According to the National Institute on Mental Health, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, claiming nearly 45,000 lives that year (NIMH). In fact, suicide deaths were twice as common as homicides, and they have not abated since. As Christians, we must address this resident evil by offering hope and helping to prevent future occurrences.
First, let’s think about why someone would want to take their own life. A few likely reasons are loneliness, feelings of insignificance, hopelessness, sickness, fear, and anger—all of which are common and recurring lies from Satan. But we have the truth, and when we get involved, lives can be saved.
Did you know that the apostle Paul stopped a man from committing suicide? Acts 16:25–31 (NIV) tells the story.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
Let’s look closer at this strangely wonderful moment in history. Paul and Silas had been arrested and severely beaten for preaching the gospel. They were in maximum security, chained to the floor. Vermin ran rampant; human excretion was everywhere; blood and probably infection seeping from open wounds added to the awful odor. It was a terrible place to be, yet they were praising God and bringing spiritual light to their fellow prisoners.
And then the earthquake. The chains falling loose. The uproar, I’m sure.
The jailer came running, and upon seeing the prison gates open, assumed that the prisoners had escaped. He knew, if that were true, he was done. Roman law would require that he die in the place of those prisoners. He grabbed his sword, knowing that death by his own hand would be far preferable to the fate that awaited him.
And then he heard Paul shouting, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We’re all here!” Those words of reassurance prevented a tragedy within those Roman prison walls that night. The jailer called for torches to be brought, and when the light arrived, his fear and darkness were dispelled.
You know, Paul and Silas could have left the prison. They could have stayed silent and let the jailer die. But they didn’t. They got involved. If you see someone struggling with depression or guilt or loneliness, get involved!
Now, what if you’re like the jailer? What if hopelessness has finally overtaken you, and the thought of just being done with everything seems more enticing every day? If you’ve fallen into this darkness, I encourage you to stop and realize that someone in this world cares for you. Listen! Right here, right now, God is telling you, “Stop! I am here! You are not alone.”
No matter the lies you’ve been hearing, you are wanted. You are needed. You are loved by the King of kings, the Savior of the world. He fashioned you, and He says that you are wonderfully made. He offers hope and purpose through His Son, Jesus Christ, the healer, sustainer, and protector. He wants you to know that He is with you. He will never leave you, not even in your time of darkness or imprisonment. Never!
Let God’s holy light dispel your darkness and bring hope and life and freedom to you. What is that light? Acts 16:31 provides the ultimate answer to your cries for help. It’s the floodlight that abolishes your darkness: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
Ask Jesus to invade that place of darkness in your heart. He wants to be your Savior, and He wants you to know that you are worth saving. †
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideas, don’t wait. Call a pastor, family member, friend, or counselor. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).