Suicide & the Imago Dei

April 4, 2019

As I type this week's Notes, I can see Mother Nature's belated April Fool's Joke melting away as the temps rise. There is something about Spring that refreshes a soul, knowing that even a surprising snow shower will be gone in just a day or two.

But sometimes, while winter outside dissipates, the winter of the soul just won't let go.

Depression is far more common than many people want to admit. Humans throughout the world and history have fought through the "dark night of the soul" more times than they would care to admit. And sometimes, people lose the fight, giving into the darkness by taking their own life.

I believe the doctrine of the Imago Dei, which we've been looking at through this series, speaks into this issue. This Imago Dei theological concept claims that if you are human, you bear the image of God, which gives you inestimable worth. Therefore, to take your life is to deny the tremendous worth God has bestowed upon you through your creation as a human and through your redemption through the cross.

The Gospel & Depression
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.

As I've said before, 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.

Last week, I was at a conference where the speaker showed a photo of a fairly plain white bowl. A married couple had found the bowl at a garage sale, bought if for $3, and used it to put candy in on their coffee table. But on a whim, they took the bowl to an Antique-Roadshow-like event, and discovered their bowl is one of only two left in the world from the Ming Dynasty, which enabled it to be sold for $2.2 million dollars.

Too often, we treat ourselves like a $3 candy bowl. And when we are feeling depressed, we act as if we aren't even worthy of holding candy, so we hide ourselves in the closet. But because of Jesus, you are worth millions! In fact, you were worth the life & blood of Jesus, the sinless Son of God.

When you begin to see yourself the way God sees you, as an image bearer worth the life of Jesus, it can help change the depressive & suicidal thoughts you might be wrestling with.

How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts
Now, let us admit together: depression is like a sickness that has come upon our brains. The brain can be affected by seasons, circumstances, and chemistry. But let us also realize 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 creation.

But the gospel and the Imago Dei speaks hope into this. The gospel says the difficulties of this life are 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.

So if you are struggling with depression and/or considering suicide, let me encourage you to do 4 things:

  • Open up to someone.
    • Do not bear this alone! Depression is like darkness. Opening up begins the process of allowing light in.
  • Seek Jesus.
    • Some people who wrestle with depression try to "medicate" the pain with alcohol, drugs, entertainment, or a variety of things. Galatians 5 tells us the works of the flesh may appear to offer joy and life, but they only lead to more pain. Instead of turning to worldly things,
      • Cry out to God through prayer.
      • Preach daily to yourself that God loves you.
      • 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. So lean on your Growth Group or get in one.
  • 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 a big help.

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

  • First thank God for the grace to enjoy life!
  • Second, reach out to someone, especially if God puts them on your mind/heart. 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. And remind them of their great worth in the eyes of God!
Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

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