Biblical insights into the power of forgiveness to shift perspective, defeat dread, and prevent suicide.
My heart grieves that we lose so many precious people to suicide. Every. Single. Life. is precious. Nearly 800,000 people die by committing suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds (World Health Statistics). Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those between 15 and 24 years old, and the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages (CDC). Sadly, committing suicide is not just an issue in the world; even Christians succumb to it. I want to talk about a major spiritual principle that can lead believers out of the bondage of suicidal ideations and the dread, hopelessness, and despair that accompanies it. Let’s explore some Biblical insights into the power of forgiveness to shift perspective, defeat dread, and prevent suicide.
God’s grace caught my attention
Running errands in town last week, I picked up a brochure on Suicide Prevention that caught my eye. I stuffed it in my purse, planning on reading it later to see what the National Institute of Mental Health suggests for suicide prevention.
Later that day, I was in a different city, an hour away from Thomaston. When I glanced at the wall of brochures on my way out of the public library, one immediately caught my eye: “La prevención del suicidio.” It was a brochure on suicide prevention written in Spanish. I thought to myself and to the Lord how interesting it was that those two brochures would catch my eye in one day while in two different cities.
An eye-opening encounter in my own life
While walking out of the library, my husband called, and we chatted about evening plans. As I came around the fountain in front of the library, I saw a young woman heaving in tears. She had brightly colored hair, sleeves of tattoos, and piercings and was visibly struggling emotionally. A ping in my heart of concern led me to reach out to her as I recalled the way the Lord brought suicide prevention to my attention that day. I asked the young man with her if everything was okay. He smiled and said that everything was fine. Me and my mama’s heart scooted past him, and I sat down to engage the young woman face to face.
“Hey sweetie, are you okay?” The dear but broken woman sat up and wept about the pain and depression in her life. She wrapped her arms around me and embraced me, and asked for help. I found out she had attempted to commit suicide the day before, and her will to live was weakened by the oppression and abuse from her past.
Only God could lead to her hope and freedom through His love and forgiveness
Within 20 minutes, we had a clear and meaningful conversation about Father God’s love and forgiveness for her. I explained how He sent his only begotten son, Jesus, to die on the cross for her sins. She willingly and humbly prayed with me to acknowledge Father God’s love and how Jesus Christ died on the cross for her sins. She repented to God for all of the sins in her own life and received His forgiveness.
A visible peace and joy eased over her face like a slowly emerging sunrise. Looking straight into my eyes, she asked, “Can you still see the pain in my eyes?” I had already noticed it was gone, and as I told her I didn’t see the pain anymore, she wept with joy.
That day, Father God heard her cry and dropped me into her path to help pull her out of the horrible pit.
He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. Psalm 40:2 KJV
Why is suicide still an issue in the Christian faith?
Evidently, this young woman struggled with the grip of suicide on her life while lost and under the influence of the enemy. But we don’t always understand why born-again believers, children of God, find themselves under the same death grip of the compulsion to commit suicide.
At Be in Health®, we glorify God for the great success He has in delivering His people from depression, mental illness, self-harm, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts through the For My Life® Retreat.
Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1
The enemy has a strategy, and he knows how to take a Christian down. We need to understand how to overcome all temptations. The For My Life Retreat teaches you how to learn to APPLY what the Word of God says so you can truly have the victory in Christ Jesus!
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8
2 Spiritual factors behind suicide
Many risk factors complicate suicide. I want to share two spiritual factors that we can address that will make a vast improvement towards the cause of suicide prevention. They are unforgiveness and dread. Understanding these two factors and learning how to apply what the Bible says about them can break two of the legs supporting depressive symptoms, self-harm, suicide ideation, and the act of committing suicide itself.
When you experience any type of abuse: emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual, a deep wounding can occur in your heart. The abuse can come from all sorts of avenues: a family member (or members), work, peers, friends, significant others or spouses, or even strangers.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 KJV
Pain out of broken relationships
From serving in the church for over twenty years, I observe that the emotional and spiritual agony of complicated relationships can bring us down. Unforgiveness related to those relationships or situations of victimization can keep the piercing and wounds in place, which brings more oppression and depression and diminishes hope and joy.
Only forgiveness from your heart leads you to the peace you long for again.
Taking responsibility for your own life is one of the first key principles we present in the For My Life Retreat. You can do this by choosing to forgive every person, offense, and trespass against you. In this action of forgiveness, we have witnessed great healing in every area of people’s lives, in their spirit, mind, and body.
God’s forgiveness is extended to us as we extend it to others. Read every word of Matthew 18: 21-35.
In light of all the countless trespasses Father God has forgiven us of in our own lives, we, in turn, should forgive all men and all women their trespasses and sins against us. Matthew 18:33 says: Should we not have compassion on others and forgive those who have offended us even as our Father in heaven has had compassion on us and forgiven us?
