Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Food for thought - Suicide

(My local newspaper column)

It is with a growing sense of sadness that I write this column this week. Could any right thinking individual listen to the reports of suicide after suicide in our own county and not be burdened by the awful hopelessness that must overwhelm a man or woman, or young person so much so that they wish to take their life?

Can anyone fathom the thought processes and burdens that lead someone to this chasm of despair? Yes, I believe there are people who know exactly what it feels like, because they are standing on the brink of that chasm themselves.

It is to you I write this column. What has a minister to say on this subject? Is he going to lecture us?

What else can a minister say except what is in the Bible? So what does the Bible have to say on this subject?

"I have had enough, Lord. Take my life." Those were the words of Elijah the great Old Testament preacher. He knew what it was to stand on the brink. Job too wrote, "Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest." An unknown troubled soul wrote in Psalm 13, "How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?". And in Psalm 116 another who knew the long dark nights of the soul wrote, "Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow."

God's word does not paint a rosy picture of life. It deals with the harsh realities that we have to live through. And it provides hope where hope was gone, and promise where once there was only despair.

Suicide is often seen as the only way out: the only way out of a miserable existence, the only way out of love's shattered dreams, the only way out of pain, the only way to escape the hurt of the past or the burden of the future.

God, on the other hand, is portrayed as the one who shapes the future for the good of those who love him.
God is the one who can deal with the hurts of the past. A friend of mine, who has come through a past so horrendous that few of us could imagine, said of what God had done for her: "My past is my greatest asset in his hands." What had driven her to despair had been turned around by God and was now a means of bringing hope and blessing to others.

God's word shows us that we need not go through this life alone, that we are not made to go through this life alone. It holds out to us the promise of strength for every situation: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). It holds out to us the promise of conquering our past, rather than letting the past conquer us: "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:39). It holds out to us the promise of hope: "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

The song writer in Psalm 116 who wrote, "Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow" also went on to write immediately,

"Then I called on the name of the Lord: 'Please, Lord, save me!'
How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me.
Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me.
He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here on earth!"

This life is not easy, but we do not have to live it by our own strength. We can have the almighty power of God to help us. That's what Elijah, Job, and many others have found.

If anyone reading this wants to talk confidentially, please feel free to get in touch.

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