13 Reasons Why

How should we handle the issue of suicide? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A lot of people today are talking about the series 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t heard of it, it involves a girl named Hannah who commits suicide and before she does, she makes thirteen tapes for the thirteen people she holds responsible and sends copies to them. You hear the story of one guy, the guy who loved her and really even she says he didn’t deserve a tape, and how he tries to piece together what happened. I watched it some with Allie and thought it was doing her good to see the impact suicide had, but I did not see the last episode where apparently you actually see Hannah kill herself.

That really had a major negative effect on my wife which made her remember and relive all her past experiences of it since she has tried it at least three times before. I understand a lot of psychiatrists and counselors told the producers not to show something like that, but they didn’t listen. I also understand that this scene is being played by some bullying types to torment those who are wrestling with this.

Thinking about this makes me relive the worst day of my life without a doubt. It was around two years ago and I had just got done doing a show. Allie and my Dad and I were going to go see a movie that evening. I remember talking to Allie who was lying facedown on the bed and telling her that I would go to the CVS and get some stuff we needed then come back and then before too long, I heard her say she overdosed.

Apparently, while I was doing my show, she had got the keys to the safe with her medication and took all of her sleeping medications. Why? She felt like she had lost two really good friends. One of them we made things right with very quickly. The other one had a consistent record of hurting her and I honestly struggled a lot dealing with this one. I tried to make things right before we left for Atlanta, but it wasn’t to be. I had to talk to a lot of wiser people than I to deal with my personal feelings on the matter.

On that day though, I called 911 immediately. The fire department wasn’t too far from where we lived and they came down quickly. My parents next door found out and my mother ran down and jumped on the bed begging Allie to stay awake. Note my mother was 65 at the time so that’s quite a feat. I called Allie’s parents and anyone else I could. When the ambulance was taking Allie away to the hospital, I was with my Dad. My car had recently been hit in an accident and was totaled so I had no vehicle. My Dad drove and when I say we followed the ambulance, I mean it. We ran through intersections and changed lines and everything else. I had never seen my Dad drive like that and Allie tells me the paramedics were just watching in amazement. I was calling everyone I could on the way.

At the hospital, Allie had the largest group of people waiting to see her. Most of them didn’t get to. When we were told we could go see her, I was one of the first ones to go. I never left. I stayed there the whole time. Her mother came down before too long and we were all together.

Allie spent that evening in the hospital. She had a nurse staying with her the whole night. I, too, stayed with her as well. As you can expect, I did not get much if any sleep. A hospital chair is not comfortable and it’s especially hard when another nurse has to come in regularly and turn on the lights to get blood.

The next day at one point, my parents took me home so I could get a little bit of sleep. When I had a few hours, it was right back to the hospital. We knew Allie was going to go to the mental health area and we were expecting it to be that evening. If she came and I had not left, I would be stuck there all night with no place to sleep and since I didn’t have a car, there was nothing I could do.

Allie had begged me to not leave her. I knew it was best to go home, but I didn’t want to and I was worried Allie, who has abandonment issues, would think I had abandoned her again. I did go home and later on that evening, she called. She apologized and said I made the right call. She was going to the mental health ward.

Home alone the next few days, I answered the phone whenever she called. Other than that, I don’t think I wanted to do much. I get so despondent at those times I don’t even want to do apologetics. Doing my blog seems like a necessary evil. You see, the first time even I had to take Allie to a crisis stabilization unit to deal with suicidal thinking, I dropped her off and on the way home I cried my eyes out. After about 13 or 14 miles of crying, I was finally able to pull myself together enough to call a friend for help. Whenever Allie was in that unit, visiting hours were from 6-8 PM and the place was about 25 miles or so away from my house, but I didn’t care. I was down there every day and before 6 and I never left until 8.

Seriously. Unless you understand the devotion I have to my wife, you will not understand the pain that all of this put me through.

To get back to the story, while at home, I honestly was this time feeling angry. I was the one feeling abandoned. How could Allie think about leaving me like this? How could she choose to die because of two other people like that? Was I not good enough? Was I not worth life itself?

