Discover the Bible’s amazing answer regarding people who take their lives and for those left behind who cope with sorrow.
[Richard] In reading through his letters, his poetry, he treasured our family and I think that’s part of the reason it kinda hurts because he never talked to us before committing suicide.
[Darris McNeely] Richard lost his son to suicide several years ago.
Chances are you know someone who took their own life.
Why did they do it? Have you wondered, “What is the eternal fate of someone who commits suicide?”
And perhaps you, too, have thought about taking your own life. What led you to the precipice? What brought you back?
Join us on Beyond Today as we look at the shocking reality of suicide and ask, “Is There Hope?”
[Announcer] Join our host Darris McNeely on Beyond Today!
[Darris] I am going to talk today about a very difficult subject—suicide. Chances are that suicide has touched you. A relative, a friend, or a co-worker has made the ultimate decision to take their own life. I was a freshman in college when suicide first impacted my life. My English teacher, a young woman in her first teaching assignment, did not show up for class one day. The department supervisor told us the news. You’re shocked. You’re stunned and you ask, “Why?” But you don’t always know why.
Let’s look at the unsettling statistics about suicide. They are very shocking.
Every year in America 30,000 people make the decision to end their life. Now that’s the equivalent of 100 jumbo jets just falling out of the sky. It’s an epidemic.
According to a report released in April 2016 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. suicide rate has risen sharply over the past 15 years—by nearly 24%. This contrasts to a decline in the previous 15 years. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. And suicide rates are rising faster than common killers such as heart disease and cancer. The same report shows that the suicide rate continues to climb.
So what leads a person to commit suicide? What are the emotions that drives the young adult to end their life before they’ve really begun? What causes a woman to lose all hope and then take that final step looking for release from deep pain and suffering?
As a lifelong pastor working with those impacted by suicide, I have had to help the people left behind. I have helped them grope for understanding and a sense of putting their lives back together after the shock, the anger, the sadness and all that forms in the wake of a suicide. I have also had the challenge of helping those who failed in their attempt to end their life.
In all cases it comes down to the one great question: “Is life worth living?”
There are two important aspects to suicide that are critical to understand. First, there is hope for those who are left behind and there is hope for the loved one who has ended their life.
I think this is best told through the story of one family whose son and brother, Ryan, decided one night to end his life. Ryan’s father, Richard, agreed to sit down with us and to tell the story of how his family coped with the saddest news anyone could ever imagine receiving.
I asked Richard to tell us about his son, Ryan.
[Richard] My son Ryan was a very wonderful person, very caring. I loved his hugs. He played a guitar in a Christian band. He loved God for many years, when he was younger. He was a person of many talents. He was a writer; had some work published in various venues, had a play done in his senior year in high school that he had written. He loved writing. He loved music and he loved people.
[Darris] Everything was looking up in Ryan’s life. He had a new job on the horizon. He was moving back home to Ohio and he was in close contact with his family.
Ryan was 22 years old. A talented young man with his life ahead of him. For whatever reason and with no previous indication, he decided he could not cope with life and made the decision so many others make when they come to this crossroads.
For a person at that moment the answer to the great question, “Is life worth living?” is already answered with a resounding “No.”
How does the family react to the news? Richard explains how he and his wife reacted when they received the news. They had a five-hour drive to the hospital. They were in touch with the hospital and along the way authorized the donation of his organs. Would they make it in time to see him alive?
[Richard] He had a job that he had already been accepted for, that he had applied for in a field that he really enjoyed. And, so we talked for a little while. He seemed very upbeat. And this was about probably 7:30 at night, 8 o’clock at night. And afterwards, we hung up. He said, well I’ll see you this weekend. So, we finished off the rest of that evening. My wife and I, and my two daughters, we went to bed. And then at about 2 in the morning we received the call. And it was very difficult being woken up at that time of night in a fog and when you hear the phone call and somebody says—and at that time my son wasn’t dead yet. And they said, “Your son—there’s been an accident. I am the police department. Your son is in the hospital. He doesn’t look like he is going to make it though. You might want to come down as quickly as you can.”
[Darris] Ryan died in the hospital before Richard and his wife arrived. Now they had to pick up and move on with their life and begin the long painful process of grieving, anger and acceptance.
[Richard] I remember, I mean it’s just a shock. You’re totally in shock. You’re numb. You feel like even after you’ve woken up, you feel like you are in a fog. And we had a two-story house and I came down from our bedroom and just went into the living room and just cried. And just, “my son, my son, my son.” You just can’t take it in.
[Darris] When a person takes their life, those who are left behind begin to sort through the conversations and all the memories looking for any sign or a hint that could have been a warning of what was to come. Could the tragedy have been prevented? Is there something I did or we did that caused this?
I asked Richard if they had any warning.
[Richard] We saw absolutely no signs. We, his roommate said that there were no indications. He had seen him just, a very short period before he left in his car—no indications at all. He had gone to work that day—no indications of anything. Several other people had actually talked to him that day—his friends, because he was excited about coming home. And so he had contacted a few people locally. And he, so there was no indication. He’d never had any indication prior to this. He was not a depressed person at all.
