South Walton church of Christ in Santa Rosa, Florida

The Saturday before our first visit with the South Walton church of Christ I had a moment of realization similar to when I’d stepped into the Redwood Forest in Northern California and wiped tears of joy from my face from the awareness I would never see another National Park as beautiful as what I was seeing.  Months later, as I walked through sand almost as white as snow and saw straight through the crystal clear turquoise waves cresting and falling on this Emerald Coast, I realized that no matter how far I traveled, I would never in my life see any beach more beautiful than Miramar Beach just east of Destin, Florida. We’d only planned to stay a couple nights, but knew we’d want to return; so the next morning, Mark’s first stop was to the office at Camp Gulf RV Park to find out the affordability of weekly and monthly rates.

After the sun went down on our second day on Miramar Beach in Destin, we finished dinner and headed toward the church building adjacent to the RV park, which was just a few minute’s walk, past all the lit-up palm trees and RVs all decked out for the holidays. Mark had emailed the congregation before our arrival, so that when we arrived, we immediately started making connections with all the church family we both knew and loved. South Walton is a congregation that deeply discusses the truths within the scriptures, and who also loves and enjoys one another very much. You’ll see it within the quick, passing moment during the Bible class, where two class participants openly expressed their admiration for each other, and also during the merry laughter in the foyer that was so delightfully robust, that I had to move closer to the girl I was having a conversation with so we could hear each other!

The very sobering topic I’ve chosen as a theme for such a happy, cheerful congregation would seem perhaps misplaced, except that it came up after our great Bible class and is too indispensable to be excluded from this collection. I was quite certain the good and generous hearts we met on this evening would appreciate this topic of how we might serve those who are despairing unto death, as one that is certainly worth taking the time to contemplate, and for some, may even be one of the most important topics that will be addressed in this book. In order to honor privacy, I’ll only say that someone, not living locally, that is loved by a member here had checked into a mental health facility to prevent her suicide. I admired the courage of the soul who asked for prayers for this loved one; in fact, I gave him one of my contact cards so that he could listen to my podcast on that corresponds to this entry entitled What to Say to Those in Despair Unto Death, so that if he found it helpful, he could pass the podcast on to this suicidal soul he loves.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. From 1999 to 2020, more than 800,000 Americans died by suicide. In 2021, there were an estimated 1.70 million suicide attempts, and in 2022, around 49,500 Americans died by suicide, which according to the Centers for Disease Control, is the highest number ever recorded. The number of those who would never attempt suicide, but who live in despair far exceed these numbers, which begs the question, what are some things we might consider saying to someone we meet who is presently wanting to take their own life? As someone who has been trained in trauma to help crime victims, I’d say this: There are always other options, and if someone is on the brink of committing suicide, I’d invite them to call 800-273-8255 immediately to hear about some of those better options.

What follows are a few more realities we can invite the suicidal person to consider:

If you are young and single, your future most likely could include a spouse and children who hope you choose life.

If you have contact with family, please spare your loved ones this intense level of grief. You are important to them. Please have mercy on them. Even if you have no mercy on yourself right now, have mercy on your friends and family. Do not break their hearts.

Allow the following reality to prevent you from harming yourself. I learned firsthand from a close friend who worked at the X-ray lab at Harborview Medical in Seattle: A lot of people who try to take their own lives are unsuccessful and instead lose quality of life forever by profoundly and irreparably damaging their bodies. You do not want to have the same challenges you do now, but also needlessly add the burden of being without any mobility, etc.

Instead, take courage, my fellow human being, my dear soul. Things are guaranteed to change over time because life, by its nature, can never stay the same. It never rains forever. Life’s storms are temporary.

You don't know which mountain-top experiences you would be denying yourself. Good things are going to happen. There is most likely wonderful joy ahead. The best is often yet to come.

Taking your life is the only thing you can do that would remove all hope. And for that reason, there is no act more illogical, more senseless, more unnecessary, or more wasteful. Because, you see, your circumstances are temporary, but suicide is obviously irreversible. It is permanent.

You, like many many others who have felt like you in this moment, can instead go on to use this, your experience of being on the brink of ending your life, but thinking better of it can eventually help others off the same edge. You never know who waits to be inspired by your victory story. You can be that inspiration.

It is terrifying to take your own life, and there are far better uses for your courage than discarding this gift you’ve been given. Open your heart to a better use of your courage. Your spiritual enemy has a plan for your demise. Don't let him win this battle. Instead of putting to death your body, put to death the old, destructive ways of thinking and watch how that decision opens up for you a life more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. It all begins with realizing something foundational about yourself:

When you were in your infancy, you began to notice you have various body parts, and perhaps in your adulthood have been present to watch a baby notice her own hands or feet for the very first time. The scriptures mention many of our inner parts such as our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30-31), and that there’s even a distinction between the soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12). When our mind and spirit are hurting, separating forever our spirit from your body (James 2:26) by taking our own life will not make that pain go away, because the truth is, our spirit continues to live outside our body (2 Corinthians 5:10) and is still very much capable of pain.

