suicide, depression, and christianity

Yesterday (4/13/15) was two years since one of my high school best friends died. She committed suicide.

I’m not going to blog about whether people who kill themselves go to hell or not or if Christ’s blood covers that sin as well. That’s for people way more theologically advanced than me, and even then – who knows? That’s still up to God.

What I am going to talk about is depression. Because that’s something that I’ve dealt with for as long as I can recall. I can remember being in fourth or fifth grade and thinking, “I’m a kid… shouldn’t I be happy? Why am I sad all the time?” I can show you the thin white lines that lace my forearms and biceps and wrists and hips and stomach and the darker purple-silver ones on my thighs where normal cuts didn’t get deep enough.

And what I am going to talk about is suicide, because the first time I tried to kill myself was in sixth grade. Little 11 year old me was going to fall on a butcher knife in the middle of the kitchen because she was so depressed. (what I would give to have 5 minutes with her or just hug her…) And that was only the first time I tried.

I know these personally. These demons have been around me my whole life. Sometimes I sarcastically call them my friends, but I know they’re my enemies. They are from the Enemy. His job is to steal, kill and destroy. That is exactly what depression does. It steals your joy; it kills your hope; it destroys your desire for life at all.

Depression tells you that you are alone. That no one loves you, that no one will understand what you’re going through, that no one cares. It isolates you from your friends and family and everything that you were once interested in.

Not only do 1 in 10 American adults face depression at some point, the number of people diagnosed with depression goes up by 20 percent every year. (source) Whether you think that’s because of our increasing techno-social dependence, or something to do with genetically modified foods, or some other theory that’s floating around society: the facts are still the facts, and depression is something that you or some you love will face in their lifetime.

Depression isn’t anything new either. It’s been around since the Bible times.

Jeremiah 20:14-18 says,
14 Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
    that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
    and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
    so my mother would have been my grave,
    and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come out from the womb
    to see toil and sorrow,
    and spend my days in shame?

Job 7:15-16 says
15 I would choose strangling
    and death rather than my bones.
16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
    Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.

The book of Psalms is full of different examples of King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” crying out in deep depression and sadness.

Psalm 32:3-4 says
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[a] as by the heat of summer.

Psalm 102:4-7 says
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

Psalm 6:6 says
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.

But Psalm 42:5 shows us a slightly different story:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation.

David tells his heart: hope in God! He doesn’t say “praise him right now” or “just be happy” or something silly like that. He acknowledges that he can’t necessarily find joy right now. But he does hold on to the future, and hold on to the knowledge that everything won’t stay dark forever. Pain lasts for the night, but joy IS coming in the morning!

I don’t have any magic words for how I got past my depression. Truth is, I didn’t. Those “friends” will likely be around for the rest of my life, because they’re caused by a hereditary chemical imbalance in my brain. The difference is that I am familiar with ol’ Depression’s lies now. I know how to combat them. I know the verses to read, the things to focus on in prayer. Not that depression doesn’t grow and evolve with me as I learn, but I grow and learn with it, and the goal is to grow with God faster than my “friends” do.

In a strange way, it’s comforting to look down at my arms or legs and see those silver-white lines. They fade more and more as the years separate me from that 12 year old with a broken mirror, desperate for something, and from the 14 year old who was given a razor blade that allowed her the ability to quickly and easily slice away at her arms upwards of 50 times in a night. Those are brutal memories to think and talk about, but they are a huge part of my testimony, and I love seeing my scars, and seeing how God has used them to open the door to countless broken people who see that I can understand them. I will be sad when my little lines are completely invisible to the naked eye, because they represent the daily battle I have to do on the soul-level.

So if you are dealing with some “friends” of your own – all I can say is just hold on. There is always hope. There is a dawn coming for your night. No, life won’t always be sunshine and roses. In fact, it may stay looking like a gloomy, foggy mess forever. BUT, you wouldn’t even be able to see that fog if you hadn’t found some sort of light to see with. Fog can be so beautiful and magical.

It’s a fight. You don’t have to win every battle! You are allowed to take a day off from life. You are allowed to stay in bed all day if the fight to just even live gets too exhausting. Just make sure you get up that next day after your little break. Just keep fighting, and one day you’ll find someone to fight with you, and maybe multiple someones to help. And it will slowly get easier and easier. Hope.

My hope for anyone reading this jumble of emotions and thoughts is the same as Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

_________________________________

If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves in some way, here are a few resources.

imalive.org
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1-800-273-TALK
afsp.org

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the pause button

I’m eating Spaghetti-O’s for lunch at work right now, because sometimes you need to feel little again, and kid-food is a wonderful way to do that.

