September is national suicide and prevention awareness month. This article will kick off a series of articles at Renew.org that will examine mental health issues from a Biblical point of view. Discipleship will also be a major focus of this series as I look to shine a light on a subset of our society that still has a large stigma associated with it. Jesus tells us,
“It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 CSB).
We have all fallen short of the glory of the Father. Jesus is the great healer and there is nothing that He cannot heal, including our suicidal tendencies or ideations.
The first thing that is necessary is to see the demon that we are up against.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, 123 Americans die by suicide. There is death by suicide every twelve minutes in the United States. These are horrific stats that the church needs to face if we want to make a bigger difference.
We as a society are losing an enormous number of people to something that is preventable and treatable. 80-90% of people that seek treatment for depression are successfully treated in the United States. There is hope for this pandemic. Let us look biblically at how we can combat suicide.
The first step in this process is increasing our prayer life. Prayer life is so important to any Christian but it is vitally important to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. We must have daily ongoing communication with the Father. He will give us the peace that we need in our lives.
As always, it is best to look to the life of Jesus for this example. In Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is distraught with the coming cup that He must drink.
In fact we have Jesus’ words: “Sit here while I go over there and pray. Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me. “(Matthew 26:36-38).
Did you see that? Jesus, the Son Of God, was “deeply grieved to the point of death.” Jesus Himself has been to the edge of the cliff that so many of us get to.
What was His response? His answer to that cliff was to spend the night in prayer. In a bit, we will circle back to the disciples, as they were famously asleep during this dark time in Jesus’ life. But the example we must follow is found in Jesus. When we find ourselves at the end of the cliff, the answer is to go to prayer.
Paul also tells us to
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 CSB).
The first thing that Paul tells us to do is to rejoice always. But how do we do that when we are in the pit of despair?
What I like to do each day is make a gratitude list that I pray over. This focuses my mind on things God has provided for me which I am thankful for. I like to make a list of five things that God has provided me on that day. This reminds me that God is always working in my life and working to guide me to my true purpose in life.
Praying consistently takes practice but it really is the best way to stay in constant communication with the Father. We can also take the example of Daniel who prayed three times a day every day. When we have those feelings of shame, doubt, self-hatred, or any other negative thought, we need to take those thoughts to prayer. Even more than that, we need to take those negative thoughts to the cross and nail them there.
I want you to think back to the garden of Eden. Adam did not have those negative thoughts to begin with. He only got those negative thoughts once sin entered into the picture. Humans are not designed to carry those negative thoughts; the world’s fallenness is why depression and suicide is running rampant in the world. In response, we need to pray just like Jesus did in the garden to the Father. We need supernatural strength to combat those negative thoughts.
Once we pray, we need to give thanks for our lives. This will focus our attention away from the negative thoughts and put the attention back on the will of God. We need to give thanks for waking up each day and living a life with Jesus in our hearts.
Not only does the person need to be in constant prayer, but brothers and sisters in Christ also need to be in prayer for the person.
There is more power in corporate prayer. The example not to follow is that of the disciples in the garden. While Jesus was praying until his sweat dropped like blood, the disciples were asleep. We cannot be asleep when a person is in need. The power of prayer is a life-changing exercise, especially when a group of people are praying for one thing.
Recently in one of my small groups, we had a prayer request for a young woman that was battling with suicidal ideations. We all prayed to the Father to please take care of this young lady. God works fast in emergencies, and the young lady was out of her room the next day and back into the world going to an art museum. She still has a long battle in front of her, but the first step has been taken and that is so important.
Discipleship is key to this whole pandemic of suicide.
What if we could stop suicide before it got to that point? That is why I think that discipleship groups are so vitally important to society and the church. We as Christians need to be doing “life” together, and we need to invite non-believers into these groups to do “life” together.
For three years, Jesus spent countless hours living with His disciples. Through all the good times and bad times of their three year ministry, they had each other. Paul tells us to “carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 CSB).
This is the point of doing life together, so that we know each other so well that we trust other people with our burdens.
Everyone goes through ups and downs through life. There are down seasons for everyone. When you have that down season, you need to be able to go to your discipleship partner and share those burdens. As previously stated, we are not designed to carry those burdens for long. They wear us down to the point that we find ourselves at the edge of a cliff.
What if you had a brother or sister in Christ to sit with you on that cliff? What if they could help you with those burdens and help you walk back away from the cliff?
This is what it means to live in the law of Christ. Jesus gave everything for us. He knows the burdens that the world puts on us. He is ready to carry those burdens for you; in fact He already did that by His work on the cross. As disciples of Jesus, we strive to be more like Christ every day. One solid step in the right direction is helping people during their season of need.
In closing, what are some practical ways we can go to war against this demon on behalf of people during their down times?
- The first step is to reach out to people. I would suggest making phone calls or at least text messages to people. You never know the power of reaching out to someone. I would start with a list of people in your life and pray over that list. Whom does the Holy Spirit put on your heart? Call that person and ask them how they are doing. I mean really ask them; do not settle for “everything is fine.” That is a great place to start.
- The second action item you can take is to pray. And pray like your life depended on it, because someone’s does.
- The third thing you can do is get this person involved in a local church, counseling, and a discipleship group. The world needs to see the love of Jesus, and we have been chosen to be His ambassadors in this world.