September is Suicide Prevention Month, National Suicide Prevention Week is September 4 – 10, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. In the midst of all of the talk of prevention I find myself grieving with and for my precious friend with the approaching anniversary of her beloved son’s death by suicide on September 5th.
Guilt is one of the most formidable foes of grief. Of the many bereaved parents we have spent time with, most have expressed experiencing the crushing weight of guilt at one time or another, and repeatedly for many. I am among the many in that regard. My battle with guilt has been consuming and devastating at times. But I have found great comfort in learning to recognize that guilt for what it is, a powerfully effective, yet not undefeatable scheme of our adversary.
2 Corinthians 2:11 [NIV] “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Scripture tells us Satan is a liar, and the father of all lies. He is the “accuser of the brethren,” a thief who has come “to steal, kill and destroy” “like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” Guilt is one of his favored and most profoundly effective schemes, particularly amongst the broken and grieving.
John 8:44 [NASB95] “…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature,] for he is a liar and the father of lies.“
For those left in the devastating wake of suicide, the guilt laden “what ifs” and “if onlys” are like the piercing and shredding teeth of the devouring lion’s jaws. “You could have prevented this.” “You should have prevented this.” “This is your fault!” An endless barrage of excruciating accusations and lies. This is his scheme, crippling, life stealing lies of guilt and shame.
Suicide awareness and mental health awareness are vitally important. Very thoughtfully choosing our words in raising that awareness is equally important. Many who have died by suicide have left family and friends who spent years deeply loving, caring for and thoughtfully working to prevent their suicide. The implication that their loved one’s suicide was preventable is yet another devastating blow for them. Another brilliant scheme in the hands of a cruel adversary.
If you find yourself battered and broken, pierced by the accusation that “you could have prevented this,” I hope you will recognize it today for what it is. I am praying today you can begin to find victory over those accusations by recognizing their source and purpose. They are the scheme of an adversary intent on stealing, killing and destroying you. But we are not unaware of his schemes, and there is victory and peace freely available in Jesus Christ.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 [NIV]
Through His strength we can resist the accusations and lies by learning to “take every thought captive.”(2 Cor 10:5). Throwing off each lie and thinking instead on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Phil 4:8). “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).