When Someone Takes His Own Life

In many ways, this seems to be the most tragic form of death. Often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily on those left behind.

The Bible warns us not to judge, if we ourselves hope to escape judgment. And I believe that this is the one area that Biblical command especially should be heeded. For how do we know how many valiant battles such a person may have fought and won before he loses that one particular battle? And is it fair that all the good acts and impulses of such a person should be forgotten or blotted out by his final tragic act?

I think our reaction should be one of love and pity, not of condemnation. Perhaps the person was not thinking clearly in his final moments; perhaps he was so driven by emotional whirlwinds that he was incapable of thinking at all. This is terribly sad. But surely it is understandable. All of us have moments when we lose control of ourselves, flashes of temper, or irritation, or selfishness that we later regret. Each of us, probably, has a final breaking point or would have if our faith did not sustain us. Life puts far more pressure on some of us than it does on others. Some people have more stamina than others.

A few years ago, when a young man died by his own hand, a service for him was conducted by his pastor, The Reverent West Stephens. What he said that day expresses far more eloquently than I can, the message that I’m trying to convey. Here are some of his words:

Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real to him as his casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and his strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared that he had lost the war. But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!

For one thing he has won our admiration because even if he lost the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his weapons as long as he could. We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for his family and friends…for all things beautiful, lovely, and honorable.

We shall remember not his last day of defeat, but we shall remember the many days that he was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years that he had. Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that God does know, and understands.

~ written by Norman Vincent Peale ~

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