This week brought shocking news: the son of Rick and Kay Warren (author of the Purpose Driven Life) committed suicide. Within days, this news has spread, raising a lot of questions and discussion about suicide and Christians. I want to share with you two years ago I went through a very dark time in my life, a dark night of the soul. And unless you have experienced this, you have no idea what it is like to be suicidal.
My life was already full of cracks by the time my husband was fired from the church we were serving at. I was like a piece of glass with multiple fractures. We had been laid off from one church, lived on unemployment for almost a year, experienced loss of health and almost the life of our son, burned out by ministry, forced to move every few years, and now this. I remember the shock to this day: walking around in a numb state until my insides shattered into a thousand pieces. I was broken beyond repair and I entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Those months after my husband lost his job were the darkest in my life. Even though I was still around people, I felt such intense loneliness it hurt physically. Depression hung on me like a black shroud. At one point, I remember visualizing myself curled up in a ball, naked, laying on a rock in the middle of a raging storm out in the ocean, with the wind and the harsh rain pounding down on me. All alone.
I couldn’t hear God anymore. Up to that point, I could always hear God, feel Him near me. But not anymore. I would look up to see only black raging clouds. I knew God was around somewhere up above those clouds, but I couldn’t see Him like I used to. And my spiritual hearing was gone, like being hit by a blast wave that leaves you deaf.
The depression went on for months. I felt like I was drowning. I was still fighting to stay afloat, but there was part of me that wanted to give up and sink down into the waters and be done.
This empty, deathly feeling scared me. I’ve been depressed before, but usually the thought of my husband and kids drew me back. But this time it was not enough. I was afraid that I was going to give in to the desire and kill myself. It’s like standing on an edge, looking down, and having that wild feeling to throw oneself off.
There was only one thing that stopped me: I did not want to meet God that way. I did not want to take my life and stand before God and see the disappointment on His face. I could not take my life… because my life was not mine to take. It belonged to God.
That was the anchor I clung to during that wild tempest in my life. Eventually I dove into God’s word, especially the Psalms, finding comfort in the fact that I was not the only one who had ever felt that way. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!”
And even Paul writes about his discouragement: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves…”
The sentence of death. That is exactly what it feels like. But Paul goes on to say this: “…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on who we have set our hope…” (2 Corinthians 1:9b-10)
I made a choice that day, a choice that I have stuck with ever since: my life is God’s and God’s alone, for Him to use, and for Him to bring me home when it is time. I still could not see God, could not hear Him when I made this choice. But I chose to trust that He would deliver me someday. And He did, through the prayers and friendship of my husband and two close friends. This is how God delivered Paul as well: “And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers…”
I am blessed to have come through a time like that alive. But what happens to a person who chooses to end it all? Is that person damned? Is his or her salvation no longer valid since the person took his or her own life?
I believe God’s answer is no.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow— not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38
Not even suicide.
But I believe that person will miss out on all that God could have done in his or her life: all the people that person might have touched, all the people that person might have helped or comforted; the view of the rainbow after the storm.
And yet there are many living that are already missing out. A lot of people today are missing out on what God can do in their lives because they are too busy chasing their own dreams. It doesn’t take death to stop God’s work in our lives, just our selfish ambition and belief that our lives are our own to use and pursue what we want to.
I encourage you to love and pray for others. You never know if there is death lurking behind a smiling face. And pray for the Warren family, that they experience grace and peace. Our heart goes out to them with love.