Joyce Meyer - Suicide Is Not The Answer
You know, there's someone watching me right now that's thinking about suicide. And whether you think, or in your pain, or that the world would be better off without you, I really wanna tell you today that suicide is not the answer. Stay with me, and I have some things to share with you, and a couple of guests that I think you will find very eye opening. But first, where an you find true hope?
Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you,' says the Lord, 'thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.'" God has a plan for your good, and I just wanna encourage you tonight that even if you've made mistakes, if you've gone in wrong directions, if you look back and you think, "Well, if only I wouldn't have done that," or, "If only I wouldn't have done that," or, "Gee, I wish I would have done that," or, "I wish I wouldn't have done that," instead of spending all your now time regretting something that you can't go back and do anything about, come on. I said, "Instead of spending all your now time going back and regretting something you can't do anything about," why not ask God to take all that stuff and let it make you smarter?
You know, everything you go through gives you experience. I don't love getting experience, but I love having experience. How many of us have said, "If I could only go back and do things over knowing what I know now"? But see, we can't do that. However, we can let what we learn as we go through things benefit us in the future and benefit everybody else. So, stop thinkin' that your life is over, that you've ruined it, that now you're gonna have to take second best the rest of your life because you've missed God's best for you. God has a good plan, and he's never changed his mind. And all you have to do, be like Jacob. "God, I am not gonna let you go until you bless me".
You know, I love to talk about hope because I don't really think we know what it is. I talked about it a little bit last night. And hope is not, "Well, you know, I just hope somethin' happens". Hope is an expectation that something good is going to happen. And see, you can do that on purpose. You don't have to wait to feel something. You can say tonight, "I am going to change my attitude from a hopeless attitude to a hopeful attitude, and I am gonna keep believing that something good is going to happen to me until I see it take place".
Listen, I know what it's like to go through hard things. I know what it's like to have so many bad things happen in a row that you just, you're almost afraid to expect anything good because you just don't wanna be disappointed one more time, amen? And, boy, the devil loves it when we get hopeless, when we begin to think that we've just made too many mistakes to ever recover. But let me tell you something. Nobody can out-sin God's goodness. Did you hear me? There's no pit so deep that he can't reach down in it and get you out. And God loves you, and he wants a close, intimate, personal relationship with you. Jesus didn't die so we could all just have some brand of religion. He wants to have a relationship, a personal, in-your-face, in-your-life-every-day relationship with you. And God is a God of restoration, and there's nothing in your life that he cannot restore, amen?
So, how about if we have a new attitude? "Today is the first day of the reset of my wonderful life that God has planned for me. And I'm gonna let go of what lies behind, and I'm gonna press on to the good things that are ahead," amen?
Well, no matter how you feel, or even what negative thoughts you're hearing right now, remember, the truth is, is that God does have a good plan for your life. So, joining me right now is licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Linda Mintle, to discuss how suicide is not the answer to your problem. How do thoughts affect all this? And is thinking right on purpose part of the answer?
Linda: Assumptions and beliefs that you hold about the world, if you don't have hope, if you're thinking, "I'm never gonna get out of this. God doesn't care about me. God has abandoned me. God has rejected me. I'm not worth anything". All of those types of beliefs that we know are based in the enemy, in terms of his negativity 'cause he wants to steal, kill, and destroy. That's his goal. So, as we begin to have those kinds of beliefs, that "Maybe God isn't present, he doesn't care about me," then that translates into our thoughts. And our thoughts become very negative then with, "It doesn't matter. Whatever I do, it's not gonna get better". And then that influences our emotions where then we feel sad, we feel down, we feel depressed. And then that changes our behavior, so we begin to isolate more. We begin to avoid people. We begin to, you know, clam up and kinda go internal, which is always dangerous, to isolate. That's one of the enemy's strategies. And then that influences our perception, and it becomes this vicious cycle where our thoughts, our emotions, our behaviors, our perception just go round and round, and we begin to get narrow and narrower into this narrow tunnel, where we think, "There's no way out". And the research shows, and it's not spiritual research, but it shows that hope is the one factor that keeps people moving through, whatever it is. If it's chronic illness, if it's a terrible situation, if it's a hurricane, it doesn't matter. Hope is what people need because it influences all those things I was just talking about and keeps people in a positive frame of mind.
