Three Thoughts on Suicide from an Observer
Anonymous guest post
News of a suicide always hits me a bit differently, I suppose, than it does someone who has never struggled with depression. Ten years into my own battle, news of a suicide—any suicide—hits as a blow beneath the belt. And a confusing one at that.
I remember like it was yesterday the first suicide news I heard after the depression had set in. It was a pastor. And my response was a tangle of emotions I didn’t know how to sort out.
I felt grief for him. (I know something of the inner pain that can drive someone to the brink.) But I also felt confused for me. If he—a godly leader—got to this point, might I eventually helplessly follow suit?
The Lord helped me through that season of confusion, but it’s never gotten easier to hear.
This past spring, for instance, when I heard of the death of Matthew Warren, I ached fresh again.
I grieved for his family, as I’m sure anyone who heard the news fresh did.
But on a personal front, it hit on a “bad day” for me. (If you’ve suffered from long-term depression, you know there are “good days” and “bad days.”) And it brought a level of confusion and pain that I felt I needed to distill into a logical sequence.
The three points I jotted down (in bold below) became anchor points for me through that season…and for the following suicide I learned of just a few weeks later.
If you struggle—or if you counsel those who do—perhaps these will be a help:
1. Medical doctors cannot effectively treat all depression.
My own journey through depression has included two prolonged periods of seeking relief through SSRIs. I remember a conversation preceding the most recent re-entry into the SSRI world when a well-meaning friend told me, “Depression is a treatable disease. Just take the medicine.” I think she thought I was holding out because I thought taking meds counters trusting God or something. I don’t. I was holding out because it didn’t help me in the past.
Her statement, however, gave me the renewed hope that helped to push me back to the doctor’s office—for another many appointments and many dosage adjustments.
I quit the SSRIs (with my doctor’s help, and with helpful perspective through Good Mood, Bad Mood) just one month before Matthew Warren’s death. His suicide—and the articles I read about how diligently and faithfully his family had sought help for him—was a solid reminder to not put trust in doctors.
I’m thankful for anyone who is helped with depression through medicine, but with or without medicine, our hope must be in the Lord—not in feeling good.
2. I will not bring such an intense grief to my family.
This point was actually a reconfirmation of a decision I made years ago. In the darkest times, I can’t always see how my life impacts or benefits others. But I can see (especially through reports of a suicide) the intense grief and confusion taking my life would have on others. Perhaps I don’t always feel I can be courageous for me—but I must be for them.
3. Even “untreatable” or “unresponsive” depression can be sustained by God’s grace. I choose to believe that God can and will sustain me as His servant for a lifetime.
When you’re hurting deeply and you hear that someone else was as well and the only way out they saw was to take their own life, it raises questions. “Will I get to that point as well?” “Will my resistance and courage weaken over time?” “Can I sustain this heaviness for a lifetime?”
The answer to all of those questions is two words: God’s grace.
His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Is is a present tense verb—His grace is sufficient today, and it will be tomorrow. It will always be sufficient in the present tense. In the end, I must choose to believe that.
And so last April, as I distilled tumultuous feelings into these three anchors, I was reminded again of perhaps the most beautiful word in the world--hope.
Specifically, I was reminded of the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13) and His promise to undergird me with His grace.
In the end, suicide is a choice; so is resting in God’s grace.
“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”—Psalm 63:3