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Entries in Susan Stewart (2)


A Christian Response to Suicide

Note: This article is run to coincide with National Suicide Prevention MonthSeptember 2019. If you or someone youi know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911 immediately.

Susan K. Stewart offers practical solutions to real-world problems. In this special Health UPGRADE, she encourages people to take a biblical view of a tough issue: suicide.

"'I tried to hang myself.'

"Shock does not convey my feelings," Susan says, "when my son spoke these words over the phone."

I (Dawn) recently tried to help a neighbor whose nephew took his own life. As I shared words of hope with my neighbor and her sister, I saw first-hand the deep, stigmatized pain in those left behind. I'm grateful for people like Susan who help us understand positive, biblical ways to address suicide and encourage others.

Susan continues . . .

I am the one in the family who remains calm during a crisis, falling apart afterwards. I tried to sound calm and collected. All I could manage “Why did you do that?”

This scene came flooding back when I heard over the phone just days ago, “Judy committed suicide.”

The family member who called went on to explain the circumstances, but I didn’t hear. My mind was back twenty years when I received the call from my son.

The shock of the news; the relief my son was still alive.

While I was processing the memory, the caller made another statement that gave me pause: “She was so religious. I didn’t think she’d ever do something like this.”

Yes, our loved one was a Christian. Yes, she did rely on God. Yes, she took her own life. Does that mean she wasn’t a “true” Christian? Does that mean she missed out on eternal life?

Why is it non-believers think believers won’t end their lives?

Why will some Christians condemn Judy for taking her life and also my son for attempting?

The church I grew up in taught suicide was an unforgivable sin because it is the taking of a life, murder, for which the person is unable to seek forgiveness. I couldn’t reconcile the love of Jesus with the shunning of families whose loved one had died at their own hand.

I later learned the only unpardonable sin is the blasphemy or, as it is translated in The Message, “when you reject the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). Total rejection of God.

If some churches teach the taking on one’s life is unpardonable, no wonder those outside the church think someone who is “religious” would not do such a thing. Why would a Christian do a such thing and not be able to be forgiven?

In Judy’s case, physical pain was so overwhelming even the heavy doses of narcotic prescriptions couldn’t overcome it. Her physical pain caused emotional and mental pain for which she was seeking relief.

What can we do to help believers and non-believers through the tragedy of suicide without guilt or condemnation?

1. Treat the family of a suicide victim as we would any other family grieving.

Prepare meals, offer to sit silently, pray with them, offer a comforting memorial service.

This family is facing a double burden:

  • grieving the loss of a loved one, and
  • reconciling the act itself.

They may be dealing with the belief their loved one committed an unforgiveable sin.

2. Understand the unique nature of the death.

Suicide is different than other deaths because of misunderstandings and stigma attached. The family members may be embarrassed or angry with themselves for not recognizing the classic signs.

Some families do not want the suicide revealed. While this sets up a veil of secrecy, which in itself may be destructive, we need to be respectful of their wishes.

3. Walk through the process

Immediately following the death, a police report will be taken. Family members and friends will be interviewed.

Having someone sit in support during this process takes the sting away.

Most cases of a suicide require an autopsy will be performed. Sometimes this process can take more than a month. There will be no body to bury for a long while. For some, this is an added burden to the grief.

Often not considered is clean up. Often that clean up will be the task of the family … an unbearable task. Someone may be needed to handle the details.

If the death is in the home, immediate family may need some place to stay. The offer of a quiet bedroom or a place for children to be comfortable may be welcome and better than staying in a hotel.

4. Help find support in the following weeks and months

Death by suicide isn’t ordinary. The grief is different.

Yes, loved ones will go through the various stages, but they may get stuck in the anger stage. Anger at themselves as well as their loved one.

Unanswerable questions are asked. Loved ones need the support of those who have walked the road. If a local group isn’t available, individual support may be needed.

I’m thankful my son’s attempt to take his life was unsuccessful. Although it was painful, the experience changed me.

"As God has comforted me, I am able to comfort others" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

It isn’t necessary to have experienced a loved one’s suicide to help.

  • Learn how to help.
  • Speak to church leaders.
  • Seek God.
  • If called, step out in faith.

What would God have you do to support those grieving a loss from suicide?

Susan K. Stewart, Acquisition Editor with Elk Lak Publishing, is a teacher, writer, and speaker known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Her books include Harried Homeschooler’s Handbook: Finding Hope in the Havoc, Preschool: At What Cost?, Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science at Home for All Ages, the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. She brings her inspiring and encouraging messages to online and in-person conferences about homeschooling, writing, and editing. The Stewarts live in Central Texas with their three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and a couple of donkeys. They have three children and six grandchildren. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Richard Mcall at Pixabay.


