Thoughts on the Suicide of a Friend
I heard this morning from a friend, that a mutual friend, and seminary classmate of ours, took his own life last night at around nine in the evening.
Let us not think for a moment that we are not in a real life/death struggle, a war that has no end, until the day the Lord takes us to be with Him. It is a war that has real victims. As I was praying Matins from the Treasury the other day, the assigned reading from the Lutheran Confessions was from Luther's Large Catechism, the Longer Preface: "Catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God's Word, to speakt it, and to meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God's Law, day and night (Psalm 1:2)." Let us take warning and take heed from such a tragic incident and devote ourselves all the more to being deeply in the Word, and cling all the more to the mercy and grace of God.
What then are we to say in response to such tragic news? My friend wrote us all this note, which I'll share here, removing any identifying names:
" …in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37ff). Please keep his family (wife and four children) and Name Lutheran Church in your prayers." End of letter.
I remembered Martin Luther's wise words when asked about the state of those who commit suicide. It is a shame these wise words were not kept in mind during the history of our church. At my first parish, there was a corner of the parish cemetery where suicides were buried, in unmarked graves, the view being quite a legalistic view of the situation, that a person who kills himself has no chance to confess sin and receive absolution and therefore is lost. Luther rather wisely points to the power and influence of Satan and how we must be on our guard and realize that there are those times when Satan will take one of us captive and overcome us on the road of life.
Here is what Luther said:
Finally, if you know a pastor who is struggling, be sure to reach out to encourage him and support him. Don't sit around thinking, "Oh, somebody else is going to say something." No, you say something. Do something. Reach out in Christian love. If a congregation is aware that the pastor is suffering, don't wait, help.