It was a typical Sunday afternoon on February 23rd when I was notified to pray for the Colford family on the unexpected death of Kirk Colford. In disbelief, I discovered it was an apparent suicide. Like so many, the shock and disbelief flooded my heart with overwhelming grief and confusion. I considered Kirk a wonderful friend for many years. This was my friend who had offered me a temporary office in his State Farm building and who went to great lengths to find me a reliable car when our family van had met its demise. This was the friend who I enjoyed reminiscing with over the Dan Marino dynasty days of the Miami Dolphins and who offered his beautiful mountain home for my family to retreat to after the death of my father-in-law. This was the friend who I enjoyed sitting with at Tuesday morning Bible Studies. Anyone who knew Kirk Colford would be able to share similar stories of Kirk’s incredible generosity and friendship. Everyone who knew Kirk felt the overwhelming shock, confusion, disappointment and anger because Kirk took his own life on that difficult day.
But the truth is, even with his infectious smile, quirky sense of humor and financial expertise, this committed husband and family man, the “go to guy” Kirk Colford was not immune from the daily struggles of life as a man. And he, like most men, masked them really well. As men we naturally want to fix things. My wife will attest to the fact that while most women want to talk about their problems, as men, we would rather fix everyone else’s problems but never really deal with our own. And we do this by masking over them, covering up reality and hiding what is underneath so that no one can recognize the truth. In many ways, when we are struggling to cope with life’s challenges; we use our greatest strengths and our God given gifts to be the very mask that covers over our pain.
Kirk left behind five beautiful women in his life: his wife of seventeen years, Kristin, their two teenage daughters and two grown daughters. For everyone who loved Kirk and for every man who wants to overcome life’s challenges, I asked Kristin to share about Kirk’s life, love for God and struggles.
Q — First of all, how are you doing?
A — “Through the support of family and friends by the grace of God, we are doing well. Prayerfully our expectations are realistic and our focus remains on the Lord. Psalm 40:3 has really been resonating with me. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” I don’t know that I have a new song yet, but every once in a while, I hear a new “note.” Prayerfully in time, I will string them all together into a beautiful hymn of praise so that many will see what He has done and ultimately put their trust in Him because of it.”
Q — How would you define Kirk’s love for the Lord?
A — “He was sold out for the Lord and always brought Him to every aspect of life.”
Q — What were Kirk’s greatest challenges?
A — “Kirk had an abusive childhood, which I’m sure was the root of his stuttering. He had the hardest time accepting the unconditional love of God or others; he never “felt” worthy.” When you never feel worthy, you are constantly trying to “prove” your-self worth. Yes, one of Kirk’s spiritual gifts was generosity — his time, money and talents. He built his life trying to use that gift to overcome his struggle of self worth.”
Q — Just last month the world was stunned over the suicide of Comedian Robin Williams, who also struggled with depression and used his humor as a mask. I asked Kristin what she would say to Robin William’s widow.
A — “There has been no single piece of news that has hit me harder than the details of Robin William’s death. My heart breaks for his family because they cannot grieve in privacy. It was what I craved most for the first couple of weeks after Kirks death”
There are many challenges that we as men face in today’s society. And as men, we feel the pressure all around us. Financial pressure to provide for our family, loss of self worth when we lose a job, frustration when our marriage is unraveling, anger when our kids are rebelling, fear when our health is deteriorating, grief when we lose a loved one. So, what is the answer to overcoming instead of masking?
Your feelings are real and common.
First, let me remind every man that overcoming begins with the understanding that we all struggle with disappointments, depression and discouragement. Understand your feelings are real and common. There are several examples in the Bible of Godly men who battled with disappointments, depression and discouragement. David was so overwhelmed by the threat of his enemies that he secluded himself in a cave. (1Samual 21:12-22:1-2) Elijah was so depressed that all he wanted to do was sleep, hoping that God would take his life. (1Kings 19:3-5). Jonah was so disappointed over his circumstances that he became extremely angry. (Jonah 3:10-4:1-4) The Apostle Peter wept bitterly over his feelings of failure and self worth. (Luke 22:54-62).
