Pastor’s Post for Suicide Prevention Week.
A PASTOR’S POST FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK (SEPT. 5-11)
Grace and peace to you and yours from God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Being married to a survivor of suicide has changed my perspective on the impact and implications of what the church has said about suicide and its victims, which include not only the person who has chosen to end his/her life, but the survivors, the family and friends who are left to wonder, or worse speculate, on the reasons for the person to take their own life.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. To learn more about the organization behind National Suicide Week log on to their website: http://www.suicidology.org/about. To help prevent suicide in our communities, join me on the Salem “Out of the Darkness Walk” on October 8. For more information log on to: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=3871
According to a 2013 article in Christianity Today someone takes his or her own life every fifteen minutes in the USA, totaling roughly 35,000 suicide a year. Suicide kills a disproportionate number of young people and the elderly, and now is increasingly common among returning veterans. The same article reported that more active duty soldiers now die from suicide than in combat. But the victims of suicide are far more than those who take their own lives. There are an average of six to ten survivors of every suicide, and they are also victims. Healing from such pain and loss is often a long and difficult journey. Grief counselors term this a “complicated bereavement” because the survivors of suicide are dealing with a flood of emotions from anger to self-blame to guilt and shame and so much more.
There are many myths and there are more than a few incorrect religious notions people can have that get in the way of caring for people who have survived suicide. Even educated people can be terribly misinformed and do terrible emotional harm to already traumatized survivors. So I want to take a minute in this post to share an important Biblical truth about suicide.
It is contrary to Scripture and to the doctrine of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod that a person who takes his or her own life is automatically condemned. No one but God knows the true state of a person’s soul at the moment of their death. Rather we trust that God’s mercy and saving grace are sufficient as they come to us in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Holy Scripture. When Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die,” He did not say, “except for suicides.” One of the only suicides mentioned in the Bible is that of Judas, and yet even the writers of the Gospel do not say that Judas went to hell because he committed suicide. If someone ever says that a victim of suicide is lost eternally to God, ask them to show you where it says that in the Bible. It doesn’t! Suicide is not and never has been “the unforgiveable sin” some people make it out to be. It is a tragedy!
Sadly God has ample reason to condemn us all for the sins we commit throughout our lives. Only God’s mercy for Jesus’ sake saves any of us. No one is in any position to say definitely who is in heaven and who is not. To say such things is to put ourselves in the place of God who quite clearly commands, “You shall have no gods before me.” The Bible also clearly says that “Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” in Romans 8:38-39. Samson in the Old Testament died at his own hand, but Hebrews 11 lists him among God’s faithful people.
I believe suicide is a result of unhealthy mental states like deep depression, deep shame, delusions of other kinds, and even drug addiction. It is not a moral fault. If someone dies of cancer God does not hold the cancer against the person as a sin. Neither should we hold a person’s mental difficulties against them as if they were unforgiveable sins. The Bible teaches us to trust God in all things. We can trust God to be gracious and merciful to those who sadly choose to take their own lives. If Jesus is the one who goes and rescues the lost, as this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke 15 proclaims, will He not also rescue those so lost as to take their own lives? Pray for victims and survivors of suicide this week!
Pastor Joe Hughes Voice & text: 217-898-9063 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org