5 Things The Bible Says About Work

Don’t you think it kind of ironic that we have a long weekend and we call it Labor Day?  It’s okay with me, but shouldn’t they call it Rest Day?  Anyway, we have a day to give those who work hard a day of rest.  Government gives us one a year, but God gives us one a week.  I like God’s ideas best!  Whether you get a long weekend off, or have to work the whole time, I have a few thoughts about labor and work.

The secret to any success is hard work.  Whether it is the building of a church or a hot-dog stand, the making of a good life or good grades,work is the great secret to success. No amount of talent can take its place.  Some new research has shown that natural talent is actually due to the amount of work put into the effort.  The Bible has much to say about work…

1. Work is spiritual. 

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” (Proverbs 13:4). The great test of Christianity is obedience.  God has commanded us to work and when we work we please Him.

2. Work is succeeding. 

The word ‘work’ implies to produce or achieve.  When we do a job, we are to do it well and this leads to success. From childhood we should be taught that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Every job should be done thoroughly and carefully.  When your children are growing up and have a task to do, let them carry the task through to completion. They will learn character and you will gain a helper.

3. The worker should do what needs to be done. 

No task is too little to demand our best, and no task is too great but what our best plus God is enough.

4. If a person does not work, he should not eat. 

‘For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ (2 Thess. 3:10).  We do not help a lazy fellow when we feed him. Rather we help him when we teach him that if he does not work, he does not eat.  This is God’s plan.  Obviously, sickness and other circumstances may prevent someone from working. But God expects all of us to be producers.

5. One should learn to work without a boss. 

“Which having no guide, oversee, or ruler…” (Prov. 6:7). Nothing quite reveals the lack of character in a person more than for him to refuse to work when the boss is not looking.  The passage in Proverbs talks about the little ant, who has more character than a lot of people.

Work is spiritual.  One cannot be a good Christian and not work. One cannot be a good Christian and not obey. One cannot be a good Christian and not do his best at every task.

Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians – Labor Day Thoughts

With the Labor Day weekend comes appreciation for the working man and woman.  We tend to celebrate the celebrity or the leader, but too often undervalue the common laborer who actually gets the work done.

‘Go to the top’ is the cry that every young person hears in our generation.  The truth is that the ‘top’ is rarely as large as the bottom.  The farther toward the top of the pyramid one gets, the fewer stones he will find.

The simple truth is that everybody cannot go to the top.  Actually, going high is simply relative anyway.  If everybody gets high, then high is no longer high.  If everyone gets educated, then no one will be educated, for these terms are but relative ones.

There was a time when a high school graduate was highly educated and considered more qualified than a college graduate is today.  This is not to say that one should not accumulate all of the education possible.  Neither is it to say that one should not receive training.  However, it seems that most of our educational institutions are training people to be leaders.  Why shouldn’t some schools train some students to be followers?

When everyone in a society becomes a leader, anarchy is inevitable. Far too many people who are meant to be Indians are trying to be the Chief, and many who are meant to be followers are trying to be leaders.  If we have a need today, it is for good Indians.

Were there no soldiers, there could be no generals.  Were there no children, there could be no parents.  Were there no employees, there could be no employers.  Were there no citizens, there could be no President, and if there are no Indians, there can be no chiefs.

Just as God calls some to be leaders, He calls more to be follows.  We need the Aarons and the Hurs to hold up the hands of Moses. We need some to go with Saul to Gibeah - a band of men whose hearts God had touched.  We need the seven men full of the Holy Ghost to help the apostles in their work. We need the deacons to hold up the hands of the pastors.

God, give us leaders, to be sure, but God give us followers also.  We have said, ‘Go to the top, go to the top, go to the top,’ so long that the top is heavier than the foundation, and it is bound to crumble.

Let us simply say, ‘Go as high as you can,’ But if you can go no higher than the foundation, you may still be used to hold up the entire building. Thank God for the Chief, but praise the Lord for faithful Indians!

