Godly Sorrow Over Deadly Grief: Reflecting on my Suicide Attempt

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;     my eyes grow weak with sorrow,     my soul and body with grief.  My life is consumed by anguish     and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction,     and my bones grow weak.  (Psalm 31.8-10) This week I shared my story with a youth group at Eminence Christian Church (IN). I started by having the youth turn to each other and say, "God loves you more than you can imagine," then, "God brought you here to be blessed." I then went through how God had orchestrated events in my life over the past decade to bring me there tonight. The event that almost prevented me from being there.  My despair over it. My book. The support of my family and friends moving back to Indiana. My blog post about suicide. The youth leader reading it and inviting me to come. The [...]

Godly Sorrow Over Deadly Grief: Reflecting on my Suicide Attempt 2018-09-21T17:20:25+00:00

What I Believe About Suicide

God is more just than I will ever be. And, God is more loving than I can ever imagine. For centuries it has been standard church doctrine that suicide is a shameful sin, deserving eternal punishment. Persons who took their own lives were restricted from church burials, families were ostracized, even excommunicated for fear this deadly infection would spread to the whole body. The teaching that suicide leads directly to hell is rooted not so much in Scripture as in a desire to deter someone who wants to end his life from doing so. Lately, with suicides of prominent church leaders and their family members, this teaching is being called into question. Most recently, Inland Hills Church put out this message: Inland Hills Church grieves with heavy hearts as our Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein was welcomed into Heaven on Saturday night after battling depression and anxiety. It’s not the outcome [...]

What I Believe About Suicide 2018-09-16T05:48:09+00:00

Choosing Life Over Death

I've been asked to share my story with a youth group next week. Like many teens, they are facing intense issues. More than just what sport to play, who to ask out on a date, what college to choose. No, much more than this, they are asking life and death questions like: how can I cope with this pain, who can I turn to for help, why live. When I was in high school, I had much to live for, or so it seemed. I was a top scholar-athlete. I was in theater, student government, publications. One would think I didn't have a care in the world. But inside I was festering with despair. At high school, I read a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called, "Richard Cory." It begins, Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole [...]

Choosing Life Over Death 2018-09-13T08:02:51+00:00

Dealing with Suicide

I'm doing an interview with Brainstorms tomorrow.  Brainstorms is a radio show hosted by Megan Malfi on Hamilton Radio focusing mostly on mental health and mental disabilities or disorders. On Brainstorms they are always striving to learn more about different mental disorders, how they can help others stay mentally healthy, and how to cope with mental illness in ourselves or a loved one.  "Whether we’re talking about things we love that make us happy or things that give us stress, our goal is always to convey the message that YOU HAVE VALUE." Megan and I have been communicating for about a month on how we can be mutually supportive in our ministries. She very graciously offered to take the first step and invite me on her program. As a diligent host, she has since read Delight in Disorder and has asked very soul-searching questions. One is this -- A lot of [...]

Dealing with Suicide 2018-07-18T23:28:51+00:00

A Faithful Response to Suicide

I am a man of faith who has attempted suicide. As such, I feel a unique responsibility to share my story. I want to stress that this is my own story. Not the story of Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Robin Williams. Or the countless others who don't make the news. Still, maybe my story will contribute to a better understanding of how someone like me could choose death over life. First, my own story. In high school, I was a star athlete and a stellar student. I gave a speech at my high school graduation and shared a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called, "Richard Cory." It begins: Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And ends... So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the [...]

A Faithful Response to Suicide 2018-06-11T19:53:29+00:00

A Mental Illness Spectrum?

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was given a very mixed prognosis. Many of the staff at the psychiatric hospital I was in had cared for persons with severe mental illness for years. What they often saw was people who were essentially non-communicative, sometimes aggressive, often pacing through the halls with what they called the "Thorazine shuffle." They told me I should prepare for a life where I could not return to ministry, get divorced, and, spend the rest of my life in-and-out of psych hospitals. But when I saw my psychiatrist, he painted a very different image. He handed me a memoir that had just come out called, An Unquiet Mind  by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison is a leading researcher of bipolar disorder and has the illness herself. This book expanded my vision of what God could do in my life despite the challenges of [...]

A Mental Illness Spectrum? 2018-01-22T01:28:56+00:00

How/Can we prevent suicide? {Note: Trigger Warning}

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide "When I came to my senses in the hospital bed after my suicide attempt, I had to face the reality that I had tried to abandon God. At the same time, I discovered that God had not abandoned me."  --Tony Roberts, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. I have walked closely with suicide, both in my pastoral and personal lives. I have seen it in the bandaged wrists of a teenage girl. I [...]

How/Can we prevent suicide? {Note: Trigger Warning} 2017-12-11T14:09:23+00:00

Does Suicide Destroy Faith?

I just received word today that a family member died by suicide. I didn't personally know this young man, but each time I hear of someone who has suffered greatly and lost hope for this life, I feel sick to my stomach. I didn't used to feel this way. I used to feel angry. I used to believe suicide was a terrible act of cruelty against one's self. I used to believe it was horribly selfish against one's loved ones. I used to believe it was an ultimate act of ingratitude against God. I used to believe this. No more. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin named in the Bible as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."  It is more a symptom of our human condition than a sinful action. It is far from a selfish act. Instead, it is more a desire to unburden loved ones of the suffering [...]

Does Suicide Destroy Faith? 2017-10-23T14:50:53+00:00

To Be or Not to Be: Thoughts on Suicide

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide   When I was in training to become a student counselor in college, we were taught how to respond to persons who seemed to be suicidal. Some things we should look for included: 1) Sleeping an inordinate amount of time or not sleeping at all; 2) Showing no concern for hygiene; 3) Skipping meals; 4) Excessive drinking or using other drugs.  To an extent, these behaviors can be exhibited in any college student, in any one [...]

To Be or Not to Be: Thoughts on Suicide 2017-09-11T12:49:14+00:00

Suicide and Salvation

Not long ago, I took a leisurely stroll with a young friend along a "people path" in my neighborhood. We paused and watched some ducks circling the pond beyond the log fence. "Is suicide the unforgivable sin?" he asked. I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I needed more time to formulate what the Bible says and doesn't say about the subject of suicide. But I couldn't wait to respond. He seemed urgent. I looked at his face, trying to read what he was saying  in the lines of his forehead."Why do you ask?" He turned away. "I have a friend who was the first person to share Christ with me.  Until about a month ago, I would say she had the strongest faith of anyone I know. Then suddenly she started doing strange things. One day, she scrubbed her church's [...]

Suicide and Salvation 2017-08-21T15:07:46+00:00