There is no subtle way to approach this. I want to take a moment and share some thoughts about suicide. I read some rather startling information from a 2015 report released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) based on 2013 statistics. The report includes the following statement:
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14, the second among persons aged 15-34 years, the fourth among persons aged 35-44 years, the fifth among persons aged 45-54 years, the eighth among person 55-64 years, and the seventeenth among persons 65 years and older.”1
It is astounding to me that a time of life (ages 15-34) which should be filled with joy, could be a time when the prevalence of suicide is at its peak. When I was about 18 years old, I learned that a childhood friend of mine had committed suicide leaving behind a girlfriend and a young child. Over the years, I have continued to hear of Bible believing individuals who, sadly, took their own lives. The aforementioned CDC report also states, “There were 41,149 suicides in 2013 in the United States—a rate of 12.6 per 100,000 is equal to 113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes.”1 These statistics represent only the national totals. According to these statistics, at least a dozen individuals in the United States will take their own lives in the time it will take me to write this article. Sobering thought, to be sure. The concept of “suicidal thoughts” is so stigmatized in our society and within many circles of Bible believing individuals that those who struggle are often left in torment behind the prison bars of their own minds. Many suffering souls lose this struggle on a daily basis.
I would not consider myself qualified to discuss topics related to suicide at great length. However, I believe this is a particular battlefield known by far too many to remain quiet on the matter, and it is worthy of our consideration. Perhaps you, Reader, find yourself here from time to time wrestling with these thoughts. Thus, I would like to reflect on two prophets from the Old Testament. These men both shared a significant life event in common—at one point, they both desired that God would take their lives. At this time, I will say I do not believe these prophets would have taken their own lives, but extenuating circumstances had driven them to a place of great frustration and even desperation. God did not answer their prayer and ultimately used these men mightily for His glory. God also saw to it that these low points of apparent “weakness” were recorded for our encouragement and our comfort. I do pray that as we examine these men, you may find such encouragement and comfort and find the Word of God to be a “word spoken in due season” (Proverbs 15:23). The two prophets we will examine are Moses and Elijah.
Moses, the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3), the man to whom God would speak face to face as with a friend (Ex. 33:11), had only recently led an army of Israelites out of the land of Egypt after a series of miraculous events. If time in the wilderness had taught Moses anything, it was that being a leader of millions of men, women, and children was hard work. The people he led complained because they grew tired of God’s provision, and their complaining provoked the anger of the Lord and the frustration of Moses. Overwhelmed with his circumstances, Moses cries out and utters this prayer of desperation:
“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers 11:14-15)
“I am not able to carry all this people alone,” is his plea. Moses had apparently forgotten one of God’s first promises to him: “Certainly I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). Are we so different? Can we not relate? God promises us, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), and yet how often do we forget this great promise and all that it means for us? How often do we view our God in the presence of our circumstances rather than view our circumstances in the presence of our great God? Certainly, the burden was too heavy so long as Moses saw himself as the sole bearer of it, and certainly our burdens will be too great as long as we try to carry them on our own shoulders. Our Savior lovingly beckons, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). There is much left unsaid, but we must now move on to our second example.
In the book of I Kings, we read of the prophet Elijah who experiences a tremendous victory at Mount Carmel over hundreds of prophets who worshiped the idol, Baal. King Ahab expressed to Queen Jezebel, his wicked wife, all that Elijah had done. Jezebel then sends a messenger to Elijah stating that he will be dead by this time the next day. In fear of his life, Elijah flees deep into the wilderness where he finally comes to rest under a juniper tree and utters this prayer:
“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (I Kings 19:4).
The Lord directs Elijah on a journey to a particular mountain called Horeb. Here Elijah finds refuge. At this mountain, the Word of the Lord comes to him saying:“What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replies:
“I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (I Kings 19:10).
In a nation steeped in the idolatrous worship of the idol Baal, Elijah thought himself all alone. God proceeds to reassure him that he was not alone—there were seven thousand faithful who refused to bow the knee to Baal.
Elijah felt alone; Moses felt alone. Circumstances pushed both of these prophets all the way to their wits end—all the way to the edge of their human capacity to endure. But praise God, when they came to the end of themselves, God was there; when we come to the end of ourselves, GOD IS THERE. These were men who parted waters, raised the dead, and performed a number of miracles. These were heroes of the faith and men of great character. Why would God allow these similar events, these demonstrations of weakness, these lapses in faith to be recorded in the pages of Scripture? They are written so that we may know that the Bible is not a record of the acts and deeds of perfect men, but rather the accurate record of the acts and deeds of imperfect men and their dealings with a perfect God. These men were relatable; we are told, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17) These men felt fear, discouragement, and loneliness the very same way that you and I feel these emotions. And God is no less a present Help in our distress as He was for Moses and Elijah. These men pressed on in the face of distress and dire circumstances in order to accomplish the will of God. Who but Moses and Elijah could be better suited to appear on the Mount of Transfiguration to discuss with Jesus the death He would accomplish in Jerusalem according to the will of God? (Luke 9:28-31). What a thought is this! Two men who once desired to die being overwhelmed in the service of God will converse on the mount with Jesus Christ—One who would soon face unimaginable suffering and would ultimately give His life in the service of God.
Dear Reader, imagine how different the Scripture record would be if God had answered the prayer of these two men. Consider how greatly used these men were because God didn’t answer their prayer. Now think of your life. What amazing and wonderful things can God do in your life if you let Him? It is the prerogative of your enemy, the Devil, to snuff out your life in order to rob God of the glory of all He could do through you. Whatever you are tempted to believe, you must know you are not alone just as Moses and Elijah were not alone. I ask you to fight the good fight and arm yourself with the mind of God from His Word, the Bible. Claim these promises of God and quote them aloud when you are tempted to think anything to the contrary:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“…He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
There are multitudes more, and I will leave you to find them. Please do not be afraid to share your struggles with others. Please know you are not alone in this struggle and that many more than you even realize share in this battle. I pray you take encouragement from the lives of these great men and know that God loves you and is able to take your life and do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).