Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: suicide

Never alone

I expect most people know where I am headed with this post, but there is some rough terrain to be covered first. Alone with God is a wonderful place to be, but there are a host of other spirits vying for our attention.

When destructive thoughts come – anger, envy, lust, suspicion, resentment and the like – do they come from our own minds, or do they have an outside source? We are surrounded by spiritual enemies who will test us with such thoughts. And there is something within us, our natural tendency to look out for number one, that sides with these thoughts. Most of us can see where these thoughts will lead us and reject them. Some people become obsessed with them. The more they dwell on them, the more real they appear, causing people to mistrust and withdraw from friends and family. This only aggravates the mental anguish and the belief that it is all true.

At the extreme, such thoughts open the door to thoughts of suicide. Five:15,  an online Christian magazine by and for First Nations people, recently carried an article entitled Suicide is a Spirit. The writer tells of her own experience and concludes that suicide is a powerful demonic attack, not mental illness. A cloud of despair, hopelessness and darkness descended on her, bringing pictures of a noose to her mind night and day, showing her just how to tie it and telling her it was the only way out. She prayed, read the Bible and tried everything she could think of to shake those feelings and thoughts. Nothing worked.

One day, she read Psalm 103 and saw a glimmer of hope. Her pastor came over and she shared her struggle with him and what she had found in the Psalm. Still, that night the struggle was worse than ever and she almost yielded. At 3:00 a.m. she remembered a toll free prayer line. She called and a counsellor read to her the same Psalm that she had read during the day. As he prayed, she realized that she was not alone, that God was with her and had directed the counsellor, 2,000 km away, to the same Scripture she had read during the day. The troubling spirit left her then. Others did not find that help and there were 13 suicides by hanging in her community not long after.

I do not want to say that all troubled minds are due to demonic attacks; there is genuine mental illness, often with a physical cause or due to some traumatic event. No one should be discouraged from seeking professional help by well-meaning Christians who believe all such emotional and mental troubles are a sign of a spiritual problem.

On the other hand, we need to be aware that there are troubled minds that are due to demonic activity. As Christians, we need to listen to the broken and hurting people in our midst, pray with them and pray for them. There is no pat, one size fits all, answer. We need the direction of the Holy Spirit to be able to offer help and support, rather than criticism.

Jesus promised that He would be with us always, that He would never leave us nor forsake us. If we are truly born again children of God, we are never alone. Other spirits try to make us forget that, to doubt if it is even possible. At times like that, we need to connect with fellow believers who can bring us back to reality. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Psalm 103
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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Lumosity better than Prozac?

owl-158414 A recent study of elderly persons suffering from depression compared the effects of playing cognitive training games on a computer to taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). The cognitive training games were found to work faster and better than the SSRI.

I grant that my headline is a bit misleading. The games were not Lumosity, but something very similar devised for the test. And the SSRI was not Prozac, but another common product of the SSRI group. The number of people in the test was quite small, but the results were encouraging and the researchers are planning a study using much larger test groups.

If further testing bears out these results, it will be a hard pill to swallow (bad pun intended) for the drug companies. They are making huge profits from these pills, yet all the medications in this group are required to carry a prominent warning on the package about the risk of suicide. If Lumosity, or similar games, were proved to work for all age levels, that would be wonderful news.

My wife has been playing Lumosity daily for several months and says that she feels much better and is not nearly as absent-minded as she was. Now, she was never diagnosed with depression, or any other cognitive problem, but if playing Lumosity helps her to have a more positive approach to life while dealing with the effects of CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia), I am all for it.

Old age is not a disease

I had a birthday a couple of years ago. They come every year, for me as for most people, but this was the one that marked me definitively as being an old man. I told my family and friends that I did not want anyone telling me that I was 70 years young. I was 70 years old and I had the memories to prove it. Now I am even older.

It makes no sense to me either when people tell me “You’re only as old as you feel.” If that be true, there was a point this evening when I was 95. A nap fixed that. That is a little anti-aging trick known to most of us old people.

Why do we insist on treating old age as a disease? There must be just as much money spent on treating and masking the symptoms of old age as is spent on treating some major diseases. There was a time when the hoary head and the weather beaten face were badges of honour, not something fearful that needed to be disguised so as not to frighten the younger generation.

Ah but, you may say, old age is a terminal condition. To which I will reply that simply being alive is a guarantee that you will die. We need to come to terms with that reality before we can truly live life to the fullest.

Right there is the problem with our attitude towards old age. We live our working lives with the goal always before us that one day we will come to the end of this drudgery and be free to truly enjoy life. When we do retire, we find ourselves face to face with the awful truth that we have been deliberately avoiding all those years – retirement means that we are now useless.

True enjoyment comes from doing things that are useful. If our retirement dream was based on the cessation of all useful work so that we can take our leisure, the reality will be a crushing disappointment. Most retirees don’t like to talk about it, but that feeling of uselessness eats away at them. Suicide is as big a problem among retirees as it is among youth.

The problems faced by older people are just one symptom of the missing factor in the lives of most people in our era — we have forgotten that service to others is what gives meaning to life. We consider our working lives to be drudgery because we have forgotten that the real purpose of our job, any job, is to serve others. The real purpose of our lives away from work is to serve others — families, neighbours, our church community, anyone who is in some way in need.

