There is much about living in the current climate of austerity vs obscene wealth, or the constant comparison of our real lives with the (carefully edited) highlights of others on social media, that feels pernicious and destructive. Depression rates in the UK across age groups and postcodes are at an all-time high. We are seeing a shift in the stigma around mental ill health as more people talk openly about their struggles and this is a good thing, a great thing in fact!
As it becomes clearer that most of us will struggle with issues like anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives, so it is clear that we must not allow this to go unchecked; we must reach a point where we are no more ashamed by mental ill health than we are about cancer or other physical illness; we must encourage the people we know and love, as well as those we don’t, to talk about their struggles openly and without fear of judgement.
Jesus tells us very specifically not to judge others (Matt 7 v 1); in him we also see an astonishing view of God: the God of all things, the Creator of all things is a God who weeps when we weep. We see most clearly in the story of Lazarus (John 11): Jesus weeps openly for the death of his friend, for the pain felt by Lazarus’s sisters who were also friends, some suggest he is also looking into the future at his own death which follows just two weeks later. He feels our pain and struggle; I believe he feels our pain even when we can’t, which is an astonishing thing to say, and much more of an astonishing thing to experience for ourselves. When Jesus says ‘I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness’ (John 10 v 10 Good News Translation) I don’t believe he’s only talking about success, joy and happiness. After all, each of those is only made full by their opposites.
They were not part of the original plan, and they will not be part of heaven, but in our fallen world we can experience joy because we have known sadness and anxiety; we can know how it feels to be successful because at some point we have failed; and we can know truly what it is to feel happy because we have known profound despair and loss.
If you have known the despair of suicidal thoughts, if you have been impacted by the death of a loved one through suicide, or have known what it is like to support someone through a suicide attempt then you need to know that God weeps too. You are not alone, you can ask for help, please ask someone for help!
Jesus didn’t come so we would live in a perpetual glow of happiness, he came so we would know that when depression, sadness, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are all we can muster, we have a God who walks with us and weeps with us.
Jenni Osborn is based in East Sussex and works as a freelance trainer in schools. You can find her online here or follow her on twitter @Jo_Ts_Co_Uk