Tuesday, April 2, 2019

For the Survivors

A few weeks ago, I did a piece on abortion and the proper Christian understanding of it. After I published it, I was asked to do something similar in regard to assisted suicide. The series that followed delved into the nature of human life, the philosophy behind the push for legalized assisted suicide, the theology of the sanctity of life, and the implications of the debate.

What I did not cover in any type of depth, however, was the devastation left in the wake of suicide. It was a purposeful omission at the time. Suicide as a topic is something you can cover generally. Being left behind by suicide is much more personal. The Quest Forums ministry cannot really say anything directly to anyone, which is what people actually need in this situation. However, I have been asked to try.

Someone sent me the question of what to do when a loved one commits suicide. I will therefore do my best to offer a few thoughts that I hope will be true for most everyone who finds themselves in this dreadful position. I can only begin by saying that I am painfully aware of how unequal I am to the task. Pray for all those who face this that the Lord will send them comfort, because that is what they need most of all.

While I wish to be comforting, that does not give me the right to hide the truth. That means I might have some hard things to say here, or things that might be hard to hear. I ask that, as much as you can at this time, you consider the role of emotion in your response. It is an undeniable factor. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, then I can be certain it has caused emotional turmoil for you. Grief is a given. Anger is also likely. Surely, you have wondered how they could do this to you. Maybe there has even been relief because their suffering is over, or because your suffering on their behalf is over. And on top of all the others, guilt can be experienced along the way. Guilt for being relieved, guilt for being sad, guilt for being angry, and maybe even guilt for feeling like you were the reason they did what they did.

Do you think you should feel guilty, though? It is hard to overcome that feeling, but please take a hard look at it. You did not cause this, and you did not make this choice. They did it themselves, and they did it for themselves. Maybe you will be angry at me for saying so, but this is the truth. Suicide is a selfish act. They were not thinking about you when they did it. Not really. Suicides tell themselves that the world is better off without them, and they often leave messages to that effect. That is a lie to comfort themselves that they are doing the right thing. Their only concern is to escape their own suffering. No one should have to feel guilty because someone else gave up.

You shouldn’t have to be angry either, though. Your loved one was suffering. I believe they chose the wrong way to respond to it, but I do not deny the reality of it. Neither should you. Pity them. Miss them. That is the healthiest thing you can do. You do not have to justify them. We can understand a choice without agreeing with it, without condoning it. They were in pain. They were lost in it. Do not hate them because it drove them to the wrong conclusion.

The most uncomfortable thing for me to discuss here is eternal destiny. I do not know the heart of any other person. Neither do you. We can make educated guesses, but certainty is an impossibility. All I know is that salvation is a matter of the heart and it only comes about when we trust in Christ. I cannot tell you where the person you are missing is. The most I can do now is make an offer for your own benefit.

You can know, right now, that God loves you with a love that lasts forever. He loved you so much that He died and returned to life for you. Present pain does not invalidate His concern for you. Truth is, it only makes it that much more necessary. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, now is the time to start one. Trust that He can cover your sins, and believe that He did. Do not let another day go by without securing your future.

If your loved one called themselves a believer, meanwhile, then I have no reason to say otherwise. Christians struggle with all the same things people in the world do. When I say that Jesus forgives all sins when we trust in Him, I mean all. Suicide is not excluded. A Christian can make that choice and still remain saved. Remember that salvation is about Christ, not about us. They did the wrong thing. They quit. But God does not quit on us (2 Tim. 2:13). A suicide obviously has no strength, but I praise the Lord He does not require our strength to enter His kingdom. None of us would make it if He did.

Lastly, I will remind you that these are general things for a painfully personal situation. At this distance, you might not feel like much of anything here is useful. If you see one thing, though, let it be this. Don’t go through this time alone. Find people who can help you personally. Other people have been where you are. Talk to them. And mental health professionals are trained and experienced to guide you through your grief. Meet with one. This is not something you should try to handle alone.

I pray I have been of some small help, and that you do not stop until you find all the help you need. Lean on God above all. He loves you, and He will carry you through this. There are no easy answers, but He hasn’t abandoned you. Look for Him and you will see how even this can be overcome in His goodness.

One brief note for those who are not struggling with this pain: look out for those you know who are. Comfort them with God’s presence, and encourage them to seek support and guidance through their difficulties. They are going to want answers. I know I can’t give them. Do you think you can? What matters is helping them hold the pieces while they put their life back together. We are to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). Sometimes, that is all we can do, but the love of Christ will be evident in it. Let that be enough.

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