Endurance in Depression; National Suicide Prevention Week

By Kersley Fitzgerald

I have at least three friends who have attempted suicide. My father succeeded, as did another friend's father and the brothers of two other friends. I am a firm believer that although suicide is sin (murder), it does not condemn people to hell. Once we are saved, no sin can take that salvation away. We do not have to ask forgiveness for every single sin in order to maintain our salvation.

Which begs the question. If Jesus' sacrifice is so powerful it can grant forgiveness for the sin of self-murder, is it powerful enough to act beforehand, providing enough comfort and strength that the plans are abandoned before they even get that far?
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5
Do we really believe this?

As National Suicide Prevention Week nears its end, this passage really stands out to me. Suffering, endurance, character, hope. Running through it all, the love of God poured into our hearts. Can it be that simple?

It starts at the end—with God's love poured into us through the Holy Spirit. We cannot rely on this promise unless we first have the Holy Spirit—unless we are Christ-followers. Becoming a Christian is an interesting thing. Some experience a sudden release from sin or an emotional healing. Others barely notice a difference at all. The Bible doesn't promise anything one way or another, except that love of God poured out and the indwelling of the Comforter Who will never leave (John 14:26).

The Bible specifically does not promise that a believer will never suffer. As long as we are on this earth, suffering is inevitable. And suffering combined with physiology easily leads to depression—which is a suffering of its own. Christians can be depressed. Christians can and do suffer from depression—both transient and chronic. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

God's love plus suffering doesn't equal release and freedom and instant healing of all sorrows. But if we let it, it equals endurance. Endurance that comes straight from God, both to keep breathing and to do so without sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Which sounds like small comfort until you realize that the first person sin hurts is ourselves. What does sin have to do with depression? Does sin cause depression? Sometimes. But we also have a tendency to self-medicate with sin in an attempt to protect ourselves—which only adds to the suffering, whether we choose the sin of addiction to cover the pain or suicide to escape it. Is it possible to endure depression without adding sin—and the extra burden sin puts on us? God promises it is. Through the power of His love that has been poured into our hearts.

Endurance brings life in a very literal way if we're contemplating suicide. But it doesn't automatically bring release. Romans 5:4 says it brings character. First Peter 1:6-7 describes that character as one that has had its faith tested. Just the act of enduring depression, getting out of bed, pouring a bowl of cereal, can be a triumph of faith. In the immediate, changing out of pajamas and into sweats can feel like a monumental hurdle. In the spiritual realm, if done by the power of God's love in us, it's one more step that transforms our character into something bigger than our sufferings.

As our character grows in faith and more fully realizes God's love, we experience hope—confident expectation. But here's the hard part. God still doesn't promise us an easy life. He doesn't promise protection from evil all the time, or health, or escape from circumstances. Instead, He promises joy (Philippians 4:4-7), rest (Matthew 11:28-30), and peace (Philippians 4:7) both now and in eternity, and "praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).

In the midst of depression, character and hope may seem too distant or shallow. Endurance, though, is immediate and tangible. And it takes many forms.

  • Cut out sin. Reject anger, self-sufficiency, fear, and self-absorption.
  • Remember who you are and what you mean to God. You are His child, filled with His love.
  • Look for God in the murky water. If He will never leave or forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5), that means He's there, in the deepest, darkest depression, right along with us.
  • Get help. God made us for community, and He expects us to use it. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a medical professional to find the right medication.

  • For those who have friends suffering from depression, don't be afraid to walk with them. We do not have to be anyone's savior, but we can show love.

    For sad, amazing, poignant descriptions of depression and finding the way out, click on the links. Warning that the feelings and the language are raw, and Hyperbole and a Half's Allie Brosh doesn't appear to be a believer. But I think the rawness will help explain depression in a way Christians are too polite to.

    Allie's posts show the strange power of endurance. Endurance that is even more powerful and life-giving if powered by the life-Giver. Every heavy step and dark day is a step and day closer to the peace that passes understanding if we have the love of God in us.

    Photo Credit: Kersley Fitzgerald

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    Published 9-13-13