How One Suicide Attempt Survivor Came Through the Darkness and Shows Others the Light

September is Suicide Awareness Month.

By Nancy Flory Published on September 16, 2022

Jay Lowder was 21 years old when he pulled back the hammer and put the pistol to his head. “It’s gotten real,” he thought, as he described it later. He’d sunk into a black hole of hopelessness. “It was just being in a place that you feel like you can’t escape. That there’s really no hope for tomorrow.”

“It’s not that people want to die,” he explained. “It’s just that they don’t want to live.” Suicide attempt survivor Jay Lowder spoke with The Stream about his journey from deep depression and thoughts of suicide to a life of hope and a thriving ministry. Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries now reaches people for Christ through live events, training, television and crusades.

Some people in Jay’s life knew he was struggling, but nobody knew that he was reaching the point of deciding he didn’t want to live. “It’s kind of a dichotomy, because on one hand you don’t want anybody to know this, this island of depression, this island of hopelessness. But then on the other hand, you wish somebody knew so that somebody could reach out and understand your pain.”

‘What are You Doing Home?’

His hand was on the trigger when he heard a car pull up outside. It was his roommate. He’d come home in the middle of the day — something that had never happened before. “[H]e opened the door and I said, ‘Man, what are you doing home?’ And he said, ‘Man, this is really weird. You know, my dad’s never let me off work early, but for some reason dad looked at me today and said, ‘You worked so hard I want you to take the rest of the day off and I’m gonna pay you for a full day.’ And I know his dad. I knew his dad well, and he was a hard guy to work for, and that’s certainly not behavior that his dad had ever exhibited.” It never happened again. 

Jay began to think it was possible that God had sent his roommate home to prevent him from taking his life. 

Not Just Good News

It was not long after that when Jay attended an outreach for young people. No one else knew he was going. The speaker had also tried to take his own life years earlier, but that wasn’t his topic that night. That night he preached a message of salvation, of the Gospel and how Jesus died for our sins. To Jay it seemed like he was hearing it for the first time. “[I]t was like forgiveness, purpose, a meaning, [a] new beginning. … [T]his wasn’t just good news. This was unbelievable news.” Jesus wasn’t something that he did on Sunday morning anymore. “[A]ll of a sudden, Jesus is this person who knows about my pain, cares about my pain. And wants me in His family.” He got down on his knees and asked God to forgive him for how he’d lived his life.

Everything changed. He began looking at life in new ways. His mom — who had attended the service with Jay’s dad, although they didn’t know Jay was there — asked him if he’d gone there. Jay asked why she wanted to know. “And she said, ‘I don’t know son, there’s just something different about you.'” Jay said yes, he had attended, and that he’d given his life to Christ. He was never the same after that.

God transformed Jay’s life in ways far beyond that. He began to have a deep burden to introduce Christ to everyone. He started a street witnessing team. “I was able to share, you know, the hope that I found because I found a mission.” Jay now has crusades, among other events. The latest crusade was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a few weeks ago. 

Suicide Awareness Month

September is Suicide Awareness Month. In light of that, Jay shared with The Stream five signs that someone may be in trouble.

  1. Withdrawal. Jay had isolated himself. He began to break away from relationships and family.
  2. Depression. Jay experienced a darkness and a hopelessness.
  3. Trauma. It could be the loss of a relationship. It could be the death of a loved one. Or even someone who they were close to who committed suicide. 
  4. Addiction. It could be prescription medicines, alcohol or drugs. 
  5. Other mental health issues, like mood swings. It could be someone who normally is not aggressive, who all of a sudden becomes aggressive.

The Church’s Role

The church needs to accept a bigger role in helping people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or depression, says Jay. “I think it’s an area the church has failed in tremendously.” Possibly it’s because the church doesn’t know how to deal with mental illness. Or the church as a whole wants to appear as if everyone has it together.

Some people think we should avoid talking about suicide because it may cause suicide. That’s wrong, according to Jay. The greatest deterrent to suicide is talking about it. “And so, the church’s role number one is to talk about it — to make it an issue, to provide workshops, to provide counseling, to give people an outlet, because again, most people don’t feel safe for that matter, in revealing any struggles at church, because fear of condemnation and gossip so the church needs to take a bigger role.

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“I’m not blaming Jesus for my suicidal thoughts at all. At the same time, I do understand that, for whatever reason, the Lord allowed that to happen. And so, is that a negative thing or positive thing? Well, one of the reasons that I’ve been able to have the voice, especially among young people that I’ve had, is because of what I went through. My pain became my platform. And so I think there needs to be an understanding that while knowing Jesus doesn’t make you immune to anything, including suicidal thoughts, that sometimes God allows people to go through tremendous storms or struggles so that they can be a help to other people who are who are fighting the same battles.”

Christians aren’t immune to depression. We can use our experiences and what we’ve learned from them to help others. Jay does. “I can tell you, there’s a lot of people that would say, ‘Man, I’m glad that God allowed Jay to go through the darkness that he went through because it was through that darkness that I was able to gain light from hearing about his experience.'”

 

Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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