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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

God Doesn’t Want You to Always Feel So Guilty

SOURCE:  relevantmagazine.com/Jason Jones

After my son, Jacob, died in an accident while I was asleep in the house, I struggled with debilitating guilt.

Guilt can be powerful.

For the first few years after the accident, it felt like an all-consuming force that I couldn’t let go of but one that I wanted desperately to run away from. I hated myself so much for all the things I could have done differently that day.

I felt so ashamed, angry, stupid and unworthy. I felt like a failure as a dad and a husband. The weight of carrying the guilt was something my therapist and I worked on for quite some time. Session after session, we would talk through it. There were a lot of tears and painful discussions.

Eventually, my therapist was able to help me realize some truths that slowly started to sink in over time. None of it was overnight. And none of it was like a light bulb moment to point to that instantly made me feel better.

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on.

Therapy is like a farmer tending to his garden. You keep watering and picking weeds, and one day you show up and something starts sprouting out of the dirt. You just have to keep showing up to do the work. During that time, I learned some really important realities while working on my guilt:

We Aren’t Defined By Our Mistakes

Early on, I beat the heck out of myself over what happened. I felt like I had failed my family. Most of all, I felt like I had failed Jacob.

The shame was permeating my entire identity. This caused unhealthy behavior, added stress and was a strain on my marriage and my ability to be a father to my daughters.

Through therapy, though, I was able to realize that one accident or mistake doesn’t define who I am. I’m still a good person, husband and father.

Healing Can Start When You Accept Responsibility

This step was incredibly difficult and took a very long time for me to work through. Although I definitely felt it, I was scared to death to say that I had any responsibility in Jacob’s accident. I fought as hard as I could and as long as I could to not accept it.

I was terrified to think what it meant about me that my decisions may have led my son’s death. What does it say about me as a father? Does it mean I am a bad person? Am I a terrible father? Did I fail my family? Am I worthy of being loved?

While I refused to talk openly about these fears, the guilt started feeding shame, and shame fed more guilt, and on and on. This put me on a hamster wheel of personal torture that I couldn’t figure out how to get off of.

Thankfully, with hours upon hours of working with my therapist, I was able to get to a place where I could bear the guilt without it continuing to rule my life. Bearing the guilt meant I had taken and accepted responsibility for what I could have done to prevent this accident. There were things I could have done differently. I accept that. I bear that guilt, but it doesn’t control me anymore.

Giving Up Is Not an Option, No Matter How Bad It Gets

There were times when I wanted to die because I felt like such a failure in my guilt and shame. I thought about how I wouldn’t have to feel this way anymore and I would be with Jacob.

But, then I would quickly realize the amount of pain I would leave the rest of my family in. What a wreck I would leave behind. My therapist would tell me, “All you have to do is think about getting through each minute, each hour, then each day. Get out of bed and put your feet on the ground. Take a step, then another step. One foot in front of the other and keep breathing.”

It felt like torture at times, to keep going, but I knew inside that I could not give up. I couldn’t give up on my wife and my daughters. And I couldn’t give up on myself. No matter how hard it gets—you can’t give up.

This summer, I stumbled upon a song from a band called Colony House that really resonated with me.

Two of the members of Colony House, Will and Caleb Chapman, are sons of Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth Chapman. Back in 2008, one of Mary Beth and Steven Chapman’s daughters was killed when she accidentally ran out in front of Will’s car when he was driving up the driveway at their home. It was a total accident and terrible tragedy. From interviews I’ve seen, Will struggled with a deep sense of guilt after the accident.

In the song “Won’t Give Up,” Colony House sings about those feelings. The song starts:

I wear the guilt upon my chest
Cause I feel like I’ve earned it
And keep the bloodstains on my hands
To show that I’ve done this

Oh how I wish I could escape that day
Take back time and make everything OK
But I can’t

Oh, the pictures in my head
They roll like the movies
I shut my eyes to cut the thread
But my memory shows no mercy

It was like someone climbed into my head and pulled out how I felt and then wrote a song about it.

It ends like this:

Too many dreams I didn’t want to dream
Too many nights alone where I can’t sleep
I’ve got the devil on my back
Trying to take home from me
But I see Jesus out in front
He’s reaching back for the lonely
Reaching back cause He loves me
I take His hand because she loved me

No I won’t give up now

Sometimes our guilt feels like it’s taking a hold of us and dragging us into hell. It’s like our past mistakes are yelling at us through a megaphone, constantly reminding us of what we’ve done.

But I can tell you it is possible to find freedom from what can seem overwhelming and paralyzing.

Healing can begin when we accept that we are human and we all make mistakes. And the transformative healing takes place when we accept that our mistakes don’t define who we are as a person.

Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It

SOURCE:  American Psychological Association

Questions for bullying expert Susan Swearer, PhD

Susan Swearer, PhD, is an associate professor of School Psychology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) in the Department of Educational Psychology. She is also the co-director of the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology; co-director of the Bullying Research Network and was recently a visiting associate professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Swearer is a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at UNL, and is a consultant to National School Violence Prevention Initiative, The Center for Mental Health Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Technical Assistance Consultant Pool. She has presented dozens of keynotes and workshops on bullying across the United States.

APA. The news of late seems to be filled with terrible stories about youngsters being bullied, even to the point of suicide. Has bullying become more prevalent or more severe, or is this a case of over-reporting by the media?

