Sunday Everyday

I am a Refugee. I came by Boat. This is My Story.’s-christmas-island

Today I’m talking with a friend of mine Nigethan, but I call him Nige.

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Nige is a refugee from Sri Lanka.  Nige is Tamil.  Nige may never see his wife and son again.  This is Nigethans story.


A Refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Civil War in Sri Lanka

The bloody Sri Lankan Civil War was fought between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils. The roots of the modern conflict lie in the British colonial rule when the country was known as Ceylon.  After 26 years of conflict the war finished in May 2009.  The conflict ended in mass confusion and terror. More than 100,000 people were dead, hundreds of thousands had been displaced, large parts of the country — mostly in the Tamil north — were devastated  (Ref).

When I tell Nigethans story many people ask me:

“Why, when the bloody civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils is over, are people continuing to come to Australia by boat?

Even when the war had officially ended, the terror on the Tamil civilian population continued as the Sinhalese Army engaged in what many are calling a genocide of the Tamil people causing the United Nations to call for an investigation into ethnic cleansing and war crimes.  The Sri Lankan government forces have also been accused of human rights abuses (Ref).

“Human Rights Watch has documented 75 cases of torture in security force custody since the end of the war, including the rape of men and women. A report from earlier this year outlines horrific torture and sexual violence in Sri Lankan custody suffered by 40 Sri Lankans who fled to the UK” (Ref).

“An earlier UN report found that up to 40,000 civilians, almost all Tamils, may have been killed in a final army offensive ordered by Rajapaksa in the last months of the civil war, though the government disputes that figure” (Ref).

Fleeing the Horror

Nige was born into a fishing village on the North coast of Sri Lanka called Trincomalee.  His father was a  fisherman and sailor as was Nigethan.  He grew up swimming in the ocean and learning how to fish and sail.

Nigethan and his wife, a school teacher,  were living in a small rural village in the North of Sri Lanka.   In 2006 Nigethans wife gave birth to a little boy.  Fearing for their baby and surrounded by fighting they ran for their lives.  Nige tucked the one week old baby boy into his jacket.  Taking only bottles, milk and baby clothes they fled by bike to the City of Batticaloa on the coast of Sri Lanka.

Those living in these rural areas faced serious threats to their life and personal security as rebel forces were forced out of long-held territory and into civilian areas.  Those threats included abduction, torture, rape, enforced disappearance and death.

Russian Roulette with the Sinhalese Army

This is Nigethans’ account of what would happen in the village on a regular basis.

“The Sinhalese Army would come to village very early in the morning about 6 am.  Soldiers would surround the village and army trucks would roar into the middle of the village honking very loudly on horns terrorising the women and children.   The soldiers would round-up everybody in the village and move them to the school ground.  My wife was a teacher in the  village school”.  

“When they got to the school ground they would then divide the people up into groups of men, women, children and the old”.

“First they would say to the young men like me, you walk along that road by the trucks.  There were lots of armoured vehicles on the road; ‘we are walking along the road and they are beeping the horns very loudly’.  Then two soldiers come and put handcuffs on people and put  covers over their heads and throw them onto the trucks and take them away”.

“This happened every  week, sometimes twice a week.  Each time they would take between  10- 20 people.  The parents would ask police what has happened to our people and they would say,  you have to ask the army.  The army would say  ‘no we didn’t do this you, have to ask the navy’.   The navy would tell you to ask the police”.

“Many of the villagers we never saw again.  Some were killed, some are still missing, some were tortured.     I am very lucky that they didn’t get me. This went on for many months”.

“My wife was very scared,  she told me “you don’t want to stay here because they will get you next”.

“The fighting stopped in Sri Lanka five years ago but torture and rape by the security forces hasn’t…..Men and women – describe being handcuffed and blindfolded, thrown into darkened cells where they were repeatedly subjected to torture, including branding with hot metal objects and multiple rapes”(Ref).

Life in the City of Batticaloa

“After we left the village, my wife, my son and my wife’s family were all staying in one house  in the city of Batticaloa.  One day a group of about 10 Army soldiers came to my house and surrounded the house.  Two of the soldiers came into my house and were shouting at me, “Why don’t you go back to your village, the war is over and  your village is clear?”  I told them.  “I can’t go back at the moment, my wife has a job here teaching in the school, I am a construction worker and my child is too small”.

“The next time they came back they put a gun into my mouth”.

“They forced me to come into the Army compound each day and sign a piece of paper”.

“The army camp is a most dangerous place.  In the army camp they can do whatever they want to you. It is very scary”.

Nige tells me that he has told his story to ASIO, that he has registered a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and that he has two eye witnesses to corroborate his testimony.

“My wife and I decided that I have to leave Sri Lanka because the threats would not stop and my life was in danger”.

Nigethan approaches people smugglers to ask if they can get him to Australia.  They say that yes, yes they can get him to Australia,  for $15’000.00 AUS dollars.  An incomprehensible amount of money for a small Sri Lankan family.

Nige travels to Colombo by train where he then catches a plane to Singapore.  Fleeing imminent death and imprisonment, he unknowingly heads into a journey of near death and incredible terror.

It is a violation of Sri Lanka’s migration law to leave the country, except through official ports. If you are caught, you are  likely to be arrested and charged with illegal migration – or the more serious offence of people smuggling (Ref). As a Tamil, Nigethan knows that he will never be able to return as he will be immediately captured at the airport, imprisoned and possibly executed.

2 Months in a Leaky Boat

Once in Singapore he then drives to Malaysia for the first failed attempt of sailing to Australia.  He departs from Malaysia in 2009 with 28 other Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, all of them young men, boys and one old man.   Some of whom are very sick.

The weather is appalling with high seas. Not long into the journey the boat breaks down and even Nige with all of his sailing experience cannot steer the boat.  They float aimlessly for 20 days.  Finally currents sweep the boat and its occupants into Indonesia where they wait a week  before they can find another boat.

