Responding to Despair, Part 2

"Blue Whale" or Christian Faith?

Last week we posted the first part of an article from Territory about the entrance of the “death game” Blue Whale into China and its effect on teens in China. Part one detailed the workings of the game. The second part describes a Chinese Christian’s response to the game and the gospel’s message of hope for teens in China. This is part two.

Blue Whale Death Game Enters China: Who Pushed Me Off the Cliff?

By A Qian, continued

The Protector: The Shepherd Who Gives His Life

I used to have suicidal thoughts. How did I sink into it and how did I get out of it?

I remember my senior year in high school when my world was made up of two tectonic plates: homework and comics. Every day I would work like mad through my homework, working crazy fast. And then I would devour a comic book to vent my feelings. Every week I would devour about three comic books, two graphic novels, and a light novel. Even over the two days of the college entrance exam [gaokao], I would finish testing on a subject, then go home to read a comic book, and then go back to test on another subject. I felt like my real life was devoured by schoolwork until there was nothing left. The only thing I could do was use comics as a way to build a garden of escape amidst the heavy pressure [of school] so that a small breathe of fresh air could break through.

Then one time during a lecture on the school sports field a teacher said that our senior year is the happiest time of life because after this you will almost never have to work so fervently again. But, I have another view: The greatest misfortune is that people desperately work hard but have no idea why.

When I got to university there was no schoolwork to drive me. Slowly, comics also started to lose their charm. The two pillars in my life gradually collapsed. A ruin revealing the huge emptiness of life appeared. That was my purpose in life, where meaning and value lay. I didn't know why I was alive. I just followed my routine of eating, going to class, and returning to the dormitory.

What can I cram into this void? A career? After living in a 2D world, I didn't have any real concept of a career. My classmates were working part-time jobs, interning, and running for class office. But, for me, these things all seemed like another world.

Aesthetics? That was actually a possibility. Peking University's first president, Cai Yuanpei, promoted "aesthetics displacing religion." I'm also a self-proclaimed literature hobbyist. Perhaps my life’s work is to write an incomparable masterpiece. But I soon discovered that the fake art of the anime world could not satisfy me. I racked my brains over something I wrote which was empty nonsense at best but in the end I had nothing to show for it aside from exhaustion.

What about love? That was just about my last straw. A classmate introduced me to her sister. We chatted online and had a season of romance that fizzled out in the end. From start to finish, in those six months we never met face-to-face. Later, when I brought up this "first love" some people would say that this didn't count at all as love. But at the time, it counted as the most important thing in my life. The emptiness of my life opened into a gaping hole that even swallowed up this "first love" in the blink of an eye. I thought that I had lost her and that I would never be with another person again. I had a lot of absurd thoughts. For example, for a while it was popular to post something on the Internet saying, "I'll never love again" with a funny expression. But for the person involved there were deep wounds.

The pain of breaking up made me forget about my family and friends. Good friends of mine gradually alienated me because of my coldness and lack of attention. I got used to being a loner. On the surface everything was normal. But, inside I felt increasingly guilt-ridden.

One of the classic lines in the movie Memories of Matsuko goes, "I'm sorry I was born a person." Those seven words portrayed my heart. I thought it would be better if I had not been born. I wouldn't have to bear the heavy pressure and the embarrassment as pointed as a needle. I wouldn't have to pointlessly hurt others and be hurt.

Around that time I started to learn about the Christian faith. I read the Bible and realized that the root cause of all kinds of problems in life is sin. In the Bible, the greatest sin is that of idolatry. An idol is anything that can be used by me to fill that big, black hole of the meaning of life. College entrance exam results, others' recognition, anime, fantasies, career, aesthetics, love . . . It seems like as soon as I can accomplish these things my life has value, is energetic, and full of spirit. When that hole isn't filled, I'm apathetic, I reject myself, and I live like a zombie.

The Son of God came to the world to wash me of my sins. That not only means that he suffered the penalty for me on the cross, but it also means that he reversed the center of my life. I am no longer centered on idols but I'm turned back to the God who created me. In his abundant love I no longer sense severe demands, but experience a surprising freedom and joy.

