Hope For the Depressed And Suicidal
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Today we hit the very nerve of the topic of suicide.
Though I have never wrote on the topic before I believe people who have had a history struggling with thoughts of suicide will find this helpful. Not that I speak for all of us but in the modern western world with all our gadgets and global connectivity it’s proven time again that it does not fill the hollowness to our souls biggest, most silent of longings. Drugs, drink and sex provide soft escapism but no fulfillment of purpose. Burying yourself in work, accumulating success and owning the world might fill some the deep void but the well runs far deeper to uncover a firm identity. To destroy oneself is really the intent to destroy the painful memory of things that we thought gave us, or would neatly package us contentment, but did not come through on our terms. There is after all, a truly infinite amount of reasons why somebody could flirt with thoughts of mortal finality. I don’t want to paint suicide as an entity on it’s own, however this dark method does not discriminate whether you are poor or wealthy, weak or strong.
“You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.”—James 4:14
Some of us, for example, are prone to certain spirals of negative thinking called “catastrophizing”. A thing that even I do, where life throws a curveball I didn’t see into my domain, and within a few moments I’m imagining losing my job, not having money to pay the rent, then the kids go hungry, my wife loses respect for me and before soon we’re homeless and hopeless. This is of course absurd and extreme but these self digging holes gets bigger and bigger until something more logical is placed to fill it. For me it is that I am reminded that God is (so very) sovereign and contains all things under control with a power I can’t comprehend. With this in mind, the panic never actually lasts long and I can face up to whatever gloom of the unknown might present itself. The gift of sanctification (meaning: to sin less and less, to worry less and less and to become like Jesus more and more) makes sure that I’m allowing far fewer of these negative loops a foothold. (Before anyone worries, I should clearly state I am not suicidal but wanted to illustrate a common example of the catastrophizing spiral)
With other people, some things I’ve noticed over the years of who I suspect are lost in any kind of darkness, is the gaze and look of somebody’s eyes. The distance of their pupils seems to represent how far away from reality they are. There can be a slowness of voice, as if it’s pitched low to the ground… muttering things of paranoia or deep annoyance about people in better off circumstances than they are.
“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers.”— Philippians 4:6-7
Other times it’s the jitters of an uncertainty – a spooky, fidgeting of clammy hands and unusually pale skin. Rambling can happen where things only make partial sense – though subtle, sometimes mixing 10 different emotions into a single sentiment. For others it’s long stretches of silence or the mask of a smiling face, trying to keep it all together. All these things (as described in paragraph 1), spell out somebody who has possibly zero certainty of how to carry on with the compass of true purpose and identity.
“Healthy people do not need a physician, but those who are ill do.”— Matthew 9:12.
I remember the first time feeling oddly affected by the suicide of somebody else. It was a boy whom I went to school with, who had decided to end his own life for reasons unknown to me – a viral facebook post amongst my home community breaking the news. Sadly this was a family that was no stranger to this kind of tragedy, being already rife with accounts of suicide for one reason or another. His mother posting on his facebook, admitting that this was not her first time grieving the loss of a child this way. There was this bizarre feeling that wafted over me – I was once face to face with somebody in class (not even a friend), who now ceases to walk this earth. Around the same handful of years, a man who was a husband and father of two, who attended my church during my upbringing had chose to commit suicide. To say it sent a shockwave through the town while ripping the family up would be an understatement. I once talked often with this person as a mere lad, even dreamt to work at his computer shop when I came of age but never came to pass.
“A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not reject,” says Psalm 51:17
Try this allegory on for size:
A person who is experiencing an extreme lack of purpose and identity during these dark situations, without even noticing, may become lured onto the proverbial devils play swing. You feel so alone that you allow him to be there and even push you for what little comfort it brings. He talks to you about your feelings the whole time and listens well. You trust him to stop and let you go home when you are ready to come off, or catch you if you fall. He is dressed in fine white linen and speaks softly about your woes with you. He’s not what all the satirical depictions of a devil had you believe growing up. The inertia of the swing is even consoling and cathartic for processing what’s been happening. He validates your desire for fulfillment, pleasure, escapism or revenge on somebody. The time spent together is as comforting as having a friend or even father to confide with – and so it becomes a regular meetup.
“The problem is, he is not your friend or father and he is not there to catch you.”
Soon enough the finely dressed man with his gentlemans voice is not the one pushing you anymore. The force of one’s suicidal and self involved emotions becomes the new engine of the swing. Thrust by their own will to take control of everything and blinded by their own fleeting mind, they do not realize the danger they are now in. Finally this devil dressed in white shows his true colours, becoming increasingly impatient, angry and accusatory in his voice and turns on you.
“You are actually hopeless after all. You are a failure, fraud, worthless and do everything wrong. You are undesirable and are everything bad that everyone has said about you. You’ll never be happy, always be sad, always sin too much and be a burden to others. Even I can’t help you and I’m the prince of the air! Do everybody a favour and get out their way. Jump and die! If that doesn’t work take the pills, the drugs, the noose and get it done! God has no plan for you anyway.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11
Dark? Yes. Realistic? You betcha’. But there is a real hope that you can sustainably hold onto by somebody else’s strength. You don’t have to be lured on the swing, or anywhere near the devils playground. Suicide as a standalone subject is such a big topic that this may need to be broken up into multiple blog posts. I wanted to cover how I generally view suicide from the grounding of my Christian lense, and also some of my experience witnessing some of the strange things to do with it.
“We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, both sure and firm.”— Hebrews 6:19
What I would encourage you to do… Christian or not, is to expand your reading of the bible verses quoted and scattered across this blog. Be courageous, get a bible preferably in your hands, google if you have to – the book and verse and begin reading. Go 5-10 versus before and after each one of these. Doing this will help you understand that the bible is not a general self help book to assist you pulling you up by your bootstraps (like the world will tell you to do), but a giant sign post pointing you to true identity and purpose in a person who is in fact perfect, and holds all things together in his nail pierced hands – including you.
This is the vital thing a human made in God’s image, needs to know.