Dr. Swearer. We don’t know if bullying has become more prevalent or more severe in recent years. We don’t have national, longitudinal data that can answer this question. What we do know is that bullying is a problem that reaches into the culture, community, school, peer groups and families. The extent of the problem will vary across different communities and schools. In some schools, physical bullying might be particularly prevalent, whereas in another school, cyber-bullying might be particularly prevalent. In some schools, there may be a lot of bullying and in other schools, there may be very little bullying. The media are reporting cases where students commit suicide as a result of being bullied because these cases are so tragic and in some cases, have resulted in lawsuits against the bullies and the schools. We should remember that Dr. Dan Olweus, the Norwegian researcher who started studying bullying in the early 1980s, did so partly as a result of three boys, ages 10 to 14, who committed suicide in 1982 as a result of being bullied. Sadly, this is not a “new” problem.

APA. If a parent or teacher suspects a child is being bullied, what are the most effective steps he/she should take to protect the victim?

Dr. Swearer. Parents and teachers MUST intervene when they see bullying take place. First, they must tell the student(s) who are doing the bullying to stop. They need to document what they saw and keep records of the bullying behaviors. Victims need to feel that they have a support network of kids and adults. Help the student who is being bullied feel connected to school and home. Students who are also being bullied might benefit from individual or group therapy in order to create a place where they can express their feelings openly.

APA. Who is more at risk for suicide if bullied? In other words, are there personality traits or markers that parents and teachers should look for when they know a child is being bullied?

Dr. Swearer. There really is no “profile” of a student who is more at risk for suicide as a result of bullying. In the book Bullycide in America (compiled by Brenda High, published by JBS Publishing Inc. in 2007), mothers of children who have committed suicide as a result of being bullied share their stories. Their stories are all different, yet the commonality is that the bullying their children endured resulted in suicide. We do know that there is a connection between being bullied and depression, and we know that depression is a risk factor for attempting suicide. Therefore, parents and educators should look for signs that a child is experiencing symptoms of depression.

APA. You have been conducting research on a program called “Target Bullying : Ecologically Based Prevention and Intervention for Schools” that looks at bullying and victimization in middle-school-aged youth. Your findings suggest there are certain psychological and social conditions that fuel bullying. What are they and what are the best interventions to stop the cycle?

Dr. Swearer. I have been conducting research on bullying since 1998 and during this time, I have become increasingly convinced that bullying is a social-ecological problem that has to be understood from the perspective that individual, family, peer group, school, community, and societal factors all influence whether or not bullying occurs. The question that I ask students, parents and educators is: “What are the conditions in your school (family, community) that allow bullying to occur?” The answers to that question are then the areas to address for intervention. We write about how to do this in our bookBullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools (by Susan Swearer, Dorothy Espelage and Scott Napolitano, published in 2009 by Guilford Press). Interventions should be based on evidence. Since bullying will vary across schools and communities, each school in this country ought to be collecting comprehensive data on bullying experiences. Then, schools can use their own data to design effective interventions in order to change the conditions that are fueling the bullying in their own school and community.

APA. From your research, what can you tell us about who becomes a bully? Are there different types of bullies? And if someone is a bully as a child, how likely is it that he or she will continue to bully into adulthood?

Dr. Swearer. If we conceptualize bullying from a social-ecological perspective, there is no way to “profile” a bully. If the conditions in the environment are supportive of bullying, then almost anyone can bully. In fact, the mother of a daughter who committed suicide after being bullied once told me that the girls who bullied her daughter were just “regular kids.” The conditions in their small town and small school were breeding grounds for bullying. My research has also looked at the dynamic between bullying and victimization. In one study, we found that kids who were bullied at home by siblings and/or relatives were more likely to bully at school. So, you can see that the dynamic is complex and crosses all areas in which we all function – in our community, family and schools. We do know that if left untreated, children who learn that bullying is an effective way to get what they want are likely to continue bullying behavior into adulthood. Thus, it is critical to intervene and stop the bullying during the school-age years.

APA. How is the growth of social media, such as Facebook and mySpace, affecting bullying?

Dr. Swearer. Technology has definitely impacted bullying. What used to be a face-to-face encounter that occurred in specific locations is now able to occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Technology—computers, cell phones and social networking sites — are all conditions that allow bullying to occur. One way to protect our children is to limit and/or monitor their use of this technology. I ask parents, “Would you let your 12-year-old daughter walk alone down a dark alley?” Obviously, the answer is “no.” The follow-up question is, “Then why would you let your 12-year-old daughter be on the computer or be texting unmonitored?” Parents and kids don’t realize the negative side to technology and social networking sites.

APA. Are there any other trends you’re seeing through your research that you’d like the public to know about?

Dr. Swearer. I really want the public to be aware of the link between mental health issues and bullying. As a licensed psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I and my colleagues have seen an increase in referrals for bullying-related behaviors. Whether students are involved as bullies, victims, bully-victims (someone who is bullied and who also bullies others) or bystanders, we know that in many cases, depression and anxiety may be co-occurring problems. I always assess for depression and anxiety when I’m working with youth who are involved in bullying. Bullying is a mental health problem.

Q&A: My Friend Is Depressed. What Should I Do?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by EDDIE KAUFHOLZ/Relevant Magazine

How To Help When You Just Don’t Know What To Say?

I have a friend who has been struggling with depression for a long time and I think she’s considering suicide. I’m really worried about her, but I don’t know what to say. What’s the best way to help her?

– Courtney

Courtney, thank you for reaching out and asking this incredibly important and brave question. You are a good person with a good heart, and I’m glad your friend has you.