In Indonesia they pair up with refugees from another boat that had faced a similar fate and had also been stranded.  All 78 people squeeze shoulder to shoulder onto the deck of a very old and very small battered boat and attempted to sail from Indonesia to Christmas Island.  Among the refugees were a 4 year old child and one woman.

“There was not enough food or water. We were in the boat for 25 days.  The boat started to break apart and began to leak.  We ran out of water and had to cook food with sea water.  We had one week of food to last for 25 days.  When the water ran out we had to go one week with no drinking water at all.  The woman and the child and many of the boys were  very sick”.

“In the last weeks we were taking on  sea water and the boat was sinking.   We needed to do something because the pump was failing.   We divided ourselves into 7 groups to bail out the water to  keep us from drowning.  10 people bailed water together for one hour and then the next group would take over.  This went on around the clock on an hourly basis for a week.  At the same time storms were raging continuously and I have never been so frightened in my life.  Each hour I thought that I was going to die.  We had bad weather the entire time we were at sea, high seas, strong winds and terrifying storms”.

“We eventually made it to  Christmas Island.  I was in detention on  Christmas Island for one year.  I was then moved to mainland Australia where I have been moved around from Sydney, to Adelaide and finally to Melbourne”.

“I was in detention for 6 years and 1 month.  I have never been to jail I am just a sailor but being in detention is like being in jail.  My passport is Sri Lankan, I have a Sri Lankan drivers license.  My Australian papers state that I am an “indefinite resident”.  I am not allowed to become an Australian resident.  My family is not allowed to come to Australia and if I return to Sri Lanka I will be jailed or worse”.

I am Indefinite

“War is never one-sided and ‘the tactics employed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against the actions of Government forces resulted in their listing as a terrorist organisation in 32 countries”(Ref).

“Because I am Tamil and because I come from a rural village the Australian government has listed me as a terrorist.  I am not a terrorist, I am a sailor.  73 of the other Sri Lankans were settled and given permanent residency in Australia within 3 – 12 months of our arrival at Christmas Island”.

“I cried today when I spoke to my son  on the phone who is now 10 years old.  He wants his father.  I want my son.  I want my wife.  It is very hard.  My son has my name painted on his back in henna because it’s the closest that he can get to me”.

Historically, 90% of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia have been found to be genuine refugees. 

Two of Nigethans’ brothers also left Sri Lanka as refugees.  One spent 100 days in a boat and eventually made it to Canada where he is now a chef and a Canadian citizen.  His brother is pictured here on the far right.


The other brother made it to Australia with his wife and daughter and now live in Dandenong.  They also came by boat.  During the war both of these brothers left Sri Lanka to go and live in India.  Neither were branded terrorist because they were not associated with the rural northern towns of Sri Lanka where the war had taken such a brutal hold.  Nige and his wife could not leave at the time because she was pregnant with their son.

Making a New Life in Melbourne 

In December 2015 Nigethan was released from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, a detention centre in Broadmeadows into the care of Warrandyte Cafe Now and Not Yet.  Now and Not Yet  has provided support, housing and employment.  The cafe has a committment to help people get longevity for long-term housing and employment.  The cafe financially provides accommodation and training but more than that provides a support system, a community and friendship.


Staff and Volunteers at Now and Not Yet Warrandyte

Negathan also volunteers two nights a week at Tamil Feasts which is a social enterprise supporting recently settled asylum seekers through the celebration of food and culture. Serving up traditional Sri Lankan fare prepared by Tamil men currently seeking asylum in Australia, these thrice-weekly feasts create a context in which the cooks are able to share the food heritage of their Sri Lankan homeland with the wider community.

Nigethan speaks to his family on Skype and on his phone.  He is desperate to reunited with his family and his Warrandyte family will continue to advocate for this on his behalf.



If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on-line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Who is the Holy Spirit?


Who is the Holy Spirit?  What are his characteristics?  by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The Holy Spirit is fully available to all of us. He is the Paraclete:  the helper, counsellor, advocate and encourager.  He is the  the third person of the trinity.  He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak. He is alive.

He is a person not some vague presence or cloud.

He is so valuable and important that He was the one that Jesus sent to lead us, protect us and guide us into all truth when Jesus departed this earth.  We often minimise His power and presence in our lives.

Today I thought that it would be good to meditate on the personality and character of the Holy Spirit.

When all else fails, and you don’t even know what  or how to pray.  Think on the Holy Spirit.  Our comforter and guide. Awaken the presence of the Holy spirit within you.

You must seek to be a blank state, You must desire to remain unwritten

Empty yourself of everything and Speak these characteristics of the Holy Spirit out loud and ponder on each of his gifts whenever you are ‘losing faith in God or yourself.’

The Characteristics of the Holy Spirit

These are taken from Henri Nouwens’ Book “The Naked Now – Learning to see as the Mystics See”.


Pure gift of God, Indwelling presence, Promise of the Father

Life of Jesus, Pledge and Guarantee,  Eternal Praise

Defence Attorney, Inner Anointing, Reminder of the Mystery

Homing Device, Knower of All things, Stable Witness

Implanted Pacemaker, Over comer of the Gap, Always Already Awareness

Compassionate Observer, Magnetic Centre, God Compass

Inner Breath, Divine DNA, Mutual Yearning Place


Photo by Matt Lawson

Given Glory, Hidden Love of God, Choiceless Awareness

Implanted Hope, Seething Desire, Fire of Life and Love

Sacred Peacemaker, Nonviolence of God, Seal of the Incarnation

First Fruits of Everything, Father and Mother of Orphans, Planted Law

Truth Speaker, Gods Secret Plan, Great Bridge Builder

Warmer of Hearts, Space between Everything, Flowing Stream


Wind of Change, Descending Dove, Cloud of Unknowing

Uncreated Grace, Filled Emptiness, Through-Seer

Deepest Level of our Longing, Attentive Heart, Sacred Wounding

Holy Healing, Softener of Our Spirit, Will of God

Generosity of the Creator, Inherent Victory, The one of Sadness

Our shared Joy, Gods Tears, Gods Happiness

The Welcoming Within, New and Eternal Covenant, Contract Written on our Hearts

Jealous Lover, Desiring of God, Eternal Comforter.