There came a time where Allie would get to have some group therapy in the hospital and I could get to see her for a little bit. I remember walking to where I would see her. It was a long hallway that ended in wide double doors and that led to another long hallway. I had been thinking about how I was going to tell her how upset and hurt and angry I was and it was all building up.

And then I saw her in the hallway.

I forgot everything I wanted to say. It didn’t matter then. I saw her and I loved her and I do love her. I walked with her back to the mental health ward and we just sat outside together until it was time. There were plenty of hugs and kisses and such.

Allie was released and for awhile, she did have a zeal for life. I call it the Paradise month. She had a great love for God then and everything was going fine, until this other friend that I wrote about earlier called her an idiot one day on Facebook. It all went downhill then.

Allie has had her ups and downs since then, but watching 13 Reasons Why was another down. One reason I guard my wife so carefully is because I know how sensitive she is to what people say. I know some people can say something and not realize how she will take it, but I will. I strive to be as loving and caring as I can be for her. Yes. This show hits too close to home for me and since it had that effect on her, I cannot support it.

But this isn’t meant to just have me tell you my story. This is meant to open up a serious discussion about a serious matter. Suicide is always a serious matter. It should never be taken lightly. If someone tells you they are suicidal, don’t treat them as if they’re joking or wanting attention or anything. Treat it seriously.

The church is sadly very good at shooting its own wounded. Let’s start with depression. Depression no doubt has a chemical component to it. Even if you don’t have a diagnosis of depression, everyone at some time will struggle with some depression in their lives. When I meet Christians who are always talking about how every day is full of joy and they’re so happy, I don’t believe it. Our Lord was described in Isaiah 53 as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering. There is nothing wrong with admitting life can be awful sometimes. Go read the Psalms and see how much the Psalmist wanted things to change.

My wife has also struggled with self-harm in the form of cutting. When she has told some Christians about this before, they have told her she is a goat. A real Christian would not struggle with depression. A real Christian would not even think about suicide.

My reply is a real Christian would also show love to someone who was suffering and not throw another burden on them.

We always talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin. Let’s be clear as we can about suicide. It is wrong. It is never an option. Still, we all know that we struggle with things that we know are wrong. A man watches that porn video even though he knows it’s wrong. You go and you overeat on those cookies even though you know it’s wrong. You live haphazardly with your money even though you know it’s wrong. Everyone has some sin or sins that they struggle with. The struggle is real.

Can you imagine someone struggling with a sin coming to Jesus and asking for help and Him being hard on them? If you cannot, then remember that you as a Christian are to represent Christ on Earth. If you meet your fellow Christian hurting and in pain with such an issue as this, why would you give them something more to be depressed about?

“Well, if they think they could go to Hell if they commit suicide, why would they do it?” Yeah. You’d be surprised. You see, you’re not exactly thinking rationally then. At that point, your emotions have taken control of the wheel. Some could think even Hell would be better than this. All you can see at that point is the pain itself.

Picture a phobia if you have it. For me, it’s honestly water. It took me a long time to wash my face in the shower and I can easily panic in a swimming pool today. When I am there, all my rationality goes out the window. Get me away from the edge and I start screaming in panic. I’m not exaggerating on this. Is it rational? No. Is it real? Very much so.

None of us follow rationality no matter how much we say we honor it. Blaise Pascal said years ago that you can take the most astute man of reason and put him on a platform of sufficient width and length so that he has enough room to walk without fear and suspend that over a chasm with him on top of it. His emotion will very quickly overcome his reason.

What’s the church to do? How about showing love to the person? One thing Job’s friends did right when they saw him was to do nothing in a sense. They just sat with him and were beside him. It’s when they started giving “advice” that they were screwing it all up. I’m not saying don’t give advice, but make sure any advice is not condemnation.

Despite what you think, many people in the church struggle with depression. Do a web search and you will find many well-known pastors who have struggled with it. One interesting figure who has in the apologetics community is J.P. Moreland. By the way, don’t get on Christians for using medication to help deal with depression issues. I fully support therapy and think it has the best effects when followed, but there is nothing wrong with medication if one needs it.

