Sad news hit our community with a 24 year old, talented young man taking his own life. Though he was artistically gifted and an excellent student, the family had dealt with a history of his mental struggles. The parents and siblings gave a beautiful witness of their faith in the way they have publicly handled their great loss.
It made me think of others who have had their worldview shattered by the suicide death of a loved one. You look for anything to restore a sense of meaning to your world, anything to explain it, even when you know there is nothing that will explain, and even if there was, you'd still be left with the senseless loss.
In church one Sunday, years ago, I spoke about grace in suicide, after such a death there. A couple of people afterwards asked if I'd written down my words. I had not, and still have not. But I'll try to put my ideas down now, even though it's probably nothing new to most people.
I simply said that sometimes families feel needless shame because of the suicide death of someone they love. They are ashamed of a death they cannot easily explain. And they sometimes feel judgment, especially from the church.
The old argument goes: Killing is wrong. It is a mortal sin. And thus if the last act of the person is to kill him or herself, even if he/she is a Christian, how can the person then know the saving grace of God.
But isn't the God who is revealed in Christ a God who meets us at our point of need? Didn't he come to be with us in order to do what we can not do: save us from the eternal consequences of our sinfulness? When in hopeless resignation a person ends his or her life, the God I know from the Bible would be weeping in sad pain for the person, instead of lashing out in judgment.
Besides, if a person dies from a sickness, even if the sickness is caused by their own actions (like lung cancer from smoking, let's say), we don't wonder if they are condemned. People who deal with depression or mental illness just have a different kind of sickness. But it's just as real, just as painful, and just as possible to result in death. Those who attempt suicide may believe they just can't handle the agony any longer, or that they no longer need to be such a burden to their family or friends.
The grace of God is always extended to us, even in suicide, for nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And just like a loving parent, God probably gives special attention to God's weaker children. God surely notes those who struggle in quiet desperation.
Are any of us that much different from the toddler who does not know her sinfulness or need? And yet God gives all that is necessary for such a one to be claimed by God. It is true, we all depend on the free gift of grace, even in the presence of suicide. Thanks be to God.