North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose 

    According to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014. And a vast number of people who die from suicide are those with psychiatric conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The report also stated females try to commit suicide more frequently than males, but males die by suicide more often. Every 16 minutes a suicide occurs in the United States. A sad fact is that some of those affected by the suicide may follow the actions of their loved one and take their own life at some point. Another sobering fact about suicide is that it can strike almost anybody—young and old. Many people experience a vague suicidal thought over the course of their lives. Fortunately most don’t follow through.    It’s natural for human beings to do everything possible to avoid dying. So, why then would someone choose suicide over life? Rarely is it one factor that leads to suicide. It’s usually many factors combined together. Someone once told me suicide is a selfish act. In some respects, maybe it is. But are we to stand in judgement of one who commits it? The Bible warns against being judgmental.

    How do you explain suicide to a child who questions it? I was placed in this position recently when I was given a special assignment to an Army unit in North Carolina. I was placed on military orders for five days to help the Soldiers and the family come to grips with this tragedy. This beloved Soldier was laid to rest after serving a distinguished career in the Army. He left behind a wife, mother, father, in-laws, brothers, sisters, and numerous young cousins who looked up to him.

    After the funeral, I was eating lunch with the family and one of the little cousins asked me, “Why did he kill himself?” After a suicide, children in particular are left with an indifferent attitude toward death. It makes them afraid because it can’t be fully explained. For the adults, there’s many things said or unsaid by them and they suffer wave after wave of guilt: “What did I fail to do that I should have done? How did I let him down?”

    One Soldier who had been trained by this Staff Sargent (SSG) said, “He would always tell us to keep fighting as long as we could. He said he would be there for us. Now, he left us. Why did he do this?” It’s hard to console someone with answers when you’re searching for similar ones yourself. I finally told her he had trained her so she could pass it on to others. He gave her something she could use and could in turn help others too.

    As a military chaplain in this circumstance the challenge is to boost morale. We must seek to find ways to encourage in the face of negative and sometimes tragic circumstances. This is done best by pointing them to Christ. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the champion, the author and finisher of our faith, because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross.” We must all lift heads and hearts. You confirm what is good and you tell them the person did their best as long as they could. And to remember their battles and torments are now over. We need not judge others for their best or weaknesses rather affirm that this world is troubled and without a faith that’s anchored to the solid rock we will all fall prey to the consequences of being a troubled soul.

    There are seven suicides mentioned in the Bible and coincidentally they’re not written in a condemning manner. In the book of Job, it suggests that Job contemplates suicide; however, he doesn’t do it and instead places his trust in God. Some Bible scholars suggest the Bible says that suicide is shameful and frowned upon; Judas Iscariot is this example (Matthew 27:3-10).

    I think a Christian’s reaction to suicide should be one of love and pity, not condemnation. All of us have moments, however brief they may be when we lose control of our speech, emotions, and actions. Flashes of temper, irritations, and things we regret having said get the best of us. And it’s a fact that we all have a breaking point. If it were not for a strong faith and genuine friends, I dare say there would probably be more suicides than there already are. It’s heartbreaking for me to minister to Soldiers in these situations, but in the final analysis this is how I approach them: “Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought foes that were as real to him as the casket he was placed in. Jesus told us, “In this world we would have trouble” (John 16:33). Powerful adversaries will stop at nothing to keep us from living as we should or want to. These enemies took a toll on his energies and ability to fight. His courage and stamina escaped him. His foes overwhelmed him. Although it appears he lost the war, he fought them as long as he could. We give him credit for the bravery he showed in the fight. We must chose not to remember his death, but his daily victories and the times we had with him. And with a great deal of effort and concentration we will remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had.”

    Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This truth will help us to fight our enemy, the devil, and to defeat him every day through God’s Spirit. Redeem the time and make the most of each day. Shoulder to shoulder, let’s take care of one another.

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a teacher, U.S. Army Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York Community. His most recent book is titled: “How the Race Was Won: A Coming of Age Story About Running”. He can be reached by email: 

Posted by on Apr 24 2016. Filed under Church News, Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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