Welcome to the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast. This is episode #4. My name is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. The simple purpose of this podcast is to help confront, from a biblical perspective, the tragic epidemic of suicide in our world today, which has even seen a spate of self-professing Christians in positions of ministerial leadership—namely, pastors—take their own lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 (this year) the rate of death by suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds. As the apostle James wrote in his epistle on a different matter, “My brethren these things ought not so to be.”
Our scripture passage for this episode of the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast is Ecclesiastes 7:17 which says, “Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?”
Our quote for this episode of the How to be Saved from Suicide podcast is from Harold Ivan Smith. He said, “Some of the most challenging work a suicide survivor can do is to pray. To pray fully, survivors must bring all of themselves to the prayer: their anger, disappointment, fears, insecurities, and why’s. I bring all of me into an encounter with God, aware that nothing in the human experience, or the human response to the ambushes of life, is alien to God.”
In this podcast, we are going through the book: “Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors” by Karen Mason.
We continue today with the Introduction (Part 4).
What Does the Church Have to Do with Suicide Prevention?
With all these depictions and attitudes toward suicide swirling about, it’s no wonder I approached my client Jane with confusion. Because I’m a Christian, I wondered if the church would be a resource for her. William James, who suffered from depression with suicidal thoughts, “regarded religious faith as the most powerful safeguard against suicide.”
However, Jane explained that her church had held an exorcism for her and she said she would never set foot in a church again. The church is not always the resource it could be. Angie died when she picked up a handgun and it went off. Though no one will ever know Angie’s intentions, Angie’s mother received a letter from her brother, a Protestant minister, that said, “I can’t absolve her; you’ll have to accept that she’s probably in hell.” This type of pronouncement can have long-term negative consequences. Biebel and Foster note, “Within two years of a suicide, at least 80 percent of survivors will either leave the church they were attending and join another or stop attending church altogether. The two most common reasons for this are (1) disappointment due to unmet expectations and (2) criticism or judgmental attitudes and treatment.”
Despite these complications, I am convinced of the importance of pastors, chaplains and pastoral counselors in suicide prevention for two reasons: Science and my own experience tell me that faith is important in suicide prevention. Studies have found that religiosity protects against suicide. In my own life, I recognize how important my faith is to me in difficult times, and I know I would never want to live life without it. In addition, more than any other professionals, pastors, chaplains and pastoral counselors minister at the intersection of theology and moral practice. They teach people to choose life. They provide guidance in how to build lives worth living. They teach how to manage suffering. They monitor and intervene when suicidal people come to them for help. They guide faith communities in how to support suicide survivors. They partner with others in their communities. In fact, the US government recognizes the key role of faith-based leaders and communities in its 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action report. Pastoral caregivers have a vital and unique role to play in suicide prevention.
But if you’re a pastor, chaplain or pastoral counselor, you may not always know what to do. You may feel the same confusion I did with my suicidal client. This book is designed to help you recognize and use your ministry preparation to come alongside those who intend to take their lives and provide comfort to those who have lost someone to suicide. As a pastor, chaplain and pastoral counselor, you can help prevent suicide by:
Teaching a theology of life and death, including moral objections to suicide.
Teaching theodicy, or how to understand and manage suffering.
Directly engaging the issue of suicide—stigma-free—when people become suicidal, attempt suicide or die by suicide.
Teaching how to build a life worth living with meaningful purpose and belongingness.
Offering community where relationship skills are learned and practiced and where those who need support can get it.
Partnering with others in preventing suicide.
Though these tasks are huge, I hope to convince you by the end of this book that they are achievable.
Lord willing, we will continue looking at this subject in our next episode.
— PRAYER —
Now, if you do not have hope in God because you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, here’s how.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”