I was just lying down for a nap when Jeremy got the call. Someone we knew had committed suicide. The young man's mother had rushed home from work to check on him because he wasn’t answering his phone. She found him in his room. Later, Jeremy realized one of his ambulances had been on the scene, albeit way too late.
Jeremy, Bety and I drove to their home immediately. Several family members were already there, most of whom I recognized. The father arrived right after we did. He and his brother-in-law had been our first fruits in Cancun in 1982. It was a deeply emotional reunion.
This dear man spoke to me about how his son had recently been separated from his wife, how he had expressed his desire to get back in church, and how he wanted to get right with God. Some years ago his son claimed to have given his heart to Jesus. If that was true, no moment of weakness—including hanging himself—could change the fact of God honoring his promise to take him home to heaven when he died.
It was a tough and tender moment. I asked if we could pray. Everyone gathered inside. We formed a circle as we lifted our heavy hearts to our loving God. Hugs all around… tears all around. Then we said our goodbyes.
It was a “Thank You, Lord” moment. It was the last day of my first trip to Cancun with Carol. And here I stood in this humble dwelling… a kaleidoscope of memories reaching back to our first days on this very spot 37 years ago. How our lives were woven together!
It was also a burdening moment. Suicide leaves an indelible mark on those closest to it. As painful as this day was, I grieve for their tomorrows... all of their tomorrows.
In a predominantly Roman Catholic culture, suicide is considered a sin. I, too, grew up knowing about venial sins and mortal sins. You could die with unconfessed venial sins on your account. Those could be purged by doing time in Purgatory. Only then, could your soul be released for its final, heavenward journey. But if you died with a mortal sin on your account, you went to hell, irremediably and forever. Suicide was a mortal sin.
Such thinking exacerbates the grief and confusion in the aftermath: “Could a Christian really take his/her own life and still go to heaven?” True Jesus followers know that salvation is by faith alone in the once-for-all-time shed blood of God the Son. But when surrounded by this harsh religious mindset, believers must brace themselves against attitudes and comments that would only compound their grief.
There is a malevolence in suicide that quite sets it apart. It is masterful at incapacitating and consuming its survivors. One of our responses to suicide is, “We didn’t see it coming.” And that can breed guilt. We can feel like what they did was a selfish act of aggression and abandonment. And that can breed anger. We can ask ourselves the “what if” questions… if we had acted differently… if we had spoken more loving words? And that can breed remorse and shame.
I don't understand the intricacies of mental health issues, but I have certainly been acquainted with them. Probably you have, too. We can't make sick people better. Yet there are a few things we can attempt to do…
We can park our judgmental attitudes and shaming at the door. We can be more perceptive about pointing people to the kind of help they need. We can love them as Jesus loves them. When we pray, we can intercede for them.
But there remains a pressing question: if you are a “surviving” victim of suicide, how can you protect your own mental health?
You will need to seek help early… to not assume time heals all wounds… to be aware this deep trauma will continue to ambush you. You will need to be vigilant for the rest of your life.
There is hope… so much hope… even for you! The Apostle Paul declared: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." Colossians 3:1-3
When the devious voices buzz as shrilly as tinnitus, you do not have to succumb. You can look up and gaze through the clouds to the very right hand of God. Everything you need is there—and it is already yours—if you belong to Jesus Christ.
Yes...! As of July 5, 2020, my book is now available on Amazon.com.
It's a new book about an old problem: the cross and the crown… the Gospel and politics… do they mix? Should they mix?
If my words generate some reflection and healthy conversation—as in more light and less heat—I will be satisfied.
For feedback or questions, feel free to use the email link below.
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 37 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
GREG'S other BLOG
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6