In the last couple of weeks I have had to deal with the impact of a number of suicides. It’s always incredibly difficult to minister to the family left behind when their loved one has died at his or her own hand. My heart goes out to the family members and friends of those who have died by suicide. Of course any premature death brings great grief, but those who have to pick up the pieces after a loved one has taken their own life is exceptionally painful.
A recent CDC report states that suicide rate increased 30% since 1999. In Indiana suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-34, and is the 3rd leading cause of death for 10-14 year olds! And Indiana ranks first in the nation for suicidal thoughts among teens.
I’ve had a heavy heart these past few days. It is a strange mixture of emotions: from great mourning for those who are grieving…to deep heaviness because of the unnecessary loss of life…to anger at the enemy because evil seems to win too often! It makes me so sad that people feel hopeless enough to take their own life, when Jesus came to give us hope. Plus there is help available if only people would reach out and ask.
Suicide is an enormous problem and I don’t mean to suggest that this short article contains the answers or considers all the issues, but maybe I could outline a few points for consideration.
Here are questions that people typically ask when their loved one has died by suicide:
- WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?This is the most difficult question to answer because their reasons (even if you knew why) still would not make sense. People who take their own life are not thinking clearly, so their reason will not make sense to you. There can be circumstances that might be considered as reasons (i.e. a relationship break up, financial or moral disaster, drug or alcohol addiction, etc.) but even these do not make suicide rational. Searching for an answer to “why?” is usually futile.
- WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE TO PREVENT IT? Of course we should do whatever we can to get help for people who are considering harming themselves, but those who are determined will find a way to do what they have planned. Your grieving shows your love for the one who has died. Often a family member left behind begins to rehearse “if only.” “If only I had been there. If only I had done this or that.” This leads us to maybe the most important question that loved ones want to know…
- AM I TO BLAME? No! You did not do this. You are not to blame. Guilt accomplishes nothing. It is not helpful and it is not redemptive. I strongly encourage you NOT to blame yourself. Grieve, but grieve in a healthy way, by right thinking, grieve with the Lord by your side. You can have sorrow, but not like those who have no hope.
WHY IS SUICIDE TRENDING UP?
- PEOPLE ARE ISOLATED. Our modern culture has created isolation and separation from one another. The mobility of our society keeps many from putting down deep roots and often hinders a healthy support system.
“One who isolates oneself seeks his own desire; he defies all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1, TLV).
- PEOPLE ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE ENEMY’S LIES. We have a real spiritual enemy who is always at work attempting to “steal, kill and destroy.” As people feel more isolated, they are increasingly susceptible to very real temptations.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).
- PEOPLE ARE FEELING HOPELESS. The problems of this world can be distressing and even overwhelming. When problems grow out of all proportion, a feeling of despair and gloom can lead to a sense of hopelessness. People who are hopeless have lost their reason for living.
“In those days you were living apart from Christ…You lived in this world without God and without hope” (Ephesians 2:12).
WHAT CAN WE DO TO COMBAT THIS HORRIBLE TREND? I’m not qualified to speak to the entire problem of suicide, but here are some steps that we can take that will be helpful:
- KNOW WHERE TO GET HELP. There are resources available to help those who are suicidal. If you have a friend or family member who threatens to harm him or herself, do all you can the get them the help they need.
- REMOVE THE STIGMA. One of the problems with suicide is overcoming the stigma that accompanies it. Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness has commissioned a Mental Health Task force to proactively deal with the issues of mental health, including suicide, in our community. The theme: “Stigma-Free Fishers” has been chosen to encourage us to talk about the issues of suicide without the baggage that often clouds the issue and keeps people from getting help.
- BOLDLY SHARE THE HOPE OF THE WORLD: JESUS CHRIST! The ultimate solution is for people to realize the hope they can have through Jesus Christ. He gives life meaning and provides us with an indescribable hope. Christians, we have to start being more aggressive in sharing Jesus Christ: Hope of the World!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Suicide is not the unpardonable sin. There is only one sin that is unforgiveable: the sin of rejecting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. We who know this truth have in our possession the key to impacting this terrible tragedy of suicide. Let us boldly proclaim the hope that is found in an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Onward in hope,