I’ve noticed that when I have posted my musings about depression and suicidal ideation, there’s a certain segment of response I receive, and I’d like to talk about that.
If I’m depressed and/or suicidal, the solution lies with turning to God and Jesus, so it’s said.
In particular, most recently, I was recommended two Psalms: Psalms 23 and Psalms 91 (Psalms is one of the books of the Old Testament of the Bible, which I think even nonbelievers and agnostics appreciate on the level of it having interesting quotes and “poems”).
Before I get to those Psalms, let me at least provide a brief insight about my “relationship” to God.
Growing up, my parents did take my two siblings and I to Sunday School. My biggest takeaway from Sunday School was the magician/clown in the parking lot who showed us kids how he could “remove” his thumb (you know that trick!), which had me utterly convinced he could remove his thumb. So, instead of falling into God, I fell in love with magic and still love it.
Taking us to Sunday School quickly fell by the wayside. My mom, who considers herself a believer and who tells me she prays, has still never been one of those churchgoer types. My dad, who I would surmise is more of a quiet atheist, also is not a churchgoer type.
Still, I can remember clearly that one of the first books I ever read as a child — as in, I read it myself and in my head, as my dad suggested, instead of with help or reading it aloud — was the Children’s Bible.
As such, I was familiar with the stories and the general gist of God and Christianity.
When I got older and was coming into my awakening into the world around me by starting to think on a different level than as a kid, so perhaps around 14-years-old, it wasn’t politics that first received my intellectual curiosity and attention, but religion. I don’t know why that was!
But coming of age with the internet, some of my first internet discussions were based around God and religion, and I was coming at it from the angle of an atheist and doubting the texts, organized religion and the concept of God Himself.
Again, I don’t know where that came from, or why more formative years already began with such skepticism. But I think that’s the key: For whatever reason, my starting “ideology” was skepticism and that first blossomed through doubting religion, and then into my political awakening as well, forming the basis for it to this day.
Admittedly, those early years, I was one of the militant atheists, who was a jerk about it and I would attribute that to the mistaken arrogance of youth! My apologies. Fortunately, unlike some adults (looking at Richard Dawkins), I grew out of that mindset and I consider myself a far more open and soft agnostic.
That is, in short, I went from thinking anyone who believed in God was not only stupid, but an active problem to society, i.e., they were the reason for much of the ills of society, to thinking everyone can believe what they want, as long as they are not harming others, and that belief itself can be good for people and society.
And that I went from being certain there was no God to being more agnostic on the question. That it’s far more humbling and honest to admit to not knowing than to say with certainty that he does not exist.
Over the years, I’d even consider a few religious books by religious authors among my favorites. Because they make me think and see a relationship to God in a new and interesting way, which I appreciate it. Often it’s because they divorced it from some of the more regimented organized religious aspects of it.
But even that! I’ve grown softer on organized religion as well, which is often fingered as the culprit of people’s disdain for religion. I do think churches, as a community organizing apparatus, which is what they often are more than anything, can be a boon to a community and wider communities that they serve.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention (since I already mentioned one of my favorite songs having a bit of a religious-bent) one of my favorite movies is The Passion of the Christ. There is just … something, about the way Jesus went through all of that for me. Again, I definitely get the appeal.
So, that’s where I am today. I sometimes wish I could be religious and have that relationship with God, as I’ve seen it personally among family and friends, but it’s like there’s a mental block preventing it. I can’t quite get there, so I remain agnostic. I say “sometimes wish” because as I’ve been saying, I get the appeal of it! That whatever one’s tribulations and fears and existential dread, the All Mighty loves you. That for all your imperfections, he sent his only Son to die for you.
In fact, I saw a silly attempt at a “dunk” recently on Twitter: The Tweeter pointed out how many known stars and galaxies there are in the universe and then juxtaposed that to thinking that God cares about X going on in your individual life.
And I’m thinking, you realize that’s not actually a dunk and proves the point of God’s bountiful and unconditional love, right? That despite the vastness of looks around, he still loves you, this one little individual person!
Let’s get to the Psalms recommended to me.
Psalms 23 is the classic, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” which includes perhaps the most famous bit a few lines later, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
In backing the idea of that Psalms up, Psalms 46:1 states, “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
The second Psalms recommended to me is in a similar vein, Psalms 91, with specifically Psalms 91:2-4 stating:
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Again, I get the appeal, particularly for someone who is depressed and/or suicidal. Someone who is depressed and/or suicidal obviously has very little, if any, sense of self-worth. So, to draw on the idea that God loves you, when you think nobody else does and that you’re a burden on everyone else, could be a powerful stabilizing force when the “spirals” come.
But also, I would be remiss if I also didn’t offer my caution. I worry about one’s response to someone actually discussing (rather than concealing it due to stigma!) their depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, is proselytizing instead of listening and just being there.
I don’t think the person doing that means anything nefarious by it; they have good intentions, but good intentions sometimes can be the bricks leading to hell, to poorly paraphrase one of my favorite quotes.
Think of it this way. Someone depressed and suicidal receiving such proselytizing might take it as: Great, another thing that’s wrong with me, I can’t form a relationship with God. Or, great, another thing I have to do when I feel like I can’t do anything. Or whatever the case.
I think it could be a way of (unintentionally) further pushing someone down when they decidedly do not need that.
In other words, I think if you are already someone of the belief, the faith and a Christian (or whichever faith you are), but are experiencing some form of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, then being reminded of God’s steadying hand in your life and passages in the Bible may actually be helpful!
But for someone who isn’t, it’s sort of like throwing a Bible to someone drowning instead of a lifebuoy. Let’s get me out of the water first and then we can go from there.
You have to meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
What do you think?