Category Archives: Depression

My Thoughts On the Suicide of Anthony Bourdain

I’m not going to try to be fancy with this post, so I’m not going to worry about font size, layout, pictures, links, etc. All I’m going to do is sit here at the keyboard and write.

Read it if you want to, but nobody’s forcing you. What I’m about to write may offend …no, it WILL offend some people… so consider this a warning. Go click on CNN’s coverage of all this if you want to feel all warm and fuzzy.

3…

2….

1…..

Just the other day I heard of Kate Spade’s suicide by hanging. Then, a little while ago, the notification popped up on my phone telling me Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. All I could do was shake my head.

I’m still shaking my head.

I just came from the funeral of my father-in-law. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, as most funerals are not. His death was not a result of suicide, however, and yet it was still a source of grief for his family.

But those who commit suicide seem to not care too much about what happens in the hours after the body is found. They rarely seem to care what happens to the family in the next 12 hours, 2 days, or the rest of their lives. I tend to wonder how many family funerals those who commit suicide have ever attended.

I wonder how many have heard a mother, spouse, or especially a child cry out over the casket, “Why did you leave me?” And to think, it WAS a choice.

Like was said in a post I reblogged just a few moments ago, there is nothing brave about suicide. I used to think that the only reason I could not actually find the courage to pull the trigger to blow the top of my own head off was that I was a coward, which only added to the self-pity and lies that I was worthless. But it wasn’t cowardice that kept me alive; it was the innate sense of intrinsic human value that crept up from my sub-conscience  and screamed, “I want to live!” It was also a still, small Voice that whispered into my ear, “I still love you, no matter how much you want to hate me.”

I read that suicide rates have gone up 25% in general, and 30% in some states. It’s sorta becoming the “hip” way to die. But why? What are the reasons for wanting to kill one’s self?

I’ll list for you some reasons why at one point I thought I wanted to die: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. I wonder how many of those Anthony Bourdain felt were legitimate?

A few weeks ago I went to the house of a man who committed suicide and sat with the wife and daughter in the driveway as the police did their job securing the scene. The best I could tell, the gentleman was tired of being a burden on his family, so he shot himself in the head and left his wife to live with the burden of being a widow.

Was Anthony Bourdain tired of being a burden to someone?

I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, and I only watched a few episodes of his television program. I literally know less about him than I know how many slices of cheese are in the refrigerator. I have no idea why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

What I do know with certainty is that it didn’t have to happen. What I do know for certain is that it wasn’t the best option, nor was it brave, nor was it loving – not unless there were terrorists demanding he choose between his life or another.

Honestly, we’ve got to quit being so passive and coddling with the eulogies of those who off themselves. I would bet a dollar to a gold-plated donut that at Anthony Bourdain’s funeral no one will stand up and tell the A-list crowd attending, “Anthony acted like a damn fool when he did this, and now he’s added his name to the long list of cowardly fathers who abandoned their children to deal with a pain they’ll never outlive.”

No, just like so many other funerals I’ve attended, barely anything will be said to shock the crowd into cold, hard reality. All that will be said about suicide is something akin to: “What a tragedy. If you feel like you might want to hurt yourself, find someone to talk to.”

You know what needs to be done at every funeral or memorial service (especially those held on college campuses when a college student kills him/herself)? Show pictures of the crime scene! Show the horror!

Despite what some people think, there’s nothing glamorous about suicide.

Have you ever set foot in a room where someone has put a bullet through his head? I have. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies.

Have you ever heard the sound of real people screaming and crying while looking at blood-splattered walls and ceiling light fixtures broken by skull fragments? I have. Actors can’t make it sound that real. It will wound your soul.

Yet, so many will go on and kill themselves – by whatever means – thinking that it’s the best or only option. Some will do it to make a point by trying to hurt others. Some will do it in a moment of sadness and grief while thinking there’s no use in going on. And most will do it never having been exposed to or having been made to consider the true aftermath.

But before I close this long rant, I’ve got to end it with some hope.

Let me remind you of those reasons I listed earlier: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. THIS is why I preach the Cross. THIS is why I preach Christ crucified and risen.

One of the songs played at the funeral today has a chorus that goes like this:

“And the old rugged cross made the difference/ in a life bound for heartache and defeat./ I will praise Him forever and ever,/ for the cross made the difference for me.” – Gaither Vocal Band

Angry? Go to the cross. Disappointed? Go to the cross. Weary and hopeless? Run to the cross. Full of shame and reproach? Fall at the foot of the cross! Got a problem with your pride being wounded or offended? Focus your eyes on the cross!

You want answers for how to deal with suicide? Go to the cross of Jesus Christ where the Savior of the world was slain – so you and I could have life, and have it more abundantly.

Satan is the enemy of the soul, and any thought of suicide is a suggestion straight from the pits of hell – and if you sniff you might just smell the smoke.

I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, but I’d have a hard time believing he did it while thinking about how valuable he was to his Creator. I’d venture to guess that traveling the world and seeing so many things did nothing but expand the void in his soul and compound the questions for which he had no answer.

Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ( Mark 8:36)

I thank God I’m alive. I thank God I have a Hope. I thank God for purpose. I thank God I’m loved. When He wants me to leave this world, He’ll take me. Until then I will live my life for the One who gave His life for me.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under current events, Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

A Giant’s Depression

Not long ago I did a couple of posts dealing with depression. As best I can tell, the posts were well-received.

