Like many, I have been moved by the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. As someone who appreciates the art of fashion and food, I admired the work of the iconic American designer and I enjoyed watching Anthony Bourdain on his globetrotting adventures, bringing insight and curiosity to the people and cuisines he encountered with his various shows.
For two people who appeared to have so much going for them in life, it might seem impossible not to ask, “Why?” Perhaps there are no easy answers to that question, but we can all dig deeper to find the peace and healing that are so needed right now.
These tragic incidents remind me of the sentiment conveyed in Langston Hughes’s poem “Suicide’s Note.” It’s a succinct poem, just three condensed lines, but packed with meaning:
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.
My daughter’s high school English literature class analyzed the poem one day and she shared with me her insights during the discussion. My daughter, who is a Christian Scientist, observed that by personifying the river, the poem suggests that the apparent allure of suicide does not originate with individuals, but comes first as a suggestion to their thought. The poem also expresses how suicide beckons its victim with the cool relief of escaping the pains of one’s problems by the possibility of retreating to a calmer place – but, like a charlatan, its promises are empty.
For anyone seeking a spiritual answer to assist in preventing suicide, the question naturally arises, “How can I approach this issue in a way that brings healing?”
I’ve found that a powerful approach is to begin with prayer. Not prayer as pleading for help, or apologizing for perceived flaws. But prayer that reasons out from an understanding of God as Mind, as Christian Science teaches – the one divine Mind, who knows and loves each of us intimately. This divine Mind is described in the Bible as that which guides our thoughts to good outcomes: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Contrastingly, the belief that anyone’s mind can be irreversibly deceived by thoughts of death or destruction isn’t in line with this idea of an all-intelligent, all-loving, and peace-giving creator. Our relation to God is indestructible, and the more we come to understand and experience God as Mind, the more we recognize that God is always present to guide our thoughts in a productive and life-affirming direction. In one of her many writings on the nature of God and of our relation to God, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddywrote: “Mind that is God is not in matter; and God’s presence gives spiritual light, wherein is no darkness” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 113).
I leaned on this divine wisdom some years ago when a friend came to me one afternoon deeply distressed by some personal issues that had been troubling him. He spilled out his story, and through tears he told me that he felt very alone and unhappy. He even wondered if God had forgotten about him and whether his life was worth living. He told me that he wanted to understand God more in order to overcome his inner struggles.
As he was talking, I reached out to the divine Mind for a way to convey to my friend the comfort of God’s boundless love. I hugged him and told him that God was taking care of him at that very moment. We discussed how God is the light that extinguishes any hint of darkness (see I John 1:5), and how he was a cherished child of God. This meant that his whole being was full of light, so sadness and confusion were not a genuine part of his spiritual identity, which is his true individuality as God’s creation. I also told him that God would never judge him or see him as anything less than perfect and worthy of love. I knew that these spiritual truths were the comfort of the Christ, meeting his need in that moment.
After our conversation, my friend felt more at peace. In the years that followed, he made a lot of progress in his life, including finishing school and starting a career.
We each can claim our inseparability from God’s thoughts – thoughts that give us “an expected end,” which also translates to “a future filled with hope – a future of success, not of suffering,” as The Contemporary English Version of the Bible puts it. The wisdom that is “from above” (James 3:17) brings healing solutions, and succeeding in the challenge to stop suicide becomes more of a present possibility.