In an email forum I'm on, a young man named Ranee wrote that he was feeling hopeless and staring down the barrel of a gun. He felt that anyone and everyone he'd ever loved was left and leaving, and that the only choice left to him was suicide. This was my reply:
Ranee, please do not take your own life. You will undoubtedly hear many people tell you this. Let me share my personal experience with you: This summer was particularly difficult for me, and not a day went by that I didn't plan some detail about my suicide, or my "fantasy funeral". Many times I seriously considered it. Early one morning, I found myself on a bridge looking down into the water - staring into fate, as it were. I almost felt like jumping, and half-jokingly I asked God to stop me. As I stared and stared, and as the sun rose up into the sky at dawn, my thoughts became clearer and clearer, and so did my feelings. This is what I felt:
Everything is so meaningless, and yet all so meaningful. Regardless of whether you are Christian, Hindu, or atheist, there is one belief that mankind, through the centuries, has always carried at the forefront of human consciousness: This life is the only one you get. It only happens once. You've got one life you get to leave. And frankly, it shouldn't be our choice to end it whenever we want. What should be our choice is what we do with that one life, that one chance. Have you ever been in a situation where you had only one chance to do something, and the moment of it was just so exhilarating? The choice was "Either do it now, or forever wish you had!" Take this life, make it a moment in eternity, and pretend you are back in the premortal life.
In the Book of Job, Job feels he's questioned his life and suffering long enough to call on God and say "Appear before me! I want to take you to court. I want you to answer for why you've given me so much suffering in my life." God's answer is one that baffled Jewish rabbis for centuries: the voice of the Lord comes out of a whirlwind to say: "Job, remember when I laid down the foundations of the world? And all the angels shouted for joy? You were there, Job, shouting with them. You knew that there'd be suffering in mortal existence - you knew about this. In fact, you were pretty excited about it. And now you're questioning me about it? Where were you the day I went over that in class, my son?" (See Job 38.)
That is God's answer to us. Life on earth was just a moment when we were premortal spirits, looking forward to our futures. God was literally saying to us: "You've got once chance to change everything, my children. And this is a one-time offer. It's a one-way ticket to tears, smiles, heartbreak, laughter, misery, peace, and ultimately happiness. That's the end of the equation, and the only way to do it, so it's a one-time offer. Take it or leave it!" A third left, and the rest of us are here. God sent us into the world....and so it's only right that He gets to take us back. Ever see Bill Cosby? He said, "You are MY son. I brought you in this world--and I can take you out!"
What if an angel appeared to you one night and said, "Ranee, guess what? You get to live this same life over again when you die! Every moment you've ever experienced, every sorrow and every happiness, you get to re-live." Would you curse the day you were born and be miserable....or would you clap out of excitement and be filled with happiness? Some say that it's ideal to live a life with no regrets. I say that defeats the purpose...you should regret times of your life...just as little as possible! Imagine you're standing in front of a mirror, with all your dark and loathsome past raging behind you like a great big cloud. What lies between you and the mirror? Nothing. A dark past follows you around - but there's nothing ahead of you, allowing you to create the future. Don't be afraid. I know you can do it! The courage lies within you. Reach out and take it! Because as it turns out, we are not here to be miserable all the time. As Nephi said: "Adam fell, that men might be. And men are, that they might have joy." You get to step through looking-glass and create the joy - no one can do it for you. And I know you can do it if you try!
That is what I found out that morning, looking at the water. THAT is the true meaning of life. The meaning of life is: there is NO meaning of life. Only the meaning we give it. And frankly, Ranee, I don't wanna be the guy who goes back to the spirit world saying, "I'm so glad to be back home, away from that dreadful place. I'm glad earth life is over." I wanna be the guy who flies in through those Pearly Gates with his hair on fire, his robes torn and tattered, a broken leg or two, screaming at the very top of my ethereal lungs:
"HOLY HECK, WHAT A RIDE!!!!!!!"