“Elevators are like everyone else; we all have our ups and downs.” While this analogy can put a smile on our face, there is some truth to it. Everyone has happy times and sad times. Sometimes, the sad times can get pretty bad. Sometimes we just stop enjoying the things we used to enjoy; perhaps we even stop being able to enjoy anything. Sometimes we lose hope and are unable to see our way out of our current circumstances. Sometimes we even have thoughts of hurting ourselves.
In my experience, most people who have thoughts of hurting themselves do not really want to die. Instead, they just want the pain to stop, and they do not see other solutions. In other words, they have lost hope that their circumstance will ever change.
If you are experiencing those thoughts, you are not alone. In fact, your struggles were even shared by people in the Bible, which records stories of real people who went through real suffering. Some of them also had suicidal thoughts. For example, the great Jewish prophet Elijah struggled with suicidal thoughts, even at the most unlikely time. Elijah had suffered intense religious persecution by the prophets of Baal, a false god. In the story, Elijah proved Baal to be fake, and Elijah’s God, the God of the Bible, to be real. Soon after this victory, Jezebel, the king’s wife, threatened Elijah’s life. Elijah had fame and respect, and he was a prophet of God; yet, in response to this threat, he lost all hope. He felt helpless and full of despair. In fact, he fled from his community and support system and went off by himself into the desert.
The Bible records, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers’” (1 Kings 19:4).
That is how suicidal thoughts often work. While we think we see clearly, we often are unable to see the reality of our circumstances. Sometimes we isolate ourselves and wallow in our hopelessness. Perhaps we do not want to get out of bed; often we do not know what we want. We just want it to stop hurting.
But it was when Elijah was alone that he felt the presence of God. The Bible records, “When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:13).
Elijah heard the voice of God in the midst of a gentle breeze. He allowed God to speak to him right where he was. When we are feeling down, like we have no hope, perhaps it is time to call out to God. Sometimes God speaks to us in the middle of the storms of life. If we are willing to listen to and trust God, He can bring us through those storms.
Elijah went on with his life and continued to be a great prophet. God used him powerfully. God also has a plan for you and your life.
The Psalms are also a powerful place to turn when we are feeling in despair. The author of Psalm 42 wrote about a time when he was in deep despair. The psalmist wrote:
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:5–8).
When you are feeling suicidal and do not feel like there is a way out, know in your head and your heart that God can make a way. Allow God to speak to you, perhaps in a still, small voice. God often speaks to you through friends and others He has placed in your life. He also speaks through his Scriptures. If the thoughts get overwhelming, it is essential that you get professional help as soon as possible. Psychologists, professional counselors, clinical social workers, and other mental health professionals can be tremendous resources. If your thoughts are severe, call a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or 911.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Do not let those thoughts overtake you. There is a way out. Reach out to friends, others God has placed in your life, and call out to God in your despair.