Joyce: I've started somethin' the last couple of years, and I think one of satan's favorite lies is what I call, "The never lie". "This is never going to get any better. It's never going to change". You know, and then you'll think, "I can't stand this. If this is the way my life is forever, then I can't stand this". But we've proven that you can interrupt your own thoughts by saying something out of your mouth that's positive. And so, because you listen to what you say, and then that helps renew your mind. So, one of the things I've been sayin' when things seem like they're never going to end is, "This is going to end well". Or I'll say, "This time next week, I'll have an answer to this". Or, you know, "Tomorrow, this is going to be different". You can't let the enemy convince you that whatever's going on in your life right now cannot be fixed, and it's never ever, ever going to change.
Linda: It was so good that you made the point about expectations that "This too will pass". When I got married, my mother-in-law said to me one time, "Always the beginning of the scripture, 'and this too shall pass.'" She says, "Whatever comes up in your life with your marriage or any kind of problem, this too will pass". And we know, again, based on research, that if you have an expectation that something will turn out positive, and you hold on to that expectation, again, it changes the brain in a positive way, and it calms all that stuff down that you wanna calm down. It calms down the stress, and it lets you think clearly for the moment because in the moment, what's happening to people is, they're very impulsive, and that's when they wanna take their lives. And you've gotta stop that impulsivity and help people think and know, "There is a way of escape". And you have so many people, Joyce, that are walking around and feeling like, "What's my purpose? What meaning do I have in life"? You know, they believe lies that "If I was gone, if I'm gone, maybe my family would do better". Maybe they've gotten into some kind of financial debt that they feel like they can't get out of. A lot of times, we see suicide as a result of relationships breaking up. Less than 50% of the time, it is due to some kind of psychiatric condition, like depression or some kind of, maybe, psychosis or a depression related to bipolar disorder or something.
Joyce: So, that's 50% of the time.
Linda: Less than 50. Which I think is surprising to people 'cause usually we associate depression with suicide. And there is a correlation there, but there are a lot of other factors that I was mentioning, like financial debt, and relationship breakups, and bullying, and comparing yourselves on social media and feeling like your life isn't measuring up, maybe attaining sort of a sense of that, "I've gotta be highly successful in everything that I do". Really concerned about the resiliency of young people that we're seeing now. We've got teenagers and young people in universities where they're offended by everything that ever happens. They don't know how to cope. So, they don't know how to cope with failure. And then, when they fail, it's all over social media. So there's shame, there's humiliation. And then you've got the other side of the spectrum in life where you've got elderly people who are really at risk for suicide where maybe they've lost a partner. Maybe they're feeling like their life didn't measure up to what they wanted. Or the concern that I have with the trend of physician-assisted suicide, where there's starting to say, "You know what? If there's nothing more, if there's nothing else for me to live for, there's nothing after this life, why don't I just put an end to my life and get out of the pain that I feel"?
Joyce: I'm sure with chronic pain in their body, too, many times just feel like they can't take that anymore. I know even having had some problems with my back, if I have a couple of bad weeks, I mean, it just wears you out. And so, I can't imagine what it's like for people who have some kind of serious pain all the time.
Linda: Yeah, and when you're dealing with chronic illness, we know from... now we can look inside the brain and we can see what's going on in the brain. And we know that actual structures in the brain change when you're dealing with something that is a chronic stress. So, in my world, we call that an, "Allostatic load," where the stress just is unremittent. It doesn't stop. You don't really know how you're gonna get out of it, like a chronic illness. And so, a lot of times when people are struggling with that, the brain changes that happen, there are parts of the brain that are associated with making decisions and problem-solving, the impulsivity parts of the brain that actually shrink. And there are parts of the brain that are involved in learning and memory that actually shrink. And then, the feeling parts of the brain that are the ones that make you feel this sadness and this intense emotion, those parts get overly active, and they actually hijack some of the other parts of the brain. So, people are more impulsive as a result of that. Their emotions are taking over, and they're not thinking clearly a lot of times.
Joyce: You know, I was just thinking about, I wonder how many sermons are preached from the pulpit each year on suicide.
