Esther Kuku looks at why increasing numbers of Christians are committing suicide or giving up the faith, and calls for church to become a place where people can share their deepest concerns
Over the past few months, I know of at least two cases where pastors of major churches have committed suicide. Over the past couple of years, I have also become aware of an increasing number of relatively young believers, sadly going home to be with the Lord in what it feels like was way before their time. And people who were leaders in their church, who served God with all their heart, suddenly wanting nothing to do with Christianity.
What’s going on?
When I read the story last year, of a preacher in America, who sent his family to church and then ended his life, it sent shivers down my spine. When it was later reported that he suffered from depression, and had been taking medication but didn’t feel able to take a sabbatical, I started to wonder – how many people in the body of Christ are serving God with gladness on the outside but, on the inside, slowly committing spiritual suicide? And how dangerous a place does it need to be, when we miss the signs of a brother or sister in Christ who is dying inside, yet who is still the first to arrive and the last to leave church, simply because our eyes are not enlightened to what is going on around us?
What worries me even more is that it’s likely to be those who are the spiritually mature and faithful labourers in the house, who can easily fall into the rut of covering up their fears, trials and overwhelming sense of frustration with service and task.
I’d like to call it the ‘big Christian cover-up’. As a woman, I love make-up. Make-up is totally of God. I particularly love it on a Saturday morning, when I am getting up early to do my radio show after a long week. I look in the bathroom mirror and I say, ‘Thank You, Jesus,’ for Estée Lauder; within ten minutes every flaw is hidden, every line and blemish disguised… We serve a miracle-working God! Then I bounce out of the house, ready to take on the world, with only my husband knowing the real truth behind the concealer!
It is possible to do the same thing with our faith: to hide behind a mask and pretend everything is wonderful. The problem is, it is not acceptable. Yes, sometimes we have to stand on the Word for our breakthrough, but there are also times when we need to hold our hands up and ask for help. This is real faith: allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and letting people know that all is not well.
For years, whenever I have read John 4:24: ‘God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth’, I have always connected it to the act of praise and worship. But recently I have focused more on the word ‘truth’, disconnected worship from the act of singing, and placed it in the context of lifestyle: God is Spirit, and those who live or Him must live for Him truthfully. Let’s take off the masks. The Word of God gives us permission to be honest in His presence; we don’t have to cover up and pretend.
We are human, we make mistakes, we are sometimes daunted by what the future holds – that’s why we have a Saviour! We don’t need to hold things in and slowly commit spiritual suicide. We don’t need to drop out of the department we serve in and leave church. That is what the devil wants. But Micah 7:8 states, “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” As Christians, we can turn our vulnerability and weaknesses into our greatest strength, simply by talking about things.
Crucially, we need to stop placing huge expectations on each other; be sensitive to those around us, and not be overly focused on the task. Just because someone is an awesome praise and worship leader, doesn’t mean they are not struggling to pay their bills. In fact, it is more likely that the devil is doing all he can to derail them. The person who is close to fifty, still single, and joyfully ushering you to your seat every Sunday morning, isn’t joyful about spending another Bank Holiday weekend alone, trust me.
My prayer is that I am someone people can speak to and trust, and that I live a transparent life that is honest. I wouldn’t want people to think that I was so holy and altogether that I’m not someone they can relate to and with.
My prayer is that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ would daily grant me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, and that the eyes of my understanding would be enlightened to the needs around me. Why don’t we all try and make that our prayer this month, and be salt and light to those around us?
God bless you.