When the Christian community loses someone to suicide

Alison Mitchell | September 12th 2019

How are we to respond when we hear sad news such as American pastor and blogger, Jarrid Wilson, taking his own life this week

There are no quick and easy answers. Even for those like myself, who have struggled with depression for many years, it’s hard to know what to say or how to bring comfort. Mental illness is such a complex area, and everyone’s experience is different.

Those of us who are currently depressed may be feeling upset, unsettled or even unsafe. If so, we’ll need some gentle support from those who know us and love us. (My own boss did this for me this morning as he knew the news would have been difficult for me. I’m very grateful to him.) Those of you who don’t struggle yourselves, but know someone who does, may also have been unsettled by this news. You may be wondering how something like this could happen? You may also be worried or scared for a depressive you know.

Whether you are a sufferer or a supporter (or—like me—both!), I have two brief suggestions to offer:

First: Mental health is far too complex to give a 500-word answer to it. So I’d encourage you to give some time to finding out more. Bring your questions to the Lord—he’s big enough for all of them. Do some reading, or chat to someone with experience in this area. Doing this will help you to understand the issues more fully, and in particular how to look at them through biblical eyes. 

One way to do this is to read Down, Not Out by Australian pastor Chris Cipollone. As Chris and I worked on this book together, we deliberately kept the chapters short, real and very practical - knowing from experience that those of us struggling with depression find it hard to concentrate on more than a few pages at a time. And every chapter dives into God’s Word and shows the difference Jesus makes to our experience of depression and anxiety. I hope and pray it will help you.

Second: Many years ago, when I experienced a sudden bereavement, most people simply didn’t know what to say—and so they ended up saying nothing. But one pastor did—and the words he sent me in a card have stayed with me ever since. He simply wrote: “Words are not enough, but our Lord is, so I will pray.”

So let’s all be praying today. For the family and friends of Jarrid Wilson—and also for those around the world, many of whom, like me, never knew him, but are profoundly affected by his loss. Let’s pray that we can all look to our loving Lord for his comfort as we "trust in his unfailing love” (Psalm 13 v 5)

Alison Mitchell

Alison Mitchell is a Senior Editor at The Good Book Company, where she has worked on a range of products including Bible-reading notes for children and families, and the Christianity Explored range of resources. She is the author of the award-winning Jesus and the Lions' Den.

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