The Suicide of a Friend

“My soul has had enough troubles,” (Psalm 88:3).

ImageI imagine that verse sums up, in all its weary sadness, what my dear friend felt over the last year. She had had enough troubles. Her personal and physical losses compounded weekly. Every time it seemed something good might be about to happen in her life, some new darkness would arise to smear with midnight despair each faint glimmer of hope. Two weeks ago, she closed her eyes to a sleep from which she would not awaken.

She was a friend to me and my wife. We had studied the Scriptures together, worshiped together, talked about her struggles and sought to help her as best as we knew how.

Her struggles are now over. I weep over how her life ended. I weep over the fact that she took away a gift that was not hers to take. But I also find comfort in the Christ who doesn’t take away His gift of life and forgiveness from us. A bent reed He will not break. A smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In the darkness that overwhelmed my dear friend, Jesus was present, for “even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day,” (Psalm 139:12). His blood atones for all sins, even those we commit in our last hours.

A few weeks before her death, my friend wrote to thank me for this blog, for my writings. She said,

“Every day I look forward to your new musings. So, just a quick note to let you know that your talent and ability to touch others should never be squashed or limited.”

I read those words now through a flood of tears, for I wish my ability to touch her had been deeper.

Perhaps there is someone else reading this now who, as the psalm says, has had enough troubles. To them I offer what is written below, something I posted several months ago. I pray for you, even though I don’t know your name, for I know the Lord knows your name, your sufferings, your fears. There is hope and healing for you in Jesus Christ, the God who immersed Himself so deeply in our sufferings that He, too, wept over the death of a dear friend. And, He weeps with you, will sustain you, and will raise you from the pits of your despair to newfound life in Him.

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Lies”

There were pictures of her bathed in the sun of South Padre, sand between her toes, arm-in-arm with beautiful friends. Pictures of her holding up a margarita, toasting the unseen photographer. Pictures of her beside her new Honda, graduating with honors, random shots of her at forgotten Christmases and family vacations. In every one she was all smiles, seeming to radiate happiness.

But on the day when a picture would finally have spoken the truth, no one dreamed of lifting a camera. On that day the mourners were shocked to discover that behind the veneer of her bright smile lurked a fathomless darkness, whose depths she made manifest only when she despaired of life in this world.

Her name is Cindy. And her name is Audrey. And Liz. And Susan. And countless others, for hers is a story told with heartbreaking frequency. Her snapshots are images of an actor on the world’s stage, playing the part expected of her by the audience, conforming to social norms, smiling her way through pain, unto despair, into the grave. Her pictures are not worth a thousand words; they tell a thousand lies.

I was little different from her during the time in my life when suicide began to sing to me its siren song. I painted on the obligatory smile, locking up the grief when others were around, lest someone discover that I too was a frail human being beset with weakness. By then I had years of practice in the fool’s art of keeping up appearances.

St. John wrote that he who says he has no sin deceives himself. But that lie is only one of many self deceptions we perfect. We say we have no struggle with depression, while inside is a yawning, cavernous darkness. A husband says his marriage is just fine, while his wife, at her wits end, has scheduled a meeting with a divorce lawyer. A pastor pours a little more liquor into his glass week after week, self-medicating himself to sleep, all the while telling himself he’s just exercising his Christian freedom. And I’m willing to wager that you, dear reader, have told your own set of lies to the man in the mirror.

If I could possess just one snapshot of Jesus, one picture taken during his earthly life, it wouldn’t be Mary’s swaddled baby boy, or the walking-on-water Christ, or even the Lord affixed to the tree. It would be on the day he was told his friend Lazarus was dead, when St. John summarizes his reaction in two simple words, ”Jesus wept.” Two words, the significance of which heaven and earth are too small to contain. Here is God, crying over the death of a beloved friend. No Stoic divinity with a heart of flint, shrugging at the harsh realities of life. No actor faking composure for the evangelist’s camera. This picture truly would be worth a thousand words, for it would proclaim a thousand truths.

We need to know that God cried. We need to know that he knows what pain and loneliness and heartache feel like. We have a God who has been tempted, betrayed, hated, forgotten, rejected, stabbed in the back and spit in the face. He’s been through hell on earth, quite literally. He doesn’t just know intellectually what people suffer; he knows existentially. And he has scars to prove it.

