Trigger Warning: This article might be sensitive and triggering for some readers, please proceed with caution. If you need any support with your mental health or considering suicide, please call the Malawian Toll-Free helpline 6600.
“If I call you with my last breath, will you be there for me after?”
“Jesus where are you? Am I still beside you?”
When nights got rough, and the voices in my head became too loud, I played this song over and over again as I fought hard to drown them out. These words gave me comfort in case those voices ever won, a lot of times, they came close and I felt like I was going to lose. Lose; my head, my thoughts and more importantly my life. Which is why I asked Jesus, “Where are you? Am I still beside you?” because if I am it, it doesn’t feel like that right now, it feels more like you’ve left me alone and went on a lunch break. But I also know this is not true because I know you and every single bible verse there is about your presence being with me always and yet, it doesn’t feel strong enough to stop the thoughts and myself.
Which led me to echo the other words in the song, “If I call you with my last breath, will you be there for me after?”, I no longer cared if Jesus was with me there, because the pain and fear was too much for it to make any difference. All that mattered now is if these were my last moments, would He receive my soul? Or would I have committed the unforgivable sin by taking my own life, I wrestled with these questions, often alone, in my mind, in my journal. Because I knew what my people were like, no words have hurt me more than those of my Christian Brothers and Sisters on Mental Health. I am certain being condemned to hell and being reminded of all the bible verses they assume I have forgotten would not help.
I hate this feeling, closeness of death, the reality of fear, the overwhelming anxiety and most of all, the genuine sincere desire for the pain to end, however way that happens; Pills, cutting, rope, jumping off of a building, driving out of town never to return. I just wanted the pain to end, and it often felt like there was only one exit.
I texted a few of my friends and asked if they could pray for me, about what? I wasn’t sure what the politically correct term for I want to kill myself was, so best I could day is “pray for me I’m having a rough night”. This was the closest I’ve ever felt my grip lose, I didn’t feel held, I didn’t feel God, yet somehow I still believed, in all, I know about God, and the Bible and my Faith, all of it was true. But still, knowing this I could lose, I cried until I slept that night, hoping that my name would not be another addition to the lengthy list of names of people who have died by suicide.
I wrote down my thoughts from that night, because it helps me not know whether or not I was imagining things, these are some of the things that were going through my mind a few minutes after;
“It feels like hearing 50 different voices in my head. One is telling me none of this matters, how long can you find without ending it. Another voice is trying to control these thoughts and make sure they don’t stray. And I kind of went into panic mode started sweating and just feeling like I’m losing it. I started getting a headache and just feeling like I should lock myself in my room again and not face anyone. If feels like being tormented by different voices and not knowing what’s real. And when I feel like I have them under control, I start processing if all of it was real or I am overthinking.”
I survived that night, as well as some nights before and after, here I am still fighting, with the help of therapy, medication, friends and of course God.
In the last few years, we’ve read more and more stories of high profile people dying by suicide, and Christian leaders have been no different. Just this month, pastor Jarrid Wilson died by suicide, he was a husband, father, pastor and mental health advocate. As people of faith, we are not exempt from being suicidal, it is a reality as much as our faith is, and yes these two can co-exist. That is the difficult reality we have to navigate, which is why it is often discouraging to hear how the church speaks about people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and even those who die by suicide.
We are not as gracious and comforting as the God we claim to serve, somehow when it comes to suicide the Mercy of God runs out and we condemn people to hell. Granted most people do not have theology on Suicide, and because for most it they might not understand it personally who know anyone in their life who publicly suffers in this way, they never see how destructive their social media hot takes on suicide are.
I read a book on depression last year from Pastor John Piper, although I did not agree with almost all of what he said in the book, I deeply appreciated the last chapter in the book and how he addressed the subject of suicide I have since quoted it in conversations on whether Christians who commit suicide go to heaven or hell:
“true saints enter dark seasons, and should they die in the midst of one, it is no sure sign that they were not born again, nor that they were not sustained in their darkness by the sovereign hand of grace. God has his reasons why he would leave one of his dear children feeling so forsaken. Indeed he left his own precious Son forsaken on the cross—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). And we know his reasons were full of love for him and for us.”
It is such an encouraging thing to know that God never leaves and forsakes his children who battle with suicidal thoughts, yes even when we call him with our last breath, He will be there for us after. Romans 8 has such a comforting truth, “’For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither death, death in any way it comes through can not and will not separate us from the Love of God!
As a Christian who also believes that salvation comes by the Grace of God, not anything I have done, it is a gift from God, I am also led to believe that I cannot lose what I did not earn. God remains faithful and true to His word, He has promised us, that He will not lose any of His children. I believe that His children who die by suicide are not excluded in this, this even helps me remember in my struggle that God remains faithful. Even if I ever lose the battle God will still be faithful, even when I am asking “Jesus, where are you?”, He is still right there beside me.
I do not have all the answers, I still wrestle sometimes with why a loving God will allow some of His Children in such a painfully haunting way, or why he doesn’t take the pain away when I know he is capable of it. I even wrestle with the fact that even when I feel most forsaken, God is still there by my side, watching me suffer, it is painful. It is not simple, I don’t think I can ever accurately present how it feels to struggle mentally in this way, but I hope it you can have compassion for those who do. I hope those of us who struggle will find a way to keep fighting, and fighting to believe that our lives matter.
Be kind to one another, check up on your friends, reach out for help,
Grace and Peace,
The following are resources available for you in Malawi if you are considering suicide and don’t know where to go for help, or if you are just trying to reach out to someone for help. Toll-Free Help 24 Hour helpline 6600