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Suicide and Depression - The answer is Jesus Christ more than any other solution!

by Pastor Tomson Dube
07 May 2019 | 2013 Views
Pastor Tomson Dube
I am sure everyone at some point has seen the phrase: Jesus is the answer! There is no question asked but that is the phrase given as pointing to the answer. Indeed, people need the Lord and this Lord I am talking about is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am a pastor for a reasonable number of years now and a Christian for thirty-six years. I am not ashamed to preach the gospel like Paul, because it is power unto salvation. Currently, I have the oversight of more than thirteen thousand students as their University Chaplain and an associate pastor for a just over three hundred congregates at my church. I have both in my work place and Christian fraternity seen people with and without Jesus Christ going through depression and also committing suicide.  So what is the point? How does one explain such a combo of circumstances?

I have been troubled in my spirit concerning the ever increasing numbers of suicide cases at the national level, and moreso at my area of jurisdiction. In a publication that is almost ten years ago, Alex Lickerman (2010) wrote so convincingly that "Suicide is far more understandable than people think." I personally have witnessed and experienced some of my family in the extended African relatives dying due to suicide and the remaining relatives being devastated by the experience. They go through pain mixed with guilt, anger, and regret.

Lickerman (2010) allude to the fact that, 'one question everyone has asked without exception, that they ache to have answered more than any other, is simply: why? Why did their friend, child, parent, spouse, or sibling take their own life?' Even when a note explaining the reasons is found, lingering questions usually remain: yes, they felt enough despair to want to die, but why did they feel that? A person's suicide often takes the people it leaves behind by surprise (only accentuating survivor's guilt for failing to see it coming).  The NUST family has seen it and experienced it over the years, the latest being on April 30th 2019.

Death is no respecter of people
In his reasoning with his friends in the Bible, Job lays it bare (Job 14:5 5"You have decided the length of our lives. You have known how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer."  This denotes a God that holds our template for our life. He is the God that is Omniscience and like in Hebrews 9:27, the Bible says, 27"And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgement." This appointment is pre-destined and it is an appointment that is unavoidable. How we die and where is determined by our choices in life. God decides our lifespan and during that lifespan we need to make a decision similar to that as proposed in Deuteronomy 30:19-20a. We are given a revelation of how to make this choice. Job reminiscence and ponders about death in Job 21: 22-26 22 "But who can teach a lesson to God, since he judges even the most powerful? 23One dies in prosperity, completely comfortable and secure, 24 the picture of good health, vigorous and fit. 25Another person dies in bitter poverty, never having tasted the good life. 26But both are buried in the same dust, both eaten by the same maggots."

The illustration in the verses above shows that after death the resultant to the flesh in the ground is the same, but the soul needs to be taken care of through a decision of making Jesus Christ the Lord and saviour of one's life.  I am building a case on suicide.  Suicide definitely leads to death and we have seen how God comes into the picture of determining our 'death' and how he has made provision to those that make informed choices. One thing that God has declared through his word in Ezekiel 18:32 when he says, 32 "For as surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live..." In order to live, one needs the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and saviour. Only then will Psalm 116:15 would have a lot of meaning as it says,         15"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." How do you become precious? John 3: 3 3"Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God." You believe with your heart and confess with your mouth SIMPLE!  And I tell you, it will work for you.  If you do not accept Jesus Christ it will not work.  Just try it! It has worked for me for the past thirty-six years now.

Of Suicide and Depression
I would like to suggest that for the sake of all those reading this article and who might have been left behind by someone's suicide, like Lickerman (2010), I wanted to describe how I have consoled and tried to explain what I have come to believe and think about as the reasons people kill themselves. They're not as intuitive as most think. Lickerman (2010) proffers that in general, people try to kill themselves for six reasons that are: They're depressed, they're psychotic, they're impulsive, they're crying out for help, they have a philosophical desire to die, and they've made a mistake. I will get back to these proffered reasons later but let me refresh your memory of the other high profile suicidal cases you could remember.

One Bobby McFerrin, the artist who sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy," killed himself. It is usually rumoured (though non-specific) that "He committed suicide."  He is the man who had crooned "In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double" ultimately couldn't stomach what he had been spooning out to others. Those who had heard the tune too often during difficult spans in their own lives found a measure of comfort in this, because as anyone who suffers from clinical depression can tell you, getting over it requires far more than the mere adoption of a Pollyanna attitude. (- this is an attitude of a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything)
 
There are in the past high profile figures of national reputation that are alleged to have committed suicide. The late Maurice Tapfumaneyi Nyagumbo was one of Zimbabwe's veterans who on the 22nd April 1989 died and his death is treated as possible suicide.   Also on April 13th 2005, the late Enos Chikowore, a Zanu PF politburo member and former Minister of Transport and Energy, also died. He was 69 and was suspected to have committed suicide. The list is longer only that many of these deaths have not been made public and mentioning names may require adequate proof other than what is in the media.

