It has been nearly 11 months since my last suicidal thought. Other than the occasional teenage angst, I had never experienced the mental and soul wrenching turmoil some individuals, including Christians, are consistently inflicted by on a daily basis previous to the summer of 2019. However, with the care of a licensed professional mental health therapist, the devotion of a faithful friend to bear my burden with me, and the unwavering devotion of my husband, I have been able to joyously sit outside the temporary fog of suicidal thoughts with trembling hands raised toward the heavens in adoration for God’s faithful promise to deliver me from every affliction. I fully understand this kind of freedom isn’t always experienced by those who are tempted to believe their lives deserve to end. The point of sharing our life’s experiences with trials of various kinds is to ultimately strengthen our joy and the joy of other’s in Christ. My experiences with suicidal thoughts will not be the same as my fellow brothers or sisters because there are various trials and acquaintances with suffering that cause suicidal thoughts to spring up from varying roots.
Just like with any other illness, people who experience or have experienced suicidal thoughts will tell you their symptoms varied from that of another person. For me, the thoughts of hurting or having hurt others in the past haunted me. I couldn’t bear to live with myself for how I have hurt or the possibility of hurting others again in the future. Life for others seemed to be easier if I wasn’t in it. If I were gone, I could stop hurting people the way I had been hurt so deeply by people who said they loved me. That was enough for me to want the blurred freedom I envisioned in my mind. But, despairing of life was never about an unhealthy romantic ideal of death. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to be alive either. Many days and nights I asked God to just take me so I didn’t have to be the one to do it. While talking to others who have experienced suicidal thoughts, I found their symptoms lasted for their whole lives. There was never a day where my friend Rebecca did not feel the weight of despair wooing her to death’s doorstep. Others had seasons of symptoms. Thankfully, and by God’s miraculous grace, my season was short.
Another reason suicidal thoughts vary from person to person is the roots from which they sprout. Some individuals suffering from genuine chemical imbalances in their brain will suffer in varying degrees of suicidal thoughts. Family history with mental illnesses can contribute to the root, which may have long term effects on relationships and family dynamics. These are all areas for God’s grace and his church to come alongside individuals suffering with mental illness. Emotional and spiritual health is to be sought after just as much as our physical health for the believer in Jesus. If we are not caring for the soul, then we are neglecting the parts of us whose essence is the heartbeat of our very being. From the outpouring of our souls comes our thoughts, desires, passions, and beliefs. Truth must permeate our souls in order to heal the broken areas where the curse has had its talons dug deep into us for so long. The truth of who God is, his goodness, his power, his love, his characteristics all shape us. They are the what releases those talons from the fabric of our souls. Circumstances of life can lead us to despair making us believe life would be better if weren’t around for it. Sudden loss, ambiguous grief, and the weight of the depravity of this world can all be circumstances that may lead us to despair. If you want proof of this, all you need to do is look at the life of Job. His circumstances spoke a narrative of life’s troubles being that which justifies ending our lives. In my case, sin brought about the thoughts of ending my life. The weight and inability to reconcile why God would still want to love me after such horrendous failure never made sense in my works based religious piety. All my hope and satisfaction was in the world I created for myself, and just in time, God blew the kiss of his tender mercy right through the middle of my self-made kingdom. This blow was no whisper, but rather a hurricane of destruction completely demolishing every unstable foundation. It was there, with the rubble and wreckage all around me, that I could no longer find my significance or identity in the things I built for myself. I felt no reason to live, especially with what I put my hope in gone and never to be seen or heard from again.
Nearly a year and a half later, I now know a freedom from religious piety, unhealthy co-dependence, and relational idolatry that could only be attributed to the slow, bone-breaking, soul cleansing, lowest of lows work God did in me. It was there in the belly of the fish, where I believed the weight of my sin would crush me to the point of desiring death more than life, that I finally relented just as Jonah had done. For me, the darkest place on earth was no intestinal track of a large marine animal, but rather the mind of someone haunted by their sin. Christ had to show me the depth to which he would go to love me, mind, and soul. He has kindly, lovingly, and perfectly healed my imagination, and restored me in the land of the living. Unfortunately, I see many believers who have experienced the same mental battle with nowhere to turn. My friend, if you believe your sin should lead you to end your life, please hear me… You cannot judge your sin perfectly. Only Christ can. And he did… even before you would commit treason against him, or another, he chose you. His plan before the beginning of time was to send his son in order that your sin might stay dead in the grave, and your new self be raised with him on the day of redemption. Reach out. Get help. And most importantly, preach truth to yourself. If you are a believer, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). No sin Christ hasn’t already died for can keep you from the land of the living, in this life or the next.