Is Suicide a Growing Epidemic or Hell-Binding Sin?
One example I heard was a local priest who said that, starting in 2020, they had seen more suicide funerals than COVID-19 deaths. Both are terrible ways to go, but his story brings home how widespread the suicide problem is in the United States. People in the United States often struggle with feelings of hopelessness and sadness.
Many Americans are affected by suicide since it is the 12th largest cause of death in the United States. There will be a total of 1.2 million suicide attempts in 2020, on top of the number of actual fatalities. It’s obvious that a lot of us have trouble appreciating our own lives for what they’re worth. Numerous individuals, households, and neighborhoods are directly impacted by the tragedy of suicide.
The church need to start having discussions about this now.
The work done by Lifeway Research to kick off the discussion on this pandemic is crucial. In my youth, I was taught that suicide was the ultimate evil that doomed the hopeless to an eternity in hell. Now that I’m an adult and have dealt with my own mental health issues, I realize there’s a lot more to the tale. Thankfully, this topic is gaining increasing traction in religious groups, and we may begin to have a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of mental health issues.
A lot of people think that
Lifeway found that just 36% of individuals think suicidal persons are selfish and that 23% think they are doomed to hell. People who have experienced the tragedy of a suicide loss are more inclined to see the problem as a public health crisis. When you learn someone’s backstory, you alter the tale being told about a problem. Those who have lost a loved one in this tragedy know that the choice they made was more nuanced than a simple act of selfishness or wickedness.
Our responses to this pressing problem seem to vary depending on one’s religious beliefs. Those who subscribe to an evangelical worldview are more prone to argue that suicide is a selfish act that inevitably ends in damnation. Atheists and agnostics are less likely to believe that suicide is a selfish act that will condemn the suicide victim to hell. Those who only go to church once a month or fewer are less likely to think that suicide is an act of selfishness that goes directly to hell. Two times as many Americans see suicide as an epidemic that must be halted as view it as a sin for which they must pass judgment.
In general, people who are closest to the deceased are the least judgmental of suicidal behavior and are more inclined to see the problem as an epidemic. Because of this, it’s crucial to talk about your own experiences with mental health concerns freely and honestly with others. While anecdotes may help people relate to a situation, statistics are often interpreted incorrectly.
The Christian Community and the Problem of Suicide
Each and every human life has value, and the choice to end one is tragic. God created man in his own image, and he wants everyone of us to use the time we have left here on earth for his glory and to spread his gospel to others. Those left behind are always left devastated and grieved by a suicide.
Scripture commands us to love one another as much as God loves us. In order to do this, we must try to see beyond what seems to be a selfish decision and instead empathize with the internal battle that may be plaguing the brains of the mentally ill. Suicide is a tragic consequence of a wide range of mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others. When a person’s mind has shut down to all possibilities and hope, suicide might seem like the only way out of their despair.
Trauma and stress may really alter neural pathways in the brain, making one more vulnerable to suicide ideation and behavior. Abuse and trauma experienced as a child might increase the likelihood that a person would contemplate suicide as an adult. These events may activate genes that predispose you to mental health problems.
Suicide stigma, which persists in certain circles, notably within the evangelical church, is an obstacle to genuine neighbor love. If we don’t take the time to learn about the issue, we won’t be able to provide any kind of support or help in avoiding it.
It’s hard to imagine a church where a member who is struggling with suicide thoughts would feel safe opening up to others if he or she believed that everyone would treat them as if they were a flawed sinner. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that older white guys are the most likely to take their own lives. They won’t relax their guard and share details of the mental battle raging within their heads until they feel safe doing so.
We must stop seeing mental illness as a spiritual defect and begin treating it as an epidemic in need of compassion, care, support, medical intervention, and more if the church is going to be a part of loving and supporting a world that is struggling under the weight of anxiety, depression, chronic stress, loneliness, and more.
Church Community’s Role in God’s Plan and Our Own Part in That Plan
God alone is the final arbiter of our eternal fates. Only the Lord knows whether or not our decisions come from a heart that is fully given to him. Even when His people are in the depths of mental suffering, we must have faith that He is kind and loves them well. To be the hands and feet of Jesus to people around us, rather than jurors and judges, is our calling.
Knowing that my loved ones would miss me even if I didn’t feel able to love them properly was the one thing that kept me from sinking into the depths of despair in my darkest moments of mental anguish. To those who are suffering, let us be the church that enters the chaos and sits with us in the shadows. This is not a safe space where people who are having trouble can’t be themselves.