We honour you Holy Spirit, you who pray in us, through us, for us, with us and in spite of us.

Amen and Hallelujah.


Art by Gabby

The Virgin Prayer

by Henri Nouwen

God  regarded her in her lowliness. -Luke 1:48

You must seek to be a blank state,

You must desire to remain unwritten,

No choosing of this or that.

Not “I am good because.”

Nor “I am not good because.”

Neither excitement nor boredom.


Remaining Nothing,

An unchosen virgin,

And unchoosing too, just empty.

No storyline by which to start the day,

No Identity enhancers nor losses,

To make yourself valuable or not.


Nothing interesting, Nothing uninteresting,

Neither against, nor for Something.

Nothing to recall from yesterday.

Nothing to look forward to today.


Just me, naked, exposed,

No self to fix, change or find,

Nothing to judge right or wrong,

Important or unimportant,

Worthy or unworthy,

I stand and wait,

Neither powerful nor powerless,


For You to name me,

For You to look upon my face,

For You to write my script,

For You to give the kiss,


In your time and your way.

You always do.

And it is always so much better.


If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Lets Get This Arty Started, Poetry with Cameron Semmens


Friday Arts Day with one of my favourite poets Cameron Semmens.

Cam is an award winning poet and an amazing person.  In fact he is in the section of one of the most amazing people in my world.   Cameron is a highly experienced and award winning performance poet. Doing on average 50 gigs a year at a wide range of venues and events, for adults and kids alike. So, if you’re looking for thoughtful, meaningful entertainment – Cam’s your man!


Poets have been mysteriously
silent on the subject of cheese.

– G.K. Chesterton

Make sure you read this poem all the way to the end.  It will  make your soul sing and dance and give you a lift to an otherwise very suburban day. Lisa.

Let’s Get This ARTY Started!


a garden.


a community.

Create a culture

of yoghurt.

Create a rhyme to remember your family’s birthdays.

Create a planter box for couch potatoes.

Create a gallery of broken hearts and Hyundai parts.

Create the permission to smile

whatever the weather.

Create umbrellas out of aspirins

and parasols out of ice-cream.

Create cubbies from cardboard boxes

and telescopes out of toilet rolls.

Create jewellery out of cutlery,

make cutlery out of celery,

grow celery from the seed.

And don’t stop there!

Keep on going!

On through the far-reaches of creativity

into ART!

Highbrow art, lowbrow art,

eyebrow art, symphonies in cow farts.



It’s anti-glum fun!

It’s appealingly healing!

It’s a grief relief!

It’s a coy ahoy to joy!

It’s a humble stumble into screaming meaning!

And it’s surprisingly easy.

Turn that pain into paintings.

Turn that humiliation into humour and claymation.

Turn that cold, empty heart of yours

into an esky

for the soft cheese of someone else’s hopes.

Turn the rubble of your dreams

into landfill

for sculpting the dreamscape of your future.


Don’t be ruled by fear.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the right gear.

Just be curious!

Be yourself!

Be boldly vulnerable!

Wallow in wonder!

Linger longer

in the random, rampant spasms

of imagination!


It brings colour to black-and-white thinking;

it wraps sledgehammers in bubble wrap;

prune-like, it brings relief

to the cognitively constipated.

‘Cos if you’re not

truly expressing

you’re probably

unduly repressing,

cruelly oppressing, or

really depressing to be with.

From the bottom of my art

I beg of you –


like your life depends on it

(‘cos it does).

Cameron’s Book  10 Poems that could really help you out of a tough spot. Is available on his website .  For $11;95

So you’re in a tough spot, a rough place?

You need some consolation and inspiration?

Then this little book is just for you.

50 pages of encouragement;

10 poems, beautifully presented;

1 gift of a book – for yourself or that friend in need.

10 Poems COVER (SM)

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder,
with a dash of the dictionary.

– Kahlil Gibran

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Empowered by the Holy Spirit by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s .”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21NIV

The New Testament reveals that through Jesus the promises and hope of the Old Testament people was to be fulfilled (S. Grenz). The Old Testament is full of accounts of the Spirit of God preparing men for special service (Agnew).  In this passage Luke portrays Jesus as the man anointed with the power of the Spirit.  After his baptism Jesus returns to Galilee full of the Spirit which is the distinguishing mark of His ministry and signifies his preparation for service.

Jesus begins His ministry in Luke by identifying Himself as the fulfilment of Isaiah 61.  Jesus revealed as Christ the Messiah, the anointed one (Grenz).  He then declares His divine mission to Earth to bring salvation to the world (Congdon).  It was His destiny to bring deliverance to all men and women, in partnership with the Holy Spirit (Chant).

Years back when I was doing volunteer work at Varanasi, we rescued these kids from a local incense factory. HWA Varanasi (NGO in Varanasi) is working on the betterment of street children by offering education, accommodations and all basic necessities - India.

It is also a distinguishing mark of His ministry that  He welcomes the poor the broken and the marginalised (McGrath).

His concern for the poor and the oppressed is central to the mission of Christ.

Jesus was anointed to liberate the most vulnerable people in society, bringing them justice and freedom and ushering a new social order (Hoek).

Francis Assisi puts it this way;

‘When we touch the poor or are touched by them, we are touching God Himself’.

Debate around His divinity. 

There are two distinguishing features around the debate of the ‘anointing or divinity’ of Christ which bring us to a clearer understanding about this debate.

  • They are the act of incarnation and the act of inspiration.

