suicide prevention day

What does it look like to heal from being broken-hearted? Is it possible?

Last week, September 10, the world honored Suicide Prevention Day. Or more accurately, a few people in a few places remembered.

In one slightly ironic twist, Jarrid Wilson, associate pastor at a mega-church in southern California, took his own life the night before (on September 9). Jarrid had suffered with depression for years, and was an out-spoken advocate for mental health in the Christian community. And yet he succumbed himself.

Pastors are just people. Jarrid’s story is no more important than yours if you struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts, or if you love someone who so struggles. His story is only one of the more recent pieces of evidence that our world is still a dangerous and unfriendly place in many ways.

You might feel like pushing back and saying something like, “My world is not dangerous or unfriendly. Why can’t these people just get it together? Jesus has overcome. Suicide is a sin.”

Or you might want to say, “That’s all so hopeless. If someone like a pastor can’t hold it together, I might as well give up myself.”

I am not a mental health professional. And I don’t presume to have magic answers. But I do know what it’s like to be in so much pain that I could not imagine continuing to live. And I also know what it’s like to experience so much healing and freedom and hope that the sting is gone – permanently.

So it’s with both humility and deep hope that I offer these thoughts.

What Would Jesus Do?

WWJD is an old expression, but the question is still valid. From spending a lot of time studying how Jesus was with people when He was here, let’s imagine how He would respond to someone who is truly brokenhearted.

We know a few things He would NOT do. He would not blame the hurting person. He would not add to their burden, make them feel ashamed for admitting their struggle, or avoid them in any way.

Neither would He agree with them that their life was hopeless. In His being with them He would not presume for a moment that it was OK to leave them in their distress.

And one more thing He would not do; He would not simply “zap” them out of their mess. While we read of many instant miracles Jesus performed and people’s lives were wonderfully changed, He never “zapped” someone from a life of misery to a life of joy. He invited them to “learn of me”, to follow Him, to embark on a journey of becoming someone new.

No one who entered Jesus presence would have ever felt rejected. It was OK to not be OK.

And no one who entered Jesus presence could have imagined it was OK to remain not OK.

It’s OK to Not Be OK

We get that part intellectually. That’s been said in many ways both inside and outside the church. “Jesus accepts sinners.” “Jesus can heal you.” “We’re here to accept and love you.”

Sermons have been preached about those in the Bible who were depressed. We know that Jesus wept. He felt sad, lonely, and deeply troubled at times. (By the way, Christianity is the only “religion” where our God weeps!)

And yet we still don’t fully embrace that it’s OK to not be OK. Too often we tell no one when we are struggling. We don’t fully invest in connecting with a few people who can be there for us regardless of whether or not we’re OK.

And we don’t fully invest in making it OK for others to not be OK.

Who would you talk to if you were truly not OK? Is there someone you can be safe with?

And who in your life are you certain could come to you if they were not OK?

It’s Not OK to Remain Not OK

This part almost seems dangerous to talk about. It can feel like saying a drowning person has to save themselves. Or that you don’t have true faith in God if you are still depressed after a long time. Or that there’s a time-limit on the help you can expect from God or others.

None of those things are true. If you invite Jesus to be with you, He will NEVER leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) As brothers and sisters in Christ we are to help bear one another’s burdens when they cannot carry them themselves. None of us can perhaps fully understand the genetics, circumstances, and traumas of another.

Nothing I’m about to say should be interpreted as blaming anyone for their mental distress!

And yet staying stuck is not OK.

Healing is a choice. Growth is a choice. Learning to function, to take responsibility, to care for one’s own self, to become someone who blesses others, is a choice. Taking charge of your own mind is a choice.

That’s not meant to blame you if you are struggling! And it doesn’t lessen the responsibility of each one of us to help each other.

It’s not unlike physical food. God makes food available, but He doesn’t hand you a sandwich or force it into your stomach. You have to find it, prepare it, and decide to take it into your being. And at the same time we are called to help those who struggle to find the food they need.

It’s the same with mental/emotional wellbeing. God makes the nourishment and healing you need available, but He doesn’t “zap” healing on you. You must seek it and decide to take it into your being.

Are You Brokenhearted?

There’s so much more than could be said. No human being can tell you how long your process “should” take. A meaningful purposeful life is not a life free from trouble, even serious trouble.

But for right now, let me encourage you to not give up!

Honor your personal story. Choose to believe healing is available for you. Move toward it. Study it. Learn about your mind. Find the healthy nourishment you need. Do the sometimes hard work of connecting with others. Keep praying.

Yes, He came to heal the brokenhearted. Even you!

Your Turn: Have you been struggling with being broken-hearted? Has it been difficult to believe healing is possible? What step might Jesus be inviting you to take next? Leave a comment below.

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  • In response to Suicide Prevention Day last week, here are some thoughts about healing the brokenhearted. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s also not OK to stay not OK.   Tweet that.

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