A Note For Anyone Who Has Thought About Suicide (Like Me)

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I talk to my cat a lot.

If you spent five minutes with him, you would too. Seriously.

He acts like an affectionate Golden Retriever. He’s big and fat and cuddly and constantly wants to jump on your lap and snuggle. Anytime Lisa and I hug he’s like, “Hey, let me in on some of that!”

If you’re not a cat person, I will pray for your dark, miserable soul. 🙂

Last week my daughter texted this picture to our family group chat and said, “Dad! This shirt is PERFECT for you!”

I busted out laughing because it IS the perfect shirt for me. I do talk sh** about people to my cat. Like the guy who cut me off in traffic this past weekend. I went on for 20 minutes about that guy.

The scary thing is the person my cat hears me talk sh** about – more than anyone else – is me.

Last night when I laid down I told him, “I hate my life. I wish I were dead.”

He’s the only person who’s ever heard me say that. And he’s heard it a few times over the years.

This concerns me. Not because I’m planning to kill myself. But because you might be.

Things That Take Me To A Bad Place

Here are the three most common times I’ll say something like this.

Tell me if you resonate with any of these:

I’ll say this when I’m self-loathing.

Yesterday was not a good eating day, and I felt disgusting. Two years ago, I hired a trainer, went to a dietician, and got into the best shape of my life. Then on Palm Sunday of 2017, I reinjured my back (the same L5S1 location where I had surgery and countless injections) and have been in excruciating pain ever since.

This has kept me from lifting. And has affected my sleep. And my workout regime. And my energy. So, I’ve gained much of the weight back. And I detest myself for it.

There’s nothing worse than feeling disgusted with yourself.

I’ll say this when I’m exhausted.

Over the last seven months, we sold our house, moved into an apartment, and made plans to build a smaller house with no wasted space. Long story short, our contractor made a mistake. Like a BIG mistake. And we could have sued and received a huge settlement. But because we’re Christians, we chose not to do this (see 1 Corinthians 6:7).

During this time, I also launched a new website, and we’ve started some new things at the church I serve. And we’ve also been doing the house hunting thing. All while being crammed into a tiny little apartment with all our stuff in boxes everywhere.

I’m exhausted and just done.

I’ll say this when I’m depressed.

Psychologist William James says there are two groups of people in the world. There are those who are “organically weighted on the side of cheer.” And then there are people like you and me.

Now, surprisingly, I’m not often depressed. That’s not been a problem for me. But I do take myself too seriously. And I do brood over things.

There’s this great song called Lost In My Mind by a group called The Head and the Heart. Here are the first few lines:

Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind

Does that describe us or what? Getting lost in our minds can be dangerous, especially for those of you who do get depressed easily.

And hey – just because I don’t get depressed easily – that doesn’t mean I haven’t been depressed. I have, and it’s terrible. There’s a reason one author calls depression “The mutilator of the soul.”

Here Are 5 REALLY Important Things I Want You To Know

Can I share a few encouraging things I’ve learned?

1. Your pain is legit.

You need to hear me say that I am taking you seriously.

I’ve never met a person who wanted to commit suicide, but I have met a bunch of people who wanted their pain to stop.

In her poem Having It Out With Melancholy, Jane Kenyon writes,

A piece of burned meat
wears my clothes, speaks
in my voice, dispatches obligations
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying
to be stouthearted, tired
beyond measure.

There are lots of reasons people wonder if it’s too hard to go on…

…Mistakes. Sexual abuse. Loss of a child. Depression. Stress. Loneliness. Terrible parents. Addiction. Illness. People bullying you. Feeling ugly. A miscarriage. Losing custody of your kids. A secret getting out. Failing a test. Financial struggles. Breaking up.

This is really heavy crap to deal with. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

2. You can feel really good again.

Pain is never permanent.

In the blink of an eye, Job lost everything he cared about in life – his children were killed, his business was destroyed, and he contracted painful boils all over his body. He was in so much pain his wife said, “Curse God and die!”

