I had reached the end of my rope. I sped out of the church parking lot and headed toward the open road. As I drove, my mind flooded with thoughts about the argument I just had with someone I loved very much and the pain I felt inside. It had become too much to bear.
At just 17 years of age, I made the worst decision of my life. I purposefully aimed my car toward the woods and let go of the steering wheel while moving at a high rate of speed. Thankfully, God had other plans. More on that later.
A Harsh Reality
Every week, more than 100 teenagers in America take their own life. According to the Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
For those of us who know Christ, this shouldn’t be a surprise. John 10:10 tells us that “The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy…” The enemy of your soul is working overtime to stifle what God wants to do in your teen’s life.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As parents, we must make sure that we know the warning signs. After all, no family is immune to the possibility. Here are some of the most common warnings.
Talking About Suicide Directly or Indirectly
If your teen is saying any of the following things, you need to take him/her seriously. “I’d be better off dead.” “I won’t be bothering you much longer.” “You’ll be better off without me around.” “I am going to kill myself.”
I’m sad to say that it has taken the Church much too long to understand depression. When I was a kid, I remember being taught that depression was a sin, a result of someone who wasn’t putting their trust in God.
Thankfully, times are changing and most pastors in America now realize that depression can be caused by circumstances but often is the outcome of a chemical imbalance. Do you remember being a teenager?
It seems like almost all your levels are out of whack! If you see any of these indicators in your teen, they may be depressed.
- Expressions of hopelessness and despair
- Declining grades and school performance
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Sudden, abrupt changes in personality
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Making Final Arrangements
- Sharing with you how they will commit suicide
- Giving away their prized possessions
- Saying goodbye to family and friends
- Making funeral plans
Unfortunately, sometimes the symptoms are not as obvious. This is why it’s so important to work hard as a parent to keep open communication with your child. For those who are Christians, we also must ask the Lord for discernment so that we are seeing a situation for what it really is.
So what should you do if you see any of these indicators in your teen?
Get professional help
Take them to the hospital if you sense that they are in immediate danger. At least you can be sure that they will not harm themselves there. This also may be a place where they can get the necessary medicine they need to steer through their current crisis. Whatever you do, don’t leave them alone.
After their stay at the hospital, it’s important to find a Christian counselor that can work with them to identify the hidden issues that are causing them to feel the way they do. As a pastor, I’ve worked in tandem with counselors to help people who are suicidal.
Set up a support network
This is a trusted group of friends and professionals that are aware of your teen’s situation and can partner with you as a parent. This often includes a counselor, pastor, other parents, and a close friend of your child. A support network is helpful on many levels. The biggest help is that you have a number of different perspectives about your child’s behavior. It also means your teen is being watched more of the time while they are in this vulnerable state.
Learn to listen to what your child is saying without trying to offer an immediate “fix” to their problem. This is difficult as a parent and as a Christian. After all, sometimes we think we have all the answers!
Instead, learn to say things like, “My heart hurts when your heart hurts.” Another good answer is, “It must be difficult to see things in such a dim light.” These kinds of statements show your child that you hurt for them and they create an atmosphere that is safe for them to express their feelings.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. Earlier in this article, I referred to John 10:10. I left out the second part of the verse. This is what it says, “…I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” These words were spoken by Jesus. He is the “I” and He will give you His fullness of life.
Ultimately, we must realize that we are in a spiritual battle. Thankfully, we have the promise of God’s power here on the earth and eternal life forever with Jesus.
The Next Part of the Story
Now back to my story. We left off with me heading full-speed toward the woods. Despite my effort to run my car into the trees and end my life, my car miraculously came to a stop on top of some very big rocks. Humanly speaking, the rocks stopped my car right before a huge tree. I say “humanly speaking” because I believe it was God who ultimately stopped my car.
That night was the beginning of the end of my uncontrollable anger. It wasn’t an overnight process. With the help of my pastor, my parents, and some godly friends, I let go of control over my life and surrendered 100% to God.
Just 2 weeks later, I would graduate from high school. 6 months later I began leading worship at a nearby church while attending Wheaton College. 3 years after that I would marry Cheryl, the love of my life. And a year after that I began serving as a worship pastor in full-time ministry. God is definitely a God of miracles!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Maybe you are the parent of a teen who is contemplating suicide. If you have nowhere to turn, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
However you choose to respond, don’t try to do it alone. Surround yourself with wise and godly people who can walk through it with you. With God’s help, your child will get the help they need.
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