This is the first time I am writing about my “personal experiences” with this subject, and I hope that you and those whom you love will benefit from reading it. Since I moved to Sedalia in 1970, I have had to deal with suicide plans of two men, and an attempt of another.
The first one, in 1971 or ‘72, was of an elderly man who lived in a trailer home in rural Pettis County. I was then working as a staff writer for The Sedalia Democrat, and my editor had asked me to find out about this suicide threat. The man let me into his trailer home, and as I sat and listened to his story, I realized he was despondent about many things. He admitted to having plans to gun himself down.
I asked him if I could pray with him, and he agreed. After prayer I asked if he would hand me the ammunition from his gun, plus all the bullets in his possession, which he readily surrendered. Clutching a box full of bullets, I walked out of that trailer home, and drove back to my newspaper office.
As soon as I quit work that day, I went home, got my Bible, and went back to chat with this senior citizen. He was cordial, and I spent several minutes reading to him some Bible passages, listening to him, and sharing with him some encouraging thoughts. I have always wondered about this senior citizen. That was 44 or 45 years ago!
My second experience was scary because this young man had actually attempted suicide. This was in 1973 or ‘74. Close to midnight I received a telephone call from a young man from our church youth group. I sensed tension in his voice. He said that one of our friends, a Smith-Cotton graduate who had attended our church and who had just separated from his girlfriend, reportedly attempted suicide in his own home, where he was living alone. The caller asked if I would accompany him to go check on this young man.
We both drove to his home and as we walked up the driveway, we found this young man lying on the front bench seat of his car, passed out and hugging a Bible. We both tried but failed to wake him up. As we started pulling him out of the car to rush him to the hospital, he slowly began to gain consciousness. He resisted our efforts, saying that he wanted to end it all, but we prevailed to put him in our car. At Bothwell Hospital he admitted to downing a bottle full of some pills. After having the poison pumped out of his system, the young man let us take him to his home, where we spent some time talking and praying.
A few years later this young man met another woman whom he married. They had two children. A hard worker, he moved wherever he found a job, even working overseas. He lived long enough to see his grandchildren. He died recently, of natural causes. He lived about 42 years after his attempted suicide.
The third one was a student of mine at State Fair Community College. It was a late Friday afternoon, when hardly any students are seen on campus. As I was walking in the Yeater building hallway, a young woman, who looked troubled and desperate, asked if I remembered a certain young man in my class. (I’ll name him Rob, which is not his name.) She said Rob had threatened to commit suicide that weekend, and asked if I would counsel him.
As I drove home that afternoon, it dawned on me that whatever I needed to do to help Rob had to be done that very evening because I was scheduled to attend a meeting in Columbia the next day. I pondered and prayed much. I consulted with a senior member of this young man’s church. Then, that evening, I called Rob and asked if he would accompany me to Columbia the next day. He agreed, and I took it as a guidance from God. Imagine how elated I was.
Early Saturday morning I drove up to his house, and he was ready to go! It was an ideal morning to to be driving on North U.S. Highway 65 — a clear day with a few puffy clouds gliding across a clear blue sky. We had just passed North 65 Cafe, and to break the silence I said, “It’s a beautiful day to be alive, isn’t it?”
Rob’s instant response went something like, “Yeah, it’s interesting that you should say ‘to be alive’ because I was going to end it all this weekend.” I had to curb my curiosity to pry because I perceived God’s guidance being confirmed in our conversation. Our conversation topics included God, major Bible themes, purpose of life, peace with God and people, and contentment. From Rob’s occasional questions and comments, his readiness to trust Christ as his Savior and Lord, and his voluntary prayer of commitment — all these seemed so scripted by the Holy Spirit that I felt both ecstatic and humbled.
Anticipating this outcome, I had packed a couple of follow-up gospel booklets, which I asked Rob to read while I would be attending my meeting in Columbia. On our drive back to Sedalia, Rob asked many questions relevant to the Christian faith.
Shortly after this, I introduced Rob to some of my friends, with whom we had a weekly Bible study in a Sedalia restaurant for several months. Rob began to fully participate in his church and began to show signs of vibrant spiritual growth.
After graduating from SFCC, Rob earned a bachelor’s degree from a state university, married a Christian lady that was also a student at that school, and they now have two children. Rob is in a management position in a major corporation’s store in a metropolitan area.
If you have thought of or attempted suicide, it is not the end of the world for you. Consider this fact: the Christian faith in the Americas came from Europe, which received it from the Middle East. A prominent member of Europe’s first Christian congregation was a government official whose attempt to kill himself has received worldwide publicity in the writings of a physician named Luke. Read this action-packed account of this averted suicide in the New Testament book of Acts, Chapter 16, Verses 16 through 34. Read it in more than one translation.
A portion of that narrative, paraphrased into contemporary language by Pastor Eugene Peterson reads: “Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: ‘Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!’”
The narrative continues: “The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, ‘Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?’ They said, ‘Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live — and everyone in your house included!’”
If you think you are saved in the biblical sense, ask yourself these questions:
What am I saved from?
What am I saved to?
What am I saved for?
Is there an expiration date on staying saved?
How do I really know that I am saved?
How do I get saved?
What do I do after I get saved?
If you need help with these questions, their answers, or other related matters, feel free to contact me at 826-9988 or [email protected] You are invited to the Sedalia Bible Academy’s Thursday 7 p.m. Bible study at Boonslick Regional Library.