Physician Matthew Sleeth has seen most every situation that requires an emergency room visit, including people who have tried to take their own lives. He believes that we are now experiencing a “culture of suicide,” explaining, “Over the next year, 10-million Americans will seriously struggle with whether or not to end their lives. Of those 10-million, 1.5-million will actually end up in emergency departments being treated for depression or suicide attempts. And we lose one person about every ten minutes in the United States to that. It’s become so prevalent, my concern is it’s going to be normalized – and my hope is that the church, who has hope, who has a reason to slog through the hard times, will step up to the plate and engage with those who are feeling desperate.”
Besides churches coming alongside, Dr. Sleeth believes individual Christians can also make a definite difference in the life of someone struggling with dark thoughts and hopelessness. “One of the problems, and particularly in the last year as a country and as a world, is isolation. And as we’re beginning to come out of that, I think we’ve got to be intentional about extending hospitality to others. You know, you can go to a church and feel isolated, but when somebody says, ‘Hey, how about coming with me to get pizza or coming to my house for a meal,' that’s a very powerful invitation.” In his book, “Hope Always: How to Be a Force for Life in a Culture of Suicide,” Dr. Sleeth writes, “More people than I can count have eaten around our table. Jesus did much of his teaching over shared meals for a reason: something about the relaxed environment helps people let down their guard and share what is really on their hearts. Your relationship is never the same once someone has been welcomed into your home. Note that the root of “hospitality” and “hospital” are the same; hospitality heals!”
By doing something as simple as sharing a meal, you might keep a person from harming themself by providing comforting conversation, perhaps sharing your own struggles, and if the time feels right, sharing about your relationship with Jesus.
Matthew Sleeth, MD, a former emergency room physician and chief of the hospital medical staff, resigned from his position to teach, preach, and write about faith and health. Dr. Sleeth has spoken at more than one thousand churches, campuses, and events, including serving as a monthly guest preacher at the Washington National Cathedral. Recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders, Dr. Sleeth is the executive director of Blessed Earth and author of numerous articles and books, including Hope Always: How to Be a Force for Live in a Culture of Suicide, which released from Tyndale House Publishers in May 2021. Matthew lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with Nancy, his wife of forty years.
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