One very sad event in my life shaped me as a young adult. Here’s why I’m sharing it with you.

I don’t think you can separate a person’s philosophy or worldview beliefs from their life. Therefore I like to study the details of the lives of my favorite philosophical and theological thinkers. That’s why in my book Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction, I introduce key ideas and events of church history and historical theology by using the appealing vehicle of biography.

Many people have been inspired and uplifted by the stories of other Christians. Thus, my hope in sharing my story is that readers of my blog will benefit from my contemplation and may be challenged and/or encouraged by the things I write about. I have both non-Christians and Christians who regularly read my articles and I hope there is something important in this piece that will speak to both of you.

Sorrow and Grief

Up until the age of nineteen, I never had anyone close to me die. I had gone to the funerals of some distant relatives, but as a teenager, death seemed like a distant reality. Just before my birthday that year my family experienced a catastrophe. After a long battle with mental health challenges, drug addiction, and a period of incarceration, my older brother Frank took his own life. I was close to my brother and his sudden death hit me harder than anything ever had.

Years later I would teach a philosophy course entitled, “Perspectives on Death and Dying. In my preparation for teaching that class I came across what psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross called the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I distinctly remember feeling shock, aloneness, depression, and what I would later come to know as estrangement. Grief was something I had never encountered and it was intense.

In reflecting about the loss of my brother, I felt guilty that I couldn’t help him in his despair. But at the time I was young and preoccupied with my own interests. I was searching for something to anchor my own life. Therefore, I had few answers to offer someone who was in such deep psychological pain. My brother’s death was hard on all the members of my family but especially so on my parents. Losing one of your children to suicide can only be described as overwhelming.

Hearing God’s Shout

Influential author C. S. Lewis said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”1 The pain I felt at my brother’s death got my full attention. I heard God’s megaphone, so to speak. This first real encounter with suffering caused me to look even deeper for an enduring meaning to life. I wondered if meeting the right woman would make a decisive and enduring difference in my life. I also wondered if pursuing and achieving my career goals would provide sufficient fulfillment.

While my Catholic baptism remained meaningful to me, I didn’t understand Christianity in general or Catholicism in particular. I didn’t feel that I knew God personally, nor did I sense his presence. So I began reading philosophyboth Western and Eastern—in my quest for answers to life’s deepest questions. I listened to the music of the Beatles where George Harrison in particular sang about Eastern religion. I began thinking about the claims of Hinduism in general and transcendental meditation and Krishna Consciousness in particular.

But those tastes of Eastern religion left me empty and dissatisfied. In light of my brother’s passing I was intent upon looking for a genuine spiritual path that would help me make sense of life and give me what philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called “a reason to live and a reason to die.” One significant event that led me to reconsider Christianity was reading C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity.

The pain of grief got my attention and caused me to look more attentively at my life and my neediness. As a wearied and burdened young man I ultimately discovered the rest and peace that Jesus Christ uniquely offers (Matthew 11:28).

A Severe Mercy

My sorrow hurt deeply but it turned out to be a severe mercy, for in my pain I heard God’s loving and forgiving voice. And God has used my pain and weakness to comfort and encourage others who struggle with suicidal thoughts or who have lost loved ones to suicide. God gloriously works good things even in our weaknesses and sorrows.

Reflections: Your Turn

Can you identify spiritual and intellectual turning points in your life? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.


For more about my story of searching for answers to life’s profound questions, see the introduction of my book Without a Doubt.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe

  1. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 91.


About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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