Clinging to hope amid awful destruction

Posted Sep 10, 2019

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Put these key numbers in your phone or where you can easily find them: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255, and the Crisis Text Line (text to 741741). You can also reach Johnson County Mental Health Emergency Services 24/7 at (913) 268-0156.

Daily Scripture

Lamentations 3:16-26

16 He crushed my teeth into the gravel; he pressed me down into the ashes.
17 I’ve rejected peace; I’ve forgotten what is good.
18 I thought: My future is gone, as well as my hope from the LORD.
19 The memory of my suffering and homelessness is bitterness and poison.
20 I can’t help but remember and am depressed.
21 I call all this to mind—therefore, I will wait.
22 Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!
23 They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
24 I think: The LORD is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him.
25 The LORD is good to those who hope in him, to the person who seeks him.
26 It’s good to wait in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.

Reflection Questions

In 586 B.C., Babylon’s army destroyed Jerusalem and exiled many leading citizens. (You can read about Jerusalem’s fall in 2 Kings 25:1-21). Lamentations recorded the anguish of an Israelite (maybe the prophet Jeremiah) left behind in Judah. The writer of Lamentations couldn’t see any human hope for the future (verse 18) and had to deal with “suffering and homelessness” (verse 19) in the present.

  • The Common English Bible renders one of the great words of the Old Testament, the Hebrew hesed in verse 22, as “the faithful love of the LORD (Yahweh).” Other English translations use expressions like “steadfast love” or “unfailing love.” The writer somehow trusted in God’s unending love even in the rubble of a burned, ruined city, no doubt with unburied bodies still in the streets. How have you been able to hold to God’s steadfast, unfailing love even in your worst times?
  • Commentator H. L. Ellison wrote, “The ‘hope’ that the writer expresses here does not spring from denying or minimizing suffering and misery. Rather, these are transformed when the mind is turned to God…. The very fact of awakening to a new day is a renewal of God’s mercy. Humans have passed safely through the night, a foreshadowing of death.”* How do you start your day as you come awake? Make a morning habit of expressing gratitude to God for this day’s gift of life, even when it's a hard day.

Prayer

Creator God, thank you for the gift of this new day. Whatever trials or hardships I may face today, let the morning light remind me that your mercies are ever-present with me. Amen.


* H. L. Ellison, article on “Lamentations” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged: Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994, p. 1268.

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Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory

Brandon Gregory is a volunteer for the worship and missions teams at Church of the Resurrection. He helps lead worship at Leawood's modern worship services, as well as at the West and Downtown services, and is involved with the Malawi missions team at home.

First off, I want to take a second to talk about how awesome it is that our church is talking so openly about suicide. It’s a major problem, and so few churches are talking about the problem well, if they talk about it at all. I grew up going to a small church in a small town in Florida, and I experienced this first-hand when, unbeknownst to me, my bipolar disorder manifested and started wrecking my life. As well-meaning as my church was, it had no idea how to deal with my problems, so it often made them worse.

At my worst, around age 21, I frequently got depressed and occasionally grew suicidal. A few times, I acted on those impulses, and I’m very lucky to be alive today. But even when I wasn’t suicidal, depression is awful. And what’s just as awful as depression is the bad unsolicited advice that people give you when you’re depressed. Without irony, here are some of the things people have suggested to me to end my depression:

  • Just think happy thoughts
  • Go vegetarian
  • Hot yoga
  • Listen to the Beatles
  • Find a new hobby

And, just like my well-meaning church I mentioned above, these hollow suggestions frequently made me worse, not necessarily because these are bad things, but because the people suggesting them had no idea what the problem was. If I hear that someone has been in a really bad accident and is going through physical therapy, I’m not going to give him tips that have enabled me to walk longer distances when I’ve never dealt with a similar injury. He has a much more serious problem than I have, and the professionals he’s working with have it under control. Similarly, if a friend loses his wife in a horrible accident, I’m not going to give him tips on how I cope with my wife leaving town for a week. But this is what people with depression and suicidal ideation deal with on a regular basis.

And that’s why I love Bible passages like today’s. I’m so glad we have Bible passages written by people in real anguish, so we don’t just have perfect prophets sitting atop ivory towers doling out unsolicited advice to the morose and broken people surrounding them. Our Bible has passages written by people who have really struggled with depression, loss, and defeat. Similarly, our church also has people that deal with those things. I had the privilege of playing in the band this past Sunday when Adam spoke his message on suicide prevention, and I very intentionally wore my suicide awareness T-shirt so that people would know that at least one of the people on that big stage had also been there. 

Getting through depression and suicidal ideation is a marathon, but people often assume that it’s a sprint. People often assumed they could fix me in one ten-minute conversation. In a few cases, people actually got mad at me when they couldn’t fix me and they told me that I deserved my fate because I didn’t even want to solve my problems. But those of us who regularly battle depression know that it isn’t one big realization or revelation that saves us from the depths of despair, but the little things that get us through each day. The writer of today’s passage knew this; in verses 22-23, he says, “Certainly the faithful love of the LORD hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

If you’re dealing with a seemingly crushing amount of depression or feeling suicidal, getting through the next year may seem impossible; but getting through today is more manageable. God’s love and compassion can help you get through each day, just like the continued love and support of your family and regular help from a medical professional can. It’s hard, but you have to do it every day.

If you know someone who is dealing with major depression or feeling suicidal, don’t assume you can fix them in one conversation. Please check in on your friends regularly. If a friend is so far down that he or she is thinking about suicide, they probably don’t have a lot of hope that their problems can be solved. It is not enough to say, “Let me know if you need anything.” You need to go to them. Be willing to sit with them and talk with them for days or weeks to help them through this. Beating suicide happens together, and usually only when someone knows they’ll have support over a longer period of time.

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