You may have these emotions and attitudes and reactions as you remember the tragic death of a friend or a family member. How can we make sense out of this tragic death? Let’s look at each of these feelings and reactions one at a time.
I. Remembering fills our hearts with sadness.
We will miss those who have gone on before us. We’ll miss the smile and the laugh. We’ll miss the warmth and the tenderness. We’ll miss the care and the concern. We’ll miss the conversations and the jokes. So, what do we do with this sadness? We must simply take it to the Lord Jesus Christ. He invites us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).
II. Remembering fills our hearts with confusion.
1. How can someone with major conflict in his soul live his life with such a wide positive impact?
2. How can someone who professed to love Jesus and His truth fail so dramatically to follow Him fully?
3. How can someone who so obviously loved his family and friends put them through so much pain and disappointment?
Perhaps a lesson can be learned in all this: We don’t have to have it all together to do some good in this world. But what do we do with our confusion? We take it to the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 55 tells us that His ways are higher than our ways and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. When we go to Him, God may give us insights and answers to our questions. But if not, we can rest in the knowledge that He knows the answers. He’s capable of handling the confusion. We can trust in Him even when all we have are questions.
III. Remembering fills our hearts with gratitude.
Friends and family members who have gone on before their time struggle. Let’s not pretend there was no struggle. Our friends and family members who have committed suicide wouldn’t want that. It’s appropriate that we honor the struggle. They never found the victory that they longed for and that so many here wanted for them.
The Bible describes the conflict this way: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want”(Galatians 5:17). Jesus describes the struggle this way: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
The bad thinking sometimes gets in the way. Sometimes a person’s true self is disguised. Sometimes, people give into temptation too easily. But the war that rages when a person struggles with temptations toward suicide is fierce. The true heart is striving to get out. Very often, the suicide victim was able to show people the good that was in him.
And just what is the good? Think about it. Fill in the blanks. Make a list of all the good qualities. Meditate on the good times. And be grateful.
What should we do with our gratitude? Once again, we must take our gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. James 1 tell us that every perfect gift comes down from above. Truly, a friend or family members many positive contributions to our lives are to be seen as gracious gifts to us from God.
IV. Remembering has left us feeling anger.
We’re angry because we had to sit through an unnecessary funeral. We’re angry that so much good will now go undone. We’re angry that we’re left with a mixed legacy from our freind or family member. We’re angry that the walk of his or her life didn’t more closely match the talk. We’re angry that our loved one didn’t take full advantage of all the help that was available. And we are angry at the cunning of the enemy that shortens lives.
Just as we must take our sadness and our confusion and our gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ, we must also take our anger to Him. We are told in scripture to “Be angry without sin” (Ephesians 4). Anger is okay when it’s handled properly. It’s right for us to be angry at anything that detracts from the glory of God and the good of mankind. Let’s make sure that our anger doesn’t turn into depression or bitterness or despair.
V. Remembering gives us greater motivation.
It just doesn’t seem right, does it? This friend or family members was too young to leave us. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not supposed to happen this way. But our God can take even a tragedy and use it for His purposes. Early death can be used by God to make us more victorious - more like Jesus.
1. A too early death can motivate us to purity. Galatians 6:7, 8 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” A suicidal death is an opportunity to for each of us to make a commitment to live in a more healthy and a more righteous way. We must live pure, holy, godly lives.
2. A too early death can serve as motivation for us to care. Did we love well? Did we pray enough? Did we work hard enough to help our friend or family member gain victory in the struggle? Be careful. Those kinds of questions can create in us a sense of false guilt. But the questions are good ones to ask ourselves as we go to God in prayer. We pray, “God, forgive me and help me respond better to the next person in trouble.”
3. A too early death can motivate us to surrender. We must give every part of our lives to the control of the Lord Jesus. We must not hold back. He is to be the CEO of our lives. He’s the Boss. He’s the Leader. People who take their own lives keep part of themselves back. Let’s not make that same mistake. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Let’s not only know what He says, but let’s do it as well. May God give us the grace to be not only hearers of the word, but doers as well.
