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How Jesus Restored My Joy While I Battled Suicidal Thoughts

TW: This article contains references to suicide and may cause distress. If you or anyone you know needs help, please ring your local lifeline for support.  

 

I shouldn’t be here.

If we lived in a world where Jesus Christ didn’t exist, I would be just another statistic among the world’s teenage suicides. A quiet sufferer who one day decided she had enough and ended it all.

From a young age, I understood that my home wasn’t an emotionally safe one. My parents were often in conflict, and it was common practice for my mum to move out temporarily whenever one of those fights blew up. She would bring my brother and me to our grandparents’ place to stay for a while, as she ranted about her difficult marriage.

Then my parents would reconcile, we would go home, and the cycle would begin again.

As the years passed, I convinced myself that my role was to be the one who propped everyone else up. I couldn’t afford to be sad about it because enough people were.

 

The lure of ending everything

I was in my second year of college. My parents were in yet another “cold war”, which meant months and counting of not speaking to each other. Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and threw tantrums at least once a day, was living with us.

I am generally a very patient person, but at some point, my fuse started getting short. I would blow up at the slightest provocation, and rant to friends and classmates about whatever was irritating me at that moment. Except I couldn’t blow up at home.

I remember my dad sitting me down over breakfast one day and asking for my “professional opinion”—just because I was majoring in psychology—if he and my mum should stay together. As misguided as that was, I answered as calmly as I could that it was their decision to make, but after that brief exchange, something in me snapped.

I don’t remember how things progressed, but I was starting to forget what it was like to be happy. I would go out with my good friends and I’d have fun. But then I’d come home and just lie in my bed for an hour or so, staring blankly at the ceiling until I was called for my next responsibility.

The first time I entertained the thought of suicide was coming home from school one day. The house was quiet after my grandmother settled down from one of her fits, and I had wandered into the kitchen for a snack. I opened a drawer to get a spoon for my coffee, and saw the knives.

I shut the drawer without taking action that day. But the idea kept surfacing in my mind.

No one was aware of what was going on with me mentally, and I kept going to church, since my parents knew I always went and I couldn’t let them think something was off. But I had dropped out of all the other church activities—discipleship group, Bible studies, fellowships. I would go to church for the sermons, then leave right after to go breakfast somewhere, usually by myself.

 

Learning to fight for joy

Even though I had given up, Jesus in His infinite mercy was still saving me. During the times I was considering suicide, different reasons would keep popping up in my mind as to why I shouldn’t—they ranged from the somewhat silly “Imagine what a mess that would be” to the more serious “Don’t do that to mum now.”

I knew I sorely needed therapy or counselling. But I wasn’t ready to talk about my problems. Despite being a psychology major, I still held to the stigma around mental health problems—I didn’t want to be “crazy”. So, I tried to conduct self-therapy through what I was learning in my classes, but trying to work through my problems on my own wasn’t ever going to be enough.

One Sunday, my church announced there was a book sale after the service. As depressed as I was, the bookworm in me couldn’t let that slide. So I browsed, and came away with John Piper’s When You Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy.

It was the first time I’d ever seen joy presented as something to fight for. Back then, it had come so naturally to me. But now that I couldn’t find joy anymore, it only made sense.

Going through the book was a slow process that eventually started the road to recovery. As I rediscovered Scripture, I was moved to memorise 1 Peter. In particular, the opening of the letter struck me:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1:3-7)

Meditating on the Word constantly through memorisation eventually drove the thoughts of suicide from my mind as God’s truth filled it instead, reminding me of what “the end” really is according to His intention. I also rediscovered honest, specific, open-hearted prayer—prayer that keeps me going till this day.

Three years after my spiral into depression, I was hanging out at a friend’s house when I realised something: I was finally remembering how to be happy again.

 

Equipped to comfort others

It’s been more than a decade since, and I’ve not gone back to being the person I was before my depression. I acknowledge negative emotions more readily now, so I don’t stuff them in an unhealthy way like I used to. But I don’t let those feelings linger in my heart; instead, I let myself feel them and then pray to surrender them to God.

The Lord has also opened a window for me to continue to heal through therapy with a wise and trusted professional as I learned to be comfortable with talking about my problems. In many ways, my family situation has not changed much. But God has sustained me with reminders of His faithfulness, and has even moved me to be diligent in prayer for my family—and when I can’t, in asking others to pray for them with me.

I’ve also fully returned to church. God has given me a deep sense of empathy for those going through similar struggles and has equipped me to comfort others through the comfort He gave me (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

The familiar numbness of depression still sometimes creeps up on me, but by God’s mercy, it has not taken hold again. He has stayed true to His word, which says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

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