I am so thankful for all the people who serve in our church.  We have several that are leaders. However, the bulk of our congregation are simple servants of God doing their job every opportunity.  These are the people who will make our church successful in God’s eyes.  The only thing He asks is that we be good and faithful.  Let us serve God in the position He has led us.  Let us make an effort to do a good job and do it consistently.

5 Ways to Make This Your Best School Year Ever

Back-to-SchoolIt is the end of summer vacation and the return to school.  I always loved back to school time. Buying new clothes & supplies, getting back with friends, and even finding my classrooms. As a parent, it was different. Dropping my children off at the front door of school was as nerve-racking for me as them – especially that first day of kindergarten. This year is my oldest granddaughter’s first day of preschool.

School is a vital part of growing up.  It requires dedication, commitment, and time, but it can also be really fun and exciting.  Whether it’s a kindergartner attending school for the first time or a senior attending school for the last time, here’s some advice on how to make this the best school year ever.

1:  Develop the Right Perspective

We live in a culture that is confused about the purpose of education. Parents and students conceive of education exclusively in measurable quantities, with grades, diplomas, and future jobs topping the list.

But there’s more to school than grades.  Not only does school teach academics, but it also is an opportunity to build character and strengthen relationship skills.  It is a time to develop talents, learn lessons about friendship, hard work, perseverance, patience, kindness, and diligence.  These are more vital to life success than grades.

2: Check Your Attitude

For some students, school work comes naturally and they enjoy books and learning.  For others, school work is hard.  Regardless, the key to having a great year is maintaining a positive attitude.

Attitude affects everything and can make a student’s time at school whatever they want it to be.  It can be fun and exciting, something students will look back on with wonderful memories, or it can a living nightmare.  It all depends on attitude.

3: Keep Your Priorities Straight

I encourage students to prioritize their lives in the following order: God, Family, School, Everything Else.  Keeping God as the number one priority doesn’t necessarily mean students spend all their time in church and in prayer.  It does mean, however, that a student’s relationship with God should be the most important relationship in their life.  Neglect of that vital spiritual connection will leave students without an anchor for their soul through the up and down trials and circumstances of their lives.

Next to God, healthy family relationships are the second most important relationships in the life of a student. When schoolwork pulls a student away from God or family, the school has become more important than God intended.

4: Organize for Success

Successful people are organized.  Students are no exception.  Nothing is more miserable than falling behind at school.  I can remember trying to cram for an exam or spending late nights finishing a reading assignment. To avoid this, students must maintain disciplined habits of time management and planning.  Keep track of multiple assignments and deadlines. It is a good idea to schedule these on a cell phone or simple calendar.

5: Try Different Things

School offers lots of opportunities for students to get involved and try new things like sports, drama, music, and art.  God has given students interests, talents and abilities that they might not even know they possess unless given the opportunity to discover. It’s okay for a student to try clarinet for awhile, then decide it’s not for them. It can be difficult for an athletic parent to permit his child to try out for the school play instead of the football team. But school is a great time to enjoy various experiences.

While these 5 tips won’t guarantee school will be easy, if a student follows them, they will grow and mature into the person God intends for them to be.  School, like everything in life, requires hard work and diligence.  So I hope this is the best school year you’ve ever had.

2 Principles for Spiritual Growth

I remember going through my growth spurt in High School. About every month I would measure myself to see how much I’d grown… until I stopped at 5’ 11 3/4”. I tried to do everything to get to 6’ but never did… even though I tell people I am. I wanted to grow taller so bad.

Have you ever felt that way spiritually? Have you ever been frustrated with your Christian life. You yielded to a temptation. You abandoned a commitment to God that you made. You discover that you are just not strong enough or mature enough to see your situation from God’s point of view.

The Apostle Paul had this same frustration: “… the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do…” (Romans 7:19)

I can relate to D. L. Moody’s quote: “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I’ve met.”

