LISTEN! IF YOU ARE FEELING LIKE TAKING YOUR LIFE NOW:
If you consider taking your own life hear me clearly.
At this time your reasoning may be influenced by something else –
depression, grief, illness, pain or drugs.
But you will not always feel this way.
The pain will not last forever – it will end without you having to end your life.
But you need help—right now.
1. Pick up the phone now –
Call a friend,
Call a family member
Call a pastor (if you know me call me now),
Call Lifeline 13 11 14
2. Ask someone to be with you now-
A family member
A pastor or church leader
3. Check into hospital.
Get someone to take you now
Call an ambulance
Check in with your doctor
There can be a new life and a better day for you.
I know this because I have experienced it myself – things can change.
But you have to stay here for that to happen.
And you have to take the step of getting someone with you right now.
NOW FOR THE STORY…
One of my closest friends and mentors took his own life. I was there shortly after and held his head in my hands and wept. His family and I have walked together for a long time and have learned many things about people’s prejudice. We have also learned a lot about our own inadequacy, guilt, and the inner workings of grief. Since that time I have also found myself drawn to others who have experienced this loss in their life. So I have some things to say (as a pastor and theology lover) about what Jesus might have to say to us…
If we live in the real world, the heartache of broken lives and suicide is never far. I have a close friend who periodically succumbs to psychosis and feels compelled to take his own life. At one time I explored suicidal intention myself. Another person I loved deeply was taken from this world by suicide. In a society of chaos and despair it’s almost impossible not to be touched by the tragedy around us. But hope is also real.
We need sensible wisdom about suicide. We need it to come from Jesus and from God’s grace. We need the myths and misconceptions dispelled. We need something that reflects the “grace” that comes from the heart of Jesus Christ…
SUICIDE DOES NOT SEPARATE SOMEONE FROM GOD
I have heard people of various faiths express the idea that a person who takes their own life is separated from God, cannot be forgiven, or even worse, goes to hell. This has been a common idea but it does not reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Bible. It is simply a cultural or religious idea – definitely not something that fits in with Jesus.
Listen to the message of God’s love in Romans 8:35-39
What can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are all vulnerable (even like sheep). But nothing can stop God loving us – not even suicide. Discussion of the topic of suicide is pretty sparse in the Bible. While there are a few famous Biblical accounts, it is interesting to note that judgment is not passed:
Took his own life when God gave him supernatural strength to push down the pillars of the Temple Of Dagon. (Judges 16:30) Samson’s faith (in general) was praised in Hebrews 11:32.
Took his own life rather than be captured and humiliated by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:1-6). Again the text offers no judgment.
Took his own life after betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:5-7).
This could be characterized as an act of remorse or hopelessness.
No judgment of his final act is offered.
In the early Jesus movement there was a phenomenon known as “martyrdom”. In times of persecution many were tortured and died for the Faith – they were called “martyrs” which means “witnesses”. Early Christians so much admired martyrs that martyrdom became respected as one of the highest expressions of faith. But some early Christian leaders were concerned that there was something quite unhealthy in the way that martyrs were venerated. One such teacher was Augustine (354-450AD). He forbade suicide and declared that the gifts and offerings of those who took their own life should not be accepted by the church. Perhaps he was rightly reacting to an unhealthy emphasis.
Throughout the Middle Ages it was common for Christian leaders to refuse to bury those who took their own life (one beautiful exception is portrayed in the “Luther” movie). The church warned severely against taking one’s own life. The commandment “you shall not kill” was rightly applied to the taking of one’s own life. Suicide was viewed as the free and uncoerced taking of one’s own life. (Thomas D. Kennedy, Christianity Today, March 20, 1987). Church leaders often taught that the free taking of one’s own life was a rejection of God’s gift of life. But these days many of us feel that it would be unfair to characterize the actions of many who take their own life as uncoerced or free. So often powerful forces (especially mental illness) take control.
We can certainly say that suicide is not part of God’s good will – as is the case for all results of our broken and fallen world. But we cannot say that those who go against God’s will are not loved by God – Jesus came to show precisely the opposite thing!
SUICIDE IS A FACT OF LIFE – JUST LIKE OTHER TRAGEDIES AND AILMENTS
The world in which we live has become broken or dysfunctional. Jesus taught that human rebellion has infected this world with a spiritual disease – we call this “the fall”. All of creation is affected by the fall – it has led to dysfunction and death in our cosmos.
No matter what our faith, we all eventually succumb to the consequences of the fall. We are all mortal and we are all vulnerable to the deathly symptoms of a fallen universe. We all eventually get sick or our bodies run down and stop. Our minds may fail; our strength certainly will. This is a fact of life about which God’s Word is very blunt.
A percentage of those who take their life are suffering mental illness at the time. Most of those I have known of who have become suicidal or taken their own life were suffering from mental illness!
Mental illness is a real thing – like cancer or diabetes. It is another symptom of the brokenness of our world. It is nothing to be ashamed of. When someone dies because mental illness led to suicide I prefer to think that they were killed by mental illness – like someone who was killed by a cancer. They are victims of the brokenness of our world – as we all are in different ways. But just as we are all victims of brokenness, we can all be raised through Christ’s victory!
SUICIDE IS NOT UNFORGIVABLE
The most important thing to share is “what Jesus reveals”. Jesus reveals that God is approachable, forgiving, loving, merciful and willing to come down to our level. Christ did not die for “the good ones” but for all – for all who have fallen. The only thing that is “unforgivable” is the total refusal to repent and be forgiven. Jesus calls this the “sin against the Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). Every person is forgivable if they truly want it! When we think of a person’s relationship with God we cannot say that they are defined by the way their life ends. God does not condemn a person by one single instant of their life, but God does redeem people in one instant – on the cross. Those who trust God and put faith in His love on the cross are forgivable and forgiven!
WHILE WE DON’T CONDEMN THE PERSON THE ACT IS TOTALLY DISCOURAGED
God’s love is incomprehensible – that in Christ, God personally gave himself even for people who will never respond. It’s wonderful beyond anything. We call this “grace”. God’s grace is there for anyone who simply puts out the open receiving hand of faith.
The act of suicide should be openly and completely discouraged. One obvious reason to discourage it is the pain it causes. When someone ends up considering suicide they are often beyond the realm of normal reason. Pain, depression or mental illness have pushed them beyond normal boundaries. They feel that it hurts to live and that to die would be easier. They often believe that others would be happier if they were gone.
We need to make it clear as possible that we need the suicidal person in our community. They are a part of the “body” which we all share. We need them because they are a part of the beautiful ‘broken yet healing‘ community which is us – the church of Christ. Only when all of us (happy and sad) come together can God’s grace be fully revealed.
If you consider taking your own life hear me clearly. At this time your reasoning may be influenced by something else – depression, grief, illness. But you will not always feel this way. The pain will not last forever – it will end without you having to end your life. But you need help. Pick up the phone now – ring a friend, ring a pastor (even me), check in with your doctor or hospital. But before you do anything, please touch base with a caring person. There can be a new life and a better day for you. I know this because I have experienced it myself – things can change. Jesus says so!
– Pastor Matt. Thiele 09/07/2005.