Incarnation is God the word becoming flesh.  Inspiration is where God the Spirit comes upon a person (Work).  At His baptism Jesus is the divine incarnate Word made flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit who at His baptism is empowered by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit and inaugurated for his mission as Messiah to save and empower the world.  These events give evidence of His divinity (Young).

John Calvin asks the question.  Why did the Spirit who had once dwelt within Christ now descend upon Him?  He answers it by reading Isaiah 61 and summarises this way.  The Spirit of God did dwell in Christ, but when it was time for him to ‘discharge the office of redeemer’ He is anointed and empowered once more.  This was so that others might understand and consider ‘His divine power’.

When Jesus declares that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, it confirms that Christ has been sent by God to bring salvation to man and does nothing by human advice but only by the confirmation and anointing of the Spirit (Calvin).

Graffiti with red heart

There is tension in comprehending the hypostatic union of Jesus as ‘divine saviour’, both ‘very God and very man’ (Bloesch).

It is confusing at times to look myopically at a particular Gospel scriptures that speak of Christ as either human of divine.

Augustine’s teaching on the Holy Trinity and his description of the dichotomy and tension of the written accounts of Christ as human and Christ as divine have helped bring clarity to these nuances.  He is not human one minute and then divine the next, He is both and we need to look at the whole picture.

The whole Lukan nativity is dominated but the Holy Spirit (Bruce).  Christology (the study of Christ) and Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit) converge in Jesus who was conceived by the Spirit, inaugurated and empowered for ministry by the Spirit, ministered in the Spirit and finally was raised from the dead and made alive again by the Spirit (De Colle).

Luke certainly wants us to understand that there is a strong outworking of the Holy Spirit in the partnership, life and work of Jesus (Bruce).  It would seem consequently that the Holy Spirit and the son work together and have coordinated missions.  This is contrary to some who believe that incarnation is the primary work of God and that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is separate and secondary (Coffey).

The challenge to us all is Luke’s successive writing in Acts where the mission of Christ is then passed on to the church with the same prerequisite of empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24, Acts 1). This challenge applies to all of us in this part of history. More than ever we need the inspiration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit so that we can partner with Christ to do his mission and work on the earth today.

Lisa Hunt-Wotton


Agnew, M. (1966).  The works of the Holy Spirit.  Wesleyan Theological Journal.

Bloesch, D. (1997) Jesus Christ.  Downers Grove:IL: Intervarsity Press.

Bruce, F. (1990). Lukes presentation of the Spirit in Acts.  Criswell Theological Review 5.1, 15-29

Calvin, J. (1845).  Calvin’s commentary on Matthew, Mark and Luke (Vol1). (W.R.Pringle, Ed.) Grand Rapids: MI.

Chant, B. (2002). Walking with a limp.  Adelaide:SA.  Openbook Publishers.

Coffey, D. (1997).  The common and the ordained priesthood.  Theological Studies, 209-224.

Congdon, D. (n.d.). Missional Theology: A Primer.  Retrieved March 22, 2011, from Princeton Theological Seminary.

De Colle, R. (1994).  Christ and the Spirit.  New York: Oxford.

Grenz, S. (1996).  Created for community.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Hoek, M. (2008).  Micah’s Challenge.  London: Paternoster Post.

Work, T. (2003).  The Humility of Christ.

Young, J. (1805-1881).  Christ of history.  New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

What Happens When you Die?


Just recently I have had a few people asking me: “What happens when you die?” This is an interesting question and I guess we can never be really 100% sure of the answer.  Well I know that I can’t.  I do know that we will all die. I know that death is a great mystery.  So I thought that we should have a look at what the bible says and what the great New Testament scholar, author and Anglican Bishop  N.T.Wright has to say.

What Happens When you Die?  Lisa Hunt-Wotton

In the Begining.

The creation story talks about us being made from the dust of the ground and that God breathed life into man.  The bible says that when we die, the spirit returns to God from where it came, and the body returns to the dust of the ground.  Other scriptures talk about death as like being asleep.

The Old Testament says that:

“His breath departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:5.

“The dead do not know anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5.

“There is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave] where you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the breath will return to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7.

The bible also refers to death as sleep.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, some to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

“But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.“” Daniel 12:13.  Daniel, did not go to heaven when he died, but is asleep in death, resting until he is resurrected from the dead at the end of the age.

In the story of Lazarus Jesus also likens death to sleep.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go that I may awaken him out of sleep”…now, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. Then Jesus therefore said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11-14.

Luke also records the death of Stephen as having fallen asleep.

  • “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).

In his letter to the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 4 ) Paul says:

  • “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep [dead], that you may not grieve, as do the rest you have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring forth [from the grave] with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the plan of the Kingdom of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself [Jesus] will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

The book of Revelation in chapter 14 says that ‘they will rest from their labours’.

The Bible presents death as separation: physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.

N.T. Wright says this:

“Heaven is important but it’s not our final destination,” he explained. “If you want to say that when someone dies they go to heaven, fine. But that’s only a temporary holding pattern that is life after death. And what I’m much more interested in, or the New Testament is much more interested in, is what I’ve called life after life after death.”

“I’ve often put it like this, if somebody you know has been very ill, you say, ‘Poor old so and so, he’s just a shadow of his former self.’ And the extraordinary truth in the New Testament is that if you are in Christ and dwell by the spirit you are just a shadow of your future self,” Wright said. “There is a real you to which the present you corresponds as a photocopy corresponds to the glorious original. You know, there is a real you, which God is going to make and it will be more physical — more real, not less.”

I absolutely love this quote by Wright from ‘Surprised by Hope’ which infers that nothing that we do is lost.  Everything is building for our final life.

