On February 15th around 2:15pm, I thought about going back to my dorm room and swallowing all of my anti-depressants. It was a Thursday. I was sitting on a stool trying to focus on the demonstration my professor was doing, but the invasive thoughts kept whispering in my brain. It would make people happier. You wouldn’t have to keep trying so hard. You aren’t feeling anything anymore anyways.
I had thought about suicide before for brief seconds, but this was the first time that there was an action plan. It was also the first time I was rationalizing the thought. Praise the Lord, I had the instinct to text Sweet Ben, who was across the room at a sewing machine, and my friend Nathan, who was across campus. I told them both about the thought and that I felt that I was safe, but that I was scared. I knew that my parents were already worried about my mental state, but I didn’t end up telling them about all this until about two weeks later.
I thought about killing myself many more times during the following two months. I hated going to counseling appointments because I felt like a loser. I didn’t want to take my Prozac because I didn’t think it was helping. For the first time in my life, I experienced an extreme struggle to get out of bed each morning. Going to church wasn’t much easier, because I felt like God was mad at me. I wasn’t sure who actually liked me and was just waiting for every important person in my life to drop me. On one of my lower evenings, I admitted to Ben that there were times when I got in my car by myself that I hoped I would get in an accident to end my hurting. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever admitted to someone.
During this period of my life, I was reading my bible every day. Not just reading a few verses and checking it off my list, but really studying the word and having a deep communication with the Lord. I had never felt closer in my relationship with God. So why was I contemplating ending my own life? Cause doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us?
Here’s the thing: the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is complete crap. Guys, we gotta stop using this phrase, because that’s not what the Bible is saying to us. It also can make you seem like a jerk when you are trying to comfort people who are hurting. There’s a verse in 1 Corinthians that is quoted all the time, especially during times of suffering. In chapter 10 verse 13, Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” Friends, trials are not the same thing as temptations. If you jump over to James, chapter 1 says that, “No one undergoing trials should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” It’s true that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our strength, but it does not say that we won’t deal with trials that feel like the world is falling down on us. God does not tempt us, but He does allow trials to enter our lives to sharpen and grow us.
If you go over to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a, you see that Paul is in a rough spot. He’s only about a paragraph into this letter to the church in Corinth when he unloads this. “For we don’t want you to be unaware, brother, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed- beyond our strength-so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves…”
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Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, the guy who wrote a large chunk of the New Testament: he was open about the fact that he and his ministry partners felt so overwhelmed to the point of wanting to die. But look what Paul says in the second part of verse 9: “…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again.” God uses our afflictions to draw us closer to Him. He is the one who pulls us through the deep valleys.
Here’s the hard truth: we live in a broken world. We have a sinful nature on an imperfect planet, and because things are not how God originally designed, crappy stuff happens in our lives. We often wonder why bad things happen or why we feel terrible, and the ultimate reason is that the world is not how it should be. People also often ask why God doesn’t stop all the terrible things that happen in the world, and that’s because we are creatures designed with free will. We get to choose how to handle our lives; God isn’t our puppet master. Rather, He wants to have a deep and meaningful relationship with us.
Now, did I know in my heart that the paragraph above was true when I was going through my horrible patch of depression? Yes. Did it make things any better? Yes and no. Yes, because living with hope makes life so much more bearable. And no, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m having suicidal thoughts, I don’t want bible verses thrown at me with the hope that I’ll feel miraculously better. Of course, God could work this way if He wanted to, but He gets our emotions. Jesus got angry when He saw leaders leading poorly. Jesus cried with His friends when His buddy died, even when He knew that He was about to raise that guy from the dead. Heck, Jesus got to such an intense point of despair that He was sweating blood (look up hematidrosis; it’s insane).
God gets our emotions, which is why He designed us to be relational beings. I was beyond blessed by the people in my life, specifically my roommates, my parents and Sweet Ben. My roommates sat with me while we drank hot beverages and would listen to my frustrations. My parents have been and always will be a safe spot for me to land, even when I’m not pleasant to be around. Sweet Ben held me when I was sobbing uncontrollably on multiple occasions. I was thankful that instead of telling me bible verses about how God is good and that everything happens for a reason all the time, my people loved on me when I didn’t love myself. I was never alone even when depression was rearing its ugly head.
If you are struggling with scary thoughts, I implore you to seek out help. No one is meant to go through life alone. Sometimes it’s good to get someone else’s help with your burdens. Suicide is a permanent choice that rocks more peoples’ worlds than you could ever imagine. Ending your life is not the solution to your problems and it will certainly not make anyone’s life any easier. Every person is designed to love and to be loved by others; don’t rob people of the opportunity to have you in their life.
Back towards the top of this page, I asked three questions: Doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Paul answered the first question for us, but what about the second two?
So, are we conquerors? Yes.
Romans 8:37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.
Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Yes (many times in fact).
Psalm 94:14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage
Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I’m writing this while I watch the sunset over a lake in Oklahoma. There are thousands of bugs out singing their very loud song. My cousin and her friend are making friendship bracelets. My aunts and uncles are chatting about jobs. A few boats are still out hanging out on the lake. Down the hill, I saw a momma dear with two little fawns. I am so grateful that I did not listen to the intrusive thoughts I dealt with this last semester. If I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here enjoying the simple joys of a summer road trip. Life can still be hard. I still struggle with self-loathing thoughts from time to time. I sometimes feel I’m not wanted. However, I am constantly reminded of God’s love for me through the people He has put in my life. I believe that God loves us through others. He gives us hugs through tender-hearted friends. He encourages us with a kind word via a caring companion. He wipes away our tears through the love of a steadfast confidant.
It’s July 27th, around 8:30pm, and by God’s grace I haven’t dealt with the scary thoughts I first had in sewing class for a few months now. It’s a Saturday. I am happy to be alive and growing. While I have not been cured of depression (and may never be), I know Jesus has conquered all. Because of this knowledge, I know I too can be an overcomer.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please use the prevention lifeline. Every life is valuable.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255
Until Next Time,