Saved From Suicide

Recently I learned that 12% of current American college students admitted to having seriously considered suicide. I am not a psychologist, counsellor or sociologist. I am a professor, and I must walk into my classroom next Monday (August 27, 2018) to meet my new students. This statistic forces me to consider what silent despair may be hidden behind those youthful eyes. I teach about 100 students per year, and each one is a unique living, breathing human being, loved by God. Each is capable of so much good or evil, love or hate, hope or despair. And when I think that 12 of the 100 may be thinking seriously about taking their own lives I begin to seek for something to say that might replace their despair of life with hope.

As I said, I cannot speak as a psychologist, counsellor or sociologist. I can speak only as a fellow human being, from life experience and faith. I thought I would share with you what I think I would say to my students if I were to speak to them about suicide:

I know what it is to despair of life, to suffer inner pain and to feel that no one understands or can understand your suffering. I know what it’s like to be unable to think of a reason why I should expect tomorrow to be any different than today. When I was 17 years old, not much younger than you are today, I suffered such isolation and hopelessness that I concluded that it would be better had I never been born. I worked hard to hide my despair from others by an outward show of wittiness and from myself by staying busy. But when alone my thoughts would turn to my unhappiness, and my gaze only magnified my misery. I didn’t feel worth anything. I didn’t like myself, but felt unable to change or forget. And if I did not like myself how could I believe anyone else could? I saw no way forward and no way out. But I did not kill myself.

I said above that I saw no way out. And I didn’t. But I believed it was possible, though I could not imagine how. This slender thread of hope kept me from utter despair and suicide. Even in the depths of the pit I could still cry out to God and still believe he could save me, though I could not feel his presence or see his light. And he saved me. That little ray of light was God’s way of being present and of pointing toward the future he had planned for me. That period of near despair taught me two lessons I don’t think I could have learned any other way: (1) I am utterly dependent on God for my being, worth, meaning and hope. Without God I can do nothing. I have been in the pit. God was there. (2) I have great compassion for any one suffering from the despair I felt. I know what it’s like, and I know there is hope even when you cannot see it.

When I was in despair, as I said, (1) I felt alone and believed that no one could understand my pain, (2) I did not like myself and thought no one else could either, and (3) there is no reason to believe that the future will be better than the present. I was wrong on all three counts.

You are not alone. Many have suffered as you are, and there are many good and kind people who will listen as you express and deal with your fears and wounds. Don’t suffer in silence. I understand that the thought of letting someone else into your head and heart is terrifying. Please believe me, there are others who will understand; they will not gasp in horror or laugh in derision. Find them.

You are worthy of others’ love and respect. You are God’s creation, and God thinks you are worthy of life and joy. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you have done. When I was in despair I was afraid to learn what other people thought of me because I suspected their thoughts would not be kind. I did not yet know the rule I have since learned: if you love others they will love you back, but if you determine only to get love from others they cannot love you in return. Love can’t be earned or forced but must be freely given. However little you feel it, however tiny that ray of hope may be, believe that you are loved already and are worthy of human love. Act on that faith and you will find it confirmed.

Things will get better! Even from a common sense point of view, things are always changing. The present is not fixed in concrete. Different stages of life bring different challenges and rewards. The weather changes! Moods change! Not all these changes can be bad. New opportunities arise. From the point of view of faith in God a wholly new perspective arises. God is in charge of the future. God may require hard things of us, but he will not ask us to face these challenges alone and unequipped. He will be there.

This life is not eternal sentence. This may seem strange advice to give to those tempted with despair of life. But listen. Life doesn’t always feel good. There is much evil in the world and many regrets and anxieties dog our paths. So, when you think of the troubles of life and the evil that seems to rule the world, remind yourself that it won’t last forever. There is a way out. I think I would go completely crazy if I thought I had to live forever in this world. Thankfully, we don’t! But let God make that decision. God is the only one capable of making the right decision at the right time.

 

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5 thoughts on “Saved From Suicide

  1. johnjwright2013

    Hi Ron, A good as relevant read. About 30 years ago, I was asked to speak at the South Houston School of Biblical Studies (preacher’s training school for the Non-Class fellowship) on the topic of suicide. I began by telling them my story–when I was 13-14 I thought a lot about suicide and seriously considered it. Though I had (at that time) not considered suicide for more than 30 years, I understood, thoroughly the mindset. Then, before I began my theological and academic material, I said, “I’ve told you my story. So let me ask you, ‘Which of you have at some point in your life thought about suicide?” Four hands went up (which was about what I expected.) I then proceeded with my material. The next day, I got a call from one of the young men in the class, wanting to talk. He came to my office and told me that he had not raised his hand, but that he had been thinking a whole lot about suicide recently. After, a period of discussion, I asked him what I could best do to help? He said to tell his brother (not his parents). I took his brother to lunch and told him. His brother, then, had an open door to talk to him about it and hold him accountable. 5 students out of a class of 35 comes close to your quoted statistics. BTW, the young man made it through that period of crisis and has continued through life, OK. In God’s Care, John

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  2. nokareon

    Why does the modern church seem paralyzed and incapable from discussing this topic, which you have so readily addressed, when it (and chronic depression) are so ubiquitous and now finding greater traction and visibility in secular culture?

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  3. Dick Hotchkiss

    Dear folks What truth and sentiment do we have here!!! There is a spiritual battle impending, between the power of good that fights for our spiritual health, and awful forces that constantly spar for everyones’ physical wellbeing. Ninety-nine percent of people do not realize the significance of this battle (and many never will). The forces of darkness seek to possess our temporal essence, but the power of God looks forward to our eternal future with Him. “After that, they can do nothing”. This was expressed by Armenius when he said ” God looks down the corridors of time” . See Romans 8:28-30. On your destiny of hope.

    At some time or another, we all feel abandoned, lonely, and of extremely low self-esteem, but this is the world of illusion in which we live! It is all a plot from the great deceiver, whom you can call a physical entity, a spiritual being, or whatever you like: it never lessens the pain that we have all felt at some time. It only adds to our confusion, doubt and worry. What is the solution? I am assured, and I believe wholeheartedly that the sure remedy for this predicament is to identify the deception itself, and to ‘call out the deciever’. Again, you may identify the instigator of this deception as internal, external, spiritual or other, but part of the remedy is to begin this process of identification… It can be helped by talking, just talking, and a sure path to a lasting solution is plane and simple frienship. A Christian will ask you to pray or to think about praying- but be assured that God hears when we talk in ernest, and so if you ae not comfortable praying, then just TALK. In churches this is called many things, like ‘mentoring’, and “‘having someone pull up alongside’. But all it takes is a proper, old-fashioned, kind-hearted, loving friendship and a chat with someone who cares, and will commit to you. This is the single greatest problem of the present age! No-one wants to commit their time and proper frienship to anyone else. Folks who have felt all of these symptoms of loneliness actually make the best of friends- volunteer yourself from your own heart now… Make friends with someone tomorrow, and stick with it. You will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams, and you will be blessed with such a feeling of worth that you will scarce beieve it when you look back. Try it. If you are in two minds, then try to look into a mirror and ask yourself some fundamental questions, and then share these with your friends (you will be surprised how similar your concerns are, and what answers others canshare with you). If you are alone, you can do the same, and God will listen. Know that you are from God, made by God and loved by God. Every single one of us is special, individual, blessed and loved by God, and has a place in His heart. See Ephesians 5:14. If you would like to try a New Testament look up. Thanks.

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