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…

What you do in the present — by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself — will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether … They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

“Basically, Wright believes that when those who are in Christ die, they do not “go to heaven” as most people imagine. According to Wright, those who die in Christ merely “sleep” in perfect peace in the presence of Christ, if you will, awaiting the “Day of the Lord” when the “dead in Christ” will rise, and the kingdom of God will be fully realized”  (N.T.Wright, Saints For All The Saints)

So from all of this I would suggest that when we die:

1:  Our body returns to dust.

2:  Our spirits return to God.

3:  The dead appear to be sleeping and resting from their labour (S.Grenz).

4:  Heaven is not our ultimate destination. It is a holding-place, until the final resurrection.  At the final resurrection God will re-make our physical bodies.

When Christ returns there will be a resurrection and transformation of our bodies.  When Christ returns there will be a ‘new heaven’ and a ‘new earth’ and we receive ‘new bodies’, ‘we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth'(N.T.Wright).  A seed falls into the ground and dies.  When it comes alive its form as a plant or flower or tree is different to the form that it had as a seed.


Similar to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  It is the same organism but through transformation it becomes so much more than it could have ever been in its first form.

If you enjoyed this you may be interested in my article What is Hell?

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth–a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend weekly on a coffee or a magazine or you may wish to pledge $25.00 or  $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Childhood Trauma Leads to Lifelong Chronic Illness


As a victim of childhood trauma and an advocate of those who have suffered childhood trauma.  I have long wondered about the correlation between the chronic state of flight, fight or freeze and its impact on our bodies.  When trauma victims remain in a constant state of hypervigilence, stress or pain our adrenal glands release large amounts of cortisol which has a negative effect on our body.  Originally designed to give us that rush to  help us to get out of danger, the prolonged release of cortisol is actually quite damaging.

  • Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” (attributed to Richard S.Lazarus)

Trauma does not just encompass extremes like kidnapping, abuse or torture.  It also is experienced in parental divorce, death of a family member, bullying, retrenchment, retirement, abandonment or rejection.

“Trauma is when we have encountered an out of control, frightening experience that has disconnected us from all sense of resourcefulness or safety or coping or love”.

(Tara Brach, 2011)

  • “…we define stress as environmental conditions that require behavioral adjustment” (Benson, H. The Relaxation Response, 2000, pg. 41).
  • Thus, change, good or bad, can induce a stress response. (Holmes and Rahe – Life Events Rating Scale)

Unfortunately … the body reacts to today’s stresses as though it were still facing a real physical threat.  This release of cortisol into the body effects the endocrine, immune and nervous systems.

Most people understand the fight and flight responses.  If a lion or gorilla is threatened it fights back.  If a predator approaches an animal low on the food chain the victim flees. Fight and flight.

However, many people do not properly understand the Freeze response which happens in an acute or chronic trauma and is the response that I personally have spent most of my adult life dealing with.  It is the response associated when an animal plays dead to escape being eaten.

It is also a response that may be adaptive in humans when there is no possibility of escaping or winning a fight (source).

Acute Freeze Response- extreme threat situations

Profound bradycardia, Freeze, Hypotension, Fainting, Near death experience (Source)

Chronic Freeze Response– in perceived extreme threat

‘The General Inhibition Syndrome‘ Helplessness and avoidance
Persistent in post-traumatic stress disorder (Source)


These stress responses put enormous pressure on our physical bodies especially if you remain in these phases for long periods of time.  Dr Mc Ewan from the New England Journal of Medicine puts it this way (McEwen (1998) N Engl J Med 338:171-179).

Perception of stress is influenced by one’s experiences, genetics, and behavior. When the brain perceives stress, physiologic and behavioral responses are initiated leading to allostasis and adaptation. Over time, allostatic load can accumulate, and the overexposure to neural, endocrine, and immune stress mediators can have adverse effects on various organ systems, leading to disease.


Wear and Tear on the Body Caused by Chronic Stress (McEwen (2004) Ann.NY Acad.Sci. 1032: 1-7)

  •  Decreased immune functions
  •  Hypertension
  •  Atherosclerosis
  •  Increase platelet reactivity
  •  Abdominal obesity
  •  Bone demineralization
  •  Atrophy of neurons in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex
  •  Increased activity of amygdala

Because of my own ongoing experience with the effects of trauma, I thought that it would be helpful to re-post this article on the effects of childhood trauma and chronic illness.

Childhood trauma leads to lifelong chronic illness — so why isn’t the medical community helping patients?

in ACE StudyAdverse childhood experiencesChild trauma

ADonnaDadWhen I was twelve, I was coming home from swimming at my neighbor’s dock when I saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in our driveway. I still remember the asphalt burning my feet as I stood, paralyzed, and watched the paramedics take away my father. It was as if I knew those flashing lights were a harbinger that my childhood was over.

At the hospital, a surgeon performed “minor” elective bowel surgery on my young dad. The surgeon made an error, and instead of my father coming home to the “welcome home” banners we’d painted, he died.

The medical care system failed my father miserably. Then the medical care system began to fail me.

At fourteen, I started fainting. The doctors implied I was trying to garner attention. In college I began having full seizures. I kept them to myself, fearful of seeming a modern Camille. I’d awaken on the floor drenched in sweat, with strangers standing quizzically over me. Then, I had a seizure in front of my aunt, a nurse, and forty-eight hours later awoke in the hospital with a pacemaker in my chest.

In my early forties I developed Guillain Barre Syndrome, a neurological autoimmune disorder that causes paralysis from the neck down. I found myself in Johns Hopkins Hospital, on the exact anniversary of my father’s death, in the same hospital wing where he had died, unable to move. I was a few days shy of turning forty-two, the very age at which my dad had passed away.

I recovered, only to relapse, falling paralyzed again. Many of my children’s early memories revolve around my bed, where we played board games and read books.

It wasn’t until I was fifty-one-years old that a physician sat me down and asked me the most important question of my life – one that would lead me to better health than I’d had for decades: “Were there any childhood traumas or stressors that might have contributed to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing as an adult?”

