“If the thought of suicide ever visits you, chase it away. For it is Satan's whisper.”
St. Nicholas Velimirovic.
A wise man once observed: "People find the least surprising things that should surprise them the most." We hear a lot about suicide and often accept without questioning reasons such as "tragic love" or "loss of estate". Yet how is it possible to end one's life over such causes? With time, hardship and pain will fade, and one will start again to see our life in colour. To challenge this, one might say 'it's easy to say when things are normal, but there may be moments when one is in no condition to hear the voice of reason'.
But why? It may not even occur to anyone that at the critical moment of choice between two paths, to eternal life or to eternal death, an evil spirit is waiting behind a person's back, filled with the desire to break the treasured vessel that safeguards that person's spirit until the time that God alone will know. It is this spirit that is suggesting, convincing and even insisting that that person take his or her own life. At those moments, it hardly ever comes to that person's mind that this unbearable feeling of meaninglessness and desperation is not his or her own. The evil lie of Satan, the ultimate murderer, is that by hoping for solace, peace and quiet, man is in fact sentencing himself to eternal torment.
I would recommend that you read Dante's Divine Comedy if you have not yet done so. Although it is only fiction, it contains a blood-chilling account of the main hero's visit to the suicide field with the sounds of lament coming from the branches of the trees.
Suicides are most often committed by people who have lost the taste of living. Recover the taste of living, and the horrible desire to end one's life will go away. But how can this be done? By developing one's talents that God had bestowed on one by thinking, feeling, creating and seeking goodness and beauty.
But there are many who do not believe in God, which contributes to many tragic incidents. This is when someone believes in one's absolute autonomy and independence. However, we all stand before God. Non-believers may be unconvinced, but ignorance is no excuse.
In our lives, we may live through a lot of crises of various sorts. At times, these crises may be excruciatingly painful and may become so much of torment that one may be tempted to look for a quick way out. However, one should not forget for a moment that one is living in a universe of life and that one is created for a life eternal. The eternal part of ourselves may not be destroyed by murder.
The Gospel of Matthew reads:‘Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down"’ (Matthew 4:5,6).
Why did the tempter suggest this to Christ? Is it because he is there to bring death? But our God will defeat death.
Job, Moses, James, Heman the Izrahite, [or ‘Ezrahite’?] Jonah and Peter and many other biblical saints, too, have suffered torment and adversity; but, they sent prayers and pleas to God, and God heard them.
At some point, anyone may find his or her situation too hard to bear and too much to cope with. The pain of a terminally ill person or of someone who has lost one's only love and support may indeed be beyond any imagination. Many may be tempted in their plight to make that step into the abyss. There is only one salvation: to pull oneself together, stand up to pray and ask God to take your pain. This is a duty that one has to oneself.
Or maybe not – since there is nothing but God, and God loves us unconditionally.
Alexander Sakovich works at the department of Saint Elisabeth Convent responsible for the construction and building maintenance and does obedience at the nursing home for adults with disabilities. We met with Alexander to talk about his path.
On 2 June, 2019, the church in honour of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco was consecrated. Among our guests was Bishop Emeritus of the Russian Church Abroad Michael (Donskov). He shared with us his childhood memories of St John.