Tomorrow Is World Suicide Prevention Day #BeThe1To

Tomorow is World Suicide Prevention Day and I wanted to stop and share a few thoughts with you. From most of the reading I do it seems that depression and suicide are on the rise here in America.

So here are a few articles, links, resources that can help you, or someone you love, know how to deal with the sensitive topic of suicide and depression.

HERE is an article I wrote about a year ago after Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

THIS link has five steps you can take to help a friend who is contemplating suicide. #BeThe1To

HERE is a book that does a great job of talking about the fact that Christians can get depressed and what we can do about it.

One of the things that we need to keep in mind is that many times people who are hurting the most keep up a facade in public of being OK. So my suggestion would be that if you begin to wonder if someone is struggling ask them out for coffee. Ask questions. Genuinely listen. Show compassion. You could be the one that God uses to save a life.

If you need immediate help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

What I’m Learning From NF

NF (Nathan Feuerstein) is a rapper and as of late he has definitely caught my attention. His music is catchy and I enjoy it, but the part that I find fascinating is that NF is writing about the intense pain that he deals with on a regular basis. I have always been drawn to artists who share their personal experiences when it comes to the difficulties that they have been through. Nearly every song I have heard from NF sounds like he had to go to a very dark place to reconnect with old memories and put it into a rhyme. After doing a little reading I realized that NF comes from a divorced home, his mom died of an overdose, and he was physically abused. It’s pretty easy to understand why his music is filled with pain, confusion and a desperate attempt to make sense of it all.

Here are some of the comments that I have found from random people on YouTube based on the song, “How Could You Leave”:

Emma Kennedy
2 weeks ago
Nate, your not alone. I have a mom that had me at 15 did drugs, and I got taken away from her..She lost all her 5 kids and I dont get to see 2 of my siblings at all. I have no bond or relationship with my mom or siblings…I have really bad anxiety, I can get anxiety attacks too. She was never there for anything, not for my graduations..or anything. I feel like im alone, and its nice to have you, Nate. To go home from school with my earbuds on listening too you, cuz you have helped me through everything. I still get to see her, she still does drugs, but im afraid those drugs are gonna take her..and listening to you is My THERAPY SESSION

wolfnation 091617
3 weeks ago
I love this song it hits hard it makes me thinks alot it puts u in so much feelings and I can rap this whole song.

TTV Raid Venom
2 weeks ago (edited)
Ive been through this I’m only 16 and my mom has been in jail my whole life she’s only been out for 3 years i barely know her she’s not dead but she’s no longer there it’s scaring to see your mom overdose because she popped your dead dogs pills. She always used to say she was coming to pick me and my brother up from my dads but never showed she had the swat i. Our house trying to get her this song really hits me thank you nf for being here for everyone your music helps so many people

These comments on YouTube are heart breaking because they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the pain that is occurring behind closed doors. Have you seen the statistics?  NPR reported this recently, “Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent.” We live in a country where we have so much yet we see a growing sense of hopelessness. Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, are just a couple of well known celebrities who decided to end their life in the past few weeks.

Some of you might be wondering if an artist like NF has anything to truly offer besides venting his negative emotions. I am a parent myself, so I get your concern! I am not saying that his music is for everyone (listen with discernment), but I can say that I have found a redemptive message within his music.

In his song “Statement” he goes out of his way to point out that there are plenty of artists out there (he specifically names Eminem) who deal with their pain in inappropriate ways.

I grew up on Eminem, now look where the game’s at
Lame raps, Hollywood fame acts, I’m sick of the same trash

At times NF does get quite specific regarding the source of our true hope in life. In his song “All I Have” he writes these lines:

I don’t live for the world
I live for the King, I live for the King, focus

What you’re hearing now is me whether I’m in front or behind that curtain
I stand behind these words I’m a Christian but I’m not perfect

So what am I learning from all of this? I am learning that the church has to do a better job of being open and transparent regarding the difficulties of life. To quote Michael Stipe (and to date myself), “Everyone hurts sometimes.” Since this is true, how do we help people when we try to hide it? The truth is that when we hide the hard stuff we are (unintentionally) keeping people away from the church at a time when they desperately need to know that hope is alive. I try to be open about some of my struggles from the pulpit. I have heard on a number of occasions from people that it helps them to know that they are not the only person that has their fair share of ups and downs. We have also created a Care Ministry at our church. The Care Ministry is made up of men and women who are available to meet with anyone in the church, or our city, who needs someone to listen to them and encourage them.

I’ll end with one of my favorite NF songs, “Wake Up.” This is a powerful song that is challenging the assumptions that material possessions, or the stuff of life, can ever make us happy.

Your depression (anxiety, anger, irritability) might be talking to you

One of the most important questions we can ask and answer is this, “what do you want?”

If you were to spend 5 minutes quietly pondering the answer to this question what do you think your answer would be? Not the answer you think is safe to share with others. Not the Sunday School answer. Just the cold, hard, truth.

If you are feeling depressed (anxious, angry, irritable, etc.) there is a decent chance that the reason is because there is a desire that is unmet in your life.