My physician explained that ongoing adversity in childhood leads to a chronic state of “fight, flight or freeze.” Researchers at Yale had recently shown that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that oversee our stress reactivity, re-setting the stress response to “high” for life. This increases the risk of inflammation, which manifests later in cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases like mine.

As a science reporter I was shocked to discover that research linking childhood stress to adult illness began in 1996 with the Kaiser Permanente-CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). Since then, over 1500 peer-reviewed studies have replicated these findings.

The research was stunning. Two-thirds of Americans report experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences. These include obvious sexual and physical abuse, but also stressors that many consider to be normal — growing up with divorced parents, living with a depressed or alcoholic mom or dad, having a parent who belittled or humiliated you – or simply not feeling as if your family had your back. People who’d experienced four such categories of childhood adversity were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and depression as adults.
One statistic struck home with me: women who’d faced three types of childhood adversity had a sixty percent greater risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease as an adult. Similar links existed between childhood stressors and adult heart disease, diabetes, migraines and irritable bowel disease. Suffering six categories of early life stress shortened one’s lifespan by twenty years.

However, one study of 125,000 patients showed that when physicians acknowledged and discussed patients’ childhood trauma openly, patients enjoyed a thirty-five percent reduction in doctor visits. Validating patient suffering invites patients to address it at last.

Yet, despite twenty years of research linking childhood stress to adult disease, the majority of the medical community acts as if these findings don’t exist.

This August, students will begin training in medical schools across the country. They will be expected to emerge with deep-rooted knowledge about how to help patients heal. But shockingly, only a few medical schools teach students about how childhood suffering influences adult disease. The majority of medical schools leave this science out. Perhaps they fear teaching it will open the door to bringing psychiatry into the exam room.
But shouldn’t physicians consider the whole patient – body and mind – so that they can suggest behavioral health tools that will alleviate both the root causes and the symptoms of disease? When physicians help patients come to the profound revelation that childhood adversity plays a role in the chronic illnesses they face now, they help them to heal physically and emotionally at last.
All disease is multifactorial. Past trauma is one of those factors. I can’t help but think of how my own story might have been different if the medical community had been trauma-aware. What if, after my father’s sudden death, the emotional cost of such a traumatic loss had been validated, and our medical system had offered therapeutic interventions?
It’s been two decades since the research linking childhood adversity to adult illness began. But think of how much money we might have saved in our health care system since then if we considered the role that past trauma plays in one’s current medical condition, instead of waiting a lifetime for it to show up in devastating and difficult to treat diseases that ruin lives for a second time.

According to the CDC, the annual health care cost of adult patients who have a history of early trauma is $124 billion a year. Validating patients’ past trauma isn’t only beneficial for their well being, it translates into fewer tests, procedures, and health care dollars spent.


Statistics tell us that two-thirds of Americans reading these words, including physicians, will recognize that experiences in their childhood still trail after them today, like small ghosts. Fortunately, medical science now recognizes manyproven interventions for recovering from trauma, even decades after events have occurred.
We are long overdue for a national awareness campaign — similar to public health initiatives on how seat belts save lives, smoking causes cancer, and hand washing prevents flu — to educate physicians and families on how childhood trauma begets adult illness. Only then can we help those who feel paralyzed by their pasts to achieve the healthy lives they deserve.
This article first appeared in the Huffington Post. Donna Jackson Nakazawa is the author of Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How you Can Heal. You can follow her on Twitter at @DonnaJackNak, or on Facebook at
Here are some brilliant resources for you:
If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.
Thanks for considering.
Love Lisa

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Proverbs: A Manual on the Art of Living

Keys in old vintage retro style on wooden surface. Set of three from small to large. Symbol of safety.

Have you noticed that Twitter, FaceBook and social media is full of facts and pithy little sayings.  Wise words on how to live life.  Memes and quotes that speak to us about wisdom and life hacks.  Well the original and most ancient book of pithy wise sayings is the book of Proverbs in the bible.  Written by King Solomon who was known for his incredible wealth, wisdom and his writings 969 years BC.

The book of Proverbs is the most practical book in the bible.  It is a timeless guide on the art of living.  It is basically a manual for living.Eugene Peterson explains it well in his introduction to Proverbs.

“Many people think that what’s written in the Bible has mostly to do with getting people into heaven – getting right with God, saving their eternal souls. It does have to do with that, of course, but not mostly. It is equally concerned with living on this earth – living well, living in robust sanity. In our Scriptures, heaven is not the primary concern, to which earth is a tagalong afterthought.

Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves in.

Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work, and exercising leadership using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace.

Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do.

Proverbs concentrates on these concerns more than any other book in the Bible. Attention to the here and now is everywhere present. Proverbs distills it all into riveting images that keep us connected in holy obedience to the ordinary.”


There are three ways that the proverbs are written.  


  1. Taking a long life principal and replacing it with a “bottom line” short phrase you can remember, memorize or take with you.Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.
    Proverbs 16:18
  2. Two phrases that mean the same thing said differently. One may be more visual.Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty. Proverbs 25:25
  3. Two phrases in complete contrast with each other.The words of the Godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. Proverbs 10:6  (Ref)

These sayings are still just as fresh and just as wise as they were thousands of years ago.

“Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Don’t tell your neighbour “Maybe some other time” or “Try me tomorrow when the money’s right there in your pocket”.  Proverbs 3:27

I love this one:

“Don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder, always spoiling for a fight.
Don’t try to be like those who shoulder their way through life. Why be a bully?
“Why not?” you say. Because God can’t stand twisted souls.  It’s the straightforward who get his respect”. Prov: 3:30

What about this one, it made me laugh:

Switching price tags and padding the expense account are two things God hates. Prov:20:10

This is a great one:

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Pro 20:28


If you are looking for a fresh way to explore the book of Proverbs I highly recommend “The Message of Proverbs” by Eugene Peterson.

