1 Kings 19:4 Elijah came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."
The recent tragic death of the actor Robin Williams created a lot of sadness for many people. His ability to make us laugh was exceptional and he was a very gifted and much loved comedian. But there was a dark side to his life, a shadow of despair that crept over his soul, causing him to become an addict, and sadly ended with his suicide. Behind his Peter Pan smile and outrageous behavior that made us laugh hysterically, was a person who was suffering internally. We may not know what his last thoughts were or what ultimately drove him to take his own life; all that we do know is the fact that his untimely death has impacted millions of people.
Suicide, no matter what the old song from MASH declared, is never painless. Someone always gets hurt; someone always gets left with guilt. When I overdosed with tranquilizers as a teenager, I did it because I wanted to be in control of my life at a time when things, events, and people around me were out of control. My mother’s insanity deeply affected me and I’m certain that it also wounded the rest of my siblings. I just wanted to show everyone how hurt I was and let them deal with the consequences. I wanted to die because I was weary with life.
It was very selfish of me and an easy way out. I even thought that if God wasn’t going to change the circumstances of my life, then I didn’t want Him to interfere with my death. I was in control and nobody could take that away from me. Once I was dead, I was dead to the world; anyone who was hurt would just have to deal with it.
Thankfully, three friends found me passed out in my bedroom. They took me to the ER where the team of medics flushed everything out of my system. I was kept in for three days at the hospital for two reasons: a much-needed psychological assessment and to make certain that my organs did not pack in. God, it seems, had other plans even though I wilfully and selfishly tried to oust Him and everyone else from my life.
In today’s Bible passage (1 Kings 19:1-9), Elijah is weary of life. He erroneously thought that his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel would have reaped rewards, esteem, and glory. Instead, it was met with an immediate death threat from Queen Jezebel which soon deflated Elijah’s ego. In his sorrowful and lamentable state, he ran away and just wanted to die to end all of his misery and despair. However, God had other plans which involved Elijah’s well-being and extended his ministry among God’s people.
When we accept suicide as a personal means for people to let go of their responsibilities, frustrations, dignity, and pain, then we’re saying that God cannot help and that the love of loved ones and friends is ineffective. From my personal experience, the darkness of a successful suicide would have robbed me of the faith, hope, light, and love that was yet to come. This is why I believe that suicide or even euthanasia does not always have to be the answer to our suffering. There is always hope; there is always light; there is always love.
Questions for personal reflection
What do I think about the act of suicide? How can faith in God help prevent it?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the midst of darkness and despair, remain our light and hope. Grant us the faith to rely upon Your love, as well as the strength to overcome our weariness and woes. Keep us mindful of how precious the gift of life is, and help us to encourage and support our loved ones who are burdened by their worries, illnesses, and fears. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
If you, or a loved one, or a friend are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to your doctor or find a good counsellor or psychologist who will help you to cope with your problems.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.