Why Paul’s 'Fruitful Labour' is a Great Antidote to Suicide

Why Paul’s ‘Fruitful Labour’ is a Great Antidote to Suicide

For the apostle Paul, he knew what a dark place was like. But he found an antidote for thoughts of suicide. 

To him, darkness was a close friend. Always present, never leaving, clinging on like a wet shirt.

Life sucked. No joy, no hope.

As he sat with me I felt Holy Spirit sweep into the room.

‘Great’ I thought ‘It’s not up to me to try and get this person off a suicidal one-way track’

Something lit up within me as I listened and watched the sadness pour forth.

An invisible Paul Simon started to whisper

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

There was a vision planted in his brain of death, hopelessness, and suicide.

I saw something else though. I had a different vision, a compelling vision that drew me in and offered a lantern of light to him if he wanted to take it.

There was something of the creator that had been sown in this person’s soul. Something of their (Father, Jesus and Spirit) very own nature that was needing to be released. I was given the gift of discovering it and bringing it to the world to see.

He felt like that there was nothing of worth within him. He felt like a complete failure, powerless, unable to move into his world and change a thing.

She could not see any beauty within her, nothing. She was ugly, there was nothing of beauty within her that would be desirable to others.

Hidden under all the accumulated rubbish of life was a seed that needed watering and nurturing.

That seed could bring many blessings to others if allowed to grow and mature.

Fruitful labor!

Paul was in a tough spot. Life was tough, real tough.

Martyrdom was casting a decapitating shadow over this life.

He was torn between two loves. To be with Christ or to be others and helping them grow in faith. He puts it this

As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work [fruitful labor] for me to do.
If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose.
Hard choice!
The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better.
But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here.
So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues.
You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. Philippians 1:22-26

Some theologians consider Paul may well have been suicidal. A hot debate topic.

Regardless, Paul’s reason to live was found in the serving of others. He had an others-centered life.

He wasn’t ready yet to die, there was more to be done. In his darkest moment of life he found the reason for life.

Serving others invites the focus of life to shift from ourselves to others. We have to be wary of our motivations for serving others. It should never be to avoid facing our own issues but to have something fruitful, productive and rewarding can be a great motivator to keep on going.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” Anne Lamott

Questions to Consider and leave a Comment.

  1. What reason or purpose do you have for your life?
  2. Do you think Paul could possibly be suicidal?
  3. What are the rewards and dangers of having a focus of serving others?
  4. What is ‘Fruitful labor’ for you?

Further reading

I’ve had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die

Dig yourself out of your hole

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh and its Meaning for You


Barry Pearman

Image:Christiann Koepke

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