Someone asked for my response to this question over on Quora, and here's what I replied:
I really feel for you, but here’s the thing: killing yourself actually isn’t going to make your problems go away, it’s just going to make things worse.
Because you are a SOUL stuck in a body, and it’s your SOUL that’s in pain at the moment. And if you kill yourself, all that pain is just going to come alone with you to the next place, except you won’t be able to do anything to alleviate it, and you’ll see, with 100% clarity, why killing yourself was not the answer and actually only made things worse.
When people don’t believe in the spiritual dimension of things, and when they don’t believe that there is a reason that they’re alive, and that life isn’t just about materialistic things like buying big houses and earning tons of cash, or eating out every night, or other external signs of ‘success’, then suicide can seem like a sensible option in some ways, for the reasons you’ve outlined.
You’re hurting, you’re emotionally burnt-out, you’re despairing that it’s all going to turn around, you have no idea why you have to suffer so much, or why you have to go through all this.
But once you start to include the soul dimension, the picture alters radically.
Human beings are down here to work on our souls, to work on our bad character traits, to build the world in the unique way that only we can do it, and to get to know God. That’s it.
All the suffering we have, all the horrible things we experience, all the big (and small….) difficulties we have in life, it’s all aiming at the stuff I just wrote down in that previous paragraph.
God gave you all the really hard circumstances you’re in right now.
To bring the best out of you, and to encourage you to see past all the materialism and lies of the modern world and to get to know your Creator, and your inner dimension, or soul.
THAT’S the whole point of what’s going on. But if you kill yourself - you blew it. So when you get up to the next world, and the Heavenly court starts evaluating how you did in life, that’s when you’re going to understand just how big a mistake you actually made, by killing yourself.
And guess what? There’s more!
Because you didn’t do the job you came down here to do (i.e., connect to God, build the world and work on improving your character and overcoming your negative traits) - you’re going to get sent back down again, to try to fix that problem.
And because you killed yourself last time, your next life is going to be EVEN MORE DIFFICULT, because now you’ll also have to rectify all the mess you made in this lifetime, too, by killing yourself.
So, dear anonymous, PLEASE don’t kill yourself. It won’t help you.
What will help you, probably immediately, is to go somewhere quiet and to start trying to talk to God, about what’s really going on in your life, and why it has to be so hard.
Every hardship we have always has a message in it somewhere, that we need to work on something, or that we need to fix something, or change our beliefs, thoughts or actions in someway.
Maybe, you need to work on liking yourself more? Or, on developing more gratitude for all the blessings you undoubtedly still have in your life, no matter how much it sucks right now. Maybe, you need to figure out how to start feeling like your life has more meaning, and what things you could do to build a sense of happiness, optimism and purpose?
These days, we are all old souls. We’ve all been around the block many, many times, and we all have a lot of stuff we need to fix, particularly in how we treat our fellow man, and how we relate to God.
There’s a lot of work to do, and most of us have been pushing that work off for millenia, which is why modern life is just so darned difficult for so many people in 2016.
But killing yourself will only compound the problem - as you’ll very quickly discover if you actually do it, God forbid.
No-one can live life for you, no-one can turn things around if you won’t do that yourself, and take responsibility for yourself and what happens next. You still have so much to do in the world. YOU have a job down here, and you need to figure out what that is, and get on with it.
And as soon as you do that - and get God more involved in the picture - I guarantee that you’ll see a ray of light that will get stronger every day.
Recently, I picked up a copy of Robert Emmons' latest book on gratitude, called 'Gratitude Works'.
Much of the book is based on Emmons' work as an academic, exploring the psychological and other health benefits of cultivating an attitude of gratitude. The book makes fascinating reading, inasmuch as it brings a lot of evidence to back up what most of already know: grateful people enjoy life much more, have much better relationships with others, and come through their trials and tribulations easier and less damaged by their suffering.
Some of these benefits - like lower blood pressure, aches and pains and even depression - are fairly easy to measure and quantify. But the more fundamental benefits of gratitude go much, much deeper, into the emotional and spiritual realms, where science has always found it hard to follow and observe.
Framing gratitude in spiritual terms
Over the next few posts, I hope to share some of Emmons' more notable findings on gratitude with you, but for today, I want to kick off by framing the whole discussion of gratitude in spiritual terms.
The main reason why adopting an attitude of gratitude can bring so many benefits in its wake is because God has created the world in such a way that 'gratitude works'.
Let me try to explain the idea with an example:
Bertha's having a bad day. Her car failed to start in the morning, making her kids late for school, and her late for work, not to mention all the time and money required to get the car working again.
If Bertha doesn't manage to adopt an attitude of gratitude when it comes to dealing with the fall-out from her bad day, she can add a negative, depressed mood; anger and frustration; bitterness, upset and maybe even hatred to her problems.
All of these things are only going to make Bertha's situation worse. These negative emotions and frustrated, angry outlook will take a toll on Bertha's peace of mind, energy levels and overall physical health (because remember, negative emotions cause chemical reactions that can be seriously toxic, damaging and disruptive to the healthy functioning of the body.)
She'll snap at colleagues at work, shriek at her kids, feel victimised, burdened and severely out of sorts, and her ability to cope, act and think effectively will be severely impaired, as a result.
An attitude of gratitude
Now, let's see what would happen if Bertha managed to evince an attitude of gratitude, instead: her situation is still frustrating and stressful, but much less so. As she's not flooded by anger and all the other negative emotions we identified earlier, her ability to act, react, decide and cope are barely affected.
She finds the car repairman much faster, she finds solutions to getting her kids off to school much easier, she herself gets to work in a much more upbeat and positive state of mind.
Instead of turning her whole day into a disaster zone, the car breaking down remains a mildly annoying inconvenience, instead of a terrible tragedy, and Bertha and her family come through relatively unscathed, and maybe even grateful that they usually have a car that works, which maybe they were taking for granted before all this happened.
You need God to be grateful
Here's the thing: anyone can achieve this level of gratitude, but ONLY if they believe in God. Because if you don't believe in God, it's impossible to find deeper meaning to, and consequently acceptance of, all the annoying, difficult things that happen to each of us.
If God is missing from the equation, then the car breaking down equates to random suffering, devoid of any deeper spiritual significance or 'good' - and who can be happy about that?!
So that's why a belief in God, and an understanding that there is far more going on in this world than meets the eye, are the prerequisites for developing an attitude of gratitude, and enjoying all the major benefits that adopting a grateful outlook to life can bring.