Words for When There Is a Suicide

I received news early this week that someone I knew took his own life on Sunday night. He was a few grades ahead of me, but I knew him as a role model in our youth group as well as in sports. He was always the coolest person I knew, even after losing all his blond hair to a shiny bald head. He was always a total chick magnet, and all the guys looked up to him for that as well. He even taught me how to drive a stick shift Subaru when I was in high school, showing a great deal of patience as I ground the gears and produced great amounts of whiplash. The news of him taking his own life was shocking, even though I was aware he had drifted away from his true self in some self-destructive ways in recent years.

I attended the funeral today in my home church in Tyler, which barely contained an overflowing crowd of family and friends. The feeling in the room before the service was serious as it seemed obvious that everyone was in shock over what had transpired so quickly. Our friend had sat where we were, with his three daughters and parents, just a few days ago on Easter Sunday. How could things have changed so rapidly that day to the point he would end his own life? These questions were in our minds and hearts as we sat there waiting for the service to start.

Two pastors–Dr. Paul Powell and Pike Wisner, officiated the service, doing a masterful job of addressing the looming questions we shared. I didn’t take notes, but remembered the following I wanted to share here, as a way of helping people in grief as much as a way of creating some healthy discussion here about this topic on the blog.

Dr. Paul Powell shared three things we should all know in this situation:

1.) Don’t blame yourself.

Powell addressed the entire crowd with these words, as so many there must have
been struggling with the emotion of guilt as they sat there. Powell acknowledged this
is normal, but to not do it. Every individual is responsible for their own actions, and we
don’t always know what kind of pressure they are in at the time of a suicide. Someone
would have to have been with him 24/7 to prevent his action, which wouldn’t be
possible.

2.) Don’t judge them.

We are not to judge the person who committed suicide. It is natural to be angry at him
or her, and rightfully so. It is natural to see the selfishness involved in the act, with the
mess left behind in the lives of those closest to him or her. Powell and Wisner stressed how
we are not God and are not in a position to judge. The Bible doesn’t address suicide as
a sin, certainly not as an unpardonable sin. Again, we don’t know how many battles a
person wins, only to lose the one that ends a life.   Andy  believed in Jesus and knew him as Savior. “We all have our breaking point.”

3.) Don’t doubt God. God is still God. God is still love. Nothing can separate us from
the love of God. God was present to lead Andy into his heavenly home, and God
is present with those who are left behind in grief.   God’s love is one thing we can understand when nothing else makes sense.

Pike Wisner, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Tyler, summed it up this way: “When we are at our worst, God is at his best.” Pike also shared how Andy had been in church just this past Sunday, and how he heard the Easter story one more time before his life ended that evening. Another great, pastoral word he provided was how the church shouldn’t feel awkward around Andy’s family, but to be let them know when they think of Andy. “What parents don’t want to know that their child is remembered?”

These were comforting words. I’m sure I didn’t do them justice (forgive me Paul or Pike if you happen to be reading this), as I didn’t take notes, but they have remained in my thoughts since the service earlier today.

Any words you would add to this for those who have experienced the suicide of a chid, family member or friend?

Andy Hall, R.I.P. You will be missed.

12 comments

  1. Sue Hall · · Reply

    Oh, John…how very thoughtful of you to post your comments in such a masterful way. I am so sorry we didn’t see you yesterday, but we felt God’s presence with us during that time and knew that Andy’s friends and family were so comforted by the words and music that were presented. Thank you, thank you for your friendship through the years. Please give our best to Ginny.

    1. Sue,

      Know that you Billy, Greg, the girls and entire family are in my prayers. I thought the service was so helpful and was such a demonstration of the love and support for you now and in days to come. Andy was always so kind to me, whom he always referred to as “Lil Henson.”
      May God continue to remind you of His presence, comfort, and peace.

  2. Bobby Hicks · · Reply

    I remember Paul Powells word from eight years ago when my good friend and brother in Christ took his life and can echo the words
    of both pastors. You have to remember these comments over and over again, because those doubts and angers and what ifs will roll around in the months to come. They will re-open when there is another life taken. Talking to a professional is a must. As far as I know, I was the last person on earth to talk to my
    friend before he took his life and that replayed like it was yes-terday when I heard about Andy. But I also replayed the picture
    I had of Jesus holding them in his arms and loving them in an in-
    finite way that we cannot comprehend. God is at his best when we
    are at our worst and His love is strongest when we are weakest.

    1. Bobby,

      You have painted a great picture of God’s eternal love for Andy. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. John – This post is so well written and for many reasons. I plan to refer to this again. I too have wonderful memories of Andy. Of course I remember meeting Andy for the first time in 1987. Andy was easy to like. Many good memories with his parents and brother (who taught my 8th grade Sunday School class). Praying this week so much for that family. – Amy

    1. Hi Amy! Thank you for your kind words. I remember your dad preaching a similar funeral, stating that we should not remember someone’s life by their last act. Those words have stayed with me and are sure applicable.

  4. Kristy Gathright Pierce · · Reply

    John,
    I also remembered all points of the message and thought it was so perfectly on-target for all who were there. The other thought I took away was that the way we die does not affect our salvation any more than the way that we live. Our security and our salvation rests solely on the love and mercy and power of Jesus Christ! I am so thankful that all of my mistakes or missed opportunities to be what He desires of me cannot change the fact that I am held firmly in his grasp. (By the way, I’m betting a smiling Shirley Henson grabbed Andy on his way in to find out all the latest about her FBC friends!)

    1. I’ll bet you are right, Kristy! She probably had a pie for him.

  5. Steve Dement · · Reply

    John,
    Thank you for posting this. You summarized it well. We all have been touched at some point by a friend or family member taking his own life. It was good to see both pastors address the subject head on rather than pretending otherwise. That was comforting to all. Knowing Andy as a youth growing up at FBC, I have no doubt whatsoever that he rests in God’s arms today. And that is a comforting fact. Good to visit with you yesterday.
    Steve

    1. Great sitting with you there, Steve.

  6. Andy Lynn · · Reply

    John,
    Thank you for posting this. I was unable to be at the funeral. My parents were there and said that Paul Powell & Pike Wisner did a beautiful job in a difficult situation. We do not know why but we know the one that does. May God’s Kingdom be enlarged as a result.

    1. Andy, it was great to see your father and sister there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: