Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Day I Lost Hope: 10 Years On #SpeakofSuicide

This day does get easier.

It is not marked, as it once was by disgust and self-hatred.

It is not marked with wondering what would have happened if I had taken my own life that day.

Instead, there is sadness at the girl I was, who so desperately tried to fight with life, rather than fighting for it.

There is still regret, I don’t think that will change, because that day changed the course of my life and hurt people I love very dearly.

Now, however, there is grace where there was once disgrace.

There is life, where once there were only thoughts of death.

There is hope, where once there was only despair.

I wrote the below for Threads last year, and the same is true today, 10 years on from the day I lost hope.

It was a freezing cold day with that scent of winter that is unique to the weeks between Bonfire Night and Christmas. I hadn’t been well for a long time, depression had me in an iron-clad hold, joy wheezing and hope all but burnt out. The day it was extinguished was unremarkable, a normal Wednesday.

And yet it was that day that the faltering, flickering flame of hope that kept me putting the smile on my face was extinguished for what felt like the last time. And as I stared at the ashes where the flame had been, I decided that I was finished.

Later that day, I tried to take my own life.

It was not carefully considered, nor meticulously planned; it wasn’t a completed suicide. It was a semi-colon, not a full stop; and yet in the nearly 10 years that have passed since that day I have been reminded again and again that it is in the those most empty of moments that God shows up.

 I remember that day as if it happened to someone else. I work now to help others get through days as dark as that November day was for me. Confirmation, if ever it was needed, that God is in the business of restoration – and has a rather strange sense of humour.

And as the Church, with the brightest of lights, we’ve got a part to play in God’s work.

While history may teach that the Church reacts with condemnation and cruelty in the face of suicide, I don’t see that when I look at the way God ministers to the suicidal and the hopeless in the Bible.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah begs for death atop Mount Horeb and he is greeted with rest and recouperation, nourishment and a listening ear – a recommissioning.

In Acts 16, Paul calls his jailer back from the brink and invites him into the family of God. Albert Hsu says: “Paul’s model of suicide prevention is one we can follow today. He intervened in the jailer’s crisis. He stopped him from harming himself. He gave him a reason to live. We can do the same.”

And doesn’t Jesus reveal himself to Cleopas walking the road to Emmaus by showing his own scars to soothe his dashed hopes and fractured faith?

Hope after suicide calls for compassion and grace in extraordinary measures. It calls for speaking truth, rather than hiding behind words of shame and despair. We can’t cower behind phrases like did something silly, we need to use the vocabulary of understanding like died by suicide’, rather than the language of criminal condemnation found in phrases such as committed suicide.

Suicide calls for the nourishment and rest Elijah received, the intervention of Paul, but most powerfully, the scars of Christ as a reminder that God is Immanuel. That He walks alongside us when all hope is feels lost and shows us that He is bigger than the greatest of our pain. God suffers through Jesus – He shares our suffering in Jesus – but God is greater than our suffering.

Nicholas Wolterstorff writes:

“God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. It is said of God that no one can behold His face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see His splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see His sorrow and live. Or perhaps His sorrow is splendour. Instead of explaining our suffering, God shares it.”

This post was first published at www.rachaelsonaliwrites.com

Paraclesis – Walking Alongside

Recently I’ve started going on a daily(ish) walk. I work from home and I found that whole days were passing when I wasn’t leaving my flat. That coupled with the fact that Autumn is my favourite season (no pollen and sunshine is a win as far as I’m concerned!) and the shortcut to the local Aquadrome my husband showed me has encouraged me to get out my rarely worn trainers and get walking. (I thought it took an hour – it actually only takes 10 minutes)

I’ve been enjoying the walk. The first few walks my husband came with me because I’m not so great at the directions, sometimes I walk in silence, sometimes with music and sometimes with an audiobook. Sometimes, I invite people round for coffee and make them come with me.

Even on the most beautiful days; my walk is better with a companion. For a start, I know that I’m less likely to get lost and secondly, it’s just nice to be walking alongside someone.

