“When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.” 2 Samuel 17:23 NLT
“I hate my life and don’t want to go on living. Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.” Job 7:16 NLT
There are few actual suicides mentioned in the Bible, Judas Iscariot’s probably being the most well-known, and even that differing between gospel accounts. But there are a lot of times where people talk about wanting to die, as Job does here after his description of his horrible suffering that we looked at part of yesterday.
There is a huge difference of course between feeling like you want to die and actually wanting to kill yourself. The first is a very common experience, for we all have times where we just don’t see the point of carrying on, or we think everyone (including ourselves) would have been better off if we’d never been born. The former comes largely out of great suffering and an acknowledging of pity for oneself. The second is what happens when we not only lose our hope entirely, but also cross over a threshold of emotional and mental distress that makes life unbearable and death the only way we can see of ending the pain.
Because this is such a hugely difficult subject I shall devote tomorrow to it as well, I think with more on my personal experience. Having been in both places thankfully without carrying it through, and having been brought back again from the edge by love and hope, I can perhaps say one or two helpful things. Of course many times it is tragedy or loss that brings us to this point, but I think that the main things that drives us to a place of actually wanting to take our own lives are a complete absence of hope and a sense of failure and shame.
In a lot of societies, it has been considered a less shameful act to “fall on your sword” when you are dishonoured, than to continue, and this seems to be the case with Ahithophel above. But there is nothing honourable about taking any life. I feel that if we came together as a society that did not engender so much shame, that talked openly about failures and how they can teach us, and if we taught that hope can be reborn from the most forlorn looking embers, then suicides would decrease. We often hear the quote about treating both success and failure the same as the imposters they are, but this is not the message that is constantly whirling about us in the media and the ethos of capitalism and the supposed meritocracies of the west.
And yet, there are very few stories of great success that did not first pass through great failures. Many great entrepreneurs had to climb out of poverty and bankruptcy, often more than once, as we already discussed. Likewise, faith needs to pass first through the dark night of the soul (again often more than once) before it becomes great. Perhaps if we embraced the understanding that failures, wounds and heartbreaks cannot only be overcome in time (even if they never completely heal), but can also teach us a great deal along the way, we might become a healthier, happier society, and be less devastated and ashamed when terrible things happen or perceived failures come.
And if we were treated with more compassion, understanding and above all, patience, when at our lowest ebbs, there would be more chance of love and hope finding a way through to redeem our shattered lives when we feel they are no longer worth living. Our own dear saviour, after all, thought his wounds worth retaining in his resurrected body.
Photo from Pixabay
If you are feeling suicidal or just finding it all too much, please do ring the Samaritans in the UK on their free to call number: 116 123 They are fantastic listeners and there for you if you are having a tough time. You can also email or write, check out their website here http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us