I recently read another blog with several perspectives on suicide, or at least having thoughts in that direction. Many of the comments had to do with how unhelpful it is when one is terribly depressed and people assume you must have chosen to be this way. To be charitable, I think some of this is leftover from 30 or 40 years ago, when there were no effective medications for depression. Honestly, the books I found back in the pre-prozac era took exactly that approach. Basically it had to do with choosing to think kinder thoughts about oneself. There is a kernel of truth there, though I suspect it works best for those who have less severe depression. It was at least sometimes helpful when I would redirect my thoughts in a more positive direction. Many of us are harder on ourselves than others would be, especially when we are young adults. I think we learn to cut ourselves a little slack as we get older, hopefully anyway.
As a little background, I first found depression to be a problem around middle school. I had been bullied in 6th grade, so my self esteem had taken a nose dive. I felt like a social idiot, maybe everyone did around that age. At any rate, I once broached the idea to my mom, who had always championed talk therapy after it helped her deal with some issues she had had with her father, that I should maybe talk to a therapist of some sort. Well, she told me I was just experiencing being a teenager and it would pass. A couple of years later, my dad’s health started to fail. So I dealt with depression most of my high school years as best I could, not even realizing until I was an adult, that it really would have been appropriate to talk through that situation.
I think Dad was in the hospital after his final stroke for several months before he died. At that point I was in Junior College and had a night time and weekend cleaning job. I was pretty depressed and not sleeping well. At one point I was at my job and just laid on the floor in exhaustion. I felt I simply could not go on, and asked the Lord why he didn’t just take me home. The answer came that He was not finished with me yet. Somehow that gave me enough motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I felt so relieved once he finally died, after a 5 year decline. It kind of made me feel guilty in a way, as if I were happy he had died. But really it was just that the burden of anticipation and not knowing when it would happen was finally lifted. I entered a good period for some time after that and enjoyed finishing my schooling.
Then I was out and struggling with the challenge of the twenties, to find meaningful work or at least support myself, and hopefully to find someone to share my life with. In the process of trying to find my way, I ended up in dead end job in a retail store and the only guy who seemed interested in my company did not share my faith. I eventually broke up with him which was a relief at first. But no one else appeared on the scene which was depressing, since most of my friends were married and raising children. Meanwhile my crazy boss was dipping into the money in order to buy used furniture for the store, without leaving any notes as to how much money he had out. The home office was clamoring for reports, which I couldn’t send since they were short and he had to sign them. Usually he came back with change and receipts for gas and purchases after a few days. But sometimes the home office would demand the reports and when I sent them, the boss blamed me for getting him in trouble. Talk about a high stress situation, I was really depressed.
One day I must have reached a breaking point. I came in early in the morning and needed to work on deposits. But I had a cascade of feelings of worthlessness and visual images of suicidal actions that would not stop. I couldn’t even work and trying to substitute positive thoughts wasn’t happening. I cried out to God for help and after a bit it was like a cloud just lifted off of me. I could work then and think positive thoughts.
Here’s the kicker though. After a bit, I went downstairs to use the bathroom. One of the other employees told me a regular customer had come in, dragged the employees together and insisted they had to pray because there was a spirit of suicide in the store! Apparently, in response to my prayer for help, the Lord sent someone who had the gift of discerning of spirits to minister deliverance on my behalf. I had never considered that what was going through my head might not be simply my own thoughts. It would not have occurred to me to deal with it in terms of command, instead of request at that point in my life.
To tell you the truth, the whole experience was amazing to me. I had a bit of training in spiritual warfare, enough to have some vocabulary to use. But up to that point, I had no clue to how someone might feel who was being influenced by a demonic entity. It was a valuable experience in that way, and completely changed my perspective on what is really going on when someone reports suicidal thoughts. I never had that problem again, so the customer had done a thorough job of casting it out. Yes, I have been depressed from time to time, but with good self care, it is manageable.
To get back to what I read and reacted to though, someone on the thread had posted that they were accused of having a demon when they reported suicidal thoughts, or perhaps it was just deep depression. They naturally did not find the accusation to be at all helpful, in fact just said that whoever said that had completely failed at being empathetic. I agree there, but there may have been demonic activity involved. Here’s the thing though, when Jesus found someone with a demon, he didn’t accuse them of bringing it on themselves, nor did he ask their permission to deal with it. He simply removed it from them and sent it away. And he gave all his disciples the authority to do the same in His name.
I know some people are squeamish about dealing with such things, but in fact, it was considered quite normal in the early years of the church. You can even order them out of your own life, if necessary. No, it does not require shouting or the laying on of hands. In fact, some even do it in silence. So instead of accusing someone of having a demon, one would do better to say nothing to them and order it out in Jesus’ name and see what happens. Failing that, most serious problems with depression involve physical problems with brain chemistry that can be addressed by a doctor, and mental issues probably best left to expert counselors. But everyone can benefit by having someone listen to them in a non-judgemental fashion. My girlfriend and I got each other through many depressive episodes, simply by listening to one another. I have been reading Job lately and he said the same thing. When his friends just sat there and listened to him vent, they were much more help to him than when they decided to solve the problem by pontificating about it. So, if all else fails, try really listening.