Maybe you have a friend telling you the same thing right now.

Thank God Job didn’t listen to her short-sighted advice, because in Job 42:12 it says, “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

Listen, there are millions of people just like Job who will tell you that no matter how bad you feel right now, you will feel great again. You will be happy again.

You know that, right?

3. Your brain is tricking you right now.

Listen, if you want to end your life, you are being emotionally held hostage by your brain.

One of the hardest things to remember when you’re struggling is that your brain is just another part of your body. It can face its own unique biochemical challenges, just like any other body part. The problem is unlike our kidneys, the brain controls our thoughts. And when it’s unhealthy, negative thoughts can take over.

I’m a pastor of a large church and I’ve seen too many funerals now of people – especially students – who couldn’t see that it was their brain that was tricking them into thinking they were stuck.

You may think there’s no way out, but there is. Trust me. There ALWAYS is.

4. There are great people who can really help you.

I believe everyone can benefit by going to counseling, regardless of their struggles.

That’s why I require everyone on our church staff to go to counseling at certain points in their tenure with us.

The last time I went, the counselor asked, “So what do you need help with?” I said, “I feel like I’m lost. Like those first few lines from Dante’s Inferno,

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.

She said, “Oh I’ve been there.” And over the next four weeks, it felt as if she walked back into the woods to find me, grabbed my hand, and initiated some really insightful conversations as we walked out. At the end of our time together it felt as if I saw light peering through the treetops.  A HUGE weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

Here’s the thing: I would never have been able to untangle my thoughts by myself.

I can tell you first-hand that there are amazing people like my psychologist Dr. Cadle who love helping people like you and me work through stuff and feel good again.

5. You’re not alone.

You may feel completely alone, but you’re not.

Isaiah 43:2 says,

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

God promises that no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re going through, he’ll never leave your side.

Ever.

Writer Anne Lamott discovered this truth when she had an abortion because of an affair with a married man.

In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne said that after she left the clinic she went home and got drunk. And that’s when something strange happened…

“I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner…the feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.

I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.

This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in.

But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my houseboat door when I entered or left.

And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I just thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape.

I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running at my heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said ‘F- it: I quit.’ I took a long deep breath and said out loud, ‘All right. You can come in.’

I wanted to share this on the off chance you thought God only helps us AFTER we get our act together and become all holy and stuff.

No, God’s here with you, right now. In your mess. With arms wide open.

If you let him in, he’ll come into your life and help put the pieces back together.

He did that for me. And Anne. And lots of my friends.

And he can do that for you, too.

Final Thoughts

Listen, when I said I wish I was dead, I really felt that. But I knew I wasn’t actually going to act on it. Years ago I was in a place like that. And it was frightening. But not right now.

We both know the difference between feeling overwhelmed and rashly saying something like that to yourself and actually planning to go through with it.

So if you are at the point where you’re seriously thinking about suicide and making plans, here’s what I want you to do:

1. Call 1-800-273-8255 right now. This is a free and confidential lifeline where people are standing by 24/7 to talk. Do it now. Right now.

2. Text someone you trust and tell them you need their prayers and encouragement.

3. Find a good counselor. Our church offers licensed Christian counseling that’s open to anyone. I know them all and they’re amazing. Go HERE to find out more.

4. Find an encouraging place to be inspired. At the church I serve, we encourage. We don’t judge. We’d love to have you. To find out more go HERE.

5. A ton of people have told me my book Second Guessing God really helped them. You might want to check it out.

I want to kill myself

FYI – Here’s my cat. His name is MAC.

Please understand that I don’t judge you for what you’re feeling.

But if you refuse to get help, that’s a different story.

You do that and I’ll talk sh** about you to my cat.

And you don’t want that to happen.


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Brian is the founding Senior Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He’s the author of multiple books. His latest, Finding Favor, releases in April 2018. You can find more of his writing at Happinessable.com.