When the topic of suicide is raised in pro-life circles, it’s typically in reference to the cultural issue of physician-assisted suicide. Pro-life Christians believe that “death with dignity” is anything but dignified when it comes to euthanasia, and – similar to abortion – consistently make efforts to curb the practice at the legislative level.
But what about the broader issue of suicide in general? Christian counselor Tim Clinton describes suicide as an act that is pursued “in order to eliminate what is experienced as unrelenting pain. … Someone who commits suicide often cannot see any hope that the future will be different than the painful past or present. People who end their lives are generally burdened by a number of unresolved events or problems that are mostly, if not always, resolvable.”
Every Life is Sacred
What are these unresolved events or problems? Research shows that the major reasons for suicide include depression, financial distress, broken relationships, personal protest, gender confusion, religious ritual or the desire to escape punishment or pain.
Heavy burdens. Despair. Hopelessness. While the underlying causes and contributing factors can vary widely from person to person, as believers who embrace the view that every human life is sacred and created in God’s image, we should care deeply about this issue.
Studies show that roughly 500,000 people attempt suicide each year in the United States. About 29,000 of these attempts result in death, compared to 19,000 murders and 13,000 AIDS-related deaths. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 25.
Clinton notes that “without coping skills and without the help of friends, professional assistance, or loved ones, unresolved burdens grow heavier until the weight becomes unbearable and the individual is weakened to the point of despair. The problem is not that such despairing people want to die; it is that they do not know how to live.”
Hurting People are All Around Us
Live Action News contributor Ingrid Heimark recounted her own years-long struggle with suicidal tendencies. She writes that suicidal individuals, “having been traumatized and rejected, need to know love before they give up. They need to know that their lives are valuable, and that they matter. … A life lost to abortion or euthanasia is a tragedy. And a life lost to human cruelty that shapes the rejected girl’s personality and hope is another tragedy. We cannot let this happen on our watch.”
The church is ideally suited to come alongside those who are hurting in this way, yet we must keep in mind that it often takes more than prayer and spiritual disciplines alone to address the needs of those contemplating suicide. Professional counseling and other resources are an integral part of the equation. Still, the church can play a key role in embracing those who are despairing and helping them understand their inestimable value as image bearers of God.
As pro-life believers, we need to keep our eyes open to those around us who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. They might be in our neighborhood, or in our church, or in our own family. They might show up in a random encounter, as happened to Christian musicians Lecrae and Andy Mineo recently when they intervened just as someone was attempting to jump off a bridge in New York City.
Even as it continues to be a voice for life on the hot-button issues of abortion and assisted suicide, the body of Christ can and should be a refuge for individuals who are facing despairs so deep that taking their own life feels like the only solution. Educate yourself on the warning signs associated with those considering suicide, and be prepared to lovingly come alongside them in their struggle.
With the proper resources and professional input, help point them toward the promise of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
If the issues addressed in this article have impacted your own family and you feel it would be helpful to discuss the situation with one of Focus on the Family’s licensed counselors (at no cost to you), please call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays between 6:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M. (MT). One of our staff members will get your contact information and a counselor will call you back just as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is actively suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.