Here’s what I’m going to do. Usually, the form of these Ask RELEVANT articles take us from theoretical to practical. Today though, I’m skipping most of the theoretical and just giving you three steps to do right now:

1. Treat Every Mention as Real.

When we first hear someone say they’re thinking of taking their own life, it can be really difficult to accept. There are a number of reasons why:

Sometimes, they say it in such a casual way that it doesn’t register as an actual threat to their life, but more like a little throw away phrase. We all say these kinds of things, don’t we? “I could kill the guy who’s setting off fireworks in August!”

See what I’m saying? Even if I’m justified because the 4th of July was well over a month ago and my kids are now crying at 3 a.m. because of that punk, I’m not going to really kill anyone. I’m just talking.

We need to do all we can to remove the mental barriers that make us treat a cry for help as something other than a real and credible danger.

We sometimes hear, as clear as day, someone say something like, “This world would just be better off without me,” and we chalk up the statement to our friend being sad and maybe a little dramatic—they’re just talking, right? Who knows. That’s why you treat it as real, instead of guessing incorrectly.

However, there’s another reason we don’t believe the mention of suicide is real. It’s because, well, we don’t believe it’s actually real. We think there’s no possible way they would actually do that. Maybe we think the idea of suicide is unthinkable and unimaginable. Or maybe you’ve heard a friend say a hundred times that they’re going to take their life. But this time, you believe it’s time to wisen up and not be duped a one-hundred-and-first time.

Nope. It’s real, just like it was time 1 through 100.

Whatever our reasons for not fully comprehending the weight of a suicidal threat, we need to do all we can to remove the mental barriers that make us treat a cry for help as something other than a real and credible danger.

So Courtney, just to be really clear, your friend’s cry for help is real, and it’s time to act. Which leads us to the next step …

2. Ring the Bell.

Courtney, you need to find someone to tell about your friend’s admission to you. Now, I know, because you’re a good friend, that it may seem like you’re betraying some sort of trust because your friend may ask you to keep this between the two of you. But seriously, you can’t. Here’s why:

First, neither you nor I have all the skills necessary to really help. In fact, no one person does. Even an amazing counselor, when confronted with a client who’s threatening self-harm, talks to another counselor for wisdom.

You see, really caring for someone who’s suicidal is more than just being a listening ear. It’s a holistic conversation about medical issues, psychological issues, life issues, etc. etc. It’s bigger than you, or me, or your friend. But it’s usually not beyond the scope of a good support team.

So what I would do is be as empathetic and loving to your friend as possible, and then engage in a conversation about who else could be told about this. Maybe your friend will have an adverse reaction and try to stop you. If that’s the case, you have to just go to a parent, counselor, pastor or really anyone you trust and let them know everything you know. Your friend’s desire for your actions can’t outweigh your desire for their well-being.

However, more often than not, the person will appreciate that you’re taking the threat seriously, caring for them genuinely and letting other people join the team. If this ends up being the case, talk together about who could be told and then figure out the best way to tell them.

Courtney, isolation is the enemy here. Your friend knew that, and she was smart enough to bring you in to help and not try to fight this thing alone. And now you need to do the same. You can’t be alone in knowing this information—it’s time to ring the bell.

Really caring for someone who’s suicidal is more than just being a listening ear. It’s a holistic conversation about medical issues, psychological issues, life issues, etc. etc.

One more thing: A lot of people get hung up on the, “I have to tell someone” part and they can’t figure out a person who is trustworthy and safe. If that’s the case, or even if you just can’t come up with a name in the intensity of the moment, please call this number, they’ll walk you through what’s next:

3. Be Supportive.

All right Courtney, this is the last thing. Thoughts of self-harm stem from a very real and difficult space. And anyone who has ever been suicidal and found their way out of the dark woods knows that it wasn’t because they purely willed themselves to get better. It’s because a lot of people helped.

Courtney, think of yourself as one of the three legs of a stool: One leg represents professional/medical help, one leg represents a belief system (often, a belief in God), and one leg is community support (you).

For your friend to get better and find balance, all three legs must be intact. This is where your role becomes vital. Because while doctors and counselors are diagnosing and testing, you’re going to be there telling your friend you love and value them. And while your friend tries to figure out that their life is worth something, you’re going to be the constant voice telling them they matter to you. Courtney, you’re not the only leg of the stool, but you’re a vital part of the team. What you contribute can’t be undervalued.

In closing, I’ll share this: I still mourn the loss of one of my best friends to suicide, and would give anything to tell him one more time that he matters and what he does with his life matters. And while I still feel unspeakable sadness about his death, I know it’s not in anyone’s power to save anyone else. All we can do is take the threat seriously, gather a support system and love them through the pain.

I, and many others, will be praying for you, Courtney. You’re a good friend.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

1-800-273-TALK(8255)
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/my-friend-depressed-what-should-i-do#BsYpozlYcxHYgUxZ.99

Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“Your illness is not your identity,” Pastor Rick Warren shared this week. “Your chemistry is not your character. It’s not a sin to be sick.”

Returning to the pulpit for the first time since his son Matthew’s tragic suicide in April, Warren broke away from his notes to talk frankly about his grief and the challenge of living with his son’s mental illness.

According to USA Today, “Matthew Warren, after a lifetime of struggle with depression, shot and killed himself in what Warren at the time called ‘a momentary wave of despair.’ ”

“I was in shock for at least a month after Matthew took his life,” Warren said. In a world where many Christians often feel the pressure to “put on a happy face,” Pastor Warren’s honesty is refreshing.