Whatever the person is depressed about, treat it seriously. You might think it’s nothing, but you know what? Your nothing is something enough to them that it’s ruining their life. To go back to phobias, you might think stepping away from the edge of a pool in three feet of water is nothing. For me, it is terrifying and the stuff of nightmares. This isn’t about what it’s like for you. It’s about what it’s like for them.

I find it incredibly saddening that the church really does so little for mental health issues. In fact, many of us don’t. We can think of many charities that are out there for all number of diseases like cancer and heart disease, and we should have those! There is very little for mental health and it affects so many people. Mental health is an elephant in the room. Could it be we can talk about physical health much easier because many times you can’t help if you get a disease, but with mental health, we’re quick to blame the victim?

My wife also struggles with hallucinations many times. It’s been more than once that I’ve been woken up in the night because Allie is convinced she has seen something there, and there has been nothing there. Keep in mind that even though there was nothing real, the hallucination itself is very real. She really is having it. In those times, I remain calm. I don’t get after her. What good would it do? The last time I remember, it was probably about 2 in the morning. I never yelled or got frustrated. In fact, I held her and comforted her for about an hour or so. I did not consider it a burden. It was an honor. Why would a guy be upset about getting to show love to his wife in her hour of need?

The church can too often make people struggling with these things feel like outsiders. I honestly think it would be good for the church to sometimes have a depressing service. Our songs are always so happy. Our services are all about how to live a good life. We all come to church and put on our “church faces” and we talk in the most spiritual language that we can, all the while many people are masking the pain they feel and putting on a mask only makes them feel that pain all the more along with the pain of loneliness.

Maybe we need a service where we sing songs about crying out in pain wondering if God is really hearing us. Maybe we need a service where we talk about the realities of a painful life and talk about feeling as if God is a thousand miles away. Maybe we need a service where we can just come together and share not just our praises, but share our sorrows and talk about how horrible life seems to us at times.

In all of this, suicide is never the answer. The comic strip Cyanide and Happiness, can sometimes be crude. Sometimes, it hits home. One such time that I do not forget about is when I read this one:

This is indeed accurate. The pain is just brought to other people. It doesn’t go away. People years down the road will still be wondering what they could have done differently. Don’t think it will stop. It won’t.

We also need to remember why we should live. We often look to the exceptional moments. The exceptional moments aren’t what makes life the most worth living. It’s the day to day moments. My wife just came in here and picked up our cat to hold him. Those are the kinds of little blessings. What suicide is in essence saying is that none of those little blessings is worth it. The world is not good enough. Of course, the person in pain will think that they are not worth it and they are making the world a better place by leaving it.

They are not.

There is someone out there who cares about you immensely. My wife has me and her family and several good friends. For each of you, there is someone out there who cares about you. I also say without hesitation that God cares for you as well.

I would also encourage you to get into some good spiritual formation. For me when I struggled with depression, it was apologetics. It showed me how real what I believe is and I started taking it a lot more seriously. I used to say the depression I went through was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it led me to apologetics. I was wrong. It led me to apologetics, and apologetics led me to Allie, and Allie brings me a whole lot more joy than apologetics does.

If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Please find someone you can talk to. Contact your doctor or a mental health professional. Reach out to someone and find the help you need.

If someone reaches out to you, please be Jesus to them. Don’t condemn them or put another burden on them. Perhaps just listen and maybe give a hug at the end or something like that. If you’re a Christian, pray with them. Be willing to be there for anyone in need. Be willing to have your phone by you at all times if they need someone to talk to. You could be the one who saves a life.

And church, please be better. That so many in the church struggle with this, should be a testimony against us. We are not walking like Jesus walked. We do not have a place where Christians feel safe to be in pain. There should be no shame in admitting you’re struggling with something. Everyone should feel welcome and safe. If someone wants to share praises, we let them, but do the same if someone shares pain.

If you see something on Facebook that is a suicidal threat, please report it. Don’t take it lightly. Even on my days of AOL chats, I would report suicidal threats to administrators who I understand could track down the help needed and get the person to a hospital.

I cannot support the show, but I understand the mission. I want you all to understand it as well. Please start taking matters seriously around you for those in need. Let your person always be a safe place for those who are hurting.

