Suicide in the Church, Part 3
This may wind up being the most important article some have ever read. I hope it will not only help a few readers, but that it will open the eyes of others, aiding in their understanding, motivating them to help. I trust there will be those who will actually clip it, mailing it to someone for whom they are concerned, or posting it in the breakroom.
I've written quite a bit about suicide over the past few weeks and have received some remarkable feedback. I wrote on the subject because there have been so many suicides lately and folks wanted answers. If you've read any of the previous articles, you've seen some frightening statistics. This subject remains heavy on my heart and continues to be a concern to many. For me, it started when a man with whom a dear friend had been interacting was found in his jail cell with a cable TV wire around his neck. Then, another friend who led a Bible study took his own life. Within days, this was followed by the suicide of another man who, along with his spouse, had prayed with and comforted the previous friend's wife.
Saturday, I officiated a wedding 2 hours away. Incredibly, on Sunday, the father of the bride took his own life.
My mind is reeling as I write.
Suicide has a frightening air of finality. Filled with hopelessness, despair, and tragedy, it's a word we like to keep at arms' length. As a whole, society tends to look down its nose at anyone who would commit this gruesome act. We call them selfish, cowardly...I must admit, after seeing that beautiful young bride and her dashing husband on Saturday, preparing to begin their lives together, if her father were standing alive before me now, I'd have a hard time refraining from beating the thunder out of him. How could he do that to his precious daughter?
But I recall the day, about 15 years ago, that suicide entered my thoughts in a different way. I had just lost my job with a Dallas ad agency and my wife had left me, taking our kids with her. For the first time in my life, I was all alone on a Thanksgiving, too broke to join any family gatherings taking place across the country. Our church friends had quickly chosen sides and had shunned yours truly. It was Thanksgiving Eve, sleeting and raining, about 16 below zero with the wind chill. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a mobile home, my entire world seemingly in shambles all around me. I remember waking up to the whirring sound of ball bearings rolling around in the furnace which was now spewing forth cold air. I was dizzy, disoriented, freezing to death in my sleep, I believe. Taking my own life with the razor sharp meat clever in the kitchen was the most natural thought in the world to me. I formulated a plan to slit my wrists, crawl back onto my mattress, and let them find me in the spring. Truly, I was experiencing the darkest hour of my soul.
But God stepped in. The atmosphere became charged as it does when a frisky puppy runs into a room or a bunch of children run through an open screen door to get a drink from the kitchen sink on a hot summer day. "Joy will come in the morning" suddenly echoed through my mind. I bundled up and made it through the night, only to be awakened next day by a startling crash as a sheet of ice melted and slid off the metal roof onto the frozen ground. I looked outside and the sun was glistening off the melting ice everywhere.
Life got gradually better. Incredibly better. Today, I wouldn't trade mine for all the world.
Truth is, I discovered another option to suicide. I found it in the Bible, God's love letter to mankind. You know...that perennially best-selling book most Christians rarely read? The good news about the current state of depression some may be feeling at this moment, is that God really DOES have a plan for your life - a plan that can only be fulfilled when we give everything over to Him. Listen, there IS a purpose for your life; a reason for your existence. Your current, dismal, emotional and spiritual state may be the very springboard you need for discovering just how valuable you are to Him, how your life can be transformed, and how others can be rescued by YOU. Tough times do NOT last. Tough people DO!
Perhaps you've asked yourself, "How did I get to this point?" The answer? Gradually, just as drops of water will slowly but surley fill a bucket. Everyone goes through periods in their lives when they feel down. In time, sadness leaves and life goes on. There are instances, however, when tough times, a strained relationship or some other problem, leads to unhappiness that keeps us in bondage. When that happens, life can become a daily struggle with uneasiness, gloom, and emptiness. Ultimately, hopelessness can take hold, creating a feeling of dissatisfaction with everything.
Depression is often associated with a sense of loss that can come with illness, the death of a loved one, sudden unemployment, divorce, and so on. A chronic illness, or permanent disability, can rob one's independence, making them feel worthless, helpless, and angry. Losing someone you care about, through death or divorce, can leave a tremendous void.
Guilt is another trigger for depression. Perhaps you're struggling with substance abuse or another addiction or have made some really bad choices that you're ashamed of that are about to be revealed. A childhood trauma may have left you feeling damaged and unworthy of God's love and acceptance. Maybe you feel like a failure because you haven't achieved all that you wanted in life.
Whatever the cause, depression often leads to a sense of hopelessness. You may feel as though you're at the end of your rope. You may think that ending your life is the only way to take control.
Trust me, it's not.
What's next? The answer is simple. REALLY simple. You can go on with life as usual, knowing where that may lead, or you can get a life. I'm talkin' REAL life. For some, the fact that you're still reading this shows that you desire another option. So, here's my answer. Ready? It's my experience that there is only one real source of hope for a life of purpose, fulfillment, and joy.
That source has a name...it's Jesus Christ.
It is my firm contention that Jesus is the answer to every problem known to mankind. To those who are still with me, that's either absolute truth or it's a lie. He said about His followers, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). If that statement is true, logic screams for us to quickly become His followers. We must address the question, "If I'm not living real life, what is THIS?" Through a REAL, experiential relationship with Jesus Christ, overflowing love, forgiveness, peace, and joy can be ours. Interested? That's a promise from God found in the Bible.
And God doesn't lie.
