Tag Archives: Suicide prevention

The Depth and Breadth of Suicide

I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.

But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.

This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.

The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”

Christopher Nitzband (photo by Katie Baker)

There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.

Why? Indeed.

The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?

I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.

“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.

I’ll see you later, bud.”

The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.

My daughter’s updated Facebook cover photo.

I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.

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Filed under Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

I Tried to Commit Suicide

My Attempt to Exit

If I can accomplish anything with this blog, I want to let people know that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Part of that is allowing myself to be as transparent as reasonably possible.

In recent posts you have read about my personal struggles with depression, and thankfully that has been an encouragement to more than a few. Granted, some of you might have been confused, for you may be under the impression that a pastor of a church… a man of God… a “reverend”… should never get depressed. However, people from all walks of life – including those who have faith in God – can find themselves depressed, the reasons for which are not always easy to determine.

But what many, if not most of you may be unaware of, is that I actually attempted suicide when I was a teenager. I was within moments of pulling the trigger of a loaded 12-gauge shotgun that I had placed under my chin when my father (I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit) knocked on my bedroom door. That was the only time I came that close, but it was not the last time I seriously considered taking my life.

In the late 1990’s God had to do major surgery to remove the cancer of legalistic pride that had infected me. I had become self-righteous, religious, and prideful of my career, money, and stuff. However, in one fell swoop the Lord took it all away, leaving me with nothing but a faithful wife who I didn’t deserve, and a worried, scared family. Where I ended up was not rock bottom, but a depression that nearly put me six feet under. Suicide was an option in the past, so it became an ever-present option once again.

This is not the place, nor do I have the time, to go into every detail, but it wasn’t the friends and family who begged me to see the light; it wasn’t the multiple times every week of sitting with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists; it wasn’t the anti-depressants I regularly consumed; and it certainly wasn’t the alcohol I began to use for the first time that released me from the “dungeon of despair.”  What changed it all for me were three main things: first, believing that God still loved me! – despite the times I cursed Him; second, believing the promise that God still had a plan for my life; and thirdly (but most importantly), the unmerited, undeserved, matchless grace of God.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still recovering. In my personal opinion, based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed, when one crosses that line of attempting suicide, the Enemy will forever keep that temptation in reserve. Therefore, just as I sometimes act judgmentally and legalistic, even though I try not to, faint remembrances of the “suicide option” sometimes filter through my defenses. But it is in those moments that I remind myself of the Truth that set me free from the bondage of sin and death, and it is that golden key – the faithful promises of God – which is big and heavy enough to squash down any intruder.

EXIT, the Movie

This morning I took a few moments, not even 40 minutes, to watch Ray Comfort’s short new film, EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide”. Tears began to fill my eyes as I empathized with the familiar feelings of hopelessness and despair expressed by individuals interviewed in the movie.

However, toward the end of the movie I was able to wipe from my eyes tears of joy as some, not all, came to the realization that life is worth living.

Please, PLEASE!… if nothing more than to help a friend… take a few minutes to click on the link and watch the film below. It’s free, it won’t take long, and might just save a life… maybe even yours.

If you need help, or someone to talk with, please don’t wait. You are not alone in your pain, despite how you feel. There is always hope, always a reason to live, and your life is far more valuable than you realize. Think about it, Someone even allowed Himself to be ripped apart and nailed to a beam of wood so that you wouldn’t have to die!

If you don’t know anywhere else to turn, call 800-273-8255 and speak to someone who can help, or click on their website SuicidePreventionLifeline.org right now!

Your life is priceless, so live it.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Life/Death, self-worth

Let’s Talk About Depression, Pt. 2

Your Comments

The last time I wrote on this subject, I shared with you some very personal experiences. On several levels your comments were very encouraging, and for that I thank you.

The comments you left displayed a very important fact: Many people struggle with depression, even Christians.

Now, when I say “even Christians,” that might cause some of you to cringe. However, it’s not that Christians are any better than non-Christians, it’s just that so many people – especially Christians – think Christians should never get depressed. But reality is not perception, as your comments proved.

But, as I closed the last post on this subject, I promised to give you five (5) reasons people get depressed. Well, since then I came up with several others – now there are eight (8).

I’m not going to lie – each of the following have affected me in some way, so that is why I can list them with authority. Surely there are other causes of depression, or at least things that exacerbate it, but the following eight are ones with which I have experience.

