17 April 2011

Loneliness, Suicide, and Hope

(For Someone Having Committed Suicide)
John 16:31–33
The reason for our gathering here is clear. We are here to give thanks for a life and to praise God, the Creator of life. We come together not because we choose to do so but because our faith demands it. Even though we gather in a spirit of worship, our hearts are so very heavy with the grief we share in common.
There is a voice within us which continues to say, This just is not happening. Why? There is no reason to this. The “Why?” comes because our minds are usually more logical than the world in which we live. There is a tendency for us to believe that a reason exists for everything. That belief gives us some defense against the helplessness of our existence. We seek a cause for all things, something we can comprehend and possibly control.
Indeed, one of life’s most difficult challenges is to live in the midst of unanswered questions. There is, after all, so much mystery to our existence, so much we do not understand.
There are two passages of Scripture which should form the parameters of our gathering here. One is from 1 Corinthians 13:12 where Paul reminded us that we see through “a glass, darkly” (KJV). In other words, there is much that we just do not understand. Our grasp of reality is, at best, limited. Therefore, to find ourselves in the midst of circumstances we do not understand is a part of our human condition.
The second passage is from Psalm 136 where the psalmist gives thanks for God’s enduring mercy. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (v. 1). The psalmist offers comfort and hope for us today as he points to a God whose mercy is upon us. He is a God “Who remembered us in our lowly state” (v. 23). Because of God’s mercy we can come together as a people of hope.
Given our setting today there are some important words that need to be spoken. In God’s own time, we will know and under stand what is now a vast tangle of mystery and loneliness. The passing of this one seems to be untimely in what will continue to be a mystery. But remember that Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1–2).
One thing we know, had this dear soul because of an overload of cares and responsibilities come to complete physical exhaustion and an illness during which he/she was not like him/herself, he/she would have been surrounded by all with a double load of love and care. For similar reasons, human beings often come to deep mental problems and even to mental collapse.
This one’s passing was no more or no less due to sickness than if death had resulted from some other cause. It was death due to illness just as much as if death had been due to heart failure or cancer.
There was suffering in this one’s life. Suffering is a part of life. None of us can answer why people must suffer and die. In different ways and at different times, we must all suffer. For reasons that will remain a mystery in this life, this one’s life had become one of pain. There was distress that seemed larger than life. And there is no way for us to explain it. We cannot get into another person’s mind. For whatever reason, life became unbearable.
As family you should take caution not to become overwhelmed with guilt that all of this is the result of something you did or did not do. If death occurred from incurable cancer, you could not have changed the direction of events. Even so here the same is true.
Only an Eternal God can know the sickness and suffering which can grip both mind and spirit. But God does know. We only must endeavor to remember the goodness and kindness which characterized this one’s life. The rest we must safely leave to the Father’s love and mercy.
Our challenge at this point is to turn to God and to Christ Jesus, our Savior, for comfort and assurance. As Jesus faced what appeared to be certain death He said, “Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32, KJV).
I bring this to your attention because I believe that Jesus is saying now to you whose shock has turned to bewilderment and grief, “You are not alone, for the Father is with you.”
Therefore, the real question for us today is not “Why?” but “How?” Now that this has happened, how may we face it? How may we find strength to face our pain and grief, and still go on affirming life and the God who gives it?
We are not protected from life’s pain. God does not prevent our suffering, and yet He does not cause it. Instead, He meets us in the midst of life, even here today as He has always met us, with a love that goes to a cross. Only in that faith and hope can we continue to move forward. We come together today to share our faith and our hope. We do it in the midst of our tears and unanswered questions.
In these moments of loneliness, remember the symbolic embrace of friends of our common faith. Most of all remember the words of Jesus, “I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” Christ found comfort in this truth. In this same truth, your comfort is to be found.
Prayer:     Our Father, there is much to life that we do not understand. We “see through a glass, darkly.” Until that which is partial disappears, we will trust in You. Embrace our loved one with Your merciful arms of love. We offer our prayer in the name of One who came as Ultimate Love. Amen.
Cadenhead, Al, Jr: Minister's Manual for Funerals. Nashville, TN : Broadman Press, 1988, S. 107

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