Most of us easily recognize the instrumental theme song to the television show M*A*S*H*. It is iconic. But many do not realize there are lyrics that accompany the song. The chorus reads “Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please”. In context, this song was written by Johnny Mandel as an ode to the horrors of war, the fears and suffering that are faced and that the thought of taking one’s own life might seem to be the least painless at times. Wars are not only fought on declared battlefields, they are fought in our daily lives, they are fought when and where we least expect them.
This week our family was touched by the tragedy of suicide. This was a second cousin of mine, who I do not think I ever met, but nonetheless my heart aches for him and those closest to him. I am certain there are emotions of confusion, anger, guilt, and most certainly grief rippling through the people in his circle of influence. As a pastor/counselor I have interacted with close survivors of this tragedy unfortunately too often. The simple truth is, there is no easy answer. People who take their own life are not weak and they are not selfish—they are lost and they are desperate. In full disclosure I have stood at the edge of the valley of darkness a couple times and contemplated if just ending it was the answer. By God’s grace I did not, but also by God’s mercy I have learned not to judge those who do and have learned to have empathy and love for them and their situations.
It is critical to remember there is no easy answer to understanding why someone makes this decision. I think the prognosis of “mental illness” perhaps gets abused, but I also know it is very real. Obviously, the degree and results are different, but I have found two commonalities that help people through the darkest of times: faith and community.
As a follower of Jesus Christ my faith comes first, I try (and fail way to often) to honor and glorify Him in all things I do. As a follower of Jesus Christ I try (and fail way to often) to honor and show compassion within my community; community meaning my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, my town, my state, my nation, our world—all those I come into contact.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Sometimes there are no rational answers to the tragedies and hardships we experience and yes, that stinks! We do not like it! We seek someone to blame! The idea here is that we need God first, but we were created to need each other. We must encourage one another, stand by one another, lift one another, cry with one another, pray with one another, praise God with one another.