“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
In the last two years, suicide has been skirting the edges of my circle more than ever. A friend of a friend recently had suicidal ideations. I’ve been hearing small group prayer requests for those close to someone who is expressing suicidal thoughts. A friend’s daughter was involuntarily admitted for a suicide attempt. A High School classmate and the brother of another friend committed suicide. Messages from senior leaders in the military remind us to keep tabs on each other in light of the news or anniversaries. “22 a day” has become a mantra of the military and veteran affairs, as we now know that the statistics are showing 22 veterans commit suicide each day. As in, every single day, we lose 22 Americans to suicide who had previously served in the military.
Is suicide more prevalent than it has been before? Or is it just touching my circle more closely in recent years? Frankly, it doesn’t matter if it’s more prevalent or just touching my circle more. The reality is that it’s there. It’s impacting those around me. And it’s impacting me.
How can I help those around me or myself? I can send cards or flowers…I can call on my connections for airline hook-ups…I can make dinner for a family. I can be there. I can call. I can pray. But it doesn’t feel like enough.
The academic historian in me often turns to research in times of turmoil to distract myself. Over the last few months of increased suicide in my circle, I’ve been turning to research suicide in the Bible.
As far as I can tell, there are examples of five confirmed people committing suicide in the Bible, as well as two other examples that could be arguably suicide:
1. Zimri (1 Kings 16:18): by fire
2. Judas (Matthew 27:3-5): by hanging
3. Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23): by hanging
4. Saul (1 Samuel 31:4-5 & 1 Chronicles 10:4-5): by sword
5. Saul’s Armor bearer (1 Samuel 31:5 & 1 Chronicles 10:4-5): by sword
6. Abimelch (Judges 9:53-54): by armor bearer’s sword. In this example, Abimelch’s head had been crushed by a stone thrown by a woman. Instead of facing the humiliation of being killed by a woman, he requested that his armor bearer kill him with a sword. Some will argue it wasn’t suicide, as he was already dying and had another finish the job. Still, others claim it was suicide because of his motive and intent to end his own life.
7. Samson (Judges 16:30): by crushing himself and others. In this scenario, motive becomes the contentious argument for the reasons for death. Some will argue that Samson’s sense of revenge leading to the death supports suicidal ideation, while others will agree that this was a sacrificial death rather than an intentional suicide.
Regardless of the number of suicide examples in the Bible, there are real-life suicides happening all around us. Laurence Binyon wrote a poem in 1914 that says “The mourners leave, the mourned remain…” What a sad statement about what happens at the end of a funeral.
If it’s a family member, a high school friend, an acquaintance through a small group, or a military member (one of the 22 a day)…any of those hurt our hearts. Instead of having to privately mourn those who choose suicide, let’s start to brainstorm ideas of how we can support those going through these scenarios. Prayer is most important, but so is the care & feeding of the families who are walking through this season.
If you find yourself needing help call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org