There is a Netflix show called “13 Reasons Why.”It depicts the story of a teenager who committed suicide and left cassette recordings of an emotional audio diary reasoning her actions supposedly based on her relationship with other individual’s. These individuals receive the recordings to listen, and thus is the show.
Our American society has had multiple celebrities die of suicide. From Marilyn Monroe to Kurt Cobain, Jovan Belcher to Junior Seau, and so many others onward recently in 2017-18 with Robin Williams, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, America is surprised and heartbroken over individuals who externally have it all, but inwardly appear to feel empty to make such a tragic decision. I grieve for their families and friends.
Further, suicide has become one of the ten leading causes of death in the U.S. with rates rising rapidly, according to the CDC. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost in 2016 due to suicide, and the suicide rates are up 30% since 1999, with 54% who died did not have a known mental health condition. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as relationships, substance abuse, physical health, job and financial circumstances, legal or housing stress, and a host of additional or combination of reasons.
In the aim of grief with helpful grace, it is worthy to reflect biblically. There are several ndividuals in the Bible who died by suicide. Reading their life story reveals the paths taken did not have to lead to this tragic end.
- Abimelech (Judges 9:54)
- Samson (Judges 16:30)
- King Saul (1 Samuel 31:4)
- Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)
- Zimri (1 Kings 16:18)
- And of course, Judas (Matthew 27:5)
Spiritually speaking, suicide would be considered sinful, in an act of self-murder (Exodus 20:13). Yet, suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Jesus Christ died for every sin, and the potential for every sinner to receive grace through faith. So, if a person has genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and regrettably takes their life, their salvation is still secure in the hands of God.
Supremely, there are numerous reasons in the Bible to not reach the point of such a heart-wrenching and final decision. One biblical counselor promotes fifty (50) mental health habits. He says,
Good physical health does not happen by accident. Physically healthy people make small, daily choices that contribute to their physical health.
It should be noted that even those who make healthy choices still get sick and injured. Choices don’t remove the possibility of illness or injury. But even when sick or injured, an individual’s daily choices still make a significant impact on their quality of life.
The same things are true for mental health. Good mental health does not happen by accident. Mentally healthy people make small, daily choices that contribute to their mental health (i.e., ability to regulate emotions, respond proportionally to disappointments, accurately weigh the significance of successes and failures, etc.).
Making the choices [linked] won’t guarantee that you won’t experience seasons of depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental unrest. But the kind of choices listed below, if made before-during-after a time period of mental unrest, will still make a significant impact on your quality of life.
Obviously, with 50 habits it would be overwhelming (i.e., mentally unhealthy) to try to implement them all at once. Pick a few that fit you best. Begin with those. When those are embedded in your rhythms of life, come back and see what would be good to implement in that season of life.
Families and friends, are encouraged to discuss the topic of suicide and even be aware of the warning signs (isolation, increased mood swings, increased substance abuse, intentional plans of suicide, etc.) of someone considering suicide. Tim Elmore offers several conversation starters to debrief with children or peers on the topic. He suggests that many need persons to listen to them to “upload” their thoughts, rather than just “download” a lecture or talk from persons. So, asking questions helps bridge the communication. Below are several questions from Elmore,
What do you think causes people (even famous people) to think about suicide?
When I’m on Instagram and Facebook, sometimes I feel down about my life. Do you ever have these feelings?
Why do people often feel depressed as they post happy pics on social media?
Do you know anyone who’s thought about suicide? What happened?
What are some thoughts people likely think about when contemplating suicide?
What are some ways you think people can guard themselves from acting on suicidal thoughts?
What relationships and friendships do you think would be beneficial to people to support them in a season of suicidal thoughts?
What enables someone to hide their loneliness or angst, and later surprise people with a suicide?
What do you think are some signs of suicidal thoughts in a friend? (Some real signs are: giving things away; social withdrawal; hiding personal realities; lying; and lack of motivation).
If you see these signs in a friend or family member, what would be some ways to help them to prevent suicide? (Make sure to mention: school counselors, parents, teachers, administrators and suicide hotlines).
If someone saw these signs in you, how would you like them to help you?
When is it time to “give a friend space” and when must we intrude if we suspect someone is contemplating suicide?
What makes you most hopeful when you think about it? What experiences or actions make you most hopeful when you do it?
Finally, below are thirteen reasons why NOT to choose suicide. While pressures and problems can cause you to doubt and disbelieve truth, God’s promises are a sure foundation. I pray the following reminders help you to reflect and move forward in faith, hope, and love.
- God isn’t asking for fake but faith.
You can be real with God. You don’t have to hide your hurts or heartaches. You don’t have to diminish doubts or disbelief. God created you and is seeking to be in a faith relationship with you. He will not leave you and promises to walk with you through any situation (Hebrews 13:5-6).One of the practical ways to remind yourself of this principle is by keeping a journal or blog entry once or more times a week. When you write your thoughts and share your heart, you are able to be honest with your feelings. And each week, month, and year, you can look back and see what you’ve overcome and how far you’ve gone. Even more, you’ll see God is faithful.