Sadly, far too often, even Christians settle for Religion and Church attendance over a relationship with the Creator through Christ's teachings found in Scripture.
The How-to's of Overcoming
I failed to mention that all the recent local suicides have been committed by professing Christians. Did Jesus promise His followers a problem-free life on Earth? No. He actually said, "In this life, you will have many troubles...." He DID promise the power to face life's trials with confidence, knowing that He will cause ALL things to work for our good.
By the way, the Greek word for "all" means ALL!
He promised either to deliver us from afflictions, or provide the strength to endure them, according to His plan for us. Here's the catch: to set that plan in motion requires giving our lives to Him.
As Bob Dylan sang, "We're gonna serve somebody." Even the atheist serves himself, enthroning himself as "lord" of his own life. By placing Jesus Christ on the throne of our lives, spiritually, we become what the Bible calls "born again" and we're completely transformed as we renew our minds. According to the Scriptures, that same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us, His followers. Again, this has been my expereince and, I contend, the very answer that someone somewhere is needing. Your reading of this now is no accident.
Dust off that old Bible and look up the following verses: John 1:12; II Corinthians 5:17;I Corinthians 2:12; I John 5:11-13.
Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). He's knocking right now. Open the door.
Three Keys to Vicorious Living
1) Talk to God. We call it "prayer" but it's merely conversation with God. TWO-WAY conversation at that. So, be quiet and listen sometimes.
2) Begin reading the Bible. Get to know the Personality of the one who made came up with all those Precepts for living life with Power. You'll find He's the kindest person you'll ever meet. Talk with Him as if He were your best friend. He IS!
What if You're Already a Christian?
First, ask yourself if you really ARE a Christian. The word 'Christian' translates as "Little Christs." Galatians 5:22 tells us what the fruits of the Spirit are, the evidence that God's Spirit resides in us. Too many people believe themselves to be Christians simply because they believe in God. Scripture declares that "even the devil believes, and he trembles." Truth is, unless we spend time with Him, how can we know Him at all? What relationship works like that? Logically speaking, Church attendence doesn't make one a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes one a cheeseburger. Besides, Church is something we ARE 24/7 (meaning: "the called out ones"); it's not merely someplace we GO.
To those who DO have a relationship with God, the enemy of our souls can cause any of us to feel depressed and have suicidal thoughts in a moment of weakness. So might a chemical imbalance. It can happen for all of the same reasons mentioned above. The trials of life touch everyone, including Believers in Jesus.
Along those lines, take a look at these verses: Psalm 23; Psalm 28:7; Isaiah 43:2; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:13.
We are spirit-beings having an earthly experience. As such, you must ask God to fill you with His Spirit to help you tackle life by His power. Scripture declares, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." The Bible is full of God's promises to love, strengthen, heal, and guide.
The Purpose-Driven Life is a Top-Selling book these days. Begin reading God's Word in a Purpose-Driven manner: to discover new insights about His love for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your journey and to reveal truths you've never seen before. He's the consummate teacher, after all. Accept the fact of God's love for you by faith, NOT by feelings.
Look at these verses and receive them from God directly to you: John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:10; Lamentations 3:22-23.
Today's culture detests any mention of this word, but here goes: SIN. If you want to walk in victory, acknowledge any sin that might be interfering in your relationship with God. Ask Him to search your heart and pinpoint any problems. Then, confess and repent of your disobedience and receive his forgiveness. Confess means "to agree" and repent means "to change your mind."
Here are some verses for dealing with sin: I John 1:9; Psalm 139:23-24; Galatians 5:16-25.
Help Yourself to some help!
As part of the Body of Christ, you may wish to consult help from other Body Parts. Professional help in the form of a qualified Christian counselor has proven to be one of the best ways to fight depression and thoughts of suicide. Look in the phone book and make some calls. Ask for references. A good pastoral counselor can help you get a new perspective on your problems. Get a medical check-up. Sometimes depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or other biological factor.
Seek out a support group made of like-minded believers that can minister to the area of difficulty in your life. Interacting with others who are facing similar challenges will help you feel less isolated.
Force yourself to do something the next time you feel down. Inactivity only makes depression worse. Here are some things to try:
Talk it out. Call a friend and open up.
Take a hike. Exercise causes blood and oxygen to circulate faster, which invigorates us. The brain produces endorphins that fight depression.
Help someone else. As you focus your attention on someone else, your own cares will become less burdensome. I often refer people to watch "Patch Adams" with Robin Williams, then report to me on their findings. Don't judge me on that; lives have been saved. God can use anything.
Listen to uplifting music. Choose your favorite songs and start jammin'!
Here's the good news: Whatever you're struggling with at the moment, this too shall pass. Whatever it is you're going through, you WILL go through it. Though things may actually get worse before they get better, they WILL get better as you place them in God's hands. Yes, we reap as we sow and there may be some really tough consequences forthcoming to deal with. But whatever you do, deal with it!
Remember, "All things work together for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose." Translation? God takes care of the lives of those who turn their lives over to Him.
Resist any thoughts you may be having about "ending it all." God has the uncanny ability of taking that which seems really bad and making things turn out really good.
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Pastor Michael has been broadcasting messages of Discipleship & Encouragement to the Body of Christ by email since 1999. Since then these messages have been published on numerous other sites, reprinted in paper newsletters belonging to other ministries, have been used as a source of teaching and preaching by ministers and Bible teachers worldwide, and have ministered to the Body of Christ of nearly every major denomination.