I am learning to crawl onto
the altar of trust,
and die to self.
Oh God, refine me.
In the flames of suffering,
nothing else matters but You.
Burn off all that hinders
until thoughts and actions renew.
And I remain
whole and pleasing to You.
While we recognize that Christmas is the time believers celebrate the birth of Jesus and family and friends gather, we also acknowledge the heartache many of you are experiencing today. Some of you have just lost a loved one to suicide.
That is why our guest blogger, Pam S. Walker’s testimony is so moving.
She uses both the sorrow from the loss of her mother to suicide and the joys that emerge out of her choice to live life to the fullest. She encourages us to do the same.
Jonathan brought Pam and me together through his death in 2014. As we mourned and comforted one another, we discovered our mutual love for writing ministry.
May you be both challenged and encouraged this Christmas as you walk through all circumstances in life.
Merry Christmas, from Turning the Page on Suicide.
“Does God still care for me? Does He even exist?”
It has been 36 years since I celebrated Christmas with you. Yet, not a year goes by that I don’t miss you or wonder what life would be like had you not chosen to end your life 11 days before your 41st birthday. Your birthday, so close to Christmas, keeps your decision fresh in my memory each year.
During this month, I often think of the famous letter that a young girl, also named Virginia, submitted to the New York Sun in 1897. She asked if Santa Claus was real. Instead of asking about the existence of this jolly St. Nick, I think you must have asked another compelling question throughout your depressed state: Does God still care for me? Does He even exist?
So many questions were unanswered back then. With no note left behind, we had no choice but to draw our own conclusions. Sadly, as a sophomore in college, I was too consumed with my own life to see the depths of your despair. You hid it well. Always wearing a smile for others, and yet wrestling inside with sadness.
I thought your suicide would draw me back to God. Back to the childhood faith, you shared with me. I remember feeling His presence so strongly during that long car ride from college when Uncle Mike and Aunt Camille came to pick me up. The radiant sunlight bursting forth through the dreary Indiana winter sky seemed like God’s own hands reaching down to tell me that things would be okay. Although much of the week that followed your death was a blur, several things remain forever etched in my mind.
Attempting to console Grandma after burying her youngest daughter. Seeing Daddy’s tears and blank stare. Wondering if I could grasp the depth of pain Gary would have to deal with for the rest of his life after being the one to find you.
Why would a loving God allow one of His own to choose the path of suicide? Instead of seeking answers from His Word and other Christian brothers and sisters, I ran.
For nearly 10 years, I turned to unhealthy coping: stuffing my emotions, drinking to numb the pain, but thinking I was brave. When I finally stopped running and surrendered my life to God, I moved back to my Indiana home. Only then, I realized that God’s hands protected me every day since losing you. His love, care, and protection have been so evident throughout the seasons of my life.
If only you were here for me to speak of His unfailing and extravagant love. I would tell you, “Yes, Virginia, there is a God. I experienced His love when He saved me from my hell-bound race and turned my eyes toward Him. I learning to live one day at a time without numbing my pain through alcohol.”
God was there when Daddy walked me down the aisle on my wedding day to my beloved, David, where we committed to spending the rest of our lives together until death do us part. And God comforted me when David took his last breath six years ago after losing his battle to cancer but winning his eternal prize; everlasting life with our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was there when I experienced the miracle of birth through my two beautiful daughters, your granddaughters, and the sadness of a miscarriage in-between. I experienced firsthand how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.
God was there when Gary and I discovered your closely guarded secret. You sacrificially gave a baby up for adoption before you were married. Lisa is now a part of our family. She looks so much like you with her curly hair, short stature, and spunky personality. And she was raised in a Christian home just as you requested of the agency.
God was there when He gave me the desires of my heart, allowing me to live my dream job of combining writing and ministry. And He was there when Uncle Mike walked me down the aisle to join hands with the new love He had brought into my life, Michael.
