This week people in the United States have rallied around national suicide prevention, many using the #StopSuicide hashtag on social media.
My daughter’s English Literature class also addressed the topic of suicide this week when it analyzed Langston Hughes’s poem, “Suicide’s Note.” It’s a succinct poem, just three condensed lines, but packed with meaning:
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.
My daughter, a Christian Scientist, shared her observation with the class that by personifying the river, the poem suggests that the apparent allure of suicide does not originate with individuals, but comes first as a suggestion to their thought. The poem also expresses how suicide beckons its victim with the cool relief of escaping the pains of one’s problems by the possibility of retreating to a calmer place – but, like a charlatan, its promises are empty.
For those seeking a spiritual answer to assist in preventing what is considered the 10th-leading cause of death, the question naturally arises, “How can I pray effectively about this issue?”
In prayer, it’s important to begin with an understanding that God, as the one divine Mind, knows and loves each of us intimately. This divine Mind is described in the Bible as that which guides our thoughts to good outcomes: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The idea that anyone’s mind can be irreversibly deceived by thoughts of death or destruction isn’t in line with this all-intelligent, all-loving, and peace-giving creator. Our relationship to God is indestructible, and He is always present to guide our thoughts in a productive and life-affirming direction.
I leaned on this divine wisdom some years ago when a friend came to me one afternoon about some personal issues that had been troubling him. He spilled out his story, and through tears he told me that he felt very alone and unhappy. He even wondered if God had forgotten about him and whether his life was worth living.
As he was talking, I reached out to God for a way to convey the comfort of the Christ to my friend. In fact, as a student of Christian Science, he told me that he wanted to understand God more in order to overcome his inner struggles. The discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: “Mind that is God is not in matter; and God’s presence gives spiritual light, wherein is no darkness” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 113).
I hugged him and told him that God was taking care of him at that very moment. We discussed how God is the light that extinguishes any hint of darkness (see I John 1:5), and how he was a cherished child of God. This meant that his whole being was full of light, so sadness and confusion were not a genuine part of his spiritual identity. I also told him that God would never judge him or see him as anything less than perfect and worthy of love. I knew that these spiritual truths were the comfort of the Christ, meeting his need in that moment.
After our conversation, my friend felt more at peace. In the years that followed, he made a lot of progress in his life, including finishing school and starting a career.
We each can claim our inseparability from God’s thoughts – thoughts that give us “an expected end,” which also translates to “a future filled with hope – a future of success, not of suffering” (from The Contemporary English Version of the Bible). The wisdom that is “from above” (James 3:17) brings healing solutions, and the challenge to #StopSuicide becomes more of a present possibility.