Do Thyself No Harm
“Sister Frances, my brother committed suicide just a few months ago. As a Christian, it has been a very difficult thing to deal with. Here’s the thing: On his way to commit the act of suicide, he was listening to a well-known, self-help, feel-good preacher. That self-help, feel-good message did nothing for my brother.”
When I read this comment from Kemberly on my Facebook page, my heart broke. This precious lady was responding to a note I posted—a concern my husband and I share as we hear in the news how Christians, even pastors, are killing themselves. It seems unimaginable, yet it’s happening more and more as a generation of believers raised on messages of self-help realize they have little to no faith in God.
The way we see it, the deadly symptoms in believers today—anxiety, depression, oppression, suicide—are the result of two happenings.
The first started, as Donnie explained, not long after the early church formed. “The embers began to die out,” he said, “and here’s why: the closer a generation is to a move of God—the Azusa Street Revival, for example—the more consecrated, the more on fire, the more dedicated Christians are. When you get to the second generation, enough of the first generation is still alive to influence the second. And, when the third generation comes, there’s still enough of the second generation left to influence the third. But, by the time you get to the fourth, fifth, and the sixth generations, they are far removed, not only from that move of God, but also from those Christians who experienced it.”
And just look at where we are today: more than a century away from the historic outpouring of God’s Spirit at Azusa Street, more than sixty years away from the tremendous Healing Revival where people came in blind and lame and left seeing and walking; and, from a personal standpoint, we’re nearly forty years away from the crusades my husband preached where hundreds of thousands were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit around the world.
But even then, in the 1970s and 80s, when so many precious people were coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, what kind of churches did they find to attend, and what was being preached in those churches? That brings me to the second source of the problem we’re seeing today regarding depression and suicide: the modern church message, which is short on Bible and long on psychology.
Throughout our ministry, my husband has always preached strongly against humanistic psychology, especially when he saw it getting a foothold in Bible colleges and seminaries. He’s always believed that psychology is an affront to God because it claims that it can change a person, but the Word of God says no, in fact, it can’t. Psychology attempts to heal the broken mind and behaviors, but it fails to do so because man is three-part being: spirit, soul, and body. Only God can deal with all three.
But sadly, for the last thirty years or more, pastors have been teaching what they were taught in school—a mixed message of psychology and Bible and the result is frightening.
When pastors lost faith and trust that God could save, baptize, deliver, and heal, they changed the gospel. Instead of preaching, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” they embraced the message of the modern church: “God loves me, I don’t have to give Him anything, and no matter what I do—no matter what I do—I will have everlasting life.”
That’s why this depression problem, my husband says, is going to increase and get worse instead of better. “The efforts they’re making to find relief from the world of psychology will only gender more bondage,” he said. And he’s absolutely right. In the wake of Christians committing suicide, this newest message now includes, “Even if I kill myself, I will still go to heaven because God loves me.” Ladies and gentlemen, this simply is not true. The commandment in Exodus 20:13 is still in full effect: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Let me be clear, we are not saying that every single person who commits suicide automatically goes to hell. We understand that addictions, physical conditions, and medications can push a person into doing things that he wouldn’t ordinarily do. God, and God alone, knows the heart of every person at the moment of death. But if your mind is clear in that moment, why take the chance of spending eternity in hell?
But going back to the modern church message, John Rosenstern made this point on my husband’s program. He said: “The reason the church has been hurting is because the pulpit has been hurting. We’re seeing more suicides, more depression, and the answer they keep bringing is mental health clinics and mental health programs where they’re bringing psychology in, and this is being championed by leaders bringing in the best psychiatrists and psychologists to help the ministry deal with issues of mental illness.”
Have you noticed that anxiety, depression, and oppression have fallen into the broad term bin of “mental illness?”
A year before one young pastor took his life he had posted this: “The reality is, you wouldn’t dare say that someone who died of cancer is going to hell just because of their illness would you? I hope not. Then please don’t assume someone who died of suicide via severe depression is going to hell either. Both are illnesses. Both can lead to death.”
Another (former) pastor reached a point of hopelessness and, in an article he wrote titled, “Churches should look more like psych wards,” asked, “How do we deal with mental health in church?” He said, “At 29 years old, my life had reached a point where I felt there was no hope, so I tried to die in a hotel room, with a Bible in my lap, as I feverishly wrote my suicide notes. I prayed I would never wake up …. My generation, millennials, in particular is known as the “anxious generation,” and anxiety and depression among young Americans have been trending higher and higher for decades … Christians with mental illness are desperate for authenticity. So how do we facilitate honesty in church? It could start by having a prayer box specifically for mental health concerns, and continue through messages from the pulpit.” He went on to suggest bringing mental health professionals into the church to offer therapy to staff and church members.
