For the last three weeks I have been blogging through a series of questions that have been asked since one of my closest friends committed suicide one month ago. As both a pastor and a friend to many of those who have been impacted by this tragic loss, my effort has been to seek God through his Word for answers to the tough questions about suicide. While I believe that has been done, we are still left with what to do with the rest of our lives.
I know first hand that several have wrestled with taking their own life since the death of my (our) beloved friend. The death needs to stop. I can’t imagine losing any more of you, so I want to end this series of blogs with a word of hope.
I was encouraged by a passage I read in Mark 2. I want to give you some thoughts I had, and hope that it encourages you too.
And they came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”, he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” [Mark 2:2-12]
1. Jesus forgives the man’s sins before he heals him.
In this passage four men carry their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. Clearly the desire of the friends is for Jesus to heal the man. Instead, what Jesus does first is forgive the man’s sins. He eventually heals him, but I find it interesting that Jesus first takes care of his sin.
The order is clear to us who are looking on, but probably much less clear to those in the midst of sickness, pain, and struggle. Jesus’ greatest desire was to see people in redeemed and restored relationship to their Creator. His second purpose was this short life we live before entering eternity.
We would do well to remember Jesus’ priorities when trying to understand our own. There will be parts of this life we may never come to terms with. Prioritize our relationship with God, and the eternal will rise above the temporal.
2. The paralyzed man’s friends were incredibly committed
I, like you, have wrestled with questions after losing loved ones. What could I have done to help? Could I have said or done anything more? Here is what I took away from the passage above.
The four friends do all that they can to help their friend. They live in such a way that the paralyzed man knows their love for him. Most importantly, they do this while he is alive. If I have learned anything from this passage and from the recent deaths of friends, it is this: do what you can, while your friend is with you. Live knowing that life is short, and tomorrow is never guaranteed.
3. A changed life glorifies God.
At the end of the passage it says that the man’s life is so dramatically changed that, “they were all amazed and glorified God.” We need to allow other people into the things that God is doing, or has done, in our own lives to give them hope in theirs. When people see what God has done in my life or your life, they can then begin to pursue God with hope for their own struggle. Hope is the gift we offer that points people to God in their pain and turmoil.
I began this conversation a few weeks ago by identifying our great need for hope. When we lose hope, we have nothing else (see this blog). The thing that we can do for those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide is to offer them hope. We cannot fix every problem, and we don’t have every answer. However, we can be the hope they need when they cannot see hope for themselves.
I believe that if we had known the thoughts in my friend’s head, and he could have known how many tears would be shed on his behalf, that something could have been done. We cannot alter the past, but we clearly can move forward with eyes opened.
Be people who give hope to others.
Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [Romans 5:2-5]
"Hope itself is like a star, not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity."
~ Charles Spurgeon