The Christian Church, Suicide & Mental Health: When It’s Down to the Wire & Things Are on Fire

So, turns out, depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp.

Ask me how I know.

And suicide is deciding there is no way but to  jump straight out of the burning building.

Because the unseen scorch on the inside of you finally sears intolerably hot —  so you think a desperate lunge from the flames and the land of the living seems the lesser of two unbearables.

That’s what you’re thinking — that if you’d do yourself in, you’d be doing everyone a favor.

I had planned mine for a Friday.


Birds on a Wire


Who's the King of the Castle?


Birds on a Wire (48/365)

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Bird on a wire

You don’t try to kill yourself because death’s appealing — but because life’s agonizing. We don’t want to die. But we can’t stand to be devoured.

So I made this plan. And I wrote this note.

And I remember the wild agony of no way out and how the stars looked, endless and forever, and your mind can feel like it’s burning up at all the edges and there’s never going to be any way to stop the flame.

Don’t bother telling us not to jump unless you’ve felt the heat, unless you bear the scars of the singe.

Don’t only turn up the praise songs but turn to Lamentations and Job and be a place of lament and tenderly unveil the God who does just that — who wears the scars of the singe. A God who bares His scars and reaches through the fire to grab us, “Come — Escape into Me.”

Nobody had told me that — that one of the ways to get strong again is to tell your story.

My Dad, he had told me that if we told our mental health secrets, it’d slit us all.

So much weight for a wide-eyed nine-year-old. So much for believing the Truth will set you free. 

So I locked my lips tight so no one knew about the locked wards and the psychiatric doctors and why my mama was gone and it’s crazy how the stigma around mental health can drive you right insane.

There are some who take communion and anti-depressants and there are those  who think both are a crutch.

I’d rather walk tall with a crutch than crawl around insisting like a proud and bloody fool that I didn’t need one.

I once heard a pastor tell the whole congregation that he had lived next to the loonie bin and I looked at the floor when everyone laughed and they didn’t know how I loved my mama. I’d looked to the floor when they laughed, when I wanted them to stand up and reach through the pain of the flames and say:

Our Bible says Jesus said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick.Jesus came for the sick, not for the smug.

Jesus came as doctor and He makes miracles happen through medicine and when the church isn’t for the suffering, then the Church isn’t for Christ.

I wanted them to say what I knew: The Jesus I know never preached some Health Prosperity Gospel, some pseudo-good news that if you just pray well, sing well, worship well, live well and deposit all that into some Divine ATM — you get to take home a mind and body that are well. That’s not how the complex beauty of life unfolds.

The real Jesus turns to our questions of why, why this sickness, who is to blame — and he says it like a caress to the aching,You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT).

That’s the grace touch of Jesus:

The dark is not your faultthe dark is not about blame.

The dark is about bravely being a canvas for light — about courageously letting your dark be a canvas for sparks of God glory, a backdrop for ambers of mercy in the midst of your fire.

Ask Mother Teresa. Who painfully peeled back a lifetime of letting her dark become the canvas:

There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead… I do not know how deeper will this trial go—how much pain and suffering it will bring to me.

This does not worry me any more. I leave this to Him as I leave everything else.

Let Him do with me whatever He wants as He wants for as long as He wants if my darkness is light to some soul…”

Depression may not be your fault, but a sign that this world is fallen — not a sign of personal sin, but that we all have sinned.

That’s what I’d wanted as a kid sitting there in a church full of folks chuckling at mental illness, what I wanted the whole church to say all together, like one Body, for us to say it all together to each other because there is not even one of us who hasn’t lost something, who doesn’t fear something, who doesn’t ache with something. I wanted us to turn to the hurting, to each other, and promise it till we’re hoarse:

“We won’t give you some cliche —  but something to cling to — and that will mean our hands.

We won’t give you some platitudes — but some place for your pain — and that will mean our time.

We won’t give you some excuses — but we’ll be some example — and that will mean bending down and washing your wounds. Wounds that we don’t understand, wounds that keep festering, that don’t heal, that down right stink — wounds that can never make us turn away.

Because we are the Body of the Wounded Healer and we are the people who believe the impossible — that wounds can be openings to the beauty in us.”

We’re the people who say: “There’s no shame saying that your heart and head are broken because there’s a Doctor in the house. It’s the wisest and the bravest who cry for help when lost.

There’s no stigma in saying you’re sick because there’s a wounded Healer who uses nails to buy freedom and crosses to resurrect hope and medicine to make miracles.

There’s no guilt in mental illness because depression is a kind of cancer that attacks the mind. You don’t shame cancer, you treat cancer. You don’t treat those with hurting insides as less than. You get them the most treatment.”

I wanted the brave to speak up, to speak the Truth and Love:

Shame is a bully and Grace is a shield.  You are safe here.

To write it on walls and on arms and right across wounds:

“No Shame.
No Fear.
No Hiding.
Always safe for the suffering here.

You can be different and you can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Because a fallen world keeps falling apart and even though we the Body can’t make things turn out — we can turn up. Just keep turning up, showing up, looking up.”

If we only knew what fire every person is facing — there isn’t one person we wouldn’t help fight their fire with the heat of a greater love.

Mama came Home from the psych ward and I found grace, a thousand, endless graces, and a broken way through, and it is by grace not works we are saved, grace adopting us into a family that no brokenness can ever remove us from.

Grace, that miracle which even the darkest night can’t consume —  grace that miracle that can only consume you.

So even now, we believe: Light can pry through the dark.

A shaft of light can come through a window like a lifeline.

And birds strung out on a wire can sing, still sing.

We know, because we’ve heard their lament and a million other broken-hearted hallelujahs in the sun-singed sky burning up like flames.

~ Excerpted from The Broken Way


The American Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text line: Text HOME to 686868 in Canada
Rick and Kay Warren today, on World Suicide Prevention Day
Share here the one thing you wish people knew about mental health?

Carrying all kinds of unspoken broken?

Need someone to throw you a lifeline of grace? 

 You’re not alone. This one’s for you.

Need some courage to begin again? 

Here — this one’s for you. 

Need the paradoxical, transforming secret of what to do with your broken heart? I’m telling you: This one’s for you. 

Grab a copy of The Broken Way and   feel a bit of a lifeline grab hold of you.

{bird photo credit #1, #2  #3, #4}