I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)
In Tuesday’s study the subjects of chronic anxiety and mental illness were mentioned. There are times in which we need to seek help from those around us, including those professionals in the medical community. As Jesus followers, we are called to interact and respond to a fallen world. God put us here for a purpose, and to make a difference in the world. Sometimes we may literally be the difference between life and death for someone close to us.
Death is a difficult subject for all of us. No one wants to face his or her own mortality, or the mortality of our loved ones, even though all of us will face the death of our earthly bodies.
American culture is particularly silent on the subject of suicide. Christian tradition has not always given us a helpful or merciful approach to those who are at risk for suicide or for the loved ones left behind. For much of the history of the church, suicide was labeled as a “mortal sin” for which there is no forgiveness offered. However, there is nothing in Scripture that indicates there is an “unforgivable sin” save for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 12:31, Luke 12:10) Can we place arbitrary limits on the ability of God to redeem and save His people? Is it more congruent with what we know about God to assume that God’s default plan for His creation is redemption?
There is a taboo and a silence that surrounds the subject of suicide, so that people don’t bring it out in the open. We can be quick to rush to judgment, but only God knows the depth of the pain and anguish that would compel someone to seek his or her own physical death.
One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was bringing dark things out into the open to face the light. When we recognize something isn’t right it needs to be exposed- not to pass judgment- but to do what we can to make it right. We can help make people aware that there are better options available to work through their situations and their pain including seeking help from health professionals when necessary. We can stay in touch with our loved ones. We can take time to make sure they know how much we love them, and we can always pray for them. We can have understanding and mercy for this fallen world and for fallible humans like us. We can do everything within our power to prevent suicide, and to offer help and hope to hurting and desperate people.
The truth is that we are not called to pass judgment on anyone. We are not called to blame the person who succumbed to the desire to end his or her own life, or the people around him or her, or ourselves. Each person is intimately known by God, and only God is qualified to judge. We are called to forgive and to have mercy upon others- as well as upon ourselves.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide there is help. There are life-affirming and life-saving options.
1-800-273-8255 –National Suicide Prevention Lifeline– is available 7 days a week and 24 hours per day.