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CELEBRITY SUICIDES: WHY WOULD THEY DO IT?
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of World Magazine. Sad news as two well-known public figures, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who both had successful careers and who both recently committed suicide.
The article goes on to say, the same week those suicides took place, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention released a distressing report that, over the last two decades, U.S. suicide rate has risen by 25 percent and, among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people in the United States ended their lives. That means there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides.
DR. REEDER: Here are these two celebrities — rich, famous, acclaimed yet empty in life. One of our issues today is we keep telling people that more money, more power, more applause, more fame will make your life fulfilled. Then why is it that celebrities have the highest rate of drug use? Why do they seek out therapists more than any other class in our society?
The answer is not found in more money, more possessions, more power and more fame; the answer’s found in your soul and the hope that transcends all of the challenges of life in a fallen world.
THE DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD OF SUICIDE IN TODAY’S CULTURE
At the same time that we cringe at the skyrocketing rate of suicide, we are attempting to normalize suicide as a therapeutic act through doctor-assisted suicide or medically-assisted suicide. If suicide is simply a therapeutic act that the medical profession now ought to engage in and embrace and make money off of, then why does the rise of suicide cause within us a revulsion? We know it’s not right.
There are not many things more difficult for me as a pastor than ministry in the lives of families in which suicide has taken place. As much as we would decry, rightly so, suicide as a usurpation of the divine prerogative — the Lord gives life and the Lord takes away life and blessed be the name of the Lord — and the landscape of suffering that suicide leaves behind in the lives of family and loved ones and friends, as we see all of that, the fact is the contributing factors to the act of suicide in our culture today are staggering.
TEMPORARY DESPAIR: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT CAN HELP?
I agree with the one pastor who said this is one of the most difficult things because people took an irreversible remedy to a temporary problem — the temporary problem of emotional distress or chemical imbalance. The fall and the sin not only affected us spiritually and emotionally, but it also affected us chemically and, therefore, it is appropriate to treat some things with chemical therapy.
Interestingly, the rise in chemical treatments of suicidal emotions has actually not reduced the number of suicides, but the number of suicides with the advancement of chemical and drug treatments has actually increased.
Now why? Any chemical treatment has to be repeated. Sometimes, we’re treating some suicidal tendencies as a chemical issue when, in reality, it’s a spiritual issue. That doesn’t mean we do away with those treatments because sometimes it is a physical issue. Sometimes, it’s a spiritual issue.
Now, in most of life, when I make wrong decisions, I can reverse that wrong decision but, in the case of suicide, once you’ve made that decision, you can’t turn it back around. Now, if I get depressed and think that a drunken spree will get me out of it as an answer to my depression, I’ll eventually sober up but if my answer to my depression is suicide, I can’t walk that one back
In ministry in families where there is suicide, it needs to be done very carefully because there are multiple factors at work, all the way from chemical issues, physical issues, wrong use of drugs, self-medicating with drugs and influences in the culture.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Our culture is telling everybody that the whole goal of life is to be happy. I am grateful for happiness, but happiness is built upon happenstance, which is directly related to circumstances. What the Bible commends to us is joy, which transcends circumstances — circumstances of adversity and circumstances of prosperity and success.
What we have is joy in the Lord. You rejoice in the Lord in the midst of everything because you know He’s at work. The loss of the transcendent that comes through a relationship with Christ over the difficulties and challenges in a fallen world in relationships — in your physiology, in your body, your psychosomatic dynamics in your life — that sense of a joy that is there has now been replaced by a promise of happiness. And, if you don’t have happiness, then in despair, they sometimes are influenced just to end their life. Social media has also produced impact in the lives of people.
And now we’re in a society that belittles the hope that addresses the difficulties of life and that is the victory and triumph of Christ in all of the arena of life. Without the message of hope, all of that is contributing, I believe, to this rise in suicide.
CHRISTIAN HOPE — AND ACTION — CAN COMBAT DESPAIR AND SUICIDE
That world and life view is the answer to reversing this rise in suicide. We do not commit suicide — what we do is commit life. We don’t commit murder against others, nor against ourselves. There is hope through the power of the Gospel to address spiritual and emotional issues and we want to speak the truth in love to one another. By God’s redeeming grace, we can do it and, in God’s common grace, we would pray that that would pervade society.
CULTURE OF DEATH COMES FROM THE FATHER OF DEATH AND LIES
TOM LAMPRECHT: John 8:44 — we ended yesterday’s program with this verse but let me take you back here again. Christ, speaking of the devil, he said, “He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth because there is no truth in him. He lies; it is consistent with his character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Harry, is there a lie from the lips of Satan into the ear of these people who are contemplating suicide?
DR. REEDER: Tom, I am not able to be there at the moment when the person makes this decision to end their life. I don’t know whether it’s a chemical misfire, or an emotional despair or spiritually deceived, but I do know this. The propagation of a death culture throughout our culture that impacts this statistic of suicide, that is what Satan has brought.
Whether it’s the destruction of life in the womb, destruction of life at the end of life in active euthanasia, or whether it is the normalizing of suicide, I do know the death culture is the product of the lie of Satan.
LET’S WORK ON PROMOTING LIFE — NOW AND ETERNAL
What we want to do is be about life: life that is in Christ, a life that promotes life in the lives of others. If you know someone whose loved one committed suicide or if you know a family where someone committed suicide, don’t step in with just pat answers. You need to step into the lives of survivors with thoughtfulness.
It may have been a medical issue, it may have been confusion that came from self-medication, it may have come off a period of time of abandonment — with all of those contributing factors, there may be a singular answer or they may be multiple answers. And what we need to do is to step in with hope that is found in Christ to those who are the survivors of loved ones who committed suicide and minister to them.
THOSE WHO ARE ON THE BRINK, WE CAN HELP
I also want to say to all who are considering suicide, there may be physical and medical reasons that you are contemplating this and there are doctors who will thoughtfully help you. It may be a spiritual issue in your life. There are many of us as pastors and friends and Christians who want to minister to you.
At this moment, right now, banish the thought of destruction. It’s not the answer. Pursue the reality that there is an answer and pursue that reality in the right direction. Is it a spiritual issue in your soul? Then we want to bring the hope of the Gospel. Is it a chemical issue or a medical issue that’s taking place in your body and brain? Then there are people who are wise who can help you there — medical doctors who are thoughtful and will minister to you.
There is hope and the hope is in life, not death, because there is One who died for you that you can have life everlasting. Ultimately, your best days can be ahead of you in Christ as Lord and Savior.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.