I was not made for the sake of hard labor, but for the sake of God. He is rich in nature, so he doesn't demand anything from me.  Instead he constantly pours out blessings on me. I'm very glad to be alive. I'm very happy, happy to tears. I want to say thank you, Jesus, for being born as a human.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Jesus' love and protection in giving up his life is what rescued me from the thought of suicide. Again, it's like the song, "I Fall from the Cliff." There are four phrases in that song, "Who ended the torture? Who gently caressed [me]? Who jumped into the lake? Who gave up his warm soul?" Jesus jumped into the lake of death. With his flesh and blood he ended my torment so that my soul would once again know the warmth of life.

Love Is to Hear Your Heartbeat

After I became a Christian, I would often write articles about faith. At times I would be criticized [for those articles]. More than one person said to me, for example, "Can the Lord solve all your problems? Christians can't possibly suffer from depression? Aren't there some Christians who have committed suicide?"

Christians can also have psychological problems, of course. But, I don't think this should cause us to doubt God. Rather, it should push us to do everything we can within our own power and to strive hard against it because God's love flows through people.

One of the most basic things we can do is to listen to the lonely. I've learned some basic principles of listening over the years. For example, don't just talk about your own story (avoid making oneself the center of the conversation), don't ask for more details, don't silence or change the topic, and cautiously offer advice. Before I learned these principles I made just about every single mistake, especially the mistake of providing advice. My wife Gigi would often tell me something, and I could not help myself from telling her how to deal with things; I thought I was an expert. But, I wasn't an expert in anything but making a fool of myself.

Why are we so obsessed with giving advice? Maybe because in the Bible Jesus seems to always be teaching people. We "love Jesus" so much that we just can't stop ourselves from opening our mouths to try and be like him. But, if we look at Scripture a little more carefully we will find that Jesus was also a patient listener. Before he helped the blind man, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said, "Lord, I want to be able to see!" Jesus made him see. If we don't hear what the person we want to help has to say and only think about the good we can do for him, our help will often have no effect.

The principle of listening aims at one important thing: a reverential heart. One saying goes, "When someone share with you about their past, you are standing on holy ground." You need to have a reverential heart when standing on holy ground. Who am I when I am listening to another person? Am I his master? Am I his creator? Jesus knows everything and yet he is still willing to inquire of and listen to another person. Why do I talk so recklessly and distractedly, and think that I can advise someone? Maybe it's completely the opposite: He allowed me to listen to his past and it was my privilege. It's better for me to humbly and attentively listen and understand, like digging up a deeply buried treasure.

We especially need to listen to the loved ones around us. For example my father and I, we did not speak much. I always felt like I didn't know him. This past Spring Festival, he and my mother came to spend New Year's with us, so we actually spent more time talking together. At one point we talked about my grandmother. My grandmother died 22 years ago. I asked my father, "Did you cry when it happened?" He didn't say anything. So, I asked him, "What did you feel at the time?" He said, "I could not believe it." Sitting next to him my mother added that my father couldn't believe she died. It wasn't until they returned home and saw that grandma's bed had been moved and set outside that he was convinced. (Local custom is that the bed a deceased person used to sleep on must be moved out.)

I felt shocked as I was listening to this. When I wrote it down I wanted to cry. I felt my father wasn't the silent and uncaring person he seemed to be on the outside. His heart is actually full of feeling. He's just not used to expressing it.

I had practically never stepped foot onto my father's "holy ground." In 20 years, my father and I got along rather courteously. He rarely influenced my decisions and I rarely influenced his thoughts. This is probably because we had little interaction with each other and also because I did not take the initiative to understand his past. A real relationship can only be established when two people invite each other onto their holy ground.

When my wife Gigi was three months pregnant she had to go to the hospital for a checkup. She heard the baby's heartbeat when the doctor did the ultrasound on her lower abdomen. She could hear the "bu-bum, bu-bum, bu-bum" of the heartbeat for a few seconds. After she came out, Gigi was stunned and excited. She said to me with tears in her eyes, "Did you hear it? The baby's heartbeat! It's so beautiful!" I can't help but imagine this kind of love, that the sound of your heartbeat would make someone cry over you.

If the heartbeats of the young people who choose to commit suicide were once heard with deep affection, then that can become the power to keep them from entering into the final stage of this game. Start with practicing how to become a humble listener. First bless the friends and relatives around you. Then spread out from there.

Original article: 死亡游戏“蓝鲸”进入中国:谁推我落悬崖? (Territory)
Translated, edited, and reposted with permission.