I think many Christians want to be stronger, a better Christian – but they are frustrated. What can a person do to grow in their Christian life?

Jesus uses farming illustrations to talk about the Christian life. In the Parable of the Seed, Sower, & Soils in Mark 4:1-12 one factor in successful farming is the condition of the ground. But even in good ground, there is another factor in successful farming – a hidden power that is also out of control of the farmer.

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. (Mark 4:26-29)

This parable, only recorded by Mark, presents the steps to successful farming: sowing, growing, and harvesting. Seeds are sown. Time must elapse. And a harvest will come. The farmer can sow the seed and will harvest the crops. But the growth of the seed is a mysterious process.

I discovered two simple principles that will help you understand your spiritual growth. I hope it gives you encouragement.

1.     Our job is to sow. God’s job is to grow.

The farmer is responsible to sow. Only God can cause the seed to grow. Once the seed is sown, the farmer has no control over the seed. He is helpless. He must patiently await the reward of his efforts.

This is the same in your spiritual life. Your responsibility is to plant God’s Word in your life – by reading, studying, hearing, memorizing, and meditating throughout the day. God will bring the growth.

In regards to our ministry to others, we have a responsibility to spread God’s Word. He will cause it to grow. We can help others understand God’s Word, but ultimately it’s God who brings growth.

2.     Growth is slow but it will eventually show.

This parable teaches that spiritual growth cannot be measured by a stopwatch.  Just like our physical growth, it cannot be visually perceived. But over time, growth occurs. Growth is slow but certain.

The kingdom of God may be planted in us in an instant, but its growth becomes apparent only with the passing of time and the practice of faithfulness. Germination is spontaneous but growth is not instantaneous.

Yet, i is normal for a Christian to grow. If you’re not growing, something is wrong.

Our job is to faithfully sow the seed of God’s Word in our life and the life of others, trust God, and wait and look for signs of life. God has only commissioned us to preach the Gospel to all nations. The results belong to Him. Our task is to scatter the seed, nourish the plants and reap the harvest. The harvest will come. We must have patience, hope, and faithfulness.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

8 Facts About ALS – A little background on the Ice Bucket Challenge

A short time ago, Jason Richards called me out to accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I did and made a video.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has become a global phenomenon. You’ve no doubt seen hundreds of videos on Facebook and Twitter of people dousing themselves in chilly water. Celebrities including Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg, Kobe Bryant and Justin Timberlake have taken part. My favorite is President George W. Bush.

Since the challenge has gone viral, a number of variations have popped up. But it typically goes something like this: If someone challenges you, you have 24 hours to donate $100 to the ALS Association or make a video of ice water being poured over your head and post it on social media. Many people do both, and some contribute much more. Participants are encouraged to pass the challenge on to others via social media.

According to the ALS Association, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $41.8 million as of Thursday, Aug. 21. The money is used to provide assistance to patients who have been diagnosed with ALS as well as to fund research for new ways to treat and ultimately cure the degenerative disease.

However, some anti-abortion organizations warn that ALS Association donates money to at least one organization (NEALS) that sponsors clinics that has used aborted fetuses in their research. No one is ever certain where every penny of their charity dollars go, but Team Gleason, founded by NFL player Steve Gleason, may be a better pro-life organization to send your donations. I did.

ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is also commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a neurological disorder in which the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement gradually deteriorate. It is eventually fatal, and there is no cure.

30,000 Americans have ALS. It commonly strikes people between the ages of 40 & 70. There is no cure for ALS. Lou Gehrig died in 1941 at age 37, just 2 years after he was diagnosed with ALS and retired from baseball.

One of my favorite missionaries, Carlos Demarest, suffered and died from ALS several years ago. A parent of one of my students in church, Dan Stedman, had ALS and became a Christian during that time.