But there’s more, and it’s even better. He not only sympathizes, he revitalizes–he literally “makes alive again.” When Lazarus lay entombed, there was a time to tear up, and a time to tear down the powers of life’s foe. So Jesus stood before the grave and commanded, ”Lazarus, come forth!’” Shrouded in the raiment of a corpse, but with a heart pumping life through his veins again, out stepped God’s friend. One of my teachers liked to remark that the reason Jesus mentioned Lazarus by name was that if he had issued a blanket announcement in the graveyard, every tomb would have coughed up its dead, alive again!

But, in fact, Jesus resurrects by name. He calls Lazarus and Cindy and Audrey and Liz and Susan. And he calls you by name—calls you out of the graves of grief and guilt. He bids you weep and wail, kick and scream, whatever it takes to purge the poison from your heart with unbridled honesty. And he will listen, without ever once interrupting, until you’re done, even if you have to tell him times without number. Into you, as into the first human being, he will breathe his own breath, a breath that bears the very life of God into you. And where God is, there is hope and healing, a recreative power that makes all things new for you who are not only his friend, but his beloved child.


Single Post Navigation

28 thoughts on “The Suicide of a Friend

  1. Mark on said:

    Your article has struck a cord inside me deep down. I, too, have been afflicted with suffering similar to this, and feeling lonely and depressed bc of a friend I thought cared about me as much as I did him, only to find out he only used me for personal gain and didn’t really care about the real person that I am at all. My heart is saddened deeply and it’s been a struggle to put this in the past no matter how hard I’ve tried. Please pray…please help.

  2. Peggy on said:

    Mark< I am "going through-not stuck in" sort of the same situation as you. Last year I was hurt deeply by one of my dearest friends………… Struggling to figure out who, what, when, where and why I was deceived. This is a friend who I consider a great woman of God. It cuts deep. Usually easy for me to forgive, forget and move on…. The forgiveness is there but the hurt remains and it gets depressing at times….very depressing. Leaving it at our Savior's feet… I will pray for you and ask that you pray for me.

  3. Deeply moving piece, Chad, which should have wide circulation among us. Thanks for bringing the light.

  4. Suellen Dehnke on said:

    Thank you for writing, once again, a great article. My nephew Jon, an Iraqi War Vet took his own life on August 28, 2012. His pain ended that day but a lifetime of pain for my brother and his family began.

    • I can’t imagine that pain, Suellen, especially for your brother. May Christ give you the only true comfort that is found: in His promise never to leave you, never forsake you, even when all hope in life is forsaken.

  5. I cannot begin to tell you how much your writing has touched me today. I do believe God led me here because I have suffered for five years now over the death of my most precious son to suicide. I have been angry with God for what He allowed but, I have been overjoyed at the signs He has sent me since my son’s death that “it is well.” Thank you for writing this. I know it will mean much to others in my situation or those who may suffer mental illness which can result in suicide. I would like to reblog this. God bless you for all that you do in Christ’s name.

    • I thank God that He has used my writing to bring comfort to you. I know there are some things we never “get past.” Some wounds leave lifelong scars. But we have a Savior who has scars as well. And those scars testify of His love for us, His love for your son, His love that sustains us when we think all hope is lost. I pray the love of God in Jesus Christ will continue to heal you and hold you up.

  6. Reblogged this on In the Wake of Suicide….trying to understand and commented:
    This blog touched my heart and soul deeply, mending it for today…something to resort to when, on other days, grief will begin all over again in its fierce and trembling ways.

  7. Chad, there is comfort here, grace and mercy, love and peace beyond understanding for those who embrace it. His light shines through. Bless you.

  8. I hope you dont mind but I really wanted to leave this here. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts please contact this number
    1-800-273-8255. This is this suicide prevention hotline, there is help out there, and there is no shame in asking for it.

  9. This is so sad and moving. I am saddened for your loss and touched by your profound kindness in writing this post. You show such understand of the pain of so many. Your words made me weep my pain, and the sufferings of so many. As I listen to the pain of youths who call our service, I know I am exactly where I should be and feel blessed. I have 2 blogs, one for narratives and poems and one called Stop the Stigma, I would like to ask permission to reblog this to the latter. Blessings, Cheryl-Lynn

  10. Thank you, Cheryl-Lynn. I pray my words are a blessing to any who read them. You certainly may reblog this.

  11. David on said:

    I know the hurt. I pray for you, too

    David B


  12. stephanie on said:

    Thank you for this. So beautifully written, with so much truth. The one thing I disagree with is the assertion that all the pictures are lies. I know it illustrates your point, about how much we hide, and you make that point exquisitely. But as someone who has battled depression all her life, I think it also needs to be said that there are times of great joy and happiness that are very real. Depression casts it’s dark cloud, dominates so much of the life it consumes, lurks on the shoulder even on good days. But I am not depression. The happy moments on the beach, hugging my children, walking hand in hand with my husband….those are also real and really me.