[Darris] Of all the emotions stirred by suicide, anger is one that eventually surfaces among those who were close to the victim. “How could they do this!” “Why?!” In their despair, the person does not realize how many lives they impact. Tears and sorrow often mask deep anger and must come out. Richard and his family were no exception.
[Richard] There’s anger. When you go through suicide and that person affects you closely, you’ve got anger towards them, because often they don’t realize the impact that they have on people. And you’re mad partially, at least I was partially at that, because knowing Ryan his thoughts would have been, that, “oh hey, don’t worry about me. I chose this. I’ve decided this. Go on and have a happy life.” But when you do that, you hurt people for the rest of their life.
[Darris] It’s a different kind of anger and it involves everyone in the family.
[Richard] He’s got two sisters who were deeply hurt. And you know, we were mad at him. How could he do this to us? How could he not have even talked to us about it? That mad—it’s different than you might have going through some other—like maybe deaths. You might be mad at God if there is a death by an auto accident let’s say, or cancer or something like that. But in this case, you just really get mad at the person. I mean even now, my wife and the kids, we sometimes will say, “you know when we see Ryan again, the first thing we are going to do is we are going to kick him. And then we will give him the biggest hug he’s ever had!”
[Darris] It’s hard for parents to lose a child like this. Richard talked much about that. He said that though it’s hard, it’s easier for an adult to process. His two daughters were at a very young, impressionable age. Especially his youngest daughter who had the same friends as Ryan in school. It has been very hard for the siblings to process their anger and their emotions, and it can take many years for a family to cope after a suicide.
[Richard] I almost feel a sibling losing a brother or a sister, especially somebody they really looked up to is almost more difficult. Because it’s at a very—especially when they are at a young, impressionable stage of life. I’ve got two daughters. One is a year and a half years older than Ryan was, one’s about two years younger than Ryan was. And the younger one really looked up to Ryan—liked to be around his friends, thought the world of him. The older one, of course, thought a lot of him too, but I think there was a little bit more brother-sister rivalry between the two of them. But my younger daughter, just absolutely—I won’t say quite idolized but very important in her life. I think it really hit her—very difficult. And she was in school around many of the friends. So she was almost reminded in many ways even more so of his death.
But both of them took it very difficult, very hard. And even to this day, it is hard on them. I think even harder than us as parents. There’s something that they’re missing that they don’t have. And they’ve got to live through their whole life with that.
[Darris] And then there is the question of anger toward God. “If God is all powerful,” some will say, “how does He allow the evil and the suffering that leads good people, young people, to take their lives?” I asked Richard if he wrestled with this and how he handled the anger with God.
[Richard] I didn’t, because I realized that he chose this and God has a way to take care of this. He’s got a plan. He’s got a future and so I didn’t feel angry at God.
[Darris] In these highly-charged emotional times, God very often gets the blame for the bad that has occurred. But it is important to take a step back. Don’t be too quick to blame God. God is near but He is not the one to blame.
After anger comes the devastating emotion called guilt. Guilt is a debilitating and a very crippling emotion. It’s an emotion that burrows deep within us and it eats away at life. If we don’t get control of guilt, it will destroy us.
I asked Richard if there was guilt and how did they handle it.
[Richard] There’s going to be guilt. As I said, you try to figure out what could have I done that would’ve changed things. What could have I done in our life to have made things different, even short-term or long-term.
We moved while he was in high school. We’ve sometimes thought, what would have it been like had we not moved? Would his set of friends been different? Would he, may not have found himself in those circumstances? So you do. You do feel a certain amount of guilt and you try to process that, especially at the start. Trying to figure out, what could have I changed to make it—the circumstances to not have occurred. And some of that is just to have made the circumstances to not have occurred—not just a different person, but could I have done something differently?
You’ve got to come to the point where you realize that I really did the best I could. And, I can’t go back and change the past. But what I can do is still live life now. I’ve still got two daughters, wonderful daughters. They’ve grown up to be beautiful examples of daughters, and of wives and of mothers and that’s one thing that we realized shortly after. And that my wife and I discussed was: we’ve got two daughters. They’re still alive. They still need our help, and they still have a life ahead of them.
[Darris] Fortunately for Richard’s family, they came out on the other side of guilt and accepted what happened. They came to peace with themselves that they had done all they could do.
Shock, anger, guilt and acceptance. These are stepping stones along the path called recovery from such a shocking calamity of life. No family should have to go through the experience. But all who do will have to cope with the aftermath and all the emotions and the questions that arise.
A person who commits suicide has answered the great question, “Is life worth living?” They’ve lost all hope and no one or no drug can help them cope with the despair that descends on their heart. It is an unbearable burden from which only death can give release.
Those who have to pick up the pieces and deal with the aftermath, have to have hope to carry on and come to acceptance. As we have seen from Richard and his family, that hope is in God and in God’s plan for mankind. God’s plan includes the hope of a resurrection from the dead. Richard’s son, Ryan will rise in a resurrection and rejoin his father and mother and his sisters.