8 facts you may not know about ALS:

  1. Every 90 minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with ALS
  2. It’s not necessarily an inherited disease. 90% of patients have no known family history of the disease.
  3. Symptoms aren’t sudden. Early signs include cramps, stiff muscles, twitches, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. Eventually patients cannot swallow or breath.
  4. It’s more common in men and white people. It’s about 20% more common in men than in women and 93% of patients are Caucasian.
  5. While the reason is unknown, military vets are twice as likely to develop ALS.
  6. ALS is NOT just an old person’s disease, many people in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed. In fact, Pete Frates, who started the Ice Bucket Challenge, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 at the age of 27.
  7. There are more than 150 potential treatments being looked at for ALS in the US today.
  8. People with the disease may be living longer. Most people live for 2-5 years after symptoms develop. Most die from respiratory failure. However, a new drug called Riluzole helps prolong life by 7 months.

Ed Dobson, pastor emeritus of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan was diagnosed with ALS. He said, “Honestly, I would still rather be healthy and not go through this suffering. I would exchange all the life lessons and opportunities to be healthy again. But … my ALS has been used by God to accomplish wonderful things for the kingdom, where even the worst suffering opened the doors to a new heavens and earth.”

3 Positive Ways To Deal With Depression

Depression is possibly responsible for more pain and distress than any other affliction of mankind. The dictionary defines it as an ‘emotional condition, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, gloominess, dejection, and sadness.’ It is often accompanied by a difficulty of thinking, concentration, and inactivity. Depressed people often have a negative self-image which is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and self-criticism.

We all get depressed from time to time. However, some people battle depression their entire lives. I knew one friend who actually named his depression and would share that his ‘friend’ was coming over for a visit and wasn’t sure how long he would stay. If a person suffers from ongoing depression, it is good to seek a godly, Christian counselor for help.

When we get depressed  we often are concerned only with feeling better. Depression may lead to many negative consequences, including suicide. Putting our life in order spiritually is a positive way to deal with depression.

I always encourage a person, depressed or not, to accept Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior. Christians are not without problems. In fact we have problems just like everyone else. However, as a Christian, I have some resources to help with all my problems, including depression – Jesus.

So let’s look at 3 things you can do when you are depressed.

1. Spend time each day meditating on the Bible and applying it to your life.

Since we are all born with a selfish, sinful nature, we tend to automatically do the wrong things and think the wrong thoughts. These things will lead to depression and self-destruction. To change feelings we must change thinking.

Our brain is like a computer. We must choose to reprogram our ‘computer’ brain to God’s way of thinking instead of our own crazy way of thinking. This can only be done by frequent meditation of God’s Word.

In Psalm 1, David compared a mentally healthy man to a tree growing by a river: “But his delight is int he law of the Lord (Bible); and in his law doeth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.” In other words when troubles come, the Christian can remain stable and survive because of having been programmed with reliance on God’s Word.

2. Get rid of grudges.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are a sure path to depression. Only as we forgive others, will we receive the peace that God’s forgiveness gives us. Many are depressed because they choose not to forgive. Holding anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t allow your anger to hurt you. Forgive.

3. Spend time every day with your family. Do all you can to resolve family conflicts.

Intimacy with your family is more vital to your overall mental health than most people imagine. Much of our self-worth is based on our family relationships.

One of the results of depression is a person’s desire to be alone. Yet, this can multiply the depressed feelings. We sometimes need to force ourselves connect with family members.

It’s not just the quantity of time, but the quality of time we spend with our family. Take time every day to communicate with your spouse and children on a deep and intimate level. Cultivate intimate friendships with your parents, brothers, sisters, and other close relatives.

Don’t ever get vengeance on family members. Unresolved family conflicts can continue for years and years. Heal the wounds the best you can and leave the rest to God.

4 Steps to Personal Application of the Bible

The Bible was given to us to show how we can have a relationship with God and how to live our life the way He wants. It is a very practical book. But some people only see it as a text book and make very little connection with everyday life.

