Teen suicide: prayer that helps

A Christian Science perspective.

Even though the number of teen suicides remains alarmingly high, much good is happening on the preventive front (see this week's cover story). I'm grateful for the efforts of all those involved – schoolteachers, counselors, neighbors, friends, and those in faith-based and organized programs – helping kids through highlighting hope and magnifying their strengths. Thank you all! But we, too, can help, even if you or I am not a schoolteacher, counselor, or part of a program. How? We can pray. Prayer, I've learned, is effective caring. It is felt, and it heals.

The suicides of two of my friends' teenage sons were a wake-up call to me. Comforting and consoling parents and schoolmates wasn't enough for me. Deep in my soul I prayed, "Father, how can I best help troubled teens know that they're needed?" I listened. What came was a sweet, strong assurance that Life and Love are inseparable, for God is both. Pondering Love as the only creator, I reasoned then that our entire being has to be (and is) just as lovely and loving as God is. God's promise in the Bible that because we're precious to Him we're honorable and He loves us (see Isaiah 43:4) came alive to me. It said to me that each of us is because we're precious. Why, of course. A God who is Love couldn't, wouldn't, create a single idea that's not purposeful, precious, needed, wanted. I remembered something else I'd learned in Christian Science from the founder of this publication: "Life is the spontaneity of Love..." (Mary Baker Eddy, "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 185). "Spontaneity" said so much – that life is effervescent good; it can't be stopped. It's never contrived or manipulated externally, but is natural, native, ever developing from within.

Shortly afterward, I met a 19-year-old girl in a McDonald's in New York City. She told me all about herself – how she'd dropped out of school, was on crack, and her mother and sister had kicked her out ("no crackhead in this house"). She lived alone on city sidewalks. That winter was so cold. Soon she became deathly ill, and, feeling she had nothing to live for, tried to kill herself (by overdosing) but – her face lit up as she continued – "Something inside me told me I could make it. And here I am! I've been clean since that night, and I'm going up."

"Wow!" was all I could say at first. Then I mentioned a guy in the Bible (a prophet – Elijah) who felt unneeded, unwanted, and tried to die, but God's still, small voice within wouldn't let him. "That something inside you that told you you could make it – could that have been it?" I asked. She thought a minute, then said, "I didn't know about God, but this much I knew: It was something lots bigger than me." I saw her a year later, and she was still "going up"; she had completed a high school equivalency program, had a job and a room, and was helping others.

The girl had no family or support group to help. Her story was proof to me of what God had shown me in my prayer – that Life without Love or Love without Life is impossible. And I know that knowing this is an active influence for good that touches receptive hearts everywhere.

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