Linda: It is not talked about in the church, and there's shame and the guilt around it, the sort of humiliation that people feel with it, we need to help them with that and not have that stigma so that people can openly talk about their pain. We have to look and say, "Why are people doing this? What is the root of these problems"? Once we get to the root of this stuff, and there is a physical root often. There's an emotional root, there's a relational root, and there's a spiritual root. And so, if you don't address all parts of that, if you don't address lifestyle issues that are creating people... if your lifestyle, if you're not taking care of yourself, if you're not getting good sleep, you're more prone to memory problems and poor decision making, all kinds of things. If you're not eating well, then your brain isn't working as well as it could and you're not feeling that energy. And what all of that does is, it runs you down and it puts you in a position, then, when negativity starts and you get stress from all angles of your life, you start to think, "Man, I'm just exhausted. I can't deal with this. Why am I doing this? What's the point? What's my meaning? Why am I here? What's this about"? And I think one of the things that the church could really help with is we do not have a theology in our culture of suffering and how to deal with pain and difficulty. Because God promised he would be with us through the difficulty. He promised he would give us peace in the middle of life's storms, even though we're going through a lot of pain. His promise is to be with us and to give us peace and to get us through to the other side.
Joyce: What advice would you give to somebody watching right now? And I believe there's lots of people who have been and are thinking about committing suicide. What would you say to them right now?
Linda: I would say that the lie that they're hearing in their head that there is no hope, the very thing that you talked about, there always is hope, there's always a way. It's getting ahold of the right people, the right person that can help you, the right person being God who can help you and speak into your life. There really is an enemy of your soul that is telling you to be in despair and that there's no way out. So, don't ever believe that. If you can just hold on to that strand, and then get somebody around you. Tell somebody, tell somebody that you're feeling the way you are. Go get help. And there is a way to help you and get out of that horrible place of despair.
Joyce: Thank you, Linda. We appreciate your insight so much.
Now, when we return, we're gonna discuss recovering from the pain of losing a loved one to suicide. And also, if you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, there's a number at the bottom of your screen. Take a step to get the help that you need. You do mater, and the world is a better place because you're here.
Well, today, we're reaching out to those dealing with suicidal thoughts. As overwhelming as life may feel right now, God can and will help you through your struggle. And that's the same message for those who are in pain because a loved one has committed suicide. Kay Warren and her husband, pastor Rick Warren, understand this terrible loss. She's with us to share her story and how it affected her belief in the goodness of God. Well, Kay, first of all, thank you, thank you for traveling all the way from California to St. Louis to be with us.
Kay: Thank you for the invitation.
Joyce: So, we know that you have a lot to say and a lot of firsthand experience. So, tell us about your son, Matthew.
Kay: Matthew 27 when he died, and we learned pretty early on that he had a mental illness. He was the third of our children, and we knew he was different from the time he was just a toddler. He was throw the candyland game, and cry for hours, and you couldn't console him, and just this negative mood. And we just kept thinking, "He'll grow out of it," you know? We knew he was different than his older brother and sister, but it just never occurred to us that it could be a mental illness, 'cause we didn't know children could experience mental illness. But he was diagnosed with depression at 7, and then just this sorta list. It went from there to Bipolar Disorder to OCD to Major Depressive to Suicidal Ideation to... I mean, it just kept stacking up these things, and he just lived with torment, really torture and torment for about 20 years. And sadly, on April 5, 2013, he just hit that wall of mental illness for the last time, and he took his life. And it was the worst day of our lives. I have to tell you, though, in spite of the fact that he lived with a very tortured mind and very difficult life situations, he was so funny, creative, and compassionate. He had such a tender heart for other people who hurt. After he died, I've just had so many people send me notes and letters of encounters they had with him. Even as he was suffering, he would reach out for the person in the room who was having a hard time, or he was the person who would offer a kind word. So, he was amazing, hilariously funny, creative, goofy, and yet so full of pain.
Joyce: So, tell us about the aftermath. How did you get over it? What did you go through?
