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“My grandfather is dead”

Young man lost in depression sitting on ground street subway tunnelWho would have ever thought that the month of February in 2004 would be as cold as it was? The physical temperature was fine with highs between the 50’s and 60’s…but the chill I felt that February was numbing. I had come home from work and was doing some relaxing on the couch when my phone rang. To this day, I can’t remember if it was my mother or father who called…and I don’t remember the exact words said to me…but I remember being told a simple sentence that translated to “my grandfather is dead.” I vaguely remember not being able to speak and tossing the phone aside at the couch. My wife picked up the phone while I cried my heart into the couch cushions.

The details were chilling. My grandfather had spent the morning cleaning up after himself so my grandmother would not have to do any cleaning when she got home. She had gone to see a family member in the hospital. He changed clothes into an old t-shirt and an old pair of pants and went out into his garage. He had placed a note on the kitchen refrigerator – a note that we would later discover he had written well before the fateful day. He sat down on his favorite glider in the garage – and performed the unthinkable act.

After the initial shock wore off, my mind went where I am sure everyone’s mind goes: Why? Could I have prevented it? What happens to my grandfather now? Signs! There were no signs! How could we have missed this?!? I spent my next few months struggling with these thoughts and emotions.

Dealing with the guilt

Perhaps you have deal with or are currently dealing with the same issue. Perhaps you know someone who is dealing with the same issue. The quiet truth that I can provide to you is that God can heal your heart – and he provides us with many words in the Scriptures that answer many of our questions. It is easy to wonder “Why didn’t I see this coming?” or “could I have prevented this?” when dealing with the suicide of a loved one or friend. The truth is – it is rarely ever made known. I never knew that my grandfather was that upset with life. It turned out that he was going to have surgery on his hips and be confined to wheelchair for a short period of time. My grandfather simply did not want to subject his wife to his pain nor subject her to having to push him around and care for him. There were no signs…there was no idle talk…nor talk at all about suicide.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs that “the heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” We hold our darkest fears inside. My grandfather’s suicide letter was written before he took his own life – but you would have never known it to talk to him. You may also wonder “Why could someone even think about suicide?” Having these thoughts is nothing new. In fact, we see references in the Bible to those who have at least thought about giving up their life for various reasons:

Job said “I’d rather choke to death than live in this body. Leave me alone and
let me die; my life has no meaning.” (Job 7: 15-16)

Jonah was so stubborn to follow God’s
word…stubborn enough that he uttered, “Lord let me die! I’d be better off dead.”
(Jonah 4:3)

Moses had the weight of his people on his
shoulders and spoke to God, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the
burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to
death right now.” (Numbers 11: 14-15)

Paul even battled with life and
death saying, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful
labor for me. Yet what shall I chose? I do not know! I am torn between the two:
I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Philippians 1: 21-23)

You see, even the strongest of men had the thought cross their mind. We all deal with grief, sorrow, and emotion differently. Some of us – like Job, Jonah, Moses, and Paul – deal with it by voicing it…or crying out to God with it. Some people – like King Saul who was grieving over the murder of his sons – carry out their thoughts in a moment of anguish. The truth is, only God know someone’s heart. We can’t completely know what another is going through…nor does God expect us to take on the guilt of another’s decisions. Remember – it was their choice…not yours.

Suicide’s impact on salvation

Perhaps the biggest issue we deal with is that of Salvation. “What happens to my loved one now? Will they go to hell?” I do think that suicide is wrong…do not mistake that…and I do know that the Bible says “thou shalt not kill” and I do not think that God made the distinction of “thou shall not kill…unless it is yourself you kill” – but at the same time I think that the mere thought of the fact that God treats suicide as an unforgiveable sin is outside of the teachings of the Bible.
No single sin, save rejecting God completely, is documented in the Bible that would be certain to prevent entrance into Heaven. Salvation is the ticket to Heaven…Colossians 2:13-14 tells us that our sins are forgiven…all sins…past present and future. If the sins in our life after salvation prevent us from going to Heaven…then – let’s be honest with ourselves…how many of us would be going to Heaven? The truth is, we cannot put God in a box. We cannot micro-manage God. We cannot assume that God shows mercy, grace, and love only on those who perform certain sins – but not others.

To this day, I have my own troubles dealing with what happened four years ago. I put my faith, however, in the fact that God has a far better handle on the issue than I do. It is perfectly okay for us to cry out in confusion. The Bible spends so many verses talking about crying out to God. How comforting it is to know that God hears those cries! When a baby cries – his mother and father hear it. Whether it’s a cry of “I’m hungry” or “I’m hurting” or “I need a diaper change” – a good parent knows that the simple act of holding the child and reassuring “it’s okay” works. Much in the same manner, God holds us close to Him and tells us “its okay.” He did for me…and He can for you!


Are you having thoughts of suicide?

This article – my personal story of heartbreak and tragedy – has been republished more than any on my website.  It has appeared in Christianity Today and other publications.  The topic is very relevant to many people.  Perhaps you came across this article based on a Christian standpoint on suicide.  Perhaps you arrived here because you were looking for some hope.  I want to invite you to do something personally.  If you are in need of a person to talk to – would you give me the honor of being that friend?  My cell phone is answered as often as I can hear it.  If you find yourself in need – please call me personally at 615-425-6757.