We recently attended a memorial service for a young woman who took her own life just days before her 30th birthday. I melted down when I watched her mother raise her hands in worship during the service. She lost her husband last fall and now her daughter. The family is large, and fully committed to their Christian faith. Mom has any number of comforters in this season. But to lose a child by their own hand??
This young woman was a joy! She willingly served in a variety of aspects at church. Usually behind the scenes, she seemed more comfortable there. She was kind, thoughtful, funny, warm and loving. I had the joy of spending time with her while we served in the young adult ministry. She sent her siblings to me for tailoring needs. I even got to alter a sister-in-law’s wedding gown. And her skills carving watermelons were epic!
But I don’t think anyone completely knew her internal pain. Her family stated that she ‘lost her battle with depression’. As it turns out she also suffered with debilitating physical pain, from a traumatic head injury she suffered as a teen. I’m not sure anyone knew about either issue. It left me wondering how she would have responded,
If we’d only known…
Suicide is generally on the rise, especially among young people. There is a hopelessness that lives in the next generation. Speculation about why is all over the place, pick your issue. It’s the number 4 reason for death in our country. And it leaves a community, let alone a family, asking questions that will probably never have answers.
Why didn’t we see this coming?
What could we have done differently?
Will she/he still go to heaven?
Is this a sin, deception or simply the outcome of untreated mental illness?
One of her brothers is a pastor and he tackled most of these questions in his talk. He unequivocally stated that her action was sin. To take a life, or to murder it intentionally, is Biblical sin. And he Scripturally spoke on the hope that we have as believers, that it’s not an unforgivable one. He wrapped up his talk with this statement,
“She was in a bad place, but she was in the right person”
I really liked that. It spoke to me. I was taught that suicide was unforgivable because you couldn’t repent of it, and I suppose theoretically its true. But I decided long ago, that only God knows a persons heart upon their death and I’m very thankful that he’s our judge. Not only do I not want the job, I don’t want anyone else to have it.
It isn’t often that the word ‘sin’ is used anywhere in church anymore, let alone a memorial service. I was sort of struck by her brother’s use of it. I agreed with his stance and was very moved that the entire family (which I again stress is very large) was on the same page about this. But that word…it kind of sounded,
Churchy, out of touch and even old fashioned
Sin is something that humans (even non believers) have to deal with their entire lives. Now lest you accuse me of being someone who uses that statement to excuse sinful behavior, let me disabuse you of that idea. Jesus won our freedom from the power of sin in all it’s forms, on the cross. It is no longer our master, holding us captive to it’s wicked ways.
Excuses be gone!
But the effects of sin in this world will always exist. Whether we battle our own sins or rub against the sins of other people, we will deal with sin until we meet Jesus. Our friend’s brother wasn’t wrong in calling her action a sin, no matter how much that might hurt the grieving family.
The more we understand mental illness, the more we can be sensitive to the needs of those who live with it. So much is still being discovered despite the wonderful progress made in recent years. But one of the biggest temptations for sufferers is to become,
Isolation becomes a garden patch for all kinds of harmful thoughts and behaviors to flourish in. It encourages a downward spiral that can be hard to break.
A Christian who takes their life may end their earthly suffering, which can be a small comfort to their loved ones. But the finality of the action is a judgement. It judges their own life unworthy of existing, and it leaves their loved ones judged incapable of understanding, having empathy, and helping them find hope and healing.
So what to do with all of this?
Firstly, be aware. Is someone that you usually run across and have a relationship with absent? Has it been awhile since you’ve seen them in your world? Don’t assume its because of the pandemic anymore. Raise that awareness among their other friends and associates and reach out until they respond.
Don’t let them get away with isolating!
Secondly, make time. Because of the pandemic, we’ve all become comfortable with less face to face interaction, but that’s not the way humans are created. Once you hunt down your isolated friend/relative, make time for them. Listen, hear and simply be with them. Hurting people need safe spaces to be heard.
No judging either, feelings are simply feelings!
Too often we try and solve a persons problems rather than simply listen to them. Understanding that we aren’t called to fix people, but to love them creates room for each of us to be ourselves, the most true expression of how Jesus loves us.
Of course broken people need to be mended and fixed, and it’s rare that other people aren’t used in the process! But it begins with simply hearing someone. Allowing them to share their story and welcome you into their world.
One of our greatest needs is to be known
Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”
I want to be wherever the Lord is, close to the broken hearted