Yes, Virginia, there is a God. And I know that you are with Him now. While suicide ended your life on this earth, God’s love for you is eternal. I hold fast to His promises in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I know that nothing can ever pluck you from His hand!
Your Pamela Sue
Pam S. Walker is the former National Editor of Answers magazine, a publication of Answers in Genesis, and is a freelance writer living in the Cincinnati area where she writes for various Christian publications.
On this day
You knit motherhood into my soul.
Sweeping away cobwebs
Of brokenness and rebellion.
Filling my world
With vivid colors I grew up missing.
You deepened my breath,
Made me reach deeper inside
For strength I had never explored,
Laughter never expressed,
On this day
You made me a mother.
Not even the grave can swallow
Turning Your Page
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
Birthdays are beautiful opportunities to remember your loved one forward. Below are some suggestions I have done. Feel free to add to the list in the comments with how you remeber your loved one while pressing into making new memories.
Create a memorial garden
Take a family hike
Share a meal at their favorite restaurant
Encourage a neighbor
Visit someone who is lonely
Write a poem or story
Share funny stories
Plant a tree
Lord, this is the special day you made for me to remember my child. May nothing steal that joy and help me to press into the live you have given me. Amen
You didn’t impatiently check your watch like
you had someplace more important to be.
A God who listens.
You didn’t stare down my vulnerability
in disgust. As I poured out my broken heart,
you grabbed a tissue and sobbed with me.
A God who cries.
Your counsel didn’t come down from a distant marble throne.
You stepped into the crowd, looking for me.
A God who draws near.
ME—A single lost sheep.
You took my hand
into your callused carpenter’s hand,
and walked the journey of hope with me.
A God who touches humanity.
Turning My Page
I have had counselors of all sorts through my healing process and God used every single one of them to grow me. There remains only one counselor, the Holy Spirit, who has changed me from the inside out, while all the world’s counselors have the power to do is to change me from the outside in.
Just today I was tempted to bitterness and hardness, but God softened my heart with the following words, “I know it hurts. I see you.” We live in a messed-up fallen world and we are all prone to hurt one another. It was comforting to know that He knows my pain and gives a way for me to live differently than my sinful nature. The Holy Spirit has helped me to keep a short account of the wounds I have caused and the ones received. It has taken practice, oh so much practice, to listen and discern the crowed voices of self-help advice versus the genuine voice of the Holy Spirit in me.
I have learned that the Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture. His goal is to reveal truth and testify about Jesus.
“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.
John 15:26 NLT
What a comfort to know I have an advocate who walks this journey with me.
Turning Your Page
List some of the voices that currently direct your path. Anyone or anything that steers you in a direction away from the voice of truth. They may come in the form of critics, well-meaning friends, religion, or enemies.
The world will always tell you that there is always peace in following the Holy Counselor. This is a false direction. The Holy Spirit has led men and women throughout history to stand against enemies, lay down a life for a friend, and took Jesus to the cross. Test spiritual direction against scripture and if you mishear, as all the original disciples did, pick yourself up again and try again.
Romans 8 lists what the Holy Spirit Does and Does Not Do on our behalf:
Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Lord, tune my heart to your voice. I have so many negative and destructive voices vying for my attention. Your love and direction come in a still small voice. Amen
Not even a sparrow falls without God’s knowledge and we are more precious than they. Oh, one day, I pray that I embrace this truth with the depth and security of one who trusts God no matter what I experience in this life. I’m not there yet. As the poem reflects this was a tear-streaked day. I have witnessed God’s care over and over, but I still don’t understand why he allowed Jonathan to die by suicide. Bottom line, I just want Jonathan here.
Turning My Page
I wanted your heart to heal from
the world’s unrelenting fists of hatred.
I tried to shield you, but their blows penetrated
to marrow. Broke bone and spirit without pity. They
meant to crush you—rob identity.
Rearranged home until
you no longer recognized love or belonging.
I thought if I cradled your heart
enough with my love, that somehow, someway
you’d emerge from despair.
of your rhythm was never mine. Your
soul was formed and shaped by a God
who knit you together in my womb.
