I Heard God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts Through Community
A friend made a comment about a blog post that I recently “liked” called Hearing God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts by Matthew Wireman on The Gospel Coalition blog. In jest, he asked if me if I was doing ok, and wanted to make sure to talk me off the ledge. In my response to him, I told him that I was currently doing alright, and to not to worry about me, that I “liked” this post because of the honesty of the writer in his hardship and how he finds God in the midst of it. While this is currently true as God has brought much healing to me in recent years, I also want to be honest in why I was drawn to this article in the first place.
Depression is a very real thing that I have struggled with in my life, and in some of my darkest times, there have been moments where I’ve contemplated suicide. It’s a strange thing to admit that I’ve had these kinds of thoughts, since growing up, I was the smart, friendly, nice, over-achieving, super-involved-in-church Asian girl. My plastered-on smile hid much of the reality of the internal darkness that I battled with during high school. While the majority of the people around me had no idea, thankfully, I had a few close friends who encouraged me through this period in my life, so I made it through.
Fast forward to my second-year in seminary, and after a traumatic event, these thoughts came back. Really? I thought I was past this, I’m in seminary. I’m supposed to be “spiritually mature,” I thought depression was something I already found victory over. Yet, here I am again. I remember one time when I was quite ready to explode, I scheduled an emergency meeting with my spiritual director, and in the midst of having thoughts of wanting to hurt myself, she helped me see that I wasn’t alone, that Jesus understood anger, grief, betrayal, and that He met me in the midst of all of these emotions. During this season, I was surrounded by an amazing community of people who loved God and were trained to care for others.
As I look back at those dark times, I see how God spoke to me through His Word, in reminding me that nothing can separate me from His love (Rom 8:38-39), and how He also used the family of God to speak words of truth and love to me. While the dark thoughts of depression tried to isolate me, tried to tell me that I was alone, and that no one understood this pain, these dear friends would remind me of God’s love and their love for me. While professional help in therapy has also been one of the ways God has used to bring much healing in my life, I am grateful for all of the different relationships that He has given to bring about this healing. These people have shown me Jesus in an incarnational way through their love and care for me, and I am so grateful for their encouragement and support.
A reason that I am drawn to studying the theology of shame is the reality of my own struggle with it in my own life. In seeing the ways Jesus enters into shame and transforms it, bringing love and acceptance to replace shame, I find freedom in the midst of it. Since mental illness is something that is often taboo in many churches, which also brings much shame to those struggling with depression, I’m encouraged by writers like Wireman who are honest about their struggle, and it gives me encouragement to also be honest. I’ve seen the healing power of being open to others about my own struggles, to know that I am not alone.
I recently went to an event put on by an organization called, To Write Love On Her Arms, where different musical artists performed and different people shared their stories of struggling with depression, wanting to share with people that there is help out there and hope. I appreciate their organization and what they are doing, in helping people connect with resources for help and recovery. While I initially just went to this event because I wanted to watch Jon Foreman perform live, and really had no idea what I was getting into – this event encouraged me to share my own story with others – to encourage others that they are not alone in their struggles, that Jesus understands pain, that there are people who can help, and that there is hope.