Are Faith and Despair Opposites? A Christian’s Experience With Suicide

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-25180003-exterior-stock-image-of-churchI’d reached the end of my life. Breathing had become more difficult while emotional pain consumed my lungs and took control of my mind.

Despairing of a miracle, I knew I no longer had anything to offer to the world or my family. Full acceptance that to continue to exist would be nothing but wasteful suffering without meaning, caused me to focus my thoughts less on a fight for survival and more on the ultimate escape.

I wanted out. Now.

Suicide, for months the enemy, now hung gloriously within reach. The battle against it was over and the question was not if but now a matter of how. Limited cognitive abilities worked to reason out a plan.

There was only one hesitation left. It had been my deep wish to honor God since age fifteen. I didn’t want to hurt God or make him sad over my sin. Heaven and hell were realities to me and my hope was to spend eternity with my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ.

I needed his approval before I could end my life.

Moments before follow-through, I prayed, “God, is it time yet?” I believed he said “Come home,” and great calm settled over me.

My subsequent suicide attempt landed me in the hospital for three weeks with full medical care for both my body and mind. Doubt and sensibility began to appear through the cloud of misery and irrationality that blinded me to hope. Had it actually been ok with God for me to kill myself? Is he the one who said “Come home?”photo-24803711-praying-hands

Christians who have major depression are often advised to read the Bible and pray more. Some form of “just give it to God and he will meet you and give you peace and joy” is the most common sentiment I have heard.

In the meantime, I had poured hours per day into Bible reading and prayer while despair crept in ever closer and threatening. After the attempt I  grieved acutely because of fear that my misunderstanding of his permission meant I could not recognize his voice anymore.

We Christians can believe wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ and his cross and resurrection, can know deeply in our hearts that he has conquered death, and fully understand he is above all the trials of this earth…yet…completely lose ourselves under a shroud of major depression. We can struggle to know joy at all, and hope for this life can dissipate. We can even feel we’ve lost touch with the God we love and desperately miss.

Major depression and its accompanying despair and negative thinking are not a loss of faith; they are not a denial of the power and presence of Christ! These issues may be present in a believer’s life, but depression is not the proof of it. Even recurring episodes are not symptoms of long-term lack of spiritual growth.

Major depression is a disease of the brain in need of medical treatment. It steals cognitive capabilities, hindering application of Biblical truth. The capacity to relate to others comes to a halt so relationships suffer, even our communication with God. It wraps our vision up in a tunnel until we cannot see beyond our pain.

Christians can sin while depressed, yes. We do not stop being fallen humans. Selfish, angry, manipulative, and otherwise sinful children of God can experience major depression.

Major depression can inhibit our usual sense of right and wrong. This fact is not a ticket to absolution – it may simply be part of an explanation for atypical disturbing behavior.

Who can judge?

Recovery took years while my faith did not waver. For sixteen months I wanted death, and yielded to God’s will each day that I got out of bed and stayed alive. Another year passed before a vision grew for my life being purposeful and worthwhile.

Trusting that God’s plan was designed for the best whether I could see it or not, pushed me to obey him by reaching out for support and offering love-in-action.  Four and a half years after the attempt it remains a challenge to believe enthusiastically in my value. Each step I take toward positivity is an act of faith.

Therapy has taught me how to manage my disease. I am blessed to have this practical, strategic information as so many people do not. Because of these new skills, it seems unlikely depression will hold the power it has in the past. Nonetheless, I do not know for certain.

I am a Christian with Major Depression Recurrent. Mental health or illness does not define me or where I am in relationship with Christ. I know who is King in my struggle and in charge. Hope remains in the truth of his Word and in one day being with him for eternity.

In his time.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

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