On my knees I plead that His will be
done in your life—from beginning to end.
“DO SOMETHING!” I screamed at a
God who was not deaf to my desperation.
He comforted. He still comforts,
but I will not pretend to understand
why He didn’t rescue you.
Your future—my future—was never
mine to determine. And I pray
one day I walk this path knowing
that not even a sparrow falls to the earth
without God’s knowledge.
Your life mattered, and heaven
mourned you even deeper than I.
Turning Your Page: When Sparrows Fall to Suicide
You may have sparrows who have fallen in your life. Your mourning may be deep and waves of emotions swamp you. Courage! May the promise of God’s care sustain you, even when the feelings simply are not there. You are precious to God. Your loved one was and is precious to a God who was willing to suffer with and for you. As you think about Easter consider the following:
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT).
“When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, BSB).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29, ESV).
Lord, this sorrow is too great. Carry it for me. Your tenderness and mercy towards my loved ones exceed my own and not one of them falls to the earth without your knowledge and mourning. Amen
The cross was necessary for the salvation of many. I have done so many things wrong, and I can never make myself clean enough. But, even saying that I confess I want another answer. I don’t want suffering to be the answer for anyone, not even the Son of God. Yet, Jesus warned that this life will be filled with suffering. But, no matter how much I suffer, it does not define me. Jesus does. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39, NIV
Turning My Page: The Cross is Necessary for Salvation
I struggled with the cross after Jonathan died. Why did require such a brutal answer for our salvation? From the moment I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I lived my life trying to follow what I knew as the character of God. I know my faith wasn’t perfect, but being a good mom felt like enough for a good outcome for my children. While I knew with my head Christians are not immune to the evils of this world, there was still an undercurrent of grumbling in my heart. And when Jonathan died I asked, why did my son suffer, and how does Jonathan’s death work anything for good in God’s plan?
The Lord answered my questions the first Christmas Eve service after Jonathan’s death.
It was not enough that Jesus came as a little baby. We don’t need a perfect example, we need a savior. Christmas Eve 2014
Jesus came as a baby, grew up among us, performed miracles, and provided good principles to live by. But still, the cross was non-negotiable. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, we are left trying to measure up to the laws of God without grace.
With Christ’s sacrifice, God said to the Centurian standing as witness to the sentence of Christ, there is more to life than our suffering and attempting to be good enough. He didn’t curse His accusers, he forgave them. The Centurian declared Jesus the Son of God before he fully understood his need for that crucified Savior. The cross was necessary to redeem us.
Without the cross, there is no victory over death. My son’s death is not the end of my story because Jesus redeemed the grave and gives power to all who believe. I was worth saving. My son was worth saving.
You are worth saving.
I now celebrate transformed lives because Jonathan’s life mattered to God, and he utilizes our story to encourage others to not give up.
Jesus came for me, not when I had my act together, but when I didn’t even know that I needed him. My son’s death does not limit God’s power. Life is still full and possible because Jesus chose the cross. The cross was necessary for the salvation of many.
Turning Your Page
Open each day like it is a gift, filled with joy that transcends your understanding. God does things that don’t make sense to you in human judgment because he is sovereign. He rescued you, not as baby Jesus in the manger, but as Christ, the Savior on the cross.
Have you ever walked around the cross? Take time this Easter to read each of the gospel accounts of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Put yourself in the characters involved. What did you see differently through each person’s view of the cross?
Journal any new insights God reveals as you place yourself in the crucifixion story.
Gracious Savior, I need you. Amid painful suffering, I know You are truly the Son of God! Amen He is enough. The cross has made you Flawless. My story.
Healing among the Tombs emerged from time studying the demon-possessed man described in Mark 5. I wrestled with and even hesitate to post anything in this arena. I have edited this intro repeatedly, but a wise friend suggested, “If you could tell your audience anything, without hindrance, what would it be?”
