Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thoughts on Suicide

For some people, the topic of suicide may be as irrelevant as birthing class for a bachelor. But others of us have wrestled this temptation, whether for ourselves or for someone we know.

A person can be tempted by suicide for many reasons. Maybe life's pressures feel too great--maybe he or she has suffered great loss and emotional or physical pain--maybe he or she has a melancholy and pessimistic personality and is easily discouraged by life.

I would be the last option, the personality type named "Eeyore." I came by my teenage ponderings of suicide honestly, pessimistic and moody as I was. But I was given a strange gift to compensate. I became close friends with a guy who had previously had his friend die by his own hand. There was speculation as to whether his friend's death was suicide or a terrible accident. Regardless, thinking of the suffering his death brought my dear friend, it became loud and clear to me that committing suicide would force my friend to go through the horror a second time, and would be unbearably cruel to him. In that light, I put suicide out of my mind altogether.

That was my first lesson on suicide--it's selfish. Those who are seriously considering suicide are usually wrapped up in themselves, self-absorbed in a world of their own miseries. Yes, some people have good reasons to be miserable. Some folks are the ones who get the short end of the stick of life and seem to meet tragedy after tragedy without time for a breath. But killing yourself is still selfish. It's murder in an attempt to ease your own sorrows. I can understand it. I can. But look around at the misery it would bring to anyone who knows you. That's why it's selfish.

The second thing I learned along the way is that suicide is not the "unforgivable" sin. Some people are reluctant to say this because they think everyone will run and jump in front of a bus if they realize that. But it's not unforgivable. Your eternal destiny depends on whether you really know Jesus and have a relationship with him, forgiven in his blood. All of us make mistakes along the way, and I've learned enough about God to know that he's a lot more understanding of our miseries than other people are, and he is compassionate for the hard lives we have.

The third lesson I learned is that suicide usually has a spiritual side. Demons are probably involved in any serious thoughts of suicide. The devil comes "only to steal and kill and destroy," says Jesus, "But I come so that you may have abundant life." Also the Bible tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking those he can devour. You may hear repeated thoughts in your mind that are incredibly grim, pounding like propaganda in your brain. You may feel condemned and hopeless. It may be impossible for you to imagine life being bright or joyful ever again. These are likely the whisperings of slimy spirits who lack power to do much besides discourage you.

Here's a strange word of hope: some of the darkest and worst thoughts you believe to be your own may not be truly yours but are whispered in your ear to horrify your soul. John Bunyan even mentioned this phenomenon in his Pilgrim's Progress. Pilgrim was walking through the Valley of the Shadow in despair, and a demon came up and whispered blasphemies in his ear which Pilgrim thought were his own. But they weren't.

Sometimes I get tired of people wanting to kill themselves.  I was on suicide watch once for a friend for some months. That gets old, let me tell you. I was making sure he didn't have knives in his house, getting phone calls day and night, wading through long irrational passionate conversations and long prayer sessions, and so on. Finally I told him something like this:

"If you want to kick your own bucket, go ahead. God can forgive you. But you are removing yourself from the battlefield. There are a lot of good deeds prepared for you beforehand to walk in, and the devils would give a lot to take a soldier off the battlefield. Go ahead, take the shortcut to heaven. But that's not what your good Father longs for you to do. He wants you to walk the path of Jesus, a man of sorrows, but one who endured it for the great joy ahead. We need you on the battlefield. We need your prayers, your encouragements, your acts of mercy, your words of truth, and simply your presence, brother. Satan does want to sift you like wheat, as Jesus told Peter. But when you have repented, turn and strengthen your brothers."

Are you going to be self-absorbed or kingdom-absorbed?

In fact, you are called to die. To die to yourself and live for Christ. Paul said, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. To be with the Lord is much better for me, but it's much better for you if I stay here on earth. So for your sakes I will remain."

I pray these thoughts from my life are helpful to you. The Holy Ones love you with Jesus' love, and one day many people will give thanks for your life. Take courage, die to yourself, and turn your life over to Christ to find a life more abundant than you could make for yourself.

"You are not those who draw back, but those who continue on to salvation."

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