"...without any hope..."
"God said to me, "Mortal man, the people of Israel are like these bones. They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future... I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the Lord. I have promised that I would do this-and I will. I, the Lord, have spoken." Ezekiel 11 & 14)
On Monday I sat in the rotunda of our state capitol as the governor proclaimed this week as "Suicide Prevention Week" in West Virginia, coinciding with the national and international observances. I serve on the board of directors for the West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide so I was there to support the efforts of our group and many others who work to prevent more suicides. Bob Musick, the executive director, and the staff of our council have mounted a tremendous program aimed at educating the public and organizing efforts for suicide prevention. Since the publishing of my book on teen depression in 2007 Patti and I have gone all over the country and across our state offering seminars on teen depression. Depression and related illnesses like bipolar disorder (manic-depression) are most often the reason behind suicides.
The description of the Israelites in the book Ezekiel is one means of trying to understand the state of one who decides to end their own life. "They say they are dried up, without any hope and with no future..., " says God to Ezekiel. For those of us who have never reached that state of despair it can be very difficult to understand how anyone could make a decision to end their own life. However, for the person suffering from such despair ending life somehow makes sense. Depression changes not only how we feel but also how we think. If you remember the illustration of the half glass of water and the optimist and pessimist then you recall that the optimist sees the glass as half full while the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The severely depressed person says, "Why of course the glass is half empty. How could anyone ever see it as half full? It's almost completely empty, it's always been almost empty, and it will always be almost empty." That's just one simple example of how depression distorts thinking, trapping a person in the prison of despair, "without any hope, and with no future..."
Suicide is not an act of cowardice or weakness. It might even be safe to say in many cases it's not even an act of desperation, because to the person whose thinking has been distorted by severe depression suicide makes sense as a means of relief for themselves and others around them. That's why it's particularly dangerous when we see someone who has been very troubled by depression suddenly seem to feel much better, more relaxed and seemingly at peace. It might very well indicate that the depression's distortion has led them to the decision that ending their life is the most sensible thing to do and the answer to their problem and the problems they may feel they've created for others. Suicide is not a statement about one's character. Suicide is a death that results from some form of a dangerous and powerful mental illness, the same as a death that results from other powerful illnesses like cancer.
God speaks for healing and hope. "I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life...," says God to Ezekiel. Whether it be cancer or some awful mental illness like depression, God speaks for healing and hope. As I've said before, I don't profess to know why some illnesses end in death instead of extended life. However, I do know that God gives us the opportunity and responsibility to be part of the healing process for many, breathing life back into them. When life does end, I also know God weeps with us and welcomes his children back into his eternal graces, regardless of the means of their dying. God keeps the promise to breath life into them, whether it's on our side, or heaven's side. This I know because of God's love I know in Jesus Christ.
I pray that God will continue to help me be part of the healing for others. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
Check out my new video, "Teens Surviving the Storm"
"...without any hope..."