Hearing the word “suicide” in relation to a name I recognize is like a sucker punch to the gut. Last week two well-known individuals lost their battles to depression and chose to end their own lives. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were two inspirational people, each beautifully made in the image of God, whose deaths have left countless people reeling. Their suicides are a sobering reminder that we can have fame, beauty, and money; we can create beautiful things that bless and inspire others or travel the world and celebrate diversity and culture. But in the end find none of these compensate for our inner suffering or sooth the ache in our hearts for purpose. None of these bring freedom from the depression that grips so many of us.

My heart breaks for the people I knew who faced such despair ending their lives seemed to be the only way forward. Hearing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides is like scratching that wound raw again. There are many things people say about suicide, but in my opinion, it is the last, terrified act of a soul in immeasurable pain. Is there hope for those struggling with this level of inner torment? There are suggestions being passed around, most of them helpful in theory, but the reality is, when one is in that place, it’s difficult to do anything but survive. Even more, depression and thoughts of suicide can paralyze our mouths, making it nearly impossible to voice the anguish in our souls. I know, because I’ve been there. But today I stand in the light on the other side and I cannot keep silent about the hope I found. It kept me going in my darkest moments and has brought deep healing to my heart, transforming my life and setting my mind free to experience joy again.

That hope is the saving power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You see, the reason our souls cannot bear the pain of this world is because we were never made to. We are spirit beings designed to live in relationship with a spirit God who enables us to face the darkest realities of life and brings tangible restoration to our most broken places. This kind of healing is not a religious platitude or 7-step self-help program. Rather, it is a dynamic, personal intervention by an all-knowing God who understands our deepest wounds and wants to reach out in love to provide complete healing and renewal. For me this began by crying out to God for help. I read the hope-filled words of Jesus recorded from his time on earth, like those found in the Gospel of Matthew. Then God began sending me exactly what my parched soul needed: friends who love me unconditionally, books that revealed my heart wounds and how they’d led to my depression and harmful thought patterns – then what steps I needed to take to heal from these, songs that lifted my spirit, and even the difficult to describe awareness of Christ’s comforting presence with me. I am a different person than I was a year ago and I owe it all to Jesus. Without him I wouldn’t be here today.

Jesus is inviting everyone to this level of hope and healing. He brings purpose to this life and assurance of a beautiful afterlife. He is capable of healing our darkest depression and guiding us to an abundant life of wellness and vitality. He is a loving God who offers a way of salvation from the wrongs we have committed and those that have been committed against us. And it all begins by crying out to him for help.

For those who may not be struggling with depression, but are left breathless in the wake of your loved one's suicide, there's hope for you too. I am convinced the most bitter loss is that of a loved one taking their own life. But Jesus is offering to carry that unbearable burden of grief and restore your soul. He's able to give you purpose again when your life may now feel meaningless. He is gentle and strong, and knows well the path to healing.

There is hope from depression and thoughts of suicide. There is healing in the aftermath of suicide. And that hope and healing is found in the transformational power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
(Matthew 11:28-30)

There are some events in our lives that are impossible to put into words; seasons we walk through that strip us of everything we thought we knew about ourselves and God. Our first term as missionaries in Kenya was this kind of season for me. But by God’s grace, I turned to Christ instead of away from him. And God heard my cries for help, reached down to rescue me, and began a spiritual awakening in my life unlike I’ve ever experienced.

“I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 16:8

On June 1st, 2017, one year ago today, I purposed to set the Lord always before me. I was shaken, broken, and at the very end of myself. I never would have understood how low a believer could go unless I had walked through the darkest night of my soul after experiencing so much loss and uncertainty. But when I cried out to God, he answered my cry - not in my timeline - but he came. And when he came he came like a flood, tearing down walls and bringing clarity to my deepest heart struggles, healing to my wounded spirit, and answers to my hardest questions. He is transforming me at the deepest level of who I am and equipping me to live a radical life for Christ I know full well I am incapable of doing in my own strength.

You see, fear, anxiety, shame and a feeling of never belonging were things I’d carried my entire adult life. Difficult events from my childhood and young adult years had piled up, so when we experienced such hardship in Kenya, I had no spiritual reserve and began drowning in the baggage and harmful thought patterns that developed as a result.

But my God is a healer! He is drawing me to himself, healing me, and setting me free to live abundantly and shine brightly for him. These deep struggles are being laid to rest and I am beginning again. I’m reestablishing my identity in Christ as I realized God was not who I thought he was, and I didn’t know who I was, especially who I am in Christ. My experiences and perspective told a different story than was true. But as I have gone back to the Bible, along with great biblical resources, and learned what it truly means to abide in him, God is leading me on an incredible journey of finding him again. And finding myself, really, for the very first time.

So today, one year later, I can now say with conviction; “I have set the Lord always before. Because he is at my right hand, I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.”

The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory! (Ps. 118:14) He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD. (Ps. 40:30) I cannot praise his name enough for the work he has done in my life.