Before writing this blog post, I received a text that a nephew of someone we know died from an overdose. While I do not know the circumstances or details of this particular incident, these kinds of situations are becoming more frequent.
One of the chapters in my book Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World that I prayed over the most is a chapter that addresses suicide and shame. Here is an excerpt on this topic:
“Other articles and authors have also pointed out the increase of suicides over the last two decades. The American Psychological Association for example noted the following:
The increase in the rate of death by suicide in the Unit-ed States between 2000 and 2016, from 10.4 to 13.5 per 100,000 people, according to a National Center for Health Statistics analysis of data from the National Vital Statistics System. The rate increased by about 1 percent per year from 2000 through 2006 and by about 2 percent per year from 2006 through 2016. (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/numbers).
As noted earlier, suicide can affect anyone, even those whose circumstances would otherwise suggest a “good life.” We need to talk about suicide more, because it’s an epidemic and a real struggle for so many. At its core, it’s also a loss of hope. There was a solution to Judas’ despair.
Let us dissect for a moment the story of Judas committing suicide. Judas hanged himself because he was so tormented by what he had done that he could no longer live with himself. Shame, guilt, and the reality of what his actions resulted in for Jesus coupled with the fact he could not undo what he had done drove him mad. While not true in every case of suicide, shame is often a factor. Shame that leads to suicide is ultimately a loss of hope in seeing any way out of a painful situation.
Beyond the tragedy of Judas’ betrayal and suicide, something else haunts me even more. Had Judas held on a little longer, he would have seen that Jesus was being “hung” in his place and bearing the shame, guilt, and full consequences of his sin and our sin and the sin of the world. Jesus hung on a cross, so that we do not have to hang ourselves, spiritually or physically. He died, so that we might live. He suffered, so that we might be forgiven fully. He bled for us, that we might know we are loved, no matter what we have done.
I write this chapter with a deep aching in my heart and a prayer on my lips, that someone, anyone, might read this chapter and not go through with this action. Someone, anyone, might read this story and see that your story does not need to end this same way. Someone, anyone, might rediscover the hope of the Good News of what Jesus has done for you on the cross. He has carried your shame, so you do not have to. He has suffered for your sins, so that you do not have to. And there is hope, no matter how hopeless you may feel. Jesus does understand your pain. And he cares for you. Let him minister to you in his own way and time as he knows is best for you.” (Hope Rising, pg.83-84).