Contributed by Dan Jackson
Healing. That’s a word we throw around a lot. In today’s culture, we’re often obsessed with it. As a matter of fact, this week has been recognized as something that is very close to my own story and heart—suicide. Rather, this has been Suicide Prevention Week (I really should work on my grammar flow a bit better…oh well). Up until a year ago, I didn’t even know that such a thing existed. I think that in our culture, awareness of bullying and the issues it can cause (such as suicide) has opened a lot of doors for people to experience healing and move past the darkness that can cloud their lives. It’s a fantastic thing that people are now aware of the depth and darkness that can consume the lives of people to the point that they don’t feel life is worth living. With that awareness, hopefully there comes a compassion, a heart for helping those suffering, and a capacity for healing.
Now, I’d like to share a little bit of my own story that I’ve alluded to. When I was thirteen, I started to notice that something was different about how I viewed the world and how I interacted with people in it. I really let things get to me; I really let things bother me—and I didn’t have anyone close enough to share my fears, concerns, and fears with. As I got older, I couldn’t help but realize that the people I called my friends weren’t really friends. As long as I was able to do things for them—homework, give them things like rides, money, etc—we were “friends.” I can distinctly remember a time I overheard two people I thought were my friends talking about me, and it wasn’t pretty. Around the age of fifteen, it finally hit me that these people weren’t my friends, and they didn’t care about me. I was just a resource to be utilized as they needed. Being fifteen, and feeling like an outcast to begin with, I reverted further inwards. To deal with the pain, I started to self-medicate with whatever I could find. On the outside, I was fine; a good Christian guy to one set of friends, and the free-spirited, happy-go-lucky guy to the other set. On the inside, I felt nothing but self-hatred and desperation to put an end to the pain, no matter the cost.
Spiritually, I had felt abandoned by God. If he was real, he didn’t care about me. He’d have helped me by now, I thought to myself. The “religious life” wasn’t cutting it for me—all it did was remind me constantly of how far away from godliness I was, and how much I sucked. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt alone, I felt unworthy, unwanted, and above all, I felt unloved. I didn’t think I could tell the people in my life who loved me—they wouldn’t understand. When I was sixteen, I tried taking my own life. I downed a bottle of pills that would have dropped Xerxes from the film 300 (he’s a huge guy in case you haven’t seen the film)…and I didn’t get so much as a stomach ache. I lay down, expecting to fall asleep and never wake up. The funny thing is that I woke up about twenty-five minutes later feeling like I’d just taken a refreshing nap. Instead of realizing that my life was saved by a miracle of God, I grew angrier and raged against God for not letting me go.
After that day, I lived life as if God didn’t exist. As far as I was concerned, he really was cruel and couldn’t even afford me the luxury of peace and quiet in death. The voices in my head were still telling me the million ways that I fell short, but I had a life to live. I was going to go to my prestigious school, get a high paying government job, and live a life that would bring me material happiness. The school didn’t work out, but the government job would still be reasonable. I ended up staying home to complete my undergrad—and would go to church to make my mother happy once in a while. In November of 2007, she was taking the youth group to a Newsboys concert in the southern part of Maine. I agreed to chaperone, and thought nothing of it. I’d grown up hearing their music, and at the very least I’d get a free concert out of it.
After entering the venue, I felt something present and different. I’d been to a fair amount of Christians concerts prior to this, and was repulsed by how materialistic and shallow I found everybody else to be there. However, the energy and dynamic in the Augusta Civic Centre was completely unlike anything I had experienced. Initially, it unsettled me. Can that be God present? I remembered reading once upon a time in the Bible that when two or three are gathered in His name that He is present with them. It weirded me out a lot, so I put it out of my mind. This presence kept nudging at me throughout the concert. About halfway through the Newsboys’ set, Peter Furler introduced a new song entitled “Stay Strong.” The song spoke of the weariness that people can feel in their heart and the desperation of living life. When the song came to the bridge…well, I can still clearly hear the words ringing in my head like I’m still there. I truly believe it was the first time in my life that I heard the voice of God:
Get up, there’s further to go
Get up, there’s more to be done
Get up, this witness is sure—
Get up, this race can be won. This race can be won.
It was as if God was finally able to break through the heaviness of the stone heart I’d been carrying around. I had so many years left in life, and God knew them to belong to Him before I did. All of the hurt, pain, and exhaustion that I’d carried around for years finally broke open and He took it from me. I didn’t have to be alone. I didn’t have to be afraid. I didn’t have to feel like I was worthless and life wasn’t worth living back in 2005. He had me, and continues to have me to this very moment. He was my healer then as he is now.
Since then, who I am continually being made into as a child of God doesn’t resemble the person I was nearly five years ago. I literally came back from the brink, and not by anything I did in my own strength. Our God is a mighty healer, and NOTHING is impossible for him to overcome. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I lost sight of that recently, but am so thankful that God is true to His word in saying that He will never leave us or forsake us. He is ever unchanging. He is the great physician who overcomes any and every affliction that rages against us.
Love is louder than the voices in your head. If you are someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or just feeling like you don’t add up…don’t believe it. You’re beautiful. You’re created in the IMAGE OF GOD. He knew was He was doing when He made you. He wants to know you. He wants to shower you with the love that only a heavenly Father could. He wants to bless you more than anything this life could. Will you answer the call? From personal experience, I can promise you that He’ll be true to His word and instill a love in you that won’t say goodbye due to sickness, divorce, or abandonment.
I’m alive today simply by the grace of God. The healing begins when we let go and let Him. Are you willing to let go?