KANSAS CITY (BP) –- Frank Page acknowledged in an interview at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that he struggled with feelings of failure as a father following his daughter Melissa’s tragic death.
Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen discussed the consequences of suicide –- including whether someone who is saved can commit suicide — with Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. The interview, posted on Allen’s website, is part of a series of discussions related to issues facing the church, Christian life and culture.
In Page’s book “Melissa, A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide” that was released in June, Page wrote about the painful loss of his 32-year-old daughter who took her life in 2009.
Too often family and friends who are left behind after a loved one’s suicide fall victim to guilt, depression, and blaming others — and God, Page said during the interview that was posted Oct. 10. Page said he wasn’t above the pain of wondering if he did enough to help his daughter.
“It still happens sometimes, but in my more cogent, sane moments I realize that I did the best I could at the time,” Page said in an interview with Allen on the seminary campus in Kansas City, Mo. “Was I a perfect father? No. So, we have to realize reality. That person [who is struggling with suicide] … can decide what they want to decide. There are many voices people listen to other than the voice of mom and daddy and other than the voice of the Lord.”
At the same time, family and loved ones of someone who is considering suicide should do everything they can to get that person the help they need. If someone is threatening suicide, Page said, the people around them should see those threats as an opportunity to help them find help.
“Melissa never threatened suicide — ever,” he said. “We worried about her in many ways … but she never threatened suicide…. Most do. So, take those [threats] seriously. Get the help they need.”
It is a growing problem, he said.
“I heard recently that for the first time suicide has replaced automobile accidents of young adults as [the top] cause of death,” he said. “It is epidemic.”
When comforting the families of those who lost a loved one to suicide, Page said to avoid “trite platitudes,” such as “Oh, they are in a better place.”
“They may be [in a better place], but that is probably not the time to say that,” he said. “Be very careful to do what they need most, and what they need most is a ministry of presence. They need a friend. They need a family member who will love them and say, ‘I am going to be with you.'”
Immediately following Melissa’s death, some of Page’s closest friends stayed with him to offer support.
“They were with me, and when I lowered her in the grave, two of my life-long friends stood by me,” Page said. ” … I do not think they said a word; they did not need to.”
Allen asked Page to share his thoughts on whether or not someone who is truly saved can commit suicide.
“Melissa was never at peace, and I think He let it happen so she could finally be at peace,” Page said. “I know she knew Him. She struggled with that. I think He allowed it in His permissive will that she might finally rest.”
The vast majority of suicides involve people who have “lost touch with reality,” Page said.
“Mental or emotional struggle has reached such a horrible point that they are not thinking straight anymore,” he said. “I do believe that believers can come to that point of oppression, or confusion, or depression so much so that they are not thinking straight. I believe the vast majority of people who commit suicide have reached that point, and I do not believe that our Lord would hold against them the pain that led them to that point. … Scripture teaches in Romans that nothing shall separate us from the love of God.”
Page addressed the opinion that someone who commits suicide cannot go to heaven because they commit a sin that they cannot ask for forgiveness.
“Most every Christian alive will die with some unconfessed sin in their life,” Page said. Many theories about suicide are not scriptural, he added.
“… Quit listening to people and start listening to God,” he said. “Go to the Word of God and study it.”
For those who are contemplating suicide, Page said they should remember that they are not alone.
“Come to Christ, listen to Christ; He can help you,” he said. “There are God’s people who will help you. I am calling … for churches to be places of help and hope. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t act like it is something we cannot discuss, but talk about it, be honest, and deal with it.”
See more of this discussion here.
Story adapted by Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).