“For 27 years I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness,” Warren said. “It was the number one prayer of my life…And it didn’t make sense.”

As Christian counselors, we must remember the daily challenges facing family members of an individual who struggles with depression, addiction, an eating disorder, or other mental health concerns.

“How proud I was of Amy and Josh, who for 27 years loved their younger brother,” Warren said. “They talked him off the ledge time after time. They are really my heroes.”

As churches and communities we need to rally around and provide support, care and a listening ear to those who live with the daily reality of mental illness, reminding them, as Warren said, that their illness is not their identity.

“It’s not a sin to take meds. It’s not a sin to get help. You don’t need to be ashamed.” This message needs to reverberate through churches all across our nation, where misunderstandings about mental illness and false theology that “faith is enough” often results in unnecessary suffering.

In Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s MissionAmy Simpson points out, “Mental illness is the sort of thing we don’t like to talk about. Too often, we reduce people with mental illness to caricatures and ghosts, and simply pretend they don’t exist.”

“They do exist, however. Statistics suggest that one in every four people suffers from some kind of mental illness—from depression to schizophrenia and beyond.

Many of these people, and the family and friends who love them, are sitting in churches week after week, suffering in stigmatized silence.”

Simpson reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love them and care for them.

What can churches do to help advocate on behalf of mental illness? Simpson offers several starting points:

  • Get help if you’re struggling. Break the silence by telling your story.
  • Get educated about the issues—read, learn and seek to truly understand.
  • Talk about mental illness and address common stigmas—in the pulpit, small groups, etc.
  • Build genuine relationships—don’t just help as a “project.”
  • Ask families living with mental illness how you can help with practical needs.
  • Accept people unconditionally—look past their diagnosis and see the real person God created and loves.
  • Start support groups for families living with mental illness.
  • Collaborate with local mental health professionals.

“There are people with mental illnesses in every church, whether this is known or not,” one church leader writes. “Jesus came to love and serve everyone. He feared no one. All churches can learn to serve the Lord better in caring for His people.”

In the midst of unspeakable grief, Pastor Warren shared, “God wants to take your greatest sorrow and turn it into your life’s greatest message.”

How does God want to use you to help those struggling with mental illness and their families?

Christian counseling is far more than a career…it’s a calling to minister and offer hope to those who need it most.

When Suicide Comes Close

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

I will never forget the first time suicide came close to me.

I met with a young woman who was leaving her mission work in Eastern Europe. She was haunted by an experience but could not even talk about it—my guess was that she was burdened by an inappropriate relationship with a
young man who lived there.

Two months later I received a letter from her parents. “We want to thank you for your kindness toward our daughter and let you know that her misery is now over. She took her own life two weeks ago.” The letter was full of faith, grace, hope and grief. I kept it in the top drawer of my desk for over a decade, though I did not need either the reminder that those we care about can take their own lives or the added injection of guilt and endless “what if’s.” They were already inscribed in me. The only reason my regrets from her death don’t linger is that they have been replaced by other suicides.

Suicide has come close to most of us. We have read of the recent suicide of a beloved pastor’s son. We know that military veterans take their own lives every day, and even children can speak about an internal darkness that once was only found in those with accumulated years of trouble and pain.

What have we learned?

  • Most suicide is connected to depression. Somehow, depression is even worse than chronic physical pain. Perhaps this is because people in physical pain can still see the good in life and can still hope, while those who are depressed are handicapped at seeing either.
  • Those who are depressed can seem to be doing better before they take their own life. This does not always happen, and a lifting of depression is not evidence that suicide is sure to come. It simply means that a sure prediction of suicide is only possible after someone has taken his or her life, not before
  • Suicide leaves a broad wake of regrets. Hindsight causes us to think of dozens of things we could have done differently. The reality is that we are people who can control very little.
  • When we notice a loved one withdrawing from things once enjoyed, such as people, hobbies, work or even aesthetic pleasures, we move toward that person and ask the questions that are on our hearts. “How are you? I have been wondering if life has been hard for you recently.” “You have been on my mind. Maybe that’s because you seem a little more withdrawn and sad. How can I pray for you?”
  • When we are concerned for another person and don’t know how to help, we ask wise members of the community to partner with us.
  • When hope wanes, human life is in jeopardy. The two are inseparably linked. So we set out to become people of hope, which just happens to be a dominant message throughout the New Testament. The early church had an intimate knowledge of human suffering. They knew something of a life that seemed devoid of the good. They had to practice seeing eternal realities by faith or they would not last the day. You can almost hear them talking among themselves after reading an apostolic letter: “Brother, sister, let’s endure together, let’s set our eyes on Jesus, let’s reach out and taste the joy that is just up ahead, and let’s pray that the Spirit would give us these things.”

Lord have mercy on those besieged by depression. Don’t let the darkness talk to them. May they hear words of a deeper reality and the genuine hope we have because Jesus is alive.

Fruitful in the Land of My Affliction

SOURCE:  Wendy Horger Alsup/Practical Theology for Women

Fruitful in the land of my affliction. That phrase may sound poetic to some and archaic to others. Personally, I find it striking. I first wrote about it a few years ago when I was in a very dark place, and it is time for me to revisit it. The phrase comes from Genesis 41:52, where Joseph names his second son.

The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

I have heard a number of sermons over the years from the life of Joseph. He often becomes a moral lesson – be like Joseph when you are sexually tempted and unjustly accused, and God will exalt you as He did Joseph. I strongly resist that view of the life of Joseph. God’s not conforming me to the image of Joseph. He’s conforming me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Joseph’s story is powerful because it reveals God, not because it reveals Joseph. My circumstances will be distinctly different than Joseph’s, but my God is the same.

