In 2015, I first wrote of my love for People magazine and it’s long-standing position as my “Favorite Guilty Pleasure”. You can read the original confession here. It comes to my house free every week (it started as an airline miles for mags thing and has continued to be the gift that keeps on giving) and it provides me a mental vacation from the sometimes more challenging books and Bible studies I may be consuming. Then I always pass it on to a friend who shares the same affection for this light-weight fare, but who also doesn’t love it enough to pay for it.
This issue, however, was not the fluffy time waster to which I have grown accustomed. This issue broke my heart. Not because I had any kind of personal connection to the cover stars, but because of the devastating rate at which I hear of a new suicide now. Just last week the centers for disease control released a report showing that suicide rates went up by more than 30% in half of the United States between 1999 and 2016. Experts are “struggling to understand why numbers have risen so dramatically.” Based on these two stories alone we can deduce that money, fame, prestige, celebrity nor even adventure can make a person happy. It’s a hard thing to study, but contributing factors are often isolation, job stress, relationship problems, addiction, mood disorders and anxiety.
My friend Stacey, a Licensed Professional Counselor, gave me the following analogy: Suicidal thoughts are like standing on the 100th floor of a skyscraper that is completely on fire. People down on the street are saying, “Don’t jump!” But you are standing in a building of flames and at least if you jump you avoid the torture of being burned alive. To truly “save” the person, we can’t just dissuade him/her from jumping. We have to run into the building and put out the fire. In plain speak, we have to offer hope.
As believers in Christ, we have the hope the world needs. Satan is the father of lies and an accuser who is constantly telling us that we are hopeless, that no one loves us and that no one can help us. But in Jesus, we find unconditional love, purpose, truth, abundant life, and acceptance. And maybe most importantly, we have hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3 NASB. In Him we know that our present suffering won’t last forever. We know that He can work ANYTHING we experience for our good (Romans 8:28). We know that one day, through Jesus, all evil will be abolished (Romans 16:20). And we know that “He will wipe away every tear…and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;” Revelation 21:4.
I don’t mean to over-simplify this issue. I’m not naive enough to think that Christians never kill themselves. And mental illness is very real and very complex. But I do know that there is always hope and there is always help. Focus on the Family has a free hotline at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) staffed by licensed professional counselors offering guidance from a biblical perspective. As does Hope for the Heart Ministries at 1-800-488-HOPE (4673). Both can also provide a list of Christian counselors in your area for continued care and follow up. For urgent assistance around the clock, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. The local church is also a great resource to find help for you or someone you know who is struggling.
It’s a big battlefield out there, but we serve a VERY BIG GOD. Offer hope. Tell others about Jesus.
“For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV