By Scott Keith –
“For the wages of sin is death…” I have been avoiding writing on this subject for some time. But, it is unavoidable for me to comment on it in some form given its persistence in my world. Suicide and suicidality (the likelihood or implication by an individual that they may commit suicide) are reaching astonishing proportions. Today, September 10, is Suicide Prevention Day. By way of introduction to the topic, here are a few of the staggering statistics. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people (10-24). It is the third leading cause of death for college age people. More young adults die from suicide than from heart disease, cancer, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined. Further, four out of five teens and/or young adults who attempt suicide will have given warning signs and expressed suicidality previous to their actual attempt.
In my work at the university, I see my fair share of suicidality and even students who have attempted suicide. It is no joke, it is serious, and overwhelming for everyone involved. Further, a member of my extended family and my best friend from childhood have committed suicide, so these statistics often affect me in a very personal way. So lets be clear, death comes to us all to some by their own hand. Death, no matter how it comes, is not a part of God’s original plan for His salvation. Death is part and parcel with living in this world that is so damaged by sin. Mental illness, feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anxiety are also a part as living as a people who are sinners and immersed in a world of sin. Further as the opening line to the article has already expressed, the wages of this sin is death.
Yet let us not loose sight of hope. Our hope is outside of us. Our hope is not dependant on our mood, temperament, or mental stability. Our hope is in Christ. Thus the full force of the verse listed above needs to be brought to bear on this conversation: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) We live in a world, which can often feel that it is closing in around us and does a piss poor job of giving us hope. For those who feel lost, for those who are lost, the only way they will be found is in their Savior. Does this mean that all of their problems––including their suicidality––will disappear? No, it does not necessarily mean that at all. But what it does mean is that the problem that plagues us all, death will have been conquered for them. Their death, no matter how it comes to them, will not be permanent if they are in Christ. In their flesh they will see the Lord!
So what about the here and now? In the here and now those who are feeling lost to the degree that they are contemplating taking their own life need help. They need to feel free to seek help.
We, especially Christians, need to stop seeing suicide and mental illness generally as the greatest sin. We need to approach them with the care and graciousness of fellow sinners, who apart from Christ are lost in their own right. We need to remember Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We need to ask ourselves: is there anyone poorer in spirit than someone who contemplates taking his or her own life? We need to help them to receive multi-layered assistance: absolution, counseling, medication if necessary, pastoral care, family care, and internal and external support structures. Above all, as we walk them through the processes of getting this help, we ought to remind them that they are children of God on account of what Christ has won for them in His own life, death, and resurrection on their behalf. We need to remind them that they are free and that as a free people their hope cannot be assailed, because their hope is in Christ alone.
Let’s be aware of suicide. Let’s not only be aware of it, let’s bring the full gambit of resources to bear in order to prevent it and treat it. But most of all, let’s give the Gospel to those in need of a hope that they do not find in themselves. Christ is hope to those for whom death is calling. Christ is life.