12 'Harmless' Comments That Hurt Christians Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts
Too often suicidal Christians are met with damaging statements like, “you need to pray harder” or “God never gives you more than you can handle.” (For the record, nowhere in the Bible does it say the latter.) These kinds of “harmless” comments not only do great emotional damage but can do spiritual damage as well, prompting some struggling believers to walk away from faith entirely.
Though these kinds of phrases can be said with the best of intentions, the reality is they are invalidating. If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts right now, there are a few things you need to know this very second:
You are loved.
You are not alone.
There is hope.
If you’ve ever confided in one of your brothers or sisters in Christ and were not met with a statement similar to the ones above, I’m so sorry. When it comes to mental health and suicide struggles, the Church hasn’t always reflected the love, support and compassion people who are struggling with their mental health really need.
I asked our Mighty community to share some “harmless” comments they’ve heard and explain how it affected them. If you are a Christian who supports a loved one with mental illness in your life, I hope their responses are enlightening. Let’s strive to love the people in our lives the best we can.
For those who are struggling today, I want to remind you the Lord is near, even in times you may feel alone. According to scripture, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
If you’re not a Christian, you may have heard some variation of these phrases below, too. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), your struggles and feelings are valid and you deserve to be treated with respect.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle.’
“When I was a Christian, the thing that hurt most was, ‘God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.’ Perhaps it was meant as comfort, but it made me feel worse… because I wasn’t handling it…” — Emily V.
“‘God won’t give you more than you can handle…’ It’s taken out of context and doesn’t mean to rely on your own strength. But most of all, God did not give me depression or suicidal thoughts. They are most definitely not of Him. So to think that He ordained something so terrible just to ‘test’ me… is ridiculous. When you’re at the point that you feel like you can’t ‘handle’ anything, it’s the last thing you need to hear.” — Mary C.
2. ‘Pray harder.’
“I’ve been told to pray harder or I don’t believe in God enough… That’s hurtful because if I already feel like I’m failing at something, why would I also want to worry if I’m not believing enough in God? It just adds to the list of things I already think I fail at.” — Alix G.
“‘If you pray those thoughts will stop.’ Do you have any idea how many tearful nights I spent praying? It did not stop the thoughts, they always came back. I really just wish people would accept that suicidal thoughts are a reality on a daily basis for [many] people with mental illness.” — Hali A.
“‘Just pray about it.’ This really hurts because it’s not like I haven’t tried that, I’ve tried really hard. Some people who don’t struggle with depression or anxiety don’t realize that praying when you don’t have mental problems, but are stressed about something is not the same as when you have these illnesses that literally affect the way you think. The hardest thing to escape is your own brain and your own thoughts, and simply praying about it doesn’t make them stop.” — Heidi W.
3. ‘Have you been reading your Bible?’
“‘Have you been reading your Bible?’ While this helps with many struggles when I am in the middle of suicidal thoughts, I often don’t want to read the Bible. I just need people to simply be there for me. I just need to know I have support. I’m not suicidal because I don’t read my Bible enough.” — Bethany D.
4. ‘Give it to God’
“‘Give it to God.’ I never understood what that meant and was made to believe there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t ‘give it to God.’ Now I know that can start identifying my feelings, take responsibility for my need to control everything and accept that I only have control over myself.” — Jaclyn G.
5. ‘If you really believed in God you wouldn’t feel like this.’
“I do believe in God. I love Jesus. I know I’m saved. Doesn’t mean believing in God is going to instantly and permanently fix my brain.” — Caitie W.
6. ‘Suicide is unforgivable.’
“’Suicide is an unforgivable sin.’ Thank you, Mr. Perfect. You want to help pray for me, not give me the lecture of what God thinks about suicide?” — Jacques M.
7. ‘You don’t need a therapist if you have God.’
“That going to see a therapist meant I didn’t trust God enough to take care of it Himself and that wanting to be a therapist to help others who are struggling is going to hurt them in the long run, because all they need is God.” — Kiera S.
“‘You don’t need to talk to a therapist, you have pastors.’ I’m sorry I didn’t know that my pastor had a doctorate or masters in psychology… For a second I actually thought I was wasting my time and money, but then I realized what works for others doesn’t always work for me.” — Rebecca A.
8.’Why are you depressed? God has given you so many blessings.’
“‘What have you got to be depressed about? God has blessed you. Pray to him and He will take your fears.’ Really? Because I am blessed with four amazing kids, a (now ex) husband who was phenomenal, a good job and a life worth living. Yet my brain wants me to die. I struggle every single day with making it to the next morning. I’m so grateful my kids have the amazing father they have in case I falter. And I’m so grateful he and I are still good friends. Depression took a lot from me, including my faith.” — Sabrina P.
9. ‘Have you repented?’
“‘Have you repented?’ [I heard this] when I was in [the emergency room], barely conscious after a near-fatal [suicide attempt]. It was well-intentioned but incredibly hurtful to be told that my illness, in its most extreme presentation, was a sin.” — Lucy D.
10. ‘I fear for your eternal soul.’
“’I fear for your eternal soul.’ I think that was the moment I gave up religion altogether. I questioned one thing and someone close to me said that. I’m sure it seemed harmless to them, but it still haunts me for some reason. Like, how did I manage to be me in this family? How did I go to church all these years and believe in all this when it turned out it was super easy for a Christian to turn on me for not being ‘Christian enough’? I’m happier now without all the pressure there was to be ‘more Christian.’” — Sara F.
11. ‘If you take antidepressants, you don’t believe in God’s ability to heal.’
“‘If you take antidepressants you don’t believe or have faith in God’s healing.’” — Cassidy J.
12. [Saying Nothing at All.]
“Usually it is more of not saying something, especially changing the subject, just to avoid the conversation. I was already denied my experiences as a child, which doesn’t help my thoughts at all. It brings the pain that much deeper and I never knew how much it has consumed me, while waiting to be heard, even heard to myself.” — Tatauq M.
It’s so important to open up the conversation about mental health in different faith communities. If you are of a different faith background than Christianity, we want to hear from you. In the comments below, please share your faith background with us and any invalidating comments you’ve received about your mental health from your faith community.
If you are struggling with your mental health, we hope you know you are not alone in your struggles. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. To “check in” with people who can relate, post a Thought or Question on The Mighty with the hashtag #CheckInWithMe.
For more on Christianity and mental health struggles, check out the following stories from our community:
Unsplash photo via Priscilla Du Preez