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? Matthew 18:33 KJV
The true heart of the matter is that God asks us to develop His heart of love and compassion in our own lives and in the world. If God is a forgiver, we should be forgivers too. Harboring unforgiveness separates us from love and opens the door to the enemy’s torment.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. … 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:44-45 and 48 KJV
Remember, we don’t forgive because we feel like it; we forgive because we love God.
If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15 KJV
Like standing under a thunderous waterfall, blessings and massive benefits will overtake you as you obey Father God and forgive everyone from your heart.
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 28:2
Do you remember the “fast kid” at school recess as a kid? He darted around like a cheetah, the fastest land animal in the world, tagging you every time! When you forgive, then the Spirit of God will chase you and tag you with the richest blessings for your own life!
Clinical psychology has noted a reduced risk of suicidal behavior when forgiveness is practiced.
I was excited to find an article in the Journal of Spirituality and Mental Health supporting the concept that practicing forgiveness reduces suicide.
This article, Forgiveness and suicidal behavior in primary care: Mediating role of future orientation, confirms that forgiving oneself, forgiving others, and receiving forgiveness from God lessens suicidal behavior. The article stated that the practice of forgiveness is related to greater future orientation and, in turn, to less suicidal behavior. This means that those who forgive from their hearts are freed from the emotional and spiritual pain that ties them to their past. As a result, they have renewed HOPE for their own life and future.
How to forgive oneself and extend forgiveness to others
Right now, begin to search your heart for who has offended you and choose to forgive them. Make your list of who you need to forgive, including forgiving yourself for past or current failures. Then receive God’s unconditional forgiveness and the release from the oppressive bondage that your heart so desperately needs. You will find that the pain locked up in your life will ease, and a spark of hope will rise.
Recognizing and defeating dread is the second key that can help prevent self-harm and suicide.
What exactly is dread?
Dread: noun – Terror or apprehension as to something in the future; great fear.
Verb (used with object): to fear greatly; be in extreme apprehension of…
After continual disappointment, abuse, betrayal, depression, and rejection, a person might find themselves with emotional pain or numbness that they can’t see past. Rooted beneath this pain is a spirit of dread, which is a form of fear fueled by the enemy’s kingdom.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
How does dread affect us?
Dread says that the pain won’t change, and the circumstances won’t change, and we dread the continuation of the agony. It tells us that the pain can’t be relieved apart from the expression of self-harm or the act of suicide.
In The Fascinating Dynamics of Dread, an article by Leon F Seltzer Ph.D., he says that the very expectation of pain can cause a great deal of misery.
Separate yourself from the evil thoughts in your heart, they are not your own.
First, you need to recognize that these thoughts are not your own thoughts; they are thoughts coming from the enemy’s kingdom. Then you can begin to separate yourself, in your heart, from these voices and feelings.
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
5 Steps to Overcoming Dread:
1. Recognize that dread, unforgiveness, and fear are your enemies. They are the ones stealing your hope and joy. Reach out to God, even if it is with a glimmer of faith, whispering that He is good and has a plan to get you through this torment.
2. Believe that self-harm and self-destruction are never the answer but only bring more pain and more torment.
3. Memorize or keep some hope scriptures near you; they can help you press through the pain. Get them in your heart now, so you have them already a part of you when the enemy visits you with hopelessness.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:13-14 KJV
4. Talk to God about what is troubling you. Not only does He care for you, but He’s in love with you!
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7 KJV
5. Find someone who you trust, is godly, and a safe place to confess these burdens and pains to so that you can get encouragement and support.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. James 5:16
If oppression and depression overshadow your life, please come to our For My Life Retreat.
The University of Stellenbosch performed a double-blind, peer review study on the impact of the For My Life Retreat. The title of the study is, Effect of a Faith-Based Education Program (For My Life® Retreat) on Self-Assessed PHYsical, Mental, and Spiritual (Religious) Health Parameters (PHYMSH for short). The study concluded that those attending the For My Life Retreat experienced lasting positive results in the reduction of Major Depression as well as Stress & Anxiety-driven illnesses.
91% of major depression was reduced to mild to no depression
90% reported a reduction in their stress level
86% indicated that stress no longer affected them negatively
88% reported a greater ability to cope with illness in general
84% reported a more positive outlook on life
God intended to bring you abundant life, peace, and joy in His love
Father God has plans that you were meant to fulfill, and that will bring you joy.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
My prayer for all who are struggling with thoughts of suicide
I pray for you that oppression and heaviness would leave you in the Name of Jesus Christ. I pray faith would well up inside of you. I pray Father God would reveal who you need to forgive and that He would give you the strength to choose forgiveness today. I believe that He will give you discernment to see any fear and dread in your life. And that the Father’s love and hope will penetrate your heart. Father God, Jesus, and many other people need you on this earth, and we want you whole and full of hope and peace! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Pastor Adrienne Shales
Would you like to learn more about how to forgive? Watch Pastor Adrienne’s video on Bitterness and Forgiveness:
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Bitterness and the #1 Block to Healing