The Bible was written to be applied to our life. You really can’t know the Bible unless you apply it to your life. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ‘knew’ the Bible but they didn’t allow it to affect their way of life.

In Rick Warren’s book, Dynamic Bible Study Methods, he shares 4 steps to make personal application of the Bible. Once you have chosen a verse or paragraph in the Bible, use these steps to help the Bible change your life.

1. Pray for insight on how to apply the passage.

The Bible is like no other book. It is spiritually understood and only the Holy Spirit can really teach us. So it’s important to ask God to help you understand it and promise to obey it and share it with others. If God knows you are ready to obey what He shows you, He may reveal more to you.

2. Meditate on the verse or verses you’ve chosen to study.

Bible meditation is thinking of a Bible verse over and over again. Visualize the scene in your mind. Put yourself in the situation. Think of how you would feel if you were in the situation. I discovered several ways to meditate. Use one or more.

  • Emphasize words in the passage. Read through a verse aloud several times, each time emphasizing a different word, and watch new meanings develop.
  • Paraphrase the passage. Take the verse and rephrase it in your own words.
  • Personalize the passage. Put your name in place of the pronouns or nouns. For example, “For God so loved Greg Burdine…” (John 3:16).
  • Use the S-P-A-C-E  P-E-T-S. This acrostic represents a question you can apply to the passage. S- Sin to confess? P- Promise to claim? A- Attitude to change? C- Command to obey? E- Example to follow? P- Prayer to pray? E- Error to avoid? T- Truth to believe? S- Something to praise God for?
  • Pray the verse or passage back to God. The Book of Psalms is a good example. For example, “Thank You, Lord, for being my Shepherd, and that I lack nothing…” (Psalm 23).
  • Answer Who, What, Where, When, Why, How? These are 6 questions every newspaper article tries to answer about a situation. This helps you ask the right questions about a Bible verse.

3. Write out an application.

From the insights you’ve discovered through meditation, write a personal application. If you can’t put it on paper, think some more. Your application should be personal – use “I”, “my,” and “mine” in it. Your application should be practical – it ought to be something you can do. Your application should be possible – it should be something you know you can do. Your application should be provable – you must set up a follow-up to know you’ve accomplished it. Tell a friend so it will keep you accountable.

4. Memorize a key verse. 

So you can continue to meditate on the passage and help remind you of your application, memorize a verse or phrase. Sometimes it takes God several weeks or even months to change habits, attitudes, or actions. Bible memory and meditation will reinforce what God is trying to do in your life.

The ultimate test of our personal application of Scripture is “Does this help me become more like Jesus?”

A man saw his neighbor coming out of a church one Sunday morning. He asked the churchgoer, “Is the sermon done?” The neighbor wisely replied, “No. It was preached, but it has yet to be done.”

I hope you will begin or continue to apply God’s Word to your life today!

5 Keys to Good Grief

Grief! It’s the price we pay for caring.

No one is exempt. Grief is the universal attempt to cope with personal loss. We grieve over the loss of our job, our marriage, our pets, our youth, but especially the death of a loved one.

I remember after my mom and dad died. I thought I was okay, but it took a song or even a smell to bring back the tears. Even after many years, it doesn’t take me long to feel the loss and emptiness their death brought into my life. I’m better, but you can’t fill the void left by a loved one.

Grief is a painful process. It may involve emotional turmoil, guilt, depression, anger, sadness, helplessness, rage, loneliness, resentment, and hopelessness.

Though some think that life should get back to normal within a few months of the death of a loved one, it often takes 18 months to 2 years to feel like life is manageable.

Counselors have understood that there is a natural process of grief. It often involves 6 stages: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Sometimes people get stuck in one of the stages. Others never quite get to the acceptance stage. When grief becomes an impediment to normal living, something must be done.

In counseling, I have recommended five activities that help proceed through the stages of grief.