4. A too early death can motivate us to be better prepared for the life that is to come.
The loss of people we love reminds us that life is brief and that death is certain. The Bible puts it this way, “We are destined to die once and after that to face judgment.” That sounds like bad news since we all know guilt. We fail to live up to our own standards of behavior, not to mention God’s standards. Who among us always acts loving? Who among us always treats others the way we want to be treated? We all know guilt. The Bible says, it this way, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But God loves us so much that He provides the way of salvation. Jesus Christ came to this earth to take away our guilt. He died on a cross to pay a debt that we should have paid. The Bible says, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9).
To become a real Christian is to humbly receive God’s gift of forgiveness and to gratefully commit to following Jesus as our leader. When we do that, He adopts us into His family and begins to change us from the inside out. As we respond in gratitude for what He has done for us, He enables us to have a greater ability to love God and others.
The ball is now in our court. It’s up to us to decide what you’re going to do with it. Jesus paid the price of salvation. But only those who say “Yes” to Him will actually receive His forgiveness. That’s the Bible means in John1:12, “But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
Admit your need of a Savior. Acknowledge your sin. Trust in what He did on the cross. Say “Yes” to Christ. Truly receive Him into your life. Make Him the Lord of all.
You may express your faith in a prayer like this:
“Lord Jesus, I am a sinner who needs Your forgiveness. I believe that You died on the cross for me. I believe that You rose again. Right now, I receive You as my Lord and Savior. I put my faith in You alone. Please change my life and make me the kind of person that You want me to be. I will become an active part of Your church to bring glory to You and good to mankind. Amen.”
If that prayer expresses a desire in your heart, just pray it back to God in your own words.
Let’s take them all to the Lord.
We can take comfort together in the promises of God. Revelation 21 tells us what God has in store for those who believe in Him. “They shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new. And He said, Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
Maybe you’ve seen an artist’s picture of a young man with a hammer in one hand and a spike in another. He’s being held by Jesus with nail-scared hands. It’s a tender picture of how we are the ones who have driven the nails into the hands of Christ because of our sin. Let’s face it. When someone takes his or her own life, like all of us, he or she is that one driving the nails into the hands of Jesus. But thanks be to God, Jesus is there embracing the very one who put the nails in His hands and feet! We have a great Savior who loves us with a great unconditional love!
As Pastor John Piper says, “People who truly know Jesus can be so weak at times that their hearts give way to severe sin.” But this doesn’t mean that the saving relationship with Christ disappears when a person gives into serious sin.
When a Christ-follower yields to temptation, his faith in Christ at that moment is weak and the pull of sin and the power of Satan get the upper hand. But there is a great difference between Satan winning a battle and Satan winning the war.
Maybe your friend or family member had an overall pattern of life that resisted an evil that he hated to do. And that’s the evidence of the Master’s work in your family member or friend’s life.
Before Jesus, a person is like a prisoner in a concentration camp far behind the lines of Satan’s territory. The result is a kind of numbness toward spiritual things. Then at the point of salvation, Jesus Himself penetrates the lines of Satan’s territory. Jesus breaks through the fences of the concentration camp. Jesus begins the process of rescuing His people.
Jesus equips His people with spiritual armor for this fight for freedom. As they leave the concentration camp, the sirens go off and fight for freedom is fierce.
When a believer commits suicide, the sword gets knocked out of his or her hand and the shield slipped from his or her arm. And the flaming arrows of the enemy hit and sink so deep into his heart that he or she fell.
Piper asks, “And where was Jesus? We believe He catches his people when they fall and He carries his people home. And if we say to Jesus, ‘You should have protected my friend or family members better while he was escaping,” Jesus might say, “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. You can no more grasp my wartime strategies than a child can read the graphs of the Chief of Staff. And remember, if I hadn’t broken through the prison of his unbelief, you would have never seen him again.’”
Remember that all true believers will see each other again because "death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57).