Greg appeared to be moving along smoothly as a Christian. With 37 years in the classroom he was still enjoying teaching. However, within a period of 8 weeks, he became so anxious he could hardly sleep and felt forced to pace day and night. Depression and suicidal thoughts compelled him to ask to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. This is his story.
Part 1: Are you troubled by suicidal thoughts?
You may be having trouble sleeping and dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. Perhaps you cry easily. You may be in the darkest possible night and have been admitted to a psychiatric ward. You may be on the edge of a cliff with voices urging you to slip into eternity.
Fear overwhelms you … fear of death, fear that Christ has become your enemy, fear that God has abandoned you to hell, fear of your shaking hands, fear of your unstoppable blasphemous thoughts and even fear of the Bible, where verses that were once blessings now seem to threaten you. You have fear that comes from believing the lie that you’ll never get better. Your imaginations sweep you to a place of terror and your prayers seem useless. You feel intense guilt and shame.
You have an unwelcome understanding of expressions like; ‘losing your mind’, ‘falling to pieces’ and ‘being driven up the wall’. You have lost so much weight that friends know something is wrong. Fear makes you sweat profusely and you feel you have no control as you slide round and round in a tunnel of fire. It may seem there is no way out but there is hope and there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel!
Dear reader, I believe that I may be able to comfort you with the comfort I myself have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
My Christian Background
I became a Christian over 30 years ago from a background of mocking Christians as unscientific and using ‘Jesus’ as no more than a swear word. As an atheist in my twenties, I began to search for truth. I also began to have the unwelcome thought; “cut your wrists!” I couldn’t understand this as I thought I had everything I needed to be happy. I finally blocked out these thoughts. Science could not explain where this evil came from but the Bible showed me that it was a result of wicked supernatural beings (demons). I also tried on two occasions to say The Lord’s Prayer but the second line always came out as blasphemy. Read my full story
Admitting myself to a psychiatric ward
May 2014. I had been a Christian for decades and successfully functioned for 37 years in the classroom teaching mathematics and science. I was relaxed and very much enjoying teaching. A psychiatric ward was the furthest thing from my mind.
After returning from a strenuous two month trip to South America, I could only sleep around three hours each day as anxiety forced me to pace continually day and night. This sustained period of terror lasted for 93 days! While you may struggle to comprehend this, these dates are accurate. Only Jesus Christ could have sustained me through such an ordeal. Struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, I asked to be admitted to a modern psychiatric ward where I would spend five months in total, over three separate visits.
South America generating fear
In South America, there is a poisonous mixture of paganism, witchcraft and Catholicism. In Potosi, Bolivia a woman pressed towards our tourist group ranting, screaming and cursing us. I was not spiritually strong at the time and this produced fear in me.
Other factors that affected me were a poor diet on the trip and extreme tiredness before the trip, partly as a result of a long 37 year teaching career. You shouldn’t underestimate the dangers associated with a poor diet and fatigue, not to mention visiting places like these. In La Paz, Bolivia we visited the Witches’ Market which contained dried llama fetuses used under houses as a sacred offering to the Inca fertility goddess Pachamama. Our group visited the Devil’s Mine in Potosi where the miners give offerings to the devil (Tio) for supposed protection. (I chose not to go into this mine.) Our local Peruvian guide wanted us to experience a hallucinogenic drug (Ayahuasca) with a local witch doctor. I thought; “No way would I do this!”
It now seems utter foolishness to me (a Christian) to have paid thousands of dollars to visit such evil places, all in the name of ‘having a good time’. There is this dangerous idea that all the beliefs of other countries are neutral and therefore we should ‘respect’ them. However the Bible tells us we are to hate evil (Romans 12:9). Hence, we are to hate (not respect) these harmful beliefs like burning incense to idols, worshipping mother earth, treating Jesus as just a prophet or the practice of witchcraft. We are to love the person but hate the evil beliefs.
On several mornings I had problems breathing at the high altitude. I felt so bad I said to my wife; “today, I am going to die”. I think having asthma as a child made this an especially fearful experience. I also didn’t comprehend how the devil could return with unreigned fury at such an opportune time. If the devil did this with Jesus, who was I to think I would escape? (1 Peter 5:8, Luke 4:13). The devil is very good at bringing up your sins (Revelation 12:10). You can only understand this by reading the Bible. Modern psychology has little to no understanding of this common spiritual battle with depression and suicidal thoughts.
Listen to The Robe by Wes King
My observations on sleep deprivation from travel
Governments have utilised sleep deprivation as a form of torture. Some ‘holidays’, especially very long ones in unfamiliar countries over many time zones, could be classed as a form of sleep deprivation. This can lead to problems, one being depression. As you get older, problems can be more amplified. Of course, if someone had told me this before I travelled to South America, I would have confidently replied; “Surely this would not happen to me as I am an experienced traveller.” True, I had coped with all my other trips but I didn’t cope with this one.
Between psychiatric ward visits.
One afternoon between psychiatric ward visits, I walked in a fierce lightning storm, hoping that God would strike me down. So it was encouraging to discover, for instance, that Godly men in the Bible had similar experiences.
Job: “I wish he (God) would crush me. I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me” (Job 6:9).
Elijah: “(Elijah) prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” (1 Kings 19:4).
Jonah: “But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ ‘It is,’ Jonah said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead’” (Jonah 4:9).
Jeremiah: “Cursed be the day I was born! Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18).
Moses: “(God) if this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me” (Numbers 11:15).