- God cares.
He cares and invites us to cast all our anxiety on Him (1Peter 5:7). God has spoken to us through the Scriptures. There are many passages that can identify with whatever you are feeling. Pick a Psalm and eventually there will be one that resonates. God is speaking to you through His word – the Bible – and invites you to speak back, that’s called prayer. Try it. Pray to God the Father, believing He hears and cares (Psalm 5:3).
- Your humanity has value.
Before you were born, God knew you (Psalm 139:13-14). You are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus tells us we are so valuable that God knows even the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). From head to toe, your body and life is a unique reflection of beauty, because God made you that way as a human being.One person said, “God does not love us because we are valuable, but we are valuable because God loves us.” You have immeasurable value because you are immensely loved by Him.
- You have a purpose.
God has a masterful plan for your life (Ephesians 2:10). This life is like a puzzle with people as the unique and different pieces. We can only see the full picture when we put ourselves together with our gifts and talents to create the bigger picture. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you have something to offer, even if you may not be able to see what or how. Realize the mission of your life requires you to persevere and go the distance. Talk with parents, pastors, teachers, coaches, and other life leaders who know you and can help you identify your life purpose.
Church and community resources can be a comfort.
For those who have faith in Jesus, God has placed you in a community of support to lament and laugh in life (Romans 14:15). Your brothers and sisters in Christ are a spiritual family comfort in your circumstances. Even for those who are not Christians, the church can be a place of grace to listen and love you through whatever you may be facing. The church is made up of imperfect people who live amid a broken and unjust world, but have found the remedy to bring about reconciliation and justice. Connect with a local church to explore the issues of the world and personal concerns.
Some additional Christian counseling resources I have referred individuals are:
– Centrepointe Counseling
– HeartSong Counseling
– Life Christian Counseling
There are also other community resources through NAMI and other mental health counseling organizations to receive help and healing. Please take the step to speak with someone who has professional experience on this topic. The suicide prevention hotline is free: 1-800-273-8255, and offers online chat in multiple languages, or text 741741 for 24/7 support with the crisis hotline.
- Perception can cause problems.
Our view can be limited and not see or understand the whole truth. The brokenness of this world can distort reality. And young people are still growing to understand themselves, others, and the world around them. We must be careful to make decisions based on limited perception. Ask others for advice to gain insight and grow in understanding.
- People are not problems.
You may have a problem, but you are not a problem. Sometimes we may feel like a burden and others would be better without us, but that’s a lie. There would be a huge hole in the lives of those around you if you were gone. You giving up makes other people bitter not better. It may take time to work through whatever unsolved issue or uncertain circumstance, but the people who know and love you are more than willing to take whatever time and effort to work out the problems.
- You have long been loved.
God’s love is unfading and unending and has placed people around you to care and help (1Peter 1:4). The most important people around you are your family and friends. Even when it feels like family or friends are absent, they care beyond what you may realize. God has amazing love for you.
- Storms, sadness, and suffering can strengthen us.
Times of darkness can develop us into better people and to help others (2Corinthians 1:3-4). Your life story has more to be written. You don’t want to miss what God will do in your life. God who began a work in you wants to bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Whatever storm, sadness, or suffering you are facing, you can learn from – good and bad. Suffering produces endurance and character, and though we may not be able to fully discern why, we can begin to discern how it develops our character (Romans 5:3-5). Each day you are growing and maturing to become a better you.
- Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It silences your voice and the voices of others in the decision-making process. We must have patience before acting. There is always a way out and an opportunity for resolving your circumstances. Losing you is irreversible and misses the help that others would want to share with you. So share this decision-making process with someone and don’t give up.
- Death is not the end. When we die we enter eternity.
Each of us will stand before God, eye to eye and face to face (2Corinthians 5:10). While suicide is not the unpardonable sin, it is wrong because it takes life. Suicide is an attempt to control our life, when only God should have that power. Humanity cannot solve anything by taking life, their own or any other’s.
- Guilt can be gone.
If you feel shame, fear, or guilt, you can know that Jesus is greater than all those. We don’t have to carry the burden of guilt because Jesus carried it for us on the cross and conquered all shame and sin. Our death will bring pain, but Jesus’s death provides life. We can be forgiven and free through faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel is greater than all our sin, and His grace is sufficient to cleanse our heart from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). Because Jesus lives, we can face yesterday and tomorrow. In all, Jesus is the maker and mender of your best life possible (John 10:10).
- Hope is on the horizon.
God is always at work and orchestrating circumstances for good and His glory (Romans 8:28). God promises to make everything right in a due season. Heaven is real, and we are promised a day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4-5). Don’t give up hope. Hang on to hope. Hope is a Person named Jesus, and His arm is not too short that it cannot save, nor His ear too dull that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1). You do not have to walk your life alone. Call upon Jesus and He will sustain you (Romans 10:9-13).