One of the main points I wanted to make in those posts was that depression isn’t always something we can help, but something that accosts us no matter our will to be positive.

The following article, “11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed,” was published by the The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, and I want to thank a friend of mine, Kevin Woodruff (Bryan College Librarian) for posting it on Facebook.

If you have found yourself depressed, and wonder if it’s only a spiritual matter, the following look at the great Charles H. Spurgeon, a giant among godly men, should give you hope.

“11 Reasons Spurgeon Was Depressed”

 

4 Comments

Filed under Depression

The Depth and Breadth of Suicide

I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.

But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.

This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.

The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”

Christopher Nitzband (photo by Katie Baker)

There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.

Why? Indeed.

The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?

I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.

“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.

I’ll see you later, bud.”

The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.

My daughter’s updated Facebook cover photo.

I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.

23 Comments

Filed under Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25 

9 Comments

Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

Monday Meditations

“When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow.” Dr. Rick Rigsby

But sometimes God has to bring us down to “rock bottom” in order to remind us of an even greater truth: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

 

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Depression, Faith, Struggles and Trials

Deception of Depression

Taking Pictures

Last week, as I was standing on a street in downtown Chattanooga, I decided I’d take a moment and play the photographer. Had my daughter Katie been with me I’m sure she would have had no problem finding good shots, but my eye is not as gifted.

I looked around, first at eye level, then upwards, and that’s when this particular shot came into frame.

After a little tweaking, what I had was, in my opinion, a pretty picture of the Maclellan Building …behind a huge, black tree.

Illusion and Perception

Now, you’re smart enough to figure out that the size of the black tree is only an optical illusion, correct? You do realize the size of the tree in relation to the early twentieth-century skyscraper is not a matter of fact, but of perception, correct?

Unfortunately, the way we perceive our problems is much the way this photograph highlights the perspective ground level. As we look up from rock bottom, even the smallest branch can appear gigantic. That’s when we need to forget what we see down here and consider another perspective – God’s perspective.

Depression and hopelessness can make small things look much larger than they really are. But with the eyes of faith, our perspective can change, thereby exposing the deception of false perception.

Don’t let depression or a lack of faith deceive you; God is bigger! 

9 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Depression, God

I Tried to Commit Suicide

My Attempt to Exit

If I can accomplish anything with this blog, I want to let people know that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Part of that is allowing myself to be as transparent as reasonably possible.

In recent posts you have read about my personal struggles with depression, and thankfully that has been an encouragement to more than a few. Granted, some of you might have been confused, for you may be under the impression that a pastor of a church… a man of God… a “reverend”… should never get depressed. However, people from all walks of life – including those who have faith in God – can find themselves depressed, the reasons for which are not always easy to determine.

But what many, if not most of you may be unaware of, is that I actually attempted suicide when I was a teenager. I was within moments of pulling the trigger of a loaded 12-gauge shotgun that I had placed under my chin when my father (I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit) knocked on my bedroom door. That was the only time I came that close, but it was not the last time I seriously considered taking my life.

In the late 1990’s God had to do major surgery to remove the cancer of legalistic pride that had infected me. I had become self-righteous, religious, and prideful of my career, money, and stuff. However, in one fell swoop the Lord took it all away, leaving me with nothing but a faithful wife who I didn’t deserve, and a worried, scared family. Where I ended up was not rock bottom, but a depression that nearly put me six feet under. Suicide was an option in the past, so it became an ever-present option once again.

This is not the place, nor do I have the time, to go into every detail, but it wasn’t the friends and family who begged me to see the light; it wasn’t the multiple times every week of sitting with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists; it wasn’t the anti-depressants I regularly consumed; and it certainly wasn’t the alcohol I began to use for the first time that released me from the “dungeon of despair.”  What changed it all for me were three main things: first, believing that God still loved me! – despite the times I cursed Him; second, believing the promise that God still had a plan for my life; and thirdly (but most importantly), the unmerited, undeserved, matchless grace of God.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still recovering. In my personal opinion, based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed, when one crosses that line of attempting suicide, the Enemy will forever keep that temptation in reserve. Therefore, just as I sometimes act judgmentally and legalistic, even though I try not to, faint remembrances of the “suicide option” sometimes filter through my defenses. But it is in those moments that I remind myself of the Truth that set me free from the bondage of sin and death, and it is that golden key – the faithful promises of God – which is big and heavy enough to squash down any intruder.

EXIT, the Movie

This morning I took a few moments, not even 40 minutes, to watch Ray Comfort’s short new film, EXIT: The Appeal of Suicide”. Tears began to fill my eyes as I empathized with the familiar feelings of hopelessness and despair expressed by individuals interviewed in the movie.

However, toward the end of the movie I was able to wipe from my eyes tears of joy as some, not all, came to the realization that life is worth living.

Please, PLEASE!… if nothing more than to help a friend… take a few minutes to click on the link and watch the film below. It’s free, it won’t take long, and might just save a life… maybe even yours.

If you need help, or someone to talk with, please don’t wait. You are not alone in your pain, despite how you feel. There is always hope, always a reason to live, and your life is far more valuable than you realize. Think about it, Someone even allowed Himself to be ripped apart and nailed to a beam of wood so that you wouldn’t have to die!

If you don’t know anywhere else to turn, call 800-273-8255 and speak to someone who can help, or click on their website SuicidePreventionLifeline.org right now!

Your life is priceless, so live it.

10 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Life/Death, self-worth