My heart sank like a rock when I read the news. Another suicide. Another young life lost to despair.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I responded stories of suicide with a distant, judging indifference. How could someone do that? How could someone actually end their life?

I didn’t understand it, couldn’t make sense of it. “It’s selfish,” a close friend once remarked. And although his words sounded harsh, I tended to agree. Suicide appeared to be a self-driven decision, made completely without thought for the needs or pain of anyone else.

But that was before. Before I knew its pain firsthand. Before I understood how despair can drown even the strongest swimmers.

I curled up in the dark of our basement, far from the life I once lived upstairs.

 

God, oh God, where are you?

 

Like a girl looking at a picture of the sun but unable to feel its warmth, I could no longer
observe the beauty of life when I could experience none of it for myself. So, I buried myself in
the basement, my grave. The pain was too great. I was buried alive, trapped in a body that no
longer worked.

 

Looking for God but unable to find Him.

 

Death beat at my door. So be it. Hadn’t I endured enough? This was no way to live.  —Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves (Zondervan, November 12, 2019)

Three years ago I sat down at my laptop to put words to my battle, my struggle to trust a God I didn’t understand, a God who claimed to love me but didn’t always show Himself to me. I wasn’t sure the words would ever make it to print. It felt too personal, too raw, too vulnerable.

Now, here we are, three years later, and Relentless is about to release. And in the last few months, I’ve heard too many stories of former Christians who no longer claim the faith they once believed. Not to mention others who finally gave up the fight and took their own life. Some battle mental illness. Others, like me, have faced one too many impossible circumstances and ended up buried by suffering.

Pain has left its mark on us. And, in spite of our determination, some days it’s all we can do to not give up and go under.

We are at war, friends. And the battle we fight isn’t for the fulfillment of all our dreams and desires and a nice, easy life.

The battle we fight is for our faith. The kind of faith that stands in spite of pain’s every attempt to snuff it out.

Don’t be caught unaware: This is not a game. The risk is high, and the stakes even higher. There are men and women and children so marked by suffering that their pain is blinding them to the presence and affection of real God. This aloneness eclipses all light and leaves the sufferer looking for the fastest way out.

I know—I’ve been there.

I have no once-and-for-all solutions; to claim such would be arrogant and foolish. But over the last few years of fighting for my life and faith, I’ve learned five strategies that help me dig out when despair takes me under:

Acknowledge it. Pretending despair doesn’t exist does nothing to alleviate it. When emotions get overwhelming, stuffing, numbing, and ignoring doesn’t work. Internal pain must be honored just as physical pain. It’s a smoke detector, letting us know there’s a fire we need to put out. Thus, respect it by acknowledging it. This is as simple as saying, “Hello there, fear. Despair. Hopelessness. I see you. We’ve been here before.”

Share it with at least one trusted friend. When I’m struggling to find a rope of hope to hang on to, I have a very small, vetted group of safe friends who hold the other end of my lifeline. All I need to do is text one of them with the following words: “I’m not okay. I just needed someone to know. I’m safe, but I’m not okay.” Within minutes, they start to pray. Then they remind me: “I’m with you, no matter what.”

Move. Sometimes I need to physically interrupt the thought-loop and emotional deluge. Although I may not have the strength (or executive brain function) to go for a walk or run, I can take an easy first step: Play solitaire on my phone. Read an easy novel. Play fetch with the puppy in the back yard. Listen to music. The goal is simply to interrupt the loop, get my brain and body on better footing. Then I’ll have more strength to take another step forward.

Consider contributing factors. My extensive experience with PTSD, trauma and the biological response to suffering has taught me to pay close attention to my body. For example, I’ve noticed that certain times of day (or times of year) are harder than others. My mood dips when the sun sets and the temperature drops. In addition, I know if I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (the acronym H.A.L.T.), I’m not at my emotional best. Once I get past the immediate emotional crisis, I consider contributing factors. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m tired, I sleep. If it’s 8 pm, I remind myself that I will feel differently in the morning.

Remind yourself of Truth. Despair is a liar. It convinces you there is no hope, no possibility of better days, no light up ahead. Like a black sheet over all the windows, despair turns the lights off. So I’ve written a few Bible verses and truths on index cards stationed around my house. If despair is taking me down, these words remind me of the Truth. One of my favorites? Jesus’ words in John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” 

QUESTION: Have you ever felt buried by life circumstances such that you despaired of life? If you gain nothing else from this post, know this: you are not alone. Share your struggle in the comments, and today we will pray with you through it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing such despair right now, you are not alone. Please call 800-273-8255 or text HELP to 741-741.

Get the Relentless Verse Download

When you need to know God is near, grab this free download of verses compiled by Michele and inspired by her new book, Relentless.

Thank you! I am excited to have you on board.

Get the Video Series in Your Inbox

You'll receive one video in your inbox for 7 days.  

Done! Check your email to confirm.

Get the 7-Day Video Series Delivered to YourEmail

You will receive one video per day for seven consecutive days.

Great! Check your email to confirm.

Let's Stick Together

 By subscribing you are agreeing to receive Michele's occasional blog posts, videos and newsletters in your email. Subscribers get exclusive access to her free premium resources.

Yay! Thank you! I am excited to have you on board.