Archive | Suicide

Suicidal Thoughts on Suicide

“Your packing a suitcase to a place that none of us has been. A place that has to be believed to be seen.”

“Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”

I have needed to write this ever since the death of Robin Williams. Every public suicide gets to me. Well . . . every suicide I hear about gets to me, public or not. I wish it didn’t. I wish it was some distant thing that was as familiar to me as plane crashes, getting struck by lightening, or the death penalty. Sure, I have heard about those things and they are tragic, but they are what happens to those on the other side of the world, not to me. Suicide is different since, as many of you know, my sister killed herself in 2004.

These are suicidal thoughts on suicide because when I think about this subject or put some thoughts to paper, it is almost more than I can bear. To think this world affords us the pain and suffering that it must take to pull the proverbial trigger makes me quite troubled.

Statistics on Suicide

Here are some basic statistics on suicide:

  • A suicide occurs every 15 minutes in USA
  • 35,000 per year
  • Fourth leading cause of death of people ages 18-65
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but twice as many females as males attempt suicide.
  • Firearms account for 60 percent of all suicides.
  • More active duty soldiers die from suicide than from combat

“Hold me now . . . Cause I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking, maybe six feet ain’t that far down.”

“One Last Breath”

Suicides in the Bible

It might be interesting to note that there are quite a few suicides recorded in the Bible. Here is what I found.

1. Abimelech – Judges 9:54

2. Samson – Judges 16:30

3. King Saul  – 1 Sam. 31:4

4. King Saul’s armour-bearer – 1 Sam 31:5

5. Ahithophel – 2 Sam. 17:23

6. Zimri – 1 Kings 16:18

7. Judas – Matt. 27:5

Questions About Suicide

1. Can Christians Kill Themselves?

The simple answer to this question is “yes.” To somehow make suicide as an unforgivable sin is not only unbiblical but destroys the essence of the Gospel. Despite this, there are many Christians who have been led to believe that suicide cannot be forgiven. Where does this come from? Continue Reading →

The Asphyxiation of Hope: Matthew Warren (1986-2013)

I got the news on the road to Florida. My family and I, along with my mother, are in Florida for the Gospel Coalition conference. After this, we will head directly to Dallas, where I will participate in the Christian Renaissance conference. News like this breaks me more than anything else. I fell completely apart. I probably should not be writing. I wept for a bit. We were already having so many other issues on the drive, and this nearly put me over the top.  I just wanted to turn around. The Gospel Coalition and Christian Renaissance conferences are incredible and so valuable . . . for a certain type of person. But for those who have a broken mind and broken spirit, where do they go? What conference is there for Christians who can’t find any peace? What conference is there for those who have all the right doctrine and beliefs, but find no healing from them? What conference is there for those whose hope has been asphyxiated?

As I typed “2013 minus 27” in my calculator to figure out when Matthew was born (1986), I realized I was too hurt to think deeply about that right now. How cold. For some reason, coming up with those numbers put me too close, so a distant calculator was better. But what good would these words be, if I selfishly let Matthew turn into just a set of numbers?  1986-2013. Let those numbers sink in.

I did not know Matthew Warren. I don’t know his father, Rick Warren (at least not personally).  I am very familiar with his ministry. Unfortunately, most of the time I hear about Rick Warren is when someone tries to throw his life and ministry under the bus just to drum up some controversy. I have never joined this crowd in the slightest. Rick Warren’s focus and heart are amazing. What he has done for so many to increase the glory of Christ is beyond measure. His book, The Purpose-Driven Life, is a wonderful book that lit a fire in the hearts of many stagnant Christians.

Yesterday, as I continued to drive after hearing the news, here is where my thoughts went.  Pastor Warren led millions to find their purpose in life.  Yet the one closest to him, the one for whom he undoubtedly felt the most responsible, the one whom he loved the most, could not find that same purpose to drive his life. I also bowed my head as I thought of critics, whose minds might be so poisoned as to make them want to turn the blame back on Rick Warren. I have not read or heard of any who have, but God help those who do. Continue Reading →

Depression – When We Want to Die

For many of us, “Monday morning blues” simply refers to that mild sadness many of us feel when the weekend break is over. The prospect of a long week of the daily grind brings blue feelings. However, for many ministers, Monday means something different. Monday is often the beginning of our weekend. When I was at Stonebriar Community Church, Mondays were my day off. And they were dangerous days. Why? Well, the general principle goes like this: after great victories, there are great vulnerabilities. Having just completed my Sunday lessons which were bathed in prayer, hope, anticipation, and mental sweat (not to mention the acute pressure of the delivery), it was time to (ahem) let my hair down. Monday was my “free” day to relax and reflect. But, as with all relaxing, there was some risky business involved.

