[Hope in the dark – A God who never gives up]
In a couple of the things I’ve written, I touched on the humiliation I first felt during a very impressonable time in my life. For me, humiliation’s lasting effects left me feeling so poorly of myself, that it followed me through my teen years. (Not the humiliation itself, but the lies that I believed about myself.) So much so, I eventually reached a point at which I felt hopeless enough to contemplate suicide as a way out. Contemplation was followed by a plan, a time and a place. Evidently I’m still here, so thankfully I wasn’t able to follow that plan through.
I have no simple answer as to why one would contemplate suicide, or even worse, go through with it, but I do know at least this: You have to be in a pretty dark place; one that appears to be without hope. For me personally, I was very isolated. When you’re struggling with low self-esteem, and you have social anxiety, it becomes your prison. I believe at the time I was also suffering from depression–and depression itself has a way of making you feel very alone and lonely.
When I experienced depression later in life–though I had Andrew at this time–I still experienced that loneliness. Andrew was confused by it, and to be fair, I didn’t know what was wrong with me either.
Depression feels like you’re very stuck in yourself; the joy has been thoroughly sapped from you; you can’t see past today–let alone tomorrow–and the future seems to hold no promise. When I experienced depression while married, I could come up with numerous reasons for why I was feeling the way I was feeling. We’ve had our fair share of challenges, so it took some time for me to understand that these feelings–though seeming fair enough–were too intense, and that my life wasn’t truly as dark and bleak as all of that. There can also be fear, and anxiety in the mix as well at times. Those who have never experienced it will have a very hard time truly understanding it, or you. Your body’s chemistry is just not optimal, and in turn causes you to loose that sense of well being. It’s not just feeling glum, or mildly melancholy; you can’t positively think your way out of this one.
The depression I experienced when I was a teenager wasn’t nearly as intense as that, but without hope, I was in a place that was dark enough to want out. What steered me clear of even attempting suicide though, was the realization that something could potentially go wrong, and I’d have to live–further damaged–with those consequences, or in my own opinion–even worse–I could succeed, and my family would have to suffer with a loss instead. I didn’t know God back then, so I couldn’t see that hope on the horizon, but as I stood there with the facts in hand, it was clear that attempting suicide would only either cause me more grief, or the people who loved me more grief, and I couldn’t justify either outcome.
Clearly I had a broken spirit, but I was still of a sound mind. With this understanding, it’s my personal belief that it may very well take an unsound mind, (a severe chemical imbalance), or an overly ill and downcast spirit, to follow through, and take ones own life. Don’t buy the line that it’s a cowards way out. Never belittle someone’s spiral into despair; it’s misinformed, and lacking in compassion. Clearly it takes great anguish and confusion to come to such a harsh end, and on that note, it’s my belief that suicide is not an unforgivable sin. Let me explain why.
There’s doubtlessly nothing Scriptural to back up the notion that a person who takes their own life–in effect murdering themselves–has committed an unforgivable sin. In fact the only sin that can’t be forgiven is rejecting God Himself, but even this can be corrected.
“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28
I used to think this verse meant that if I had ever said anything against the Holy Spirit I was truly unforgivable, and I often wondered if in the years before I became a Christian I’d said anything to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I also wondered if I was truly saved because of this. But this isn’t a mere speaking against the Holy Spirit. It’s a willful rejection of God’s power (the Holy Spirit) that worked through Jesus to bring us Salvation, and an unwillingness to repent of our wrong doings and accept that salvation. We all do this before we come to know Jesus, but once we accept Him, and repent of our sin we break the curse of death, and that eternal sin. The slate is then wiped clean, and any sins we commit thereafter we need only confess, and the Lord is quick to forgive us.
If the only unforgivable sin is rejection of God, then even suicide can to be forgiven. If you believe–like some do–that this can’t be true because a person would have no time to repent, let me explain why I don’t agree with this outlook. Because God is merciful, He never stops working, not even in our stubbornness, and our continual rejection of Him. Being that God Himself created time, He’s not bound by time. He’s the Alpha and the Omega: The beginning and the end. (Revelation 1:8) I imagine He knows how to use the time He gives each of us with expert precision, even to our very last breath.
