by Douglas Raymond Rose
A rainy day in Texas. The winter wind blew briskly on the wet gravesite. Those of us standing there sang “Amazing Grace” with more true grit than we’d ever mustered before.
I didn’t want to believe Tom was dead. He was only 27 years old and hadn’t been sick a day in his life. He was a compassionate man, a gifted guitar player. Just a few weeks before, he had accepted a position of leadership in the church. So when my phone rang one night, I was stunned at the caller’s words: “Tom’s gone. He committed suicide.”
Suicide? How could this have happened? How could we not have seen it coming? As Tom’s friends in the church, we prided ourselves on being concerned for others. What went wrong?
A few weeks before his suicide, Tom lost his job — one he had occupied only a short time since returning from a hitch in the military. He felt defeated. He felt out of place. He felt alone while in a sea of friends.
In a depressed moment late one night, Tom turned on his car’s engine and closed the garage door.
I couldn’t help but think of a familiar nursery rhyme:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!
I saw the church as the King’s men — God’s people standing close to a Christian brother. We should have known something was wrong with Tom and that he needed help, but once he fell, it was too late. We couldn’t put the pieces together again.
It’s true that only Jesus Christ can heal the deadly despair lurking in the human heart. But He can use His people to reach out to other Toms before they give up on life.
Voices of depression
We should first understand the cause of a person’s inner struggles that can lead him down a deadly path.
In his article “Spiritual Military Intelligence” (Pentecostal Evangel, October 26, 1997), Randy Hurst says that “terrorists are successful in warfare . . . not because of superior weapons or personnel, but because of effective deception.” False information is one of terrorists’ primary weapons; it exaggerates their real power.
Deception comes through voices of depression. They whisper lies, trying to persuade people to take their own lives:
“Nobody appreciates you here.”
“You’re a failure. You’ll never be able to succeed at anything.”
“God couldn’t possibly love someone who did what you did.”
“Why don’t you just end it all? You’ll be free!”
Deception can come from other sources as well. Hurst says, for example, that a person’s senses can deceive him when he’s trying to determine evil activity.
Some, who have had genuine encounters with evil spirits, consider themselves to have “inside information” concerning the spiritual realm. To accept information concerning an enemy from the enemy himself would be considered suicidal in the natural military world. Yet some accept such information concerning the spirit world.
Hurst also states that “lying spirits,” or demons, deceive believers. Jesus himself heard the hisses and screams of demons when He walked the earth, and He quickly cast them out.
Deception through one or all of these avenues erodes a person’s faith and strength. It positions suicide in the person’s mind as the only way of escape. As the King’s men (and women), how can we counteract deception in a struggling Tom?
First, we can encourage the believer to not listen to the Enemy. The truth of the Bible is that no matter what we’ve done wrong or how badly we’ve failed, God loves us (John 3:16). Another truth is that no matter where we are emotionally or physically, God is with us and will never forsake us (Psalm 139:7-10).
If God is with us, then His very presence will dispel the darkness of deadly thoughts: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).
Second, we can encourage the person with biblical accounts of those who persevered when faced with the giants of fear and despair.
Abraham was asked to give up what was dearest to him: his son, Isaac. Joseph saw all his dreams for the future evaporate when his brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery. Job suffered a string of tragedies: the death of his children, the loss of his property and possessions. David retreated in fear from Saul. Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den for his faith in God. And Jesus was betrayed, executed, and buried in a dark tomb.
Though these stories sound pessimistic, they aren’t.
The Bible says that Abraham was blessed with numerous descendants because he wouldn’t withhold his son from God (Genesis 22:16-18). Promoted to second-in-command to Pharaoh and reunited with his family, Joseph looked back on his struggles as something God used for good (50:20). Job ended up a blessed man — more blessed than in the beginning of his life (Job 42:12). David remained a man after God’s own heart. Remembering the time he fled from Saul, he wrote these words:
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles (Psalm 34:4-6).
Daniel was released from the lions’ den, unharmed (Daniel 6:18-23).
Best of all, Jesus conquered the grave and lives forever. The angel’s words, spoken outside the empty tomb, still ring in our ears: “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
What a message for the discouraged! Every testing has its triumph; every prison its freedom; every heartache its healing; every fear its refuge; and every Calvary its resurrection. We need only to keep the faith in the times in-between.
The Bible describes Satan “as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The duty of the King’s men is to stay in tune with what our fellow church believers are going through. Stop them in the hall; call them at home; make a date for lunch. Then really listen when they talk. This way we can discern when they need our help to overcome trouble spots and suicidal tendencies.
Perhaps the time has come for us to judge each other less and affirm each other more, so that when our friends find themselves in the valley of the shadow of death, our human hand will be God’s hand reaching out to them. We can help put the pieces of their broken lives back together before a fatal fall.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
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