(from the suicide note of Kurt Cobain, former frontman for the band Nirvana )
Loneliness. Despair. Depression. Pain. Hopelessness. At least one (or more) of these feelings never seems to be far from some of us, does it? Actually that’s really not so unusual, for everyone goes through times when they feel lonely, hopeless or depressed. Such feelings are a natural response to the rhythms of life and they certainly don’t last forever.
There are good, healthy ways to handle these negative emotions when we experience them but sadly, many appear to be turning towards a more permanent solution. More and more people under the age of 20 are choosing to escape their problems by ending their lives. One look at the statistics reveals some depressing news regarding youth suicide…
During one twelve month period…
- 24.1% of students had thought seriously about attempting suicide
- 17.7% of students had made a specific plan to attempt suicide
- 8.7% of students had attempted suicide
- 2.8% of students had made a suicide attempt which resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that required medical attention. (1)
Did you know that suicide has become the third leading cause of death among young people in America between the ages of 15 and 24? (2) In fact, suicide has become so widespread that one greeting card company has made plans to introduce a “suicide condolence” card to help ease the pain of those saddened by the loss of someone who has taken their own life.
What are some of the things that can cause people to seriously think about ending it all? Well, The Doctor can think of a few things pretty quickly…
Broken relationships The pain of losing someone that we’ve grown emotionally dependent on can often produce feelings that seem overwhelming. Couples (especially those involved in first-time relationships) can feel devastated by feelings of loneliness, emptiness or unworthiness when breakups occur. In the early stages following a relationship breakup it’s not uncommon for some to feel that they will never be able to love anyone again, making suicide an attractive option.
Undesired changes in someone’s life Perhaps your family is going through a divorce. Or there may be financial problems that have made things very difficult. Perhaps you’ve been placed in an unexpected position that has made you feel as if events in your life are spinning out of control with no way to stop them. Undesired and unwanted changes in life can make the idea of “ending it all” seem very appealing to some people.
Fear of the future The world can be a cruel, hostile, unforgiving place and some live in fear of the unknown future. They are plagued by questions like, “Where will I find a job? How will I be able to earn enough money? Where will I live? Who will I marry? What’s going to happen to me?” Those who fear that they may not be able to make it in life might choose what they believe is an easy way out by taking their own lives.
An overall sense of futility Futility means “useless and without purpose.” Many teens view the world as a place without reason, a place without purpose, and a place without hope for the future. In a world without right and wrong, what reason is there to choose life over death? If there is no purpose to our existence, then life is pointless and suicide becomes just another option.
There are some other things that may help to explain why has suicide become so widespread. For example, the feelings that can lead someone to consider suicide may sometimes be intensified by the movies they watch and the music they listen to. Movies and lyrics that are built around themes of self-destruction can help a person who is emotionally distressed focus on suicide as a solution to their problems
Some couples may also see joint suicide as a way to save their relationship from the interference of their parents thereby ensuring (in their minds) that they will be “together forever”. Fantasy games (including certain video games which help desensitize us to violent death) and “role-playing” games (which may glorify the death experience) can reinforce the suggestion that it really would be better to just end it all. Drug abuse, physical disability or the suicides of others can also be contributing factors.
Is suicide just another option for those who want to escape from their problems? Well, the first, best thing we can do is turn to the pages of Scripture to get the Biblical perspective on an issue like this. Let’s check out three people in the Bible who committed suicide and see what their experiences can tell us…
Saul was a guy who seemingly had everything going for him. He was tall, good looking (1 Samuel 9:2) and he was the King- you can’t do better than that. Saul had all the power and prestige that was available during his time and he could have had virtually anything he wanted.
Saul had it all but he chose to live his life based on what he thought was right rather than listening to God and following His advice. As a result, Saul made some really bad decisions (see 1 Chronicles 10:13-14) which ended with his suicide (1 Samuel 31:4-5).
Samson was a man who was set apart by God for two purposes: to save God’s people and to serve as an example to them (Judges 13:1-5, 24). Samson, of course, is best known for his great physical strength which he did use against the enemies of God’s people.
However, Samson was also something of a hot-headed, playboy type of guy who seemed to take God’s gift of strength for granted. Unfortunately, Samson also let his desire to be with ungodly women (like Delilah) become more important than his commitment to God. As a result, Samson made some really bad decisions (see Judges 16:4-21) which ended with his suicide (Judges 16:23-30).
Judas is well known for selling Jesus out but how many people remember that Judas was actually a thief before he became a traitor? John 12:4-6 tells us that Judas was in charge of the money for Jesus and the disciples and he would occasionally help himself to some of it for his own personal use.
Although Judas spent more than two years with Jesus it doesn’t appear that he listened very closely to Jesus’ teachings on money (see Luke 12:15, 33-34; 16:13-15). Unfortunately, Judas also allowed his desire for money to become more important than following Jesus. As a result, Judas made some really bad decisions and sought out the opportunity to sell Jesus out for a price- 30 pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:14-16). Later, overwhelmed by his guilt in betraying an innocent man, Judas committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5).
Do you see a pattern developing here? One thing that is common to each of these examples is that these men did not have a good relationship with God at the time of their deaths. Each of these men got away from God and as a result, each of them got into a situation where it appeared that suicide was the only answer.
Because these men didn’t have their focus on God, they made some really bad choices that helped lead to their decisions to finally end it all. Think of how different things could have been for Saul, Samson and Judas if only they had chosen God’s way instead of their own. They each chose death because they did not follow the Author of Life.
The life examples of these three men help give us some ideas that can reduce the risk of suicide. The first is pretty obvious…
1) Those who have a close relationship with God are less likely to make the kind of decisions that lead people to consider suicide.
Judas is a good example of this. If Judas had been walking closely with God and reading His Word he might have recognized that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, something that Paul the Apostle would later write of in 1 Timothy 6:10.
2) Those who have a close relationship with God recognize that their lives have value because God loves them.
Today we recognize that God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to take the death penalty that we deserve for our sins. Think about that: Jesus considered you to be important enough to sacrifice His life on your behalf. If God considers you to be that important, then you are important- and your life is certainly too valuable to throw away.
3) Those who have a close relationship with God have something to live for and a reason not to end it all when things get tough.
People who know God realize that He has a plan for their lives, even when they don’t understand why things happen the way they do. They take comfort in the words of Jesus from John 16:33…
You may be experiencing some really tough times right now and there may be some good solutions to the problems that you are facing- but ending it all is not one of them. Remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11…
If you’d like to read a little more on this subject, The Doctor has set up a separate page to answer some related questions such as…
- “Do people who commit suicide go to hell?”
- What signs may indicate that someone is suicidal and what should I do about it?”
- “How can I establish a relationship with God?”