Thinking of Suicide
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Jan 2, 2009, 20:34
Question: Why would someone think about killing themselves?
Counselor: The reasons vary greatly. One person who is thinking he no longer wants to live may have a lot of reasons, and another only one or two. A lot of the time the reason is simply disappointment or a feeling of failure. Feelings of loneliness and being rejected cause people to ponder suicide. When these feelings start they affect other areas in life. Sometimes people feel inadequate in many ways and canít see anything in the future in optimistic terms. If you are the one going through times like this, it can be terribly real and gloomy.
It can surely be a frightening situation when you find you are not nearly as prepared as you ought to be or as you thought you were when life gets overwhelming. You can easily become despondent and there is a despair that sets in if you don't have faith in yourself or in the future. Faith in God helps a lot, of course. It helps you have faith in yourself which creates determination and will power to get everything straightened out and to go on growing.
Question: How can you tell if someone is serious about committing suicide?
Counselor: Well, one of the signs of thinking of suicide is talking about it. That may be a loud cry for help, help with the inadequacies, help with the loneliness and not fitting in, help with the alcohol problem, help with his/her need for love and attention. That kind of cry usually works. If I threaten to take my own life, there is a pretty good chance that somebody will pay attention to me. A lot of teenagers indicate that even a beating is attention from somebody who ought to be showing love. And a beating is better than no attention at all. For adults any kind of attention may be craved, whether it is healthy or not. But, unfortunately, the halfhearted attempt that is a cry for help is sometimes a success and a life is lost.
Question: Could you give me an example?
Counselor: Yeah, I remember very well a high school couple who let themselves go too far and became sexually promiscuous. She became pregnant. They both had feelings of embarrassment and failure and thought there was nothing in life for them after this. They honestly faced up to the fact that they were not yet mature enough to be married. Both of them, along with their parents, had lots of serious decisions to make. Now, granted, being pregnant is hard to live down, but even that isn't worth taking a life for. If the girl had ended her own life, she would have also ended the child's life.
Question: I heard someone say once that suicide was an unforgivable sin. But that didn't make sense with what I knew about forgiveness.
Counselor: No, no. The unforgivable sin is that sin where we insult or show contempt for God in some way. That and that alone is the unforgivable sin, so someone who commits suicide will not lose their salvation, for some that is controversial. The truth is that it is the only accurate way of looking at scripture. With that cleared up. . .Suicide is murder. It's killing one's self. That, obviously, is wrong. Even more than that, it is taking life needlessly. Suicide isn't the only way out. Life is worth living. There are difficult situations that we cause ourselves or that someone else causes for us, and that's bad, but it's not the end of the world. It's better to accept the bad situation and deal with it the best we can and then move on to claim all the abundance of life that Christ wants for us. Suicide takes away all the possibility of seeing God's master plan being carried out. We know suicide is a serious sin and that God's grace is somehow at work.
Question: When you say it's taking a life needlessly, you are saying there are other ways of taking care of the problems, right?
Counselor: Of course. There has to be a solution. No matter how tough the problem or how low you feel or how inadequate you think you are for coping with life today and out in the future, there is always something that can be done. 1 Corinthians 10:13 in the Bible is an important verse that every person ought to know and remember every day. "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. But with the temptation will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it." The temptation to take one's own life is matched by God's faithfulness in giving us a solution to the problem. Someone has said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I think the problem often is that the person doesn't see the problem as temporary and he is too impatient to wait for it to work out. But better to learn to be Patient than to end one's life.
Question: You seem to believe the Bible has lots to say about making it.
Counselor: Oh yes, One of my all-time favorite passages of Scripture speaks to this. It's Lamentations 3:21-22. Let me read that for you here. "But this I call to mind and, therefore, I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness." God's love is really awesome, Question, in providing for all of our needs. Hope is what we need most in despair and loneliness and insecurity and this verse along with plenty of others in the Bible offers hope above all else because God who created us doesn't abandon us. He continues to be interested in us and to sustain us through our lives.
Question: So, then, is being a Christian a guarantee you won't have suicide thoughts?
Counselor: No, no, no. It's not, but the Christian has more reason to live, more resources to call on to ward off the scary loneliness that all of us have sometimes. Psalms 71:5 in the Bible says, "For thou, O Lord, art my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth." He can be the hope of any person and you can trust in Him so that you don't have to face alone the frustrating consequences of life being as tough as it sometimes is. If you are not a Christian, I would say your first step ought to be to talk with your minister, with your pastor, or some Christian you know who can explain the way to Christ as your Savior and Lord.
One of the greatest benefits of being a Christian is that we have a hope in Christ. Hope not only for today, but for eternity as well.
Question: What if I know someone who wants to commit suicide and they have asked for my help?
Counselor: Well, just believe that you can be God's instrument and pray that you can remain calm, listen sensitively and answer as practically as you possibly can. Ask God to prepare this person's heart that he/she would listen and follow the right steps. Next, mentally check out your own attitude. Be caring and accepting, but not judgmental. Many people feel judged at times and some have good reasons for it. Remember that sometimes little things have accumulated or seemingly grown out of proportion until it's almost impossible for people to get a handle on it themselves. And that's where you can help them to see some hope in their circumstance. Get the person to talk, really talk. Ask her/him to tell you what's been going on to make your friend feel this way. You want them to review the facts and hopefully realize that there are other solutions. If you are ever felt this way, tell them so. Find out if they are really serious about this. Help them to look at the other options that we have just been talking about. If he/she is still persistent about thinking of suicide, never make light of it. Don't say things like "Oh, I don't think you'd ever do anything like that," or even "Well, it's not so bad; you'll probably feel better tomorrow."
Give hope, encourage. Emphasize that you are a friend that she can count on. And that she has other friends. Emphasize the need to involve the parents, spouse, families and seek their help. Emphasize the sacredness of life and the seriousness of the way that he/she is thinking. I think it would be good to say very emphatically, "What you are saying is scaring me. I'm worried about you. You must get some help. Whom do you want me to tell?"
Question: But what if all this is a secret?
Counselor: Well, this is not the time to worry about breaking confidences. If nothing else helps, saving a life by breaking a confidence is more important than keeping your word. If your word has been given, just say "I'm sorry, but this is too important for me to keep your secret."
Question: How do you know if it has reached a dangerous stage?
Counselor: Find out if you can how they are thinking about taking their life. It's most serious if they have a plan. Even more serious if they have secured the equipment, that is, if they have bought the gun and they have got bullets or they have the rope or the poison. That's alarming, Question. It's serious if they have begun to give away valuable possessions and if they have already written a note or they have decided on a time to do it when the parents are away from home. Listen for any of these clues or anything else that is very suspicious.
Question: This is pretty heavy. What else can I do? (Letís say for a friend who has talked about this)
Counselor: Oh, yeah it is heavy and serious, and what you need to do here is continue to pray that God's Spirit will work in this person's life and heart. Encourage in every way you can, but make it realistic. Hollow promises are what she has already heard, and she knows this will not do the job. Telling her everything is going to be great tomorrow is just something you cannot guarantee, but you can guarantee to continue to pray for her, to be her friend, and to talk regularly with her. To help her work out anything that is within your power, do it. Act positively to help save a life and to help this person get on to a more positive course and using all the potential that God has endowed her with.
Question: Well, that's what I'd call a crash course in suicide counseling. But it all makes sense. I ought to be able to do that. It sounds scary mostly because it is a serious situation.
Counselor: You are right on that score. It is serious, and I hope that you will never have to use it. But better to know some danger signs and what to do than to know nothing about it. It's always worth a try to save a life. There is one other thing. Stay with the person until she has followed through on the agreements. You can say very forcefully, "You promised me that you would do this so I am going to call you tonight at 10:00 and I am going to ask if you have done it." Or something that I do, Question, is to ask the person "Will you promise me that you won't do anything about taking your life, no getting out a gun or anything else unless you call me first? Promise me that." If you have shown that much interest in the person, the chances are pretty good that she will do it. Other than that, see that the person follows through with whatever she said. Going to the counselor or whatever she said she would do, there is a continuing responsibility over the long haul..
Please make sure that these are just suggestions and scenarios for the sake of helping someone in crisis. Secure the help of a professional counselor as soon as possible.
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