Miss USA Cheslie Kryst attends the world premiere of “Like a Boss” at the SVA Theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Cheslie Kryst was a Division I athlete. She earned a law degree and an MBA at Wake Forest University, then became a civil litigation attorney doing pro bono work to reduce sentences for inmates. She won the Miss USA pageant in 2019 and earned a spot in the top ten at the Miss Universe competition. She then became a correspondent for the entertainment news program Extra.
Last Sunday, according to police, she jumped from a Manhattan building and was pronounced dead at the scene. Yesterday, the medical examiner said she died by suicide. She was thirty years old.
Before she jumped, Cheslie posted a cryptic message on her Instagram page: “May this day bring you rest and peace.” However, in March 2021 she wrote a transparent and lengthy essay in which she said, “I discovered that the world’s most important question, especially when asked repeatedly and answered frankly, is: why?” She added: “Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to only find emptiness?”
“Do not work for the food that perishes”
I could not find information online about Cheslie Kryst’s faith or whether she suffered from depression. I do understand that many people who trust in Jesus suffer from this debilitating disease. And I also know from personal and pastoral experience that followers of Jesus sometimes die by suicide.
At the same time, it seems that Cheslie’s article spoke for people across our society today when she described finding only “emptiness” in her life.
According to new data from the General Social Survey, Americans are more unhappy than we’ve been in half a century. In 1972, people who said they were “very happy” outnumbered those who said they were “not too happy” by about three-to-one. In 2021, that all changed: now the latter outnumber the former by 5 percent.
One of the keys to finding fulfillment in a society that produces emptiness is to look to its one true source. Jesus urged us: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). This is a binary choice. He then identified this “food”: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 35).
What Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his diary
Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote in his journal as if recording an unusual event, “I have been to church today, and am not depressed.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a member of the US Supreme Court for thirty years, once explained his career choice: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
If Jesus came to give us “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 NCV), why are more Christians not more known for our joy?
As I noted in yesterday’s Daily Article, the Bible describes the “fruit of the Spirit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). It calls us to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16) so that we might experience and manifest his “fruit,” including his “joy.”
In describing ways we can do this, I wrote that we must “refuse all temptations to stray from him even if Christian leaders and churches do so” and added, “This is such an important point that we will devote tomorrow’s article to it.”
I believe that one of the reasons more Christians do not experience more of the joy of the Spirit lies here. As Yuval Levin notes in his brilliant book, A Time to Build, institutions that once molded the character of their members in line with their mission and values have now become platforms for personal advancement and status. Many political, business, educational, and media leaders leverage the institutions they serve to advance their personal “brands.”
Pastors and other religious leaders are not immune.
“For me it is good to be near God”
In a day filled with historic challenges and rising opposition to the Christian faith, as confidence in our governmental leaders continues to erode, we are looking for people we can trust. This is especially alluring with faith leaders since they are presumably people of high character who are committed to serving our Lord and his people.
In addition, such leaders typically have educational and life experience most do not. It is natural to turn to them to help us interpret and apply the Bible, seek and follow God’s direction for our lives, and otherwise navigate the whitewater rapids of our rapidly changing culture.
However, people—even faith leaders—cannot give us lasting joy. Neither can possessions or popularity. You and I were created by God for intimacy with God. He designed us in such a way that we can be ultimately satisfied with nothing less than such intimacy with him.
The psalmist testified, “For me it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28a). Consequently, he continued, “I have made the Lord Gᴏᴅ my refuge” (v. 28b). With the result “that I may tell of all your works” (v. 28c). Knowledge led to experience led to proclamation, not the reverse.
“God always has more to reveal to us”
Two results follow.
One: Decide which faith leaders to trust based on the degree to which they follow Jesus and lead you to him. Seek to discern whether they are “near God” in their personal lives and whether he is their “refuge” and the source of what they say and do.
Two: Depend on the Spirit to do what no human can. Meet daily with your Lord in worship and his word. Ask his Spirit to “fill” and control your mind and life (Ephesians 5:18). Focus less on the “milk” (digested food) available to you through others and more on the “meat” of meeting personally and directly with your Father (1 Corinthians 3:2).
Br. Curtis Almquist of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston writes: “God always has more to reveal to us, and this will be in harmony with what God has already revealed. Pay attention to life. The greatness, glory, and wonder of God’s essence is beyond description, because God is always more: more than we can describe, understand, and experience.”
Will you seek “more” of God today than ever before?
NOTE: If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here. If you know someone who is battling severe depression, you might consult this advice from experts on ways to help.
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Dr. Jim Denison is the CVO of Denison Forum
Through The Daily Article email newsletter and podcast, DenisonForum.org, social media, interviews, and articles across the internet, Denison Forum reaches 2.9 million culture-changing Christians every month.