David Jeremiah (whose grace and transparency I am coming to appreciate more and more), on his program Turning Point, talked about depression today. He said that in his own ministry, he has learned to be careful after great times of success. He describes how, over the years, whenever his church successfully finished a grueling building campaign, he would get down and depressed. As he puts it, “the greater the wave, the greater the valley.” When we are riding the waves in our lives that call for great attention, bringing with them great pressure and anticipation, we have a remarkable ability to gird up our loins and run the race until it is complete. But it is during those times of rest after the race that we begin to pay our dues. Our muscles tighten, our arms go above our heads to allow the expansion of our lungs and, eventually, we collapse. This collapse, for many of us, is an open door to depression.

As many of you know, I am much more timid than I used to be about depression. I live with a greater degree of fear (respect?) for what our minds can do to us. I “collapsed” a few years ago. I think there was a marathon (or wave) in my life that lasted for many years. I got married, immediately went to seminary, finished my four-year trek in two and a half, had four children, went on pastoral staff at Stonebriar Community Church, and survived my sister’s depression and suicide in 2004 and my mother’s stroke in 2006. What I did not know at the time was that I was living on borrowed energy, emotion, and hope. Where was it borrowed from? The next five or six years. In exercise, there is a technical term for this. It is called “anaerobic” (without oxygen) exercise. It is where your body works at such an intensity that it has to perform without oxygen. We can have short bursts of strength that we pay for later. However, in exercise, we normally know when to quit. We know that “Monday” is coming when we won’t be able to move a muscle. We know that we will pay for it later. It is not so easy to sense this with our emotions. We project resiliency and stability during the “anaerobic” times of our lives, but telling ourselves that this is the way we are, we expect the resiliency and stability to last indefinitely. We believe we can handle it. This can be pride (especially for us men who often don’t have to deal with chronic emotional volatility the way women do), but it can also just be ignorance. Continue Reading →

For those considering suicide . . .

Considering how much my last post on suicide is being read combined with how many personal emails I am getting from the P&P audience about this, I thought I would update this post and share it with you all.

There have been few times when I feared for my life—I mean really feared for my life. I remember one time more than any other. It was the day that I found Angie, my sister, with a gun in a hotel room. It was a miracle that I found her before she had a chance to use it on herself. On the way home in my car, I drove as my sister cried. It was not a sad cry of repentance but a cry of anger and despondence. Her dejection and frantic embitterment caused me to lock the doors so that she would not jump out of the car while driving. “Why did you come?” She screamed at me.” Don’t you understand? I have to die!” I tried to stay silent and concentrate on the road. It was not safe on I-35 that day. I imagined her reaching over and pulling the steering wheel sending us both into an overpass. I really thought that she would. I tried to fight back the tears as her pain created great empathy for her death. By this time in the story, I almost wished that I had not found her. I almost wished that I let her take her life.

This was the argument that she had made to me many times over. “Michael, no one will care. . . . At least everyone will soon get over it. All of your lives will return to normal soon. But my pain will be over.” We, my mother and sisters, would try to respond telling her that the pain that she has now will be multiplied to all of us if she were to die. “Is that what you really want?” we would ask. She did not believe us.

Suicide is a form of death that cannot be likened to any other. There are many tragic ways to die, but to be at a point where one is willing to take their own life—when the fear of living becomes greater than the fear of death—has no comparison. To have a loved one who commits suicide produces sadness, pain, and guilt that rivals the pain of the one who commits it. “What did I do wrong?” “Why couldn’t I save her?” “Why couldn’t it have been me?” These are all common thoughts of those who have experienced such in their lives.

My mother was the first to go. She tried to be strong during the first few months after Angie’s death, but we could all tell that consolation was far from her. The guilt of a mother, justified or not, is incredible in such situations. Her relationship with God, while present, was somewhat apathetic. “I will follow him, but I don’t like him,” she would say to me. She never slept. She laid on the couch all night long with the TV on. She would cry often, but try to be strong around us. She just wanted to be with Angie.

After two years, her health was not good. While her mother, my grandmother, has lived into her nineties, sorrow was attempting to take my mom’s life early. She would have been happy for it to have defeated her, but such was not the case. Sorrow only took half of her. She suffered from an aneurysm and an ensuing stroke in 2006. While few people survive a brain aneurysm, my mother did. The doctors said that it was the worse one he had seen in 25 years of surgery. They had to remove much of the frontal lobe. She may have been okay had not a stroke followed due to the blood around her brain. When all was done, when sorrow had run its course on my mother’s body, she had lost speech, her right eye sight, and she was completely immobile on her right side. She cannot walk, talk, and we still wonder how much she knows. All day long she sits in a chair in her living room watching the same movies over and over. While she can sing an entire song, she cannot put a sentence together and she seems pretty disconnected to what is going on around her.

