Warning: This will most likely be a controversial post. I expect some to adamantly disagree with me. That’s okay. I always go back to why I write–to get thoughts out of my head in hopes to sort them out and make some sense out of them. I always welcome feedback, unless, of course, that feedback is attacking or mean spirited.
That disclaimer said, the topic of suicide has been on my mind a lot the last couple days. This time, though, it hasn’t been because I have been struggling so much with it. To a degree, I always have that underlying struggle with not wanting to continue to live in this world. That is very different, though, than feeling hopeless and planning to just give up on it all. If one has never been in these kinds of places, it is really difficult to understand.
So, why this topic? A few days ago, a 16 year old boy in the town I live in made the decision to end his life. As I read through the postings on the memorial page his friends set up on Facebook, it strikes me, as it usually does in these cases, how many people loved him and are devastated by the choice he made. Perhaps he knew this. Maybe these other kids had told him how much they loved being around him. It really isn’t a factor regardless, though. They are all left behind, along with his family, to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and wonder if there was something they could have said or done or something they should have known that would have helped save his life.
As I pondered all of this and sorted through my own struggle with this area, I began to think about this world and the problems it holds. Often we are blindsided by problems and when, like has happened in my own life recently, several problems all attack at once, it does get overwhelming. This is not something that only strikes modern day human beings, although I do think the suicide rate, especially among teens, is growing. Thousands of years ago, men of God battled the same overwhelming feelings that strike many today.
Elijah is a good example. A prophet, gifted and chosen by God to speak to the Israelite nation–to turn them back to God and away from Baal. Through Elijah, God accomplished amazing things. The showdown on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal is one of my favorite Biblical accounts. After the amazing display of God’s power on that mountain, Elijah got wind of Jezebel’s plan to kill him as she had killed “all the other prophets”. Elijah, fearing for his life, ran away and hid in the wilderness. Elijah says, “It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19: 4) Did you get that? Elijah just wanted to die. He couldn’t handle the pressure anymore. He felt alone and afraid.
Jonah is another prophet who felt that he just couldn’t go on anymore. Jonah was frustrated that an outcome he wanted to see was not going to happen. Not only wasn’t it going to happen, but God was going to do the exact opposite of what Jonah wanted. Jonah said to God, “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than live.” (Jonah 4:3)
This is not a 21st century only struggle. People have been dealing with it–some following through with it and some not–for centuries. The causes are too varied to list but can include fatigue, loneliness, fear, disappointment, disillusionment, mental illness and a host of other things this world throws at us on a daily basis. Some people, like me, seem to have an ongoing struggle with these thoughts. I believe, for myself at least, that these thoughts started before I really knew who Jesus was. I have attempted suicide and at one point, I should have succeeded. That’s a story I won’t get into in this post, but I know how it feels to be in such despair that there seems to be no other solution. I believe, because I have been there, that satan uses that against me whenever he can weasel his way into my head. He knows where I am weak and he attacks at those points. I’m sure I am not the only one.
How did a 16 year old boy get to the point that life looked completely hopeless? High school wouldn’t last forever if that was the problem. A broken heart wouldn’t last forever. A lost job could be replaced. A problem at home would go away at some point since eventually almost all young adults move away from home. What can be done? I wonder how many other kids are walking around feeling the same feelings and battling the same thoughts–just waiting for someone to reach out and help? How does one find those kids? How does one help? I wish I had the answer.
I understand the battle.
And I wish I didn’t.