Every suicide is a tragedy but some suicides defy comprehension.
The overwhelming sentiment of those who knew the Wales football manager Gary Speed has been shock and disbelief alongside sadness and tears. That someone at the top of their profession, surrounded by a loving family and carrying an outstanding reputation could decide that his life (for what reason we don’t know) was not worth living is beyond comprehension.
It is a blessing that few people make a decision to end their lives in such heartbreaking ways. But Speed’s death highlights a number of painful, but important truths.
1. No one is immune from suicidal thoughts
One friend of Speed’s commented:
That this should happen is just unthinkable because everyone you knew, in any walk of life, in any situation, you would have to say he would have been the last one you might have thought could have done something like this.
2. Not even everything you could want in life, a loving family, material security, success or fame protects you from inner turmoil with is much more about who you are than what you have.
3. It is possible to keep dark feelings completely hidden.
Behind the disbelief is the frightening thought that someone can battle with suicidal thoughts deep within their souls and yet present no suggestion of it in the way they relate to those around them.
Some people prefer to battle these things entirely on their own. They learn to cope with these feelings whilst unable or unwilling to communicate their despair to the world.
James Lawton writing in the Independent noted:
In all his time as a notably undemonstrative, but deeply respected member of his celebrated trade, Gary Speed seldom, if ever, gave a hint of vulnerability.
4. Friends blame themselves that they didn’t see it coming.
The testimony of those close to suicide victims is that it is inevitable that they should look back over previous meetings and conversations and think should I have spotted that something was wrong. Friends and family think they should and could have done more, maybe made themselves more available or offered better support. The sad reality is that so often in such situations there is little that anyone can do to predict the unpredictable.
Alan Shearer said it all when he said of Speed’s death ‘this just doesn’t happen to your best mate’.
5. It is extremely difficult to accept that such a thing can happen.
Howard Wilkinson, his manager when he won the Football League with Leeds United said:
For him – at 42 – to leave us is such a tragic loss. I’ve rarely come across a better balanced, lovely, genuine person. He was a terrific player – not as gifted as some but he made the most of everything he had. Worst of all for me I knew his parents, in particular his dad, his lovely wife and family – I just find it very, very difficult to come to terms with.
Speed’s death came just a day before the announcement yesterday afternoon of the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award for 2011. It was awarded to Ronald Reng for his biography ‘A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke‘ the German national goalkeeper who committed suicide in 2009.
Theodore Dalrymple is a retired prison-doctor and psychiatrist. When Moors murderer Ian Brady wrote a book The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Analysis, by the “Moors Murderer” Dalrymple was invited to review it for The Sunday Telegraph. The title of the review was ‘Inside the mind of a moral monster’ and in it Dalrymple offers an insight into what ‘moral monsters’ reveal about human nature:
‘I have noticed in the prison in which I work that the more conscienceless the prisoner with regard to his victims, the more prickly he is about wrongs he believes to have been done to him, however slight or trivial they might be. A man who won’t hesitate to stab a complete stranger if he feels like it, will call down anathema on the world if his tabacco ration arrives but 10 minutes late.
And if it were not for the fact that Brady came to his conclusions by torture and killing rather than by reading Derrida and Foucault, he could have found a post in any contemporary university department of literature: ‘Legalities, moralities and ethics are simply questions of geography, passing modes of fashion and taste, shaped and dictated by the prevailing ruling class of whatever country one happens to be in at a certain time.’
It is sometimes said that a psychopath is someone with no moral sense. This is not quite accurate. Even as thoroughgoing a psychopath as Brady sometimes lets slip an almost normal moral judgement that threatens to undermine his stance as a man of iron realism, amoralism and relativism.
Neither is it true that psychopaths such as Brady are unable to think in moral categories. Indeed, his denunciation of almost everyone around him pollutes with such moral categories as corruption and hypocrisy. He presents himself as the only honest man he knows.’
As the Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans chapter 2:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else…you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them).
‘Dr Dirk Jongkind, a Research Fellow at Tyndale House, pieces together the earliest manuscript evidence for the New Testament and shows how it tells the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. Find out more at our website: Tyndale House
And why not take a look for yourself. This oldest fragment of a New testament gospel is located at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.
I’m proud of the fact that a number of the key leaders in our church’s children’s work are men. Our head of children’s work is a man and the head of our new Friday kids club is a man. Our 3-5 year olds work is also headed up by a man. I say all this at a time when the average age of children in the church is 5.
