Oh Happy Day! Depression and Suicide and the Crushing Idealism of the Law

It’s been a while since I posted anything. I have had severe problems with my web host on thereforenow.com, in fact my wordpress installation has been unable to talk to the backend database for the last 2 days, and they haven’t lifted a finger to fix it. Let’s just say, if you are looking into running a blog on your own domain, don’t get cheap on the host. Look around very hard for a good host, an pony up the denaros for it. If it seems like too good a deal to be true, trust me. It isn’t true!

That said, I’ve had a number of ideas floating around, so I thought I would start with the sunny and happy topic of depression and suicide! Ha ha!

I’m so slow on responding to these things as they come along as front burner issues! Robin Williams’ suicide had everyone talking about this for a while, and I’m probably the last person to jump on this bandwagon. I’ve experienced a good deal of depression, so I have a couple of things to say about this from the lens of grace and community.

We are very rooted in the unspoken and perhaps unnoticed but very real idea that we are our own God. We may not even realize it, but we believe that we are in control of ourselves and ultimately of our own destiny. And we have a very strict ideal for how success in life should be defined. I should be fulfilled, I should be amazing, I should be respected and successful in a truly non-trivial and meaningful way. This is my only life and it should matter somehow. But I myself and the people around me keep getting in the way of my success and fulfillment and I seem unable to stop this. My own hurts, habits, and hangups seem to be whack-a-mole problems, so that as soon as I think I have a handle on one thing, another thing pops up elsewhere. I quit my porn addiction, I start to gain weight. I start to lose weight, I start to get attracted to porn again. I start to put a lid on those, I get serious anger issues. Or I descend into this lazy netflix thing which eats up my life. And all of this is failure. I should not be such a failure, so bankrupt intellectually and morally and physically and financially. More than that, there is a never-ending stream of failure all around me. Close to me, family and friends and acquaintances, people not only fail in very persistent ways over and over and over, but they gloss over their own problems and then have the gall to judge me for my failures. What is worse, they don’t even know what kind of ammunition they could have if I really let on with how much of a struggle my little whack-a-mole war is. Larger society seems even more hopeless. The world is going steadily and inevitably on to complete ruin and destruction and there seems to be nothing anyone can do to stop it.

So not only does an honest person start to feel terrible about themselves, but they start to realize that our close relationships are really just warmed over self-serving lying death. We start to see that there is no enduring justice or good in the world. This is so pervasive that small kindnesses shock us and even bring us to tears. This is depressing, and intelligent sensitive powerful people see it. They want release. Suicide is this person’s judgment on the world. The world would never look past their superficial faults to see who they really are, what kind of love was really possible with them. No one would ever really give them a chance. So suicide is not a retreat, it is a judgment. It is the sentence of death on the entire universe, that it was not worthy of their presence. When there is no strong genuine grace, no unbreakable resurrection level relationship, when there is no faith in a God-initiated God-maintained love, there is only isolation because of the judgment of the law that reigns over it. The ultimate expression of the judgment is suicide. The law is the expression of an ideal, and idealists require perfection and reality in a visceral way. Suicide becomes the only way to express this ideal.

People are proud of their idealism. They believe that their high standards and their perfectionism are a sign of integrity and success. Actually our ideals are weapons that will ultimately turn on us and kill us. What we need is a rescue and an escape from our ideals. We need to be seen and loved and accepted and forgiven as we really are, and we need a way to love others the same way. This is exactly what the gospel offers us! The law was given through Moses (John 1:17) but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. So, the law always represents an impossible ideal, a beautiful and right and unattainable standard. It is given, but it is not realized. There is only One who fulfilled the law, for unless every jot and tittle is performed, the ideal has not been maintained. Grace is realized, because it takes us as we are and loves us. It recognizes the ugly genuine truth that we daily squirm in, and loves us there. It grants meaning and relationship and authenticity and significance without idealism. I can be boring and fat and poor and normal and still be loved. I can realize this grace towards others, I can own my failure in a community of people who are empowered through Christ’s blood to love me without injustice. I can recognize and own my depression and accept comfort from others because I have escaped the prison and condemnation of the law’s ideal standards, and take refuge in being defined by my belovedness and not my failure.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
1 John 4:7-14

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