Tag Archives: suicide

Out of the Depths


Good Friday is really about life for me. Two years ago Good Friday, I was sitting at home, preparing for my minimal role in services. I had been on disability for about 2 months, and things were going fairly well. I got a phone call from the people that handle disability claims at our insurance company. They were just calling to inform me that since I had shown “some” improvement according to my doctor, that they were taking me off disability.

This began a series of events that I can only describe as surreal. I began a downward spiral that brought be to being suicidal. It was a gift from God that we had the divine service that day, for without that, I don’t know what I would have been doing. My pastor stayed with me as much as possible. I was a zombie, barely conscious, yet fully believing that there was no way I could get out of this, no way I could recover from such a blow. If I didn’t have the time and space I needed to heal, then I would only get worse. What was the point?

But God is merciful.

I lived.  Somehow our Lord got me through the Great Three Days.   After Easter I went to stay with some dear friends for a couple weeks to rest and try to recover some level of sanity and normalcy.  Things got better.  It took a long time, with setbacks along the way and all kinds of other gunk to go through, but things did get better.

So Good Friday for me is about life.  It’s about that life God gives to each one of us.  It’s about the Life that was given for my life.   It’s about the gift of seeing my children grow up, having friends and family who care deeply for us, and it’s about the ongoing work that our Lord does to keep us in the faith all the days of our lives.  No matter how dark the road.

A blessed Good Friday to you.


Suicide up among those in midlife

The NY Times just posted an article about the rather dramatic rise in suicide rates among those 45-54 years old.  It went up 20 percent in men and 31 percent in women in that age group.

Suicide is an ongoing problem in our culture.  We live in a world where the expectation of a perfect life is almost assumed.  On top of that, the increase of medications and other factors has made suicide rates almost epidemic in the United States.

How is a Christian to handle this?  Well, for starters, we do understand that suicide is a sin (5th commandment), but it is only a sin.  Jesus died for even that.  The notion of categorically condemning anyone who commits suicide is simple not in keeping with the Gospel.   Obviously some may commit suicide as the end of despair over the faith.  Others may do so because the pain becomes overwhelming.  For many, we never know the reasons for suicide.

I am saddened to hear of this trend, and will have to spend some time thinking about it.  Why the rise in this age group?  What has changed over the last decade in the United States that would warrant such a change?

God be merciful to us, as we remember those who have taken their own lives.  I have considered the same in dark hours of the night.  But God is merciful, and has spared me from that fate.  May it be so for one and all.


The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is not what one would consider “normal” reading for Lutheran pastors. Ms. Gilman was a turn of the (20th) century proto-feminist, advocated group raising for children (“it takes a village”), and any number of peculiar to downright evil ideas.

She also had a brilliant insight into the mindset of depression and anxiety.

In the signature short story in the above book (The Yellow Wallpaper), the protagonist has been diagnosed with melancholy. Her husband is a doctor, and believes that the best thing for her is to be kept away from all human contact. Despite her ongoing objections, she is made a virtual prisoner in her own home, a cottage they have rented until she gets better.

Of course, she doesn’t get better.  She goes slowly mad, and becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her upper room where she spends all her time.  The patterns in the paper become alive, she starts to see people on the other side of the paper.  It consumes her, until she finally cannot take it anymore and commits suicide.

Now the element of this story which I found so intriguing is the role of her husband.  He is a doctor, so he is an expert.  She cannot question his judgment, because that would be both unseemly and totally counterproductive.  So she is forced to accept his diagnosis even though everything within her says it is wrong.

The parallels between this and modern approaches to depression and other mental illnesses is striking.  What “camp” you fall into will determine your diagnosis.  Traditional medicine.  Homeopathy.  Good ole’ American willpower.  The “Luther” view of sing more hymns loud, drink more and be with people more (more on this little topic in another post).  Some will say drugs are the only way to go.  Therapy must be the answer.  Others will say that prayer is the only way.  Still others meditation, sunlight,  etc.  But it is surprising to me how completely exclusive these approaches can become.

The reality is that the mind is an incredibly complex thing, truly a wonder of God’s creation.  Just as there are many causes for depression, even so there may be many roads out of depression.  What we must be on guard against is presuming that one view or approach is the end all only way to come to a right way out.

In this path we walk, our Lord has given us many tools for healing.  God will see you through, no matter what path you may end up talking along the way.