Hope and Help For Those Thinking About Suicide

This past Sunday morning before the suicides of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain made national news, I gave a sermon from 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 about God giving us more than we can handle. 

While preparing for last Sunday's sermon, I was thinking about the 40,000+ each year who remain nameless in news outlets but who remain named, remembered, and missed by survivors who once knew them. I was thinking about the high number of teenage suicides each year, as I'm raising kids now who will have to go through those tough years. I was remembering my own first exposure to a friend who made an attempt on his own life when I was a teen. I remembered another person I met with who later died by suicide. And my own eyes filled up with tears last night as I was remembering each of these beautiful people.

Suicide remains heavy on my heart because of the vocation I'm in. Since entering the ministry, each year someone I know has experienced suicidal thoughts or has died by suicide. 

So if that's you today, whoever you are reading these words, and if you're feeling like you've had enough and suicide is the only answer to what you're facing or feeling right now, I want to offer you the only hope I have to give others.

It's the same hope that helps me through my lowest valleys and has helped numerous Christians in their own valleys.

I don’t want you to be unaware of this truth, because this truth will free you from whatever affliction you find yourself in today. And this truth is so hard to believe, but it’s so freeing once you believe it. Let me tell you the truth: God will absolutely, 100%, positively, give you more than you can handle. God gives more than you can bear.

Look with me at v. [8] For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. [9a] Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

Now we don’t know what exactly Paul experienced. Commentators argue about it being one of three main options: a) some say it was mental illness, while b) others say it was an illness that was terminal, but later turned around, and others c) say he was facing intense persecution & was beaten or imprisoned, running for his life.

But the specifics don’t matter here, if they did he would have said what it was. Paul’s being vague here because he wants us to see that it’s all of the above—it can be any number of things that anyone—not just an apostle or pastor or ministry leader can face. But it happens to everyone.

Can’t you identify with what he shares?

“so utterly burdened beyond our strength,” he tells them. 

“we despaired of life itself,” he says. 

“We felt that we had received the sentence of death.” 

Whatever circumstances Paul was facing had pushed him over the edge. He was beyond his own resources. It was bigger than he could handle. So does God just give us what we can handle? Not according to the Bible. God gives us, God may also give you, more than you can handle. 

(I’m going to share something very difficult and still socially unacceptable to talk about.) A pastor I met last year, well, his pastor, his mentor took his own life.
And hearing this, maybe you’re already thinking, “Well, he probably deserved it. He was probably guilty of something, some besetting sin or embroiled in scandal.”
And that makes it easy to dismiss.
But do you know what? This pastor ended his life not because of too much failure, but because of too much success. He was planting churches, the church was building a new building, he was a conference speaker and was good at counseling others.
You see, when we refuse to believe the truth that “God will give us more than we can handle,” sometimes, we start to believe the lie that we’re out of options.
We think there’s no place to turn, nobody who will understand, nobody who can feel what we feel.
But that’s the lie.
The truth is, there is help.
There are people who will listen.
And there is a God not just up above somewhere but a God who came down below right here in Jesus to give hope and freedom in your pain, your discomfort, your trial, this momentary affliction.
God’s plan for your suffering, says the Bible, is redemption. No matter how bad it’s been. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide or have made attempts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.

Nicholas Davis

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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