May God bless and keep you in your time of overwhelming grief. I wanted to let you know that, whatever you may hear from elsewhere or think within your own heart, your loved one is not condemned or judged because of his/her actions. If you believe the Bible, I can assure that there is absolutely nowhere in the text where suicide is condemned as some kind of unforgiveable sin, or as a sin at all.
Judas was strongly condemned by the various writers of the New Testament, but his condemnation was for his betrayal of Christ – not his response to that betrayal. In fact, in the Middle Eastern culture of the 1st century, suicide was an honorable act of self-punishment by one who had committed a crime or brought dishonor to one’s self or family. In the Roman Empire, Roman citizens were granted the opportunity to commit suicide in place of execution, whereas crucifixion was reserved only for traitors against the state.
What I have learned over the years in working with families and with those who have attempted suicide is that those who consider it have reached a state of deep depression, despair, disconnection, trauma, or hysteria. Many who commit suicide do so from a self-conviction that the world will truly be a better place without them, although we know that is not true. Just as the risen Christ reached out in love to Peter, who denied him three times, I have no doubt that Christ would have embraced Judas and welcomed him. So does Christ embrace your loved one now, even as Christ embraces you in your sorrow.
Of course, you are asking questions like, “Why?” and “What could I or anyone else have done to prevent this?” The fact is that every day we decide whether to live or die. We take the choice of life for granted if we are blessed with mental health, but our barricades of emotional self-protection can be breached from without and within. I believe that ultimately, when all the safety nets have failed, God is the one safety net that never fails us. Suicide is an act of pain, not of evil, and Christ understands pain to a depth that we will never understand.
Whatever your belief may be, allow me to say a prayer for you, and may it comfort you this day and in the time to come:
Great and Infinite God, Source of Life both now and eternal, you have plumbed the depths of despair so deep that we cannot even imagine it. We raise up to you the spirit of this loved one, lost in the anguish of this world, but restored by an unconditional love beyond our understanding. Help us not to hear the judgments of others, but to remember, and embrace, the words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Amen.
Almighty God, Author of Time;
As we stand before the gateway to a new year, we humbly pray for your mercy and eternal love. We cannot know what may lie ahead, but whatever may come, help us to be thankful in our blessings and faithful in our trials. In every moment of 2017, grant us the presence of your Holy Spirit, that we may practice compassion, fairness, understanding, and patience in the face of suffering and injustice.
Lord, lift our hearts in times of despair, and keep us ever mindful that we are called to live boldly as children of your wise purpose. In the name of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray,
Christ our brother, as we journey into the weekend, grant us rest for our bodies and food for our souls. Warm the hearths of our homes with the love of family and the laughter of friends, and grant us moments of worship, that You may know our gratitude for all of Your blessings. Amen.
“Christians should put survival of the planet ahead of national security…Here is the mystery of our global responsibility: that we are in communion with Christ- and we are in communion with all people…The fact that the people of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Russia, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia are our brothers and sisters is not obvious. People kill each other by the thousands and do not see themselves as brothers and sisters. If we want to be real peace-makers, national security cannot be our primary concern. Our primary concern should be survival of humanity, the survival of the planet, and the health of all people. Whether we are Russians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, or North Americans, we belong to the same human family that God loves. And we have to start taking some risks- not just individually, but risks of a more global quality, risks to let other people develop their own independence, risks to share our wealth with others and invite refugees to our country, risks to offer sanctuary- because we are people of God…”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen (click for bio)
Nouwen died in 1996, but the relevancy of this quote for today is astonishing. The Dutch have always been some of the most courageous people on the planet. Look at their history to see this.