The recent news of Robin William’s suicide has people everywhere talking openly about a subject that is usually addressed in private. It is the kind of subject many would rather keep under the radar and relegate to support groups or quiet office settings. The reality is that suicide, depression, and mental illness are subjects the church should address. If we truly have a heart for the least of these, then we must be sensitive to every opportunity around us to share the hope and peace that can be found in Jesus.
Before we move forward, I want to say that there is a lot of input via the internet and other media outlets by Christians who feel it is their place to make conclusions and determine where people will spend eternity based on their conjecture. Friends, that is not our place.
As believers, we are to be salt and light in this dark world…not salt poured on a fresh wound.
Now, what are we to do as believers to effectively address the issues surrounding hopelessness and suicide? It is ok to admit we don’t have all of the answers but we know where they can be found.
Over the years, issues like depression, mental illness, and suicide have seemed to be on the periphery of many churches and subjects left only to the professionals to address. Why have these issues been under the radar or even hushed in years past by some? It is fair to say that ignorance is one strong possibility. There is another glaring reason for some avoiding this subject and I believe it is stigma. In certain faith circles, there is the sense that to be a Christian means we are victorious, healthy, have it all together, and on top. This notion may or may not be spoken of, but it it is often implied in Hyper faith or prosperity gospel settings. The idea is: If you are free of pain, suffering, or, problems then…….you are blessed. By implication, people who are hurting don’t fit this mold and feel like spiritual outcasts on the periphery. It is no wonder that so many believers have squelched the pain, depression, or mental illness and dared not to share this with other people in their local church community. Depression isn’t unheard of in the Bible, on the contrary there are very (real) godly people….not fictitious ancient characters from some story who have dealt with despair and pain:
Job 3:23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread,and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me,and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;I have no rest, but trouble comes. -Job, a godly man.
Psalm 38:6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning,and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed;I groan because of the tumult of my heart. -David, a man after God’s own heart.
Depression doesn’t equal being suicidal. Depression may be short lived and then dissipate over weeks and months. Other times, there maybe a deep hopeless despair that overwhelms a person and they are driven down into complete hopelessness. Suicidal thoughts and contemplation is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a fact people are hurting and broken. Christians should always be ready to help a brother or sister, show them the love of Jesus, provide or find wise counsel, and be there for them. This compassion for people who are hurting smashes the stigmas attached to depression and despair. Instead of feeling isolated and hopeless, people will know church is a safe place to be open about the issues they are facing.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
What are the issues out there and perhaps right in front of us that aren’t obvious? It may be a new mom who is struggling with postpartum depression. It might be a person in failing physical health with no one to talk to. Maybe it’s the sweet high school age girl in our youth group who by all appearances has it all together but falling apart on the inside and contemplating suicide. Whether it’s suicidal thoughts, deep depression, or feeling completely empty and hopeless, Jesus is the answer to our deepest hurts and pain.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
To be sure, there are many churches reaching out to the hurting in their congregation. My home church has a wonderful soul care ministry that dedicates a majority of it’s time to helping hurting people find the peace that only Jesus can bring. There are many excellent professionals ministering in the area of depression and mental health. Pastors are addressing these subjects during sermon applications and many believers are aware of the hurting around them. God has blessed us with wonderful counselors, physicians, and medicines to help along the way. So what can you and I do as believers in to reach out to those hurting around us in our churches, marketplace, and beyond?
A biblical approach is always the best approach. Jesus has always been the model of how we engage the hurting in our world. The Lord was the perfect example of ministry to the hurting. Can you picture His tender eyes when the Bible says: He was moved to compassion. He wept. Come unto me. This is the heart of our savior. He met the broken right where they are. That is street level love that can’t be sentimentally captured or expressed. He showed this in a real tangible way. As believers we need to be sensitive to the needs around us. Awareness and sensitivity are important elements of the compassion we share with those hurting around us. These people need to know that they don’t face this alone. We have an opportunity to be available, show love, and be there with the encouraging counsel of the word of God. Hurting people are sitting next to us in our small groups, youth groups, Sunday school class, ladies Bible study, men’s retreats, and the church Christmas concert. Some have known the savior for decades, some new believers, and there are some who don’t know the Lord yet.
We have the opportunity to get to know people, ask questions, and share life outside of the Sunday service. How do we help and what is the formula? There is no script because these are real issues and people. So we must engage with humility and authenticity. We need to be ready to pray with them and offer wise biblical counsel. If that means being available by phone at 12:30 am, then that’s what it takes. If it means holding a sister’s hand while she tells you about her pain for the 5th time, praise God for the opportunity. Always men with men and women with women, we need to be there showing the compassion that Christ showed to us. Authentic Christianity is key here. We need to be ready, prayed up, walking in His spirit, and ready to share the truths of the Bible, because there and there alone is where we find the hope that’s worth living for.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You may be asking, Howard….isn’t this is a website dedicated to end time commentary and biblical Christian living in the last days…. so how does this all tie in? It ties in because this world seems to be moving at a faster pace and even with all the great technology, our days are more stressful then ever. In years past, we were connected with family and community. Now loved ones and close friends are scattered about everywhere. We are bombarded with every evil on the face of the earth now via the internet, television, or phone. People are more uncertain about the economy than ever before. They look around and despite all of our technological advances, this world is just as violent as it’s ever been with the looming shadows of wars, terrorism, and unrest. So whether their hopelessness is based on a personal struggle deep inside or it’s a hopelessness because of the fears of what is going on in this darkening world, there is hope, peace, and joy through Jesus. The picture for this article is the garden tomb in Jerusalem. Jesus paid the price so that we might have peace.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,and with his wounds we are healed.
All for Him,