The fear of speaking out
Whilst in the psychiatric ward, I noticed that many patients had had a fear of speaking out. I asked one man why he was covered with bruises. He responded that his wife had beaten him up. Another man had fulfilled everything he thought his wife wanted by doing massive renovations on their house. In the end his wife simply told him to “get lost” and he ended up back in the psychiatric ward. Not speaking out or not speaking the truth in love may lead to being dominated by others. When combined with fear of people this anxiety may lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. Verbal, emotional and physical abuse can all send you towards depression.
A poisoned arrow sent deep within my heart
One night, after many weeks of severe sleep deprivation, I was pacing and I had a vision of being thrown into a lake of fire accompanied by the words (not audible to others); “You are going to hell for ever and ever and there is no way out for you.” So, knowing that nothing happened without God’s permission, I wondered why God would allow a thing that would drive me to the very edge of utter despair. Had God abandoned me to hell? I knew all too well what Job was feeling when he complained; “For the Lord has struck me down with his arrows; he has sent his poisoned arrows deep within my heart” (Job 6:4).
Relating to those who suffer
Job: “Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn” (Job 7:4). “I prefer strangling and death … I despise my life … Let me alone; my days have no meaning” (Job 7:15-16). “Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy” (Job 33:10).
King David: “The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me” (2 Samuel 22:5-6).
Psalmist: “I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength” (Psalm 88:3-4).
“Why not curse God and die?”
On another occasion, as I was pacing, the words “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” stopped me in my tracks. I immediately recognized them as the words from Job’s wife (Job 2:9) and I responded in my mind that; “this would never happen”. Shortly before these things took place, I would have blasphemous thoughts as I watched DVD’s on the book of John.
Thick impenetrable darkness
Around 4 am one morning, I took an electrical cord thinking I would end it all … it seemed there was no way out. Sadly, I went to a tree, but thoughts (gentle but persistent) continued to remind me; “Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). These thoughts prevailed and I returned home. I had been away 9 hours but I thought it was only 1 hour. The abject horror that I would be at the point of taking my own life was fearful beyond comprehension.
William Bridge writes in his excellent book “A Lifting Up of the Downcast” of how the lack of assurance of God’s love can lead the Christian to suicidal thoughts. “If Christ does not love me now, He will never love me; and if I have not an interest in Christ now … I shall never have it; and so the longer I live, the more I aggravate my condemnation … and therefore now I will even make away with myself. Oh, what a black chain is here and the first link is the lack of assurance.” 1
My observations: hiding problems … hiding sin
One of the biggest problems with Christianity is when it develops into a phoney lifestyle where you learn that to be a ‘good’ Christian you have to pretend everything is OK.2
What shocked me was the general openness in the psychiatric ward that I didn’t find in many churches!
Hiding problems: I am glad that my problems overwhelmed me otherwise I would have tried to cover them up! I asked a Christian who had a particular problem, “Would he talk to other Christians about this problem?” In horror he replied, “No way!” There is something fundamentally wrong here.
Hiding sin: A person confesses unforgiveness. This is good but it is much harder to confess sins like lying, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander or filthy language from your lips.
(Colossians 3:5-9). These sins can be easily hidden and you may even think you are hiding them from God as King David was, as explained in Psalm 32:4-5.
Depression and Suicidal thoughts return.
In late 2018, even though I was a Christian, the enemy returned. I was sleeping okay; I was not having fearful thoughts of hell nor was I depressed. Nevertheless, intense suicidal thoughts started to overwhelm me yet again. This was over a period of 2 months. I believe I was set free on this occasion by prayer from Christians and overcoming some of my specific fears like the fear of divorce and the devastating effect this could have on our children.
Your friend needs you!
The book of Job shows Job suffering and his friends reaching out to him. Job’s friends did some very good things. They came to help Job and spent a lot of time patiently sitting with him and their weeping showed they empathised with him. His friends ‘mourned with those who mourned’ (Romans 12:15) and this would have very much comforted Job. (See Job 2:11-13).
But God was very angry with three of Job’s friends (Job 42:7). Job’s friends made an incorrect assumption that Job was suffering because of his sin. But God, when speaking with Satan, said otherwise. “Job … is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (Job 2:3). When you read the words of Job’s friends, remember it has been only a few days since Job (a loving father and upright man) had lost all of his children. So much of Job’s friend’s rebuking was harsh. It is no wonder Job responded saying; “How long will you torment me and crush me with your words” (Job 19:2); calling them “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2).
Help with patience and empathy
The Bible tells us that when helping others we can easily get puffed up with pride (1 Corinthians 10:12). Think of how difficult it would be for you to cope with what your friend is going through. This will put you in a better frame of mind to help your friend.
God does work supernatural miracles but I had to make changes in body, soul and spirit and this took time. Very importantly, do not think you are invincible and that you will never fall into depression or suicidal thoughts. You might say; “I don’t feel I’m in a fierce supernatural battle like what you have experienced.” That may be so but if you are a Christian, you are in such a battle!
Many blessings to all of you who reach out to the hurting and may God give you the grace, empathy, strength and wisdom to do so. Your friend needs you!
Finding perfect peace
As a Christian, I had experience of Jesus forgiving my sins but in dark times God can seem very distant. King David experienced this when he said, “How long will God hide his face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). Believing that God’s grace is sufficient for me as I pray helps suicidal thoughts melt away. Although for me there were many steps back from depression and suicidal thoughts (see part 2). Isaiah shows me how to achieve perfect peace. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).
Life on this earth vanishes in the wink of an eye; eternity is forever and ever and ever. The spiritual battle will continue as long as we are on earth.
Remember Christ is the answer. Christ has defeated the devil. Jesus loves you and is the only way to Heaven.
Listen to Something Changed by Sara Groves
1 William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, The Banner of Truth,
2 David Rolph, CD title: “I know my Redeemer lives”
3 Charles Spurgeon, Book: All of Grace
Go to Part 2; Things that helped Greg overcome.