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The first real thought of suicide occurred just after I finished 8th grade. It seemed like a fitting end to the downward trend I had been on for nearly two years into depression and isolation. In 6th grade I experienced a sort of perfect storm of puberty, fatherlessness and struggle to fit in. I hid it all well. Stayed quiet about the turmoil that was growing inside my mind. Isolation slowly became my norm and friendships got harder to maintain. The feelings of depression took more control and it wasn’t that people didn’t care, but I grew to believe that I wasn’t worthy of any of it. I believed their feelings weren’t real.
My story really starts before I was born. My father died of leukemia about 10 days before I was born. He started getting sick. Fought it. Ignored it. Tried to get better. He was finally taken to the ER on a Monday. He died that Saturday. My mom became a young widow with three kids to raise. At about a year old, she moved us to Dallas to be close to her parents. In elementary school she married again. He turned out to be an alcoholic.
What I hoped for and needed in a father figure he was not. She divorced him as I was going into 6th grade. At that point, the reality of never knowing my father hit pretty hard. What little I knew about God couldn’t stand up against that loss. I began to withdraw from relationships. I kept quiet. Outlets like band and sports created helpful diversions, but nothing stopped the growing pain inside. That first thought in 8th grade created an ongoing war inside my mind.
As a freshman in high school things continued much the same. I was a talented athlete. I was a two-way starter in football. Played basketball and baseball. Ran track. The struggle remained. Seasons ended. The cheers of the crowd faded away. None of it fixed the disconnect inside my mind. I often found myself alone with my thoughts in my room dealing with the desire to end my own life.
It wasn’t a constant and there were highs, but I didn’t really have friends. I didn’t spend time with other people. The lows were winning more and more. I cried out silently in a lot of ways. Nothing was seen, or said. Early in my sophomore year I found myself making attempts on my life, or taking serious steps toward it. Thoughts were now becoming actions.
One afternoon, while at our neighbor’s house taking care of their pets, I found a gun. I wanted to make that the end. I sat on the floor for a long time with it pointed at my face. My own thumb on the trigger. Then God spoke to me. I didn’t know it was God then. I do now. His voice told me to not do it and that what I was searching for was coming. I needed to wait. It was an amazingly calming voice. I put the gun away and I waited.
How I Met Jesus In My Darkness
In January one day I got home from school. I was done. That night I closed myself in my room and took out a knife. I began to cut myself. Starting with my palm, then my arm and I ended up at my wrist. Suddenly, God spoke again. He told me to call Julie, my only friend at that time. Her parents were counselors. Julie talked to me for over an hour that night. She invited me to church. I ended up at a lock-in on a Friday night a few weeks later. In the gym that night, Jesus invaded my life. I discovered what I had been searching for. My life was forever changed by God. Where I tried to put a period in my life, God intended a semi-colon. I began to see that life has hope and purpose.
It would be awesome to say that I have never dealt with those thoughts again. Life still had ups and downs. There were still difficult times. The valleys still existed. My perspective changed. I was no longer controlled by those emotions. I was free. I was learning to live in that freedom. In time, I have come to realize some things about depression.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
Life has natural times of difficulty. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes aptly pointed out there are times for everything. There are times to laugh and sing. There are also times of sadness and grief. Life has highs and life has lows. Church often creates an expectation of all great all the time. Life just doesn’t work that way. And that is okay. Everyone needs a trusted friend you can share with when things are not okay. A professional counselor may be appropriate and shouldn’t be discounted. Recognizing it is ok to have seasons of grief, or sadness, is a first step. However, it is important to recognize those as feelings rather than truths about ourselves.
Depression, and even suicidal thoughts, are not sin, but symptoms of a world broken by sin.
It doesn’t mean you should stay there, but recognize that depression is real. It happens. But God has something better for us. It isn’t sinful to find yourself depressed. It isn’t sin to have the thought, but God has no plans to leave you there. God loves you even in your most unlovable moments. He has no intention of giving up on you. You shouldn’t either.
Who I am is defined by Christ, not circumstances.
My identity is wrapped up in who Jesus says I am, not what circumstances surround me. The first verse I memorized after meeting Christ was Galatians 2:20. It reminds me each day that my old self was laid down in Christ. I have a new life fully in Him. I can choose each day to live in that new life rather than letting the old life control me. I don’t always get it right, but every day is a new chance to walk in Him. Circumstances don’t define my joy and peace. Those are secure in Jesus.
We have not been called to walk through life alone. Don’t struggle in silence and isolation. It is okay to talk about it with someone else. Bringing it into the light can help expose false foundations and begin developing a positive response when those thoughts return. Seek to find rest in the truth that Jesus loves you, gave Himself for you and sustains you through the Holy Spirit.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there’s no shame in that.
We’d love to talk with you. Reach out to Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author: Brian Hatcher lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and children. He is the Discipleship Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church.