Service to others — one never grows too old, too feeble or too handicapped for that. There is something that we can do at every stage of life. Facing life with this in mind will lift our spirits, clear our minds and give us a reason for getting up in the morning.

The Lonely Ache of Popularity

Bill was tall, fair, handsome, sensitive. He was also the Eighth Grade football hero ‒ the one who scored the goals and carried the home team to victory. Girls in the top two grades were openly–or secretly–nuts about him.

Like Grace, the girl who lived down the street from him. She was a nobody, shy and plain, but she dreamed big. If only Bill would like her! She saw him taking her to the school dance and the looks on the other girls’ faces as she walked in the door on Bill’s arm. Their jaws would drop and their eyes would turn green with envy. Standing next to Bill she’d really shine; everyone would know that she must be something special if Bill liked her.

Alas for Grace. Debbie moved in and worked her way up the pecking order; by Grade Eight she was the head of our football team’s cheerleader group. Pretty, popular, pushy — she claimed Bill and grabbed every chance to be near him. Grace was left alone with her dreams and longings. Last I heard she was still single, but she went on to get her pilot’s license and live a life of adventure a lot of us never expected.

So how did Bill himself feel about all of this adoration? Do guys know when girls want them for an ornament, a trophy won in the cat fights? Do they sense that if they didn’t have the looks and status, the car and the cash, the popular girls wouldn’t give them a second thought? And does that tick them off, or are they just happy to be used for awhile–and to use? After all, don’t they see themselves looking good, too, with the prettiest girl on their arm?

The teachers wanted Bill as football star, the girls wanted him as a status symbol, likely his parents were proud of what their son had accomplished. But our thoughts were so ME-centred. Did any of us really CARE about HIM? A few years later Bill committed suicide.

The vicious rivalry in teen circles tears a lot of young people to shreds. Lesser lights want to stand beside the brighter ones, girl or boy, so the glow reflects well on them. But there’s only so much room in that glow, others are pushed aside. They often go off in a corner and seethe, knowing they’ll never be in the limelight.

I feel sympathy for girls who live with this torture. Then, to add to the mix, if there are abuse issues in your past, you grow up under that cloud – stamped as an UNDESIRABLE. Been there; done that.

I Just Don’t Fit In

Getting married and having a family don’t change the peer pressure, just redefine it. THEIR husbands have bigger salaries; THEY probably have cushy jobs, too; THEY have THEIR homes decked out by Martha Stewart; THEIR toddlers by Osh-Kosh; THEIR teens by Alfred Sung. THEIR kids are into everything culture &/or sports, rapidly being molded into the snobs and jocks of future high schools.

As long as you have one eye on THEM – the unidentifiable and ever-unmatchable THEM – you’ll always feel outclassed. THEY always have their act together; THEY are so far ahead in the game of Life because THEY know all the unspoken rules. YOU are the odd duck, the square peg in a round hole. The one with horrible secrets no one should ever find out.

But ask yourself, What if I really were popular? Would I really like being there as a prop in others’ productions? Would I be able to live with myself if I crushed others to get to the top? And what would I have to do to stay there? Some of the most talented people have admitted in later life how they lived with the dread someone would discover they were just a fake.

I believe every person on the planet at times thinks, “I just don’t fit in,” even on a level playing field. Then try changing cultures. For those like myself who have come from a “trailer trash” non-Christian upbringing and are now trying to fit into a conservative Christian circle, thoughts like “I’ll never be fit in” can overwhelm us and sink our ship. We need a solid rock to stand on.

Bonked By Another Diamond From Heaven

One time I was brooding over the way I was brought up and how my own family has such a different culture than my Christian brothers and sisters. I wanted so much to be like “everybody else” but I felt so different in the way I said and did things, the values I was taught, etc. The prospect of “fitting in” looked pretty bleak right at that moment ‒ and the devil was probably gloating as he tossed more jabs of “you’ll never make it here.”

Then the Lord spoke to me in this complete sentence: “The more you try to be like everybody else, the more you will realize how different you are. The more you try to be yourself, the more you will realize how much like everybody else you are.”

Can it really be that simple? I can just be myself? Like a shaft of Heaven’s purest light, this thought banished my dark musings, gave me direction and courage again. I was able to accept myself for what I was and trust that I could still fit in anywhere the Lord wanted me to be.

God is so good; He delights in setting us free from chains that drag us down. He showed me that there is MUCH more to life than becoming like — and liked by — Everyone. Actually the issue isn’t “fitting in”; it’s all about being an obedient and useful child of God. It’s putting OTHERS before our own ego.

Think of all the people in history who, single-handedly, have accomplished a lot of good in our world. Look around and you will see things you can do to ease someone else’s pain. There are people teetering on the brink of despair that could still be pulled back by a sincere friend – before they become another suicide statistic. You CAN make a difference. But not if you’re focussed on how “everyone else” looks at ME.

-Christine Goodnough

(This is a slightly revised version of an article Chris posted on “Christine’s Collection” about two years ago.)

 

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