1. Think

It’s important to remember your loved one. Pull out the photo albums and take a memory trip into days past. Try to remember the good times you had with your loved one. It’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember. Keep remembering.

2. Write

Keep a diary or journal of your feelings and thoughts. Be honest with yourself about the difficulties you’re going through. Sometimes when you can’t talk about your loved one, you can write it down. This helps as you process through grief and read your progress.

3. Talk

Talk with others. Sadly, some people don’t want to bring up the memory of your loved one because it makes you sad. Let them know it’s okay. Sadness is part of the process. And until you work through the pain you’ll have a hard arriving at acceptance.

4. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciples can be most difficult when you’re grieving. It’s a normal reaction. Since God ultimately controls all things, it is easy to blame Him for what has happened – even if unconsciously. So pray even if it is for just a few minutes. Read your Bible, especially Psalms, even if it just a few verses.

5. Stay Active

When a person grieves, it is natural to pull away. Sometimes it is a struggle just to get out of bed and get a shower. Try to exercise a little. Take a walk. Join a group. Go to church. It’s hard at first, but gets better as you progress.

I hope this helps as you process through your loss. For loved ones who know Jesus Christ as Savior, they are never lost. They are with our Savior.

Let Your Light Shine

A candle is a remarkable invention. Fire on the wick melts the wax and it is drawn up the wick, getting hotter and hotter until it turns into a gas. The gas mixes with oxygen and is ignited by the flame that melted the wax in the first place. The heat of the flame melts more wax and the process repeats itself until all the wax has been burnt.

For centuries, candles have been a simple instrument for dispelling darkness (and making the room smell good & adding a touch of romance). Darkness, with all of its power to frighten and bewilder, is no match for the light. The function of a candle is to provide the light that dispels the darkness. A candle does that at great expense to itself. It has to give itself up tot he flame and be consumed.

Jesus said, “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?” (Mark 4:21)

This question opens our understanding of light. In the spiritual realm, Jesus is the Light that dispels darkness. The light that He brings has been provided at infinite cost. When we come to Him, He kindles that light in us.

1.     Light is meant to be seen.

People are confused in the dark. Nothing looks right in the dark. You see shapes, but not sizes and appearances. Everything is distorted. Is it any wonder values are twisted and distorted in our dark world?

But Jesus is the light. Those who have the light must let Him be seen in their life. We are responsible to shed God’s light and reveal His truth to others. We must not hoard the truth. We have been entrusted with it. We are not to keep it to ourselves, but share it with others.

Are you a light? Do you represent Christ in your world? On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: James Butler Bonham – no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.

You are the picture of Jesus that people see. Can they see His resemblance in your life and words?

2.     Light may be hidden.

In times of suffering & persecution, Christians may be tempted to hide their light. But according to Jesus, it is not that people should not hide their light, but they do not. Nobody lights a candle to hide it.

If we choose to hide our light, darkness takes over. Only we can hide our light. Religious leaders tried to hide the apostles’ light, but they burned brighter.

A few years ago, Judy & I took a vacation at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It is the world’s longest known cave, with over 400 miles explored. We went on a 3-hour tour with a lot of walking. About half way in the cavern, the guide warned us and turned off all the lights. It was so dark you could feel it. I could feel my eyes strain to see anything. Then he lit a match. And it lit everything up. Eventually, they turned on the lights and we continued the tour. But I was impressed by how much light a small candle will give in total darkness.

Sometimes Christians think their influence doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s too ‘dark’ where you live. Or your Christian life isn’t all it could be (Whose is?). Just let Jesus shine to others and watch what He can do. Remember, Jesus is the light, not you.

In the early days of Promise Keepers, when they still had just one stadium event a year in Boulder, Colorado, a newspaper reporter interviewed E. V. Hill, one of the speakers. The reporter asked him, “What is Promise Keepers all about? What do you do?”

E.V. Hill responded, “We’re all about Jesus. We talk about Jesus.”

And the reporter said, “Is that all?”

