Recently, on an evening off from recording my new album, a group of family and friends gathered in the living room of Ben, the bassist in my band, and his wife Sharon. We were talking about theology, as it happens, and debate was predictably passionate. At one point I committed the cardinal sin of telling a friend she was “just wrong” with her point of view (she wasn’t).
Things were tense for a moment, and then they moved on and the moment was forgotten. Except in my head. I was gripped with guilt and remorse for having been so immature, stupid, prideful and much more besides. Quickly I felt myself sinking in to a feeling of worthlessness and pointlessness that is fearfully familiar.
Within five minutes I was quietly making a list of pros and cons as to why I shouldn’t kill myself.
This kind of thing has happened many times before. I have a problem. I am depressed. I have thought about killing myself many times, many times daily during some periods of my life. I tried once. I failed. I hope never to try again. I’m sure many reading this would be able to tell their own stories of what it feels like, or perhaps doesn’t feel like to want to die. Sometimes my thoughts, my senses, are so heightened, that I feel as if I can’t cope. Other days I feel nothing. If anything, for me this is more frightening.
The occasion I described above was all the more poignant because the morning after my list-making, I was to play as part of the worship band for the morning service, and also to ‘share’. Waking up, glad that the evening had passed to the new mercies of morning, I lay in bed and asked God what I should speak about that day. The only thought/answer I could perceive was: depression. This wasn’t part of my plan. Depression is something I hate talking about. Showing my weaknesses to others is a frightening prospect. What will they think of me? Will I lose my job?
The service that morning was intense. Musically, something happened. Kevin Bruchert, who was leading, did so in such a way that there was little in the way between God and His people. Andy the pastor preached, and then it was turned over to me. I had no plan as I began speaking. All I did was honestly relate what had happened the previous evening. I found myself talking about Romans 8:10-11, about the Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, who is at work in our mortal bodies, our spiritual bodies, our hearts and minds, to bring us to true identity, peace and freedom in him. It struck me how little in church we talk about depression and suicide. I encouraged the church to talk, to pray, to live in uncertainty and pain, as well as joy and hope together.
And then something else happened. People began to come forward and pray; for me, for one another, for themselves. It felt like something broke through that morning in me and in the lives of the people in that church. So many of them had stories of depression and suicide attempts, and had never had the opportunity to talk about them in church before. This is a problem we can deal with. God knows and cares for us all, intimately. He knows what we are going through, what we can bear. As this is World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s make a commitment to talk to each other, take care of each other and entrust one another to the grace and mercy of God. Sometimes suicide happens, and it is horribly painful. It is often, very often, no one’s fault. Often it is the final outworking of a horrible illness. We need help to remember this.
I want to make a commitment to continue to fight, daily, to look to Jesus for my strength and wisdom, for healing. More than that, I want to be a grateful worshipper. Sadly, however much I pray it seems that some days I cannot escape these thoughts and feelings. Each time they seem to come back more strongly and more overwhelmingly. I know, though, too, that my redeemer lives, that he is my refuge. People who know and love Jesus commit suicide. I believe it does not change his love for them, or the victory of his death and resurrection in their lives. Regardless of this, as a Christian, a future vicar, and someone who feels as I often do, I long for a church that is able to live in such a way as to point to the hope of the gospel for those who feel as if their hope has run out.
This has been a difficult article to write. I fear I have not expressed myself clearly. I also fear that some of what I have said might not be correct or accurate. Please forgive me and my clumsy honesty.