Suicide is one of those things that even writing, reading or saying the word leaves me little jarred and breathless, but in light of tomorrow being Veteran’s Day, it’s something that’s been on my mind.
More than 6,000 U.S. military veterans take their own lives each year, and it is the 10th leading cause of death in America. Despite it being such a prevalent issue in our society, Christians hardly ever talk about it. That needs to change.
A common misconception is that Christians don’t struggle with suicide. Our belief in Christ does not offer protection from suicide. Many different circumstances lead to suicide, and we are not immune to the difficult circumstances and trials that this world is plagued by simply because we believe.
The Bible talks about suicide in a few different instances: namely King Saul and Judas Iscariot. Saul took his life after he was injured in battle (1 Samuel 34:1-5). After betraying Jesus, Judas realized the gravity of what he had done. He attempted to undo what he’d done, but when that didn’t work, he left the temple and hanged himself. The guilt of his betrayal was too much for him to bear.
Another notable person who committed suicide in the Bible is Samson. When he was captured by the Philistines, he used his strength to pull down the temple, killing not only the Philistines, but himself as well (Judges 16:28-30). Some scholars have argued that while this was technically a suicide, it was Samson’s self-sacrificing demonstration of renewed faith in God.
Throughout the Bible, there are plenty examples of people whose lives were so burdensome that they expressed wanting to die or wished they’d never been born. Even Jesus was tempted with suicide during his 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:5-6). To suggest that Christians do not struggle with thoughts of suicide is to contradict the Word.
Another reason many Christians don’t ever address suicide is because the Bible is not clear on whether committing suicide sends you to hell. We know that according to the Word, suicide is murder, and murder is a sin against God, but the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that contemplating or committing suicide means that you will be separated from the Lord in eternity. There are arguments for both sides of this using Scripture, and while there is no positive answer for this, we know that there’s nothing in the Word that suggests Christians who commit suicide are not forgiven.
We should be hypersensitive to the depths of despair that can harass someone to the point where they’d end their own life. We tend to focus on their “choice” to end their life, perhaps viewing it as cowardly or selfish, rather than focusing on the contributing factors, which could include mental health illnesses, relationship and financial troubles, substance and alcohol abuse, depression, and low levels of job satisfaction. The enemy uses all of these tactics to draw us into the darkness where it is difficult to hold onto His hope. It is our responsibility to support our friends and family who are experiencing crises.
- Be Empathetic
Listening and responding with empathy is so important. Many times people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts need to know that someone is there for them, and that things will be okay. Be supportive and allow them to say whatever they need to say. Respond lovingly.
- Recognize the Signs
Pay attention to whether someone is isolating themselves or withdrawing. If anyone you know talks about suicide or harming themselves, take it seriously. It’s better to be proactive than to be reactive.
- Assess the Risk & Seek Professional Help
Sometimes you can determine how at risk someone is by finding out whether they have a plan and the means for ending their life. If someone has a timeframe planned out and is showing signs of intention, do everything in your power to ensure that they receive professional help.
- Pray For Them and With Them
Prayer is such a powerful, precious commodity. We have direct access to Our Creator, and He loves to listen to us. He responds when we bring Him our petitions, and He can intervene in your loved one’s life in ways that you simply cannot.
This Veteran’s Day, I challenge you to take 5 days this week to pray for our veterans who are contemplating suicide.
- Pray that our veterans feel honored (Mon. 11/12)
- Pray that our veterans feel understood (Tues. 11/13)
- Pray that our veterans are protected (Wed. 11/14)
- Pray for our veterans to be healed (Thurs. 11/15)
- Pray that our veterans come to know Jesus (Fri. 11/16)
Be sure to hashtag any prayers with the hashtag #5dayvetchallenge!
To all our veterans and military servicemen and women, I thank you for your service!
A/N: We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 (800) 273-8255