Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
“Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.” Psalm 139:7-8.
The isolation of this pandemic has had a profoundly negative impact on the mental health of God’s people. We are lonely. We miss seeing smiles, shaking hands, tender hugs, and the opportunity to gather socially. Life behind closed doors or masks is not healthy. We have witnessed firsthand the deterioration of cognitive function in our elderly and an overall increase in melancholy. The mental part of this pandemic battle is real and we would be well served to acknowledge it.
I sat with him. His attempted suicide had been just that; attempted. Had he been successful, I would have been sitting with his family members instead. We talked of his suffocating season of depression, of hopelessness, of the utter despair that he had experienced. It was as if a cloud of gloom had enveloped him and no light was able to penetrate the darkness. There seemed to be no escape.
We talked, too, about suicide. Suicide runs in my family. Depression is an illness, a mental illness. The brain is a part of our body and it, too, can become diseased. We know that some diseases lead to death; we have lost family members or friends to cancer. Sometimes the disease is incurable; we can say our prayers and consult the very best medical professionals, but sometimes the disease cannot be overcome.
Suicide is not an unforgivable sin. It never was an unforgivable sin. The church labeled it as such in order to scare the hell out of people. The church had seen the devastating effects of suicide on those who were left behind. The church sought to deter suicide by leading people to believe that it was a sin that could never be forgiven. It is understandable, but if mental illness is a disease, it is pretty hard to imagine Jesus judging those with a disease. Jesus had compassion on the broken, he touched the unclean, and ate with known sinners.
After a long talk, I began reading the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He revives my soul and guides me along right pathways for his name’s sake. And even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall…”
“Stop right there, Pastor Jim.” He interrupted me saying, “walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I did it and I walked alone.” From the darkness of his despair he was calling out for help; he could not feel God’s presence. He could not see light. He was unable to fight against the disease of depression. Some diseases lead to death, to the valley of the shadow of death. But we are not alone, “Where can I go then from your Spirit, where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven you are there; if I make the grave my bed you are there also.”
Perhaps, we can be a little more compassionate, patient, and caring. After all, everyone we meet is carrying heavy burdens. Hold on to hope, and be a vehicle of hope to others.
One day closer,
Pastor Jim