Hearing God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts

Photo by Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

No one ever suspected. I worked hard to have a polished smile and on-cue laugh. But several times during my teen years I contemplated taking my own life.

Had someone asked me why I was thinking about suicide, I would never be able to rationally explain my reasoning. It’s hard to admit that I thought life was so hard that I wanted to end it—especially considering how easy my life has been in comparison with people suffering all over the world. It’s also hard to describe the experience of depression. It’s like trying to describe living in a room that is pitch black.

Once I became a Christian, I thought I had victory in Jesus, my Savior. Yet within a few months I found myself fighting the demons again. Why did I continue to struggle with this? Why does depression continue to crouch at my door even today?

It can be dangerous to speak generally about depression and suicide, and I don’t want to give anyone the impression that such thoughts of self-harm are acceptable. While they are more common than we care to admit, we should not give in to the debilitating lie that death is better than life. This is true especially in light of our overly psychologized culture that too readily qualifies us as victim—and not also a perpetrator in our own mess.

No Easy Answers

Lest you think that I ascribe an overly simplistic approach to depression (by saying it’s all about decisions and doing), let me clarify that I offer an anecdotal account and do not mean to prescribe or denounce your experience. But for those going through such struggles, I hope you may find that much of my antidote—listening for the voice of God in Scripture—will speak to your own experience.

I am writing to you who feel like suicide shouldn’t even be entering your mind. After all, you have the mind of Christ, and such thoughts seem contradictory to his. You know you have been declared righteous—but you don’t care. You just want the world to stop. You want the blur of confusion and numbness to go away. If you could just cast yourself upon the rocks below, you think you would be able to enjoy bliss.

Let’s start with what we know to be clear in Scripture. You know that it is wrong to murder (Lk 18.20). You know that God will never leave you or forsake you (Heb 13.5). You know you have been brought out of darkness into his marvelous light (1Pet 2.9).

Yet you also know that the darkness seems to pull you in like a black hole. No matter how much you preach to yourself, the darkness doesn’t flee. You feel alone and forsaken. And you know you have murdered yourself a hundred times over in your heart.

God Meets Us in the Darkness

This is where the gospel meets us. The sadness you feel over your sin and the world is exactly how you should feel. The darkness surrounding you is real. No shiny, happy people holding hands here. Grief and disgust is entirely appropriate for our fallen world.

When I had suicidal thoughts in my Christian life I used to condemn myself for thinking such horrible things. I used to try to think of my “happy place.” But I have come to embrace the reality we live in: This fallen world is painful.

God invites you to embrace this sadness, for on the other side lies hope. It may only be a flickering flame, yet it pushes back the darkness. Hear your maker’s voice asking, “Where are you?” (Gen 3.9). And as your head is heavy with grief, you hear his voice again saying, “My soul is so sorrowful, even to death” (Matt 26.38). You hear him as he weeps and cries out in anguish. You feel the torment. You grieve. You feel helpless. And yet, you hear his voice again asking, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (Jn 20.15).

This is the beginning of the remedy. In the midst of your garden of sorrow, seek his face. Know that he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa 53.3). You are not alone or forsaken.

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