“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” Jana Stanfield
I took off the summer from posting on my blog even though I had posts ready to publish. I kept thinking, …
Seriously, God, “all the good I can do” is to write about depression, suicide, and difficult emotions no one wants to hear about? This was never my plan.
I stalled posting for months to avoid being misunderstood and judged; to avoid being uncomfortable and making others uncomfortable; and to avoid taking risks even though it seems Love happens most often in the thick of God’s risky plans for us. I recently read Mark Batterson’s book, Not Safe: Discovering God’s Dangerous Plan For Your Life. He said, “If you fear man, you will offend God. If you fear God, you will offend man. The choice is yours.”
Lysa TerKeurst came to mind. She’s a Bible teacher, founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries for women, and author of It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way about her struggle with her husband’s infidelity and her cancer diagnosis. Her Facebook posts are widely read, so when she posted on social media about her husband’s infidelity and her plan to divorce him, tens of thousands of people were privy to their problems. Some were offended.
She tried to salvage their marriage privately for more than a year before going public, saying she made the hard decision so as to get ahead of the rumor mill. Can you imagine the anxiety she felt over her marriage, her family, and her ministry? She posted anyway, then took off the summer.
During those months, Christian leaders called for her resignation from the ministry she began. They criticized her for speaking out. They admonished her for the part they speculated she played in her husband’s wrongdoings.
As it turned out, Love happened in that one misunderstood, judged, uncomfortable, risky moment. She said in an interview that her husband admitted his wakeup call happened because of her very public post about his ongoing affair. God used that moment to save their marriage and to extend her ministry beyond what anyone imagined.
I’m grateful for the support and smallness of my following while I grapple with writing about topics I never planned on like difficult emotions, and especially depression and suicide. I shied away from posting about these topics even when I felt nudged because the topics were scary and negative. I preferred memes on Facebook that made me laugh and cute pictures of my grandkids. However, I kept stumbling onto stories about people who struggled, and I couldn’t get them off my mind.
The Bible verse Proverbs 16:1 says our plans are not God’s plans. Instead of him going along with what we have in mind, Love happens. God breaks our hearts for what breaks his, then uses our brokenness to bring us closer to him and to make us more like Jesus, and we get to help others.
It all sounds beautiful and holy and self-sacrificing except the fits I threw along the way …
Just three weeks ago, I attended a writers group where one of the members asked afterwards about the topic of my blog and manuscript. I said, “I’m writing about depression, suicide, and getting in touch with our difficult emotions. Upbeat topics, huh? Topics no one wants to read about.”
What in this world kind of answer was that?
We laughed uncomfortably, and she walked on.
I left the bookstore feeling frustrated and foolish because I still worried more about what people thought than what I thought God wanted from me. I wish this was a one-time occurrence, but I’ve thrown fits for years about my writing.
My prayer that evening turned into an ultimatum, “God, if you want me to write and blog about tough topics I keep questioning, give me a sign – one so clear that I stop doubting and start sharing. Otherwise, I’m done.”
The next night, my husband asked if I wanted to watch the movie Love Happens.
“What’s it about?”
“I don’t know. There’s no write-up,” he said.
“How can there be no write-up? There’s always a blurb.”
“There’s just not one, but Jennifer Aniston’s in it and you like her.”
If I’d known the storyline, the impact may not have been so BIG.
During the opening scene, Dr. Burke Ryan ran onto stage and addressed the audience on the first evening of his seminar based on his bestseller A-Okay!, a book about how he coped with the loss of his wife who died three years prior. He told a story of a football coach who hadn’t dealt with the loss of his brother. Instead of celebrating when his team won the national championship, the coach committed suicide.
I sat straight up and said, “I can’t believe this. We’re five minutes into the movie and he’s written a bestselling book about dealing with difficult emotions and he’s talked about suicide.”
I had my sign so clear that I could stop doubting.
The following morning, I woke up to several online articles shared by friends on Facebook from sites like The Washington Post (see below) and People about Jarrid Wilson, 30, a well-known and loved pastor who died by suicide. There were hundreds of comments from formerly depressed and suicidal people he helped. Two days prior, I attended a suicide prevention workshop at our church on World Suicide Prevention Day. Jarrid took his life just hours prior to that day and on the same day he officiated a funeral for a young woman who took her life.
Things kept happening that I knew weren’t coincidental.
A week or so later, a friend messaged me when she noticed I posted on social media about depression. Her daughter struggled with it, so she wanted to know if I knew anyone she could talk to who dealt with the same thing. I said, “I do.”
She gave permission for me to share what she wrote about the stigma, “Depression isn’t like a failing gall bladder. There’s embarrassment attached. Guilt – guilt that as an intelligent person with a roof over our heads – but there’s still no intellectualizing our way out of it. Add that to a lifetime of ‘get off your butt’ mentality and knowing ‘someone has it worse than you’ and you end up hiding. Feeling weak and ashamed.”
She ended her note, “Thanks for your insights. Knowing that other people have faced similar demons makes me feel less alone. And less nuts.”
Lysa TerKeurst’s example. Lysa’s book. Mark Batterson’s book. The movie Love Happens. The workshop at church. Jarrid’s suicide. All the suicides before his. World Suicide Prevention Day. My friend’s message. And the other thousand things that had an impact.
Each one reinforced why hard conversations have to happen whether it’s about suicide, depression, addiction, marital strife, financial problems, or some other struggle. Each one reinforced my purpose and that we all have one. And each of these reinforced Love happens when we risk being misunderstood, judged, and uncomfortable so others don’t feel so alone. That’s all the good we can do.
I hope you’ll join the discussion here and keep it going on your own pages. Love happens when we talk and listen.
In This Together,