Summary: This is a funeral message, sermon, or homily preached at the funeral of a young suicide victim whose commitment to Jesus was unknown. It is a message of grace and hope for his family who has many unanswered questions.
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR!
--a funeral sermon for a young suicide victim
--by R. David Reynolds
It is my understanding that every seventeen minutes a self inflicted death occurs in the United States. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in North America for young adults between the ages of 15 and 25. What a tragedy. The loss of a loved one, especially when it is unexpected under such circumstances, is never easy. I am glad I knew Jacob. I liked Jacob from the first time I met him. The deepest desire of my heart today would be to turn back the clock so that we do not have to be gathered here under these circumstances to say our last good-byes to Jacob. Knowing that is not possible, my heart’s desire is to speak words of grace and comfort to you his family and friends.
There is a great verse of Scripture found in Romans 8:32. Paul asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus?” He then compiles a long list of human fears that we might be tempted to think can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Included in that list is “life and death.” One conclusion Paul reaches is this: “Neither life nor death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
This is the promise of God that I want each one of you to claim today as we commit John’s remains to their final resting place. Even in this tragic death of such a young man we can be certain that “neither life nor death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” God said it, in His Word, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” I believe what God said in my heart, so that settles all doubts forever.
But how can we have hope when a death is self inflicted? Friends, the Bible never condemns suicide. It doesn’t encourage it, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t condemn it either. The term suicide is never found in either the Old or the New Testament. We are told that only six people died at their own hand in Scripture. Included in this list are: Samson, King Saul, Abimelech, Ahitophel, Zimri, and Judas. We are only told that they caused their own deaths. No judgmental statement is made in any of the six cases concerning the victim’s decision to bring their life to an end. Jewish Rabbis and Christian teachers down through the ages are the ones responsible for leading so many Christians to come to the hasty conclusion that somehow death by suicide is a sin for which there can be no forgiveness.
I don’t buy such teaching. I think it has unjustly brought many wives, husbands, children, and parents whose loved ones have chosen to take their own lives countless years of despair, pain, torment, and agony. Our God is a God of grace, and I fail to see any grace in such an unjust, erroneous, thoughtless teaching.
Another favorite promise of mine that I want you as Jacob’s family to stand upon for this hour and for the rest of your lives in found in II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” If your Bible happens to be a red letter edition, these words are in red, for they are words that Jesus spoke directly to the Apostle Paul when he had to cope with his “thorn in the flesh.” I say to you today, God’s grace is sufficient for you to sustain, keep, and comfort you even in this horrible situation we all would rather not have happened. God’s grace is all you need; God’s grace will see you through and bring you peace and healing.
Don’t reject God’s grace in Jesus Christ today. Don’t lash out at God and ask the unending, “Why?” for which we most likely will never find an answer in this life. Jesus Christ understands your hurt, your pain, your anger, your sorrow, more than anyone else at all ever can. Isaiah testifies in Isaiah 53:4 that when Jesus died on the cross “He bore our grieves and carried our sorrows.” Jesus Christ understands your grief and pain this morning, because He carried it all with Him on the cross for you. Therefore, “His grace is sufficient for you, for His strength is made perfect in your weakness—in your hurt, your grief, your pain, your loss. The worst thing anyone could possibly do at this time is turn away from Jesus, for only His grace and love will keep you going. Don’t reject His grace and love.