Life is Hard
Briefing: Suicide rates for law enforcement officers are annually among the highest in the nation. The reasons we don’t top the list every year is because we do not always paint an accurate picture of what happened when an officer is killed while cleaning his/her weapon. Officers understand how insurance and death benefits work and how a suicide label can have an effect on what the surviving family gets.
When I was in police academy, I remember being told that a veteran officer was killed while he was cleaning his gun. I could not understand how someone who was trained in how to handle a weapon could be so reckless. Later, I learned this was a common conclusion of investigators who go to the scene where an officer had shot themselves.
Dispatch (Assignment): Read Psalm 38.
On the Street: I saw a painting yesterday that someone had posted on social media. The first thing I noticed was a police officer in the center. He was wearing his uniform and sitting at a table in a home. It was a dark painting but as I continued to look I began to notice more people in the room and items on the table. There was a little girl behind the officer with her hands on his head, trying to turn it. The officer was looking at the gun on the table under his right hand. Next to the gun were two pill bottles that had been knocked over and then a bottle of whisky. It was obvious the officer was thinking about committing suicide.
There was a man to his left. He was behind him coming out of a doorway. He was angry and had a belt in his hand. To the officer’s right, standing in another doorway, was a different man. This man had a very menacing look on his face. Under the table where he sat was a child hiding with his hands over his eyes. The child looked terrified. As I stared at the painting, it seemed to come to life and have motion. These images were not really there, they were in the officer’s head as he replayed the things he saw on his shift. He witnessed the evil way that humans treat each other and the awful things we do to each other.
The little girl standing behind him, trying to turn his gaze away from the gun was speaking to him. “Look away”, she whispers. “See who you saved, who you helped. Look away from the demons and what they’ve done. Please, see hope. You have so many more to save, including yourself.”
This, unfortunately, is reality for many people who serve in law enforcement and the military. We see these horrific acts of evil and we are so shocked by them that we cannot get the images out of our head. It is like our mind does not understand what just happened so it keeps replaying it until it can come up with an answer. But usually there is no answer and after two or three days the mind gives up.
God knows this and He has given us instruction through His Word that give us insight to these kinds of issues. In Psalm 38, David seems to be in the worst kind of place. In verse 6 he says, “I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.” Verse 8, “I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” Verse 10, “My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.”
Not only has he seen the worst of human behavior but he is also dealing with life-threatening injury adding pain to his misery, or as we often say, “pouring salt in the wound.”
David does the only thing we can do. He asks God if he is being disciplined because of any sin he has committed then he asks for forgiveness. This is a base line, foundational beginning. Verse 18 says, “I confess my iniquity” This is not a formula for solving all your problems, there will not be a great light that shines on you and all your troubles are gone. This is not Hollywood, this is life, and life is hard. BUT, there is hope.
Just like the girl in the painting says, “Please, see hope”. Hope is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the only one who can pull you up out of the miry pit of the enemy. God has people who serve law enforcement for this very purpose. Chaplains, counselors, CISM team members, pastors and many others. If you need to talk to someone who can help there is a great organization called Serve & Protect. It is specifically for first responders.
Investigational Resources: There are many resources that want to help. I have met and know the founder of the ministry so it is one I trust and would recommend. serveprotect.org or 615-373-8000.
Officer Safety Principle: “O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.” Psalm 38:21-22.
from Psalms Through the Eyes of a Cop, Volume 1
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
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