Church

For Those Under the Temptation of Ending Their Lives

David Harris

Every year around Christmastime, my family commenced a tradition of watching Frank Capra’s iconic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ve continued the tradition with my wife and daughter, usually viewing the classic either on the day we cut down our Christmas Tree, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. I’ve always loved the movie; to me, the film has never gotten old or boring. I find that each viewing presents a new impression or lesson.

Several years ago, we watched It’s a Wonderful Life as usual. I always get misty-eyed at the final scene of the movie: “To my brother George, the richest man in town.”

But this viewing was different. One scene hit me so hard I started sobbing. Those familiar with the movie will know the scene (and those not familiar should stop reading this and go watch it): After jumping into a river to save Clarence, the angel charged with keeping him from taking his own life to provide an insurance payout for his family, George Bailey says, “I suppose it would have been better if I was never born.”

George Bailey’s self-assessment resonated with me, His plan to kill himself for insurance money cut me to the core. I was crying because, lately, I was wrestling with some similar thoughts. Although, I was lamenting that I didn’t have an insurance policy to leave my family.

Like George Bailey, I was tempted to believe that my situation, my family, and the world would be far better if I weren’t around.

The Accuser of the Brethren

Revelation 12:10 refers to Satan as the “accuser of the brethren”, which Satan proves himself as in the Book of Job. The devil’s goal is to cause Job to curse God to His face. While Satan fails in this task, Job is assaulted by despair from every possible angle. His own wife chides him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9) after losing his children, wealth, and finally his health. We can only imagine the intense level of grief and hopelessness Job experienced during those seven days of silence with his “friends”.

And yet, Satan’s accusation turns out to be unfounded. Job never curses God at any point. He sinks into sorrow and questions God, but doesn’t become defiant. In fact, Job maintains his integrity (Job 27:5).

Most of us don’t find ourselves in situations as traumatic as Job’s. But like him, we can experience the accusations of the Devil. Particularly when we’re living through desperation. One of Satan’s classic ploys is to convince us that because of our circumstances, shortcomings, or general misery, we ought to “curse God and die.”

Often this culminates in a final act of taking of one’s own life.

An Epidemic of Emptiness

The United States saw the most annual suicides ever recorded in 2023 – over 50,000. To put this statistic into perspective, this means that more than 1 in 1,000 people kill themselves every year. This rate is increasing, too. We will soon arrive at a point where everyone knows of someone who has perished by their own hand. In the US, white male adults make up the overwhelming majority of suicides: upwards of 70%.

The proposed causes usually focus on the availability of guns or social media influence. Most theories do not focus on root causes. Some common sentiments and circumstances that lead to thinking in this dark, dangerous way include the following: the dissolution of a marriage or family relationship, seemingly insurmountable financial situations, the loss of a job, failure in overcoming addictive sins, the destruction of one’s reputation, despair at the state of one’s nation/community/family, or the feeling of powerlessness to deal with any of the forementioned things.

“I’m a Failure”

Often, it’s the everyday strife and struggle that brings one to the edge of the cliff. Men, especially middle-aged family men, are more likely to commit suicide. There are a variety of societal explanations for this, but in an anti-masculine society, it’s no surprise that many men feel powerless to stand against what they see as insurmountable odds. “I’m a failure” can become the defining maxim among discouraged men.

Scripture Twisting

Speaking as a man, there has been no time, no facet of my life more stressful and desperate than the points where I wondered if I was going to be able to provide for my family. Looking back on periods when I felt this way, it almost seems ridiculous how anxious I became about whether I would be able to pay rent or buy groceries for us. As I struggled with stress and fear, I came to the realization that I wasn’t fully relying on God’s good care for us.

God has given man a sacred responsibility to provide for his family (1 Timothy 5:8). It is a good thing that a man should be concerned about this crucial part of his existence. But Satan, the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44), will always try to exploit and corrupt a good thing. He twists and mangles scriptural truth to use it against us. Rather than trust God for His provision (“Give us this day, our daily bread”) while striving to fulfill our responsibility, we become tempted to rely completely on ourselves. Ultimately, the one who comes to believe that “the world is better off without” them has willfully chosen to reject the truth of God’s Word.

Rebuking the Lies

How does one stand against the tide of the Devil’s lies, specifically those related to the temptation of suicide? Perhaps you have been tempted to fall into the deadly pattern of thinking that the “odds are stacked against you,” or “there will never be any more good” in your life. How do you encourage godly, biblical ways of thinking in your mind, and what guidance do the Scriptures provide? Here are a few specific scriptural principles to apply:

1) Perspective: Properly Viewing Our Place

Hebrews 4:15, we’re told that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Remember that our Lord not only knows and feels our pain but has given us what we need to press through it.

We exist where and when we do for specific purposes. Our brief blip on this planet is not an accident but has been sovereignly decreed (Ephesians 1:4). A common satanic lie is that 1) God is indifferent to our pain, and 2) our pain and struggle is pointless. But both lies are in direct contradiction to what is laid out in Scripture. Cultivating a proper perspective of the arc of history, specifically our place in it, is immensely important.

2) Purpose: Properly Recognizing Our Responsibility

Romans 8:28 reminds us that “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Believing this truth is one thing but realizing that “called according to his purpose” has specific charges and responsibilities is also crucial. The Christian does not have the right to “tap out.” If one belongs to Christ, he is forgiven of his sins, past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14), and this includes suicide.

In Philippians 1 Paul reminds us that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” His preference is to “depart” (in this case, to be executed), but “it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Suicide is an act of utter selfishness, as it takes the seeming needs and desires of the one committing over any and everyone else. This is absolutely not an option for a Christian. Regardless of circumstance, there is always “fruitful labor” to be done.

Purpose is paramount.

3) Thanksgiving: Properly Giving Gratitude

Philippians 4:6 reminds us tonot be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Often great feelings of anxiety are directly connected to a lack of trust that God will deliver on His promises.

Thanksgiving is vital. Remember what you have been delivered from already. There’s a reason the Israelites had so many holidays, rituals, and traditions to remind them of God’s goodness in bringing them out from the slavery of Egypt. Before thinking and behaving rashly, make a habit of “count your blessings.” Learn the song and recite it to yourself. Sing it to yourself as a tangible reminder of what you ought to be thinking.

Looking Out for One Another

Based on statistics alone, someone is filling a pew in your congregation who is contemplating whether “checking out” is preferable to weathering the storms of life they’re in. They may not wear it on their face, and you may never know. If you’re a man, get to know other men in your church on a deeper level. Invite your brothers to go backpacking, attend a conference,   shooting, etc. If you’re a woman, reach out to older ladies and young mothers who may be at risk of being isolated. Be intentionally inclusive.

Finally, for physical needs (lack of funds for food, housing; getting fired for Christian views, etc.) the Body of Christ must favor those within it first and foremost (1 Corinthians 16:1). The paradigm of endless welfare programs and widespread middle-class lifestyles is quickly coming to an end. Financial stress and general despair will lead many to consider ending their lives – the Church holds the key to hope for this life and the next.

If You Are Tempted

If you are someone who claims the name of Christ, and who is mulling over the idea of ending your own life, know these truths: you are being tempted by Satanic lies and what you are contemplating is a grievous evil. Jesus knows and feels your pain. His body, the Body of Christ, is here to lift you up out of this pit. Leave your pride behind and cling to His body and His Church. You must only abandon your pride.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope; – Romans 5:2-4

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