Don’t misunderstand, our hearts go out to these pastors, but as my husband has said, “The people who sit in the pews of these churches—whoever they are, wherever they are—if that pastor has no victory in his life, and he’s seeking help from these types of sources we’ve been discussing, then those people sitting in the pew out there are not going to fare any better than that pastor will. The nervous disorders, the oppression, the suppression, the depression is just going to become more and more rampant, and the problem of suicide is going to increase.”
Brother Loren Larson said it exactly right when he likened these symptoms in the church today with Abraham’s situation. The result of his union with Hagar was Ishmael, and when he came into contact with God’s promise—Isaac—Ismael wanted to kill Isaac. Loren said, “The generation that’s coming out of psychology, the generation where we’ve had the marriage or the mix or the procreation of Abraham and psychology, Abraham and methodology, Abraham and routine—Christians joining themselves to the wrong thing and producing a generation of Ishmaels—that is what is going to try to kill Christianity. So when you, as a Christian, join yourself to the wrong way of living for God, you’re going to produce a product that will oppose and try to destroy the Christianity that Christ offers.”
In a word, this modern church messaging has the potential to kill the Christianity in you. Hear what I’m saying.
The solution to this deadly problem is the same as it was for Abraham: Cast out the bondwoman and her son. In order for the promise of God to flourish, both the process and the product—Hagar and Ishmael—had to go. The same is true for the church—for believers to grow in the faith, all other methodologies and false messaging have got to go.
Colossians 2:6-10 says: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
So what are you saying Frances, that if the church gets rid of self-help and psychology, no other believers will be tempted to commit suicide? No, that’s not what I’m saying. The devil is always going to try to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s always going to shoot those fiery darts of depression and suicidal thought at Christians. I’m thinking of Ruth who called in to my program and shared this. She said: I’m eighty-two years old now, and I came to know the Lord at seven years old, but when I was a teenager, we came from Lithuania to the United States. The culture was different, everything was different, and I felt so lost learning new language and everything. I decided that life wasn’t worth living. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to just kill myself and be with Jesus, and I thought that would be so much better. Well, that night, I lay in bed and I was thinking of different ways of suicide, and the Lord talked to me and said, ‘I have set the time for when you come to be with Me. I set that time. Are you better than God? Are you higher than God that you should take away My decision and go ahead with your decision?’ and I was so shocked. I had never thought of that. So I said to Satan, “I will not listen to you anymore,” and I have never, in the rest of my life, had the desire for suicide.”
When Satan attacks we need to have faith in God, not in man. Man of himself is hopeless.
Remember the jailer in Acts 16; he had no hope. When God shook the foundation of that prison and everyone’s bands were loosed, rather than face the shame and public humiliation, along with certain death and the destruction of his family, he planned to commit suicide, “But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). And note the jailer’s response: “What must I do to be saved?”
The Lord’s message to those who are suffering from depression and suicidal thought is first and foremost, “Do thyself no harm,” and then He stands ready to save, heal, and deliver you from the place where you’ve been held captive. Also in this story from Acts 16, we see how Paul and Silas spoke to the jailer and all who were in his house “the word of the Lord.” Instead of this man committing suicide—an act that deeply affects the entire family—we see again the remedy for it: preach the word.
The message we take in as Christians truly is life or death.
Joseph Larson, a tremendous young preacher here at the ministry, said this: I’ve found that since I’ve been believing this message—sure I’ve fallen short, many times fallen on my face and cried to God, and said, ‘God will you help me?’ but I’ve never found myself, by the message of the cross, in a hopeless situation to where I thought, ‘This couldn’t go; the Lord couldn’t deal with this,’ because the Spirit of God begins to operate and go to work in our lives, not only removing what we’ve seen removed, but He’s giving us faith to believe that the next thing can go as well.”
I’ll close this article with a personal experience Dr. Gray shared with us. He told how shortly before moving to Baton Rouge he had to conduct a funeral service for a person who had committed suicide. He said, “It was very difficult. I prayed about it, and I thought, ‘What do I do?’ Typically, you want to talk about the person who passed away and say something nice if you can. We loved this gentleman who died, we loved his mother and had known her for some time. The Lord said, “Leave it alone. It’s not your job to publicly say yay or nay. Preach the gospel.” So I said a few words that you would say in terms of family, then I went straight into a gospel message and shared the gospel. And I think, as pastors, that’s all we can do. But I would urge pastors: Do not go to the pulpit and sanction suicide. You’re not only disobeying Scripture, but you’re also planting it in the minds of others that they can do that, and they should clearly understand and declare: suicide is committing death. Only God is the one to be in charge of life and death. If they’ve conducted a funeral service, I believe that if a pastor stands up there and says, ‘The man went to heaven,’ that pastor has made a terrible mistake.”