Those Serving in the Military: Greg Kassel; Mike Leonas
For those suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and mental illness.
For all expecting mothers and their children; Rachel Micheel, Betsy Cochran.
For all who grieve, including Jordyne Vanselow and family at the death of her grandfather, David Vanselow.
For the unemployed and underemployed; the hungry; the poor; the homeless
For our nation, and for all the nations on the earth.
For all who are travelling.
For all those celebrating anniversaries
For those having marital problems and/or are facing divorce
Thanksgiving at the births of Adah and Abigail Pijanowski, born to Brian and Heather. Thanksgiving also for their improving health.
For the Board of Elders and the Call Committee, that God would give them wisdom and guidance, and bless their work.
For BSLC during the vacancy and on into the future, that God would grant us to remain the truth, be faithful stewards, effective witnesses, and united in the work of the Gospel.
That God would bless all our efforts to reach out and encourage visitors and inactive members
Thanksgiving for recent baptisms and confirmations.
For the children and youth in this congregation, that they would learn and grow in the faith, and have the protection of God.
For Abounding Love Preschool, for God’s blessings upon the teachers and students.
That God would bless Our Redeemer Lutheran Church with success as they rebuild, and their pastors (Zerkel and Sanchez) with strength and wisdom for the ministry.
That God would richly bless our local and international partnerships in mission:
Rev. Bob Malone at Peace Lutheran in Kansas City, MO – especially during their vacancy
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Father, for Your creation which reaches back to the beginning of time and for that which is created this very moment we recognize You as our sovereign Lord. All that we have and all that we are is an act of Your generous and benevolent mercy extended to all generations, past, present and future. God of this morning, we thank You for the opportunities this day provides for us to sing to You a new song and to bring glory to Your name. God of tomorrow, we trust You for that which will bring about rejoicing and that which will bring forth sorrow, gain or loss. Blessed be the name of the One who gives and takes away. God of past ages, You are the same yesterday, today and forever. We trust in You – forever faithful, changing never God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in One. Amen.
Neither life nor death, not even suicide, can separate us from the love of God.
Written by Al Hsu
(I decided to share this article because of the lingering thoughts about a dear friend who lost their sister to suicide at the same time of hearing the news of Robin Williams)
As the suicide of Rick Warren's son Matthew brings renewed attention to mental health, depression, and suicide, we see that his case is not uncommon. Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States takes his or her own life. That's 35,000 suicides every year in this country—and likely more, since many suicides are disguised as accidents. Sadly, suicide occurs among Christians at essentially the same rate as non-Christians.
Suicide kills a disproportionate number of young people and the elderly, and it has become increasingly prevalent among returning veterans. More active duty soldiers now die from suicide than from combat. A 2012 Dept. of Veterans Affairs study found that 22 veterans on average kill themselves each day, totaling more than 8,000 a year.
Each suicide leaves behind on average six to ten survivors – husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, other close friends or family members. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people, including many of our church members, will grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide.
I am one of those people. Some years ago, my father had a stroke that left him partially debilitated. Though he began rehabilitation, one of the side effects of the stroke was clinical depression. He lost all hope and eventually sank into despair. He couldn't see any reason to go on. Three months after the stroke, at age 58, he killed himself.
Though all deaths are tragic, suicide affects us differently than when someone dies in car accident or from a terminal illness. Counselors call death by suicide a "complicated grief" or "complicated bereavement," like death by murder or terrorist attack. Not only do family members grieve the loss of the loved one, they must also face the trauma of the suicide.
In grieving a suicide, loved ones feel so many emotions that they don't know what to feel. Besides the normal sorrow and grief, survivors also experience trauma, denial, abandonment, anger, guilt, and shame. Survivors need to know that these reactions are normal. They're ways that God helps us process the shock and grief. Friends, pastors, and counselors can help survivors by validating the emotions and giving grievers permission to mourn, feel, lament, and heal.
The Lingering Questions
More than other deaths, suicides raise the question of Why? Why did he do it? Why didn't we see this coming? In other situations, we can often clearly identify the cause, a drunk driver or a disease, for example. But with a suicide, the victim is responsible for the death, not some outside force. That person is gone now. He can't tell us why he did it or the reasons he had for leaving us.
Asking why is not so much a search for answers as it is a search for comfort. We assume that having these answers will ease our grief and pain. But the questions are often unanswerable, and we must come to grips with the possibility—the likelihood—that we will never know why it happened. Even without knowing why someone chose to take his own life, survivors can experience God's comfort and healing.
We also ask, Could I have done anything to prevent it? After a suicide, survivors replay the scenarios in our heads over and over again, wondering if it wouldn't have happened if we had done something differently. If only we had come home in time. If only we had talked to him that evening. In doing so, we blame ourselves. This is called survivor's guilt, and it's tremendously common. Eventually survivors come to accept that their loved one chose to die, and they couldn't do anything about it. We are not at fault.
While grieving, another question comes up, particularly among people of faith: Why didn't God prevent this? There aren't any easy answers to this. In short, God honors our human choices, even if they're bad ones. If we choose to smoke, we might get lung cancer. And if someone we love chooses to kill himself, God honors that choice as well.
But this doesn't mean that God doesn't care about us or our loved one. The Bible tells us that God grieves with us in our loss. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and he stands with us and weeps over our loved one's death. Throughout Scripture, God comforts the grieving and brokenhearted, and he understands the suffering of grief and loss. He experienced ultimate pain, suffering, and grief on the cross. Where is God when it hurts? He stands with us, grieving beside us.
Is Suicide the Unforgivable Sin?
Christians often take opposing views on suicide. Some consider suicide the unforgivable sin, believing that people who kill themselves go straight to hell. Others claim suicide isn't a sin at all, minimizing the act. The truth probably lies in between.
Taking one's own life may well be a sin, but it does not automatically separate someone from eternal life with God just because one can't ask for forgiveness afterward. After all, many of us die without having asked for forgiveness for each and every sin we've committed. Suicide falls into the moral and literary category of tragedy, a person undone by a fatal flaw.
Those ministering to the grieving should not offer certainty that a loved one who died by suicide is in heaven, but they shouldn't definitively state that he's bound for eternal condemnation, either. The simple truth is that only God knows his fate. To say otherwise is beyond our knowledge.
Still, Scripture hints that there may be hope. Romans 8:38-39 promises that neither life nor death – not even death by suicide – can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, Samson died at his own hand, and yet he is included in the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11. We have some biblical grounds for hope (not certainty, but hope) that salvation is available to those who die by suicide.
God is just. If someone dies of cancer, God doesn't hold the cancer against him. In the case of suicide, depression or other mental disturbances may have clouded a person's judgment and caused him to do something he never would have done otherwise. Most people who kill themselves do not intend to sin against God; rather, they look in the mirror and hate what they see, or they are trying to end unimaginable pain. Many good Christians with a life of faithful discipleship may end it all in an act of desperation. God can be trusted to do what is right. He is good and perfect and compassionate. While we ultimately don't know a loved one's fate, we know that our loving God will judge appropriately.
Pastors preaching at funerals for suicides often do not know what to say. One way of framing the death is to describe the loved one as having fought a civil war with himself and lost, and to see him like a soldier who has fallen in battle. Mental health professionals and suicide survivor groups now advise against using the phrase "committed suicide" in describing suicide deaths. It is better to use more neutral language like "she died by suicide" or "he took his own life" or "they lost a loved one to suicide." Novelist Willa Cather, in her book My Ántonia, offered this prayer at the funeral of a suicide: "Oh, great and just God, no man among us knows what the sleeper knows, nor is it for us to judge what lies between him and Thee."