And Allie, if you read this I want you to know I love you and I always will. I am so thankful you are in my life. Losing you would be the most devastating thing that I can think of that would happen to me. The worst day of my life was that day when I came the closest to losing you. I have always strived to not treat you like any other man and I intend to keep that pledge. I love you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Can A Christian Have Depression?

Is it possible to be among the blessed and be among the depressed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This topic seems to come up time and time again. It came home for us again when my wife wrote a blog post about what it’s like to have depression. When this was shared on her Facebook page, one of her friends responded. It was well-meaning I’m sure, but came across entirely wrong. There was a bunch of stuff posted about Word of Faith thinking and how God doesn’t want us to be sick but wants us to be healed and never taking medicine even for a headache or anything like that.

Now I have enough problems with Word of Faith nonsense. There is no shame in taking medication any more than there is in having a balanced diet, exercising regularly, taking a shower daily, or wearing your seat belt when you drive. None of these activities show a lack of faith. God is not meant to be your servant. You are meant to be His. Word of Faith thinking often treats God as a means to an end. The point of Christianity in it is not to be holy and reflect God, but to be healthy. (Perhaps there could be a parallel to how too often we think the point of Christianity is to go to Heaven when you die and God is only there as a means to get you there and Heaven seems to have little to do with Him.)

A lot of you realize Word of Faith thinking is horrid, but you can still wonder about depression. Isn’t a Christian supposed to have a life of joy? Isn’t a Christian supposed to be happy all the time? The answer to the first question is definitely yes. The answer to the second question is definitely no.

Allie’s friend told her that her thinking will really change the way she is. Now if this was all a lot of popular televangelists were saying, there wouldn’t be as much of a problem. There is a lot of truth to the idea that your thinking can change your attitude. What they get wrong is thinking that your thinking can alter all of reality. There is no doubt that you need to look to your own thinking and see what you can do about it. Are you telling yourself things that are true or just feel true?

This is one case where you seek good and outside help. These are also going to be beyond people who are yes men. These are people who will tell you hard truths if you need to hear it. I don’t mean random strangers on the internet. I mean people you know and trust. If you ask them a question, they will give you an answer and it might not be the answer you want to hear. Even if you disagree with their answer, you should always consider that their might be a grain of truth to it.

To get back to depression, Christians are supposed to have joy, but that does not mean a feeling. You cannot command anyone to feel anything really. If I could, I’d just make myself feel happy all the time. It doesn’t work. I found it interesting that the person who wrote to my wife pointed to Isaiah 53 where it says that He healed us by his wounds. They seemed to ignore the part above where it says He is a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. Yes. Jesus had sorrow in this life.

In fact, there are times where you ought to have sorrow. You are to mourn with those who mourn and that means being sad with them. If you have a loved one who has died, it is not proper to be having a celebration then. You need time to grieve. If you are married and your spouse is suffering, you will be suffering. If your child is suffering, you will likewise be suffering.

There are going to be times in life that are hard and rough. This happens. The last thing that any one needs in that time time is to have someone coming alongside them causing them further pain by questioning their faith commitment. It would be like pouring salt on an open wound.

Of course, the person who is depressed should do something about this. I am not one who condemns medication for this, but I think it can only do so much. Anyone taking medication should go see a therapist who is a licensed professional one. If you are not a therapist, by all means offer counsel to your friend, but don’t pretend to be a professional. If you don’t know what to say, sometimes, listening can be a great service. Just holding a hand and giving a hug can help. (And guys, if this is your wife, as hard as it is, now is not the time to get romantic. It might help you if you’re depressed, but it probably won’t help her)

It’s also important that a person in this case be reading to and listening to good Christian material that will encourage and build them up. Note I said good material. It doesn’t mean feel-good, but material that will build them up in truth and help them think properly through what they are going through. Even if your natural bent is to be more pessimistic, it doesn’t mean you have to live depressed. It will take time, but it can be done.

So what kind of joy is a Christian to have? It’s not a feeling, but more striving towards an attitude. This is the attitude that remembers that God is in charge of this world and all things pass through His hand. God is not against us, but for us. Romans 8 is a great passage for this. In fact, I think there’s a real danger in saying that Paul describes the experience in Romans 7 as the normal Christian experience. Romans 8 is more meant to describe our experience and Romans 7 what we would have been delivered from.

