You Can’t Kill Yourself If You’re Busy

CompassIn the last post, I spoke about the liberating community of faith. I believe another piece of my story that has saved me from the surrounding darkness of depression has been to open my eyes and see the white fields of harvest. Listen to the context:

And he went around the entire city, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing all disease and every weakness. As he saw the crowd, he was stirred with compassion for them because they were troubled and cast down, like sheep not having a shepherd (Matt 9.35-36)

The remedy for your depression is to surround yourself with others who have been purchased by our Savior’s forsaken blood (as I suggested in the last post). I also believe that when we lift up our eyes and see the needs all around us, we will be freed from the debilitating depression that would rob us of our joy. You see, when we stop to look up and see others who are cast down and without hope, it adjusts our attitudes a smidge. At least it has for me.

Mission, even if pursued for the selfish reason of trying to free us from depression, brings glory to God. When we are aware enough to see that our world is bigger and messier than our daily grind, we are miraculously saved from fear and loathing.

What is more, when we get to experience the miraculous regeneration of another rebel by sharing the hope we have in the Good News of the Kingdom, we find ourselves being swept up into the chorus of angels singing upon one more lost sheep’s repentance and faith. We get the joy of helping others find the Shepherd their hearts have been longing for.

Now, of course, these joys may be short-lived. You will still need to go back to days of sadness and worry and fear. You will still find the fog hard to navigate. You will still find that your smoldering wick is everything but snuffed out. Mission, does not solve the problem. But it is remedy. A gloriously temporal remedy with eternal repercussions. When you lift your eyes up to see the white fields, you hit the pause button on your own issues long enough to step into another’s shoes. And there, you find that life is bigger than pockets of cold, bleak darkness.

One more piece, as it relates to mission. Our Lord taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Sure, it is wonderful to get gifts at Christmas. But as we mature in life, we find even more joy seeing others faces light up when they open their presents. In the same way, when we follow our Lord’s example and lay down our lives (dying to self and its selfish desires) so that someone else might have life, we find joy unspeakable.

Sure, we are meant to die. Everyday we are called to kill ourselves so others might experience life. In a perverse way we have thought that paying a knife to our wrists would free us from the pain. The truth is, when we take up our crosses daily, we find life. May Christ, who laid down his perfect life for you and for me, be the light and hope that you have longed to experience. And may you find hope now, in time and space, by laying down your life for others.

Post 1: Hearing God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts

Post 2: You Can’t Kill Yourself with Everyone Watching

You Can’t Kill Yourself with Everyone Watching

Depressed ManI wrote a post for The Gospel Coalition several months ago called “Hearing God in the Midst of Suicidal Thoughts.” I had written a total of three posts and thought they might post the latter two. . .so I refrained. I believe the latter two get to the practical side of getting through the darkness. Here is the second post that ought to be read in tandem with the first and the third.

Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani! This is the cry that makes my heart sing, even as it breaks. The Righteous One. The One who lived perfectly. The One whose sacrifice pays for my rebellion cried out in dereliction. Abandoned. Alone. And breathes his last. . .alone. It breaks my heart because it is utterly incomprehensible. It makes my heart sing because he knows. He utters words that even I have not been bold enough to utter. Though I have felt them.

 

When I have struggled with depression and suicide, I have found that 7 times 70 times it has been a result of my curving my thoughts in on myself. It’s an issue Augustine (and subsequently Martin Luther) called incurvatus in se. It’s a condition that I have needed forgiveness for with the allotted amount of committals.

 

I remember very clearly thinking about slitting my wrists and sticking them in the warm water I had just poured in the bathroom sink. I paused for a moment to consider what would happen when my parents would happen upon my limp body. And my pause turned to a full stop. Why? My thoughts dared to venture outside my interpretation of the ways things were and stepped into another’s shoes. I found that the world was much bigger than what I could see through my eyes.

 

So it is with the Gospel community. Our western culture has done much harm in our revivalist, individualist, decisionist culture. I prayed to received Jesus. I obeyed the Bible. I sinned against God. I failed again. I will have victory. No, I won’t. Our story too often has me as the main actor. I have forgotten that I have a supporting role. No, if I’m honest, my role oftentimes is setting up chairs. . .after the show. The miracle of salvation is not that it just saves me, but it saves an us. It makes a family out of strangers.

