Guest Post from Rachel Ruddy: Suicide and Hope
The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (July 2017) has just reported on its findings about the factors related to the suicides of 922 people under 25 in England and Wales during 2014-15. When I was reading the report, one of the common factors which stood out to me was bereavement. A quarter of under 20s and 28% of 20-24 year olds had suffered recent bereavement, and a reasonable number of these bereavements were by suicide (11% and 6% respectively).
In our post-Christian society, death is an end. Death highlights the futility of life. Whatever we do or achieve in this life in the end it leads to death. To see others struggling with the meaningless of their existence and resorting to suicide has a powerful impact on young people. If life is hard and death is an escape into oblivion, with no consequences, suicide presents itself as a natural way out. It is an exit for the individual but a devastating loss with—as we can see from this study—profound effects of those left behind.
Bereavement is a painful event. Jesus wept when confronted with the death of his friend Lazarus (even though he went on to raise him!) In the early church, as in many parts of the world today, Christians faced persecution and death because of their faith. Friends around them were dying and they needed to find the strength to carry on. Paul, impressed by the Thessalonians, in the face of persecution, writes to encourage them. He wants to inspire them with hope to continue persevering in this life as well as looking to the return of Jesus:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him….For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)
When I regularly counsel people through my work who have tried to end their lives by suicide, I hold onto the knowledge that every life is cherished by God. So precious, in fact, that he gave his son to die for them. We need to build hope in those around us that God cares for them, whether life is easy or difficult. And to live with an eternal life perspective that this life is a prelude to the next.
To quote Billy Graham: “You’re born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there’s a loophole.”
Let’s help those around us to find it and the hope that comes with it!