Saturday, May 31, 2008

Suicidal Thoughts...

Don't worry...I'm not having any...this is just a reflection on the condition of those that do.

Lindsey and I are reading Pilgrim's Progress right now and last night we came upon the darkest time of the journey yet, Giant Despair's Doubting Castle. When dark times come pray that the Lord might give you a companion such as Hopeful! Below is some of the narrative of the story.
After receiving advice from his wife, Diffidence, Giant Despair did the following to Christian and Hopeful:
"So when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls upon them, and beats them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done, he withdraws and leaves them there to condole their misery, and to mourn under their distress: so all that day they spent the time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations (121)."

The next night, after further advice from his wife, Giant Despair did the following:
"So when morning was come, he goes to them in a surly manner, as before, and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison; for why, said he, should you choose life, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness? But they desired him to let them go. With that he looked ugly upon them, and rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits, (for he sometimes in sunshiny weather fell into fits,) and lost for a time the use of his hands; wherefore he withdrew, and left them as before to consider what to do. (122)"

This is the conversation that Hopeful and Christian had after Giant Despair encouraged them to suicide:
"Then did the prisoners consult between themselves whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse.

'Indeed' Hopeful admitted 'our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me than thus for ever to abide; but yet, let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going hath said, "Thous shalt do no murder," no, not to another man's person; much more, then, are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another, can but commit murder upon his own body; but for one to kill himself is to kill body and soul at once. And, moreover, my brother, thou talkest of ease in the grave; but hast thou forgotten the hell, whither for certain murders go? For "no murderer hath eternal life," etc. And let us consider again, that all the law is not in the hand of Giant Despair. Others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him as well as we, and yet have escaped out of his hands. Who knows but that God, who made the world, may cause that Giant Despair may die; or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in; or that he may, in a short time, have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs? And if ever that should come to pass again, for my part, I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before. But, however, my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while: the time may come that may give us a happy release; but let us not be our own murderers.'

With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together in the dark that day, in their sad and doleful condition. (122)"

Have you ever been in a position of deep despair or suffering, or pain (emotionally or physically). What happened that you were able to navigate your way through and out of it. In Ed Welch's little booklet Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down he discusses what to do when you think you have no hope:
"This passage of Scripture is difficult to understand (Rom. 5:2-5), but one thing is clear. The apostle Paul, who wrote this letter, had deep pain and suffering in his life, but somehow that did not weigh him down. He kept his eyes on Jesus. When we take our eyes off Jesus, the road is endless. We know we will not have the stamina for it. But when we see that Jesus has traveled this road before us, then we can be confident that the Spirit is with us and will give us strength to walk in humble faith and obedience. (16)"

Fix your eyes upon Jesus. This is true hope, true encouragement...believe in the gospel! Along these same lines John J. Murray wrote in his little booklet, Behind a Frowning Providence, that the only ultimate solution to suffering is to cultivate a nearness to God, "People are usually more anxious to get rid of the problem than they are to find the purpose of God in it. (25)" Further he wrote, "God's people never sacrifice or suffer in vain. Our present suffering is an investment in future glory. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory. (29)" Many times we end up asking questions and David Powlison has laid these questions out well in his chapter in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, questions of Why me? Why this? Why now? Why? We must fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, because in him are posed the answers. Powlison further writes, "You did this for the joy set before you. You did this for love. You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Christ. (172-3)" In turn then our questions will be changed:
"Why not me? Why not this? Why not now? If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night-light in a very dark world, why not me? If my sufferings shows for the Savior of the world, why not me? If I have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to me my deepest distress? If I fear no evil? If he bears me in his arms? If my weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If my honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If my life becomes a source of hope for others? Why not me? (173)"

In a session I was able to attend recently on psychiatric brain disorders and depression we talked about suicide quite a bit in the context of depression. He mentioned that if someone is depressed it is okay to go ahead and ask them if they have suicidal tendencies. He mentioned to use gentleness and tact...but at worst they will say, "Oh, I'm not suicidal." However, they might say, "Yes." Some ways to ask this might be, “Does it ever seem like life’s not worth living?” "Did you ever think you’d be better off dead?" "Have you ever thought of harming yourself?" Further, he pointed out that mood disorders tend to run in families, and this may give a predisposition toward suicide. So a good question to this would be, "has anyone else in your family committed suicide." Some factors to consider might be:
1. Recent losses, separation, death, divorce.
2. Changes in substance abuse...having problems they have never had before.
3. Are they hopeless? Ask them what their hope is in or what they believe they can hope for.
4. History if other family has committed suicide.
5. Previous suicide attempts. (How severe were they?)
6. Ask if there is anything that could happen that would make them feel better (If the answer is, "No," that is worrisome)
7. Have they given away their possessions. Purchased life insurance suddenly. Tidying up...getting ready to move on?
8. Are they having mood swings...helpless...hopeless
9. How old are they (The older the more determined. You may have to be more firm.)

He then posed the question, "What do you do if someone tells you they are going to commit suicide when they get home tonight?" The answer...insist that they be hospitalized. And seriously insist it. This isn't the kind of insistance when you are bickering with someone about who is going to pick up the bill for dinner. This is the insistence of life and death. Further, after insisting on hospitalization, bear with them. Enter into their life and preach the gospel to them as you would yourself. Remind them of God's grace in Christ and imitate what Hopeful did with Christian. Bear with their burdens...and encourage them in Christ. If you are in the position of temptation toward suicide seek out someone who might be like Hopeful! As Christians we were not meant to live this life alone.


Kate Crist said...

I would add to this list...Do you know, or has the person given any indication of owning a gun? And look at the gender. Men are much more likely to use a "sure" method such as using a gun or hanging themselves. Women tend to use "softer" methods such as pill overdose or wrist slitting. ANY suicidal indication should be taken seriously, but determining exactly how determined the person is makes a big difference in the approach. Many times, a person just simply needs to be heard and a listening ear goes a long way.

Noah Braymen said...

Thanks for the further thoughts.

I pray that we might be able to help people delight in Christ in the midst of their difficulty.

In Christ,