There is much to learn of God in Joseph’s story, and the naming of Joseph’s son is one such place. Many thoughts hit me as I meditate on why Joseph named his son Ephraim (which sounds like the Hebrew word for fruitful). First, it’s counterintuitive. Joseph was fruitful in the very place that should have sucked the life out of him. The paradox intrigues me. But, second, I resist the name, because I don’t want to be fruitful in the land of my affliction. I want God to END my affliction, and then I want to be fruitful in the beautiful land I imagined would be God’s best for His children.

However, like Joseph, I am powerless to end whatever troubles plague me, and I get impatient waiting for God to move. It is in those moments that I wrestle with God, “How can I do what You have called me to do in THESE circumstances?!”

Once I calm down and take an objective look at Scripture, it finally hits me that no one in Scripture seems to be very fruitful EXCEPT in the land of their affliction. In fact, you can argue from Scripture that suffering, affliction, and death to self are essential to God’s plan for fruitfulness in His children.

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

I have situations in my life that plague me, that I would desperately love to see changed. God tells me to pray for His will to be done, for His name to be hallowed, and for His kingdom to come. I long for those things to come about in my home, in my neighborhood, in my church, and in the larger Body of Christ. I talked about this in depth here. But in the midst of waiting for the affliction to end and God’s kingdom to come, I am blessed by God’s story in the life of Joseph, and I meditate on what it looks like to be fruitful in the very places from which I would most like to be delivered. And I receive hope that affliction doesn’t end the possibility of fruitfulness but may instead be the very thing that prepares the ground for “fruit that remains.”

John 15:16 NAS “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain … “

Is Suicide Unforgivable? Good Question!

Question: What is the biblical hope and comfort we can offer a suicide victim’s family and friends?

SOURCE:  By Lewis B. Smedes/Christianity Today

People who ask this question seek biblical grounds for giving hope to the kin of believers who take their own lives. The burden of proof, I should think, lies not with those who offer the solace of grace but with those who deny it.

Will Jesus welcome home a believer who died at her own hands? I believe he will, tenderly and lovingly.

My biblical basis? It is the hope-giving promise of Romans 8:32, that neither life nor death can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

How can I trust in this promise and then deny its comfort to people who doubly grieve for brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers who in horrible moments of despair decided to end their lives? I believe that Jesus died not only for the sins of us all but for all of our sins, including the forgotten ones, including suicide–if indeed he reckons it always as sin.

The Bible does not seem to condemn suicide. There are, I think, six accounts of suicide in the Bible, the most notorious being those of King Saul (1 Samuel 31:2-5) and Judas (Matthew 27:3-5). Others are Abimelech (Judges 9:50-54), Samson (Judges 16:23-31), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), and Zimri (1 Kings 16:15-20). As far as I can tell, none of the six is explicitly condemned for taking his life.

Some say that suicide cannot be forgiven because the person who did it could not have repented of doing it. But all of us commit sins that we are too spiritually cloddish to recognize for the sins they are. And we all die with sins not named and repented of.

When I was a child, I heard compassionate people comfort the loved ones of a suicide victim with the assurance that anyone who commits suicide is insane at that moment. So, being mad, a suicide victim would not be held accountable by God, despite the sin. But they were wrong of course. People of sound mind make rational decisions to end their lives. They choose to die rather than endure more pain than they think they can bear, or to spare their loved ones the pain of watching them die an ugly death. And rational people of good intentions sometimes help them do it.

But people who take their own lives are not usually cool and rational about it. Nor do they mean to flout the will of God. Most of the 500,000 people who attempt suicide every year in America do not so much choose death as stumble down into it from a steep slope of despair.

We are told that every 17 minutes someone in America commits suicide. In North America, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people 15 to 25 years old, college students for the great part. And note this tragic feature of American life: among children between 5 and 14 years of age, suicide is the sixth most common cause of death.

Suicide is also a significant threat to young people who have discovered that they have homosexual feelings. While there are no conclusive statistics on the phenomenon, some studies suggest a high rate of suicide attempts among young people with same-sex attractions. These are not people sticking their fists in the face of God. These are children who look in their own faces and hate what they see.

The heart asks, Why? But the answer is blowing in the wind. Young people kill themselves mainly for one reason: they cannot believe their lives are precious enough to make them worth living. Despair, depression, hopelessness, self-loathing– these are the killers.

I believe that, as Christians, we should worry less about whether Christians who have killed themselves go to heaven, and worry more about how we can help people like them find hope and joy in living. Our most urgent problem is not the morality of suicide but the spiritual and mental despair that drags people down to it.

Loved ones who have died at their own hands we can safely trust to our gracious God. Loved ones whose spirits are even now slipping so silently toward death, these are our burden.

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Lewis B. Smedes is professor emeritus of theology and ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His latest book is Standing on the Promises: Keeping Hope Alive for a Tomorrow We Cannot Control (Thomas Nelson).

If a Christian commits suicide, is he still forgiven?

SOURCE:  Christian Aplogetics and Research Ministry

This might seem like a perplexing question, but it does have an answer. Though the Christian who has committed suicide has committed a grave sin, he is still forgiven. But, in order to understand why a Christian who commits suicide is forgiven, we first need to understand what salvation is and what it is based upon.

