An Excerpt from my Book

The following is an excerpt from my book Suicide: The Bible and Today. It comes from the last chapter. I hope it helps and please feel free to share it with others and even go out and buy my book.

Thank you.

Dennis Sampson

A Cry for Help

Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Vs 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

Vs 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

Vs 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

We see here that a cross road has been reached, but which way to go? Neither path looks promising. On the one hand the way appears quite difficult while the other seems shorter and easier. Quickly the decision has been struck and one foot has stepped on the wrong path. The sword has been drawn, and now blood must flow freely. Failure has been achieved and punishment is due. How can someone go on knowing just how badly they have messed up? There is also a thought that it will be worse for his family if he lives and faces the music instead of taking the quick way out. After all, with what is coming who could blame him for paying this high price at an easier rate than to pay the same price at a much greater rate. For this jailer his life appears to be over either way. But such an assumption is rotten logic coming straight from the pits of hell.

In this passage of scripture we get to see that suicide doesn’t have to be a choice. That the trouble can be eased. Here we see Paul is what the Lord sent to be…

His Mitigation

Everybody needs help from time to time; to lessen the burden, a mitigating factor. No matter the situation or how they may feel about it, all help is needed. This man here was no different, he needed help or assistance and was in essence Crying for Help.  He didn’t want to end his life, but he just didn’t know how to get help. Sometimes individuals will choose a method that will give them a greater chance to survive the attempt. Occasionally the suicide is attempted solely as a means to hurt someone else, but generally this kind is done by those that are seeking attention for their situation.

In this particular case the jailer is desperate. The law said that he would have to finish the sentence of any escaped prisoners in their place. Whatever the sentence was, it passed to him; be it torture, life in prison, or death so he truly didn’t want to die, but the future was pitch black for him. The philosophers are seemingly content to allow for this end to his life. Some would even say that the very meaning of life is that it ends. This is not a new concept, even in the time we are talking about. Here suicide was considered an acceptable recourse to the suffering of life, and let’s face facts, today in man’s eyes it really is only illegal if you get caught. Getting caught though can be a good thing. Providing the individual gets the right treatment. If they don’t get the help they need than there is no benefit, it is only putting off the inevitable. So how do we take this cry for help and make it successful?

To begin with Paul and Silas made themselves available. They could have run when the doors opened but didn’t. At midnight, the darkest hour, they could have been asleep. Instead they were praising and praying.

Availability doesn’t just mean we are present; it means we are prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”. We should be able to share our personal testimony, show someone how they can be saved, and why we can hope in Jesus. Remember we are not trying to remind them of all the good things they have in this life. They need hope, we need to be there to give them that hope in Jesus.  Don’t try to make them justify themselves or talk over them.  Let them talk but try to guide the conversation to the Lord.

Praying is not just for what we need or want but it is interceding on someone’s behalf. Many times we say ‘I will pray for you‘ but how often do we pray, perhaps just that initial time only? Paul and Silas may have asked God to free them from jail but you can be sure they were praying for others to be released from Satan’s bondage every time. Even though it wasn’t a convenient time for them (midnight), they prayed.  Even while the suicidal person is talking we can be silently praying for help so that we can help them.

The immediate need of the person is more important than us bragging about who and what we are. We are all sinners in need of God. The goal is for us all to be sinners saved by God’s grace. Paul called out to the jailer to not kill himself. Once Paul took care of the man’s immediate physical need he was able to show him his spiritual need. He answered his cry for help. In this case he proved to the jailer that no one has escaped, so his own life was not in danger. By doing so the jailer could see for himself that there was a greater power at work and it was the God that Paul served. Had Paul just tried to only give him Jesus the man wouldn’t have heard much, James 2:16. A person crying for help wants someone who is truly concerned for them trying to help them. Meet the physical needs first so they can hear the rest.

His Moment

In Acts 16:27 we read “He drew out his sword, and would have killed himself”. The sword was THE weapon of choice back then. Just as guns are THE preferred weapon today. Suicide has a leaning toward the means that is convenient at the time.

In the moments leading up to his attempt the jailer probably thought all was right in his world. He soon fell asleep and It took an earthquake to wake him up (v26). An earthquake, the shaking of the ground beneath a person, here the foundation of someone’s world was being rocked. Earthquakes tend to change the landscape that we look upon. They destroy things and present new challenges. Chaos flourishes and lives can be lost. We don’t have to have a physical earthquake in our lives to ruin things. The unexpected death of a loved one can do it, a job loss or demotion, the ending of a relationship we thought would stand the test of time, or just about any bad news can rock us to the core of our being. A fragile mind can suddenly snap during one of these emotional/spiritual earthquakes. It doesn’t have to actually affect our way of living, just make it look like it and desperation can quickly run rampant. Most people who attempt suicide don’t really want to die. The choice is viewed as a matter of there being no other way. All the pain in the person’s life whether real or imagined; physical, mental, or spiritual is just too much. If there was another way, wouldn’t it have presented itself by now? Desperation may justify many things but it never changes the moral standings they hold with God.

