Summary: This sermon deals with the pain and tragedy of suicide, and how Christians can respond with meaningful ministry.
We approach a topic this morning that weighs on the hearts and minds of many people. In fact, of all the topics selected for this sermon series, this particular message is the one people have approached me about the most. The Huron area in recent years has known more than its share of suicide events. It’s possible that you or someone in your family has been touched very deeply by this tragic event at sometime in your life.
Before we moved to Huron, I received a phone call from one of my church families in Alta. It concerned a relative of theirs---his name was Matt. Matt was 19 years old, and had recently obtained his GED. While still living at home, Matt was working full time at a local industry, played in a rock band with several friends, and had a loving girlfriend. Things seemed to be going in the right direction, for Matt— his friends were supportive, he seemed to be enjoying what he was doing, and there was optimism for the future as he and his girlfriend progressed to build a steady relationship. But something was happening inside Matt. Anger had built up inside him. His mom attempted to intervene, but every time she attempted to get close, it always seemed to escalate into a fight of some sort. As her only child, Matt was the pride of her life, yet she couldn’t seem to reach out the way she intended. Matt’s father had divorced his mom early in Matt’s life, and wanted nothing to do with him. In the brokenness of his relationships with both parents, a feeling of despair hopelessness began to well up inside of Matt. And so late one night when he came home from work, Matt went into the garage. There he found an extension cord, which he proceeded to wrap around one of the beams. He then placed it tightly around his neck and walked off the steps that led down into the garage. His mother was the first to find him the next day.
I went to Matt’s funeral, and attempted to be a comforting presence to the family. While some funerals have a joyous undertone that celebrates life, this one certainly did not. If you’ve ever been to the funeral of someone who has committed suicide, you’ll never forget the experience. While there is still love, those emotions are mixed with disappointment, anger, frustration, the wonderment of what might have been, questions about where he or she is now.
Suicide has been said to be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The name suicide comes from the Latin word “sui”, meaning “of oneself”, and –cida, meaning “to kill”. And statistics show us a wide range of people have contemplated and committed suicide. Over 25,000 Americans commit suicide each year. Over one million will try but only one out of fifteen will succeed. It is the tenth highest killer in the U.S. More will die by suicide than by murder. The model age for attempting suicide is 32 for men and 27 for women. The model age of succeeding is 50-54 for men and women. Men kill themselves twice as often as women, but women attempt suicide twice as often as men. There are over 5,000 suicides among teen-agers each year. Some 10,000 college students will attempt suicide in a year. It is the second highest cause of death among young people aged 15-24 surpassed only by accidents. Thirteen young adults each day consider life not worth the living. That is twice as many as ten years ago and three times as many as twenty years ago. One report indicated that as many as 12 percent of all school-aged children will contemplate suicide at least once in their formative years.
These startling statistics should give us pause, especially as we approach ministry in the church. Too often, the subject of suicide is something that is swept under the rug as a church addresses given needs. We like to talk about other ministry issues, but when suicide is present, the church is nowhere to be found, and experts outside of the church are left to mend the trail of broken hearts. However, I believe the church must recapture it’s ministry in this important area by addressing both what the Bible has to say, and presenting tools to individuals who have suffered through this experience.
While the Bible itself does not include the actual word suicide, there are at least seven different times in Scripture where a person took his or her own life.
In Judges 9, the son of Gideon named Abimelech committed suicide. As a wicked ruler, he killed his seventy brothers in order to rule Israel, and during a revolt a woman dropped a millstone on his head from a tower above. And before he was to die, Abimelech called his armor-bearer over and asked him to kill him because he didn’t want it said about him that a woman killed him.