July 2, 2018 | by: Scott Denny | 0 comments
I remember in 8th grade playing the saxophone and learning the tune to M*A*S*H’s hit movie and television series. It was real catchy and I loved playing it. I never knew that it actually had a different title and even lyrics until later in life. That catchy tune’s title is “Suicide is Painless”. For those affected by suicide, however, we know that suicide is not painless.
The tragic and recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef and author Anthony Bourdain have once again put the tragedy of suicide front and center in the public square. I wasn’t very familiar with Kate Spade, though her suicide is no less tragic. But I was very familiar with Anthony Bourdain. My wife and I watched his television series, No Reservations. He was always entertaining and had insightful commentary about the people he met and the cultures he experienced through his many travels – generally culminating in a delicious meal. He brought you right into the lives and cultures of the people he spent time with, and it was not uncommon to finish the show feeling like you spent an afternoon with a nice guy.
So when I read about his suicide it struck me a little different than Kate Spade’s only days before. I was sad for his daughter, and for those he left behind who knew him and loved him. But most of all I was sad by the hopelessness he must of felt that would compel him to think that his only escape, or in his mind maybe his only hope, was to end his life. I don’t care to speculate on his motive; only God and Mr. Bourdain knew that. But I have little doubt that Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade’s final solution (the act of suicide) to whatever troubled them resonated with many - even within the church.
No doubt many reading this article have either thought about suicide, attempted suicide (or knows someone who has), or tragically maybe you’ve experienced the pain of losing someone to suicide. You know suicide is not painless. You know the darkness and the pain that accompanies the feelings of hopelessness. So, I want to remind the church that there is always a way through the most difficult of circumstances. There is always hope that is greater than despair. There is always comfort, peace, and rest found in the arms of Christ. Always.
Hopelessness. Despair. Anger. Sorrow. Grief. Guilt. Shame. These are all deep seated emotions in our hearts that are real. They hurt - sometimes gut wrenchingly so. This kind of pain causes us to think differently about life, about God, about hope. This is a kind of pain that the Apostle Paul experienced as he traveled through Asia. He confessed in his letter to the church at Corinth that he and his companions were “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” [2 Corinthians 1:8] Like Paul, there are times when looking at our circumstances we can see only the darkness and we have little strength to fight our way through.
But the gospel tells us there is a way through the pain, the despair, the hopelessness. The answer is not found in taking our own life, the answer is found in looking to the one who gave up his life so that we might have life and that abundantly. [John 10:10]
In looking to Christ, we are reminded that there is always hope even when we feel hopeless. In looking to Christ, we are reminded that we are loved even when we feel unloved. [Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1] In looking to Christ, we are reminded we are not alone, as we look to a sympathetic savior who understands and knows our pain. [Hebrews 2:18, Isaiah 53:6] In looking to Christ, we see that there is purpose in our pain. [Romans 8:28, 29] In looking to Christ, we see a way through the pain. [1 Corinthians 10:13]
Ultimately, for each of us there is always help, healing and hope to see beyond and through the pain. Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” [Matthew 11:28-29]
I recognize this sounds so formulaic and naively simplistic. I don’t mean to diminish or make light of someone’s real experience; that is far from my intent. Yet, if we are to believe that God is a God of hope, and comfort and an ever present help in times of trouble, then we must look to the One who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We must look to the One who compassionately cares for the forgotten and lonely. [Mark 1:40-45] We must look to the One who tenderly cares for the guilty and ashamed. [Luke 7:48] We must, therefore, trust the One, who says, “come.”
Look to the One, dear reader, who knows rejection, abandonment, sorrow, and grief. [Isaiah 53:3] He understands. He bids you look to the One who is full of compassion and come – come to the One who can give you rest. Come to the One who gives you hope to see beyond and through the darkness, and look to Jesus who is the Light of the World.
For those struggling to find hope, know that there is help for you. Talk to someone. Speak to a parent, a friend, a pastor. Let someone know that you’re struggling to think upon what is right and true. There is hope in the darkness, dear reader. Let someone lift you up and help you fix your eyes upon Christ, our living hope. [1 Peter 1:3]
If you cannot speak to someone near to you, then please call someone at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255. Suicide is not painless. Let someone help you turn from the pain and towards hope.
I can’t recall where I found these 13 truths or to whom to attribute them (aside from the scripture that is), but I want to share them with you – the reader. Perhaps you need to hear these now, or maybe you can share them with someone who does.
1. You are not alone.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
2. You have value.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” “Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 10:31)
3. God cares about your tears.
“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
4. You can find help.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 4:15-16)
5. Your life has purpose.
“I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
6. What you are going through is temporary.
“Do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
7. There is a good way forward, even when life is hard.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
8. You are more than your outward appearance.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
9. You cannot imagine what good lies in store for you.
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man—the things which God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
10. You will not always feel this way.
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9; Psalm 30:5)
11. You are greatly loved.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” “How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 3:18)
12. You will not be put to shame.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.” “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For he himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Isaiah 54:4; Hebrews 13:5-6)
13. God is up to good in your life.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28)
Scott Denny is a Pastor at Grace Bible Church
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