Salvation is the state of being saved from God’s judgment upon the sinner. The only way to be saved is to trust Jesus for the forgiveness of one’s sins (John 14:6Acts 4:12). All who do not trust Jesus alone, by faith (Rom. 5:1Rom. 6:23Eph. 2:8-9) are not forgiven and go to hell when they die (Matt. 25:46John 3:18). When Jesus forgives someone, He forgives all their sins and gives them eternal life and they shall never perish (John 10:28). He does not give them temporary eternal life — otherwise, it would not be eternal.

Salvation is not based upon what you do. In other words, you don’t have to obey any Law of God in order to become saved. This is because no one is saved by keeping the Law of God (Gal. 2:21Rom. 3:24-28). But that does not mean that you can go and sin all you want. Rom. 6:1-3 expressly condemns such action. Instead, we are saved for the purpose of purity (1 Thess. 4:7). Our salvation is strictly from God: “By grace through faith you have been saved…” (Eph. 2:8). Other than acting by faith in trusting and accepting what Jesus did on the cross, you don’t do a thing (John 1:12-3) in order to become saved. Since you did not get your salvation by what you did, you can not lose it by what you do.

What about the unforgivable sin? Is that suicide? No. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke of the unforgivable sin in Matt. 12:22-32. The context is when the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Therefore, suicide is not the unforgivable sin.

Is repentance necessary for salvation?

This is a good question and the answer is yes — and no. Now, before you throw stones, hear me out. Repentance is a necessary result of the saving work of God, not the cause of salvation.  If repentance brought salvation, then salvation is by works; or rather, the ceasing of bad works.  That isn’t how it works.  God grants repentance to the Christian (2 Tim. 2:25). The Christian then turns from his sin; that is, he stops sinning. He is able to repent because he is saved, not to get saved.

In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession of sin and its natural result of repentance are necessary elements of the Christian’s life. But, what about the sins that we do not know we commit? If we do not confess them and do not repent of them, are we still saved? Of course we are! Otherwise, we would be forced to confess and repent of every single sin we ever commit. In effect, we’d be back under the Law, living by a rule of absolute repentance of every detail lest you be damned. This is bondage, not freedom. Jesus said His yoke was light, not hard (Matt. 11:27-30.

So, repentance is not the cause of salvation, but it is a result of salvation.  The believer repents from his sins upon trusting in Christ and thereafter, continues to repent of further sins that the Lord reveals to him.

Back to the suicide issue

Suicide is, in effect, self-murder. The unfortunate thing about it is that the one who commits it cannot repent of it. The damage is permanently done. We can see in the Bible that murderers have been redeemed (Moses, David, etc.), but they had opportunities to confess their sins and repent. With suicide, the person does not.  But that does not mean the person is lost.  Jesus bore all that person’s sins, including suicide. If Jesus bore that person’s sins on the cross 2000 years ago, and if suicide was not covered, then the Christian was never saved in the first place and the one sin of suicide is able to undo the entire work of the cross of Christ. This cannot be. Jesus either saves completely or he does not.

Is suicide always wrong?

That I cannot answer because I cannot list every possible situation. But, it seems obvious that suicide is clearly wrong, though forgivable. However, there are general categories of suicide on which we could briefly comment:

Medically Assisted Suicide – I’ve never seen this as being acceptable. The doctor is supposed to save life, not destroy it. But, lately as destroying the lives of the unborn is more common place, destroying the lives of the sick has become the next logical step.

Suicide to prevent prolonged torture – Let’s say that someone was being tortured in an excruciating manner for an unbearably long period of time, is suicide an option? Perhaps. But if it were in this situation, why wouldn’t it be all right in the medically-assisted context if the patient were also in excruciating pain for long periods of time? Quite honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that one.

Suicide due to depression – Of course, this is never a good reason for suicide. Seasons pass and so does depression. The one who is depressed needs to look to Jesus and get help. Depression is real and powerful and is best fought with help. Also, severe depression robs the mind of clear thinking. People in such states are despondent, not in their right mind.

Suicide due to a chemical imbalance in the brain – The human brain is incredibly complex and the medical community is full of accounts of extraordinary behaviors by people whose “circuits got crossed.” I don’t see how a situation like this would make it justifiable. I think it simply would make it more explainable.

Accidental suicide – Sometimes people accidentally kill themselves. This could mean leaning over a balcony too far and falling to one’s death, or actually, purposefully taking a stupid risk like playing with a gun. Of course, with either, stupidity does not remove us from the grace of God.

Conclusion

Is the Christian forgiven for suicide? Yes. But suicide is not an option. We do not have the right to take our own lives. That belongs to God.

Suicide and Forgiveness

Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I realize this is a heavy issue for this blog, but seriously…I have had to sit with people several times after a loved one committed suicide.

A clouded or confused mind may see suicide as the only way out, although it is never the right option, but it is never easy reconcile for the people left behind. I believe one of my dearest pastor friends died of a broken heart after his son committed suicide. Sadly, suicide appears to be on the rise. Our local paper reported this week (see article HERE) that our state has been awarded $1.4 million to aid in suicide prevention.

This post is not aimed for those who have ever considered suicide…

If you are at all thinking of taking your life…STOP and call for help NOW!!!

This post is for those who are victims of knowing someone who has taken his or her life…

One of the things I hear after a suicide breaks my heart. Families are often left wondering what happened to their loved one. Well-meaning people often repeat something they’ve heard before…that friends and family members who commit suicide are destined to be separated from Jesus the rest of their lives.

