When I was 20 years old, my boyfriend committed suicide. At the time I was immobilized in the hospital in a full body cast with a broken neck resulting from a car accident. He had visited the night before he shot himself and said he felt he couldn’t go on any longer. He needed me to be strong. Not realizing how genuinely desperate he was, I said I wasn’t in a position to help him.
Hopelessness brought about by heroin addiction is what drove him to this.
I couldn’t attend the funeral, and the impact of his death haunted me with nightmares for years, even after marrying my wonderful Christian husband. I felt guilty for ignoring the very blatant warning signs.
I’m 66 years old now and have known too many people who have taken their own life. Not all were drug addicts. Not all were unbelievers. Yes, some were even my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The reasons for suicide are as diverse as the people who commit this devastating act. I won’t discuss the truth that suicide is a sin, except to say that nowhere in the Bible does it say it is “the unpardonable sin,” as some believe. Salvation comes to us by the free grace of God, and God’s forgiveness covers all of the believer’s sins; past, present, and future. Christians still sin in many different ways. (I Jn. 1:10) David committed both adultery and murder.
The common denominator in most suicides for believer and unbeliever alike is this:
Despair and Hopelessness Had Blinded Them
The reason I say “most” is because, in the case of some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, people can become delusional to the point of being entirely out of touch with reality. We lost a good Christian friend this way.
We’ve all experienced the depths of despair at some point, but some of us are more prone to a deeper abiding depression than others. I’ve been there at times in my life, and I know how blinding it is. It blinds us to God’s promises and robs us of comfort and hope. And it can also blind us to the feelings and needs of others because we are so absorbed in our own.
When depression gets to the point of suicide, it seems to blind people to the grief it will cause their loved ones, a grief that will never entirely go away.
How can we help ourselves or others when the darkness of this magnitude veils our view of Christ as well as our own eyes?
BE HONEST WITH GOD
“In my distress, I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help”- Psalm 18:6
God is a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1). He is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18). We may feel there is no hope for the future, but there is (1 Thess. 5:23-24). We may feel we’re too weak to go another minute, but with Christ we can (2 Cor. 12:9). We may feel that God has abandoned us, but He hasn’t (Heb. 13:5). We may feel He’s punishing us, but Christ has already taken our punishment on the cross (I Pet.2:24). We may be entangled in personal sin that we feel we can’t take to the Lord, but we can (1 Jn.1:9). Nothing is too difficult for the Lord (Jer. 33:27). Cry out to Him. Ask the Lord to give you the faith to hope, to trust and to wait for Him. (Mark 9:24)
The Puritans were no strangers to depression. William Bridge wrote:
“Hoping, trusting, waiting on God, is the special, if not the only, means appointed against all discouragement. …to hope in God is to expect help from God: to trust in God is to rely or rest upon God for help; and to wait on Him is to continue and abide in this expectation or reliance.” 1
“For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” –Proverbs 24:6
Serious depression can have many causes. Some are physical, some are emotional or spiritual, and some are a combination of all of these. Don’t wait to get help. Call your doctor. Make an appointment with your pastor or another qualified counselor. It’s not a sin or a sign of inferiority to ask for help. A burden shared is a burden halved.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” –I Cor. 10:13
Severe depression creates a false sense of isolation. We pull inside ourselves and feel as though no one else can relate. But our struggles are not unique. In fact, they’re generally common to all mankind.
Christians could stand to be a lot more transparent regarding their struggles with depression and anxiety. Not only for their own benefit but for the encouragement it gives others. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t always done such a great job of this, and in the past refused to acknowledge mental illness as a legitimate affliction. This has left a lot of Christians feeling too afraid to share their problems with depression or anxiety in fear of being judged.
START TALKING AND STOP LISTENING TO YOURSELF
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 43:5
In his excellent book, Spiritual Depression Martyn Lloyd Jones says:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. ”2
HOW TO RESPOND WHEN SOMEONE YOU KNOW COMMITS SUICIDE
“weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15
This is not the time for sermonizing or assigning blame.
Weep with their loved ones just as you would with anyone else who has lost someone.
Join them in remembering the many good things about that person just as you would with anyone else.
And remember to continue praying for them.
For immediate help call: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
1 A Lifting up for the Downcast by William Bridge; Puritan Paperbacks, Banner of Truth; pg. 262-3
2. Spiritual Depression, D Martyn Lloyd Jones, pg 20-21