What about happiness? We often think of the feeling of happiness and the goal of the Christian life is in part to feel happy and feel good about ourselves. Sometimes, we should feel bad about ourselves honestly. We should see that we struggle with sin and seek to get rid of it and let that be an agonizing struggle. We should see that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the first ways of getting to feeling better about ourselves can ironically be to feel miserable first off.

When I was a single man, pride was a real struggle. It still is, but Allie by her very nature helps keep me in check. When I struggled with it then, I used to do an activity where I would go in my room and climb on the bed and close the door and think to myself. I would think about all that I’d done, all the praise I’d received, all the people that I had met, all the books I had collected, etc. I would be building myself up.

Then I would conclude by thanking God for everything came from His hand and I deserved none of it. That last bit always gave me the extra humility that I needed. No matter how good I thought I was doing in life, it was all a gift from God. It was not because I was just so awesome or anything like that.

If you’re not happy then, it could be for a just reason sometimes. It could be because you do realize where you are falling short. However, it is important to follow it up with the opposition to that. If I just went in my room and listed all the positives about just me, I would walk out feeling more prideful. No. I had to give the other side. So if you are depressed, you need to give the other side.

The other side is you are forgiven by the grace of God of all that you have done. The other side is that God is at work in you in the Holy Spirit. The other side God is working all things for your good as Romans 8 says. The other side is the future can be different than today and today is just one more day.

I would be amiss if in any of this, I did not say anything about suicide. All threats of suicide must be treated seriously. Never assume that they are joking or that they won’t follow through. They might not, but they may, and it’s best to error on the side of caution. A person might have to be hospitalized for a time, but a short-term separation is better than a long-term one. If you see this on Facebook now, Facebook has a way where you can report such material. Please do report this material.

Meanwhile, we should not treat suicide as the unforgivable sin. It is certainly a sin, but Scripture does not say yea or nay as to if it is unforgivable. This can put an extra burden on those whose lives have been wracked by suicide, and yes they are indeed. Suicide doesn’t remove the pain really. It just passes it on to those who are still alive. Cyanide and Happiness actually had a comic strip on this that really hits home.

cyanideandhappinesssuicide

If you are depressed and it’s something that isn’t just a brief spell, please go to a doctor or professional counselor and get help. If you need to take medication for it, please do. There’s no shame in it. If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out right now and get help. There are ways to find that life is worth living again.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Whatever Happened To Sin?

Are we missing a more theological side to strife in our country? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Another shooting has happened, this time in Oregon, and it looks like the shooter was especially wanting to target Christians. Now there are a lot of debates going on about gun control and such. I have my own opinion, but I don’t really want to talk about that. My blog is not meant to be about politics, but I would like to consider another angle to this whole situation going on. On a friend’s Facebook today I think one of my friends said what summed it up for me. “That was one evil dude.” Yes. Yes he was, and the sad reality is that it looks like in our society we’ve lost the real idea of what evil is.

You see, we live in a society that proclaims being tolerant and non-judgmental and accepting of other positions. When we talk about evil, too often we just refer to disagreement with someone or not making a wedding cake or something of that sort. Whatever your opinion of those, it’s hard to think that that really compares to murdering several people in cold blood. When 9/11 struck, evil did very quickly become a word we used more often. Yet unfortunately, we seem to have a collective short-term memory and we forget about the tragedies that strike us and try to explain what went wrong in someone’s heart to make them commit murders.

For instance, some people are talking about mental health. To an extent, I agree with them. We need to be taking mental health seriously. If you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy or some other physical condition, you can often find an organization pretty easily that is working to raise awareness. Think fast! What organization do you know of that is nationally recognized and known by many people that works for depression?

Do you have a hard time thinking of one?