This leads me to a four thoughts/ideas…

One, many times we are so busy in life that we are not in touch with what is truly going on in our own heart. We are feeling things, strong emotions, but we are unsure of where they are coming from because we are moving too fast. We are too distracted. This, seems to me, to be a very dangerous way to live. We must seek to understand what is truly going on in our heart and how it is impacting the way we live everyday life.

Two, we will need to prayerfully consider if this unmet desire is something that is good for us to have. There are plenty of things our sinful nature craves that we simply should not have. 

Three, perhaps it is a good desire and we need to actively work towards making it a reality in our life. A desire for a better job to provide for your family. Maybe it is just to have a family in the first place. God has created us as humans with strong desires and emotions. The Christian life is not about stuffing our desires deep down and acting like they don’t exist. The poet, David Whyte, calls this the “devouring animal of our disowned desire.” Simply acting like our desires are not there, running from them, not dealing with them, will end up causing us greater pain and misery in the long run.

Four, it’s possible that it is a good desire but God, in all of his sovereignty, has decided that we should not have it. There are going to be times in life when we believe with all of our heart that what we want is a good thing. The desire to be healed of an illness is good and understandable. It certainly is appropriate to pray for these things, yet we must come to the place where we hold them with open hands. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul laid before God a very important prayer request. Each and every time Paul prayed the answer was no. If God says no we must (as hard as it might be) learn to trust in his goodness.

I guess my point is that we all need to slow down and do a better job of listening to our heart. Spend time alone with God. Communicate our longings, our desires to him. There is nothing going on inside of us that will surprise him or that he can’t handle.

What is your depression, anxiety, anger, irritability saying to you?

BTW: Clearly depression is not always caused by unmet expectations. There can be a variety of reasons (some physiological) that leads to a person feeling depressed.

Class Notes for “Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray

christians get depressed cover

I am going to be finishing up a six week class called Dealing With Depression this coming Sunday. We used the book “Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray. Each week I would make up class notes for our time together. I wanted to make the notes available to you for personal use or if you should decide to lead class at church.

Complete Dealing With Depression Class Notes

“Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray

John Lockley writes, “Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell.” (p. 6-7)

Four reasons why I like “Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray.

  1. The book is short (112 pages). Not everyone loves to read long books and I believe this is especially true for a person who is struggling with depression.
  2. The book helps to dispel the foolish notion that mature Christians don’t ever feelchristians get depressed cover depressed. “My choice of title, Christians get depressed Too, is intended too oppose and correct a very common response to Christians suffering from depression: “But Christians don’t get depressed!” How many times have you thought that, said that, or heard that? How many times have Christian pastors and counselors made this claim, or at least implied it? If it is true that Christians don’t get depressed, it must mean either that the Christian suffering from depression is not truly depressed, or he is not a Christian. But if this notion is false, what extra and unnecessary pain and guilt are heaped upon an already darkened mind and broken heart!” (preface)
  3. The book is balanced in its approach as to what causes depression. “There are three simplistic approaches that we should avoid when considering the cause of depression: first, that it is all physical; second, that it is all spiritual; third that it is all mental.” (p. 13)  During my years in pastoral ministry I have run into people who only have one answer or solution for depression. This approach usually does more harm than good. As the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer then you treat everything like a nail.”
  4. The book is biblical. Murray is continually building everything he writes on the Word of God. There are constant references to Scripture on early every page. For example, one cause of depression can be wrong thinking. We think and believe things about our life and the world around us that don’t align with what is taught in Scripture. On pages 74-77 Murray asks his readers to write down their thoughts and then to examine them based on what we know to be true about God in His Word.
Here are a few other quotes that I appreciated:
  • An additional benefit of having some knowledge about depression is that it will prevent the dangerous and damaging misunderstanding that often leads people, especially Christians, to view medication as a rejection of God and His grace rather than a provision of God and his grace. (p. 6)
  • However, the general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers. (p.6)
  • The spiritual reason, and one that I am most concerned about, is that many who have the symptoms of depression, without identifying them as such, reason, “If I have these thoughts and feelings, I cannot be a Christian!” My aim in this chapter is to not only outline the symptoms, but also to show from Scripture that such symptoms are not only compatible with being a Christian but are also found in some of the most eminent Bible characters. (p.32)
  • The general rule is to listen much and to speak little. The following is a helpful list of what not to say: (to a person struggling with depression)
    • Pull yourself together
    • But you’ve got nothing to be sad about.
    • Don’t get so emotional.
    • Oh, you’ll get over it soon.
    • It’s a sin to be depressed.
    • Just believe the promises.
    • Smile, it can’t be that bad.
    • Well, things could be worse.
    • At least it’s nothing serious.
    • You should confess your sins.
    • You are not still on medication, are you? (p. 98)

At New Life we plan on offering a class on depression in March. In no way am I under the delusion that one class will fix a person who is dealing with depression. I know full well that it just does not work like that. Here are a few reasons I want to offer this class. First, to point people in the right direction who are feeling depressed. Second, I want to dispel the idea that depression is a topic that is off limits in the church. We are all broken and the church must be a safe place to admit it!  Third, to equip people to know how to minister to those who are dealing with depression.