This article looks at what brings suicidal thoughts, shows that the Bible prohibits suicide, and shares how one can deal with a person who is suicidal.
In 2005, 32,637 suicides occurred in the United States. I wept when I read that statistic. Also, the picture to the right very much touched my heart. This should give us a greater holy hatred for the devil and sin.
There are four times as many men committing suicide than women. In the US, over half of the men that committed suicide used a firearm, whereas 40% of women poison themselves and only 30% used a firearm.
I was surprised to find out that elderly people (65+ yrs) have the highest rate of suicide in the US, with 14.7 deaths per 100,000 compared with 10.0 per 100,000 for youth (15-24 yrs). Also, the West has the highest rate with 12.1 per 100,000 compared with 8.1 per 100,000 in the Northeast.
The following information was written by Steve Carr, who is the Pastor of a congregation of 500 people and has received training and experience in counseling suicidal cases. I modified and added to the article a few points on logistics and modesty. This information will leave you better equipped to deal with a suicidal person if the Lord should allow you to be put into that position.
Despair, or a Total Lack of Hope — When a person is caught in the midst of a problem that they feel has no solution, they naturally lose hope. When they continue to struggle with what they perceive as a problem with no solution, many people arrive at a place of complete despair. Thoughts of suicide are a natural result. The key to understanding someone who is thinking of suicide is that they see their problem as an either or situation. Either they go on in hopelessness, or they commit suicide. They see no other answer or possible solution. We notice that Judas saw no remedy for the guilt of betraying Christ (Matt. 27:3-5). Job saw no relief for the physical misery he was enduring (Job 3:20-21). Solomon hated life because he saw no purpose in living (Ecc. 2:17). The keeper of the prison thought the prisoners had escaped and felt he would be put to death. (Acts 16:25-30).
Another Cause of Suicidal Thoughts is Anger — This anger can be towards anyone, for any reason. Jonah wanted to die because he was angry at God for His mercy toward the people of Ninevah (Jonah 4:1-9). He was also angry at the Ninevites because of their wickedness. Samson’s desire to take revenge on the Philistines motivated him to take his own life along with theirs (Judges 16:27-31). Many times people will commit suicide to get back at someone they are angry with, in an attempt to hurt them. Other times, people who are angry at themselves for their own failures will take their life in an attempt to punish themselves for their sin. This is a possible reason for Judas hanging himself (Matt. 27:3-5).
Scriptures That Prohibit Suicide
1. Murder is prohibited (Exodus 20:13). Suicide is self-murder!
2. Jesus came to save life and to do good, not to see a person kill or destroy their life (Mark 3:4). This would be contrary to the eternal purpose of God for their life (Eph. 2:10).
3. Suicide is contrary to faith, which fights and overcomes the pressures and temptations of the world (1 Tim. 6:12) (2 Tim. 4:7-8) (1 John 5:4).
4. For a person to commit suicide is to destroy something that does not belong to them. Their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and belongs to God. To destroy one’s life is to destroy something that belongs only to Him (Ezek. 18:4) (1 Cor. 6:19-20) (Eph. 1:14). God alone has the right to give or take away life. Job recognized this right in Job 1:22.
5. Peter tells the Philippian jailer who is about to commit suicide, “Do thyself no harm” (Acts 16:27,28).
What Do You Say and Do with Someone Considering Suicide?
1. First, take everyone seriously who threatens suicide! Sometimes people think, “Oh they’re only trying to get attention.” This is a common misconception. While in some cases this may be true, who would want to be make a wrong judgment call when it concerns a person’s life?
2. Try to get the person’s name, and if you have call display, write down their phone number immediately. This is very important, because if they hang up you would need to convey this information to the police. Get their name in a way that is as disarming as possible. You may want to say, “My name is Bob and your name is…?” If they only give you their first name, record it and then try to get the last name. You may want to say, “My last name is Mutch, which is Scottish. What is your last name?” Remember to write this information down.
3. Acknowledge to them that you can see that their problem is a serious one. This enables them to feel that someone really understands and is listening. This begins to give them hope. Do not minimize their problems, as this creates the opposite effect.
4. Share with them that at one time you were in despair and could not see a way out, but a way was made out. Also let them know that there are many people who have been in despair and have found a way out. This will offer them hope that there is a way out for them.
5. Have them explain fully why they are considering suicide; listen carefully, and take notes if possible.
6. Remember, they feel they are caught in an “either or” situation where they see no solution.
7. Explain to them that there is another solution that they have not seen yet: God’s solution! With every problem or trial, God always provides a way out or the grace to sustain them (1 Cor. 10:13) (2 Cor. 12:9).
8. Minister hope by sharing God’s plan for them. If they are not a Christian, explain the plan of salvation. God will forgive all their sin and make them a new creature in Him (1 John 1:9) (2 Cor. 5:17). If they are a Christian, remind them of the power of God; that all things are possible with Him (Matt. 19:26), that His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9), that He has mercy to forgive, that His plan is fore-ordained (Eph. 2:10), and any other verses that focus their attention back on God’s ability and love.
9. Seek to resolve any anger they may have towards God, others or themselves!
10. If someone is drunk or high on drugs and they call you, this is not the time to counsel them. All you can do at this point is to keep them from doing something rash.
11. If a person asks you, “Will God forgive me and accept me into His kingdom if I kill myself?”, tell them the Scripture gives no such assurance and that it is sin to kill yourself. Then concentrate on what Jesus did say: His desire to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and that He came to give abundant life (John 10:10). Encourage them that if they will allow you to counsel them, you can help them solve their problems in a Biblical way. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
12. Avoid all argument if a person is on drugs or is intoxicated. Just get the person to put the gun or knife down, or throw the pills away. Get them to do this indirectly by getting them to write down their problems, or make coffee etc.
13. After you have talked to them for a bit, ask them for their address and tell them, “I am coming over so we can talk more about this, as I feel like I can really help you.” Brothers should bring their wife or a spiritual sister from the congregation with them if the person is a woman, as some women will not want to give their address out to a man and it is good to have a modesty shield if possible.
14. Get them to talk with someone else while you go over to the house, so despair does not overtake them.
15. If you have a second phone, call the deacon in your congregation and have them phone others for prayer. If you do not have a second phone, then have someone else in the house go next door and phone. As you are talking to the person, be praying and asking God to guide you.
16. If they have a gun, you will have to call the police so they can disarm them. If they have a knife, you should meet them at the door and make sure they have put the knife down. Then ask them to step out of the house and sit in the car.
17. In almost all cases, it is advisable get the person to come to your home or take them to the hospital. If you leave the person where they were, they may fall into the same despair again.
18. You are responsible before the Lord to follow up with this person and do whatever you can to give them spiritual and mental help.