Before you begin reading this article, I would like to say that my thoughts are in no way meant to be offensive, but rather a cry for help to the every day observers of life who see without really seeing the hurting hearts of those around them, myself included.
This topic has been on my mind for the past several weeks as a result of a recent suicide I attended. I serve on the Tulare-Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force. I am one of several volunteers routinely on-call to attend the scene of a completed suicide to assist the family and loved ones left behind.
It was not the first time that I have attended the death of someone who was a believer. I suppose those are the hardest to deal with. This particular day, I listened as I heard the family say that they attended church every week. As the words fell upon my ears, my heart simultaneously broke. I thought to myself, “what went wrong?” I am sure that is a question everyone asks themself in circumstances such as this. However, as a believer and on this day, I took it personal because I felt the weight of loss from this person and the responsibility to my fellow believer. As a Christian, our first commandment after “Love the lord thy God with all they heart, soul, mind and strength” is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31). We are to love all people not just believers but, as such, when one of our own looses their life to suicide it somehow feels even more tragic.
As a therapist, I did my graduate work in a female felony residential facility. In every single counseling session I conducted, the issue of God came up 100% of the time. I recently spoke with a colleague who reported the same statistic in her therapy practice. This reinforced something I long suspected. People have unanswered questions about God and unresolved disappointments and conflicts where he is concerned. This was certainly the case in my graduate work. Since that time, I have opened a private practice and I specialize in Christian Counseling. I wish there was a way to convey how often I hear the helplessness and disappointment many Christians feel in their faith. I wonder, if I took an anonymous poll of the people who attend church regularly or profess to be a believer, how many would admit to suicide ideation or suicide attempts? I know you would be shocked.
Lets take suicide in the “church” off the table and talk about addiction in the church. Pornography is probably the most dominate addiction named among believers, followed by sex addiction, drug, and alcohol and food addictions. How about infidelity in the church? I could go on and on but that is not really the point. The church is NOT for the perfect person but for the person who recognizes they live in a fallen state and needs grace and forgiveness. So please don’t misunderstand me. My point is how many people attend church and remain unchanged? My original question was “Is Your Faith Working for YOU?”
Why would anyone want to be a believer if it didn’t work? Why would anyone follow God if God didn’t make a difference in his or her life? I have lived a full life and by full I mean rebellious, sinful and wild. I should be dead or at least addicted to alcohol and men. I wasn’t always the person I am today. I am 100% different because of my faith. I am different because my faith has worked for me.
I use to teach the girls in Juvenile hall bible study. I would talk to them about real life situations and I would always come back to one point; that I am living my life for God because God is the difference maker. He is real and His way works !! If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it !!
So when I see people who attend church every week and contemplate suicide or worse complete suicide, or struggle with their addiction, I wonder, what is the missing link? What is it they need to know to change their outcome? I am sure no one sets out to have an addiction or to die by suicide, but it happens. It (suicide) is happening about once a week in Tulare County. I wonder what can we do different to help our fellow brothers and sisters before they can no longer help themselves? What picture did they have of God? What did they believe to be true about God? Was there buried disappointment that never got addressed? Did they see God as a punisher instead of a loving father? Did they ever believe that God could and would set them free from the pain and torment?
I spent 12 long years running away from God. I had a HUGE misconception of him and growing up, I did not read my Bible, although I grew up going to church four times a week. I did not want to live for God because I thought that meant a list of things I could no longer do. I “wanted” to follow him, but I was afraid of the price tag. I didn’t really know him. I could feel him in my heart, but I didn’t understand who he was or how loving and kind he actually is. I didn’t trust him to do what was best for me. I didn’t trust him to make my life better. I didn’t trust him to give me the desires of my heart. I didn’t trust him because I didn’t know him.
I wonder as you read this, what your own perspective of God is? I wonder if you believe that when you ask for forgiveness that he forgives you and places your sin in the sea of forgetfulness? I wonder if you really understand that the work that he did on the cross covered past, present and future mistakes? I wonder if you know that every tear you have ever cried is in a bottle that he holds? I wonder if you believe that he knows every hair on your head? I wonder if you know that he is just a whisper away and if you call on him, he will be there with you? I wonder if you know that when you hurt he hurts? I wonder if you trust him? I wonder, is your faith working for you?
If you are struggling with your concept of God, or you find yourself attending church but not really getting what you need from God, please talk to someone about it or better yet, talk to God about it. You can be honest with him. You can get down and dirty with him because he already knows your heart and your thoughts anyway. If you are not sure how to sort out what you are thinking and feeling, call me for find another Christian therapist who can assist you in the process.
If your faith is NOT working for you, for whatever reason, I urge you to begin the conversation. If you think someone you know is struggling in their faith or in their life in general, please speak up and let them know you care. Life and death hangs in the balance.
Kathy Looper, MA, MFTi