by Renee Coats Scheidt

I never thought he'd do it. In fact, I never thought it was even an option. My pastor-husband was totally committed to the truth of God's Word and knew suicide was wrong. But I've learned when the pain becomes too unbearable, the unthinkable can become reality. Even for committed believers.

It started out so differently. My dream came true when Chuck asked me to marry him after graduating from Bible College. Little did I know that my handsome, intelligent, athletic and gifted husband was bi-polar. It didn't take long before the symptoms began to manifest themselves. From the high highs of mania to the pits of depressions, the roller coast ride began. For the next ten years, my husband fought this mental illness. There were several major episodes (called "nervous breakdowns" in those days), periods of normalcy when he convinced me he had conquered this demon, and untold days of masking his struggles. The beginning of the end came in May, 1987, just after receiving his doctorate degree from seminary. Four months later, with everything to live for--great job, two baby girls, loving wife, beautiful custom built home, loved by hundreds---he could no longer bear the charade or pain. A gun shot wound to the head soon took care of both. With a four month old baby girl, a toddler just turning three, no life insurance (that's another story!), and not knowing where I belonged in the world, I found myself standing on the ash heap of the life we had spent building together.

It's been over 23 years since those tragic days. Walking a path I would never have chosen has given me both the privilege and responsibility of helping others who find themselves coming along behind me. "How did you do it?" people ask? "How long did it take you to get over it?" "What did you tell your girls?" are just some of the questions posed to me. Although it's difficult to condense how to best handle such pain In the brief space of this article, I offer the following insights. For a more in depth discussion please see ordering information for my book, "Songs Of the Night: Singing Sorrows Song Through the Darkness of Grief."

1. Understand that suicide is not the unpardonable sin. Although some religions reach that suicide sends a person directly to hell, the Bible clearly teaches otherwise. Yes, suicide is a sin. Yes, the results of ending an earthly life are irreversible. Yes, the consequences for those left to carry on are devastating. But contrary to popular notion, God's Word does not single out this particular sin as one that can not be pardoned and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. When a person places their faith in Christ as the one who died in their place, paying their sin debt in full, ALL sin---past, present and future---is paid in full ONCE FOR ALL. Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified." I found comfort in knowing that Chuck was safe in the arms of our Lord. A clear understanding of the biblical doctrine of salvation kept me from being tormented by this false teaching.

2. Say No to Guilt Regardless of what you did or didn't do, realize that you are not responsible for your loved one's death. Once someone has decided to end their life, another person may interrupt their plans, changing the time, place and means of this self-destruction. However they will not change the intended results. This illegitimate guilt is an underhanded scheme of Satan designed to destroy those left to carry on. If allowed to invade your life, it will render you ineffective and unable to bring glory to God through this horrible circumstance. Refuse to allow Satan to have a double victory---over your lost loved one and you as well.

3. Don't blame God. Asking, "why is this happening to me?" may be normal. But it is the wrong question. It happened because we live in a broken, sin-filled world. Romans 8 teaches that not only we, but even the physical creation groans, waiting for the coming redemption The horrible tragedies we often experience in this life are not God's original intention or design. It is the result of sin entering the world at the Fall of mankind and corrupting the entire world. Instead of directing your anger (which also is very normal) at God, channel this energy into asking, "What now? Now that I'm in this place, what's the best way to deal with this situation?"

4. Hold on to Hope When Chuck died, I wished I could die too. "My life is ruined. I'll never know what it means to truly live again," I wrongly thought. My only reason for making myself function during those dark days was because my two babies needed me. As I was forced to go through the motions of life however, the healing process slowly began. Jehovah Rapha is still in the business of healing broken hearts and dreams. It takes a lot of hard work, prayer, right thinking, support of godly friends, sometimes even medication--but recovery is possible. Each of us must choose if we will cooperate with God in this process, or give way to our fears, doubts, questions and unbelief. It's not easy, and certainly not a road I would have chosen had I been given the choice. But I can assure you that like I have found, you too can still one day see "the goodness of God in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13).

5. Trust God's goodness, allowing Him to to use this tragedy for His glory and your good. Quite honestly, I was so crushed by my husband's suicide that I could have cared less how God might actually work this together for good as Romans 8:28 promises. In fact, if He had given me a vote, I would have passed. I just wanted to live my ordinary life. It took a forced, conscious decision on my part to focus on the attributes and character of God that demonstrate over and over His love, mercy, grace, and faithfulness to those who know Him as Father. It was an act of my will, not my emotions. Don't misunderstand. It was difficult to cast down the vain imaginations my flesh, the world, and the devil wanted me to dwell upon. But because I was totally convinced that God's word is truth, I really had no choice. I was forced to hang on to what I knew in my head was true----even when my emotions were in total opposition to that truth. In order for you to move forward from this horrible life reality and actually become better instead of bitter, It is imperative that you choose to "set your mind" on these truths.

IN CONCLUSION I decided that since God knows more than me (duh!), and since I didn't have all the information to make an informed, intelligent decision, I would do well to trust the one who did. It's not smart to make a final decision based on partial information. I have no doubt that when all the facts are in, when we see life's puzzle completed, every piece in place, we will echo the words of Abraham, "The judge of all the earth does what is right!" (Genesis 18:25).

The bottom line was this: even though I could not change the past, I had the power to determine which path I would take in days to come. Life would go on---with or without me. The quality of the days to come would be determined by my response to the present tragedy. Standing at this crossroads, I remembered the words of Moses: "I have set before you life and death . . choose life that you may live" (Deuteronomy 29:19). At that point I had no interest in my own life, but as a mother, I did care about my baby girls. For their sake, I chose life.

Looking back, I am so thankful to say, "Look what the Lord has done!" I have witnessed the return of meaning, purpose, and joy in my life. God has graciously and abundantly provided every need. That doesn't mean I never deal with questions, doubts or fears. But it does mean I move beyond that to a place of choosing to trust God. After all, if He loved me so much that He spared not His own son, won't He freely give all other things with Him?! (Romans 8:32).

It's up too you. I hope and pray you choose life. I assure you from one who's been there that it's a decision you'll never regret.

Renee Coates Scheidt

For more information on Renee MM, Inc. or book orders (13.00 each) contact her at Renee MM, Inc.
220 Erskine Dr.
China Grove NC 28023