 Reasons for Depression

1. Pain

Some of you may have more experience with this than others, especially those of you with debilitating illnesses. However, sometimes even the most mundane of pains, nothing more than chronic discomfort, can wear us down. After a while of never-ending relief, our bodies and minds start to reject reality and begin looking for a way out. We get tired of the pain that never ends, making us weary of the future.

Unfortunately, many people take their own lives because of never-ending pain. Believe it or not, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults of all ages; homicide is only 17th! The overwhelming thought of having to continue to live with what can never be relieved is too much for some to bear, leaving all other options and reasons to live off the table. This, however, is when meaning and purpose must be stronger than the pain.

Hope is the medicine for life.

But physical pain isn’t the only kind of pain. Memories can hurt, too. And not only memories, but all kinds of emotional pain; pain of all kinds contributes to depression.

2. Poverty

Now, for the record, I did not grow up rich. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my life when we lived in a house where you could see daylight through cracks in the walls! We also had no running water, except what we could get from a water hose attached to our neighbor’s well, so bathing was a pain, except when it rained; that’s when my dad and I would take the Dial soap and stand under the gutter.

The funny thing about poverty in my childhood is that I didn’t know I was poor, so it was no big deal. However, later in life I began to make a lot of money and began to grow accustomed to the finer things in life – including hot water and indoor showers. It was when God chose to remove that income and lifestyle that I revisited life with very little income, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Poverty – although nothing like what I saw in Zimbabwe – can lead Americans down the self-pitying road to depression. We bemoan what we do not have and mourn what we have no longer.

3. Potential

When I think of the word potential, I think of several things. I think of the things in life that could be, but have yet to be realized. I also think of all the kinds of things that could have been, but because of bad decisions or mistakes were lost to the “what if’s” of time.

Many people can grow depressed when they sit and ponder what might have been, or what is just out of reach. I have done that when I have looked back and wondered what I could have done if I had stayed in college when I was young, or continued pursuing a degree in law. I think of the business and employment opportunities I squandered that could have left my family and me in a much better position today.

But, potential is not what is, and where we are right now was never, at any time, a shock to our Creator and Sovereign God.

4. Pressure

Surely you know what I mean by pressure, correct? If I listed fifteen blanks you could probably fill in each one with a word tied to some sort of pressure-producing issue in your life. There are the pressures to succeed, to meet deadlines, to impress, to keep people happy, to finish the project, to not mess up, to not give in, and to be everything everyone else wants you to be.

Are you depressed, yet?

5. Pornography

Admit it, if you are on a computer reading this, you have no doubt come across something pornographic on the internet. It may have been by accident at first, but many of you have done more than stumble – you’ve dived in head-first to the cesspool.

If I were to say that I am immune to pornography simply because I am a Christian minister, I would be deceiving you. As a matter of fact, some surveys have shown that nearly half of all pastors have intentionally viewed internet porn more than a few times in the last year. Add to that fact the ease with which a person of any age can surf the web on a smart phone without leaving an obvious trace, who has not viewed porn in some form or fashion in the last year?

I am nearly 50 years old (will be in September), and I can tell you that porn is a big temptation. My first exposure to it was early on in life, before I was 10, when my cousins showed me my uncle’s hidden boxes of Playboys and Penthouse magazines. The indelible images left in my mind became dry tinder waiting to be reignited when VHS tapes became available, but thankfully I never purchased any. But when the internet became available, all it took was a curious click and I was pierced through with a flaming pitchfork.

Since the early days of my marriage, I have been very open and honest with my wife. Valerie knows my weaknesses, and so that helps me to avoid temptations. However, because of the world we now live in, when even burger commercials on television are nearly pornographic, the sparks that reignite the hellish images in my brain are floating in the air….and sometimes I fail.

What happens when we – especially Christians – view pornography? We experience the guilt that sin produces, and that can lead to serious, deadly depression. Even though Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross of Calvary, the Accuser never wastes an opportunity to remind us of how lowly and worthless we are. He does his best to turn us away from repentance and straight down the path of the prodigal.

6. Past

Maybe you already sensed this in some of the things above, but one of the biggest contributors to depression is the past. I won’t dwell too much on this one, for you probably know all to well what it is like to be haunted by things you’ve done or said days, weeks, years, or even decades ago. It’s when these moments come back to remembrance that we can stoop into depressive, pensive moods.