Now there are of course some mental conditions with awareness out there. My wife and I both have Aspergers which puts us on the autism spectrum and there is indeed Autism Awareness Month. Somehow depression has slipped under the radar and it is a quite common occurrence here. Dare I say it, but the church is even worse. You see, we have this idea that in the church, you shouldn’t be depressed. You should be living a life of joy constantly. Have we forgot that our savior is described as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering? He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. He learned through suffering. Suffering and rejection were not strangers to the life of Christ and if your idea of how your life is to be is constant happiness, then Jesus is a sorry example of how you should live because His life was filled with stress and sorrow. The people that should have accepted Him the most rejected Him the most. This includes His own family!

By the way, that family would have also known about His miraculous origins and they still were ashamed of Him.

If someone has a chemical imbalance in their head, well they have a chemical imbalance. I’m not at all saying don’t pray for them in that. God can heal such an imbalance of course. I am saying don’t treat it like a stigma. For some people, this could be the cross that they have to learn to carry. We should also note that there is a difference between having depression and being depressed. I often tell my wife as well as others that you cannot choose how you feel. You can choose what you do with it even when that is admittedly hard. How many nights have I put my head down on my pillow wanting to sleep with a problem looming over my head and I have to try to focus on what I know of God and Christ through Scripture and reason? It’s not always easy. It takes active effort. Sorry, but I’m really skeptical of people who describe their lives as a life of joy. Is there joy in knowing Jesus? Of course. There’s also suffering in walking in a post-fall world.

Sadly, how many people do you know who have depression would want to share that fact in church? Hardly any. Church should be a major safe haven for people who are depressed. Many of us would be more open going to the neighborhood bar and pouring out our griefs to a bartender. You could be more prone to talk to an absolute stranger on a plane or subway about your troubles before you’d go to a church. When the world says the church is full of judgmental people, let’s be honest and admit that sometimes they have been right in what they’ve said. Could it also be many of us want to sweep under the rug the idea of other people being depressed because that means we can avoid dealing with our own internal problems?

And if this is something from a chemical imbalance, what about people who feel like pariahs for other reasons? How many people have confessed to abuse, especially sexual abuse, and then received the message that they were responsible for their abuse somehow? Or even worse, have the claim just dismissed? Of course some claims are false, but they should all be considered because these are real people we’re dealing with. Fortunately, there are many churches that are providing safe havens, such as giving programs like Celebrate Recovery to help with this bizarre realization that Christians actually struggle with sin. (Yeah. Really. No joke. Who would have imagined?)

The church is to be the body of Christ and represent Jesus on Earth. If sinners are afraid to come to you, there’s a problem, because they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus.

That having been said, while we should not ignore mental conditions, we should not act like everything is a mental condition. A mental condition could make something more likely to happen in some cases, but it does not necessitate it. After a school shooting that took place once, and I think it was the Sandy Hook one, my father-in-law went on Facebook in response to someone on his page talking about the shooter being said to have Aspergers and treating Aspies like a threat. My father-in-law spoke about how my wife and I have Aspergers and we’re not like that at all and the thought that she or I would go into a school with a gun and start shooting is just ludicrous.

Some people don’t need a mental condition to do evil. They have another problem. It’s one we all have called sin, and this is a problem we don’t really do much about.

In speaking that way, we could be making a drastic mistake.

We need to be clear that when we look at the evil, we don’t think it will go away just with medication or therapy. There is no pill you can give someone to turn them into a sinless person. Believe me, I wish there was. I wish there was something that would be “If you take this, you will no longer worry about the future.” “If you take this, you will be totally unselfish with your spouse.” “If you take this, you won’t be tempted to look at other women.” “If you take this, you will not have greed when it comes to money.” It would be nice, but it’s not there. The problem is not a problem of the wrong chemicals flowing. The problem is you and I are fallen sinful human beings and we do the behavior of fallen and sinful human beings.

Can therapy help with some of that? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to Christian therapy and I myself have partaken of it before in the past and today, while I do not see a professional therapist, I have a band of mentors and a band of listening ears because I have my own problems in this life and I need help dealing with them and I’ve had to learn the wisdom of reaching out and seeking help. Therapy will not help all of it because our therapists also have the same problem. Our therapists are fallen and sinful human beings.