They assume that suicide is the unforgivable sin.

I’ve encountered people who struggle for years with the thoughts that their loved one died apart from Jesus. The only problem with that assumption is that I can’t prove it in the Bible.

Yes, suicide is a sin.

Murder is a sin…taking a life is a sin…suicide is a sin…

Please don’t resort to that…There is always a better way…

If you are at all thinking of taking your life…STOP and call for help NOW!!!

But, suicide is NOT the unforgivable sin.

The grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient even for this sin…

I’m fully convinced there will be brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Heaven, who were experiencing terrible trials…who felt trapped or helpless…who made a bad decision…who took their life…but fully believed that Jesus was the only answer for salvation.

Jesus describes the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:22-32.    It says nothing about suicide.

Help for the Suicidal

By David Powlison, CCEF Faculty
Are you having suicidal thoughts and feelings? Perhaps you are convinced that life is not worth living. You feel like your world is collapsing in on you. Your life seems hopeless – like a black hole with all love, hope, and joy sucked out. If you are contemplating suicide, you have already done a lot of thinking about your life. But have you thought about how God views your life?

Your Life Matters to God

Right now you are living in a world of despair. You can’t see any solution to your problems. You’re not looking forward to anything. The future seems empty. But God’s perspective on your life is very different. Your life is precious to him. He knows everything about you – even how many hairs are on your head (Matthew 10:30). Your life is so significant to him that he forbids you to take it. God says that all murder is wrong, and that includes the self-murder of suicide (Exodus 20:13).

Bring Your Hopelessness to God

God is not surprised or put off by your hopeless feelings. He wants you to bring your despair to him, and cry for help right now, in the middle of your darkness and pain. Throughout history God’s children have cried to him and he has helped them. Listen to the voice of David who cried out his despair to God thousands of years ago: “In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me” (Psalm 86:7).

Today is your day of trouble. Tell God all your sorrows, all your troubles, and all the reasons suicide is on your mind. Do you feel, like David, that you are in the “depths of the grave”? Ask God to hear your prayer and listen to your cry for mercy (v.6). On this day the living God promises to listen to you and help you.

Your Reasons for Despair; God’s Voice of Hope

Why are you feeling hopeless? Are you struggling with physical suffering? A broken relationship? Shame and guilt from mistakes and failures? An unrealized dream? What problem do you believe suicide will solve?

Your suicidal feelings and actions don’t come out of the blue. They have reasons you can discover and understand. Your particular reasons will show you how you’re experiencing, interpreting, and reacting to your world. When you discover your reasons, you will also be describing what is most important to you. The loss or pain that makes you feel like your life is not worth living points to the thing that you believe would make your life worth living.

We will look at four kinds of reasons for hopelessness. As you read, look for the specific reasons you are feeling hopeless. And then listen to what God says to you about your particular troubles that brings hope.

Unrelenting Suffering

Your hopelessness might stem from overwhelming suffering. The death of someone close to you, your own chronic pain and illness, postpartum depression, a broken relationship, poverty, racial prejudice, etc. are all situations that can fill you with despair. If this is why you feel hopeless, read through Psalm 31. This psalm, written by David, vividly captures the feeling of wasting away with grief.

“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing” (Psalm 31:9-10)

Is this what your life is like?

But this psalm is also filled with hope. David remembers that God sees him in his affliction and knows all about his troubles. He remembers that in God’s presence he is safe.

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.” (Psalm 31:19, 20)

David’s life, like yours, was full of troubles and discouragement, yet because God was with him, he has hope. He says, “But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help” (Psalm 31:22). And he ends with this call, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord” (Psalm 31:24). David is able to endure with courage because God is with him.

God is calling you to persevere in your suffering, but not by simply gritting your teeth. Persevering through suffering is only possible when you put your hope in the living God. He promises to come near to you, to be present with you, and to let you experience his goodness right in the middle of your pain and difficulty

Personal Failure

Your suicidal thoughts and feelings might be related to your mistakes and failures. Is your hopelessness an attempt to atone for your sins, to punish yourself, to avoid feelings of shame? Perhaps you are so full of guilt and shame that you don’t want to be around people or even continue to live. Can you find hope when you’ve blown it so badly that you think you will never be able to hold your head up again?

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it is full of real people who made serious missteps-just like you. David wrote Psalm 32 after he committed adultery, the woman became pregnant, and to cover things up he arranged to have the women’s husband murdered. You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 11 – 12.

In Psalm 32 he vividly describes his experience of despair. Perhaps you are also feeling like this:

“…my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3, 4)

David’s experience of guilt and failure comes partly from God and partly from his own conscience. But why is this psalm full of joy instead of shame? Because of what God has done for him in the middle of his nightmare of guilt. His joy comes from God’s forgiveness of him and from God’s promise to guide him (Psalm 31:1, 2, 8).

Here’s someone, like you, who is living with terrible personal failure. But instead of meditating on his failures and turning his sins and mistakes over and over in his mind, he chooses to remember who God is. He knows the God who forgives. He trusts the God who promises to keep his eyes on him, who will personally instruct, lead, and counsel. So he ends like this, “steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord,” and adds a call to joy, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:10, 11).

What an amazing turnaround! Someone who knows his sinfulness, but also knows God’s mercy, can be called righteous by the grace and mercy of God. You, too, can experience what David experienced. But to do so, you must seek this Lord. David described how he felt after his sin was exposed, but he hadn’t confessed his sins to God. His vitality drained away, he felt hopeless and lifeless. If that is how you feel, then do what David did: go to God with your sins and failures.

