Suicide, Depression, & Following Jesus

August 14, 2014

I have seen all sorts of responses to Robin Williams' death. Some people have called him selfish for taking his own life, while others have called him a hero for all the joy he brought to so many. Many people keep asking why Robin would do such a thing, while others admit their own struggle with depression and their empathy with what Robin was going through. Everyone from movie stars to news anchors to radio pundits to the mom next door are sharing their thoughts as they try to personally process the ending of Robin's life.

Even though I think he was a comedic genius, I don't want to focus on Robin like everyone else. I want to focus on you. Or more accurately, I want to focus on a Jesus-centered you.

Each Sunday at Riverwood, we study the Bible. And the central theme of the Bible is the gospel. Riverwood's working definition of the gospel is the ongoing story of God redeeming broken & imperfect people & restoring them into the complete & perfect image of Christ through the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus.

We saw this a bit this past week as we studied Galatians 5:26-6:5 where we learned the gospel doesn't let you think too highly of yourself because it announces you are more sinful than you realize. But at the same time, the gospel doesn't let you think too low of yourself, because it declares you are far more loved than you could ever imagine.

This means the gospel speaks into depression!

Yes, for many, depression is a sickness of the brain. I am not denying that. They may need a medical approach to healing. I also know depression can also be affected by seasons or lifestyles. But depression is also spiritual. If you think about it, all sickness (in a sense) is spiritual. Sickness and disease came as a result of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. This means all sickness, including mental illness, are not part of God's perfect design. It is the result of sin affecting all of creation.

But the gospel speaks hope into this. It says that the difficulties of this life is not all there is. There is hope. There is always hope! God can take broken and depressed moments and seasons, and restore individuals (even you) into the image of Jesus which is full of love and joy and peace and all the fruit of the Spirit.

Four things to do if you are struggling with depression:

  • Open up to someone. Do not bear this alone. Depression is like darkness. Opening up begins the process of allowing light in. Let me offer myself as one possibility. Call the church at (319) 529-9924 or email me to begin a conversation and let some light back in.
  • Seek Jesus. Some people who wrestle with depression try to "medicate" the pain with alcohol, drugs, entertainment, or a variety of things. But as we've seen in Galatians the past two weeks, the works of the flesh may appear to offer joy and life, but they only lead to more pain. Instead,
    • Cry out to God through prayer
    • Seek to understand what the Scriptures say about depression.
    • Read the Psalms (here's why).
    • Do a word study in the Bible on peace.
    • Read a book like this one that will help you seek Jesus through your struggle.
  • Connect with others in your church family. At Riverwood, we would be honored to walk through this with you. You aren't alone. One of the worst things you could do is to disconnect from worshipping with others or keep Jesus-followers out of your life.
  • Take care of yourself. Sometimes, simple things like
    • being disciplined about getting good sleep,
    • exercising,
    • not watching too much TV or surfing social media too long,
    • and eating wisely can be of help.

I am far from an expert on the topic of depression, but at Riverwood, we truly want to help you. These four things aren't the entirety of what you can do to combat depression, but for a majority of people, they can be a starting place.

And if you aren't struggling with depression...

...first thank God for the grace to enjoy life!

And then, I encourage you to reach out to someone. Robin was wealthy, funny, married, and loved by his kids. On the surface, he appeared to have it all. And while he was open about his struggles, I don't think many people expected him to end it all at age 63 with so many opportunities still in front of him. You never know what is going on with someone. So reach out to them. You just might be the one God uses to help restore them into the complete and perfect image of Jesus. So love like Jesus loved. Reach out to those around you.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

It doesn't matter to us if you:

  • are a Wartburg student or a grandparent,
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  • make $100,000/yr. or wonder how you're going to pay rent this month,
  • or fear your past mistakes make you unlovable to God or others.

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.

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