How Christians can battle suicidal thoughts
Christianity being an upbeat faith that promotes hope, but some Christians find themselves warring against thoughts of taking their own life during times of trouble. They may be the son of a renowned evangelist, or faithful churchgoers.
These people appear fine on the surface while the battle brews beneath with depression and suicidal thoughts. Suicide is a huge problem that must be addressed. For example, The Centers for Disease Control reports that suicide rates among middle aged adults have increased by 28 percent between 1999 and 2010.
There are times in our lives when we Christians experience deep pain because of trauma such as rejection, a marriage breakup, betrayal, the loss of a loved one, or life-threatening illness. Suicidal thoughts can sneak up on us and start taking over our emotions. We may experience overwhelming negative feelings that drive us toward suicide attempts. Satan takes advantage of our situations by filling our minds with thoughts of suicide.
Suicidal thoughts are only temporary, and can be fought through our relationship with God and Biblical tools. God gives us armor to resist the devil, if we ask Him (Ephesians 6:10-12) We need to be alert and of a sober mind because the devil is like a roaring lion looking for his next meal – us (1 Peter 5:8). God promises that if we resist suicidal thinking, the devil will flee from us (James 4:7).
Life is a precious gift from God. We were meant to enjoy our lives, as evangelist Joyce Meyer is so fond of saying. Here are some of the thoughts that are common to people contemplating suicide, and the ways we can fight them.
I want to escape what I are suffering
We tend to medicate the pain we are feeling with alcohol or drugs. The temporary numbing may work for a while, but we end up coming down from the highs with a crash. When we are inebriated, we have less impulse control and are more susceptible to negative feelings. Substance abuse has all kinds of repercussions that hurt us and the people around us.
Some people turn to self-harm to deal with their pain but that only provides temporary relief. According to “Psychology Today,” people who self-harm are 100 times more likely to attempt suicide.
We ultimately can’t go around, under or over our trials. We have to go through. We can do it if we ask God for help. As Christians we should look at our sufferings as a way to develop stamina, patience, and maturity (Romans 5:2-4, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:5-7) We can receive comfort from God, and comfort others (2 Corinthians 1: 3-6) We can use the power of the name of Jesus Christ to rebuke our suicidal thoughts.
I believe that my trials will never end
We want to be in control of our lives, but life often does not cooperate. Losing control is frightening. Many trials seem unbearable. Suicidal thoughts can appear when we feel that there is no other way out of our pain.
God promises that our trials are only temporary and that He will always make a way to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We won’t experience trials that we can't bear. As human beings, pain is a part of life. We need to accept that and not be fearful or intimidated by it. The opposite of the despair that leads to thoughts of suicide is hope – hope and faith that things will get better. God will fill us with hope if we ask Him.
Suicide is the only way out of my situation
Sometimes, it is easier to assume that there are no answers to our trials instead of trying to come up with solutions. There are resolutions to every problem, though they may take a long time to achieve. No matter how much we are hurting or how terrible our circumstances, there is always a way out. Nothing in life is permanent.
I am an awful person who does not deserve to live
We are precious in the eyes of God even though we are sinners. He deeply loves us and has plans for us to prosper and be in good health (3 John 2). He loved us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of our sins. None of us deserve to live, but God has extended His mercy and grace to us. We need to embace these concepts instead of putting ourselves down.
I have betrayed or let down my loved ones
We are frail human beings who make mistakes and fail from time to time. We want to do the right thing, but our human nature keeps us from doing it (Romans:7:14-20). If we are sincere in our efforts to live the Christian life, we can ask God to forgive us from things that we have done that hurt others. If we are stuck in guilt and shame over the things we have done, we will flog ourselves relentlessly with the obsessive thoughts that we have let down the people in our lives. Jesus' sacrifice covers our mistakes if we ask for forgiveness, and forgive ourselves. In some cases, we need to examine whether our perceptions are in line with reality or are false beliefs.
These thoughts are signs that we have not accepted God’s forgiveness and have not forgiven ourselves. We can’t heal and move on because we are stuck. We need to actively pursue forgiveness in order to come out of suicidal thoughts. One way we can reconcile ourselves to the things we have done is to try to make amends, as long as doing so does not harm ourselves or others.
I am sure that my loved ones are better off without me
God created us to live in community with other people. We naturally long for connection with others. Yet, when we have suicidal thoughts, we want to isolate ourselves from the very people who can help and support us. We are all emotionally connected to one another like the parts of a body. When a part is not there, we miss it (1 Corinthians 12:13-27). A suicide can really damage the people left behind, who feel guilt, shame, and regret that they could not stop it on top of grief for their loss.
One Christian's struggle with suicidal thoughts
Strategies that help us overcome suicidal thoughts
Elements of a safety plan
- Wait 48 hours before taking action
- Gather needed phone numbers, such as friends, pastors, crisis lines, and the nearest hospital emergency department
- Call a trusted friend, minister or mental health professional and confess the suicidal thoughts we are having
- Contact a confidential suicide prevention line such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Seek help from mental health professionals and ask if medication could help deal with the depression
Instead of separating ourselves, we need to reach out to them for help. It is important to surround ourselves with positive people who aren’t afraid to deal with us when we are having suicidal thoughts. These people will understand us and confront us in a non-judgmental way. We need to talk to people we trust and confess what we are going through in order to get back to center.
Swearing people to secrecy is a bad idea - in an emergency, they may need to tell someone in order to save your life. Professional and pastoral assistance can also help us identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and make a safety plan.
Professional help can help us uncover possible causes and triggers for our thoughts, such as past trauma, relationship difficulties, mental health disorders, and serious illnesses. There may be underlying physical reasons for our thoughts, such as depression or post traumatic stress disorder. We can also avoid people who do unproductive things such as swamping us with unhelpful advice or judging us in a negative light.
Monitor your thinking
Be aware of suicidal thoughts and develop positive thinking strategies to conquer them. Challenge them with positive verses from the Bible.
Remove temptations and triggers
We need to remove the things that could be used to commit suicide by removing them or putting them in someone else’s care. Drugs or alcohol should be avoided as these substances make us more vulnerable to impulsive feelings and actions. A lack of sleep can also affect our ability to control our thoughts and actions.
Get to know God and pray
We should spend time in the Bible and get to know the God we profess to serve. Doing so will build our faith. When we have suicidal thoughts, we are actually denying that God has the ability to rescue us from our trials. Jesus promised that He would give us what we ask for in His name (John 14:13-14). We can cling to the hope that our situation will improve and that our issues will be resolved eventually. We can ask God for help to deal with our suicidal thoughts through prayer with hope in our hearts that He will answer. We can be assured that He can rescue us from ourselves.
Make a list of positive things in our lives
We should cherish the people in our life, even though they make us crazy at times. Writing list of all the good things in our lives will take our focus away from our thoughts. We can pull out the list every time we feel blue. The list can also be used to build a spirit of gratitude to God and the people in our lives.
Refocusing our thoughts on good things will benefit us in the end (Romans 12:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
© 2013 Carola Finch