These recent weeks have left me ponderous of many things.
I learned of the death of Robin Williams that Monday with the rest of the world. I groaned.
I groaned, not because I knew him personally. Such was not my privilege. No, I groaned for his family in the unimaginable horror they must be experiencing. I groaned for those I love who have lost a family member in a similar way, knowing they would relive their own horrific memories yet again. I groaned for every family who lives with the anxiety and fear of this possibility.
And then the wave of responses started. There were the expected responses of sadness and shock, the many clips that made us laugh from various roles he played. I had my own favorites and I watched many others.
And then the stupid started. You know the stupid. The responses and comments from people who should know better but don’t. Those speaking as if they had any knowledge and clearly did not. Those whose words poked at the open wounds of sufferers who have lived this unimaginable horror or who fear one day they might.
And I went from groaning to anger.
And then, as if there had not been enough emotion already, I saw the reaction to the stupid. And it was just as vitriolic.
And I thought, really, can we not just pause and be reflective? If this moment is anything, isn’t it a moment when we should pause and reflect on the meaning of life, the meaning of our fragile humanity, the meaning of hope and hopelessness, the meaning of suffering for those living with depression or other major mental illness?
And so I have pondered these recent weeks. I have reflected on these things. And here is where I am.
- Depression is real and palpable and often debilitating for those in its grip.
- Those who live with depression as their form of brokenness live with a form of suffering I cannot fathom. I have experienced mild forms of the challenge during and after chemotherapy but nothing so debilitating that I could not see any hope for beyond the moment.
- I am broken in other ways. My brokenness may not play out in the same way but it is just as real.
- Those who live with depression or other mental health challenges live with struggles beyond my comprehension. I should respect that and speak grace into their lives.
- There is a complexity to these issues that doesn’t fall neatly into simply disability or simply choice. As my dear friend Joan has said to me many times, “The hardest part is when sin mingles with disability.” Oh my, I linger long and thoughtfully on this often.
- Only God knows where the line is crossed between disability and sin. I try to discern that moment in my interactions with those who suffer in this life with mental health challenges but only God truly knows when that line is crossed.
- God assures us that He will always provide a way of escape from any temptation. I linger long here as well. In my quiet time I read I Corinthians 10:13 and it assures me of this, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. And God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able but will provide a way of escape that you may be able to endure it.” And I linger here long. What does this mean for those who struggle with depression, for those who struggle with suicidal ideation? What does it really mean? How does this passage apply to their suffering journey?
- Our enemy is bent on our destruction. Indeed, John 10:10a tell us he wants to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Granted, for most of us, our choices don’t lead to our physical destruction; however, his goal remains the same. He wants to destroy the prism through which each of us is to reflect God’s glory.
- Our enemy will use anything for our destruction. Our focus in recent days has been the destruction of a human life through suicide, granted. But he will also use any means he can to destroy our image bearing capacity. For some, that will be some other area of struggle from gluttony to lust to control to envy… whatever your struggle, Satan will use it to destroy your image bearing if he can.
- We never know when we are on the brink of destruction. I remember hearing in my childhood, you can choose your sin or struggle but you can’t choose your consequence. We often don’t know the consequential nature of our choices until after. And then, in our lives as well, it is often too late.
- Any time we choose to say no to God and His hope we die somehow. Adam and Eve did not realize when they chose to disobey God that their choice would lead to their immediate hardship and ultimate death. But it did. And so it is with us. When we choose disobedience in any way, we choose a sort of death.
- For those who struggle with depression and suicidal ideation, their choice can lead to the ultimate bodily destruction.
- But God. I love this phrase. But God. Praise God, for those who know Him, who have been welcomed into His family, even in death they are welcomed into His arms. Though their final act may be a refusal of His hope and grace, an inability to see it, He still welcomes them because He cannot reject His own. I know this is controversial for some. But this is where I stand firmly and grounded in His Word in John 10:29, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” No one means no one. Not even in suicide can one be snatched from God’s hand if ever he has been placed there.
So why do I write about this when much time has passed? Because it has taken me this time to ponder. To ponder the great grief of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Unimaginable. To ponder the great loss to the Kingdom of those who have fallen prey to our enemy. Incalculable. And to ponder our Great God who is great enough to catch even the one who has fallen to death by his own hand if he is part of God’s family. Unfathomable.
I have also been ponderous of my own brokenness and the destruction it can bring – though perhaps not as seemingly devastating as suicide. My presumptuous sin may not lead to my immediate death but it may ultimately lead to my destruction. I should never forget this. If I do, I forget the caution in the verse we don’t often talk about before that familiar I Corinthians 10:13 verse. Verse 12 tells us “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”