How to help those in emotional or spiritual pain

To me there is nothing sadder than a person, especially a young person, taking their own life.
There are of course many causes that lead a person to this end: depression, feeling a lack of purpose or feeling “useless”, having a sense of isolation, guilt or loneliness. There are no doubt a myriad of other causes as well; sometimes thoughts of suicide are drug induced, sometimes the result of chemical imbalances in the cerebrum, and often the result of stress, pressure and other life or incidental events or situations. In the course of my ministry, I have known four college age persons who have taken their own life. Two of the four were brought about by drug-overdoses; no definitive conclusion was drawn as to whether they were accidental or deliberate. The other two were brought on by the loss of either a romantic partner or a sibling. I have come to believe it is possible that all four could have been prevented had two factors been present:

(1) an abiding sense of God’s loving and unwavering presence; possibly combined with (2) a small spiritual community that was providing non-judgmental caring, true compassion, self-less sharing of time with the suffering person, and the affirmation of the kind of hope and encouragement that could be visible in the life of a companion who is experiencing that abiding sense of God’s loving and unwavering presence.

To some this may seem an over-simplification; and, admittedly, any attempt to explain and “solve” such a complicated issue in so brief a space is over simplified. Yet, I still believe the two assertions about help for the suffering individual are generally true and often helpful. They are both part of the proven effectiveness of 12-Step recovery programs, and in my opinion, are suggested in Scripture as being the bed-rock of every Christian fellowship — although, unfortunately as many of us have experienced, this one place where they could be most evident is often the place where they get overlooked. Too often the support and encouragement that many would find helpful if it were unmistakably present in a Christian fellowship, Church or spiritual community, are the very things missing – largely, in my opinion, because at best the members of these groups are failing to see the importance of doing things together that build the kind of trust to make honest compassion, support and encouragement present, and at worst, simply are still struggling themselves to find a way to live lives that make evident to others the abiding sense of God’s loving and unwavering presence.

If Churches, spiritual groups and fellowships were to ask themselves the question – what are the most “foundational” activities that we could be doing, I believe the answer might be the two things mentioned above: (1) create and communicate an abiding sense of God’s loving and unwavering presence; possibly combined with (2) a small spiritual community that is providing non-judgmental caring, true compassion, self-less sharing of time with suffering people, and the affirmation of the kind of hope and encouragement that becomes visible in the life of a companion who is experiencing that abiding sense of God’s loving and unwavering presence.