Through our lives we have experiences that are etched on our hearts and minds — experiences that shape our thinking, shape our reactions, shape our responses, shape our decisions — maybe even shape our initial theology or lack thereof. If these etchings were recorded on 3×5 cards, in time we’d have quite a card file full, wouldn’t we? Events and experiences, lessons and influences all recorded on cards make up our individual card catalogs. It’s interesting to me, every now and then, to come across a card I realize has had a profound impact on my life and thinking. One of the greatest regrets I have from a young age is collecting a couple of influence cards I wish I’d never acquired. On the cards are written: the suicide option. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently… deaths of friends and loved ones, news headlines trigger memories… the file drawer opens… the influence cards tumble out.
I was a second grader when my mother got the call that her father had died. A strange disconnect defines that event. On the one hand, I heard that he never looked better and on the other hand, I saw my grandmother weeping over her loss. So young I was, so innocent regarding the trials and tragedies that befall people in life — at that point, unaware of what would later be the personal impact of my granddaddy’s death. When my mother returned from Texas after his funeral, she gave me one of the few things she brought from his home — a little tin box decorated with flowers containing my granddaddy’s sewing kit and also a package of “moth balls” — not chemical mothballs used in storage containers, but candy… small balls of sweet, nutty deliciousness.
Through the years stories pieced together framed the mental picture of what really happened with my grandfather; he was an alcoholic who’d come to the end of his options and resources and succumbed to the enticing lie that death was the only way out. On one of the cards in my mental card file is recorded that in a closed garage, carbon monoxide from a car’s exhaust system is a suicide method. Little more than three years later my mother’s brother would add another suicide option card to my card file. It was August… I was eleven when that card was added.
I’m amazed, through the years, how many times those cards have made their way into my hands… how many times I’ve turned them over in my hands, carried them around, and for a time mulled them over. Stunned from time to time that I could possibly take those cards out and look at them as options and ever for a moment consider listening to the lies of the devil that my life’s a waste or that everyone would be better off without me or whatever the devil’s lie du jour is. By the grace of God that’s all… but by the grace of God… I am carried through that darkness.
Throughout time, the devil has been capitalizing on twisting variations of the same lie. The lie always includes a form of death… death of self, death of relationships, death of purity or innocence, death of faith, etc. In the beginning, in subtlety and condescension, taking advantage of her innocent reasoning, satan challenged God and enticed Eve, saying: …you shall not surely die. And throughout history he’s played with the emotions of despairing and desperate individuals to persuade them one way or another, but the end is the same: death. From the beginning, the devil’s been twisting the truth on death.
Like his father before him, I’m sure my uncle felt much the same desperation that hot August day. He’d run out of options and resources and probably reasoned there’d never be an end to his financial losses and never a solution to his mounting obligations. No amount of reasoning could restore confidences that the financial gains and successes he’d previously enjoyed in life could possibly be rebuilt or that the losses could be overcome. Another method was recorded that day — if his life was a mess, his death was more so. I feel sick every time I hear that song’s refrain: he put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger. I hate that song. It’s no lullaby.
The devil’s a master of all or nothing — that whatever’s happening today will be happening forever — the all or nothing that things will always be this way, nothing’s ever going to be any different or any better than it is today — thus, there’s just one solution: death. Problem is, the devil never gives any warnings about what else really happens when he tempts (or succeeds) with that suicide option. It’s not a solution—it’s an amplified problem but the despairing one is gone and never sees the enormous ripple of the suicide rock hitting the pond. Is it desperation that fuels depression or is it depression that fuels desperation? Eternity will sort this out; whatever the case, both block out reason — both are blinding. Both fall into the abyss of great darkness. And the devil loves darkness — and loves to shroud us in darkness at every turn because his deeds are only evil continually.
His playbook is thin — satan doesn’t need many tricks. The same traps and tricks have been working for him since he first beguiled Eve and all the others since… the lies he tells you and me… the lies he’s perpetuated from that day to this come from his little playbook. Hath God said?
You’ll be better off. It’s your life. You’re not hurting anyone. They’ll be better off without you. This is the only way. You always do this. You’ll never change. Life is only misery, you’ll be in a better place and on and on. His methods have not changed — his motive has not changed — he hates God and God’s glorious creation and will stop at nothing in his pursuit to steal, kill and destroy life, faith and hope in God — ultimately to persuade individuals to take their eyes off God. But remember this: he’s a defeated foe — a lion with no teeth, a roar with no power. In the end, his challenge is not with you — you’re just a pawn to him. His challenge is with God. Remember that: he hates God and doesn’t care a thing about you.
…He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning,
and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie,
he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
If life’s dealt you a suicide option card… remember that it was an option someone else took. It doesn’t mean it is your option. You ought to talk it over and get your mind set on Truth. Guard your mind, guard your idle thoughts. Remember, your adversary, the devil, is a thief. Get acquainted with, and very familiar with, the Truth. Know the Truth that the Truth will set you free. Remember that Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” In Jesus is life. Abundant life. He also said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 10.10 / 16.33)
May the Lord be your peace and comfort if you’re hurting over losses today. May the Lord be your strength and salvation and source of joy.
[I originally wrote and published this article 8.12.2014]