Please don’t misunderstand me, we have some very able female leaders in the team. I guess it’s just that churches expect that to be the case. But I’m proud of the fact that we are developing a culture in which men and women want to lead this work together.
Here’s a short post by Mark Driscoll encouraging men into this vital ministry.
The Bible contains surprising verses, even offensive verses, passages of the Bible that seem to be at odds with our understanding of the way the world should work and God behave.
Exodus 20:5 is one such verse;
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
If you’re a Christian you probably, like me, find a verse like that a little unsettling. What can such a verse mean?
1. It can’t mean that God actually punishes innocent people for the sins of an earlier generation. After all Deuteronomy 24:16 makes clear that ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers.’
2. Rather through this verse God warns Israel that as Stuart comments;
‘God will indeed punish generation after generation if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.’
Ryken notes that;
‘God never condemns the innocent only the guilty. Here it is important to notice something that is often overlooked — namely, how the threat ends. God says that he will punish three or four generations “of those who hate me” (Exod. 20:5). The children hate God as much as their fathers did (which, given the way they were raised, is not surprising).’
And here is his sobering conclusion
‘As parents plan for the future, they should be more concerned about the second commandment than they are about their financial portfolio. This commandment contains a solemn warning for fathers. When a man refuses to love God passionately and to worship God properly, the consequences of his sin will last for generations.
The guilt of a man who treasures idols in his heart will corrupt his entire family, and in the end they will all be punished.’
The second commandment in action
And then in the news today we find something that seems in every way to be a fulfilment of this warning in our own times. Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girls’ School Association, in a speech to be given tomorrow warns that the consequences of parents not knowing right from wrong are falling on their children.
‘I have a deep worry that some parents have been so deprived in their own lives of education and values, that they no longer know right from wrong and that they are as a result unwittingly ‘indulging’ children in some parallel universe where it is acceptable to let young children wear make-up and provocative clothing.
“If parents can’t see anything wrong in dressing up their children in ‘Future WAG’ T-shirts and letting them wear make-up, high heels and ‘mini-me’ sexy clothing, then something is intensely wrong in our society.’
Cecil B. De Mille the director of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Ten Commandments, described the folly of ignoring God’s 10 commandments in this way – he said ‘It is impossible for us to break laws; we only break ourselves upon them.’
Today’s Telegraph contains a report on a speech given by the Chief Rabbi. Speaking at an interfaith reception, Lord Sacks argued that Steve Jobs has helped create a culture of unhappiness.
‘If you haven’t got a fourth generation iPhone, the consumer society is in fact the most efficient mechanism ever devised for the creation and distribution of unhappiness.’
Since joining the world of twitter and blogging I have to say I have been a little surprised at just how many posts and tweets by church pastors and planters have obsessed with the latest iGadget. Maybe the Chief Rabbi has something to teach us all.
Be happy, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth – Ecclesiastes 11:9
(HT: Ian Middlemist)
The Telegraph reports on how a Christian couple, on leaving their church’s prayer meeting, found themselves coming to the assistance of Stephen Lawrence as he lay bleeding to death. Rather than ignore the cries for help from his friend they stopped, comforted and prayed for Stephen in his last few minutes on earth.
“I put my right hand on his back and left hand on his head. I could feel he was still breathing as his back was going up and down. Stephen was unconscious.
“I was praying over him in a whisper, I said things like ‘bless him Lord Jesus, heal him. Have mercy on him’.
Who knows what God may call on you to do when you next leave a prayer meeting and who knows how your prayers may be called upon to shape the eternal destiny of a victim of such a tragedy.
A while back I posted a short film clip in which Richard Dawkins not only admitted that we have ‘no idea’ how life began on planet earth but went on to suggest that human life may owe its origin to aliens; a theory known as panspermia. Of course, he had no scientific evidence for this, but in the absence of good science why not invoke the ‘aliens did it’ argument!
I knew Dawkins wasn’t the first to propose such a speculation. Sir Fred Hoyle argued along a similar line when he recognised the statistically absurdity of arguing that life simply evolved by chance.
Crick himself once said;
‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.’
Any problems that exist with theories of the evolution of life pale into insignificance when it comes to the problems with explaining the origin of life from a naturalist worldview as this recent article in Scientific American acknowledges.
The words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 come to mind:
Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
CrossCheck is a new gospel outline from Paul Adams. You can link to it on a website or download it as a file to show as a presentation. Clear, concise, compelling and biblical it might be just the right thing to help someone grasp the basics of the Christian gospel.
(HT: Ben Desmond)
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