Do it, June! Drive off the bridge! It would be so easy! Why not? How clearly I remember those desperate thoughts coursing through my mind on a cloudless summer day. As a newly licensed teen driver, I tightened my grip around the steering wheel of my car and seriously contemplated whether this was the day to end a life of just 15 years.
My foot was positioned on the accelerator with the growing compulsion to press down…
when all of a sudden I felt an overpowering restraint. Wait! What if I’m not successful? I could end up only maiming myself. Then Mom would have the huge burden of needing to take care of me the rest of my life!
Looking back, I remember the painful emotions churning inside me, and the hopelessness that created such upheaval in my life. It wasn’t that I wanted to kill myself— I just wanted the pain to stop! I wanted an end to the relentless, unspoken and soul- ravaging pain. Hopelessness had settled over my life like a dark cloud. And what was the source of such pain? It was something very personal and private: h-o-m-e.
From the outside, it looked like my family had it all: a lovely house . . . a successful father . . . a gracious mother . . . four well-behaved children . . . a lifestyle of plenty. Yet locked inside the walls of that lovely house was an unlovely family dynamic, a secret life that ripped hope from my heart and dashed it to pieces like a sailboat in a tsunami.
Hovering over the eye of my personal childhood storm was my father. In his public life he was widely acclaimed as a successful businessman, but in our family life he was chronically critical and cruel. When Dad demeaned me, as he often did, I felt powerless to stop it. In addition to his harsh temperament, my father’s blatant lifestyle of infidelity took a terrible toll on our family . . . especially on my mother, who was half his age when they married. When they met, my dad was already married with six children, the second-born the same age as my mother.
My deteriorating relationship with my father led to a deepening sense of despair. My sadness was so intense that by the age of 15 I no longer believed I would ever experience a home life where I felt protected—where life was predictable, where justice prevailed and where I could be at peace.
By God’s grace, I did not attempt to end my life that summer day many decades ago. But the pain the Lord allowed me to experience (and that He would later heal) is one reason I feel such deep compassion for strugglers considering suicide’s seductive allure.
They are all around us . . . people who have lost all hope and whose weary cry is simply this: Make the pain go away. Whether spoken or held inside, it’s an aching admission that reveals a soul mired in the depths of despair.
No segment of our population is exempt from walking the dark path of quick escape. Male and female, young and old, rich and poor—we see them all in these sobering statistics:1
- There are four male suicides for every one female suicide.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24.
- The highest suicide rate is among people ages 45 to 64.
- On average, one person in the United States dies by suicide every 13.3 minutes.
If you are someone in such pain, my first words of counsel would be: “Tell someone trustworthy.” This is vital because only then can hope, help and healing begin to take place. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). It’s freeing to know you’re not alone in your torturous struggle.
Regardless of where you are in life right now, God may be leading you and preparing you to come alongside a struggler who has lost hope. Pray to have the right heart—God’s heart. His heart is tender and full of compassion toward those experiencing deep pain. The Bible says, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18). He understands the emotional, spiritual and physical agony experienced by those teetering on the brink of absolute hopelessness. And from God’s tender heart emerges life-transforming truths that truly affirm life!
The holidays are a difficult time for many. Suicide may seem like the only way out. My prayer is that you will reflect God’s heart and be an anchor of hope to those who are hurting. Walk with them through their dark night of the soul and confidently share these life-affirming words of God: “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18).
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!
For your convenience, you can donate to this ministry via our website, www.HopeForTheHeart.org.
1 NCHS Data Brief, No. 37 (May 2010) published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Statistics based on most current data (2011).
The content of this letter was adapted from pages 31-36 of June Hunt’s book, Hope for Your Heart: Finding Strength in Life’s Storms, published by Crossway (Wheaton, IL). Used by permission.