“I wish someone told Anthony Bourdain that life is more than travel and food. And Kate Spade … you know, ladies, life is more than handbags,” a deacon at my church said in his homily a few weekends ago. It gets worse: “If someone had just told [Anthony] about Jesus Christ, he would have seen there was more to life.”
I was terrified that someone struggling with suicide would take his supposedly positive message and use it as a further reason for self-destruction. I uttered a desperate prayer that the deacon’s words would be wiped away from those people’s minds, because I knew too well how any sort of message like this comes across to someone who is tired of living.
Not a Cure-All
Christianity is not a Cure-All, overnight, light switch solution to suicide or its temptations. More often than not, you can’t do anything directly do to prevent someone from taking their life. Despite the deacon’s zealousness, telling people about Jesus Christ is not going to make them suddenly not suicidal, or depressed, or any of those things. Take it from someone who knows.
What I will say is this: you can be there. You can be open to those who may be too numb to even articulate their pain, but need someone to play video games with, or watch movies, or take a walk. Or just sit on the phone with them and let them tell you how scared they are of the weight of their life in their hands.
Be their emotional accountability partner, if they want. Point them to actual resources that are professionally grounded to handle suicidal thoughts and temptations (whether that be counseling, psychiatry, etc.). Don’t take it upon yourself to declare to anyone what you have convinced yourself you know about suicide.
Do not create lists of how to prevent these things from happening. Not only is this unrealistic, but it is also cruel to those who have struggled, still struggle, and will struggle in dealing with a world that tramples us to the ground and screams mercilessly in our ears.
Don’t speak when you have no idea how it will affect people who hear you. The possible cost of doing that — the cost to someone you should be caring for — is terrifying. Here is what you do:
Live your faith before preaching it.
Let Christ work on hearts, and just follow Him.
For Those Who Don’t Want To Live
How do I know this? Because I’ve been suicidal the vast majority of my life, and still am. I have not only been raised in the faith but am desperately in love with Christ and still struggle sometimes to ignore those death-like voices that whisper in my ear that the world is wretched and lost, and so am I.
For those who struggle to want to live: I love you, and so do so many others. Through the pain, and the fear, and the haunted memories, there is a world inside your heart and yourself that does have life; it does bloom, and it is beautiful.
It has been said a million times, but I will say it here, hoping beyond hope that you will take it as it is meant: life is worth living, and you are needed here. You are beautiful, and worthy, and worth it, even if no one else has told you so.
Jennifer Riley has a BA in British and American Literature and lives in Colorado. She maintains a blog of her musing and introspections Into the Mysterious Dark. “Christianity is not a Cure for Suicide” is taken from a weblog item of the same title.
She recommends the Suicide Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ for online chat, if you don’t want to talk on the phone.