Monday, April 8, 2013

Suicide and Hope

Taking a short break from homework to blog about something I saw on facebook (one of the few times going to facebook actually has resulted in deeper thinking and understanding about a real life issue for me and not simply wasted time!).

Apparently Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor at Saddleback Church in California, had a 27-year-old son who committed suicide on Friday night. After searching out some news stories for more information, I was touched and encouraged by the sensitivity of the reports and the way that Pastor Warren seems to be dealing with this. This son struggled with mental illness his entire life, a deep depression that did not go away even after years of treatment at the hands of the best physicians and psychiatrists in America, medications, counseling, and prayer.

Initially, this terrifies me. In my struggle with depression, I have often been encouraged by the well-meaning friend or family member that "this won't last forever" or "you will feel better and you just need to hold out until then." While this is the case in most situations of depression, it doesn't seem to have been for this young man. When I hear about years and years of trying and finding nothing to help, it makes me wonder if that may be my lot too. Granted, I have already found such healing and relief from the worst of my depression and pray that this will be the case from here on out.

More than scaring me however, it breaks my heart. Because I know so well what it is like to struggle through depression as a Christian. Pastor Warren said that several years back, he remembers his son say, "Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?" I have spoken those same words to my dad, more than once. Days upon weeks upon months of gut-wrenching, heart-shattering, unbearable pain, walking around like a zombie, numbed and unable to stop the flow of tears. . . it soon becomes clear that anything would be preferable to living life like this - and when death means perfect bliss and intimacy with God in heaven for eternity, of course that sounds more appealing!

The apostle Paul speaks to this in Philippians 1:23-24, when he says, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." The "necessary for you" is the part that seems so impossible when living a life marked by depression - how can I be beneficial to anyone? How does my time on earth bring life or joy or meaning to anyone else? I feel like I'm just taking up space and I cannot see purpose or meaning in my own life, much less live in a way that helps others to find it in theirs. My pain is not worth whatever help I might be to someone else down the road.

And I don't have an answer to these thoughts or questions. When a mind is clouded by depression, there is no reasoning that will help that person to make sense of life or continuing to choose to live. I get that. But today, I speak as one whose mind isn't muddied by these thoughts. And I can say that these past few months, I have had glimpses of meaning. Slivers of light that point out ways my life might make a difference. Areas I may be "necessary" for others. Having to daily make the choice to live is not an easy task. I don't fault those who wake up one day and can no longer make that choice.

But today, I am. I choose to live.

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