How to Be a Donkey

I'm not surprised Susan Stewart wrote this post. After all, she does care for animals—and I don't mean the human kind! But Susan is also a great teacher, and this Palm Sunday UPGRADE encourages readers to think outside the box and "be a donkey" for the Lord's use.

“Palm Sunday is coming,” Susan says. “A day when Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’s triumphal entry in to Jerusalem. The king entering his earthly kingdom.”

I (Dawn) love Palm Sunday. It's a reminder that another special Sunday is coming! But it also reminds me how fickle a crowd can be when it comes to Jesus.

Susan continues . . .

Oh, the reception He received! The people were ready to be freed from the tyranny of the Roman oppressors.

Many were expecting him to arrive on a horse as the military ruler to overthrow Caesar’s army. Instead they saw a man coming on a donkey … the lowly donkey.


Jesus was coming as a ruler, but not a ruler coming to battle. Horses were a symbol of war. Kings rode horses into battle. Jesus was riding as a ruler coming in peace. Kings rode donkeys in time of peace.

Let’s look a little deeper at this small, young beast.

Eric Davis, a veterinarian from University of California expressed what many of us think, “Donkeys are the least of the least.” Thought of as stupid, stubborn beasts of burden, these animals don’t seem worthy of the task of carrying a king, much less the king of the universe. Certainly not what the Israelites in Jerusalem expected.

The Gospels tell us Jesus sent his disciples into the village of Bethpage to find the animal he was to ride. He knew where this donkey and her colt would be tied up. Jesus was even prepared for the owner to question the disciples about taking them.

When they started to untie the animals, the disciples were questioned. Jesus prepared his friends, “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately’” (Mark 11:3). They followed Jesus’s instructions, and the owner let them go (Mark 11:6).

Like me, you may not be surprised the animals were tied up. Here they were waiting for Jesus. After all, although described as the least of the least, the small equines were valuable for work. Their owners didn’t want them to wander off, especially a mother and her colt.

The restraint shows ownership. They needed to be untied to serve him. As instructed, the disciples untied them to take the animals to Jesus.

The poor donkey has a reputation of being stubborn. Often, they will not go where people think they need to go. This is not stubbornness, this is caution. A donkey may refuse to even cross a shadow if it is unfamiliar with the path and thinks there may be danger.

There is no indication this pair resisted. They willingly went. After being untied, they followed the men back to Jesus. Mother donkey didn’t have a sense of danger.

Like most animals in the equine family, donkeys need to be trained for the service they render. Mark indicates Jesus rode the colt. Likely untrained, it didn’t balk at the task it was to perform.

Donkeys can also be loving and trusting of humans they encounter. This colt trusted Jesus and allowed the man on his back.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, he related to the common people. He didn’t set himself above them with a grand entrance. He rode not just a donkey, but a small young donkey. The king was on a humble creature.

On Palm Sunday we may enter our places of worship to repeat what the people did. We rejoice with songs of hosanna and shouts of praise.

Should we maybe enter in, emulating the donkey?

1. Do we need to be untied?

Each of us desires to serve God. Far too often we are tied up to work, leisure, friends, and so much more the world tells us is important. We also may need to be untied from burdens, guilt, cares, addictions, even devices.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to untie us, we are free to serve.

2. Do we go in peace?

Have you ever argued with God? I have. Surely, Lord, you don’t understand.

When God speaks, I should be listening. Then follow peacefully without question.

3. Do we trust?

The colt would naturally follow the mom donkey. But mom would have been more cautious, even defensive for her child.

She followed. She trusted. She didn’t show any signs of stubbornness.

The colt trusted Jesus. This colt had no training, had never been ridden before. That didn’t keep it from doing the assigned task.

4. Are we humble in our service?

Jesus rode humbly on the donkey. The donkey, the least of the least, was not showy, didn’t stand out from the crowd. This little guy just went about the assigned task.

Ouch. We don’t mean to. We don’t consciously seek attention or accolades. But, let’s be honest, we do like it when we are noticed serving.

While we are rejoicing at the coming of our king ...

Let’s pray:

  • to be “untied” yet free,
  • trusting,
  • peaceful
  • and humble servants as a donkey.

Regarding the mentioned four ways to be like a donkey, which still needs some work in your own life?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? plus the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can learn more at her website

Graphic of donkey adapted, courtesy of Malcolumbus at Pixabay.