Ask Donnell: How Do I Help A Suicidal Friend?

Ask Donnell: How Do I Help A Suicidal Friend?

We received the following question from Jamie;

"A friend of mine killed himself. Now another friend of mine is sounding suicidal. She's a college student in another country and when we connect over social media her words sound so dark. She's posted some things recently that drew my attention. How can I help?"

Whew! We made it through all of your questions. Friday, we addressed friendships in "Ask Donnell: What Is The Will Of God Concerning Friendships?" Wednesday, we addressed romance in "Ask Donnell: What is The Will of God Concerning Romantic Relationships?" Those were some good questions. Today, we'll deal with something much more serious.

The Lord spoke to me about this directly a few days ago. He said to take any threat or hint of suicide very seriously. He said that if someone appears to be suicidal we have to do all we can to save the person immediately. He spoke to me through a dream in which we didn't seriously consider the suicidal threats of a teenager. We just couldn't believe the person would go through with it but we were wrong. The next morning we found out the person was dead. I woke up and told my wife that if we hear of anyone threatening suicide we have to move quickly because it's an emergency. However, the real question is; "Move quickly and do what?"

I'll start by bringing some context to your question. Your friend is in another country and you only have contact through online social media. Therefore, only so much can be done from where you are. The first thing that usually comes to mind is that she needs professional help from a qualified counselor, preferably a born-again Christian. However, we cannot assume that professional help is readily available where she is and if it is available that she would be willing to seek it on her own. As you stated in your question, she didn't ask for help but you know she needs it. You can ask her to seek professional help but if she chooses not to do it what are you supposed to do? Let's start from there and build a response from The Bible.

1 Kings 19:1-10(NKJV) - And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God. And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

When Elijah heard that Jezebel was after him he ran for his life into the wilderness. After a major victory over her prophets Elijah probably thought he would finally have some peace. However, there was none to be found. He didn't even get a chance to celebrate because Jezebel wanted him dead. Elijah grew so depressed that He asked God to take his life. Think about it.

A powerful man like Elijah had suicidal thoughts and put them before The Lord. How did God respond to Elijah's threat of suicide? There are some key lessons we can learn here. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Therefore, there's no professional counselor better than God! Let's see Him in action.

Romans 2:4(KJV) - Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

In an effort to get Elijah to change his position God showed him goodness. God first showed His love for Elijah by sending an angel to feed him but that wasn't enough. Elijah just ate the food and lay back down depressed. When Elijah didn't come out of his funk, the angel returned with more food and encouragement.

This was no ordinary meal. It was supernatural. Elijah took off on a 40 day journey with just that one meal and arrived at Horeb, the mountain of God where He could hear God speak. It was at that place God asked Elijah an open-ended question and allowed him to honestly share his heart. Elijah kept it real with God and held nothing back. After hearing Elijah out, God responded.

1 Kings 19:11-18(NKJV) - Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Watch carefully what God does here. Though He shows Elijah His power with an awesome display of wind, earthquake and fire He softly asked Elijah again, "What's going on?" This is another open-ended question. Again, God allows Elijah to speak freely about what he felt in his heart. God who knows all things played the role of listener first. He let Elijah do all the talking before He gave a response. God knew Elijah's heart was fixed so He basically told Elijah to prepare for an exit by setting certain affairs in order.

Then God told Elijah the truth about his situation. He was not alone. There were 7000 others like him so he didn't need to be depressed about something that was not true. With that, God successfully talked Elijah "off the ledge" long enough to appoint kings over Syria and Israel then transfer The Anointing to Elisha. That was all he needed. So what can we learn here?

How Do I Help A Suicidal Friend?

1) Pray

Philippians 4:6-7(NKJV) - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Before you panic, pray! She's in another country so in the case of an emergency like the threat of suicide you have to move quickly into prayer. You can't call any crisis line or emergency rescue in a foreign country but you can call on The Lord. Prayer is how we call our spiritual 9-1-1. There is no time or space in the spirit so ask The Lord to dispatch a team of angels to intervene according to Psalms 34:7 and Psalms 91:11-12. The moment you pray in faith the angels are there. If you pray you can trust God to respond immediately but if you don't pray you don't know what will happen. Prayer gets The Counselor involved and that's always good.

2) Show Love and Kindness

Proverbs 19:22(NKJV) - What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar.

Colossians 3:12(KJV) - Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

The angel God first sent to Elijah didn't show up empty-handed. He showed up with food and encouragement. That's how God did it and that's how we should do it too. After you pray show the person kindness. She's out of the country so give her a call and show her love and kindness with your words. If she was in town you would be able to show up at her house with a bunch of food but since that's not possible work with what you have. Post encouraging words to her social media accounts. Follow The Counselor's example and encourage her with love and kindness. Kindness and love opens any person's heart to trust you more. It brings down the walls around the person's heart.

3) Listen

James 1:19(NKJV) - So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

James 5:16(KJV) - Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

God is the ultimate Counselor and when he dealt with suicidal Elijah God listened to him. Why did The God of All listen to a man? God loved Elijah and let him pour his heart out. Since you have no idea what your friend is going through you have no choice but to ask open-ended questions and let her speak. In fact, just being able to pour one's heart out to another person is therapeutic. God did it for Elijah so you can do it for your friend. However, listening alone is just the beginning. You have to take it a step further. Always listen first but here's the next step.

4) Speak Truth

John 8:32(KJV) - And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 17:17(KJV) - Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Only after listening to Elijah did God tell him the truth. The same is expected of you in a similar situation. After you hear your friend out several times tell her the truth. You have no idea what she's going through so let her tell you in her own words first so you'll know how to respond. She will probably self-diagnose her own problems and make it easy for you. Once you ask her enough open-ended questions to let her pour her heart out it's your turn to pour truth back into her heart.

Ephesians 4:15(KJV) - But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

With love, let her know the truth. Don't argue or point out that her feelings are unreasonable even if they are. Just speak the truth in love. Let the truth make her free. God is love so when you show love you show God and He knows how to talk anyone "off a ledge". God bless and be with you throughout this process. We agree in prayer that the spirit of depression over your friend's life is rebuked and removed in the name of Jesus. Let's never let anyone fall on our watch without at least trying to help.

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