My father was next. Guilt. Guilt of a father who did not really know his daughter. Guilt of a father who did not rescue her from her pain. Guilt of a father who was the last one to see her walk out the door. Guilt of a father who thought that things would just turn out positive like they always have. Shortly after Angie’s death, my dad began drinking again. He just drowned himself in his sorrow. Self-pity is an alluring friend. Within two years he had three DUIs.
Continue Reading →

Do People Who Commit Suicide Go to Hell?

Here is an email question that I received with the response to follow:

Good Afternoon:
I am writing to you under emotional pangs, as I wrestle with the Scriptures, and what I hear from certain others who are Christian.

The husband of a friend of mine committed suicide. My friend, I know well, and her love and defense of the Scriptures. But I only know of her husband’s belief by what she tell me, and his attendance to church. She said he prayed a lot and loved God, her and their children.

But he yielded to suicide. And from what I understand, this was a long term fight to avoid that. He subsequently said he was going for walk, and he was found in a park, after shooting himself.

Here is a man who “claimed” to love Jesus, but his actions to me, deny his having made Jesus Lord and Master over his life. Rather, he must have had Satan as master.

I used to believe in “free will” but after a long study of the Sovereignty of God, I changed my mind. That study took several years. So I can’t say this man had free will unless he remains outside of God’s Lordship, where he does what the flesh does…. denies the power, promises, and love that God has living within us.

The pastor at the services said what my friend said, he is in heaven, due to the Grace of God.

But how can a person be tempted to kill himself then actually follow through with it, if he has Life in him? And Hope. These reign over Death and Hell.

My Response

Thanks for the questions. These are very good questions, and necessary to struggle with.

You said: “But how can a person be tempted to kill himself then actually follow through with it, if he has Life in him?”

How could David have killed Uriah? How could Peter have denied Christ. How could John have fallen down and worshiped an angel? How could Paul struggle with sin the way he does in Roman 7? Why would Paul exhort Christians to “walk in the spirit and therefore not carry out the deeds of the flesh” if it was a foregone conclusion that Christians cannot walk in the flesh? How could the Galatians (whom Paul considers “brethren”) have turned back toward the law after knowing Christ? How could the Corinthians live as spiritual babes, living in strife, jealously, and envy?

The answer: we are all sinners.

My sister committed suicide. She had been with me at seminary and was one of my primary means of encouragement throughout my younger ministry years. She was a prayer warrior, an aspiring evangelist, and one of the most generous people I have ever known. She fell into depression—terrible depression. Depression is a powerful result of the fall that ends up taking a lot of people’s lives. What she did was sin. Yes, it was premeditated as well. Continue Reading →

Why is God So Silent?

If I were in charge of the universe, I would most certainly do things differently. Hey, this is a given. God already said that his ways are not my ways. I also know that his ways are better than my ways. I would just do some things differently.

I doubt there is anyone who has ever escaped the subject of “divine hiddenness.” Maybe you have not termed it as such, but you have often wondered why God does not reveal himself in a way that is more satisfactory to our longings for experiential intimacy with him. “With him” may not be the right way to put it. A better way would be to say that we long for experiential intimacy with “the other side.” As someone has once said, “One out of every one people dies.” These are pretty good odds. We know that one day we will die and experience that which awaits us beyond death. Yet this life is virtually void of “signs” from the “other side.” In a way, all we have to work from is what Phillip Yancey terms “rumors” of another world. There is quit a bit of mystery, even for Christians, as to what exactly “the other side” will be like. This can scare us. In fact, it can scare us so badly that we avoid death at all costs.

Of course, as Christians, we do have faith that this “other world” is real and that heaven is an actual place where God awaits us. We also have faith that God, from this “other world,” has spoken to us through Scripture. Yet we long for an experiential intimacy that parallels the norms of our lives today. We want to hear the voice of God. We have questions for him. We desire a sense experience that is often referred to as “empirical.” We want to see vivid signs of the other side that will solidify our faith and alleviate any residue of doubt that might does exist.

As Christians, God’s silence—God’s hiddenness—should not come as any surprise. Yes, I might do things differently. Were I on God’s board of directors, I might give him some gentle encouragement to be a little more open to showing himself, especially to his own children. But the fact is that we will not see God, hear God, or touch God in the way we so desire. If we did, the Christian worldview would be compromised as the Scripture tells us we should not expect to have our faith experienced though such empirical means.

