Teen deaths are at an all-time. Do you know what the leading killer of teens is? Accidents. Don’t casually brush off this truth. It has a correlation: alcohol. Almost 80% of teens drink alcohol. Almost 50% of those participate in binge drinking.
Which leads to the second leading killer of teens: suicide. When inebriated, especially with binge drinking, teens are more likely to choose to commit suicide. Their defenses of conscience are gone. Guilt leaps forward. All the reasons to quit life are enlarged.
God’s best is never suicide. There are many reasons to choose life, not death. This series of blogs is trying to give to you those reasons why not to commit suicide. Thus far, here they are:
God loves you and knew you before you were ever created.
God knew you by name before you were ever created.
God has a plan for your life only you can do.
God knows certain people only you can love.
God always has hope for your life.
And here’s #6: You are not what you feel. This is completely contradictory to our culture. It says, “If it feels good, do it.” Everything in culture suggests to grab life now with all its gusto. You have a right to be happy. If you are not, something must be terribly wrong. All my friends on social media are happy, right? Look at all their positive posts! (Trust me, they are not---it’s all a show). Then when you feel you are not happy, especially in comparison to your friends, life has no purpose.
“Feels” is a new popular word used to describe intense emotional response, such as sadness, excitement or awe. It is new slang that has seeped into the most visible levels of popular culture, and has become a reinvigorated cultural battle cry, encouraging youth to be "brave" enough to embrace these feelings. The lie is not new, just packaged in a new shiny vehicle that is resonating with young people.
It’s a lie. Feelings can never define who you are and how you live. For example, if you are an athlete and the coach tells you to do something, you don’t say, “Sorry, coach, I don’t feel like it.” I guess you could, but you wouldn’t be on the team very long.
You are not what you feel. Feelings come and go. They are like the wind: changing directions all the time. That’s why you should never define your identity by what you feel.
In reality, feelings are mere responders---they respond to whatever you are thinking. If your mind is fixed on dark things, expect your feelings to become depressed. If your mind is focused on negative things, expect your feelings to become discouraged. If your mind is focused on hopeless things, expect your feelings to become despairing.
Feelings follow facts.
And here’s the next step. Whatever your mind is fixed on produces feelings that motivate behavior. For example, you are bullied (as Hannah was in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why). Your mind fixates on being rejected. The feelings of rejection then grow and grow over time. Finally, you convince yourself that life has no meaning.
You commit suicide.
Do you see the natural progression? That means that one of the best ways to stop suicide and choose life is by focusing your thoughts on things that are life-giving. God wants you to think good thoughts, regularly, all the time, positive thoughts he has embedded into creation.
Many in the secular world understand this truth. Earth, Wind and Fire, a great musical group that began in the 1970s, from the 1970s and 80s, once had a song that begins, “When you are down and out, sing a song and it’ll make it better.” In one of Disney’s songs of years ago, there was a line a character sung: “Whenever I feel afraid…I whistle a happy tune” and then, amazingly, the singer says that all fears go away.
That’s the truth Paul was trying to get at when he wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). I believe he is trying to make the same point when he exhorts Christians to be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2).
It has worked for me. I’m not beyond my feelings going awry and haywire. There are times when I fall into depression, discouragement, and hopelessness. My mind stays stuck in negativity and I just can’t get up, get unstuck, and want to give up.
Only a couple of things have ever set me free from these debilitating feelings. One is a conscious decision to focus on God’s good things (the other is exercise---another topic for another day).
I read Scriptures that give hope. I reflect on positive quotes from a famous and successful person. I sing joy-filled, positive songs, hymns, and worship songs throughout the day. I listen to a person giving a positive teaching on a podcast. I call a positive person and seek counsel. Then I soak in his words.
Slowly but surely, over time, the feelings of depression start to lift like the sun burning away the morning mist. Joy and encouragement begin to fill my heart anew.
Don’t let your feelings define you. You are not what you feel! You are so much more. Let God define you. You are his child. He loves you deeply. He knows you by name---even before this world was ever created! There is something in this world only you can accomplish. And as long as the sun comes up in the morning, there’s always hope.
And the sun came up this morning.
Let those thoughts consume your heart and change your feelings.
Then I am certain that you’ll choose life, not death.
...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Phillippians 4:8 (ESV)