From the Pulpit: Rev. Kelvin Sauls
As people of faith who are to be about God’s redemption and salvation, suicide (and preventing suicide) and traumatic loss are our business. Our faith does not give us permission to live lives of denial. Our faith, does not provide us with easy answers, but our faith invites and instructs us to wrestle with whatever is the root cause of our challenge. That's what we, at church, are committed to doing as we seek to be a hub of hope and healing and a center for wholeness.
Sometimes we think we know everything our children are going through. The Netflix film “13 Reasons Why” is a powerful film about suicide and loss. This film will provide you with greater insight and the necessary experience to see how you can better equip yourself to facilitate intervention, prevention and compassion.
In the midst of loss, trauma and vulnerability caused by natural disaster, is there a way out of no way? When the powers of darkness prevail in life, is there a way out of no way? When despondency is running amuck in the lives of friends and family, is there a way out of no way? When post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury continue to accompany some of our veterans and their families beyond the battlefield, is there a way out of no way? When pressure to perform becomes more important than one’s purpose in life, is there a way out of no way? When success becomes an end in itself without resulting in significance, is there a way out of no way. When state sanctions, violence and police brutality continue to be justified by a politically compromised and intellectually timid prosecutorial culture is there a way out of no way?
Though a way out of no way is always possible, today’s scripture reveals it might not be that easy. In Acts 16 we find that a way out of no way can be filled with a lot of twist and turns. You see hope and healing facilitated by Paul and Silas threaten a situation sustained by economical exploitation and gender discrimination. Unlike our current experience, in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, the Southeast and the Caribbean, a natural disaster in the scripture resulted in the freedom of Paul and Cyrus.
The plot thickens when the jailer’s fear of their freedom pushes him to the brink of suicide. Paul and Silas’ response to a slave girl with a disturbed spirit and a jailer on the brink of suicide provides us an opportunity of faith and instructs us as to how we can respond. Instead of fleeing the scene and allowing their faith to be a source of escapism, Paul and Silas reassured the jailer that there is a way out of no way—a way out of darkness and into light.
The healing was not just for the jailer but for his entire family and community. When we as people of faith get it right, healing is possible for individuals, families and communities. There is a way out of now and this text shows us how we can engage in what I call CPR. C stands for compassion, P stands for prevention, and R stands for providing resources that will lead us in the paths for healing.
Faith can be a resource that can help us find a way out of no way. Paul and Silas did not necessarily know what Jesus would do, but they knew what Jesus did. There are many stories in the gospels where Jesus would heal the afflicted—those troubled with spirits and demons (which is how people spoke of mental illness or spiritual distress).
These stories provide insight into Jesus’ care and compassion towards persons with mental illness. He reaches out to them, He listens to them, shows compassion to them, offers them comfort and hope.
Truth and compassion will always be questioned and prosecuted when it threatens economics. Paul and Silas respond to this slave girl, which enables her to be set free, and as a result of that they get put into jail. While in jail the text tell us they are singing praises and giving God thanks. But they did not let their praise and worship blind them from what was going on around them. In other words, you should not be so heavenly bound that you are of no earthly good.
There is a natural disaster that takes place setting Paul and Silas free. The doors of the jail open up but they did not run away because they were set free. When they realized the jailer was about to commit suicide, they say to the jailer, “what appears to be real to you is not real. None of us left the scene, and neither do you have to leave this earth.”
After they lead him to salvation we see that vulnerability gives way to victory, and victory gives way to hospitality because the jailer then invites them to his home where his entire household rejoiced in his faith.
We have a faith that helps us find a way out of no way. Our community is a resource of being a way out of no way. As a community moving, from isolation to inclusion, we have God’s signs of love, hope and healing.
Research has shown that 90% of people who died of suicide, experience it through mental illnesses and you know in our community people are being stigmatized for that. We rebuke that in the name of Jesus. I challenge anyone to join me in some discourse and discussion to see how our faith justifies us not accompanying people to the therapeutic opportunities that are out there for them to become well. God works through science and medicine. After all, if it wasn't God giving them the intellect they wouldn't be discovering this stuff anyway as there is no competition between science and faith.
So, let us not let our faith and spirituality become so shallow that it becomes an excuse for us to not engage in the difficult challenges our communities face. What you don't know could kill you. As a community let’s become educated in this particular area and understand the risk factors of our history of suicide, substance abuse, intoxication, justifying serious chronically illness and gender issues.
As a community, we can be a resource of being a way out of no way. You can be a bridge over troubled waters, a sign of hope, and a source of healing, if you would just step up and step out. Trust in God enough to know that God can use you to save someone’s life.