Christ spoke about the hope of the resurrection in one of the great episodes from His life. In John’s gospel chapter 11, we read of Christ’s close friend Lazarus being sick and dying before Christ could get to the home in Bethany. Christ had said his illness was to glorify God (John 11:4). When Christ arrived at the home of Lazarus, he was told by Martha, his sister, that he had been dead for four days. “But even now,” she said, “I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
To which Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”
And Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
And Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
And Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:25-27).
Then Christ went to the tomb of Lazarus and in a loud voice, He commanded Lazarus to come forth. It was an astonishing and undeniable miracle to show the power of God and the hope of the resurrection.
It is this hope of the resurrection of the dead that is the key to dealing with the heartrending impact of suicide.
For Richard and his family, it is this hope that has allowed them to rebuild a life and to carry on.
[Richard] Our hope is the assurance that Christ is going to return and that He has promised us that our, our son, my son, is going to be resurrected. He’s going to come back to life and we’ll see him again. And that’s what allows us to keep going on. It allows us to look forward to the future as the assurance that we’ve got Christ’s Word on that.
The resurrection of our son, that resurrection is what allows us to put our life—that part of our life—on hold, carry on with our current life, with our two daughters, and our life and move forward in our life. Because we know right now that our son is waiting for the resurrection and it’s going to happen. And at that time, we’ll be able to continue from where we left off. But he’ll be in a better place at that time.
[Darris] But you may be saying right now, “I don’t have that hope.” You may not believe or if you do believe you may feel shaken and unsure in the face of suicide.
It is the hope of the resurrection that lifts us beyond the tragedy of the moment. The apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection to a church reeling from the death of its members and needing the same help.
He wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus...For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven...And the dead in Christ will rise first… Therefore” he said, “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
I asked Richard, what he would pass on to someone who lost a loved one to suicide. What advice that would help them to move on...
[Richard] My wife and I talk about this once in a while when we talk about our son and we talk about that hope of the future and that’s what keeps us going. But we’ve often said at that time, for those that don’t have that hope, or for those who aren’t sure of where their family member is going or a friend after death—whether they are going to heaven or going to hell or going to a place of purgatory, especially with suicide. Which in many cases, that’s a quandary in the religious world of what happens to that person.
We’ve said, I don’t’ know how we’d carry on. But when you look at the Bible and you read what’s written in it, and you read the hope that’s there and the assurance of that hope, it all becomes clear that there is a future. And I can give them my hope. l can tell them of my hope. We’ve talked to a few people who’ve had suicides in the family and I can give them the hope of that resurrection. And, if they can believe that, it gives them hope. And I know those that do believe that. It does give them great hope.
[Darris] Suicide is often a complex matter. Don’t be too quick to judge or to condemn people who take their own lives and avoid the tendency to oversimplify this tragic type of death. Individuals who commit suicide often have been struggling with serious problems, such as depression, alcoholism or other forms of drug abuse. Taking one’s life isn’t the right way to deal with any trial, but the people who do—are not thinking clearly.
If you are one who finds yourself at that point, I say to you take one more chance with life. Choose life for one more day. Get help. You can climb out of the dark hole of despair and make a new and better life. God wants you to “choose life!” That’s always the best choice.
If you need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to contact a local suicide prevention hotline. And if you want to discuss this further and gain deeper spiritual insight into your needs then contact us here at Beyond Today. You can also contact one of our trained ministers who would be very willing to talk with you and give youspiritual counseling.
The Bible talks about a time when sorrow and tears will disappear from human experience. The book of Revelation speaks of a time when a new heaven and a new earth will be established. It says, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying... There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
Let’s all look forward to that time of healing and restoration. For those who are suffering now, with depression and contemplating suicide or coping with the loss of a loved one to this horrible tragedy, there is light and hope and available now a way out of darkness—a way of hope and healing. God tells us: “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Our hope, our prayer is that you may find God and heal your broken spirit.
There is much more to say about suicide. We have prepared a special study aid on the subject and we want to send it to you free of cost. It is titled, Suicide: Understanding and Preventing It. And it can help you get a better grasp of the topic and take you deeper into a study from God’s Word about this subject. We would like you to have this to help you, or to help someone you might know, who is dealing with suicide.
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Now viewers have inquired also about how they can learn more about the exciting truths of the Bible. Join me and my fellow Beyond Today presenters every other Wednesday night for our live, online Bible studies at BeyondToday.tv. In these studies we cover various key biblical topics. If you miss a study, they’re archived on our website.
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[Darris] We have shown with Richard’s story that a family struck with the loss of a loved one can cope and work through the trauma to rebuild a life. We have also seen the biblical hope of the resurrection. God’s plan for man involves a resurrection that includes those who have committed suicide. They are not lost. A suicide victim has the hope of the dead, a resurrection to life and the opportunity to fulfill their God-ordained purpose.
Beyond Today is a program about help for today and hope for tomorrow. Join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” I’m Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching!
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