The Message: The Book of Proverbs is God’s timeless guidance on the best way to live your life presented in the American English you speak in your home and workplace. While clearly pointing to God as the ultimate source of wisdom, Eugene H. Peterson has skillfully taken the original Hebrew and made it more understandable for modern generations. This fresh translation will show you how to take God’s practical, loving instructions for living and apply them to your life now, no matter what your circumstances.

Eugene H. Peterson (b. November 6, 1932), is a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. He has written over thirty books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner.  Peterson is probably best known for The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, which was written to try to make the original meaning of the Bible more understandable and accessible to the modern reader.

Let finish with two more proverbs from chapter 28:

The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them;   Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions.


Playing favorites is always a bad thing; you can do great harm in seemingly harmless ways.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Is Suicide a Sin? 

Tree reflection in the book
Theology Thursday:  Suicide by Lisa Hunt-Wotton and Dr John Drane

Suicide is a difficult topic.  In general we are not well informed at all about suicide in fact it is a big black theological hole.  In all my decades as a Christian ministry leader I have never heard suicide spoken about: not at University, not in a staff environment and not from the pulpit.

When I ask about the modern theological thought on suicide and what to say to suffering families I draw a blank.  Is Suicide a sin?  Is it the unrepentable sin?  Is there hope for after life and eternity?  If you suicide are you damned?

So what do we do?

We contact a friend.


I email my wise friend Rev Dr John Drane.  John and I agreed that there is very little information available on the topic of suicide.  John kindly also agreed to attempt to answer my questions.

John is founder of the religious studies program at the University of Stirling, Scotland.

He is also appointed to teach Practical Theology in the Divinity School at the University of Aberdeen.  An adjunct professor in New Testament and Practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, California, a visiting scholar at Spurgeon’s College in London and a visiting Fellow of St John’s College, Durham. John is also an ordained minister and well known throughout the UK and western world for his academic contributions.

Firstly I will give a brief historical overlay of suicide and then John and I will have a chat.

Suicide is the act of killing yourself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness.

“Throughout history, suicide has evoked an astonishingly wide range of reactions—bafflement, dismissal, heroic glorification, sympathy, anger, moral or religious condemnation—but it is never uncontroversial. Suicide is now an object of multidisciplinary scientific study, with sociology, anthropology, psychology, and psychiatry each providing important insights into suicide”. Particularly promising are the significant advances being made in our scientific understanding of the neurological and genetic bases of suicidal behaviour (Stoff and Mann 1997, Jamison 2000, Joiner 2010, 228–236) and the mental conditions associated with it.

Nonetheless, many of the most controversial questions surrounding suicide are philosophical. For philosophers, suicide raises a host of conceptual, moral, and psychological questions. Among these questions are:

What makes a person’s behaviour suicidal?

What motivates such behaviour?

Is suicide morally permissible, or even morally required in some extraordinary circumstances?

Is suicidal behaviour rational? (Stamford).

Recorded suicide discourse goes back to Plato and Socrates.  Before that not a lot was said in the ancient world about suicide except that most of the ancient city states criminalised self killing. Socrates believed that ‘suicide is always wrong because it represents our releasing ourselves (i.e., our souls) from a “guard-post” (i.e., our bodies) the gods have placed us in as a form of punishment (Phaedo 61b-62c)” (Stanford).

“In contrast, the Stoics held that whenever the means to living a naturally flourishing life are not available to us, suicide may be justified, regardless of the character or virtue of the individual in question. Our natures require certain “natural advantages” (e.g., physical health) in order for us to be happy, and a wise person who recognises that such advantages may be lacking in her life sees that ending her life neither enhances nor diminishes her moral virtue” (Stanford).

The advent of institutionalised christianity had perhaps the most influence on philosophical thought around suicide as it declared that suicide was both morally wrong and a sin, even though there was no biblical text to confirmed this.  Augustine put suicide alongside the ten commandments and believed that is was the same as the command:  “Thou shalt not kill”.  He declared that is was an unrepentable sin.

“St. Thomas Aquinas believed that (1) Suicide is contrary to natural self-love, whose aim is to preserve us. (2) Suicide injures the community of which an individual is a part. (3) Suicide violates our duty to God because God has given us life as a gift and in taking our lives we violate His right to determine the duration of our earthly existence”(Aquinas 1271, part II, Q64, A5).

Why do I mention these ancient philosophers and church fathers.  When we begin to study any topic it is helpful to use the Wesleyan quadrilateral.  This quadrilateral is a method for theological reflection and is in short a lens through which we look at different topics to help us establish a balanced approach.

Those lenses are:

1:  Scripture – what does scripture have to say about his?

2:  What does church history, church fathers have to say about his?

3:  What is normative experience?

4:  What is reason or reasonable?

Which is why it is important to include church history as we explore this topic.  Unknowingly quite a lot of our modern thought comes from ancient thinkers.

Most religious thinkers especially the Catholics believe in the ‘sanctity of life’ view, human life is inherently valuable and precious, demanding respect from others and reverence for oneself. Hence, suicide is wrong because it violates our moral duty to honour the inherent value of human life (Stanford).

Along with the philosophical and theological implications there are also the psychological implications.  Suicide in society is treated very carefully and very differently to other deaths.  News mediums and the police do not like to report it.  Numbers of suicides are not publicised.  There is a psychological phenomena called copy cat killing or the ‘Wherther’ effect.

“Research identified by Mindframe, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing’s national strategy for responsible reporting of suicide and mental illness in the media, has concluded that the way the media presents stories on suicide can have a direct influence on the public’s perception of suicide and its related mental health issues”. As Madelyn Gould, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in the US, stated in a recent article on copycat suicide (Australian Psychological Society).

“Suicide contagion is real. Social behaviour is contagious and influential”.

