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.

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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