Psalm 31: 1-10
1 In you, O LORD, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
2 Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4 take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
6 You hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
7 I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities,
8 and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,[b]
and my bones waste away.
1 Samuel 31:1-6
31 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell[a] on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.” But his armor-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together on the same day.
Second Reading: 2nd Samuel 17:1-7 & 23
17 Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will set out and pursue David tonight. 2 I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged, and throw him into a panic; and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man,[a] and all the people will be at peace.” 4 The advice pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel. 5 Then Absalom said, “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear too what he has to say.” 6 When Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “This is what Ahithophel has said; shall we do as he advises? If not, you tell us.” 7 Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” 23 When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order, and hanged himself; he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to G-d
When I was in high school and college I was a very big Leonardo DiCaprio fan, and I went to UC Santa Barbara. And every year there is the Santa Barbara film festival and my freshman year of college Leonardo DiCaprio was going to be recognized with some sort of lifetime achievement award. So my roommate, Kelsey and I got tickets to go hear him be interviewed. And we were really excited leading up to this event. We watched a bunch of his movies, we got all dressed up. We got to get his autograph and talk to Martin Scorsese, it was a really cool night. And at the end of the night we came back and went to our dorm room and got ready for bed. And while we were getting ready for bed, I noticed that Kelsey kept taking these pills. And not like one or two but like a lot of pills and then it became apparent that she was trying to end her life. And so I went and got another one of our friends who lived on the floor above us and we called 911, and they came and Kelsey left on a stretcher and spent the rest of the semester getting the help she needed.
Almost everyone here in this room has likely been affected by suicide one way or another. Maybe you have struggled with suicidal thoughts, or an attempt or lost someone who attempted suicide or who lost their life by suicide. Suicide is happening in this country at devastating rates. This week I wanted to talk specifically about suicide. Suicides are happening at an epidemic rate in our culture and yet it is very rarely discussed. Church is the place where we should be talking about hard things. Suicide is a problem of epidemic proportions in this country.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. (Homicide ranks 17th.) It is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds, and the 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18-65.
There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts, though amongst the elderly; one out of four attempts succeed.
Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year.
Though depression is known to be a leading cause of suicide, only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression ever receive treatment.
Suicide among men is 4x’s higher than among women, and represent 79% of all US suicides. Though women are more likely than men to have had suicidal thoughts, and attempt suicide 3x’s as often as men.
Worldwide, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year.
Before we get to the end of this sermon, 4 or more people in our nation will have attempted suicide, and at least 1 will have succeeded. For in the USA, there is a death by suicide every 12.3 minutes.
“In a blog post titled “Depression Lies to Me but I Don’t Have to Listen,” Elizabeth Esther shares her struggle with getting through just one day of depression and finding hope in the small blessings around every corner.
Depression tells us many lies. “It will always hurt this much. It will never go away. Nobody cares. You are all alone. Better of dead.”
Those are some of depression’s lies which Elizabeth Esther shares.
Many of us can likely relate. Even the simplest things like making breakfast, getting in the car to go somewhere, or going on a walk outdoors can seem like insurmountable tasks when you are dealing with depression. Depression tells us that it is easier and safer to remain curled up under the covers all day.
Elizabeth Esther suggests that even the small things such as getting out of bed, choosing to wear something nice, making an effort to look presentable can be a step in the right direction when you are struggling with depression.
“Depression wants me to give up, give in, let the darkness take over,” she states. When you feel depression whisper this lie to you, think about the little things that bring you joy–breathing in the fresh air outdoors, taking a trip to your favorite coffee shop, meeting with friends who care about you–and make a choice to participate in them even though at the time they may be outside your comfort zone.
Do not listen to depression’s lie that you are alone. Even though when you are dealing with depression it is tempting to believe no one will want to be around you, no one understands, or you don’t have the mental energy to be social, taking time to be with Christian brothers and sisters who care about you and who can give you encouragement is important.
“Yes, I’m struggling,” Elizabeth Esther says, “But I’m not struggling alone.”
Another lie that depression whispers to us is that being depressed is somehow our fault; it is punishment for sin we committed or the consequence of not being in God’s Word enough.
Oftentimes, if you are trying to minister to someone who is dealing with depression, the best thing to do is simply to listen to them deeply instead of offering glib advice.
There are no easy answers to healing depression. However, God has given us many things that can help us as we struggle with it. Good friends, His beautiful creation, our families, an encouraging devotion, or a cup of your favorite kind of tea can all be small ways to work through it.