I would tell you:
There is hope, no matter the reasons for your mental health struggles.
We have an enemy called Satan who seeks to separate us from the love of God in any way he can.
As Mark 5 shows, nothing will ever hinder Jesus, not even a legion of (approximately 6,000) demons.
We need to be as equipped by the Holy Spirit with discernment of the needs of those around us.
We fight the spiritual battle with scripture, allies, prayer, fasting, and by knowing whose authority we speak.
Many are terrorized by despair right now and I can’t just advocate for the physical fight.
The people of the town had tried everything to subdue the man. Nothing in this world could save or relieve him of his torture.
He made his home among the tombs and was so violent that he broke through chains repeatedly. It seems that no one could possibly help this man. Had they given up? How did he come to be possessed? Did others bring him food? Did he have a family? Who chained him? What was the man’s family feeling? They may have even been the ones who chained him so that he would stop his self-harm.
The bottom line.
It took a divine encounter with Jesus to free him.
It took a divine encounter with Jesus to stop my self-harm and place me on a different path.
We have an enemy seeking to destroy us all and it is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one. I have witnessed spiritual attacks firsthand. I can’t pretend the problem will be only solved with physical solutions.
This man needed Jesus. I need Jesus to stand against a spirit of despair that has led to over 48,000 suicides in the US. He will turn the tide, and my prayer is that you and I can be a spark of hope.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Turning My Page: Among the Tombs
Forgotten, I greeted you from the remembrances. My home is hollowed from wealth, ready to entertain kings and demons. You crossed the unclean threshold of my grave, your royal robes billowing in the sea sworn breeze.
A crown, only seen by our eyes, testifies to us who you are. Naked, we claw with rocks at our putrid vulnerable flesh, mutilating your earthly jewel. We’ll make you unrecognizable too. Rip the flesh off God.
My God, why have you forsaken me?
I screamed for release from day and night horror. While they cried out to remain fast. I was a scarred lamb within, and a roaring lion without.
Mighty Samson would not tame we beating beasts.
But You, the Son of God, entered my tomb and knocked the breath out of me. What man chained you commanded freed. Clothed in righteousness, I now cling to you.
I am a demoniac commissioned to share the truth of your love for mankind.
Only God raises the dead.
Turning Your Page
You may have a loved one wrestling with mental illness. Whether demonic in nature, physical, or spiritual is not for us to determine. Only God can do so. Yet, God gives authority and discernment for man to cast out demons. Jesus used scripture to fight Satan; we can do the same.
Start with prayer. Ask God to equip you with His Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Begin listing out scriptures that speak about the spiritual battle we fight.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Lord, I acknowledge that I feel ill-equipped to catch glimpses of the heavenly battle, yet you have chosen to open my eyes to the unseen attacks of Satan. Father, train me from head to toe to trust your will and shut the mighty lion’s mouth that seeks to devour our world! Amen
Freedom starts with hope. Realizing the power of trust, belief, and faith, inherent in the word has kept me reaching out and allowing others to reach in no matter what crisis comes my way. I have been struggling lately. Sometimes I forget to keep my hope in Jesus and start looking to others or my own ways of self-medicating. These are moments. Despair has an end and knowing that I can turn from sin and embrace the truth of God’s promises, come what may.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:20-21 ESV
Turning My Page: Freedom Starts With Hope
I have struggled to write for months, and the excuses have piled up.
My house is a mess
I’m not sleeping
My physical health is deteriorating
Grieving my grandmother
I am a burden to others
This week, the Holy Spirit interrupted my unconscious mantra and reminded me that I have a vast vocabulary–start with one word. Moving beyond writer’s block, depression, or any other block in my life starts with HOPE.
I may not see the fruits of my hope right away, but the seeds exist. I write one word, and then another, and another and before long I am looking back at the obstacle rather than having it firmly planted in front of me.
My hope in all things is found in Jesus Christ, so yesterday and today, I confessed my depressed state and tuned my heart to my Savior’s voice through scripture.
