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God and Suicide

Eight years ago I wrote "I don't believe in God anymore." It was the title of a book chapter, a book reflecting on suicide from a Christian perspective, though probably not the Christian perspective that you think about when I say that. More like what goes through the mind of a Christian who is suicidal and is bringing what is left of her theology to the experience and desperately trying to tell the truth about it. The truth. Not what we want the truth to be. Just the truth. It wasn't exactly a suicide note, though it might have been taken that way if that's the way it turned out.

It didn't turn out that way. I recovered. "I don't believe in God anymore" anticipated that I would recover, but that wouldn't make the problem go away. Relapse was statistically probable. I might be in that darkest of places again. This chapter dealt with the problem of suffering. Oh, how tidily that phrase expresses the chaos of a believer's brain when looking into the abyss. But I wouldn't let the tidy answers stand, and I still won't. While I am not so bitter anymore about this remitting, recurring condition of mine, as far as God goes, well, I just don't know as much about God as I used to.

Here is a piece of that chapter:

Although my own soul is a dry desert, I have deep wells from which to draw. While I do not believe in God, so I cannot say the creed, I cannot set my heart on the One who has broken it, I still believe in the communion of saints. As a Christian, I have a big family, across space and time. For now, I ask the rest of my family to do my believing for me.

The lament psalms persist in worship, and worship is how I persist. I listen to Gospel music. I sing along with those whose music it is. I do not have their faith. But I cannot dispute their testimony, what God has done for them, and the power they find in God to get through. I believe in them. I believe in the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Those whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage, survived slavery, survived Jim Crow, survived the Klan, who still survive today, I don't know how they survive. But they assure me, and I listen to them tell me over and over:

               Everything He said in His word,
               He will do it for you.
               Every prophecy he gave, every promise He made,
               He will do it for you.

Eight years later, I am in remission, not depressed, not even a shadow for the last six months. An eternity! I have challenges. I manage my condition every single day. And my life is good. I work toward a publication date of September 2020. There will be something that comes out of that old hellhole, a book, a different book that offers help and hope to others who have been misdiagnosed and inappropriately treated as I was. And I am very proud of it, Prozac Monologues, the book.

I am not saying it was worth the price. I am not saying that my God issues have been resolved, that some promise was kept, and it's all okay because there was a happy ending. You can say that if you want. But it's a slippery slope, hanging your faith on the happy ending.

David Conroy wrote, Suicide is not chosen. It happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. There is some truth for you. I have been blessed by enormous resources, and they have kept me alive through enormous pain. One of those resources is an unshakable experience of the communion of saints, those who have been there for me across the centuries, from Jeremiah to John of the Cross to the friend who said my prayers for me when I confessed I couldn't pray anymore to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

I went to church on Sunday with a CD by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It reminded me of that chapter. And I thought it was time to say thanks. They carried me through.



photo of candle by anonymous, used under Creative Commons license

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