Like I mentioned before, the Devil  – the Accuser – loves to keep bringing up our past, even though God has place the Christian’s past in the Sea of Forgetfulness, as far as the east is from the west. But we are not God, are we? Unfortunately, because we are human, we tend to remember things we can’t correct or make right, like the time I said terrible, hurtful words to my father and made him cry.

Why not just take a moment at this point and think about how much you righteously hate Satan? He’s truly worth of hell, isn’t he? Not only did he tempt you and those you love, but he continues to remind you of things not even God will remember!

7. People

If you care anything about other people, people will depress you if you’re not careful, especially those who don’t even care what they are doing with their bodies and their souls. Wayward children, drunken neighbors, abused children, the starving homeless, crooked politicians, unrepentant atheists, and all kinds of others can lead even the most faithful into dark places of mourning.

Try sharing the gospel on a college campus and let me know if it’s easy to stay up and cheerful by day’s end. It’s difficult.

8. Prayerlessness

I’m sure the list could be longer, but I’ve just about run out of “P” words. So, let me end my list with one last cause of depression – a lack of prayer.

Friends, I can’t express to you how important it is to pray. However, make sure you understand the difference between “prayer” and talking with God. You see, there are those who believe that “prayer changes things,” so they go around spouting its benefits to any and all who are burdened, broken, sick, or downtrodden. But let me clue you in to a huge truth…

Prayer without Someone who can answer is nothing more than witchcraft. Yes, I said that, and you can take it to the bank. Prayers mean nothing without God. On the other hand, a simple conversation between the Father and His child “availeth much.”

But for those who never spend time with the Lord, or very little time, facing the daunting struggles and questions of life can simply become overwhelming. I firmly believe that had King David not prayed “evening, morning, and at noon” (Psalm 55:17), there would have been far more cries of “Why are you cast down, Oh my soul?” and far less proclamations like “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

That’s Not All, Folks!

Believe it or not, this is not the last post I’ll be writing on this difficult subject. My next one will bring some more observations to the table from which you can pick and use as needed. I just hope and pray what I am writing will continue to help and encourage.

But before I close, note that I did not give you many suggestions in the above post. In other words, pretty much all I did was list a bunch of things that cause, contribute to, or exacerbate depression, without offering ways to deal with them. So, let me share with you four (4) very important steps I’ve learned to take in my struggle with depression.

  1. Admit it, confess it, and talk about it.
  2. Don’t try to handle it on your own.
  3. Worship God, even when you don’t feel like it.
  4. Know that Jesus understands – that was what the cross was for!

Any comments? Any suggestions? Sharing is caring! 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression

He Didn’t Strike Me Dead

I pray the following will encourage someone.

Confession time… I shook my fist at God, cursed Him, and asked him to kill me where I stood.

It was around 15 years ago in Kentucky, and it was a bad time in my life, needless to say. It wasn’t that I had lost almost everything except my wife and children; God was doing a work in my life, purging me of my pride.

The Unfaithful One

Kentucky offered a step up in what was proving to be an already successful career. On top of that, I thought by moving to Christian County (get that? Christian? A sign?), a place where at the time there were thirteen churches without pastors, surely God was opening a door for me to preach. Yep, things were looking great, and it was all about me.

Long story short, not only did my new position not pay the expected $90k+ a year, it was completely done away with! No longer could I afford the nice house in the historic district, or the nice car, or the private education for my girls; it took working four part-time jobs just to keep the power on! What was worse was watching my wife wait tables and clean houses (with a smile, no less) just to make ends meet.

That’s when full-blown depression set in. We’re talking suicidal thoughts, counseling, meds, nearly getting committed…you name it.

One evening, on my way home, I stopped by a liquor store  (they actually have drive-thru’s in KY) and bought a bottle of Kentucky bourbon. I had not eaten anything all day, so on an empty stomach this non-drinker decided to down a bottle of alcohol while walking around our neighborhood. After much contemplation, I’d already determined I was too fearful to kill myself, so I tried a different approach – tell God exactly what I thought of Him and His so-called “plan” for my life.

Literally, with my fist clenched and thrust toward the sky, I cursed God with every word I could think of. I condemned Him for letting me be humiliated; for bringing me to this point and abandoning me; for making me think everything would work for the best. I literally dared God – I begged God – to take my life. Like I had told a former prayer partner whom my wife had called on my behalf, just to try to talk some sense into me – he said, “Don’t you know you have a family who loves you? – I just didn’t care anymore.

