When I found out my cousin’s husband had committed suicide last week, I was in utter shock and disbelief. We all were. Here was a man who was easy-going, always kind and encouraging, always helping others, and faithfully attending and serving in church. He has a beautiful wife, four wonderful kids, and a family and community that dearly loved him. There was standing room only at his funeral in a chapel that seats 300!!!
The question that kept screaming in my heart was, “How could someone with so many good things become so hopeless that he thought his family would be better off without him?” We certainly don’t have all the answers about his particular situation, and we may never. However, I am all too familiar with hopelessness through various trials the Lord has allowed me to go through, including a ten-year battle with depression.
The question I want to discuss, and I welcome your thoughts and questions, is “How do we get that hopeless?” If you have never been that discouraged or depressed, it is unthinkable. If you have, or currently are, my next post will discuss what we can do when we get there.
Here is our key problem: our eyes get focused on ourselves and/or our circumstances. Hebrews 12:1-3 talks about the key to discouragement: getting our eyes fixed on our Lord Jesus who endured the worst of pain and suffering because He loved and wanted to save the very people who were causing that pain and suffering (US!). When we fix our eyes on this world, it is truly depressing: a bad economy, people out of work, war, political views and leaders that go so far against what we believe, conflicts with friends and family, divorce, infidelity, people always letting us down even if they have good intentions, and even getting stuck in the mundane, boring repetition of doing the same seemingly insignificant tasks day in and out.
The answer seems so simple: people (like me) who are depressed and discouraged just need to stop wallowing and get their eyes fixed on Jesus and all the beautiful blessings He gives. But I will tell you as a faithful believer and lover of the Lord for 26 years, it is not that easy when your heart is completely broken, discouraged, or depressed. I always knew in my mind (logically) that I had every reason to hope in the Lord, and I would claim the promises of His Scripture (Isaiah 40:27-31; Romans 8:28, 38-39; etc). I clung to the Lord and those promises, but despite my faith and knowing & believing the truth, my heart still felt bleak, dark, and absolutely hopeless during depression.
Most Christians acknowledge that we can have deep faith in the Lord and still have struggles, trials, and pain, so why are emotional struggles (whether they result from an obvious physical pain like death or disease, or whether they seem to come from nowhere or a chemical imbalance or whatever) any different than a physical struggle? When sin entered the world, our entire body was affected. Therefore, our heart, mind, and body can all struggle.
So, when emotional pain or struggles come, it is not a result of a lack of faith, but it is a part of the pain of the brokenness of this world. How we deal with it speaks volumes about what we believe, but just because it is difficult does not indicate a lack of faith. Instead, the struggle merely reveals the battle against sin and our fallen state. We were beautifully made in the image of God, but our own sin and sin’s effect on the world mar that image in all of us, and it manifests differently because we are different.
I advocate that we all need grace and acceptance from each other whether our battle is finances, emotional pain, physical disease, or any difficult life circumstance. Because when we bond together as Christians to love and support each other through these times, we offer each other a healing balm of love and strength to persevere in the battle, and we display to the world the irresistible, unconditional love of Jesus and show them how He helps us through the struggles of life.
I have no doubt that my cousin’s husband needed to talk to other believers about whatever pain, difficulty, or sin or combination of the three that he was dealing with, but like too many of us, we are hesitant because we are embarrassed that we struggle, that we are weak, and we don’t know who we can trust with our weakness. This is what the body of Christ was meant to do: be a shining example of God’s love and acceptance and truth. If you have a difficult time understanding another person’s struggle, think of your own struggle that embarrasses you and how much you would want to be accepted and loved. If you are in a difficult struggle, pray and ask God for someone safe to talk about it – we need each other, and that is a beautiful part of God’s plan for His body! Let’s get through this painful life together, in unity, as God meant for it to be! Philippians 2:1-4