After spending a decade on the phones counseling depressed, down, and suicidal people, I have come to the conclusion that the thought of suicide (in some form) is a thought many men have pondered.
From “I wish I weren’t here” to “everybody would be better off without me” to “I want the pain to end,” men have wanted relief at some time in their lives.
Unfortunately, while more women attempt suicide, it’s men who are more successful at taking their own lives. It’s the final step in the plan for destruction set in motion by our enemy.
All too often, the thoughts, circumstances, sadness, or brain trauma that lead up to suicide get suppressed momentarily only to resurface later with greater intensity.
A man loses hope. The decision of self-demolition ensues. Yet . . . there is hope, and there is life. It’s just one call away. And it comes with a promise. The key word to remember is “yet.”
The Bible, and the entire book of Lamentations, includes many true stories about being in distress. One lament, in chapter 3 verses 19-20, provides context we can relate to: Feelings of affliction, aimless wandering, bitterness, and a downcast soul. But in verse 21, we find the key word to remember:
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:21-26 NIV
Spend any time in the book of Psalms, and you will read songs that share a depressing soul only to follow with a surrendering “yet God” type of acknowledgement. While we wrestle with thoughts of suicide, we have to remember “yet God.” Yet God is with you. Yet God is able. Yet God wants to save you. Yet God promises to answer your call.
It’s like picking up an emergency hotline to God. While the prophet Jonah was in the depth of the sea, inside of a fish, he prayed a “yet God” prayer:
“I called out of my distress to the LORD, and he answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.” Jonah 2:2 NASB
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises to answer your “yet” call:
“[God said,] Call to Me and I will answer you.” Jeremiah 33:3
Better yet, God says he will save you when you call on him:
“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21 NIV
Still, making that call may seem like an open-ended proposition.
Avoid Toxic Traps
Men are often like Mono Lake in California, which looks great from a distance. But there’s something unusual about this lake. It doesn’t have any inflows of fresh water, or outflows to release excess. The result is toxic water. Like Mono Lake, men often look good on the outside, but inside there is poison because of a lack of fresh thoughts and excess toxic ones.
So, here are three steps to avoid being like Mono Lake, and being able to say “yet God.”
1. See the big picture.
The single most important key to suicide intervention is escaping self-absorption. The enemy is heavily invested in isolating you to be alone with your thoughts, unable to see the forest through the trees. He wants to isolate you physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Feeling disconnected from everything and everyone facilitates thoughts of suicide. But think about it, there’s no such thing as a man who is self-absorbed and also connected to God and other people.
Being able to say “yet God” takes a decision to acknowledge the big picture and escape self-absorption.
2. Talk about the toxins.
You have to discover hope. When you’re in the pit, it’s hard to see a way out – until someone hands you a ladder. Many times, the proverbial ladder is a conversation with someone other than yourself, with no agenda other than to help you and provide perspective on your situation. You need another voice of reason, perhaps from a friend, professional counselor, or the voice of God. Prayer is by far the best modality. Take your issues to God, and he promises to listen and answer.
But you have to be willing to talk dirty, in other words, be transparent. If you talk about the toxins in your life, you will discover hope.
3. Enjoy the view.
You can’t see Mono Lake until you take action and get a good view. The next step to being able to say “yet God” is to rearrange your lifestyle around hope. Create connections with hope-filled people and places. Go where “life” happens like church, Bible studies, and small-group meetings.
Thoughts of suicide are not fatal or final. It only feels like that. Being able to say “yet God” will help you avoid self-absorption, rediscover hope, and rearrange your lifestyle. The result is nothing short of an amazing, awe-inspiring view of life.