Tag Archives: bible

Hoping and Healing

I do not have a victorious healing story.

I did not have a flash of light which made everything ‘okay’.

I did not wake up one day sick, and another day, well.

I have not been healed.

Yet I have hope.

For me, hope has been healing.

Choosing to hope when everything has seemed hopeless has taught me more about the God of hope that I would have dared to dream.

I’ve recently been reading Matt Bays brilliant book “Finding God in the Ruins” and in it, he says this:

“Healing has no map; every person’s experience is different. But if your journey is going to be successful, expect at some point to end up back at the scene of the crime. staring at the wreckage… And then you must tell your story without making it palatable.”

Quite often, when I tell my story, it centres around the parts which I found God. When mental illness went on a rampage but I emerged with a new calling. The darkest night in which the embryo of ThinkTwice was conceived, the times when I made the right decisions and found the light of a star in a dark night.

I’ve been challenged recently, however, about those times when I’ve surveyed the wreckage and not just found God, bit experienced something of who He is, without ‘making is palatable’.

The truth is, I do attempt to make my story palatable.

I edit my life to hide the parts of my story that I cannot face.

I do not let the light touch them.

It’s not that we need to tell our stories to everyone we meet.

 

 

But allowing those who love us to see us in the dark is a gift, not only to us, but to those who hear our stories and hear in our words that God moves even in the most unexpected of ways and in the most unexpected of places.

I have found hope and healing in telling my unpalatable story just a few times, because I think I’ve seen something of how God responds to us in compassion in the faces of my closest friends.

It’s still unpalatable for me.

But it doesn’t seem to be for others, perhaps because they see more easily a God who sits in the wreck alongside us and sheds light in the darkest places, and I have to believe that God created the darkness knowing we would find Him there.

As The Message Bible puts it:

“Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the life was Light to live by, The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:3-5

 

A Thrill of Hope

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O Holy Night is without doubt my favourite carol. There is something so poignant that speaks of the expectation of Advent, the hopeful waiting of a people waiting for their Saviour and on that night hope finally broke through in the most unexpected way.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

After all this time, hope has won. All the wars and fighting for home, the longing for rescue, made worth it because a baby was born. A new life that would herald a new hope for the whole world. A new hope because as The Message translates it:

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”

The Creator God of Heaven and Earth came to be with us. Emmanuel.

He came to experience everything human life has to offer, from filing his nappy, to dying the ultimate death and everything in between. More than that, he came to love us in our humanity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this:

“And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

And whatever this Christmas may bring, I pray that the hope that was born in a Bethlehem stable carries you through and that you may be able to rejoice, however weary your world is tonight.

5 Ways to Face Up To Suicide In Your Community

World Suicide Prevention Day is fast approaching, and so for our finally #ThinkFive article, we’ve put together a number of ways you can face suicide in your community.

Facing the darkest condition of the mind isn’t easy, but that is the very reason it must be faced. Only by raising our voices can we break the silence and stigma which still surrounds suicide.

1. Language – If we are aiming to address suicide in our community, we must use language which destigmatizes and encourages openness. The phrases we use to describe suicide, such as “committing suicide” stem from when suicide was a criminal act. As this is no longer the case, suicide is not something to be committed! Instead, use phrases such as completed suicide or died by suicide, these phrases are accurate and do not include the language of judgement.

2. Seek Help – Suicide is not something to be dealt with in isolation, whether it’s you who is struggling, or if you’re supporting someone else, ensure that you are getting support from family, friends, a mental health team or as a part of your job role.

3. Sensitivity – If your community loses someone to suicide, avoid talking about the methods used or the way in which they were found, this is not to hide the issue, but to protect both those grieving and also those who may be facing their own suicidal thoughts.

4. Question – If you’re supporting someone who is having a hard time, whether because of depression, bereavement or any other circumstance, don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve thought of suicide. This must be done within the context of a relationship and done sensitively; for example “I know you’ve been feeling really down, and I wonder if you’ve ever felt so bad that you’ve thought of ending it all”.

5. Point Upwards – Whether it be making a point to pray for those who are struggling with mental health issues in corporate prayer times or preaching on a passage in the Bible where someone approaches God with their despair, it’s important not to end with despair. There is hope, not only in the good things that can be found in life, but in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus who came to be our Immanuel – God with Us.

Kay Redfield Jamison said “Suicide is not a blot of anyone’s name, it’s a tragedy” and I wholeheartedly agree. Suicide is a tragedy, it’s not what is meant to be and its’ legacy is long lasting, but more than that suicide is preventable. There is hope.

Night Falls Fast…So Bring a Torch

It has long been assumed that the biblical view of suicide is that it is both condemnable and unforgivable. For some, looking to christians for comfort during a period of suicidal thoughts, or in the wake of a loved one’s suicide served to add to their pain, rather than to help alleviate it. They received judgement, rather than compassion.

I am not going to speak here of my own personal ethic of suicide, because regardless of the viewpoint we may take, both those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and those who can no longer bear the weight of those thoughts.

Suicide is a tragedy. This seems to me to be evident in the narrative of Saul and his eventual suicide in the Bible. Commentator O’Mathuna writes:

“Rather than viewing Saul’s suicide as an isolated incident with no moral comment, this scene is the tragic conclusion to a literary masterpiece soaked in moral comment. Tragedy implies that what “is” is not what “ought” to be.” (1)

I do not believe that to be at that point of utter desolation can be what “ought to be”. It is, as O’Mathuna notes, a tragedy. It was a tragic conclusion to Saul’s story. It is tragic when a life ends by suicide.

Tragic for the lost potential of that life.

Tragic for the friends and family left behind, trying to pick up the pieces.

As Charlotte Bronte so beautifully put it;

 “God surely did not create us, and cause us to live, with the sole end of wishing always to die.”

As a christian who believes in the supreme love of God, expressed through the life, death and resurrection of His Son – I must share the view of Bronte.

I believe with all my heart that the most valuable thing we can do for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts (or in the aftermath of an attempt) is to walk alongside them.

To hold their hand if they need it.

To show them that in the depths of their darkness, you are willing to step into that darkness with them – and hold up a torch.

(1)O’Mathuna, D. “But the Bible doesn’t say they were wrong to commit suicide, does it?” Suicide: A Christian Response, Kregel: Michigan, 1998, p359.

For practical advice to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts see here.

Balancing the Ethical and Pastoral

As you may know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m currently writing my third year dissertation on ethical and pastoral responses to the suicidal.

It’s a challenging project, not least because of some of the pro-suicide sources I’ve had to engage with.

And yet, above all that I’ve learnt, am learning, is how to balance the ethical and the pastoral. How to be faithful to the biblical text whilst also serving the struggling and the suffering. Particularly with the issue of suicidality, it can be all too easy to either neglect the ethical or to simply judge and criticise. Neither of these approaches are helpful.

We have to try and get this balance right. I really hope that I’m going to manage it! I feel burdened more than ever to reach into the word and reach out to the suffering. Suicidal feelings are distressing and can devastate lives. It is my prayer that some of the research I’m doing is going to make a difference. That the study of such a despairing topic, will, somehow bring hope.