This week the CDC published its report on mortality rates and causes of death in America for 2017 and the results are alarming.1 Suicide deaths have increased 33 percent since 1999, with the greatest increase coming amongst our youth. Just over the past few months in my wife’s hometown multiple teenagers have committed suicide sending shock waves throughout the community. How can we reverse this trend? Some say more funding for research is required, others say more gun control because guns are used in most suicides, and others still say that counseling is the answer. While more money for research and promotion would be helpful, making sure that suicidal teens don’t have access to guns is wise, and counseling is beneficial, may I suggest a simple, yet profound answer: the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church
Is there a correlation between the removal of God from our society and this increase? Can we connect our disdain for biblical morality and authority to this rise? I don’t have any statistics to back that up, but isn’t it interesting that we are turning away from all things biblical in our society and now we have this increase? It cannot be overstated, and with all due respect it is not an oversimplification. Jesus Christ is the answer. The principles of love, peace, joy, hope, and purpose found in the bible are invaluable to those struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Consider a couple of the reasons the CDC listed for this increase and how the gospel answers both of these.
One of the leading causes for the surge in suicides is the dramatic rise in drug and alcohol abuse. Those who turn to drugs and alcohol often do so to run from the pain in their lives, whether it is in their past or present. Drugs and alcohol provide a momentary release from the deep seated hurt in their lives and/or their need for acceptance by others. These addictive behaviors only provide a temporary reprieve from the brokenness of life, but when you wake up from the high the misery persists. However, there is one who takes all our sins, brokenness, shame, guilt, and hurt, and in turn fills us with love, joy, and peace, and His name is Jesus! He loves us with an extravagant everlasting love that invades every inch of our soul and changes us forever. If you or someone you know is engaged in these addictive behaviors, don’t give up! Call out to Jesus! Pray for their salvation and deliverance! Share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them in a way that is caring, sensitive, and understanding. Invest in their lives and show them what the love of God is all about. Jesus didn’t come into the world to judge the world but to save us from our sins, and we should arm ourselves with the same purpose. If you’re struggling with addiction I invite you to check out www.celebraterecovery.com and search for a local group near you. Celebrate Recovery is a powerful, Christ-centered, 12 step program that can help you find hope and break free from the chains of addiction. You’ll connect with others who have similar struggles and leaders who have overcome addiction through the power of Christ.
Another leading cause for the rise in suicides is isolation. Loneliness is on the exponential rise in America, and loneliness is just perpetual brokenness. Social media is actually not social at all. It is isolation on steroids. I jokingly told the staff of our church the other day that you now don’t even have to leave your house. You can make a living online, buy your groceries online, pay your bills online, and even engage in so-called relationships online. Online gaming and social media have created a pseudo community that is detrimental to real relationships. Loneliness is the anti-thesis of the purpose for which we were created. God created us for community with others in actual face to face relationships. In Genesis chapter 2 the Lord said it is not good for man to be alone, and this is not merely referring to marriage. It teaches us a principle inherent in the heart of man that we need meaningful relationships. That’s where the church comes in! The Church is a place where you can build those meaningful relationships that are edifying and wholesome. The local Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is meant to be a welcoming place where anyone can come and connect in relationship with others and encounter Christ in a way that transforms lives. The Church has got to combat suicide and isolation head on by being an inviting and welcoming family! As the Church we have a responsibility to our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors for one another’s spiritual, emotional, and psychological well-being. We can’t ignore this problem, we must fulfill our God called responsibility to foster community.
Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world. It’s time that believers boldly and lovingly speak this wherever we are. Today, your next door neighbor might be the one considering suicide. Your co-worker might be hurting deeply behind that smile. Your friend just might be much lonelier than you think. Talk, ask questions, take time to care for those right around you, and do it all in the name of Jesus Christ!