 

When I have my greatest bouts with depression, it’s when I am going at life alone. When I unwittingly fool myself into thinking that I need to have a cheeky smile with sparkly teeth that “ting” when I smile. Instead, the Gospel frees me to smile and show my gapped teeth, rotted with the meth-induced self-centeredness I have relished.

 

I am convinced that much of the remedy to our depression comes first by way of confession. Yes, like I said in the previous post, it is good to be broken and sad and grieving about the way the world really is—no filter. But, the depression that ensues due to my curving in on myself must be repented of. I need to grab someone—anyone (it doesn’t even have to be a close friend)—and tell them I need help. Freedom comes when we own up to our tiny worlds being more important than the beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring world that hides beneath the shadow of the Fall. We can’t stay in the Shadow. Come into the light of God’s countenance. Be blessed with a multitude who seek his face.

 

You are, quite literally, never alone. Not only has God promised never to forsake you, but he has given a host of witnesses to his faithfulness. He has given us brothers and sisters who have struggled with the dark nights of the soul. Read a biography on Charles Spurgeon or William Cowper. After that, go get coffee with a friend and do one simple thing. Ask them how they are doing. I promise, 69 times out of 70, your darkness will lift.

Moving Forward

When you became a Lutheran, what were some misconceptions and reactions from folks on both sides (Evangelical friends and Lutheran friends)?

Lutherans and evangelicals don’t cross paths much and that results in quite a bit of misunderstanding on both sides. When I first started having conversations about Lutheranism with my evangelical friends — all of whom were seminary educated — most of them didn’t really know what Lutherans believed. The attitude seemed to be mostly that they were slightly better than Roman Catholics but not by much. There was also an assumption that later Lutheran doctrine must have departed quite a bit from what Luther taught. I think some think this because Reformed Evangelicals resonate with a lot of Luther’s writings and think that he sounds more like them than he sounds like the little bit that they know of Lutheranism. What I found as I was moving toward Lutheranism is that the picture of Luther I had been given from the Reformed was quite a selective picture and one that was rather inaccurate to the Luther of history. Luther looked much more like a Roman Catholic than I had thought. Roman Catholicism was the vocabulary he spoke and the world in which he lived. Luther didn’t start from a position of scrapping it all and starting over. He wanted to retain what was not contrary to the Word of God and restore what was commanded by the Word of God. This approach meant that he actually leaves quite a bit in place.

You can see the hold over of Calvin’s and Zwingli’s approach to tradition in the mindset of most of today’s Evangelicals: if it’s Roman Catholic, it’s bad. Sometimes if it even looks Roman Catholic, it becomes a reason to exclude a practice.

So the misconception on the Evangelical side was that I was moving to Lutheranism because I was attracted to all of the bells and smells of Roman Catholicism but was too afraid to swim the Tiber. Once I had communicated my decision to move into the Lutheran church, a professor at the Baptist seminary I attended — a man who was also an elder in the Baptist church where I was a member — emailed me to express his grave concern that I was on a slippery slope to the Roman Catholic church, as though every Lutheran is just someone who has thus far managed to fight against the greased slide to Rome. What’s I find ironic is how often I’m objecting the Lutherans who say things like “That’s too Catholic!” I have to remind them that we are Catholic (and I refuse to give the capital letter to the Romans!). We’re just not Roman. But just because it’s Roman doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

In any case, living on the inside of the Lutheran church now, I can assure anyone that it’s no slippery slope to Roman Catholicism.

On the Lutheran side, I have found that Lutherans tend to think of Evangelicals as anti-intellectual. There may have been a time when that accusation stuck, but it doesn’t really today. These days, I think have something of a complex about having an anti-intellectual reputation, and they’ve worked hard to overcome it. There’s also an opinion among Lutherans that Evangelicals don’t take Scripture seriously, which is used to explain how Evangelicals reach their interpretations that are so contrary to the way Scripture has been interpreted historically. It’s a misconception. Whatever Evangelical scholarship is guilty of, it does take Scripture seriously. From my experience in Evangelical scholarship, they are deeply concerned with having a right interpretation of Scripture. One could, however, wish that they didn’t look so kindly on novel exegesis as they do. Occasionally, I run into Lutherans who are suspect of my credentials having come from an Evangelical background. On the whole, however, most don’t regard it to be a detracting factor.

Matthew S. Wireman | Life & Theology