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On the Church, God and Another Pastor's Recent Suicide

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

What a horrific week.

Australia was left heartbroken and the footy world gutted as we lost a key leader of the game to a disease of the mind — suicide.

The Christian world has been rocked by another young pastor with a young family, taking his life only days ago. As someone advocating for the awareness and treatment of mental illness for over 10 years via this blog — we need to talk.

I’ve been asked my thoughts, advice and experience on this latest topic of pastors and suicide and to be perfectly honest … it’s tough.

It’s tough because there is no one-size-fits-all. There is no “depression” and “anxiety” that fit neatly into a little box with a bow on top.

It’s messy.

We’re messy.

We all are.

Do I believe God is still God and God is still good and brilliant and beautiful and a healer and a comforter? Yes, I do.

But I also believe we as a society are living beyond our means. We are over stimulated and under responsive, we’re addicted, we’re lonely and we’re isolated. It’s a by-product to the western society we call home.

But we are also beautiful and resilient and strong and supportive. We are burdened for each other and we want more than anything to provide an answer. And perhaps at this point in time we don’t have one.

I’ve been asked several questions over the past 24 hours. It has opened my eyes to say the least:

Why would a christian allow sin in his life to the point where he killed himself?

You can’t go to church AND have depression?

Will he go to hell now?

Why would someone so selfish leave his family behind?

Why didn’t he just fight harder?

Why didn’t he just find something to distract himself?

The best answer I can give as a fellow pastor of the people with anxiety is this — should someone with diabetes, dementia or another illness be asked those questions?  The brain after all, is as physical as any other organ.

That’s the point. If you broke your leg, you’d get it seen too, yes?

I think as a church we want to get this right, I believe it. What I also know is that “leaving the depression behind/ at the altar” is brilliant in theory but hard in actuality. And sometimes the reality is, the healing is in the treatment. For many, the re-wiring of the brain and the cognitive therapy to help negative thoughts ( Romans 12) is the actual help that will make change — and that takes discipline and obedience and darn hard work.

Do I think mental illness can be spiritual?

Yes I do. But I also believe it is physical and I think they intertwine and often. For me personally, I over spiritualized it for most of my life and the answer to prayer came in the form of education and the right doctor. But I also believe God is a healer and I will pray that prayer for myself and others until I meet Jesus face to face.

I think the hard and complex part of mental illness is that it isn’t a formula. There isn’t a quick fix. There isn’t always an answer. There isn’t always a reason. Sometimes it’s trauma and loss, sometimes it’s plain old genetics.

Mine is a beautiful blend of both.

For me, committing my journey to God and asking His spirit to lead me has led me to brilliant revelations in the Word and wonderful treatment in the medical world that turned my life around.

And still I walk with a limp.

I said it and now you know it and I’m not ashamed.

I manage anxiety on a daily basis and I thank God every day for the tools I have been given to do so.

For many, depression is relentless. It’s forceful. It’s powerful. It’s easy for us to sit back and say “God covers all” and “don’t isolate yourself” when sometimes there are just some hard situations where the fight has been long, the prayer has been fervent, the discipline has been strict and still the depression has been heavy.

My most favorite and highly respected speakers on this topic are Pastor Rick and Kaye Warren.

Matthew’s parents.

Matthew who was born into the church, a beautiful family, with all the love and support, treatment and education and still … still …

Depression won.

He fought for every day/year of his life, he went to his appointments religiously and he took his medication and still … he suffered.

He suffered until he couldn’t stay.

We don’t understand each case because each case is different. So as much as awareness is a brilliant start, journeying deeply and intimately with those who need is essential. And even then, sometimes it isn’t enough.

The truth is friends, I don’t have an answer yet.

What I do know is that as the collective church, we need open hearts and minds, we need to educate ourselves and we need to have an open and widely swinging door when it comes to people suffering in this way, including and especially the Pastor.

Church, in its design, should be messy. If we sit with the broken and if we exist to create a place for the lost and the hurt — we meet them in the mess. We get our hands dirty. We meet them in the mess and we walk it out.

If your Christian life at this point is wrapped in a safe neat box and this latest loss through suicide doesn’t fit in there … could I encourage you that it might be time to reassess.

No matter who you are, I’ll meet you in the mess and I pray that one day when I need it, you’ll meet me there.

Church isn’t a museum for the saints,
it’s a hospital for the broken.

It’s OK to not be OK.
And it’s OK to talk about it in church.

I love you and you know it,
Lis xx

A version of this story originally appeared on lisamcphee.blogspot.com.

Photo credit: nito100/Getty Images

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