Here is a wonderful description of seeking God in the middle of your failure and guilt. David says, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Notice that David is turning to God with his failures, not to those around him. He doesn’t live in shame anymore because he is forgiven. He can hold up his head, even though everyone knows about his failures, because God is with him.

And then David gives the key to having God with him. “Therefore, let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you.” He knows that prayer brings him into God’s presence where he is safe from trouble, even the trouble he brought upon himself.

Failed Dreams

You can also struggle with hopelessness when the thing that has given your life meaning is taken from you. Perhaps it’s a job you didn’t get, an unrealized life goal, or your children turning out a certain way, but whatever you have organized your life around, its absence can leave you feeling empty and despairing

Perhaps you didn’t know how important your dream was to you until it didn’t happen. Now you are experiencing the hopelessness of a failed dream. But what does your failed dream reveal about where you find meaning? When what you have lived for is taken from you, it can feel like you are dying. You are in so much pain that suicide seems like your only alternative. But God has a better way. He will give you true, lasting hope that can never be taken away from you.

God says, in Psalm 33, that it is he who “frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10). Later in the psalm he says why-because all those hopes are futile. “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (Psalm 33:16, 17). These are things that people trusted in thousands of years ago. What you trust in – those things on which you built your life, your identity, your success – are different, but the result is the same. Anything you trust in besides God’s steadfast love for you is futile. When you put your hope in God’s love, he will deliver your soul from death (Psalm 33:18, 19).

Let the death of your dreams be the door into putting your trust in God’s love for you. He will be your help and shield. As you “trust in his holy name,” he will deliver your soul from death, from thoughts of death, and from trying to take your own life.

False Hopes

Perhaps your suicidal thinking is not from hopelessness, but from false hopes. Dreaming about and planning your suicide is what brings you hope. You believe that killing yourself will bring about some wonderful answer or solution to your problems. If you have been deeply hurt by someone, you might see suicide as a way to make others suffer. You might hope that suicide will bring an end to your suffering and those you love will be better off without you. Or you might hope that your suicidal gesture will get you what you want: attention, love, or even a break from the pressures of life. But whatever your hopes are – “I’ll be in a place of peace,” or “Then everyone will know how much they made me suffer” – if they include suicide as a solution they are a false hope

Suicide is never an answer. Two wrongs never make a right – don’t forget that suicide is a great wrong. If you have been wronged, please don’t think that suicide is the way to make that wrong better. God offers you true, living hope, not a false hope based on your death. Hope from God comes in the midst of evil and trouble and it is a hope that will never end.

Paul talks about true and living hope in the second half of Romans 8. True hope comes from knowing God as your Father and receiving his Spirit as a gift. Living as a child of God means that instead of responding to trouble by hurting yourself, you go to your heavenly Father for help. He gives you his Spirit to help you in your weakness and even teach you how and what to ask for (Romans 8:15, 16). It’s the Spirit of God that will teach you that your present sufferings “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” in you (Romans 8:18).

We live in a world where bad things happen. But you have received the best gift of all: the Spirit of life, the Holy Spirit of Jesus. You have been given the gift of a relationship with God now that will lead to an indestructible life forever. There is nothing in this world that can separate you from God’s love-not trouble, distress, hardship, or anything in all creation (Romans 8:35). God’s love will keep you safe, and it’s yours for the asking.

It’s easy to see the risk factors for suicide – depression, suffering, disillusioning experiences, failure – but there are also ways to get your life back on track by building protective factors into your life.

Ask for Help

How do you get the living hope that God offers you in Jesus? By asking. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Suicide operates in a world of death, despair, and aloneness. Jesus Christ creates a world of life, hope, and community. Ask God for help, and keep on asking. Don’t stop asking. You need him to fill you every day with the hope of the resurrection

At the same time you are asking God for help, tell other people about your struggle with hopelessness. God uses his people to bring life, light, and hope. Suicide, by definition, happens when someone is all alone. Getting in relationship with wise, caring people will protect you from despair and acting out of despair.

But what if you are bereaved and alone? If you know Jesus, you still have a family: his family is your family. Become part of a community of other Christians. Look for a church where Jesus is at the center of teaching and worship. Get in relationship with people who can help you, but don’t stop with getting help. Find people to love, serve, and give to. Even if your life has been stripped barren by lost relationships, God can and will fill your life with helpful and healing relationships

Grow in Godly Life Skills

Another protective factor is to grow in godly living. Many of the reasons for despair come from not living a godly, fruitful life. You need to learn the skills that make godly living possible. What are some of those skills?

” Conflict resolution. Learn to problem-solve by entering into human difficulties and growing through them.

” Seek and grant forgiveness. Hopeless thinking is often the result of guilt and bitterness.
” Learn to give to others.
Suicide is a selfish act. It’s a lie that others will be better off without you. Work to replace your faulty thinking with reaching out to others who are also struggling. Take what you have learned in this article and pass it on to at least one other person. Whatever hope God gives you, give to someone who is struggling with despair.

Live for God

When you live for God, you have genuine meaning in your life. This purpose is far bigger than your suffering, your failures, the death of your dreams, and the disillusionment of your hopes. Living by faith in God for his purposes will protect you from suicidal and despairing thoughts. God wants to use your personality, your skills, your life situation, and even your struggle with despair to bring hope to others.

He has already prepared good works for you to do. Paul says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). As you step into the good works God has prepared for you – you will find that meaning, purpose, and joy.

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