    • Thank you, Stephanie. I agree wholeheartedly. I didn’t mean to give the impression that all picture are lies, but rather that it is far too easy for us to assume everything is okay if we believe every picture tells the truth. Some do, some don’t. Thank God that there are times of happiness, and that those are captured on film. They remind us that, even in the midst of depression, there is still abundance of hope in the Christ who walks in the darkness with us.

  13. mary on said:

    Thankyou,, I needed this tonight

  14. I enjoyed this, with some reservation-the author said Jesus wept when first told that Lazarus died. At least in one of the Gospels, Jesus flat out tells the disciples that Lazarus has died. Jesus first said that Lazarus was “asleep”- and he was going to wake him up. The apostles didn’t understand, so Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead”. He did not weep then.

    Later, when he arrived to revive Lazarus, and saw everyone crying, then it says “Jesus wept”.

    I think Jesus was weeping over the whole concept of human loss and suffering–and knowing that, soon His own mother and close friends, would be sorrowing over Him. Love Donna

  15. Sam Pakan on said:

    Another amazingly profound article. The hope we have in Christ is often difficult to see through in the darkness, but it is no less real. May you and all her friends and family find peace and hope in His amazing love.

  16. sondance has a diamond abacus on said:

    There are many memories in my life I will not forget. Coming to the brink of taking my own life is one of them. I was pulled from that darkness by a holy (and wholly) reverent fear of the Lord, something my grandmother taught me with her index finger and a firm reprimand, whatever the offense. Of course, fearing and knowing the Lord is often far more profound than a grandmother’s reprimand, but may be all that is needed in the foundation and instruction of a child. And how I called on instruction as an adult, at my wits’ end, grieving and useless, mostly to myself.

    Thank you for this reflection. I am deeply moved by the sad ending of Robin Williams’ beauty, as I also know the depths of darkness.

    As my favorite singer/songwriter John Prine wrote: ‘to believe in this livin’ is just a hard way to go’. Sometimes we need just one thing to hold on to, and if that one thing should slip away from us, the despair is impossible to describe.

  17. Through a terrible childhood I clung to God to get me through. I was a raised a Jew and converted to Christianity. I worked in a church for fifteen years until a year ago. That’s when a new minister entered the picture. We didn’t get along very well and in the long run I left. Neither of our actions were exemplary, but he’s still there and I am not. I am left feeling like God does not want me in His church, so the very thing I’ve clung to for love all my life is gone. I smile and I work part time and I function but the despair has become an abyss. I know I have my own sins in this matter but even in that realization, I still feel only abandonment and like I’ve been ostracized from God’s love. It’s a dangerous place to be.

    • Elizabeth on said:

      Dear Sarah,
      God wants you in His Church. He wants you there so much that He sent His only Son to die to ensure that you could enter into His Holy House. Sometimes, due to this sinful world that we live in, it is necessary to go to a different church, but yet, you are still going to God’s Church. Despair that comes from feeling abandoned is never easy. But you are God’s child. He claims you. He will not abandon you. He loves you.
      I have suffered a severe clinical depression and death reared its ugly head and tried to claim me. The only prayer I was able to pray was, “God, don’t let me go.” That was all my brain would allow me to coherently articulate. But God is gracious, and He did not let me go. In fact, He came and fought the dragon Satan. It was an ugly, vicious battle, and I still bear the scars. But Christ won. He triumphed there on the cross, for me and for you.
      I sorrow for your suffering. But you are not alone. God does not abandon His children. He is your Father and He loves you, more than words could ever describe. You are in my prayers, dear sister in Christ.

  18. I’ve read and re-read this blog post several times. It is greatly comforting to me. To those that don’t fully understand chronic anxiety and depression, suicide is often seen as selfish. The closest analogy that I have found is that a suicidal person is similar to the person in the burning building who chooses to jump out of the window 40 stories to his.her death. Jumping out of the window isn’t any less scary but the alternative is so much more painful, it feels like the only solution. The only solution I’ve found is to focus on serving others, but some days are better than others. I keep praying that, with the help of God, I too will overcome this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: