I have no hope.
It’s only going to get worse.
I don’t know if I want to be around any longer.
People won’t miss me if I’m not around.
Over 1.3 million people attempt suicide every year. Every year, more than 47,000 succeed. In the past, Christians haven’t always spoken out on the topic of suicide. In many denominations it was taboo, sometimes communicated as a lack of faith to a struggling believer. Suicide is preventable, and God’s people know the cure.
Battling with suicidal ideations has nothing to do with lack of faith. It is part of the human condition to struggle with trials that often produce great sadness and sorrow. The Bible records many who cried out to God in frustration, anger, and bouts of hopelessness. The Psalms are full of King David’s laments, including Psalm 13:2: “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?” The apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome expresses “great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart” (Romans 9:2).
Normalizing the struggle we all have with sorrow and disappointment is part of the healing process. It demoralizes people to believe they are all alone in their struggle and are somehow deficient as a believer because of it. Condemning or shaming a person into isolation keeps him or her from reaching out for help.
Scripture is full of verses that refer to a man’s thoughts. It is David who asks the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts.” In 1 Corinthians 10:5 we are charged to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
As any cognitive behavioral therapist will tell you, thoughts matter. The filter you choose to view life through often determines your mental health. Perhaps one of the most detrimental beliefs is that “life will never change.” The belief that one is “doomed to this existence” is a lie from the enemy. With God we have hope.
When we view life through the eternal lens, it changes things. If we begin with the premise that God is good regardless of our current circumstances we are able to realize that a bigger plan exists. The lost job becomes God guiding your steps as you trust in his provision. A broken relationship provides an opportunity for you to develop a closer relationship with the one who will never leave you or forsake you. What looks like loss today is merely an effective tool in the hand of an all-powerful God and an opportunity for him to grow you up and bless you, as you trust in the Lord with all your heart.
As a Christian therapist I’ve always taken a different approach to a therapeutic intervention called journaling. There might be some benefit to penning current thoughts and feelings, but I believe people profit greatly when they focus on past blessings. I ask my clients to journal on what God has already rescued them from in the past. This creates a beautiful track record of God’s faithfulness in their lives. My example comes from a passage in the book of Joshua. When God parted the water for the children of Israel to cross the Jordan River, Joshua asked a man from each tribe to take a stone of remembrance from the middle of the river. Those markers would come in handy when they faced the battles of Jericho and many more challenges.
Life on this side of eternity looks very different than the other side, but there are plenty of joys to be experienced today. Our Lord set up an entire new way of thriving, even during difficult times. Here are a few comforting markers of the abundant life:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26)
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. (Psalm 27:6)
A Sound Mind
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)
How to Help the Suffering
- Keep checking in on the person you are concerned about – don’t let him fall between the cracks.
- Help with reframing broken thoughts: “This could be a blessing in disguise.”
- Keep her moving with activities, lunch dates, and exercise, even if she doesn’t feel like it.
- Don’t let the person struggling with suicidal ideations isolate.
- Encourage your friend to get professional help. Many churches can offer assistance as well as local Christian counselors.
Pete & Lynne Thompson provide office and online counseling services at Pete Thompson Christian Counseling, in the Dallas area. They have been married for 35 years and have two adult children. You can reach them at PeteThompson.org