The truth is, we just don’t know what happens in those final minutes, or even after that final breath is taken. (Yes, even after death.) In fact, scientific studies show that brain activity can continue for more than ten minutes after death. What happens in those minutes, only God knows. Based on my knowledge of His great mercy however, I have an inkling He’ll be in the details. If nothing is impossible for God, His own creation is surely no great challenge, and He can speak even into the darkest of places. He spoke light into the darkness after all (Genesis 1:3).
Not convinced that God never gives up? I’d encourage you to read through the Old Testament, focusing specifically on the stubbornness of the Israelites, and what Scripture reveals about God’s character. (I’m a word person, so I pick up on specific words.) At times Scripture will point out how saddened and hurt God was by their behavior. You should be amazed, if not stunned at God’s love and patience, and left shaking your head at the disobedience and defiance of the Israelites. (If it’s difficult to see this due to how harshly God had to deal with them, again you need to focus more on their behavior. You also need to remember the bigger picture.) This is only the first part of the story.
The Bigger picture is that this was only the Old Testament (meaning that this was the old covenant, or agreement.) God made a new agreement with Israel, which is where Jesus came into the picture. Because of this agreement not only did God make a way for His chosen people, but he made a way for us non Jews as well–through the blood of Jesus Christ–who continues to lead the way to that restoration between us and God (Peter 3:9). You also should remember that God’s punishment was justified, but that punishment is not what He wants for mankind. What God truly wants is our restoration with Him, so through our faith in Jesus we are presented to God the Father without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, and instead we’re viewed as holy and blameless before God (Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:22-23 ).
Again, God’s mercy can be seen in Jesus on the cross as He says to His accusers (Those who were the very reason he was pinned to the cross.) “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) It’s important we understand that Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them,” doesn’t mean that everyone at the cross was forgiven that day—not without repentance and faith. It does however mean that Jesus wanted forgiveness, even for those who were responsible for putting him to death—after all, this was the reason He willingly faced death on the cross. Jesus is that way to God and forgiveness– the truth and the light of our world. (John 14:6) The words “Father, forgive them” shows us this unchangeable, and merciful heart of God.
Before I conclude my look at God’s mercy, and how it’s possible for God to forgive and rescue someone even in the case of a suicidal death, another wonderful example of God’s mercy is in God’s response to Jonah as he becomes angry with God for not destroying Nineveh. Jonah had tried to run from what God was calling him to do, which was to deliver God’s message to the people of Nineveh–because Jonah knew that God was merciful, and that He would inevitably forgive them. Jonah clearly had a problem with this, and became angry with God when Nineveh received the message, responded to it, and God had mercy on them.
To get His point across God provides a plant that grows up over Jonah, that gives shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and at dawn He provides a worm, which chews the plant so that it withers. (Jonah 4:6-9) In response to Jonah’s anger God issues this response:
“But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
Though God’s forgiveness is dependent on changed hearts, He’s also fair and just, He doesn’t dismiss lack of understanding or confusion lightly. (I know he also doesn’t take suffering lightly.) He took our suffering upon Himself after all. (Isaiah 53:4) God may want people to turn from their ways, and to Him, but it doesn’t mean that He can’t or won’t try to reach out again in someone’s final minutes, perhaps even after the heart stops beating.
As unbelievable as that sounds, researchers who had previously thought that brain activity ended before or after the heart stops beating, have now found that brain activity continues, and has even exhibited the same kind of brain waves that are seen during deep sleep. Two other studies have shown genes continue to function, in some cases even more energetically in the days after death occurs. (It makes one wonder what’s going on there, doesn’t it?).
When people state their opinions on things they clearly know nothing about, nor understand first hand, they diminish the power of God, and hurt those who need to hear the truth, and receive those precious seeds of hope.
If you know someone who exhibits signs of depression, try talking to them about it, and try to persuade them to seek the help they need. If you suspect that you may be suffering yourself with this ailment, know that you are not alone, there’s hope, and you can find help. Don’t buy into all the lies you believe about your self, or the fear that keeps you stuck in your struggle. Please seek that expert medical help from a physician, and/or a therapist. Fear is a liar. I’ve experienced it myself, and there is still something good on the other side of this. Your story is far from over.