Being overcome by disappointment, depression and discouragement happens to all men at some point in life. No man should walk through it alone or feel he is the only one who struggles emotionally. When a man understands that he’s not alone, he should take off the mask that is hiding his pain.
God’s love can rescue you.
In each example in the scriptures, we see Gods love rescue these men of God. In David’s situation, God brings other men to encourage him out of his despair. God provides for Elijah’s physical needs, He restores Jonah and God offer forgiveness to Peter’s sense of failure. Each circumstance is different and points to a God who can use many different vehicles in a man’s life to meet his need and rescue him from his point of despair. When battling with disappointments, depression and discouragement, it’s important to get help.
Many forms of help
To unmask, men must be willing to be transparent. Find a person you can confide in — a friend, group of men, family member, spouse, counselor or pastor. We all need someone we can trust and be honest and open with about our struggles, someone you believe in to give honest and biblical advice and to pray for you. And it’s important that men hold each other accountable, are willing to be totally honest and totally willing to hear what needs to be said.
“I believe every Christian needs to be part of a small group,” Kristin shared, “not just one person but three or more — a place to be “real” and let your guard down with fellow believers.” She continued, “Kirk’s personality grew so large because of his passion, yet (by his own doing) he had nowhere to voice his own struggles.”
Prayer and God’s word.
There may be times in which the study of scripture and prayer will give you hope, encouragement, guidance, healing, perspective and correction. Be willing to unmask before God. Allowing God into your situation and your feelings gives God an opportunity to help and change you. There is no guarantee that your situation will immediately change but when you allow God’s presence, amazing things can happen to your heart and mind.
Professional and medical help
Make The Connection is a company that works with veterans who struggle with depression. They suggest that professional counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to move beyond your symptoms. In recent years, new therapies have been developed and found to be effective for many types of conditions. These cognitive behavioral therapies are collaborative, time-limited, and focus on building skills. Medications work in different ways to affect the chemicals in your brain that may be associated with specific conditions. In just a few months, most treatments can produce positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life for people who use them. They can help you understand and change how you think about your condition—and change how you react to triggers, stressful situations, and other challenges in your life.
Suicide is never the answer.
Unmasking requires an aggressive commitment to never put your loved ones through the pain and trauma of the taking of one’s life. Be willing to seek help when struggling with suicidal thoughts. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). These toll-free crisis hotlines offer 24-hour suicide prevention and support. Your call is free and confidential.
The Power of God is Available through Jesus
The power of God is available to overcome discouragement, depression and disappointments.
Matthew Henry describes this truth from Romans 8: “It is only through Christ that loved us, the merit of his death taking the sting out of all these troubles, the Spirit of his grace strengthening us, and enabling us to bear them with holy courage and constancy, and coming in with special comforts and supports. Thus we are conquerors, not in our own strength, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. We are conquerors by virtue of our interest in Christ’s victory. He has overcome the world for us (John 16:33), both the good things and the evil things of it; so that we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory, and to divide the spoil, and so we are more than conquerors.”
Every man who has Christ has the same Spirit of God living in him that was able to raise Jesus from the dead. God is a powerful God and he lives in you.
If you are struggling and want to overcome the feelings associated with your personal sin, allow Christ into your life. Accept God’s free gift of love and forgiveness. In the privacy of your own heart, remove the mask of “self” and accept your Savior Jesus Christ. This simple act of faith is the key to having victory over sin and death.
As men, let’s honor Kirk’s life by unmasking and doing what needs to be done to overcome life’s challenges. Let’s not give up, not give in and let’s give everything we can to our incredibly loving and caring God and to our supportive families; experiencing the victorious and abundant life that Jesus promised to every believer. (John 10:10).
Pastor Brody Howell is the founder of Core Solutions for Family Life. He consults and teaches in churches and schools with strategies to impact youth and families. He is also an area advisor for First Priority of South Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]