One of the leading causes of death among teenagers is suicide. The Centers for Disease Control reports that it is the third-leading cause of death in the United States for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Only accidents and homicides account for more deaths for this age group. Even more alarming is the fact that suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death for children between 10 and 14 years old, according to teensuicidestastics.com.
Several factors may influence a teenager’s decision to take his or her life, including parental divorce, substance abuse, feelings of worthlessness, rejection by friends or peers, violence in the home, inability to find success at school, and—most commonly—depression. Many young people feel as though they are trapped in a life that they cannot handle and feel hopeless and anxious. Sadly, in some cases, young people feel that suicide is the only way to escape from these problems.
Although life can certainly be challenging, and you may find yourself in one of the situations mentioned above, suicide is not the answer.
Life at times is like trying to climb a towering mountain. The goal is to reach the summit. However, the peak seems high and far away. The trail is steep, the path is rocky, and the journey is daunting. One of Satan’s clever devices is to cause doubt to enter our minds and to make us think that the path is too difficult and the going is too tough—to tempt us to give up and quit before we even get started.
Faith and courage are needed to face the challenges of life. It isn’t easy, but it was never promised to be. Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he seeks to destroy us. The Scriptures tell us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is the primary cause behind discouragement. He seeks to destroy us—to cause us to lose heart. He causes us to have negative feelings of doubt and to lose faith in the power of God.
While some young people set lofty goals and take on multiple responsibilities, there are others who get depressed, in part, because they set no goals at all. They are just drifting along, letting life slip by. Deep inside, such people are often miserable because they feel they are accomplishing nothing of value. Life should be an active, ongoing process of growth and achievement. After all, God created it! He is Creator of everything in our vast universe—the stars and galaxies in endless space, our planet, mankind, and everything above, under, and on the earth. That is what God is and what He does. He creates, designs, forms and shapes. He gives life! And He also sustains it all! Christ said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). Our Creator placed within us the same desire to grow and achieve. Whenever we fail to grow in character and quit developing our life, we begin to experience a sense of emptiness, failure and worthlessness. Therefore, it is imperative that we set goals and pursue them in order to grow, find contentment, and lead a full and productive life.
The most logical way to climb a mountain is one step at a time. A monstrous mountain can be intimidating. A huge mountain will require many steps, and many hours of diligent effort to climb—but each step will bring us closer to success. The key is to get moving. We must begin before we can finish, and it is important to be determined to follow through to the end. Standing still only causes discouragement and ends in failure. On the other hand, when we move toward achieving our goals—failing at times, but getting up and trying again—a pattern of success begins to be established, and life becomes more full and satisfying. When we encounter difficulties and hardships and press forward anyway, we often find that not only do we advance over time, but accomplishment is sometimes easier than expected.
No doubt each of us will encounter obstacles along the way. We can choose to look at these difficulties as roadblocks or as challenges and opportunities to grow. If we ever hope to conquer discouragement, we must establish meaningful goals and apply ourselves daily to achieving them.
Having said these things, we must note that the key to real and lasting success lies in the mighty power of God! God expects us to do our part, and often much is required. However, our human strength alone will only go so far. We need God’s help! If we are to accomplish anything in life that brings lasting success and results, God must be involved. Why not tap into the greatest power in the universe and ask God for help when the going gets tough? Jesus Christ pointed out the importance of being connected with Him. In John 15:5, He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” This verse clearly shows that human strength alone is not sufficient. The power of God is an absolute necessity.
God is the real source of power! He gives us the confidence and strength needed to accomplish our goals. In his epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory…” (Ephesians 3:20–21). And to believers at Philippi he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). God will see us through even the most difficult problems and through the darkest and most trying of circumstances if we trust Him and prove that we trust Him by beginning to seek Him in our actions and choices.
On the other hand, sin produces negativity, guilt, discouragement and failure, and results ultimately in death. Sin destroys our purpose for living. Sin separates us from God and His power (Isaiah 59:2). God does not hear the prayers of those who persist in living in sin. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). Therefore, if we are discouraged, we should examine ourselves and see if sin has entered and is separating us from God. There is no way we can live a full and abundant life unless we are walking with God and putting sin out of our lives.
Yet, if we are willing to turn to Him and to ask forgiveness, seeking to change, God provides abundant grace and forgiveness. He loves us even more truly than we often seem to love ourselves, and knowing that should provide powerful encouragement.
And that’s important. Discouragement is one of the most powerful and destructive emotions. Discouragement inhibits growth, and produces feelings of despair, guilt and shame. It can leave us weak, helpless, fruitless and lifeless. If we seek to have a personal relationship with God, and if we strive to live a godly life, then He will impart to us the confidence and power to attain our goals and be genuinely happy and productive human beings! This is one of the keys to overcoming discouragement. Life is short. Treasure it, and live it to the full!