What do we need to do then? Diagnose the root issue every time. Somewhere, there is still sin. Even if you have a mental illness, there is still sin. When it comes to the behavior my wife and I can exhibit as people on the spectrum, I tell them that we have an explanation, but not a justification. Do we need to change our behavior a number of times? Yeah. We do. Is there something in us that can explain why we behave the way we do at times? Yeah. Is there still something wrong in what we do at those times? Yes. Yes there is. That something is called the sin itself. There is some place in us where we still actively chose the wrong thing.

Could it be that if we got to the sin issue, we could change much of the woes of our country? Note this is more than getting people to know Jesus as their savior. (And no, this is not getting into Lordship salvation. This is not about whether people are saved but as to how seriously they are taking their following of Jesus.) There are a lot of people that get converted to Jesus and are thus babies in the faith and sadly, spend their lives as children. They do not grow and mature in their Christian walk at all. They are still fed baby food from their pulpits and never get to eat meat. There is not enough awareness about what God has to say in our lives. People want to come to a knowledge of God, but where are they getting it from? Too many are getting it from their feelings and personal experience instead of being people of Scripture. (It’s so amazing that so many of us who are Protestants and don’t like the idea of the Pope claiming to speak for God somehow think that our emotions are absolute pathways to the divine.)

This might sound outlandish, but could it be that what we really need in our churches is discipleship? We need to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How many of us if we’re struggling in our marriage will have no objections to going to a marriage seminar to learn how to be a good spouse? How many of us would have no hesitancy in going to a seminar our workplace wants us to go to in order to learn how to be a good employee and do sales well? How many of us realize if we want to have a job in a credentialed field, we need to go to college and get a degree that will take years?

And yet when it comes to following Jesus, we think that all just comes naturally. (In fact, following Jesus should tell you to be careful about what comes naturally.)

Could it be we need to examine ourselves and look for what is described as the sin that so easily entangles? Note also that word. Easily. It’s easy to fall into sin. It’s easy to feel imprisoned by it and feel there is no escape, and if we think deliverance will come through a feeling, we are sadly mistaken. We need to let the sacred truths of Scripture penetrate our hearts and shine within us to expose what’s not good in us. Is that painful? Yep. Is it something we hate? Yep. I have had enough of my own prayer times where I’ve had to look at what’s in my own heart and frankly, not really liked it, but oh well. That’s the only way you grow in Christ. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses.

And you know what, most of us aren’t in danger of shooting up a school. Yeah. That’s true, but we can hate our neighbor in our hearts. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. Many of us won’t have affairs in our marriages. That’s true, but we do lust after others. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. We have our own sins that we do fall into. We have various objects and activities we get addicted to, and not even bad things. Food and sex for instance are good things, but they are not meant to be idols and they can never satisfy entirely. Some of us can struggle with greed in the church. Many, especially those who are leaders, and I easily include myself, can struggle with pride. These are still sin as well and these need to be dealt with.

By all means, have the discussions when these events happen about what needs to be done in the political field. Have the real discussions that need to be had on mental health, but Christians need to in the midst of these discussions not miss the most important one. We need to have a discussion on sin and what it means then to be a follower of Jesus in a world of evil where we are supposed to be spreading the good news that Jesus is King.

Sin is real. We can put any other label on it, but it will not change sin, and there are people dead today who shouldn’t have been because of sin, and there is evil we are committing today that we shouldn’t be because of sin. Deal with what’s out there, but each of us will give an account before God of what we’re doing as well. We can’t be willing to deal with the world if we’re not cleaning up our own house first.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Emotional Intelligence

What do I think of Daniel Goleman’s book published by Bantam Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I love the life of the mind. That’s no big secret. Yet due to recent situations, a friend of mine, who also loves the life of the mind, recommended that I read this book. I really am thankful that I did because it did open me up to a newer way of looking at the world. As a Christian, it’s easy to really focus on the intellectual, especially in the apologetics field, but we are creatures who are meant to have emotions as well. In fact, if we do not have emotions, then there is something wrong with us. The reality is that many of us, especially men, tend to downplay this side of us and act like it’s foreign.

Goleman’s research shows that understanding our emotions could be even more important than IQ. Do I think he overstates his case sometimes? Yes. Do I think that there can be a tendency when we get here to do absolutely nothing to not offend anyone? Yes. Does that mean that there is not a case to be made? Not at all. Anyone would be greatly helped by reading the stories about how our emotions work and seeing what the latest evidence is on their study. There is something here that can apply to everyone in every walk of their life, including how they live in their day to day relationships.

