When Suicide Hits Home

Twenty years ago, I received a knock on the door that would forever change my life. I learned that my father had died. With very little details and totally unaware about the cause of his death, I traveled to his small apartment in Texas with only his address in hand.

When I arrived at 3 AM, I found his apartment - lined with yellow tape, like a crime scene. I learned the police had removed his body days before and they informed me that the investigation would have to be completed before I was allowed entry into my father’s apartment.

But, I couldn’t wait that long. I had to know what happened.

So, I found an opening around the back and I crawled in through his bathroom window. Using only the faint street lights from outside to guide me, I navigated to his bedroom and found something that the police officers must have overlooked: a notebook. It was neatly tucked away in a stack of books near his TV.

IN CRISIS NOW? CALL 1-800-273-8255

He had taken his own life.

Knowing my father’s habits, I remembered that he loved to write. I knew if there was an answer surrounding his death, I’d find it in that notebook. Thumbing through the pages was like getting an unadulterated glimpse into my father’s heart and what I read contained many saddening things. He was still shattered by all the adversity life had dealt him: the great loss of his wife 10 years earlier, his inability to get another job, going bankrupt and losing everything he worked so hard for.

He had taken his own life. At the young age of 56, he felt so hopeless and distraught, seeking a way to end his debilitating pain.

As I continued to peruse the notebook, I found an entry that was written like none of the others. It was a letter to my two sisters and I. When I got to the part where he addressed me individually, what I read made my heart sink. Reading his last words to me were like free-falling from a 10 story building. My father left this world angry at me and angry at God for what happened.

My father left this world angry at me and angry at God for what happened.

It wasn’t until hours later that I was able to gather enough composure to look above my father’s bed. There it was - a large 20x20 picture of me as a toddler. It had been 25 years since I had seen that picture of me, but in that moment, I knew that despite his misgivings about how my life and my dedication to ministry turned out, my father did love me.  I was his everything, so much so that I was the only picture in his room, and my image was the last one he saw at night and the first one he saw when he awoke every morning.

This image of me contradicted the image he painted of me in his notebook, but regardless of his animosity toward me and the God in me, I knew he still loved me as much as he was capable of loving me. My father had many issues, including his inability to cope with life’s challenges, which unfortunately led to his untimely death by suicide.

That night, standing at the food of his bed, overcome with emotion, the only thing I could do was call upon the name of Jesus.

I have purposed in my heart to commit my life and my ministry to using this sorrowful experience for God’s glory.

Then and there, I prayed, “God, use this event, use this life to communicate truth! Don’t let this loss be without reward. Use me to reach as many as possible, exposing the lie behind suicide! Give me the grace to communicate the life of Jesus to those at greatest risk!”

Since uttering those words that night, I have purposed in my heart to commit my life and my ministry to using this sorrowful experience for God’s glory. Even in my grief and anguish, I have been empowered to yield to God and tackle the taboo issue of suicide, which has claimed the lives of untold multitudes every year.

We Speak Life Over Death

Did you know that worldwide, suicide is responsible for more deaths than accidents, homicides and war combined?

Over 34,000 people per year in the U.S. alone die because of suicide.

Over 34,000 people per year in the U.S. alone die because of suicide. Four thousand of those deaths are of young people ages 15-24.

People all over the world, especially our young adults, are battling a silent killer. Suicide is a real and tangible enemy.

With numbers like these, it’s clear that people are crying out for help. It’s exactly why we’ve created our Life Events program. 

What Are Life Events?

Life Events provide you with the spiritual armor to boldly combat the deceptions that lead to suicide with relevant resources, conversation topics and Godly guidance.

This powerful platform gives us the opportunity to tackle this tough topic, spread awareness, and minister to those at risk and who need help the most.

But, ministry, discussion and engagement do not end at the event. We’ve created this program to help heal with these 3 transformative objectives:

  1. To provide you with meaningful resources to assure that your lives are worth living.

  2. To guide you while navigating challenging life circumstances.

  3. To ground you in the Word of Truth and the love of God while illustrating hope.

Invite us to host a Life Event at your school or church.

We have had the opportunity to host a Life Event with Chad at our campus here in Cape Town. The message of hope and life in Christ, combined with Chad’s personal testimony, not only captivated the audience, but I was deeply moved by the immense number of people who responded to his call to embrace life. Hundreds of young and old acknowledged that they needed God to intervene in this darkened, shame-filled area of their lives. It was a wake- up call for our church, revealing that we as a global body need to do more to expose the lies behind suicide, and begin a dialogue of truth with those still at risk.

I want to encourage you to participate with Chad in this global campaign against suicide. There are countless young people in your community who desperately need to hear this message of LIFE and be set free.

-Phil and Lucinda Dooley, Lead Pastors, Hillsong Church, Cape Town.

IN CRISIS NOW? CALL 1-800-273-8255