Thursday, 31 December 2015 20:59

Do Not Harm Yourself, For We Are All Here (Acts 16:28)

Written by  Nancy Thomas, LPC
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In Acts, after a violent earthquake, the chains on Paul and Silas fell off and the prison doors were opened.  Paul and Silas could have escaped, but remained in prison.  One result indicated by the verse above was that by remaining present, Paul kept the prison guard from taking his own life.  At the time of the Roman Empire, if a prisoner escaped, it was customary to take the life of the guard held responsible.  The guard believed that taking his own life would shorten his shame, suffering and distress.  And so it continues today. 

Those with suicidal desperation believe that by taking their own life, they will reduce their shame, suffering and distress.

Note that although Paul could have escaped the prison, he deliberately remained and encouraged the guard to not take his life.  The guard was then “filled with joy” and he and his whole household became believers and rejoiced. With Paul’s encouragement, an entire family was saved. 

Everyday, people in our community need to hear the words that Paul spoke to his Philippian guard.  “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”  Preventing suicide represents a unique opportunity for Christians to share hope and social connection that are so critical to life.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5, NRSV)


In the March 2015 edition of this column, I wrote about responding to suicidal thoughts in Christians.  Since that time, suicides continue to devastate our congregations and community leaving the survivors of those who have completed suicides shattered, confused, questioning and wondering what could have been done to change the outcome. The statistics are staggering. 

A recent article by Hanna Rosin, “The Silicon Valley Suicides” in the December 2015 issue of The Atlantic reviews the research by Suniya Luthar detailing the vulnerabilities of affluent students and recent suicide clusters. Luthar found that when self-worth is tied to meeting only the highest standards of success, the shame that is experienced when expectations are not met can seem unbearable. 

Unfortunately, children, adolescents, college students and adults who superficially appear to be successful, happy, and well-adjusted are experiencing suicidal desperation without those closest to them being aware.  Anyone can begin thinking about suicide given an accumulation of losses, setbacks, failures, loss of stature, or shame. Our perfectionistic and shame ridden culture leaves little room for differences or learning from mistakes.

Our faith communities are called on to respond to suicide too frequently after tragedy occurs.  Perhaps we can help those who are struggling before tragedy.  What if we were better equipped to support those who have survived the loss of loved ones, coworkers and friends?

The Samaritan Counseling Center, the publishers of this magazine, supporting congregations, hospitals, businesses and sponsors will present Soul Shop, training for the faith community to effectively minister to suicidal desperation and save lives February 1-2. This unique opportunity will empower our faith communities to prevent suicides.  The training will be held at First United Methodist Church Montgomery.

Russ Crabtree, a national speaker on the role of faith communities in preventing suicide, has trained thousands of people and will be leading this unique opportunity for the River Region.  Don’t miss this this important training. 

Monday night, February 1 at 6 pm is open to everyone in the community, teachers, health care workers, parents, businesses, first responders, administrators, and others who want to begin the discussion on how to prevent suicide.  Tuesday, February 2, requires registration and is training for clergy, lay ministers, Church staff, faith affiliated school personnel, and counselors to learn specific skills to intervene. Pastoral education units are available.


As it is, there are many parts, but one body.… But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:20, 24-26, NIV)


Please share this unique opportunity with others.  For more information, call The Samaritan Counseling Center at 262-7787.  

Last modified on Thursday, 07 January 2016 17:10
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