At my work place, it has been in the media, we have lost more than five students to suicide and I have had different explanations to the reasons of these suicide cases. For purposes of confidentiality and ethics I shall not list the reasons and the names of the deceased students.  But the press has carried the names and stories of the said cases.  As part of the NUST family, we are grieving for such loses as they hit us hard all the time.

Let us see how Lickerman's proffered six reasons fit in our context in Zimbabwe especially in Higher Institutions of Education (HIE).  
1. They are depressed: This is without question the most common reason people commit suicide. Depression is Real!  Depression affects people of all ages, Christian or non-Christian and from all walks of life. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people's ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family, friends and the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, which is now the second leading cause of death among 19-26-year olds.  But as observed in the examples above, there is no age limit. Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. There is need for more research into a better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated. This body of knowledge will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help. Ideally, there are overarching messages on depression which include but are not limited to that:
  • depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.
  • the risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up (divorce), physical illness and problems caused by substance abuse.
  • depression causes mental anguish and can impact on people's ability to carry out even the simplest of everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.
  • untreated depression can prevent people from working and participating meaningfully in community life.
  • at most or at worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • depression can be effectively prevented and treated. Treatment usually involves either Talk Therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of both.
  • overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.
  • talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.
  • those seized with depression shouldn't be blamed for falling prey to such distorted thoughts any more than a heart patient should be blamed for experiencing chest pain: it's simply the nature of their disease.
Because depression, as we all know, is almost always treatable, we should all seek to recognize its presence in our close friends and loved ones. Often people suffer with it silently, planning suicide without anyone ever knowing. If you suspect someone might be depressed, don't allow your tendency to deny the possibility of suicidal ideation prevent you from asking about it.  We have lost close relatives who should not have died only if we would have listened to our sixth sense. Let us talk about it – Simple!




2. They are psychotic: There are demons and familiar spirits that manifest in various ways. They come to attack the person as stated in the book of John 10:10 10"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." This is the brief description of the devil's job.  In essence, that is his job description.  If he does not kill, steal or destroy, he has not worked. So he comes with malevolent inner voices often command self-destruction for unintelligible reasons. I have counselled many students and they tell me, 'someone is talking to me and encouraging me to kill myself.' As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I can only see these as demons. Lickerman refers this to psychosis which is much harder to mask than depression, and is arguably even more tragic. The worldwide incidence of schizophrenia is 1% and often strikes otherwise healthy, high-performing individuals, whose lives, though manageable with medication, never fulfill their original promise.  Schizophrenics are just as likely to talk freely about the voices commanding them to kill themselves as not, and also, in my experience, I have cast out these demons from the victims and have given them honest answers about thoughts of suicide when asked directly. One thing for sure, psychosis, too, is treatable, and usually must be treated for a schizophrenic to be able to function at all. Untreated or poorly treated psychosis almost always requires hospital admission to a locked ward until the voices lose their commanding power.  I have taken more than three of my students to Ingutsheni Hospital Institute and saw them being discharged after a reasonable period when the voices are gone. My challenge has always been handling and coming to an agreement with a trained medical practitioner versus my spiritual faith based solution to these challenges. However, the medical always wins although I will be fully persuaded that the healing would have been done when the hospital admission is undertaken.

3. They are impulsive: In my work environment, most of the suicides are carried out by students enrolled in programmes considered to demand more academic points (intelligent students).  Often related to drugs and alcohol abuse, some people become over-sentimental and impulsively attempt to end their own lives. Once sobered and calmed, these people usually feel emphatically ashamed. The remorse is often genuine, but whether or not they'll ever attempt suicide again is unpredictable.  One time I was called late in the evening for a student that was threatening to commit suicide over a broken-down relationship.  We talked it over and since then he has sobered up. Whether he may try it again the very next time he becomes drunk or high, or never again in their lifetime is unpredictable. Substance abuse and the underlying reasons for it are generally a greater concern in these people and should be addressed as aggressively as possible.  It is all impulsively done. They are very quick but unintelligible, yet they should be the most intelligible of the lot.

