Pastors: Be Prepared for the Threat of Suicide
- Friday, March 18, 2005
Fourth, when dealing with difficult cases, we make it a practice to have two counselors work the case together. In addition to providing more resources to bring to bear upon the problem, this practice provides added protection for you and the counselee. Your partner may pick up on something you do not and in so doing help the counselee.
Fifth, know the laws in your state regarding information obtained in counseling. We have the conviction that biblical counseling is the only type of counseling sufficient to meet human need. At the same time, we are directed by Scriptures to submit to governmental authority (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13). In our state, if we have direct and immediate information concerning the threat of suicide, we are under obligation to report it to the authorities.
For example, if a counselee reveals that she is contemplating suicide, we must report that information immediately. However, if a counselee tells us that he was having suicidal thoughts last year, but no longer has those thoughts, then we are under no obligation to report that information. We would certainly take that information into account in our counseling and be aware that those thoughts could resurface. We would continue to apply the Scriptures to the heart knowing that Christ is the answer to the problem. We are simply making the point that it is your responsibility before the law and the Lord to know the laws in your area and obey them for your protection and God's glory.
Sixth, act with common sense. If a person becomes violent, out of control, or gives indication that he could harm himself or someone else, we would call the appropriate authority in order to "buy time" for the counselee that we might have opportunity to counsel biblically when the counselee has returned to a state of calm. We only call for outside help when obligated by law or when someone is in immediate danger.
Seventh, maintain the conviction that you have the best counsel for those contemplating suicide. Persons in this state of mind need a change of heart. You have the only counsel that can produce genuine change (Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:3). Thus, even if your counselee has been taken by the authorities, make every effort to follow-up with biblical counsel.
Eighth, take encouragement from knowing that God is sovereign in all things including the circumstances in the life of the counselee, His providence in bringing this counselee to you, and the change or lack thereof in the hearts of individuals. Never be intimidated by psychology, state law, or results. Because psychology is vain and deceptive (Col. 2:8), you must counsel from the Scriptures. While you must adhere to state law, you may and must follow-up with your counselee in giving biblical admonition. Though results vary, God is sovereign.
If you counsel someone who has had suicidal thoughts or someone who is in a deep state of depression, simply pray, counsel, and trust the Lord. If that person ultimately rejects your counsel, or, if that person seemingly responds to the counsel and then surprises you and everyone else by ultimately committing suicide, remember the sovereignty of God. We are not saying we will not grieve. An understanding of God's sovereignty does not remove hurt or compassion. What we are saying is that you are the messenger and God is the One who determines the results. Do not forsake your convictions or your confidence if and when persons reject the message.
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