Nothing I’ve written has been shared more across social media than a 2013 Lunchtime Musing on the subject of suicide. Recently on our church Facebook page, a reader wrote in response to that LM, Thank you for sharing this. My son also committed suicide in November, 2015. He was a Christian, a Bible college student, a passionate soul-winner for Jesus, and a shining light in the darkness. He saw 3 of his friends commit suicide on that same weekend, and eventually he too believed The Lie. This really ministered to my heart, reminding me that Paul is with Jesus, and I will see him again because I've trusted in Jesus as well.
After accidental injuries mostly related to car crashes, the leading cause of death for 10-34 year-olds in the United States is suicide. I suspect nearly all reading today know someone or a family where suicide has been a nightmare not merely a statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), After a period of nearly consistent decline in suicide rates in the United States from 1986 through 1999, suicide rates have increased almost steadily from 1999 through 2014. While suicide among adolescents and young adults is increasing and among the leading causes of death for those demographic groups, suicide among middle-aged adults is also rising.
With that in mind, I share with you again pastoral thoughts I wrote in 2013 on the painful and very real problem of suicide among professing Christians.
The pain must be unbearable. The aftermath sucks the very life out of the family. No reasonable answers exist to answer the ultimate question, “Why did he do it?” On Mother’s Day Jonathan Hamilton died after a fall from the upper level of a Greenville, South Carolina, parking garage. The Greenville County Coroner determined the death a suicide. Jonathan grew up in a ministry home. He is the son of Ron and Shelly Hamilton, hymn writers and originators of Patch the Pirate. For those familiar with the music, Jonathan’s voice was that of PeeWee Pirate. My heart breaks for the Hamilton family.
This news follows that of Matthew Warren, son of Pastor Rick Warren. Like Jonathan, the 27-year-old PK (preacher’s kid) took his own life. My heart also breaks for this family and this pastor.
Why do people commit suicide? No simple sentence or paragraph can answer that question. The Bible tells of some who ended or attempted to end their lives. Jonah tried, but God intervened. Judas Iscariot succeeded as did King Saul. I think it is accurate to say that in the mind of the one who attempts the act there is a thought that rages, “Better dead than alive.” The thinking is, of course, a lie; nevertheless, the thinking seems, at the time, so true.
Many have a connection to someone who took or attempted to take his own life. I share that experience. Though I have no memory of him, my birth father took his own life when I was a toddler. In my capacity as a pastor, two church members took their own lives – one, a father of teens in our student ministry and another, a teen in our student ministry. Like most suicides, the families asked questions that could not be answered. To this day, my heart aches for those families.
The most recent statistics report nearly 43,000 suicides annually in the United States. Men commit suicide at a rate nearly 4 to 1 compared to women. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-34. Every day 16 senior citizens end their lives. Among those 43,000 were many born again Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ who believed The Lie, “Better dead than alive.”
When a believer attempts or commits suicide, he accepts as truth the same lie that a non-believer accepts. In many The Lie brewed for months or even years culminating in that one final act. To overcome the act, one must overcome The Lie. Our task is to help them overcome The Lie. It is not easy, but it is possible.
A few answers to suicide questions:
Yes, a born again Christian does go to heaven even if he dies at his own hands. There is nothing in the Scriptures that teaches that God’s wrath remains on a man if he commits suicide. In fact, Romans 8:38 affirms that no death of any kind can separate a believer from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Yes, the church can help people tempted to commit suicide.Sisters in Christ can and must aid other women who are distraught to the point of suicide. Brothers must connect closely enough to other men that they can aid when a man is on the verge of believing The Lie. God has given to the Church His Word, His Spirit and His Son to address every need a man has, including any needs that might cause one to consider suicide.
No, this final act does not and should not define a person’s life. It is easy for a survivor to consider the loud and abrupt end of one’s life as the moment that characterizes him. This is an unfair and inaccurate conclusion. I appreciate what my friend, Jeremy Frazor, wrote about Jonathan. Jeremy is a staff evangelist at Jonathan’s home church in Simpsonville, South Carolina.
Praying for and grieving with the Hamilton family tonight. Thinking back on his life brings a big smile to my face. I remember when God got a hold of his life as a teenager. The zeal and joy he had. He was on fire for God! Going soul winning downtown Greenville, playing soccer for the Mohicans, teaching him gymnastics and watching him flip. What a gifted person. Fun times!!! In the last couple of years, I remember a song that our team did that he wrote called, “Higher Ground.” It was awesome! I know he is enjoying Heaven! He is with Jesus Christ his Lord. I’m jealous in a good way for him. Looking forward to seeing him again soon!
No, pastoral and ministry families are not exempt from believing The Lie. We are made of the same flesh that you are. Sometimes we feel that we cannot live up to your expectations. Sometimes our children no longer want to live in the glass house. Sometimes, we believe The Lie that Jonah believed, “Better dead than live a ministry life.” Pray for us and for pastor/ministry families that you know. Be attentive to their loneliness, their moves to isolation, and to the heavy burdens they endure like the heavy burdens you endure.
No, we will not shame you or judge you if you tell us that you are tempted by The Lie. I suspect that many people, including me, have entertained the thought, “Better dead than alive.” By God’s grace we overcame through the power of the risen Jesus Christ. We know that apart from God’s grace, we too would be a statistic. We want to help you to overcome too and conclude, I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Praying for the Warren family. Praying for the Hamilton family. Praying for the people of First Calvary Baptist Church that none would believe The Lie and that all would assist any who may now be believing The Lie.
As always, I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.