Worked on memorizing Romans 8
Prayed for my family who is grieving the loss of our grandmother
Acknowledged I am substituting food and mindless activities for the comfort of Christ in my grief
Went to bed and trusted that God would give me the needed rest
Set healthy boundaries with my children
Chose a few small ways to attack the mess of my home
One of the first things the Spirit of Despair attacks is the healthy habits I form.
Notice my list above. I stopped having time in scripture. The house was a deep hole of undone chores, so why try. I avoided grief through food and TV. While these things give me temporary relief, they will never give me lasting help or draw me from the pit of hopelessness because I will always need more and more of those things and accomplish nothing by escaping through them. They do not feed me, mind, body, and spirit.
I know this because at age twenty I almost succeeded in taking my own life. That moment was the cumulation of all my attempts to deal with life’s hardships and pain by burying it and not pressing into hope. At that moment I recognized, rightly, that nothing in this world would make me feel better, but did not press into hope in Christ until the following year.
Only then did my life begin to look more hopeful. I started recognizing Christ died for all of the hardships I experienced and He would faithfully take all experiences and use them to lead others, and offer hope when others can’t yet see the potential. Placing hope in Jesus Christ meant my ultimate failure was not an option. No more throwing in the towel. I do not do this perfectly, but when my footing slips I gain it back more quickly and easily because hope has become the pattern of my life rather than the exception.
Turning Your Page
Freedom starts with hope.
That hope does not disappoint. You may not yet see the fruits of pushing back against the doubts or feel anything will change. Hope is powerful! It gives you space and opportunity to discover resources, mankind to reach in and help, and develops muscles of trust. We will get to the other side of our experiences because nothing separates us from the love of Jesus (Romans 8:28). Nothing and no one will ever be able to steal that freedom from you.
What are some of your favorite promises in scripture?
Look at the definition of the root word of depression and compare it to the definition for hope.
Journal about the difference and similarities between the two.
What are some antonyms of each?
Pick an antonym of “depress”, such as rejoice, and begin practicing daily.
Lord, I want to cease spiraling into despair. Help me to look up from the pit and see that all things are possible through you. I’ll hold on until they happen as you promised. Amen
No one plans on unwrapping depression during the holidays.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)
Depression is a gift not easily returned to a store. I say gift because, as I work through despair I also discover my capacity to fight it.
Twenty-two years ago depression became a training ground for my faith. I hoped for what I could not yet see. I stretched weak, underdeveloped spiritual muscles. And survived attacks from the enemy. Beauty emerged from the ashes of my life.
We don’t have to have it all together to survive Christmas. But, we do have to have certain habits in place that are not optional. I am conditioning to be fearless and embrace discipline, compassion, and determination. Like a drill sergeant encouraging failure, depression stirs instead, my will to live.
Grief doesn’t take a hiatus, and physical pain may have no relief. The strain is constant, but we also experience joy. We can hope, remain open to new possibilities, step outside of our own thoughts, and engage the world. Not based upon feeling, but upon the basic way, humans were created. We were built for relationship. Based on that understanding, isolation is not an option.
Below is a Depression Survival Kit that I use on a regular basis. These habits help me to get through and even gain new ground through holidays.
Feel free to comment on anything that helps you to get through the holidays.
1-2 scriptures to read on a regular basis, call to mind when thoughts spiral
List of safe people (of the same sex) that I can call in case of an emergency
1-2 old traditions I will do (not based on feeling)
1-2 new traditions I will create with family, friends, strangers
Go to Christmas events
Signal designated departure friend to aid in a smoother exit
I don’t have to do all events
Stay engaged with the community (not an option)
Volunteer to help others
Encourage someone else who is struggling
Allow 1 or 2 people to take you out of your comfort zone
Laughter is good medicine (welcome humor)
Set goals and take steps to be as healthy as you can
Extend grace to yourself and others
My prayers are with you as you find joy this Christmas.