Evangelist Billy Graham has encouraged Christians who may have contemplated suicide in the past to hand over their guilt and shame to God, and rest in in the knowledge that he is able to forgive even the worst of sins.
In a recent blog post for the Kansas City Star, Graham, 97, acknowledged that almost nothing is as tragic as suicide, and as devastating to those who are left behind.
However, he argues that God is willing and able to forgive those who have contemplated such a horrific act because he is full of unlimited grace and goodness.
"God loves you, and his goodness to you is proof this is true," the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association writes, citing Psalm 116:7-8 which reads: "Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death."
God's love for his children can be seen through Jesus' death and resurrection on the cross, Graham contends.
"If you had been the only person in the world who needed to be forgiven, Jesus Christ still would have sacrificed his life for you," Graham writes, citing Titus 3:3-5: "At one time we too were foolish. [...] But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us."
"By a simple prayer of faith accept God's gift of forgiveness by asking Christ to come into your life today," he concludes. "Don't carry your burden of guilt and doubt any longer, but joyfully hand it over to Jesus."
In 2013, LifeWay Research reported that nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians (48%) believe that people with serious mental illness can overcome their condition through prayer and Bible study alone. Researchers also found that 54 percent of Americans said churches should do more to prevent suicide, and 68 percent said they would feel welcome in church if they were mentally ill.
After their 27-year-old son, Matthew, committed suicide in 2013 after a lengthy battle with depression and mental illness, pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, launched a campaign, Saddleback Church's Gathering on Mental Health conference, to encourage faith communities to take the lead in caring for those with mental illnesses.
"There's no shame when any other organ in your body fails, so why do we feel shame if our brain is broken?" Warren asked during a 2013 interview with CNN.
"Churches are typically the first organization families in pain reach out to," he later added. "When a family is having a mental-health crisis, they don't go first to their lawyer. They don't go to their accountant. They don't even go to the police or the doctor or even the principal. Usually, the first person they call is the church."