Every human sins and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and when we realize how our sin has broken us by separating us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and thus all that is good, God wants us to choose to use that moment to begin to work alongside Him (Ephesians 2:8-10), to employ what is unbreakable (John 10:35) and to begin the journey of His helping us put ourselves back together. The real solution to getting out of the pit is to remove from our mind, soul, and spirit any sin-filled thoughts and actions (1 John 1:9) that are often at the root of much of our pain (Romans 2:9-10). Deciding whether or not you will grasp this rope of hope that God throws your way (Psalm 40:2) is a holy life and death moment (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Find your pulse. Feel the beating of your heart. This is only your physical body, but it is only a small fraction of what you are (2 Corinthians 4:18). No matter what you’ve been told, you also have a spirit and soul inside you (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In fact, you are much more spirit and soul than you are body. So much so, that a wise man once said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.” And because you are a soul, you must not take your own physical life because your eternal spirit and soul would regret it the moment it is accomplished because that life was given to you as a gift from God Whom you will meet face to face one day. If you leave this earth before your time (Acts 17:26), it will undo all the good you might have accomplished with the life He gifted you (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Now that you’ve come to realize and feel the real you inside your body, notice also your emotions. Name a couple of them. Those emotions often jump around our brains unchecked like monkeys in a cage. Too many people have made their emotions their God. They have enthroned them and allowed their emotions to drive their life. This need not be (2 Timothy 1:7). The good news is that your spirit, for the good of your soul, by the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11) can take back the power (2 Corinthians 10:5) you’ve mistakenly given to your emotions to drive your life into despair. Open your heart now, to the illustration I’m about to share with you in order to show you how, once and for all, to use your emotions to your soul’s advantage, rather than being driven by them (Proverbs 29:11).

Picture yourself as a vehicle, driving the guest of honor, your eternal soul toward the Creator’s intended place: the immediate, indescribably glorious, eternally joy-filled presence of your Heavenly Father in heaven. If you are someone who is often driven by your bodily impulses, you are overdue for a rearrangement of the seating assignments of your person, My Friend, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the body is a bundle of “wants”, and without any direction is essentially a hedonist that only wants junk food, reckless sex, illegal drugs, and whatever other pleasures it can hunt down; thus, the body must be in the back seat. It’s not smart enough on its own to be in charge of driving your life.

Believe it or not, your brain, as valuable as it is, also must sit in the back seat because, although it is much more intelligent that the body, it is still a physical organ and without God’s guidance can be misinformed, deluded and thus fall into addictive and destructive thought patterns and cycles. Like your body, it must forever take a back seat and be forever in training by “the driver”. So what part of you remains and is best qualified to sit in the driver’s seat so it can steer your heart? Your spirit, Friend. Your spirit must be in the driver’s seat of your life because it has a lot more at stake to make sure your soul gets to your intended destination; for it, like your soul, is eternal: “...the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). When trained by the word of God, your spirit has the capacity to choose one productive thought over another that leads you to where, deep down, you really want to be: with God.

Uncountable numbers of people have gone from absolute despair to a place where every part of their being is thriving. How? By allowing the sharp word of God into our minds so it can touch our hearts, like a skillfully welded surgical instrument, to such an extent that we remove from our lives the sins that destroy us. God calls this process repentance. And if it feels a little like surgery to remove from your life the addictive thoughts and actions that destroy you, that’s understandable. The resulting withdrawal pain is normal, but will get better day by day. And what follows repentance? What follows repentance is the spiritual rebirth of the soul. Spiritual Rebirth. We all need a spiritual rebirth. Here are three scriptures that explain what spiritual rebirth means:

First from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The Lord, Jesus Christ said that spiritual rebirth must occur because this is what puts you in the kingdom of God — the only relationship where wisdom and beauty reign.

“Born of the water” is talking about being baptized. When we are born initially we come out of water. God has chosen the act of baptism to symbolize the innocence you will have in His eyes, for submitting to His wisdom.

Looking for someone to baptize you? Google and click “Find a church near you” to find the closest church of Christ. They will answer your Bible questions with an answer from the Bible and baptize you into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

What else does the word say about starting over? It says that “starting over” is a result of allowing the word of God to be implanted into your heart long enough to germinate and create a beautiful new life.

“ have purified your souls in obedience to the truth… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).

Starting all over again with a fresh start offers you a clean slate, and who wouldn’t want that? “...if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come…” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Whatever is troubling you now, most likely will be only a temporary situation. While it is here today, it may not be here tomorrow or later in your future. Call someone today to baptize you into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38) so that you can say, “Goodbye old life; hello, new life!”

After you become a child of God, rather than seeing things as happening  to you; you can  now see, as His child, everything that happens, now happens for you, because those who love God are promised that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)!

When your emotions again want to run loose, ask yourself, “Where shall I focus my thoughts right now?” Make your spirit in charge of your mind. Be totally alert and use any negative emotions as fuel to accomplish your spiritual work. Choose at that very moment to appoint your reborn spirit as your driver — the servant chauffeur of your soul.

On a practical level, as you are retraining your mind, I recommend pouring your heart out to God about what is most hurting you by perhaps writing your prayers out to Him. Read three chapters of the Bible every day starting in 2nd Peter, then the entire New Testament starting in Matthew. For the rest of your life, keep a gratitude journal and list five things every day for which you are grateful. In this way, you will teach your brain to habitually focus on the good in life, rather than the bad. Burn forever in your memory encouraging verses such as:

“...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

"When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2).

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Psalm 34:18-19).

You were never created to always feel depressed, defeated, guilty, or ashamed. You were born for victory through Jesus Christ. Work alongside Him toward transformation. Find a church family like the one we visited on the Emerald Coast of Florida who will love you and grow alongside you. Together with God, you can turn your wounds into wisdom. You’ve much to look forward to. You were born for this.

*This lovely congregation has relocated to a beautiful, new building at:

South Walton Church of Christ
497 S Church Street
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
(850) 585-5422