Have you ever considered suicide?
I can’t say I’ve been there. Honestly, I’m too chicken to take my own life. But I have wrestled with similar thoughts:
- “I wish I were dead. I don’t want to go on.”
- “It would be better for everyone if I were gone.”
- “I’m too tired to go on. I have no desire to live another day.”
- “Maybe I’ll die today and I won’t have to live with this any more.”
- “Life isn’t worth living. It’s just too hard.”
Surprised? Don’t be. Since writing Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place I’ve had many conversations with women about hurt, grief and depression. I found out that many have either wished they could die, seriously considered taking their own life or even methodically planned out the ending of their own life. And that’s not taking into consideration those who have gone through with it.
I lost a dear friend to suicide just a couple of years ago. She was lovely, vibrant, physically fit, an officer in the United States Army. She was a follower of Jesus, a discipler of women, a leader of men, a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. And even though Kelly had expressed her thoughts of suicide to me several years earlier, her death was a shock. And a huge loss.
Turns out many women consider killing themselves. While there are generally 25 attempts at suicide for every one life actually ended by self-infliction, suicide is still the 3rd leading cause of death in the world for those 15-44. And here in the U.S., over 38,000 people end their own lives each year. The most common precipitating factor for suicide is depression, and yet only half of those battling depression each year seek professional help. Finally, while four times more men successfully end their own lives, women are twice as likely to entertain thoughts of suicide and three times more likely to attempt it. The statistics are eye-opening and daunting.
But while it may be normal to consider suicide, it is not a viable answer. Here’s why:
- You were created for a purpose by a God who loves you and has a tremendous plan for your life. (Isaiah 43:7, Jeremiah 31:3)
- You are valuable to Him. He paid a huge price so that you could draw near to Him and experience abundant life. (John 15:13, John 10:11)
- Only the enemy comes to kill and steal and destroy. The voices telling you to end your life are not those of a friend, but of an enemy. (John 10:10)
- In Christ, there is always hope. He is your hope. (Psalm 38:15, Romans 15:13)
If you feel that all hope is lost, that life is not worth living, that others would be better off with you dead or that you are just too tired to go on…you are probably going through a season of depression. You are not alone. It is conservatively estimated that one in five adults in America will experience depression or other debilitating mood disorder. Several of God’s servants mentioned in the Bible suffered from seasons of depression, including King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Jacob (Genesis 42) and King David (Psalm 55). And modern day theologians, Christian activists and speakers have also battled depression: C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa and Sheila Walsh, among others.
Depression is not a sign of ungodliness. While it may be precipitated by disobedience to God, as in the case of King Saul, that is certainly not always the case. Other non-medical factors leading to depression include physical exhaustion, perpetual and extreme service, great loss, being surrounded by hurt and pain, ongoing unresolved conflict, guilt, change, grappling with heady life issues and even a season of extreme success.
Besides weighing us down with feelings of loss, hopelessness, weariness and lack of purpose, depression often evokes shame. But shame–that heavy, relentless feeling that you are worse than others and beyond God’s grace–never comes from God. It is a tactic from the enemy.
Don’t allow shame to keep you from getting the help you need to overcome your depression. When Elijah collapsed with weariness in his depression he cried out with finality:
It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)
Did you notice that he suffered from both depression and shame? And that double whammy of hopelessness and guilt drove his desire to end his life. If you’ve contemplated similar suicidal thoughts I want you to carefully read God’s response to Elijah’s cry for relief (1 Kings 19:5-8):
And he lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.”
Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again.
And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
After this period of refreshment Elijah went on to talk his discouragement out with God. Indeed, Elijah had some faulty thinking that had led to his season of discouragement and despair. But before God addressed His servant’s heart and mind, He graciously and tenaciously tended to Elijah’s physical health. He fed him and allowed him to sleep.
You, too, may need to get some physical help before you can really address the root of your emotional depression or mental illness. You may need physical rest, a more balanced diet, or exercise. You may temporarily need medication to sleep or alleviate anxiety. You may have a vitamin deficiency. Or you may need more extensive medical treatment.
Friend, take care of yourself. God knows that the journey is too great for you. He understands what’s going on inside…even more than you do. He is aware of your frame (Psalm 103:14), that you are fragile and not invincible. And He cares. He is gentle. Yes, He may address your wrong thinking and even some wrong behavior eventually, but He will do so carefully and tenderly when the time comes.
He will be gentle—he will not shout nor quarrel in the streets. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flame. He will encourage the fainthearted, those tempted to despair. (Isaiah 42:2-3a)
If you have contemplated suicide and continue to battle those urges, please seek help. If the thoughts are nagging at you right now and you are losing the battle, pick up the phone and dial 911. Otherwise, call a friend who can help you call your primary care doctor to set up an appointment. Ask the doctor for a complete physical and tell her about your struggles. Don’t let her brush them off; she probably won’t anyhow. But insist on being taken seriously. Ask also for a referral to a Christian counselor. If your doctor can’t give you one, search the Internet for one or ask your pastor.
Dear friend, your life is valuable and worth fighting for. You won’t have to fight alone either. God is for you. And He will tenderly care for you through the entire process.