This post isn’t going to be tied into my food like the last one; I just wanted to share my Spaghetti-O joy.

Do you ever hit pause with God? I find myself doing that all the time.

Let me explain, if you don’t know what I mean. Sometimes, I take a mini-break from God. (It’s entirely unintentional, but it makes complete sense because to live for Christ, you have to live completely intentional.) Sometimes, I forget to carve out time with Him. I forget to pray continually. I don’t share a cup of coffee or tea with Him; I don’t pause and take a moment to be in awe of His creation when I see a raindrop or a leaf or a bird. I don’t take time to be grateful. I don’t take time to seek the Spirit and put on my armor.

It’s not that I don’t want it! It’s just that life gets crazy and busy and there are 5000 distractions hurtling themselves at my brain always. But if I don’t live intentionally, I end up subconsciously hitting “pause” on my relationship with God.

It’s always harder to go back to the gym after the holidays than it is to go back 24-48 hours after your last workout. That’s where I’m at. I paused over the Christmas week (dumb right? Christmas! It’s about Him!) and now I’m trying to hit play again but my muscles are stiff and weaker than they were. Stretching hurts more; I’m not as flexible as I was before my pause. And flexibility is a huge thing in my relationship with God. He’s not going to stop molding me, ever the wonderful Potter, but if I’m not flexible with His ways and His guiding and His molding, that continual changing and shaping are going to be a lot more painful than they have to be.

And I need that molding. I don’t like me. I don’t want to be like me. I’m awkward and kinda crazy (not in the fun way) and really really bad at inter-personal relationships. I don’t want to be me. I want to be like Him. I don’t want to be the lumpy finger pot with cracks all over that I am right now; I want to be a pretty, useful vessel for Him. That’s what the molding is for.

I don’t want to be like Zephaniah 3:2, that says, “She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God.” (It’s talking about Jerusalem in context.) She doesn’t obey authority, she can’t accept correction, and she doesn’t have trust in God….all because “she does not draw near to her God.” That’s not a pretty picture, especially for someone (me) realizing that she’s neglected to draw near to God. I want to have an obedient heart for authority (it makes life a lot easier) and I want to be able to accept correction from a mentor or concerned friend without getting angry or something, and I desperately need to trust God. Life is crazy on it’s own, and based on the fact that some big changes are coming my way and I’m also going to school to be in the ministry, trusting God is HUGE.

If you hit pause like me, don’t worry. Whether it was for a week or month or even if it may have been so long and so unconscious that you have no idea when it happened… don’t worry.

The Bible is full of encouragement for us pause-ers.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you….”

Zechariah 1:3 says, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Jeremiah 3:22 says, “‘Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’ ‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God.'”

Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

So if you think you’ve paused… It’s okay. It’s never to late to hit your play button.

on printing and prayer

I rented one of my text books this semester, and I got an email this morning that I have to ship it back by tomorrow or I’ll get charged extra. I’ve known for a couple of weeks that it was due, but – procrastinator that I am – I’ve been ignoring those emails. But, with one more day to ship, I said “okay, let me print that right quick before my quiet time! Two minutes.” Note that I was already about 8 minutes late in starting my quiet time, because I decided to change outfits three times – typical girl stuff.
My computer and printer like to not get along, and when it’s online for every one else’s computer, it will be offline on mine. Lately (yesterday…only yesterday.) it’s been easier to connect though. I tried for 20 minutes to print my shipping label before I finally gave up and went “okay, I’ll do it later. I guess I’ll go in to work at 9 instead of 8:30 so I can spend this time with you, God…”
I pulled my french press over to my desk from where my coffee had been brewing (steeping? It feels different in a french press…) and grabbed a big owl mug for God and a little pig mug for myself. The second I poured our cups of coffee, my shipping label printed. God has a sense of humor…and I got the message. Have you laughed with God lately? ‘Cause it’s the best thing. There’s normal laughter with friends, and then there’s laughter with the One who made you and knitted together all the little special places in your heart, and knows exactly what little irony will flood you with joy on a drizzly morning. And that’s exactly what it did – my wet and cold December morning turned warm and lovely, and I’m still giggling about the printer/coffee incident hours later as I write this during my afternoon lull.

I love being reminded that God isn’t some displeased and distant being watching as we stumble and demanding that we tick off a to-do list on how to be a good Christian. I get that twisted up in my brain kind of often. He’s the dearest friend we’ll ever know, and loves to play little jokes to remind us that He’s both funny and should come before printing something, and He enjoys sharing coffee out of animal shaped mugs with us in our dorm rooms just as much as He enjoys our worship on Sunday mornings.