Wretched Extremes

The ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ of Suicide

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Extremes of wretchedness. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

Suicidal ideations often begin in the crosshairs of extremes, where always and never intersect. The wretched “always be this way” and “never will change” trains of relentless thought ride the rails hard enough to split the iron. And in the crevice of those pressure-punched points, pain electrifies the soul in such a way as to render it flatlined.

Do you know, as I do, the horrors of living in this atmosphere — the air as thick as the despair we exhale? Where the taboo of option comes roaring its head, and our perfectly irrational reasons right along with it? With pains far too great carried for far too long, calling the clock on our burdens seems a decision rightfully ours. And the extremes echo the sentiments of hope lost long ago: Escape the whispers of wretchedness — by your own hands.

Shame lends its pipes to play notes of isolation, crafting its own melody of always and never: “You’ll always face rejection.” “You’ll never reach that goal.” “You’ll always be damaged goods.” “You’ll never figure out how to turn things around.” Or maybe notes of a worse wretchedness.

Deepest Wound of All

If you know these fearful extremes, your heart knows the devastation of a wavering identity. “God could never love me if I struggle in this way.” “I will always be at fault for my suffering.” “Real Christians never get depressed.” “It is always because of my lack of faith.”

True, as sore as the other wounds may be, there is no deeper wound than when the jagged arrow flies toward our faith — we feel as if the Holy Spirit fled the temple of our body like a panicked child running from a fire. “Et tu?” we cry to God, as Caesar to Brutus. Even you? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalms 22:1–2).

And the solitude remains. The emptiness consumes as the minutes tick away with overwhelming weight. In this place, wretchedness removes our ability to imagine any hope or happiness or delight — in this world or the one to come. It sounds extreme because it is — it’s the most real imagined matter of life and death.

The ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ We Need

We may be in the coldest of dark corners, breathing a dusted air and wiping a tired tear. The hollow silence seems to have marked us “condemned” and the only fitting cry to sob stutters, “Away! Unclean!” (Lamentations 4:15). In this place of chilled isolation, there is a door. But the extremes of wretchedness have rendered us helpless, and hopeless, and listless for any action but the one that might put an end to the present pain.

Though shut tight, there’s a Light reaching out from the gap underneath, marching towards his dear ones in the darkness (Psalm 139:11–12). Because of Christ, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” he soothes (Hebrews 13:5).

The dim Glow reaches towards us, crooning eternal extremes with the outstretched arms of merciful truth. Because of my Son, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” he consoles (Matthew 28:20).

Locked in our brokenness, we can’t reach for the light. But he knows our need and our dust, our longing and sorrow. Nearer and nearer, he crouches down: Because of Jesus, you will never be separated from my love, he assures (Romans 8:38–39).

The always and never of the gospel changes the songs in the dark room. The Light sits there in ashes with us, and frees those who cannot pick the lock of the prison in our minds.

Hope for Suicidal Christians

When the darkness of depression and despair is pressing, remember that you are a walking target of God’s relentless mercy. Our Father has a special place in his heart for those vulnerable to fierce mental onslaughts (Psalm 34:18). While our desires to escape the pain can shame us into feeling worthless, his voice reminds us, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

But more than arguing against the wretched extremes of suicide’s always and never, the tender mercy of God steps down into our pain, pursuing us in the shadows of death where we lie, and commits to remain there as a light to guide our feet away from the snares (Luke 1:78–79).

It is a fierce, mysterious fight against unspoken thoughts and imaginings, but not one uncommon to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). While healing from these particularly low seasons of darkness is no simplistic equation, the truths of God’s character and our identity in Christ remain simple enough: From the foundation of the world, he has always loved us, and into eternity future, we will never be separated from him.

These eternal extremes, won by Christ on the cross, act as our only shield against the wretched extremes suicidal contemplations mutter. The always and never of suicide are no match for the always and never of God’s faithful love.

“The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison,” Spurgeon teaches, “needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Such is the tender mercy of the Lord Almighty — that even there, in the darkest of places, he holds us fast (Psalm 139:9–10).