In the documentary, The Bridge, a man is seen jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He lived. Most don’t. Later he said, “The moment my feet left the railing of the bridge I said to myself, this is the worst decision I’ve ever made.”
Recently Andrew Stoecklein, a young pastor in Chino, California, took the path of death by his own hand. He was only 30 years old. His lovely wife Kayla and three little boys are devastated. He pastored a successful church, was regarded by his peers and seemed to have everything, but he also fought depression.
Followers of Christ who leave this earth by self-death are many times fighting right up until the moment they die. They’re fighting to stop the trigger, release the dark cloud of depression, not take the pills. They are casualties of war, the war between heaven and earth. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.”
In Scripture, Samson literally killed himself. And yet, we don’t think of it that way because hundreds of years later, he was written into the Biblical hall of fame in Hebrews 11. If suicide was the ultimate sin, Samson wouldn't be listed under the new covenant as a champion of faith. But he was. If Peter had drowned when he got out of the boat, would we have discounted the fact that he was the only man to have the faith to get out?
Last week, our family was shocked by suicide. The brother of my brother-in-law Mark. When we spoke the next day, Mark said, “Steve never could accept that we all loved him. That he was very much loved by many people. He couldn’t get that into his thinking, into his heart.”
Paul Simon captured the essence of the desperate and depressed in the classic “The Sounds of Silence”:
“Hello darkness, my old friendNo one sees me—no one cares,” is what the blind man Bartimeaus thought, then Jesus showed up.
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp…”
“No one sees me—no one cares,” is what the demon possessed man thought, then Jesus showed up.
“No one sees me—no one cares,” is what the crippled man at the Bethesda pool thought, then Jesus showed up.
How does Jesus show up? In the loving hearts of friends and the skilled hands of pastors and counselors. Andrew Stoecklein’s wife Kayla wrote a letter to her husband three days after he died:
“You were right all along, I truly didn’t understand the depths of your depression and anxiety. I didn’t understand how real and how relentless the spiritual attacks were. The pain, the fear, and the turmoil you must have been dealing with every single day is unimaginable. The enemy knew what an amazing man you were. The enemy knew God had huge plans for your life. The enemy saw how God was using your gifts, abilities, and unique teaching style to reach thousands of lives for Him. The enemy hated it and he pursued you incessantly. Taunting you and torturing you in ways that you were unable to express to anyone.Depression is deadly. PTSD is a silent killer. It is real. It gets really dark. It is a spiritual attack.
Andrew, I want to tell you from the depths of my heart and my pain I am so sorry.
I am so sorry you were so scared,
I am so sorry you felt so alone,
I am so sorry you felt misunderstood,
I am so sorry you felt betrayed and deeply hurt by the words and actions of others,
I am so sorry you were fighting a dark spiritual war virtually alone,
I am so sorry you were unable to fully get the help and support you needed.
I wish I had one more chance to hold you and cry with you and encourage you.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, GET HELP NOW. The darkness is only temporary. I know it feels like it will never leave. But it’s like the inky darkness of the heaviest night. In the morning, the sun comes up, and the taunting shadows of the night slink away.
If you have friends that feel this way, are fighting thoughts of self-harm or suicide, ACT NOW. Bring light, pray, love, act. Get them help. We need to have grace and wisdom, but we don’t worry about offending someone. Get them help now.
If you are fighting depression, tormented with doubts and feeling unloved—then now, right now, SEEK THE LIGHT. You will find, the light is a person. Jesus. And in him—really in HIM, not just sitting on a pew—you will find peace and rest. There are people that will help you get there—because you are loved. And one day your voice will help someone else. Fight for them. You are worth it. They are worth it.
At the advent of the world, it was through the darkness of chaos that God looked down and saw beauty. In the birth of mankind, He saw past the pain, the darkness, the silence and the chaos and—He saw you … and He said, “It is good.”