Sunday, June 19th, at Davis Community Church, I offered a public meditation on discouragement, depression, and our journey into wholeness. It was based on the narrative of Elijah the prophet's deep dive into depression in 1 Kings 19.

In the sermon I mention my own encounter with deep depression and the suicide of my dear friend, the Rev. Jamie Evans in 2010.  I also mentioned the raw sermon I preached the Sunday after his death. A number of people have asked about that sermon, "God and Suicide: A Personal Encounter," based on Luke 13.31-35.

You can read more about it here on this blog with links to the audio sermon (preached at University Presbyterian Church, Fresno, California where I was pastor). Later, I edited the audio sermon (strictly oral sermons don't make for very good written ones, so it needed some work).

I post this again for all who seek some spiritual perspective on the trauma and tragedy of suicide, and strategies for helping others (and themselves) through an honest and open encounter with emotional trauma, dark emotion, and depression.  In this violent world, such awareness and advocacy is more important than ever.  

The comments attached to this post are from the original post in 2010.  

Download the written sermon here: God and Suicide: A Personal Encounter

AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman
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How will you die? I don’t mean what will kill you; I mean what will be the character of your life in those final days before your passing?

Of course, we don’t have much control over when and how we’ll die. A few of us will go quickly, without much warning or preparation. But most of us will have some time, and our wits about us, for a few days, a handful of weeks, six or more months of living with a terminal illness, maybe more.

The centuries-old Book of Common Prayer contains a prayer that says, “Lord, spare me from dying suddenly and unprepared.” Most of us today want the opposite. “Take me quick, Lord.”

But when we go quickly, we miss the opportunity to die well. And the ability to die well gives us the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

I have a friend whose mother’s dying. She’s lived with dying for seven months. But the fact of her dying didn’t mean she stopped playing tennis, going to the opera, visiting with friends, and nurturing her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She’s dying well. Last month she took her four adult children to Ireland for one last trip together. Last weekend, she took the whole family (dozens of them) to the opera . . . “Because I love it.” And now that she’s stopped eating, she’s started blessing each and every one of her kin . . . with intention. She’s dying well, really well.

So, if you’re “spared from dying suddenly and unprepared,” how will you spend your last days?

If you don’t take this question seriously, you’ll do very little to prepare yourself for dying. Then when death comes for you, you’ll not be able to live big, give love, let go with dignity, and as you do, inspire, empower, and envision others to live their lives with some special gift that comes from your dying. And if you can’t live well when you’re dying, I wonder how well you’re really living now.

Intention: Today, I’ll consider the kind of person I’d like to be when I’m dying. Then I’ll begin to live in such a way that when the end comes, I’ll have something beautiful in my soul to pass on to others. God, make it so that when I’m dying I can give to others some gift to help them live well so that when they find themselves at death's door, they can pass on gifts of grace to others. 

This contemplative meditation and its prayer comes from Psalm 46:10 of the Hebrew Scriptures: “Be still and know that I am God.” Use this prayer to try and draw yourself and others into a contemplative frame of mind. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

"I feel so scattered." "Overwhelmed." "Like I'm constantly running." Twice in one day, two people, independent of one another--a man and a woman--blurted out that they feel like they're living in the midst of perpetual whitewater--a state of lifestyle imbalance.

They're both high-functioning professionals, extremely busy and highly competent. But they're dissatisfied. More than that, they're just plain worn out. They feel like they're sucking air, their souls tattered and frayed.

Both told me they want a more balanced life.

I get that. I want that too. But increasingly I wonder if balance is possible. I think it's possible to cultivate an inner sense of balance, but I don't think it's realistic to assume we can dwell their much of the time. And I think it's unhelpful to our souls to think we can. If we do, we end up always frustrated because we can't get to where we think we ought to be, except on vacations--and those are few and far between.

Instead, I think it's more realistic and spiritually helpful to develop a sense of resiliency.

Resiliency is the ability for a substance or object to spring back into shape. For us that means we have the ability to return quickly to our center, our spiritual core whenever we're pushed and pulled away from that center.

This is, incidentally, what I see in the life of Jesus. Active, engaged, even often extremely busy, and sometimes faced with enormous difficulties. But life for Jesus wasn't some escape from the world. Instead, he knew his center. He lived from his core. He knew how to return there quickly whenever life knocked him around.

Intention: Today, I'll make a conscious effort to stop bemoaning my busyness. Instead, I'll take a few moments to connect with God and then throughout the day, I'll return to that center whenever I find myself pushed and pulled outside myself.

AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman
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