Statistics tell us that 1 in every 15 people has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life . Given the difficulty of collecting this data it’s probably more. Regardless of the figures, behind every number is someone’s reality. Someone who faces a complex, unique and personal struggle that leaves them feeling so hopeless that suicide appears to be the only answer. I’m no expert, but I did experience the devastating consequences when my partner committed suicide.
It wasn’t the most straightforward of relationships. I had only just accepted I was attracted to women, so when we got together we did so in secret for fear of being judged. As we grew closer it became clear that my partner was struggling with her past. She had found a close friend dead after he had hanged himself. The resulting grief, guilt, anger and helplessness had led her to depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and attempts. It was horrifying to watch and to pick up the pieces of someone you love who just couldn’t see a way out. I was totally out of my depth. About a year into our relationship we decided to move in together, we excitedly made plans. I remember watching her smile for the first time in ages and thinking that things appeared to be on the up. That night she hanged herself.
It’s hard to explain the pain that followed in the coming weeks, months and years, as I tried to make sense of it all and grieve. I had to accept she’d chosen to do it, deal with the guilt for not being able to help or get her help and control my anger at the selfishness of it all whilst watching the damaging ripple effect it had on others. There was so much sadness, pain and confusion as questions that I didn’t have the answers to spun around my head. Things quickly spiralled out of control, I pushed away people who were trying to help, I turned to drink and drugs to block out the pain, and consequently lost my job and home. I ran away to the other side of the world, but quickly discovered that you can’t run away from your own thoughts. Although I found comfort in the beauty of nature I needed answers. What is the point of life when there is so much pain and brokenness?
Fast forward a couple of months and a ‘mysterious’ turn of events led me to church. Did they have the answers? What was that peace they talked about and how could I get it? I was extremely sceptical, but I was desperate. It wasn’t until I could understand the bigger picture and see things from a different perspective that things began to make more sense. It took a while and wasn’t easy, but with help from some very patient Christian friends and answers to prayer the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.
If there is a point to life we must have been created and created for a reason. At the beginning of human history there wasn’t any pain or brokenness, but we were created with free will, the ability to make decisions. Those first humans went against God’s instructions and as a result suffering entered the world. I can’t blame them, if I’m honest I would have made the same decision and chosen knowledge and power over submission. Through generations of human disobedience God constantly warned and rescued his people, but as soon as suffering hit they wandered from his ways. Life looked pointless from the human perspective; thankfully God had another plan. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ . God sent his son Jesus to die for us, taking on our brokenness so that we can be forgiven and be made right by God. It is through believing and accepting this that we will get to spend forever with him in a place without suffering. As for our purpose, it is the same as it’s always been, to be in relationship with the living God, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Life once looked pointless from my perspective, thankfully God had another plan. After fully understanding the bigger picture, I could accept God’s unconditional love, admit my brokenness and turn away from my old ways with his continual help. All the negative things going around in my head, for what seemed like forever had been replaced with an inner peace, too awesome to justifiably describe. I felt truly free for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t have all the answers, I still live in a broken world and suffer just like everyone else. It’s still painful when people die and life throws other tough things at us, but now I know there is a bigger picture, a different perspective. Even when I can’t understand things fully, I know I can trust God, the father, the creator, the ruler, who is perfect in power, wisdom and goodness. I have a hope that changes everything. A hope that means this life isn’t the end because Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross. One day I will be with God in a place where ‘He will wipe every tear from [his people’s] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ .
Through this knowledge, my faith and plenty of other experiences of the living God I’m in a much better and different place than I was before. The best news is that regardless of where you come from, who you are, or what situation you face, this reality, this act of unconditional love, this hope, can change your life too.