4. They are crying out for help; and don't know how else to get it. These people don't usually want to die but do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. Lickerman gives an example of those who, "often don't believe they will die, frequently choosing methods they don't think can kill them in order to strike out at someone who's hurt them, but they are sometimes tragically misinformed. "The prototypical example of this is a young teenage girl suffering genuine angst because of a relationship, either with a friend, boyfriend, or parent, who swallows a bottle of Tylenol, not realizing that in high enough doses Tylenol causes irreversible liver damage."  This happens all the time.  I remember sometime in 1987, when I was first year at the University of Zimbabwe, a brilliant fourth year veterinary student injected himself with a lethal injection and died – committed suicide.  The reasons were very varying from a broken relationship to peer pressure.  These are attention seekers who would normally use this modus oparendi in order to be noticed but only misinformed thoughts leads to their death.

5. They have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to commit suicide for some is based on a reasoned decision, often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. Those on WhatsApp tend to show it on their status.  These people aren't depressed, psychotic, maudlin, or crying out for help. They're trying to take control of their destiny and alleviate their own suffering, which usually can only be done in death. They often look at their choice to commit suicide as a way to shorten a dying that will happen regardless.  But others it is not about terminal illness, but are driven by the mere factor for fear of humiliation and having no guts to face their world in a failed chosen passion or professional path in life. The mere thought of living in shame of what would have happened drives them to kill themselves. They cultivate this philosophical desire to die and never take any advice.
 
6. They have made a mistake.  Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, 11"I have observed something else under the sun.  The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle.  The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skilled are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated do not always lead successful lives.  It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time."   We make choices in life as I have already proffered above. I have seen very highly educated people committing suicide and wondered! Why? Where is the education gone to? And for sure the answer is in knowing our purpose in life. Suicide has nothing to do with education although most of it is done at our HIE.  The preacher nailed it and said that, "And those who are educated do not always lead successful lives.  It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time." There is a recent, tragic phenomenon in which typically young people flirt with oxygen deprivation for the high it brings and simply go too far. The only defense against this, it seems to me, is education.

Conclusion - Your vision tarries, wait!
If you are reading this article, I want you to know that the wounds suicide leaves in the lives of those left behind by it are often deep and long lasting. The apparent senselessness of suicide often fuels the most significant pain. Thinking we all deal better with tragedy when we understand its underpinnings, I've offered the preceding paragraphs in hopes that anyone reading this who has been left behind by a suicide might be able to more easily find a way to move on, to relinquish their guilt and anger, and find closure. Despite the abrupt way you may have been left, guilt and anger don't have to be the only two emotions you are doomed to feel about the one who left you.  Especially, when a message is left, the suicider's words (amazwi omufi/mazvi omufi) are always taken as gospel truth. You have a purpose to live. All you need is the patience to wait for the vision God has for you, "though it tarries, wait for it ..." Habakkuk 2:3.  What you need is patience.  Patience is not the same as indifference; patience conveys the idea of someone who is tremendously strong and able to withstand all assaults. Having the vision of God is the source of patience because it gives us God's true and proper inspiration. Moses endured, not because of his devotion to his principles of what was right, nor because of his sense of duty to God, but because he had a vision of God. "... he endured as seeing Him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27). Wherever you are and whatever you are doing.  Know this that: a person who has the vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue — he is devoted to God Himself. You always know when the vision is of God because of the inspiration that comes with it. Things come to you with greatness and add vitality to your life because everything is energized by God. He may give you a time spiritually, with no word from Himself at all, just as His Son experienced during His time of temptation in the wilderness. When God does that, simply endure, and the power to endure will be there because you see God.  Suicide is not the answer, but Jesus!

"Though it tarries, wait for it ..." The proof that we have the vision is that we are reaching out for more than we have already grasped. It is a bad thing to be satisfied spiritually. The psalmist said, "What shall I render to the Lord ...? I will take up the cup of salvation ..." (Ps 116:12-13). We are apt to look for satisfaction within ourselves and say, "Now I've got it! Now I am completely sanctified. Now I can endure." Instantly we are on the road to ruin. Our reach must exceed our grasp. Paul said, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on ..." (Phl 3:12). If we have only what we have experienced, we have nothing. But if we have the inspiration of the vision of God, we have more than we can experience. Beware of the danger of spiritual relaxation.  You are destined for greater things that should not be deprived by depression or suicide. God knows you by name. A delayed fulfilment of a dream is not a denial. God cares for you, live your life to the full.

Pastor Tomson Dube is a leader and a pastor at Victory Fellowship Church, based in Bulawayo and the University Chaplain at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). He writes this article in his own personal capacity as a leader and a voice to the nations. You can get hold of Pastor Tomson Dube via e-mail on tomsondube@gmail.com

Pastor Tomson Dube Suicide Depression


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