This is one of those months where I feel burdened to share with you all something very hard. Please bear with me as my thoughts are still processing what’s happened. In the last two months we have had two believers we know take their own lives. One was a complete shock to just about everyone and the other, which happened yesterday, was less so.
I want to talk about this because we, the church, need to understand that this happens to believers. We need to understand that it can happen to any of us given enough difficult circumstances. We are all capable of doing the unthinkable.
Secondly, I want us to be ready to be helpful to each other, to be a safe place to help each other so that this happens less.
In light of that I wanted to talk about some of the causes of suicide, chiefly mental illness. I think mental illness is hard for all of us to understand and so we can shy away from helping out of fear of doing it wrong, or just lack of understanding what’s happening. I know I feel this way.
However, we can add pain to people who are suffering through our beliefs and choices. We need to understand that much mental illness is not stemming from sin, it’s more a condition of our fallen world and broken bodies.
I had a coworker who loved the Lord whole heartedly, yet was bi-polar. He was a great role model for me to understand, because I watched how he handled his condition and I knew how he loved the Lord even when his mind and body chemistry betrayed him. For example, one time when he was manic he stared into the sun looking for Jesus to come, burning spots into his retinas. Since he knew he at times would not be able to reason properly, he had a network of friends and coworkers who had his permission to intervene if his meds got imbalanced. They had learned what to look for and he cooperated as best he could. We can learn a lot from his and their example.
In other cases, such as the man who ended his life yesterday, sin is involved. Here’s an excerpt of the email he sent out yesterday to his friends. After doing something really bad that became public he said,
“In the months that followed, I felt myself slipping emotionally and spiritually. I tried to reach out to a few close friends and I never heard from two of them again. Having friends turn their back on me probably hurt the most and I went into a shell. I didn’t want any of my other friends to hurt me, so I didn’t tell anyone else. Perhaps this wasn’t smart on my part, but it’s what happened.
I just don’t have any more fight in me. The thought of finding a new career, interviewing for new jobs, and having to explain why certain things were on my record was just too much for me to handle. Don’t feel bad for me. My story is one of self-inflicted wounds, both figuratively and here at the end, literally. I’m so sorry for the pain this action will cause others, especially those closest to me.
What is heartbreaking is seeing how many responded instantly to this email with love and pleas for him not to follow through, but it was too late.
We, as believers, will sin. And we’ll watch friends back away from the Lord. Or we’ll back away from them because they do something abhorrent. But Christ came to save sinners. We are recipients of this and we are his body to reach out to sinners with truth and grace covered in love. Oh that we wouldn’t weary of doing what is good and right! I’m preaching to myself.
He gave up because of shame and isolation. We need to create environments personally and in our church communities that counteract that. I think it’s especially hard for men, since opening up emotionally and being vulnerable is even harder for them. We won’t catch everyone who chooses the path of hiding sin and isolating, but if we consciously try to make safe connections with each other, it will help.
Lastly, we need to know when to call for help. The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. We also can have our churches research local resources and well trained Christian counselors so that we are ready to help fully swiftly. Thank you all for bearing with me and trusting God to work in and through us.