A Christian reflection on suicide
We came home from a high school reunion where we learned of a beloved classmate’s suicide, to the news of Robin Williams’ death, and then a CNN special report on the crushingly high rate of suicide among our veterans. I also knew of a ministry colleague who started his car and lay down below the tailpipe. To compound the confusion and grief of his parishioners, his death happened in the attached garage of the church’s parsonage.
Most pastors are called on to counsel a highly agitated person or visit family members after a suicide occurs, and most all of us have friends in which it’s been a family tragedy. A search of the Internet shows that the No. 1 cause is depression and the No. 1 method is by handgun or rifle. Some suicide attempts are cries for help, but when a gun is available, the cry is silenced.
A pastoral care website — www.pastoralcareinc.com — has the heartbreaking news that suicide is the third leading cause of death among children, teens and young adults ages 10-24, and every year about 125,000 young people are brought to emergency rooms to receive treatment for injuries that were self-inflicted in the course of suicide attempts — 342 each day by our young who have lost hope for happiness.
The VA reports that at least 22 veterans commit suicide daily and young male veterans under the age of 30 are three times more likely to kill themselves than civilian males the same age.
In the Bible, Saul, Samson, Judas, and four lesser known Bible characters took their own lives, and the question is fair, “Do those who commit suicide go directly to hell?” The Bible doesn’t say.
What is a Christian response? We must talk less about sin and more about virtues; look for the sad and lonely and bring the light of friendship, encouragement and the Gospel. Help provide more inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for our neighbors through mental programs, realizing that taxes are not a bad thing. Our taxes help provide the professional services to the poor and mentally ill, and we need more doors to open when families are in crisis. Giving help to those in hard times is what Christians do.
And for all who pass from life before us, we remember the words of St. Paul, “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life … neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below — there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”