Again, it was all about me.

The Faithful One

But even at that moment of total despair and resentment, that “still small Voice” was hard to drown out with my obscenities and vulgarities. “I love you,” He said, “and I know you don’t really mean what you’re saying…and even if you do, I still love you.

I didn’t want to hear it! Like a little boy throwing a tantrum, I was bent on pushing the envelope, just to make God angry back at me, I suppose… just to hear the kind of response I wanted to hear – confirmation I was worthless – which in turn would prove I was right about God.

But my Father was patient (Psalm 86:15). When I was faithless, He was faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). And when I came back to my senses, when I begged to be forgiven for the blasphemous things I’d said, He didn’t condemn me (Romans 8:1). No, on the contrary, He sat me on His knee, put his arm around me, and gently whispered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth [his] children, [so] the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we [are] dust.” – Psalm 103:12-14 

Friends, I am so thankful for the mercy and grace of God! All glory and honor are His! My God is Faithful and True!

Do you know Him?

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Filed under Alcohol, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, God, Life Lessons, Love of God, self-worth, worship

Suicide? Let’s Talk.

“God moment.” 

This morning, before I started working on a post which I had originally intended to write, I did the usual glance-over of posts on blogs I follow. (By the way, when you’re away from the computer for a few days, it’s amazing how many blog posts can be written by other people!) That’s when I came across a post on Conform to Christ, “What does the Bible say about Suicide?

Once I read the above post, I could not help but to lend some kind of response. The article did a decent job of presenting a biblical perspective on the subject, but I felt it needed some additional perspective. So, I wrote my comment, submitted it, then planned to get back to writing a post on my own blog. That’s when I re-read my comment, thought about it, and felt the overwhelming need to re-share my comment here.

I feel this is a “God moment.” Somebody needs to read this.

My Perspective

I am very well acquainted with the issue of suicide – very well acquainted. As a matter of fact, I have had a long history of dealing with the temptation, nearly following through [with a 12 gauge] back in my teen years. Now, even as a pastor, the thoughts still come, they still haunt. Unfortunately, once a person has crossed a certain line, things are never the same.

Nevertheless, I know that I am still here for multiple reasons, the most important of which is the glory of God. But even though I know “the words,” … suicidal thoughts can attack when I least expect them, and especially when I do. But I have come to understand that suicide is a LIE: it will not, it cannot, fulfill its promises. No matter the circumstances, suicide will not accomplish its goals. At most it may get others’ attention, but it robs one of the opportunity to see the problem fixed…to see what God could have done.

For the most part, I believe suicide is an attempt by the hurting to get others to notice, to empathize. But what Satan enjoys doing is blinding us to two very important facts:

  1. We are NOT alone in our pain.
  2. God NEVER wastes a tear.

The One who literally laid His life down so that we could live walks with us, just like Daniel’s friends in the Babylonian furnace. And no matter the pain, no matter the situation, no matter the shame, there is someone else out there who needs us to shoulder up to them and say, “I understand.”

 Seek Help

Coming from someone who has walked down the suicidal road for 30+ years, never try to deal with this on your own. Fight the temptation to put a wall between yourself and others. If you are struggling, God already has someone prepared to be a shoulder to lean on. Seek help!

You may even be a Christian and find yourself thinking, “How does Jesus understand what I’m going through? He never sinned!” I used to think that, too! And if not for my dad knocking on my bedroom door to see how I was doing, I might have pulled the trigger on that shotgun…all because I though God didn’t understand.

But here’s the thing: Jesus not only bore your sin on the cross, He bore your shame, too! As a matter of fact, the Bible even says that He who knew no sin, “became sin” for us (2 Corinthians 5:21)! In other words, if guilt is behind what you feel right now, and you think nobody could understand or has walked in your shoes – Jesus understands!

Your sin is what He took to the cross, and it was the shame of THAT sin He felt as He hung there – instead of you! …FOR you!

If you are feeling suicidal, talk to somebody about it. Find a good, Christian counselor who isn’t legalistic and judgmental, but understands God’s grace and mercy. In other words, if you are feeling suicidal, I’m sure there’s someone available who’s not only sympathetic, but knows the “Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Your life is priceless because of Who was paid for it; don’t throw it away.

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Filed under Christian Living, Life/Death, self-worth, Struggles and Trials