the same?
Hannah’s suicide was hard for me to grasp because I have Jesus. In the perceived absence of any caring individuals in my life, at times when it seemed there was no hope for happiness or success, at times when it seemed that, as Hannah pondered, feeling better meant not feeling at all, I’ve always known that I have One who never leaves, never forsakes, never gives me more than I can bear. I trust that tough times lead to lessons learned and growth, no matter how much I hate the way it happens.
I wonder: are there any of us who have not had at least a fleeting thought that not living anymore seemed better than living? Almost everyone I’ve talked to on the subject has admitted to this more or less at some point in their lives. We don’t like to admit these thoughts, but let’s be honest, life is hard sometimes. If I’m honest, I would have to admit that the day I found out my position was being cut at ONU, I was sitting on the floor with my husband that night, next to our Christmas tree, sobbing uncontrollably, admitting to him that I would rather be dead than to face such a loss. I meant it at the time. I felt literally incapable of facing that reality. I felt deceived, abandoned, betrayed, disappointed, rejected, and so much more. I was more than let down by the people I surrounded myself with every day. Beyond that, I had a family of 6, one of those with epilepsy and one with Crohn’s Disease, who relied on my insurance for the extensive health care they needed. How would I provide for my family?
But the difference between Hannah Baker and I is Jesus. I felt that way…for a day, maybe two, but soon found comfort in knowing that Jesus never leaves and never disappoints. Even when I don’t like His plan, I know He’s got something good planned for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He doesn’t say that people, disease, war, hunger won’t harm us…He won’t harm us. Not only that, but He actively looks after us. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26.
We are more valuable than the birds. We get to make a difference. We get to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We get to take our trials and redeem them for something that advances someone, or something, or His Kingdom. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do right now, as I type this very raw and transparent testimony. If Hannah Baker had Jesus, I’d like to think that as difficult as her situation was, she would have found hope and comfort knowing that in the absence of what she craved from humans, she always had Him. And then, she could have used her experiences to help others, having intimate knowledge of pain, loneliness, and betrayal. She could have advocated for bullying prevention or volunteered at a rape crisis center. She could have been the friend to others that she wished she had for herself.
Jesus is not the antidote to suicide, sadly I’ve known many believers who felt they could not live to face another day. Perhaps for them they just needed to see and feel Jesus more concretely in those moments, a role Christians can and should easily fill.
I pray that any Hannah Bakers that cross my path will see and feel Jesu. I pray they see something in me that makes them wonder what’s different…what keeps me going through the tough times…what maintains hope in a dark world. We may never know it, but beyond saving souls, we can save lives.