The suicides of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade illustrate an all-to-common tragedy – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. in 2016 alone, and said the suicide rate in the U.S. rose by nearly 30 percent from 1999 to 2016.
While the CDC report isn’t surprising, it is sobering. If a disease saw a spike like we’ve seen with suicides, we would deem it an epidemic.
How do we explain the increase? We’ve never been more educated. We have tools of technology our parents could not have dreamed of. We are saturated with entertainment and recreation. Yet more people than ever are orchestrating their own departure. How could this be? And what can we do?
Suicide victims battled life’s rawest contests. They often faced a mental illness or physical illnesses and felt the peril of mental fatigue. What you and I take for granted, they coveted. Optimism. Hope. Confidence that all would be well – that they would be well.
Their clouds had no silver linings. Their storms had no rainbows.
If that describes the way you feel, can I urge you to consider one of the great promises of the Bible? The promise begins with this phrase: “Weeping may last through the night” (Ps. 30:5).
Of course, you knew that much. You didn’t need to read the verse to know its truth. Weeping can last through the night. Weeping may last through the night, and the next night and the next.
This is not news to you.
But this may be: “Joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5). Despair will not rule the day. Sorrow will not last forever. The clouds may eclipse the sun, but they cannot eliminate it. Night might prolong the dawn, but it cannot defeat it. Morning comes. Not as quickly as we want. Not as dramatically as we desire. But morning comes, and, with it, comes joy. Joy comes.
Joy comes because God comes.
The Depression of the 1930s all but devastated Mary’s family. Her husband’s paycheck shrank to $18 a week. Since he was ill, there were many weeks he didn’t earn even that much.
Mary began to take in laundry and ironing. She dressed her five kids with Salvation Army clothing. At one point the local grocer, to whom they owed $50, accused her 11-year-old son of stealing.
That was all Mary could take.
Mary said: “I couldn’t see any hope … I shut off my washing machine, took my little five-year-old girl into the bedroom and plugged up the windows and cracks with paper and rags. I turned on the gas heater we had in the bedroom – and didn’t light it.
“As I lay down on the bed with my daughter beside me, she said, ‘Mommy, this is funny, we just got up a little while ago.’ But I said, ‘Never mind, we’ll take a little nap.’ Then I closed my eyes, listening to the gas escape from the heater. I shall never forget the smell of that gas. …
“Suddenly, I heard music. I listened. I had forgotten to turn off the radio in the kitchen. But it didn’t matter now. But the music kept on and presently I heard someone singing an old hymn.
“What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
“As I listened to the hymn, I realized I had made a terrible and tragic mistake. ... I had tried to fight all my terrible battles alone. I jumped up, turned off the gas, opened the door and raised my windows.”
Mary went on to explain how she spent the rest of the day giving thanks to God for the blessings she had forgotten: five healthy children. She promised that she would never be ungrateful. Her family eventually lost their home, but she never lost her hope. They weathered the Depression. Those five children grew up, married, and had children of their own.
Mary said: “As I look back on that terrible day when I turned on the gas, I thank God over and over that I woke up in time. What joys I would have missed. How many wonderful years I would have forfeited forever. … Whenever I hear now of someone who wants to end his life I feel like crying out, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t.’ The blackest moments we live through can only last a little time – and then comes the future.”
And you? You’ll be tempted to give up. Please don’t. Open your Bible. Meditate on Scripture. Sing hymns. Talk to someone about your hurt. Seek help. Place yourself in a position to be found by hope. Weeping comes. But so does joy. Darkness comes, but so does the morning. Sadness comes, but so does hope. Sorrow may have the night, but it cannot have our life.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).