Recently, two high profile celebrities committed suicide. They did this within hours of each other. While this is shocking, it’s not unusual. In the U.S. alone, there we average 121 suicides per day. It’s an unhappy and morose statistic.
Years ago, I was asked to speak at a fund-raiser for a large church camp. In the days leading up to my talk, there was a teen suicide in the town where I was living. I mentioned it in my talk and intimated that institutions like the church camp we were supporting could, in essence, offer kids hope—hope that might derail any suicidal thoughts.
“It was a little embarrassing.”
I found out later that the deceased boy’s grandmother was in the audience that night. Subsequently, I had a long phone conversation with her, and we prayed together. It was a little embarrassing and a lot sad. She had no answers, and of course, neither did I.
Suicide is a complicated thing—as complex as the people who make the final decision to take their own lives. There are no easy answers—only more and more questions. Depression is often blamed for suicidal tendencies, and I’m sure they play a deepening role in the life of a person who finally succumbs to the temptation to end it all.
One of the most famous suicides in all of history was that of Judas Iscariot. He was so remorseful when he discovered that Jesus was condemned to death, he tossed his reward money at the priests and elders and went out to hang himself. He obviously thought that, by turning Jesus over to the authorities, Jesus would have to stand up and defend himself. When that didn’t happen, Judas knew he had made a miscalculation. His impatience with Jesus’ inaction ended up triggering the opposite of what he had intended. It was more than he could take.
Have we Learned to Live With It?
As we have seen, suicide is nothing new. It’s been around almost as long as human beings have trod the earth. We have, in a small sense, come to grips with it. At least, we’ve learned to live alongside of it. We do our best to avoid it and help others that are tempted by it. Still, we understand that it’s a reality we have to face.
The new problem with suicide is that it has increased by 30% over the past twenty years. People are dying in droves as we flounder to give them hope. And that seems to be the key. When people lose hope, they give up. When they have nothing to live for, they seek ways take their own lives. Somewhere along the way, society has failed them.
Judas didn’t stick around long enough to discover the truth about Jesus. It had been in front of him for three and a half years. Jesus’ resurrection would have confirmed the reality of salvation and given him hope for forgiveness and a new life. We, in the church, need to do a better job of offering that same hope.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]