“Is that all?” E. V. Hill reported to the Promise Keepers crowd. “They don’t know who He is!”

Nanu Nanu, Robin Williams

I went to bed last night watching video clips of Robin Williams on the Tonight Show. He was the funniest comedian while I was growing up. I saw him on Mork and Mindy (nanu nanu means ‘goodbye’ in Orkan). His movies were the funniest: Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Aladdin, Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, Flubber, Night at the Museum, and so many more. But my favorite line of Robin Williams was in Dead Poet’s Society. His character, John Keating, tells his students, “Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Sadly, Robin Williams committed suicide and died at the age of 63. He was known to have bipolar disorder, depression, and a history of drug abuse. 90% of all suicide victims have psychiatric problems.

The fact that Williams was so successful and so loved shows that depression, emotional problems, and suicide can happen to anybody. If you have a loved one who has taken their own life, please know that this is a decision they made for themselves. However, in an effort to stop the next suicide, I want to share some advice.

In his book, Why Suicide?, Jerry Johnston shares 5 critical steps friends can take to help prevent a suicide.

1. Don’t Back Away

Suppose your friend starts to act strangely. You sense that some dark influence is creeping into the person’s brain and you want to back away. Please don’t. When your friend has depressive or even twisted thoughts, that’s the time to make yourself more available and interested than ever.

2. Be a Detective

I’m not suggesting that you stalk your friend or steal a glance at a  personal diary. But I am saying to be on the lookout for problems or potential problems. The best way to accomplish this is by encouraging your friend to talk whenever you sense something wrong.

Being a good detective demands a knowledge of suicidal warning signs: withdrawal, moodiness, depression, aggression, alcohol & drug abuse, abnormal sexual activity, eating disorders, abnormal gift giving, trauma, personality change, and threats of suicide.

3. Listen Carefully

Your suicidal friend must know that someone is truly willing to listen. Chances are your friend will feel that no one is tuned in, so you’ve got to show that you are.

Many suicidal people have the inability or lack of opportunity to express their unhappiness, frustration, or failure. They find that their efforts to express their feelings are either totally unacceptable to others, ignored, or met by defensive hostility. This response drives them into further isolation, reinforcing the belief of something being terribly wrong.

4. Say the Right Things

If you sense something wrong, ask. Asking a person about suicide will not plant the idea in their mind. In fact, it says, “I’ve been paying attention to you and I see something’s wrong.” If they are not suicidal, they will still respect the caring and concern and be more liable to come for help when in trouble.

Here are some right things to say:

  • With everything happening in your life and with the way you’ve been feeling, it’s normal to feel like ending it all. It’s not crazy. Have you thought about it?
  • I didn’t know how serious things had gotten Let’s talk about it.
  • It sounds like you are feeling totally hopeless. I understand how you can feel like ending it all. Have you told anyone else? We’ve got to talk to someone about this.
  • I don’t want you to do anything to hurt yourself. I don’t know how we can change the feeling, but I know there are people who can help.

It is important to know what not to say:

  • You’ll get over it. Things will be better tomorrow. (things may not be better tomorrow)
  • You don’t really feel that way. (Yes, the suicidal person does feel that way)
  • You’d never really do it. (How do you know? Over 38,000 Americans commit suicide every year – more than killed in auto accidents)

The bottom line is: Don’t criticize, judge, ridicule, minimize, or promise anything you can’t deliver.

5. Take Action

A suicidal threat is not like the alarm on your clock radio. You can’t push a snooze button and wait a while longer before doing something. Immediate action is called for.

Tell your friend about the sources of help (suicide hotline, counseling, etc). If a specific suicide plan has been revealed, remove the instruments of the method if possible (50% of all suicides involve guns). Get your friend to make a binding agreement with you. Pray before, after, and during your visit with your suicidal friend. If your friend refuses to get help, contact the police.

Do you have any suggestions on helping a suicidal friend?