On National Suicide Prevention Day, Kayla Stoecklein, the widow of pastor Andrew Stoecklein, took to her blog God’s Got This to dispel a few myths surrounding the stigma of suicide.
After her husband Andrew, the lead pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California took his own life late last month, Kayla has admittedly had her own spiritual struggles in dealing with the concept of suicide.
Since Christians often particularly have a skewed perception about the taboo topic, the grieving widow decided to write a post entitled “3 Myths about suicide you may have picked up along the way” to tackle the subject head-on.
“I am by no means an expert on mental illness or suicide. I am speaking purely from a raw place of brokenness and pain,” Kayla admits in opening her heartfelt piece. “The reason I am addressing these myths today is I believe as a follower of Christ, the Church and Christians can do a better job at understanding suicide. All too often it’s ‘Christians’ who say the wrong things and hurt people the most. Let’s break the stigma so that we can truly love and meet people where they are.”
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World Suicide Prevention Day has taken on a whole new meaning in my life and in my heart. • It took me all day to figure out what to say or share. I knew I wanted to say something, I couldn’t just let this day pass by. It means too much to me now. • So I wrote again, but this time it wasn’t a letter. I’m calling this entry, “3 myths about suicide you may have picked up along the way.” (Link in Bio) #godsgotthis
Myth #1 that Kayla addresses is “It’s the ultimate sin therefore when you die by suicide you do not go to heaven.”
She admits that prior to Andrew’s death, she may also have been one who fell prey to this lie.
“I remember leaning over to my mother-in-law, Carol, in the hospital room as my husband lay there dying, whispering through my tears, ‘Will he go to heaven?’ ”, she writes.
Her mother-in-law quickly reassured her that he would, and Kayla now knows without question that it is a personal relationship with Jesus that dictates whether you make it to heaven:
“I am confident now: whether you are accepted into heaven or not has nothing to do with how you die. The only way we are accepted into heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus. I believe with 100% of my soul that Andrew is in heaven. Andrew had a real, raw, authentic, and infectious relationship with Jesus. Thousands of people will be in heaven because of him.”
Much like any other medical diagnosis, whether it be cancer or heart disease, Andrew, too, was given a diagnosis that can be equally deadly.
“His illness grew worse over time. This illness caused him to [lose] his ability to make wise decisions, to think clearly, and to properly articulate his feelings. If Andrew were sitting here today, healthy and strong, I am confident he would want a redo. He did not want to die. I can rest assured that he is no longer in pain, he is completely healed in heaven; a place more beautiful and wonderful than any human mind could ever comprehend.”
Myth #2 that Kayla brings to the spotlight is “The person who committed suicide must be a horrible human being.”
When something terrible like this happens seemingly by one’s own will, many questions go racing through people’s mind:
“How could he do this to his family?”
“Didn’t he know the amount of pain this would cause everyone?”
“How could a pastor, a Godly man, do something so horrific?”
What many fail to realize is that this person was not of sound mind when he committed the act.
“The appropriate answer to all of these questions is: it wasn’t him,” writes Kayla. “The Andrew we all knew and loved; the Andrew we saw on stage every Sunday; the Andrew who would hop on a skateboard and ride up and down the driveway with his boys: he would never do this! Not in his wildest dreams or nightmares! He was sick. His mind was overtaken by mental illness, spiritual warfare, and a series of unfortunate circumstances that caused him to lose control of his own thoughts and actions.”
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While Andrew’s dad was battling leukemia we clinged to the phrase “God’s Got This.” • It was Andrew’s idea to create a blog so that people could follow along the journey. Andrew was incredibly passionate about the phrase “God’s Got This.” • We have sent hundreds of thousands of wristbands all over the world with those precious words embedded on it. • Our family is still holding tight to that phrase even now. We are choosing to believe that “God’s Got This.” We don’t understand it, we hate it, it makes us angry, we can’t even breathe, but we are trusting God. • This morning I wrote a post to my husband, if he was here these are the words I would say to him. You can read the post on godsgotthis.org . • Andrew, we will keep “God’s Got This” alive in your name. #godsgotthis
While she admits there are times she gets angry about what happened, she won’t allow herself to stay in that place of resentment.
“The man that I loved and built a family with, the man that I looked up to in countless ways, the leader of our church and our family,” she continued, “he was an honorable man, and his death is tragic.”
Myth #3 that Kayla debunks is “When you have faith in God you do not have suicidal thoughts.”
She addresses that when sin entered the world, we all became broken, and nobody is an exception. Andrew’s deepest brokenness just so happened to be depression, which can overtake a person’s mind in ways that are little understood by non-sufferers.
And Andrew’s mental illness had absolutely no correlation to his faith or longing for relationship with God:
“If anyone had a strong relationship with God, it was him. He studied theology and dove deep into scripture week in and week out. He ran to God in his depression. He filled his alone time with worship music. He loved God and I believe that his faith really did help carry him through his darkest moments.”
However, she rightfully charges that faith alone can’t always heal the monster of a mental disorder that is depression, and it needs to be treated just like any other sickness:
“In most cases faith simply isn’t enough to heal depression. Depression is a disorder of the brain that is both biological and physiological. We need to help break this stigma of mental illness. Although prayer and spirituality may help, and God can do miracles, ultimately mental illness deserves to be treated just like every other illness.”
Kayla recalls a particularly memorable meeting with Andrew’s psychiatrist in which the doctor said, “We know a drop in the ocean of the brain.”
“Who are we to judge one single drop in a vast open sea?” she questions.
“I believe God has not called us to judge mental illness or suicide, rather he has called us to love Him and love them, and he meant all of them! I hope the truth behind these three myths can help us to better: embrace, love, and comfort those who are facing the brokenness of depression and suicide and the survivors who were left behind.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, Kayla is begging you to not go through it alone.
“If you don’t have anyone to call, please call the national suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255,” she writes. “You were not designed to battle depression and mental illness alone… Your life has a divine purpose and there are more people cheering you on than you could ever know. The world needs you, your family needs you, and your future needs you!”