Kay: well, I'm not over it. You don't get over it. I think that's probably one of the main things that I'd learned and I'd love to pass on to your listeners is, you don't get over it. You get through it. And on the other hand, I mean, I don't wanna get over missing my son. He was my child. He grew in my body. I gave birth to him. I nursed him. I nurtured him. I cared for him for 27 years. I can't get over the fact that he died. I think anybody who's lost a child will tell you, "This is not something you get over. You learn to live with". Life can be good again, but let me tell you somethin', grief is the hardest work I have ever done. I have never worked as hard as moving through grief as I am, as Rick and I and our family are today. It's catastrophic. When suicide occurs, there's trauma. The person died sometimes violently, sometimes, obviously unnaturally. They killed themselves, so that's traumatic. So, with suicide, there are these layers of trauma and anguish and guilt that don't always accompany other kinds of death. And so, with suicide, we were just instantly thrust into this world, all these unanswered questions: "Why? I tried to talk him off the ledge hundreds of times, and I was able to. Why couldn't I that night? Was he thinking about us, you know, at the moment that he died? Did he suffer? Will we ever know all the reasons why that day"? There's just so many unanswered...
Joyce: "Is there something I could have done"?
Kay: Yeah, "Should we have done this? Should we have done that? What if we hadn't done this"? And it just comes with guilt that's real or not real. It comes with trauma. It comes with isolation.
Joyce: Was it harder even for you as a well-known pastor's wife and pastor of a large church?
Kay: Yes, in the sense that Matthew's death was a, you know, it was a scrolling headline on CNN, you know? So, everybody knew really quickly. There was no chance for any privacy or private grieving. We were just immediately in the public eye. So, that was difficult, but we've made a practice. We've been in ministry 43 years, and we've just made it a practice to live our lives as authentically as we can, knowing that people are watching, and that people are observing. And so, we figured, "Okay, this is not the way we would have chosen to grieve, but here we are in the public eye. So, how can we use our grief and our suffering to maybe show other people how you live through something as devastating as this? How do you trust God in the face of your worst nightmare coming true? How do you build? How do you rebuild hope"? We didn't choose, obviously, we didn't choose to have it be public like that, but it since it was, it's like, "Okay, God, how do you want to use us and our family in this grieving process to still reflect that we trust you? We have a lot of questions, a lot of unanswered questions, but we trust you".
Joyce: I think that's one of the most redemptive things that a person can do, is to take the pain to God, not only ask him to heal you, but to use it to help somebody else. I think that that, it not only helps you, but it does end up undoing satan's plan to destroy you, and you end up being able to help other people with it.
Kay: That is part of all of what I think he promises when he says, "I give you beauty for ashes". Because there is healing over time, but there's also... part of the beauty is knowing that you can help other people, that you can give other people courage to face their difficult times, their hard times. And every time I tell Matthew's story, I mean, I'll leave here, and I'll go and I'll cry because every time, to tell his story is painful, but every time is also a part of the healing, to talk about the hope, to talk about how God is with us and that God can be with someone else in their suffering. And when people tell me that... I know you experienced this. All the pain and sorrow in your life, when people say, "Oh, but, Joyce, when you share and you tell me how God's worked in your life, it gives me strength".
Joyce: Oh, yeah, all the time.
Kay: And so, it's the same for us. People say, "Hearing your story, hearing that you've not walked away from God makes me feel like I can do this in my life with my pain, my suffering".
Joyce: And I think even talkin' about this, it will help other people with other kinds of pain. You know, God never promises us no pain, and so, often, when people have unanswered questions and things they don't understand, they turn away from God, but what do we turn to?
Kay: There's nothing. There's nothing really.
Kay: And there's no one.
Joyce: Yeah, there's no one. God's the only one that can help you, so you wanna draw closer to him, not get mad at him and push away from him.
Kay: For me, it has been struggling in the embrace of God. The only place that's really safe enough for me to say everything I wanna say, to let out all my doubts, my anger, my confusion, my disappointment that God didn't heal Matthew here, the only safe place for me to really do that is in the embrace of Jesus. And in the embrace of Jesus Christ, we can beat our fists on his chest. We can cry. We can sob. We can moan. We can weep. We can scream if we need to, but it's running to him and being in that embrace. He can handle it. He can handle all of my pain. He can handle all of my questions, all of my confusion. So, I made a choice to run to him and not away.