And I feel like Cleopas needed his unnamed friend on his walk to Road to Emmaus in Luke’s gospel. The Message describes them as ‘long faced’. It seems to me that they are walking through a haze of grief and then this stranger turns up and asks them what’s wrong.

The week that had passed would have been the talk of the whole community; the story of that Friday; the freeing of Barrabas, the crucifixion of Jesus when they’d hoped he’d be the one to free them from Roman rule, the darkness, the torn temple curtain.

And of course Jesus knew the story, it was His story! But the first part of the journey is about Jesus listening to Cleopas.

It’s something that still strikes me as shocking. Jesus; who was there when the stars were placed into the night sky and the sea was separated from the land listens to Cleopas.

“It’s compelling to realise that the very first thing Jesus does in the post-resurrection era is come alongside and journey with men in their valley of trouble.”

After all that He has been through in the days that have passed; the night of blood soaked tears, the betrayal by his closest friends, the humiliating death and the day in the silence, Jesus spends his first morning listening to a couple of heartbroken friends.

Psalm 107 says “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their stories” and Jesus is doing this. Even though he knows more about the events that have passed than they do, he wants to listen to Cleopas share with Him.

He is the same with us today.

God knows our stories, he knows the happiest chapters and he knows the most desperate, He’s been there all along, but He wants us to share our stories with Him, to talk to Him in prayer, ask for what we need and praise Him for what we have.

Jesus holds out a hand and encourages us to keep walking, because He walks with us through the darkness of our hopeless and He doesn’t let go.

An Antidote to Stress #NationalStressAwarenessDay

There are 10 million working days lost to stress every single year,  ChildLine has seen a staggering 200% increase in calls about stress from children and young people and nearly a third of parents complain of burnout. In a way, it seems strange to raise awareness of something which is so prevalent. Most people, I expect, would be able to recall a time where they’ve felt stressed.

Modern life is almost unimaginable without stress; and it’s often a badge of honour to prove you work hard enough and long enough.

“I’m stressed’ seems to be synonymous with “I’m successful” and we’re desperate for people to know that we’re doing well.

And yet it’s a high price we are paying for success; the effects of stress on physical and mental health can include chest pain, depression and high blood pressure.

Stress doesn’t need to be an unavoidable part of life, though. There are a number of ways you can help to reduce and manage the stresses in your life.  Mindfulness colouring books, talking to a friend, exercise and breathing techniques to name but a few. For more information you can check out the great advice over at Mind.

There is more to stress management than self-help, however.

Charles R Swindoll writes:

“God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter. (Hebrews 4:1-11)”

Could it be that sabbath is the antidote to stress?

The concept of sabbath is one seen throughout scripture; a holy rest day, a shelter from the busyness of life to rest in God’s presence.

It doesn’t mean that we need to sit in silence alone all day; the Sabbath is God’s gift to us.

It’s a chance to reset and connect with the things that matter most. Time with God, time with the Church, time with family without the distractions of unanswered emails and unending to-do lists.

It’s not something that’s just for a Sunday; for a start, many of us work on Sundays, me included!

I try to consider it a rhythm, rather than a formula. A rhythm of rest, time away from the demands of the day whether that be the ten minutes in the shower before waking your children, or the morning coffee which gives a chance to take stock. A day is ideal, but it might not be possible for everyone. Jesus demonstrated a sabbath rhythm; he healed on the Sabbath day, but also spent time away for himself. He is Lord of the Sabbath, it’s not another thing to add to our to-do lists.

As a freelancer, taking a whole day off can be a challenge I wrestle with the fear of missing out on work or networking, but its important I do it, that I remember the world won’t fall apart without me, because it’s not my world.

Taking a Sabbath in the midst of stress reminds us that we aren’t in control, God is and a He has set us in communities to work and rest in rhythm.

Wayne Muller describes it beautifully;

“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”

The Sabbath calls us back to God and back to life when we feel stress has crawled over the ground like a weed.

So my challenge today is this:

If you can recall with ease the last time you were stressed; have you considered when you had your last Sabbath?