“Suicide is the most selfish thing someone could do.”
I use to hear that line and agree wholeheartedly.
How could somebody choose the easy way out and not even think about the friends and family they are leaving behind that will have to spend their entire lives grieving? That seems so self-centered. It seems so immature. Why couldn't they just reach out and ask for help?
That thinking makes logical sense, right? It does seem selfish, doesn't it?
Wrong. So very very wrong. That above statement comes from someone who has probably never experienced the unrelenting weight of darkness and terror that comes with depression or the tornado of fear and anxiety that can destroy any logical thinking in one moment, a tornado that is on a path of destruction to suck every ounce of life out of your body.
I don't say or talk about this topic lightly. Everyone has his or her own story. Whether you have attempted suicide, are in the midst of trying to fight suicidal thinking, lost a loved one to the act of suicide, or have never experienced any of the above, this topic of mental health is so so SO important.
Especially within the church.
We so easily want to throw the Jesus card at the issue of mental health. We want to sweep it all under the umbrella of, “Light casts out darkness and darkness cannot overcome it.” We think that the more scripture we know, prayers we pray, worship songs we sing, the less we will struggle.
We think its grief or God. Sadness or God. Disappointment or God. We don't know how to live with both. We don't understand we are allowed to have both.
And yet, Jesus so clearly struggled with all of it.
They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can–can't you?–get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want–what do you want?”
He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”
He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open, and they didn't have a plausible excuse.
He came back a third time and said, “Are you going to sleep all night? No–you've slept long enough. Time's up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let's get going. My betrayer has arrived.”
Jesus felt the full weight of what was about to happen, and in that moment He gave us permission to fall on our faces and not be ok.
He gave us full permission to feel sorrow, sadness, grief and disappointment with God.
Why? Because He knew we too would feel this same way so He gave us the freedom to express it.
It was only until this year that I struggled and felt that depth of darkness. It was so overwhelming and so terrifying that I truthfully cannot write this post without tears streaming down my face.
I remember driving my car from Nashville to Michigan with one thought running through my head, “It would be so easy to just drive my car off the road. And then the darkness would be gone… forever.”
I remember the numbness that came from thinking that thought combined with the sheer terror I felt towards myself for even having a thought like that. It feels like a storm has entered your mind and you don't know up from down. Right from wrong. All you are focused on is ending the pain. That's it.
I instantly called my mentor and could barely tell her what was happening because I was crying so hard. If I was her, it would've been so easy to hear my words and freak out, but instead, she instead stayed calm. She made me promise that I would just stay alive for the next 24 hours.
She reminded me that we go by what we know is true and not by what we feel. She told me that while this feels so real and true, it wasn't the truth. And then she spoke the real truth over me.
I am beloved.
I am worthy.
I have a family who loves me and would miss me terribly.
I have an eternal hope inside of me. Because of Jesus.
I heard these words and sobbed even harder. Because she was right. And yet the feelings of “I am not going to make it” still felt so real.
She prayed over me, and, slowly, I started to feel a peace spread over my body. A peace I don't know if I have ever felt before. It didn't take away the thoughts but it did give me a sliver of light to grasp onto. A sliver of hope I desperately needed.
The rest of the way home I just kept telling myself, “You can make it the next hour. You can make it the next hour.”
And you know what? I made it. It was the most excruciating car ride of my life and yet, I made it through. And within the next 24 hours, after seeing my family and realizing I wasn't alone, the thoughts completely subsided.
I think it would have been so easy for God to just wipe away all my depression and anxiety after that. He is a God of miracles, right? But sometimes I think the miracle is the fact that we make it through our suffering so that we can have the compassion for others who might still be in that place.
Suffering breeds vulnerability. Vulnerability breeds understanding. Understanding removes judgement.
I believe we walk through rough valleys so that when the time comes, just like God did with Moses, He can sends us back in to help lead others out.
I walked through the valley of suicide and came out the other side. Does that mean I will never struggle with it again? No. In fact, since then my anxiety and depression have gotten WORSE.
But in the process, I learned to ask for help. I learned to lean on my community and have taken off my lens of judgement for others who may be suffering alongside me. Instead of trying to fix them, I sit beside them and hold their hand. I tell them it won't last forever. Because now I know that it won't.
The church, aka we the PEOPLE, should be the safest space for both people and ourselves to bring our brokenness too. Isn't that how this entire movement began?
Our brokenness is welcome here.
Whether that's suicidal thinking, depression, PTSD, addiction, etc… we are Jesus' hospital. We are His hands and feet. So we need to be the ones to lay our judgements and blanket statements aside so that we can lend listening ears, humble hearts and resources to those who are in the valleys.
That passage shows us that Jesus felt the depth of suicide. He felt it so bad that He too wanted to die. He lived that moment and gave us the full permission to live ours.
But He didn't stop there. His story wasn't finished. He moved through the valley with God to the other side. That other side being the cross, crucifixion and resurrection so that we can have eternal hope.
No matter what happens to us on this earth, it isn't our final story. Jesus is coming back to take all of our pain, sorrows and tears away. Forever.
Your brokenness is welcome here, but your brokenness is ALSO REDEEMED here.
So please friend, don't let suicidal thinking, depression, anxiety or fear be the end of your story.
Take the courageous step of asking for help.
For me, it has taken counseling, medications, a change in diet, exercise and a move across the country to start getting healthy again.
For you, it may look different. But do whatever it takes to get you to the other side. I promise life is worth living.
But know that in the midst of the valley, Jesus is there with you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is HOPE. And soon enough, your story of redemption will be just the thing someone else needs to hear when they are in the thick of it. Jesus never wastes our experiences.
He promises us that He will use whatever the devil has thrown at us to try and destroy us, and turn it around into something glorious and redemptive.
How do I know that?
Because He has done it for me time and time again.
Mental Health Resources:
To Write Love On Her Arms
Written By: Grace Theisen