More about the last enemy

One week ago I attended the funeral of a friend. He had battled severe mental health issues for the past ten years. In the end, he ended his life by his own hands.

The church was filled to capacity. Like most of the people who came, I tried to say a few words of comfort to the family of the deceased. His father remarked to me that they had nearly lost him this way on two earlier occasions. I think that, even in his shock and his sorrow, the young man’s father was able to treasure the time the two of them had shared.

What does one say at the funeral of a person who has committed suicide? The preacher was magnificent. He began his sermon by expressing his own regrets, his own fears that he had not been a good enough pastor, not persistent enough in reaching out to the deceased. He went on to say that he expected that many of us—family members, friends, co-workers—felt the same sense of guilt, of not having done enough. He assured us that whatever mistakes we had made, whatever sins we had committed, God’s forgiveness covers them all. He then also assured us that the same is true of the man whose death we mourned. Whatever mistakes he made and whatever sins he committed, God’s forgiveness covers them all. He reminded us (and quoted to us) the Scripture promises of unconditional forgiveness and of a resurrection to eternal life in a better world—a perfect world.

Christians find it hard to talk about suicide. We never want to appear to approve of suicide, to treat it as less than sinful. We want to discourage any person from committing the sin of murdering one’s self. At the same time, we want to be careful not to speak of suicide as an unforgiveable sin. The only unforgiveable sin is refusing to repent and rejecting God’s forgiveness. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word of God and his blessings to bring people to repentance and to faith.

How can one repent of suicide after succeeding in the act? God’s forgiveness is not limited to the sins we remember to list when we repent and confess our sins. Like the Psalm, we pray, “Forgive my hidden faults.” In the model prayer Jesus taught, we pray for forgiveness; and God’s forgiveness, won for us at the cross, covers all our sins.

God’s forgiveness and our faith are not a series of events. They are a continuing relationship. A Christian who dies in his or her sleep is not lost because of the inability to confess faith while sleeping. A person who slips into senility is not lost, no matter what words or actions occur during the months or years of sickness before death. A Christian battling mental illness who, in a minute of weakness, causes his or her own death is not lost to God forever. The act of suicide is a sin, but Jesus paid for even that sin by offering his own life as a sacrifice on the cross. As the letter to the Romans assures us, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

From the beginning of the sermon to the end of the service, tears welled out of my eyes. (I cannot remember the last time I cried in public—it was a long time ago.) I grieved, but not like those who have no hope. Death is our enemy, but death is already a conquered enemy. Jesus has defeated death, and he shares his victory with us all. I will see my friend again at the resurrection on the Last Day, and both of us will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. J.

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “More about the last enemy

  1. What a powerful testimony of forgiving faith that is stronger than sin. I am a Christian who has attempted suicide. I’ve been dealing with the guilt of what I tried to do. At its root, suicide is the sin of ingratitude for the life God has given us. But, as you so aptly put it, it is a sin that Christ has covered in the blood of the cross. I’ll leave it up to God how He does this. But I am now grateful for the gift of life and want to celebrate this with others.

    Thank you very much for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I am glad that your suicide attempt was unsuccessful. As you deal with feelings of guilt (along with the other feelings that drove you to that point), I pray that you find comfort and peace at the cross of Christ. J.

      Like

  2. I’m only recently coming into my faith journey and one of the first things I asked a pastor after my late husband committed suicide was, “where is he?” His answer was “I dont know.” I had grown up thinking it was an unforgivable sin but i have learned that is not the truth. In reading the bible, going to bible studies and talking to women of faith I am assured he is is with Christ and is no longer suffering. Thank you for this post. And I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. – Erin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For the most part insanitybytes22 said what I might have said, but I guess I still have a few words. I was raised as a Catholic and taught to have a dim view of suicide. Time cured that. I understand why someone might kill themselves and think they are doing something that makes sense. Despair is what we call that. Despair is a spiritual problem, not a mental illness. Does God forgive despair? I hope so because I have felt the pangs of despair. Most of us do.

    I have seen someone close to me caught in the throes of mental illness. It was a frightening thing to watch. They were not responsible for their conduct. Eventually it became obvious they could not make sense of anything. Fortunately, what they suffered could be cured with a pill. Some are not so fortunate. Sometimes the only help we can give someone is to love them. What difference that makes we will only know in the life to come.

    Thank you for sharing your grief.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I agree with IB that body, mind, and spirit are intertwined. While there is a difference between despair and clinical depression, they feel about the same. If God could handle the depression/despair of Elijah and Job, among others, surely he forgives ours as well. J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t exactly know how God decides who goes to heaven. All I know is that God knows the human heart better than we know our own heart.

        If we think our happiness in heaven depends upon someone else being there, we should pray for that loved one. Our Father listens to the prayers of those who love His Son.

        Liked by 1 person

      • According to his book, God opens the door for all people through the sacrifice of his Son. Those who reject the sacrifice and want to receive what they deserve are barred from heaven (because that is what they deserve). Getting into specific cases is troublesome; I’m glad that he is the Judge and not I. In the case of my friend, though, I know the strength of his faith in Jesus. I have no doubt that he is with Jesus in Paradise right now. J.

        Like

  4. Amen,Salvageable. I am so sorry for your loss. Mental illness and suicide are grievous things indeed and something we do not talk about in the church nearly enough. I fear speaking of it too, least I give somebody ideas or cause them to obsess over it or something.

    I totally agree with you, God knows what lurks in the hearts of those who are mentally ill and suicidal and God is merciful and good. In our world, human judges are quite willing to look at things like not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetence. God is even wiser and more merciful then a human judge, so I doubt He would condemn the actions of someone who suffered from mental illness. CS Lewis wrote his famous piece about how there will be surprises in heaven as we finally get to see people as they really are, separate from their ailments, like severe indigestion.

    One thing I do wish we would come to understand, disease is a thing of mind, body ,and spirit. So illness cannot be all in your head anymore than it can be all in your body. We need to figure out how to treat people holistically, as full human beings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Someone–I wish I could give credit where credit is due–wrote last year, “Of course my depression is all in my head. Where did you think it might be–in my toenails?” We truly need to see ourselves and one another as full human beings. You are right, the Church could do a better job in this area. J.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. In the model prayer Jesus taught, we pray for forgiveness; and God’s forgiveness, won for us at the cross, covers all our sins.
    ^ Exactly. I wish I could quote him, but TD Jakes has said, Jesus already knew what you were gonna do, what you’re about to do, what you’re thinkin’ about doin’… His blood covers all of it.
    I’m sorry for your loss. My mom intentionally drank herself to death (like her mother), so I struggled with that for a while, kicking myself for not realizing it. I couldn’t have stopped her anyway though. Everything was set in motion long before any of us were born.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s