So lets summarise these findings:

▪It is linked to mental health

▪Biblical texts do not talk about suicide

▪Church history says that it is morally wrong and a sin

▪There is a known copy cat effect of suicide in society

Hi John, thank you again for joining me today on Sunday Everyday.  I am attempting to tackle this subject today because I am pretty frustrated that we have very little narrative on this topic and also because there are thousands of families who have to grapple with death and loss through suicide and who are at a loss to know what to think about it.

Lisa:  Is suicide a sin?  I’m a student of theology and I can’t answer this question because quite frankly I’ve never had a conversation about it.

Interestingly scripture has nothing to say about suicide.  It is also interesting to note that the church in the past has condoned martyrdom, killing in war, and capital punishment but not the taking of ones own life.  One argument is that it is Gods prerogative to decide when we die and that we cannot take that decision into our own hands.  I know this is a big question, what are your thoughts on this?

John:  You’re right, Lisa – the Bible doesn’t have an angle on suicide, in fact the word ‘suicide’ or its equivalents doesn’t appear anywhere in its pages.  That isn’t to say that there are no examples of people ending their own lives.  The most high profile example is probably king Saul and his armour bearer, who committed suicide following the defeat of their army and the death of Saul’s own sons (1 Samuel 31:4-5).  Not long after that, Ahithophel is another one who took his own life (2 Samuel 17:23).  A later king of Israel, Zimri, ended up killing himself while taking revenge on his enemies (1 Kings 16:18), while Samson is another example of the same thing (Judges 16:28-31).  There is just one New Testament example of suicide, and that is Judas following his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 27:5).

Taken together, these examples from the Bible reflect the same factors that often lead people to commit suicide today.  Saul is generally believed to have suffered from what we today would recognize as a mental illness, while Ahithophel and Zimri felt themselves to have been betrayed in some way, and Samson was already in poor physical shape, chained up and blinded by his enemies and no doubt longing for a speedy end.  Judas Iscariot was consumed with guilt and remorse, and death seemed the best way out.

Guilt, physical suffering, disappointment, betrayal and failure – these are all common causes of suicide and self-harm today.  The interesting thing about these Biblical examples is that they are just described in a matter-of-fact way, and in none of them is there any moral judgment passed.  The only possible exception to that is the case of Samson, where the moral judgment is entirely positive as his suicide is viewed as a heroic act that saved his people from the Philistines.

Lisa:  John what do you say to families who are experiencing the loss of a loved one through suicide?  There seems to be a lot of fear around this topic.  Words like Sin, Hell and Damned come into the conversation.  Its pretty scary. Have you ever had a bereaved family member ask you about the deceased’s eternal resting place?  I assume that the fact of their faith and belief in Christ would also come into it?

John:  The very first funeral I ever conducted was of a man in his thirties who committed suicide.  Like many such individuals, his was a complex and challenging story.  He had been in prison for molesting his own children, and when he was released was determined to make a fresh start – supported by his wife and kids who welcomed him back.  Sadly, he struggled with his sex addiction, and took the only way out that he could see, which was suicide.

I learned many things as a consequence of that experience, the main one being that actually you don’t say anything to families at such a time: you listen, because if you don’t you’ll almost certainly end up talking about your own questions and chances are they won’t be the same as theirs.

In that particular case, his family were mystified by his actions because, as far as anybody knew, he hadn’t reoffended – certainly not with any of them.  So their questions were mostly focused on what they could or should have done to help rehabilitate their husband and father.

Inevitably, the suicide of a family member results in an exaggerated form of the normal responses we all have to bereavements of any sort – this time, heightened by what is usually the sudden and unexpected nature of it, quite often overlaid with a sense of intensified guilt in relation to the fact that nobody saw it coming.  There is very little that anyone can helpfully say in such a situation, and always whatever I might say will be directed by the questions and statements that others bring.  We all know that behind such experiences are the big unknowns of why bad things happen to good people, but at a time of tragedy that is not usually the question that is uppermost in people’s minds.  More often than not, it is something like “does anybody still love me?” – and the answer to that doesn’t always come through words at all.

Lisa:    Finally John,  the Catholic church calls it the ‘unrepentable sin’.  I’m assuming that this is because if you are dead you can’t ask for forgiveness whereas if you commit murder you have a chance to repent and ask for forgiveness.  What are your thoughts on this?

John: This notion goes back to Augustine in the 5th century, whose reasoning you’ve summed up pretty well: if suicide is murder, it’s wrong, but if you’re dead, you can’t repent, therefore it’s the one sin for which you can’t be forgiven.

It’s worth pointing out that even in the earliest times not everyone agreed with that, and also that it’s not just a Catholic notion as it’s found in the Westminster Larger Catechism of the 17th century, which is still foundational for many Calvinist denominations even today.

So the notion that suicide is a worse sin than others is deeply embedded in the Protestant psyche as well.  You can’t argue with Augustine’s logic!

Floating islands with trees

But for me it’s like the logic that asks how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – the sort of conundrum that fascinated previous generations, but which bears little relationship to real life or (and this is more important) to what we know of God.

I find it significant that nowhere does the Bible even hint at such a question, let alone try to address it, because God is not predictable in that sort of way.

The first disciples wrestled with the fact that Jesus didn’t seem to be what they thought (logically) a messiah should look like, and not only in his demeanor but in his teaching he repeatedly undermined the rules of logic – something that Paul continued with his insistence that wisdom and foolishness aren’t necessarily what we think they are when viewed from God’s perspective (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

To limit God to what we would do (which in essence is what this sort of rational discourse does) is to undermine the very thing that, according to Jesus, is God’s core character – something otherwise known as ‘grace’.  Actually, in relation to the final summing up of all things, and in light of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), who could possibly second guess God’s intentions?

So while there are still many other things to be said here, I think we can confidently entrust our loved ones to the care of God, regardless of how they end their days.


Australian Psychological Society

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – First published Tue May 18, 2004; substantive revision Tue Nov 20, 2012.

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Love Lisa

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