So, moving on from the depressing topic of hell, to the even more profoundly depressing topic of suicide.
Before I jump into the specifics, let me state that all loss is loss. So whether you’ve experienced the loss of a baby, the loss of a friendship, or the loss of someone to suicide-it all feels very similar. No matter what we lose in life, the feeling of loss is a profound experience and it usually changes us. For some, we grow and become more empathetic, more gentle towards others we know and meet-because we’ve come to know that life is fragile, and that we all need a shoulder to cry on.
Sometimes loss will mark us and cripple us-things so horrible that it’s hard to even talk about, let alone understand. Suicide can be that for many of us…as for how I relate it to my former Christian faith, I’ll explain later.
I think his name was Brian….but I still remember his face and dry sense of humor. He had long shaggy blonde hair, was stout but not fat, and had freckles on his pale skin. I remember liking him, but we were never friends that hung out together….we just happened to sit next to each other in 8th grade English. We’d nod or grunt a hello as we entered class, and joked around on occasion. I think we even earned a detention together (my one and only). Two years later he was dead-he shot himself in the middle of our tenth grade year.
I now have a tenth grade son with shaggy blonde hair…and I wonder if Brian’s mom has cried every day since then, just wishing to have one more chance to brush back his blonde hair, and say “I love you” one last time.
A few years into college, and now I’m leading the local Young Life at my former high school. I meet another Brian and he starts coming to the Bible study I lead. He’s not very tall, maybe 5’5″….but he is incredibly cool-California cool, with a punk twist. He’s thin and likes to wear faded jeans and black army boots.
One day, I’m giving him a ride to school with some other Young Lifers, and he starts to tell me about his views on God. He tells me that he really wants to know God and that he’s even asked God to show him some sort of sign. He said God has never shown him any sort of sign that He’s there-so for now-he’s not sure he believes in God. A couple months later, he is dead. A self inflicted gun shot wound to the head in his mothers front yard ( divorced parents-he didn’t always stay there).
I stand at his grave after the service at the funeral home. I talk briefly to his mom, she’s devastated but seems to care for all that have come to grieve her son. While talking, I find out she’s a Christian-but she is upset, because she doesn’t know if her son is in heaven (which seems unlikely) or in hell. I don’t know what to say-I feel small and weak-like I’m knocking on the door of a huge Cathedral in the middle of the night. I re-focus and tell her what I know, that her son at least heard the gospel before he died. I know, because I told it to him. She thanks me and we turn back to the freshly dug grave and the casket suspended above.
Standing there, listening to the final words of hope and comfort…I pray for a miracle. I am a year into my Charismatic Church Phase and I believe that God can still raise the dead. I mean, how much more power and love could God show by giving this son back to his mother. I pray and stare intently at the casket, somehow hoping that God meant it ,when he said ask anything in his name. So I ask…the sun still shines, it is warm for late fall, and the surrounding trees and hillside betray the fact, that a great tragedy has occurred…and that none will be raised from the grave today.
My cousin was a few years older than me, tall and thin with a quiet intelligence that I always admired. I heard that he had lost or quit his job and was living with his folks again. A family member informs that my cousin was not doing well-maybe even suffering from depression. I kicked in to prayer mode right away…I prayed often, and like every good spiritual warrior, I was binding Satan and all his fallen host from my cousin. I specifically prayed, in Jesus name, to bind the spirit of suicide. So that Satan could not tempt my cousin in his time of depression and despair…but the spirit of depression and despair was too strong.
He hung himself in the basement, and hung there for hours until my poor aunt found him. The son she had raised as her own(blended family),was dead and hanging lifelessly in her own home. A home she would soon sell, and move from to try and escape that horrible day…
The week after my cousin died, I realized that I could no longer believe in a Reformed version of God. I still believed strongly in God, but I simply could not believe that an all good, all knowing, all powerful God could have planned this suicide and chain of events, for his glory. I floated this by another family member and they strongly objected and warned me that “We ARE talking about God here..”
“Yes” I said “but can you really look Auntie in the eye, and tell her that God planned for her to find her son dead, hanging in her basement? I know I can’t-and I can’t believe that a God of Love would plan such a thing”. Not much was spoken of after that, what more could be said? None of it would ever bring him back from the dead, and such a thought was certainly not going to give my Aunt comfort.
For years, my cousin’s suicide haunted me personally, and also haunted my theology. I couldn’t reconcile how God could even allow my cousin to commit suicide, especially since I had prayed against it. I also couldn’t understand why God would choose to sit on his hands, and do nothing to save his life. Lastly, why did he have to let my poor Aunt find him-I mean really-how much more cruelty can one human being endure?
I didn’t reject faith because of the suicides in my life, but it did cause me to question whether my assumptions about God, his love, and his Sovereignty were true.