Recently a rather somber topic has surfaced in conversations I have had, meetings I have been a part of, and articles I have been reading. At first I thought it to be coincidental. I said to myself, “Certainly something like this could not be commonplace.” Unfortunately as I did research I came to discover that what I noticed was less of a coincidence and more of a crisis. The topic I am referring to is suicide.
There has been a dramatic rise in suicides rates in the United States. In 2016 nearly 45,000 Americans died by suicide—one death every 12 minutes, as the Department of Health and Human Services put it. The overall suicide rate has grown by nearly 30 percent over the past 15 years, prompting some to call it a new public health crisis.
Some popular television series have seemingly portrayed suicide as a viable option when working through a difficult situation. Often these shows will go as far as to use suicide as a means to teach the guilty party a lesson while vindicating the deceased person. Generally these shows target teenagers who are most impressionable to such a foolish message that vindication can come through the taking of your own life.
There are many contributing factors to why someone might take their own life. There can be internal health and mental issues or there can be external circumstantial issues such as bullying, a broken relationship, or financial strain. At times both internal and external factors can cause someone to give up on life.
I have to qualify everything that I am going to say by pointing out that it is impossible for me to speak into this topic exhaustively. Nor am I qualified to speak into the health and mental wellness dynamics that contribute to this issue. However I do believe that there is need for this topic to be addressed from a more biblical standpoint to help us develop a Godly perspective on this subject.
For those of you who are considering harming yourself in this way the point I believe the bible teaches is that…
God Is For Life Not Death
On a tombstone there is a date for when someone is born and when they die. Between those dates is a dash that receives little attention and can almost go unnoticed. When you read the bible you find the exact opposite though. There is little attention given to when you are born and when you die; the focus is on the dash. In other words one of the primary focuses of the bible is the life you live. That is why Jesus came.
Jesus said, “I have come that you would have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Those who commit or consider suicide are consumed by hopelessness and despair. There are no hopeless situations, only people without hope. Satan is the great accuser, constantly accusing US and also accusing God TO US by saying that God is unfair, unjust, uncaring and unloving. Hopelessness comes from not seeing God as He really is (and thus not seeing ourselves as we really are). The suicidal person needs to see God as the loving Father that He is. There are no impossible situations because our Father is the God that specializes in the impossible (Luke 1827) – and He loves us with an immeasurable, unsurpassable, and unconditional love that nothing can separate us from
Too many think God loves Humanity (w/a capital H) and don’t see, recognize, or rejoice in the vastness of His love for them individually. He loves them so much that He voluntarily chose to give His life for them – and there is no greater love than that (John 15:13). When we get some sense of the vastness of His love for us; how much He cares about us; how much He wants to give us a life then living truly becomes our only option.
That leads into the second point that needs to be…
Suicide Should Not Be an Option
The difficulty of a situation with one’s health, finances, marriage, or career can cause someone to believe they have no hope thus begin to consider taking one’s life.
This is what happened to Judas Iscariot. He was one of Jesus’ original twelve followers. He managed the money amongst the group. He was seemingly in good standing with the other disciples, but he would be the one who would betray Jesus to the Jewish leadership. After his betrayal of Jesus he experienced incredible remorse over his decision and sadly he took his own life by hanging himself (Matthew 27:3-8). What many of us do not realize is that Jesus died for Judas as well. If he would have turned to Christ, repented, he could have received the same grace that is available to us.
The Apostle Peter is also someone who betrayed Christ. While Peter stood over a fire in the temple courts he was approached three times and asked about his friendship with Jesus. His response each time was complete denial of knowing Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Afterwards he too would experience tremendous remorse over his decision to deny Christ, but his discouragement never led him to take his own life. Instead when Peter was given the opportunity he went to Jesus and received grace from Him (John 21:15-19).
Judas could have turned to Jesus and found the hope that he so desperately needed. Instead Judas pursued death in suicide while Peter pursued life in Christ. My encouragement for anyone considering suicide as an option is to not seek relief in death, but life in Christ.
There is another group that is affected by suicide and that is those of you who have a family member or loved one you suspect could be considering suicide. How should you respond if you feel this way? I believe the answer is that…
Loved One’s Need to Address This Problem Not Ignore It
Often our tendency can be to pretend like there is not a problem or just hope the problem will go away on its own.
That was the primary approach most of Europe took with Adolph Hitler in World War II. Some countries pretended that he was doing nothing wrong while other countries hoped that the problem would just go away on its own. Both groups were wrong and suffered for it.
There are always to look for if someone is considering hurting themselves.
Some of the signs include:
- Statements like, “I wish I was dead, “or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer.”
- Frequent or pervasive sadness.
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities.
- Sudden decline in schoolwork.
- Preoccupation with death.
- A lack of plans for future activities.
- Giving away important possessions.
If you see these signs in a child, friend, or loved one I believe you have to be willing to address the issue.
You can start the conversation by saying:
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
- “Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
- “I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions you can ask:
- “Are you feeling depressed? When did you begin feeling like this?”
- “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
- “How can I best support you right now?”
- “Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say that helps:
- “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
- “You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
- “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
- “When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.”
As I bring this to a close I am drawn to the words Jesus said in Mark 12, “God is not a God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27). God is for life, so live the life He died to give you.