Peter says, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1Pet. 1:8-9)

You see, Peter here assumes that we have not seen Christ (or God or the Holy Spirit). At least visually. Peter’s point would be moot if he did not mean to include all other forms of experiencing God empirically. The fact is that when Christ ascended into heaven, that was the last we have seen or heard from him in such a way. The door to the “other side” was shut.

Please note: I did not say “That was the last time he was active in an evident way.” Big difference. The point is that we do not and will not directly experience God through our eyes, ears, or hands until Christ returns. 

Why does God stay so hidden? Continue Reading →

A Grief Letter to My Sister Angie (1969-2004)

Dear Angie,

We just passed the 6 year anniversary of your death. I guess it was the evening of January 4, 2004 (that is what the medical examiner said), but Kristie (your sister, not my wife) thinks it is January 5 because that morning her back door blew open. Remember, she had Drew that night. She says you came to see him one last time. I told her that was dumb, but she really holds on to that. Anyway, who cares, right?

We all really miss you. There is a certain amount of darkness that follows us everywhere we go. I suppose that this “cloud” (isn’t that what you always called it?) will be with us until Christ. I have a hard time as I often wonder if I am wallowing in self-pity because of what you did and because of mom. It was just such a short period of time to have lost you both. But I really can feel sorry for myself. It’s funny because the week after you died (or maybe it was the weekend before), Chuck preached on Joshua. It was when Joshua was taking over for Moses after Moses had died. God told Joshua (to paraphrase), “Moses my servant is dead, now you must lead my people.” You know how Chuck is. Very straight forward, matter of fact, with that deep low voice? He said, “Let me be frank. Some of you are wallowing in pity over someone who has died. MOVE ON! They are dead, you are not! I don’t mean to be insensitive, but some of you need to get on with God’s mission.” It was something like that. I really needed to hear it, but so often I cannot get over it. I have learned to live with it, but none of us can get over it.

Angie, I don’t really know where you are. I think you are with the Lord. I hope that you are with the Lord. But you remember all those times before you died that you asked me about whether or not there really was a God. Remember driving back from Oklahoma City and we went through the five options? 1) Nothing created everything. 2) Chance created everything. 3) Everything came from nothing. 4) Everything is eternal. 5) An eternal God created everything. (That actually made it into my Trinitarianism course!) Just the very fact that I had to try to persuade you that God existed scared me. You used to call me in the early nineties when you could not sleep and ask me the same thing. You were mad at him for not answering your prayers about your sleeplessness. That was the first time I felt like a pastor, since you called me to ask me about it. Anyway, you seemed so full of doubt and unbelief before you died. Remember when you were upstairs at our house crying and angry that God would not take away your depression? You used me as your “God punching bag” (remember, I would always say to you and mom, “Just because I am in ministry, does not mean that I am your punching bag for God”). You said that you did not even believe in him any more. For the last month, you went really cold toward everything. That is why I don’t like to ask where you are. I do, however, tell everyone that you died with Chuck’s Day by Day book in front of you. I think you are with him.

There is just so much to say…

(BTW: I was encouraged to write this “grief letter” to you and share it. So that is what I am doing.) Continue Reading →

She Died of Sadness

I heard the song on the radio today. “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. I hate that song. Every time it comes on, I change it. I usually don’t run from such pain, but I can’t . . . not that song. We played it at the funeral. “In a cold dark hotel room . . .” How did Sarah know? But I listened to more than usual; more than I should have.

My children are 10, 8, 6, and 2.  I wish so much that they had a chance to know Angie better. Katelynn, my oldest, knew her pretty well. Kylee a little. Their memories, I’m sure,  are quickly fading. Will was just two months old when she died. Zach was not born.

I often talk to them about Angie. I recount how much she loved them. I tell about how much I loved her. If I keep her memorialized with my children, she seems to be still a part of my life.

“Daddy, how did Angie die?”

This is the dreaded question that I get ever so often. I don’t really know what to say. What a horrible thing for children to hear were I to tell them the truth. Therefore, for now, it is sufficient to say, “She died of sadness.” My kids are usually satisfied, but not lately. Will will not let me off the hook. He is five and very persistent. “How does someone die of sadness?” He asks. “I don’t know,” I respond, “they just get really, really sick.” “But how do they die?” “I don’t know, it just causes them to die.”

I don’t think I am lying to my kids. In fact, I think that it is the most accurate way to put it. She did die of sadness. She just got so, so sad that she did not feel as if she had another choice. The gun she shot was not pointed toward herself, it was pointed toward the sadness that was in her head. She just wanted it to stop and all the pills and positive thinking were not as powerful as the bullet. She killed the sadness and her body was a casualty of friendly fire. Continue Reading →