When the darkness of depression closes in, remember that God has still given you a choice. He has not abandoned you. You can choose to work against those dark clouds in small ways. Choose to look for the good amidst the bad. Cling to those small rays of hope and be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/how-to-conquer-the-lies-of-depression.html
There are several examples of people in the Bible attempting and committing suicide. It’s important that we remember that the Bible was written several thousand years ago and the people who wrote it had a very different understanding of mental wellness than we do today. In fact, our understanding of mental health and suicide had changed radically over the last few decades. Though suicide and depression has been around along as humanity.
A recent development is the recognition that that suicide is death by the disease of depression and not a moral failing on the person’s part. That a person lost their life to an illness. And that doesn’t change the fact that we hope that everyone struggling with depression and having suicidal thoughts reaches out and gets help and is able to survive another day. The issue is, we live in a society where many struggle with suicidal thoughts but there is a huge stigma surrounding suicide and we don’t talk about it. There is a non-profit attempting to change this entitled Live Through This. I would like to share with you a bit from their website:
(Have the website open so that we can see some of the portraits)
“Live Through This is a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors. “Suicide” is a dirty word in this country. It’s a sin. It’s taboo. It’s selfish. It’s not an easy topic to discuss and because we, as a culture, don’t know how to approach it, it’s easily swept under a rug. The problem is that suicide is a pervasive public health issue (the 10th leading cause of death in the US). I get it: we’re afraid of death. But avoiding it and pretending it doesn’t exist is nothing more than willfully perpetuating ignorance.
The intention of Live Through This is to show that everyone is susceptible to depression and suicidal thoughts by sharing portraits and stories of real attempt survivors—people who look just like you. These feelings could affect your mom, your partner, or your brother, and the fear of talking about it can be a killer.
Historically, suicide attempt survivors, in particular, have spoken under conditions of anonymity in order to save them from being discriminated against. The silence and shame created in that act are dangerous. Live Through This encourages survivors to own their experiences publicly—using both their full names and likenesses—and thereby works to strip the issue of anonymity and raise awareness by, simply, talking about it. It’s the first known project of its kind, exploring a world that has remained a taboo for far too long.”
What is striking to me is that so many people on the live through this website is that so many people share about feeling alone, but so many people struggle with this. We need to make sure that people feel safe to talk and share about their struggles here at Church and find support. We act as through suicide were a new thing, but in our Bible there are at least 7 different people that die by suicide. We heard two of these stories two day.
Have we ever talked about that Samuel: Israel’s first King suffered from mental health issues and died by suicide? And Ahithophel a man who was considered a leader and once a friend of King David took his own life which is our second text today. “23 When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order, and hanged himself; he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.”
The Church use to say that suicide was an unforgivable sin and that people who committed suicide couldn’t go to heaven. This isn’t true. The Bible does not say it is an unforgivable sin. G-d certainly does not want us to take our own lives, but it is wrong to make the surviving family members of suicide victims aguish more than they are.
As a Church we can be part of a persons support who reminds them that they are a beloved child of G-d, that they are not alone and that they are wanted. As a Church we often reach out to people when they are sick, cook food, offer them rides…and the same offers exists when someone is struggling with diseases such as depression or bipolar disorder. I know this can be hard because so often one of the symptoms of these illnesses is pushing people away. So we must pray for strength and perseverance.
We can be a place where people can share their anguish from losing a loved one to suicide, a place where they don’t need to be ashamed or whisper the cause of death. Other things we can do as a Church are recognize the warning signs: someone who talks about a desire to kill themselves, someone expressing a lack of hope in life, someone with drawling. We can listen well and offer unconditional love like G-d does. We can offer to go with them to get help. We can pray specifically for them. And here in this church we can be brave and share our struggles and ask for help and support.
There is an amazing Church in Atlanta that runs and amazing day program for adult who struggle with mental wellness. And part of that program is an amazing painting program. And there is an incredibly talented artist there whose work I wanted to purchase but they sell for several hundred dollars, and as a Seminary student I just didn’t have money like that to spend on art. And many of his paintings were portraits and many of them looked like Christ to me. They had long hair, piercing eyes, a man in his early 30s. And the artist had short hair and was in his 60s or 70s. And when I asked him who is was a portrait over he said it was him…which is true we all bear the image of G-d, we are all made in G-d’s image. We are all worth it. Amen.