In my years of ministry experience, I have dealt with either suicidal threats, suicidal attempts, or suicidal death at least once each year over the past 25 years. This year (2017) it was twice and both were young teenagers. One was a boy and one was a girl. One resulted in a preventative visit to the ER and the other resulted in a funeral. I have preached funerals of those who have committed suicide and have walked families through the steps necessary to get help. One of the hardest parts of ministry is often convincing parent(s) or legal guardian(s) that help is needed. Families often respond, “She’s done this before,” “He’s just wanting attention,” or “All teenagers make suicidal threats.” First, not all teenagers threaten suicide. Some research indicates that only 16% of teenagers threaten suicide, and half of them follow through on their threat. I am not okay with a 50/50 chance they may or may not follow through on a threat. That is why we can never dismiss any threat of suicide as insignificant. We cannot fall into the trap of believing this is “normal teenage behavior,” because it’s not! Here are some questions, thoughts, and helps…
What if I am having suicidal thoughts? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can even chat with someone online at http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx
What if I know of someone who has threatened suicide? In some cases and in some states you may be legally obligated to inform authorities of the threat. For example, as a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, I have agreed to adhere to a “Code of Ethics” that would prompt me to take protective action when threats of suicide are known. In ALL CASES you and I both have moral obligation to inform authorities of the threat. Here’s what to do and what to expect…
What NOT to do if you know someone has threatened suicide…
Here are some additional thoughts and resources about suicide...
Do the right thing.
God's word begins with "head knowledge." We sometimes dismiss "head knowledge" as unimportant simply because we believe "heart knowledge" seems better. However, "head knowledge" is essential to our faith. You cannot have faith in something that you know nothing about. The problem isn't "head knowledge," but problems do arise when all we have is "head knowledge." Our faith begins with knowledge of God's word.
Where does it go from there? Our "head knowledge" must then be moved to "heart knowledge." Your meditation of Scripture will move God's word from "head knowledge" to "heart knowledge." When we eat, we cannot simply chew our food and then spit it out and expect to gain nourishment. We must consume the food. It must move from our mouth to our stomach. In the same way, when we read God's word, we cannot simply chew on God's word and allow it to remain in our minds. When we meditate upon Scripture, it is the process of moving what we have placed in our minds into our hearts. Biblical meditation is to fill your mind with Scripture and allow it to move to your heart. When we fail to move "head knowledge" to "heart knowledge," then we become prideful. The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 8:1 that "knowledge puffs up."
Interestingly, "heart knowledge" is not the final destination either. Once God's word has become the meditation of our heart, it must move to our feet. Pastor Christopher recently shared this quote, "Missions is really nothing but worship that tied its shoes. It is worship that kept going, that continued to its logical conclusion." We "tie our shoes" when we tithe. We "tie our shoes" when we share the Gospel. Here's the problem, many in our church pews have never learned to tie their shoes. They depend on others to tie their shoes for them. Just as "knowledge puffs up" when it fails to move from the head to the heart, our faith is dead when it fails to move from the heart to our feet. James 2:17 declares, "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." What type of fruit does a dead tree produce? Exactly! It doesn't produce fruit. We are called to produce lasting fruit for the Kingdom of God. This task will never occur if we don't tie our shoes!
What step can you take to begin learning to tie your own shoes? Here are six Spiritual HABITS that I have identified that can help you "tie your own shoes"...
Hang Time with God: Daily time reading God's word and in prayer.
Accountability in a Small Group: Join a group of like-minded believers who are committed to God's word.
Bible memorization: Meditate on God's word.
Involvement in Ministry & Mission: Every believer has a ministry in the church and a mission in the world.
Tithing: Biblical stewardship begins with giving God the first fruits of all your increase. Have you trusted Him with 10% of the first fruits of your income?
Sermon Application: After each sermon ask, "What does God want me to do in response to hearing the word?"
The Bible tells us that the Hebrew people seek to understand God through signs, while the Gentiles seek to understand God through knowledge. As a Gentile Christian, I understand why many are dismissing the significance of today's eclipse (they don't look for signs, but seek the wisdom of man). For my fellow Gentile Christians, let's consider a few things...
(1) Is God in control of all things? Does He control the sun, moon, and stars?
(2) Does God do things without purpose?
I believe that God is in control of all things (including the sun, moon, and stars). I also believe that He does all things with order and purpose. As Gentiles, we tend to think because we can explain HOW something occurs, we know WHY something occurs. For example, we can explain HOW the rainbow reflects light. The question is not how something is done, but why is God doing it.
Let's consider a few things that my Messianic-Christian friends understand better...
(1) In the Hebrew calendar, the year is 5777. In Hebrew numerology (i.e. gematria), the number "5" is the number for grace. The number "7" means "complete" and "perfect." Now, I am not a "date setter." I am not suggesting that this guarantees Jesus' return this year, but it is a significant year. This year is also a year of Jubilee (every 50 years). The Jubilee begins with a "trumpet blast of liberty."
(2) Genesis 1:14 says, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years." As Gentile Christians, we overlook the fact that God said in His Word that He will use the sun and moon as signs. God has used celestial signs before. Remember the star at His birth? Remember the eclipse at His death?
So, what does this mean for us? I believe that Christ's return is certain. I don't know when, but I know Scripture says it is imminent. I also believe that America is living in darkness (light and dark are major themes of Scripture as well). As the eclipse passes over America (at the same time it will be dark in Jerusalem), perhaps God is simply telling us to repent for the days of grace will soon be complete.
As Christians, let us consider today's eclipse as a reminder that we live in dark days. Let it remind us of the urgency of the Gospel into a dark world.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."