Millions of Americans are in pain fighting loneliness, anxiety and depression.
- Time magazine's recent cover story declares, "The Anti Antidepressant. Depression Afflicts 16 Million Americans."
- A new study reveals, "Loneliness is now a greater health issue than obesity." The magnitude of the problem showed 43 million Americans risking premature death.
- Chester Bennington, leader of Linkin Park, killed himself after his struggles with depression and drug addiction. Our Nashville mayor's only son just died from marijuana and Xanax, a drug used to treat depression.
- After Netflix's series, 13 Reasons Why, glamorized killing oneself, Google queries on how to commit suicide spiked 20 percent.
- A front-page article of USA Today on Aug. 7, 2017, "Quality of Care for PTSD and Depression in the Military Health System" revealed suicide among troops spiked to crisis proportions. The rates doubled from 2005 to 2012 according to the Pentagon.
One of every three Americans is taking opioid painkillers. This is an epidemic unprecedented in U.S. history! Last week our president called it a "national emergency."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated 91.8 million citizens seek relief through these drugs to alleviate pain and help them "cope." "America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks."
Prescription-drug use has skyrocketed alongside recreational drugs like marijuana. Millions "get high" to mask the pain.
Today, I counseled a fellow who smoked weed for a decade prior to his conversion. Only a transformational experience with Jesus set him free!
What should we do with increasing numbers of people inching close to suicide while numbing themselves with drugs? They confide feeling "helpless," reaching the "breaking point." "I just want the pain to go away."
Causes of Suicide
A situational crisis can trigger suicidal thoughts.
- Marital upheaval or abuse
- Cumulative failures
- Unresolved grief
- Mounting debt
- Public humiliation from scandal
- Debilitating illness
- Abortion and resultant guilt
Depression from sinful choices and consequences also engenders the temptation to take one's life.
This is a sensitive area. Counselors often attribute suicide only to external causes, things that come upon us, instead of connecting them to sinful choices. How much of our pain, suffering, angst, sleeplessness, anxiety, fear, guilt and depression are rooted in disobedience to God?
Millions today feel depressed but don't know why! The guilt they sense is actually God convicting and "pressing down" upon them that they might repent, engage in confession and cleansing of conscience, then find God-ordained forgiveness and freedom.
Antidepressants, opioids, alcohol, marijuana and drugs provide only temporary escape. Scripture tells us, "But the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest ... There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked" (Isa. 57:20-21).
As our culture has abandoned Judeo-Christian standards, suicides have increased dramatically. People violate God's commands, "reap what they sow," then blame God and others, succumbing to the subtle temptation to "just end it all."
Here's the deal: When we discern someone's "hints" that may indicate suicide, we have an opportunity to rescue weary individuals. "The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I may know how to sustain him who is weary with a word" (Isa. 50:4a).
Serving Someone Suicidal
- Pray for Wisdom
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and without criticism, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
As Nehemiah lifted up a "shoot 'em up" prayer before approaching the King (Neh. 2:4), likewise we must reach heavenward in a critical time. There's no pat answer so we must be sensitive to God's leading.
- Listen Attentively
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak..." (James 1:19).
There's a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. People leave our interaction with them remembering not so much what we said but how they felt in our presence.
Don't glance at your watch. Avoid fidgety body language. Put your iPhone away! Remember, someone's life is hanging in the balance, and they need compassionate attention.
- Draw Them Out Skillfully
"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Prov. 20:5).
We need to gently peel back layers of pain and confusion to get at a root, understanding the depth of the problem. Emulate Jesus sitting in the temple "listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46b).
Ask the person to assign a number to their pain from 1–10. Help them open up by sharing in a vulnerable way your experiences so they know your struggles and how God brought you through.
Tell of Moses, Elijah and Jonah wanting to end their lives. Share how even Paul was "pressured beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life" (2 Cor. 1:8), yet God turned things around! Mention the Ten Boom family in a Nazi concentration camp, where Betsy encouraged Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still."
- Show Support
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ... for each one shall bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:2,5).
Two Greek words for "burden" are used here: the first refers to a boulder, too heavy for one to bear; the second is a stone each person carries himself.
People who feel overwhelmed by crushing burdens, need support to see them through. Instead of shifting someone off to a suicide hotline or some neighbor (who could advise, "Sleep it off"), see this as a divine appointment where you're the Good Samaritan, possibly saving a life.
- Give Them Hope
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life" (Prov. 13:12).
People feeling overwhelmed are tempted to "end it all". Their greatest need is for someone to convey there is hope!
Two of our close friends are a female intercessor and her husband, a board-certified psychiatrist. He told me, "The No. 1 issue with people like this is hopelessness. We must give them hope!"
You may be facing a situation with someone right now who needs to know there is a way forward. Encourage and assure him that you're available. Read him Psalm 23 slowly and encourage him to read it daily. Write out Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11 and suggest he tape it to his mirror. [Go to bullseyechallenge.com to equip yourself further on "Suicide."]
It's providential that God brings people into our lives. What can be more fulfilling than knowing that God used you to share life-giving Scriptures, impart hope and encourage hurting people to persevere?
"For whatever was previously written was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
Please share this timely article.
Larry Tomczak is a cultural commentator of 46 yrs, Intercessors for America board member, best-selling author and a public policy advisor with Liberty Counsel. His new, innovative video/book, BULLSEYE, develops informed influencers in 30 days (see www.bullseyechallenge.com). Hear his weekly podcast here.
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