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Suicide – To Be or Not To Be

July 8, 2018

Suicide prevention sign at Golden Gate Bridge, Author Tony Webster (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

  • 22.5 million American adults have been diagnosed with cancer; 1.7 million will be added to that number this year alone [1].
  • Over 16 million Americans suffer from depression.  PTSD affects another 7.7 million [2].
  • More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease [3].
  • 500,000 American adults and children have cerebral palsy [4].
  • Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, annually [5].
  • Over 20,000 Americans live with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).  Some 15 new cases are diagnosed daily [6].

Millions of Americans either suffer from, or serve as caregivers for loved ones with, a chronic illness.

There are those who argue that this is pointless and unnecessary suffering – physical and mental – which suicide could easily eliminate.  The suicide rate in the United States is, in fact, on the rise [7].  Designer, Kate Spade, and celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, were two recent examples.

Yet many sufferers choose not to take that path.  Why?

The Right to Take Our Lives

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”

-Albert Camus

The German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, argued that man has an unassailable right to his own person.  Christians, however, take a different view.  We believe that title to our hearts, minds, and bodies belongs to God.

We may despair in the lonely hours of the night.  Christians are not immune from that human tendency.

The thought of suicide may – as Friedrich Nietzsche observed – be a consolation at such moments.  Suicide is, however, a poor solution to the dilemma of existence in a flawed world.

A So Called “Noble” Choice

“To be, or not to be?  That is the question – Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?”

-William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Shakespeare posed the now famous question of whether it is “nobler” to endure suffering or end it.

Our society sees no value in suffering; tends to view suffering, itself, as immoral.  We may come to despise this flesh, and the ailments to which it is prone.  But to equate death with virtue is to mask reality.

Life is a priceless gift.  Human beings have value, whether they are physically and mentally “perfect” or not.

Anger at God

“Suicide is man’s way of telling God, ‘You can’t fire me – I quit.’ ”

-Bill Maher, comedian

The novelist, Honore de Balzac, called suicide a “suitable key to the mystery of life for a skeptical society.”  Certainly, those who pursue it – believers and non-believers alike – will rapidly find themselves face to face with an Almighty God, all questions about His existence resolved.

Admittedly, anger may figure in the decision to commit suicide.  We may feel we have reached the limits of our endurance, and blame God for the trials which have besieged us.

Certainly, illness can deprive us of dignity.  It need not, however, deprive us of hope.

Impact on Others

“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.”

-Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

“That’s the thing about suicide.  Try as you might to remember how a person lived his life, you always end up thinking about how he ended it.”

-Anderson Cooper, journalist

Pain tends to warp our vision, narrowing it to the present.  We see ourselves as a burden on others.  We cannot conceive that our situation might improve, or believe that friends and family would grieve our loss for a lifetime [8].

God’s Love for the Suffering

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart…” (Ps. 34: 18).

We may feel abandoned, in suffering.  Yet we are never truly alone.  God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, took the sin and suffering of the world onto His shoulders.  Our suffering unites us with Him.

A Future and A Hope

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29: 11).

God does not promise a cure for every illness.  He is, however, capable of sustaining us in the worst of circumstances.

Our courage and our faith do not go unnoticed by God, and may act as an inspiration to others wrestling with darkness.

Conclusion

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (2 Cor. 1: 3-5).

There is no doubt that this is a hard life.  There are countless reasons to end it.  As the poet, Cesare Pavese said, “No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide.”

The world may at times look bleak.  But we each have a place in it, and a purpose to fulfill.  Our suffering and sacrifice are not meaningless.  Instead, they may be the very things that impart meaning to our existence.

[1]  National Cancer Institute, “Cancer Statistics”, 4/27/18, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics.

[2]  Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Facts & Statistics”, https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.

[3]  Alzheimers.net, “Alzheimer’s Statistics”, https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/.

[4]  Adoption – Why Not You, A Closer Look at Cerebral Palsy, https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adoption_and_Foster_Care/About_Our_Children/Disabilities/cerebral_palsy.asp.

[5]  Parkinson Association of the Carolinas, “Statistics on Parkinson’s Disease”, https://www.parkinsonassociation.org/facts-about-parkinsons-disease/.

[6]  ALS Association, “Facts You Should Know”, June 2016,  http://www.alsa.org/about-als/facts-you-should-know.html.

[7]  Popular Science, “Why suicide is on the rise in the US – even as it falls in Europe” by Steven Stack, 7/2/18, https://www.popsci.com/suicide-on-rise-in-america?dom=prime&src=syn.

[8]  Polio, smallpox, tuberculosis, and typhoid are all now preventable by vaccines.  AIDS is now treatable in many cases.   See, Time, “HIV Used to be a Death Sentence.  Here’s What’s Changed in 35 Years” by Alice Park, 12/1/16, http://time.com/4585537/world-aids-day-hiv/ .

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

From → Christian, Faith, Religion

11 Comments
  1. Amen Anna!
    It grieves me when people end their life.. or even suffer slow suicide through drugs and alcohol..
    God can heal all wounds..

  2. Reblogged this on Anchor Thy Soul and commented:
    Post By~ Anna Waldherr of A Lawyers Prayers

  3. Amen! There is always hope if we look to God.

  4. Suicide doesn’t always end pain and suffering. For some it is a transition to even greater suffering which will last eternally.

  5. Thank you for this very enlightening post Anna. Suicide is one of those uncomfortable topics that rarely reach the front burner, but as your data indicates it is increasing here in the U.S.

    Ironic,isn’t it? We live in a nation where we generally have access to the very best of just about everything, yet for all of that we are seeing an increase in death by suicide. This ought to tell us something about the real value of “prosperity”, that being that it cannot save us from ourselves should we find our circumstances greater than we can handle.

    Every person is different in how they handle adversity, and those who are far from God are in a perilous situation should life overwhelm them. All the more reason to share the Good News with those who are without hope.

    On a personal note, I must acknowledge that the thought of such a thing was at one time seen as a logical remedy for the relentless pain and anguish I was enduring. God however, had another plan, a plan for which I am eternally grateful. In His infinite mercy, God revealed to me that all suffering has an expiration date assigned to it. This is partly why I have such great empathy for those who are struggling in our world.

    • I, too, considered suicide many years ago, Ron. Pain — whether physical or emotional — can be relentless, wearing us down. What saved me was the thought that my death would cause my sister still greater pain. Without question, she has been the greatest blessing in my life.

  6. An excellent article! Thank you Anna.

  7. Thank you, Anna. This is well said. We are indeed on the same page today. 🙂

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