By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
Over the years, many hurting brothers and sisters have asked me how to deal with thoughts of suicide. The following is the response that I would like to share with these precious children of God:
I’m so sorry for what you’re enduring. Life is miserable now and I know that you are hurting deeply. I’m so sorry. I imagine you’re feeling overwhelmed and scared. Maybe you feel trapped. Perhaps you’re grieving because nobody cares? Maybe you’ve been betrayed? Has someone hurt you? Perhaps you’re lost your job and run out of money? Is your body racked with pain?
Sometimes you feel that no one understands or even cares. I am so sorry.
I’d like to speak with you tenderly and gently because I know how difficult life is right now. You’ve been through a lot.
Fortunately, there is a God in heaven who can pour in the power to help you through these difficult moments.
I’ve found that many suicidal people are clinically depressed. They often have a chemical imbalance, or, on the other hand, they are in depressing situations. Let me suggest that you see a medical doctor. He or she may have some medicines that can give you relief.
Now is a good time to talk with a trusted friend, counselor, or person in authority who can help. I’m praying for Jesus to send you someone special.
I’ll share several thoughts that might help.
1. It’s not wise to enter the heavenly throne room before our scheduled time.
I’ve imagined Jesus saying: "Roger, what are you doing here? I'm not scheduled to see you for another 20 years. I still had some things I wanted for you and to do with you." We really don’t want to go before our time.
2. We don’t make good decisions when we are depressed.
Thinking about suicide turns your whole life upside down. Worst decisions seem like the best decisions.
Life looks hopeless while we have on gray-colored glasses. God has placed rose-colored glasses nearby. With a little looking, we may find a pair that fits.
3. The Bible says that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had past.” (Psalm 139)
Sometimes we get off the right path and stumble along the wrong one. Jesus wants to help us return to plan “A”.
God has better plans for you than taking your life. He has promised to help you get through this.
4. No matter how dark your life seems, there is no place you can go where God is not near.
Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
The Bible says that Jesus holds us in the palm of his right hand. It also tells us that Jesus is like a mother hen who shelters her chicks with her wings. Jesus has you sheltered and protected. Even now you rest in the palm of his hand.
5. Jesus says that we are of great value.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
Imagine yourself as a little child snuggled up in the arms of Jesus.
6. When we look around, we will discover people who would love to comfort us in the midst of our pain.
One day, I went next door to Pete's house and asked him to listen while I poured out my heart and told him about my struggles. I asked him to pat me on the shoulder and just say, "I am so sorry that you are hurting. It grieves me that you are in so much pain…"
He said, “I’d be glad to do that.” So he did. For the next hour he prayed for me and comforted my hurts and encouraged me greatly. “Come over anytime. I’m glad to help,” he said.
Church is a great place to find understanding and comforting people.
7. Prayer changes things.
Jesus said, “Ask and you will be given what you ask for. Seek and you’ll find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Go ahead right now. Ask Jesus to help you find victory and relief. It may take a while but he promises healing as he answers your prayer.
8. The Bible never says that God promises to solve all of our problems.
What he promises is to pour in the grace and power to live victoriously in the midst of our problems.
The apostle Paul wrote 13 Bible books. He knew what it was like to suffer. In his journeys for Jesus he was scourged with whips three times, beaten five times with iron rods, stoned with rocks and left for dead, ridiculed by the Athenian elders, and spent at least four years in jail. One night he was so depressed that he wanted to die.
He overcame it all through the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “If I can do that for Paul, I can do it for you.”
Here’s Paul secret: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I know that these are difficult times; however, you are learning contentment and how to access the life and power of Christ.
9. The ultimate goal is to get you thinking better so that you can enjoy your life, your work, and your relationships.
Now is the time to make a determined decision to seek help. There are friends, counselors, medical, and psychological professionals who can help get you back up on your feet. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
Now, let me pray for you:
Dear Heavenly Father, Your child needs help. I know that your heart is breaking as you see the pain and hopelessness. You are just the one who can sort out the problems and pour in the power for victory. Please bring comfort from all the pain. Give hope that all will one day be okay. Give clear-cut direction, and success, in living through and fixing the difficulties. Provide some Christian friends who love and care. Help pick up the pieces and rebuild a life of hope and prosperity. Amen.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Chalabala