This false justification was something that started long ago. From the moment we are born, while our bodies are growing to maturity, and our minds are developing we are also dying. Romans 5:17 states: “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one”. ‘So Adam with his suicide back in the garden has doomed us all, might as well finish it then, right?’ If we leave the verse right here, it is all hopeless; just go ahead and finish yourself off, for there is nothing out there for any of us. However, the verse doesn’t end there. It goes on to say this, “much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” The suicide mission that Jesus came and fulfilled won us eternal life. 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” That is good news!

Yes we need to finish what was started. That being the work Jesus did on the cross. When He said “It is finished” (John 19:30) His part in eternal salvation was finished, not His life. What we need to do is first accept Him as our only Savior, asking Him to forgive us of our sins and to save us from hell. He has promised He will.  Then bring everything to Him, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7. The word “care” here means anxieties; if it bothers you than it bothers Him, so give it to Jesus.

If you want to, tell someone who is flesh and bone just like you, what it is that is bothering you so badly. In fact we are commanded to do so in James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” We get healing by asking for help and we get healing by helping others. If you know or think you know someone who is burdened don’t just pray for them to get help, be that help and put yourself into action on their behalf (James 2:18). If a person is feeling suicidal, they need to get help; God has given us doctors and medicines to assist us. We are told in John 1:3 “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” Man has created nothing that God didn’t already think of. Even something as simple as calling 911 or 1-800-273-TALK was given to us by God to take advantage of.

His Miracle

Out of the darkness of the moment had come a voice of assurance. The jailer had believed very quickly that everyone had escaped. So to hear a voice of one of the prisoners meant someone was still there and possibly all the rest as the voice had claimed. The light he had called for revealed that the voice spoke the truth. This was a man who had just gone through the wringer of life. At first, fear for his life and now the unexpected development of all the prisoners being accounted for. One can forgive him for trembling as he comes face to face with the source of that voice.

He may have heard what Paul had done for the demon possessed girl, he might have even heard of Paul and his team preaching in town (they had been in Philippi for a little while). Perhaps he had even heard some of the preaching for himself. However he got to this point doesn’t really matter he knew what he was in need of, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas had the answer at the ready “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. They were as sure about their answer as he was about his need.  Are we ready to help or at least know where to quickly turn?

Suicide is not the answer, for the simple fact that the person is not looking at the question correctly. They see the temporary problem and assume that is all there is. In so doing they miss the big picture. The question is about life; do you want the eternal life that Jesus offers? Satan doesn’t want you to see the question that way. He wants you to view it from his distorted perspective. Trouble, temptation, pain, suffering, anger, disappointment, betrayal, false religions, etc. are all a fog he fills the mind with. Jesus is the one true and only way to eternal life, John 14:6.

Nearly 1 million people attempt suicide each year (CDC, 2014).  Chances are very good that each of us will know someone who has made an attempt to some degree of success whether we realize it or not. Sometimes our not knowing is a matter of us not wanting to know about it. It may be a matter of we don’t understand any of the warning signs, or we may be too embarrassed or ashamed to say something. Knowledge is power. That power can be overwhelmed by denial. Again, if you think someone may be in danger of attempting suicide, speak up, call for help, and do what you can. They may need you.

For those struggling right now you may be saying “I am not important” “What difference would it make if I killed myself” “Nobody knows what I am going through” “Nobody would understand”. Those are ALL lies that Satan is feeding you.

Remember suicide cannot be undone.

Paul the Apostle confessed his weaknesses in 2 Corinthians 12:9, making him a candidate for God’s strength and help. We need to confess our need and sin.

I have three questions and a statement for you as we close.

#1 Do you know Jesus as your personal savior? If not, this is how to be saved: first understand that you are a sinner bound for hell. Second, understand that the only way to escape hell is to ask Jesus to save you. Third ask him to save you believing that He will. Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord SHALL BE SAVED.”  {Emphasis added by author.}

#2 If you are saved are you going through any of these trials you have just read about? Help is there if you will accept it.

#3 If you know someone like any of these individuals will you be the help that God wants to send to them?

My statement is this: One way or another, we will all finish what was started. Our attitude will dictate greatly how we do. Just because you were born against your will, as it were, doesn’t mean it is your right to end your life.

References:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.). Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury. [Internet] [Cited November 20, 2014] Available from www. Cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

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