Do we have reason to be concerned about marriage? Then you could heed the advice given. Do you have difficulty on the job? Then pay attention. Do you have children that are being bullied or even worse, being bullies themselves? Take note of what is said. A lot of difficulty could be due to unruly emotions and unfortunately as many of us know, it’s quite easy for the emotions to hijack our reason and make us suddenly do things that we would not do. It is at those times that we will look back later on and say “What came over me then that I did what I did?” What happened was an emotional hijacking.

From a pastoral perspective, much of this could be useful in counseling as well. Goleman’s research will show more on how the brain reacts to such situations as fear and worry. He offers advice on how to deal with each of these. Some situations he gives are pretty extreme and yet the principles worked. Consider Elementary school students who made a game called Purdy after the last name of someone who fired shots at their school. In the game sometimes, the kids could defeat Purdy before he got off a shot. This actually turned out to be a coping mechanism that gave the children control.

Overall, while not everything will be agreed with here, there is a clarion call to pay attention to the role emotions have. Having all the IQ in the world won’t be as effective for you if your emotions are constantly holding your reason hostage. Learning to take control of your emotions and how to properly focus and use them can be helpful in every are of your life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Brush With Death

What’s it like to come close to death and can you find hope afterwards? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

 

Many of you liked what I said about the death of Robin Williams. Today, I’m letting my wife Allie share some of her thoughts from a personal perspective.

 

I’m not sure if this is appropriate timing, but I feel like it might be a good time to share this.  This is my story of my brush with death.

 

Five years ago, I was dealing with some heavy depression.  I’ve always delt with heavy depression, but it reached a peak after a failed relationship with a guy I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.  I felt like the greatest thing I could do for the world…was for me to not be in it anymore.  Besides…who would care?  Who would miss me?  I mean sure, my family would be upset, but surely they’d move on eventually right?  Everyone dies after all…just not by their own hands.  Of course, this is just how I thought.  I thought if I left no one would care or miss me except for my family and they’d only be sad for a little while, but would eventually get over it.  But the thing with suicide that is different from any other kind of death is that the family and friends will wonder, “How could I have missed the signs?  Could I have prevented them from doing this?  Could I have even been the cause of them doing this?”

So I grabbed whatever medicine I could.  I couldn’t grab them all because some of them were with my parents in their bathroom in the bedroom.  I remember chugging all those pills.  It was midnight.  After I took all the medicine, I called the guy and told him what I had done…he hung up on me.  I started writing out a note.  As I was writing it, my vision started become a little blurred and I became dizzy.  Suddenly my dad opens my bedroom door.  He asks me “What are you doing still up?”  It must’ve been between 1:30-2:30am at this point.  I told him I was just up writing something then I’d go to sleep.  I gave him one last look and told him I loved him and gave him a hug…thinking, “This is the last time I’m ever going to see my dad…he doesn’t even suspect a thing.”  He said he loved me too and left my room.  Even as I type this I’m getting teary-eyed.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I had four arms.  I knew this was going to be a long night.  At around 3am, it started getting really bad.  I couldn’t write anymore.  The room was moving.  The floor was moving, the walls were moving.  There were different colors.  I started getting a headache and there was a ringing in my ears.  I had to crawl to my bed.  Finally, I reached my bed.  As I layed flat on my bed, as still as I could, my feet felt like they were being lifted up, yet I could see they were still on my bed.  I turned off the light next to my bed.  My heart was racing faster than it’s ever raced before.  It literally felt like it was going to come right out of my chest!  I started having mild seizures.  My body would suddenly start seizing on its own every now and then, but then it would stop.  I was in a constant sweat, yet I had the chills.  I was cold…yet hot.  I was scared…I had heard that people who end their lives by their own hands go to hell because they didn’t trust God.  I don’t believe this theory today, but at the time, it was a scary thought.  I was praying and asking God to forgive me and asking God to please let me be with Him instead of being in hell.  I also asked God to be with my family and let them know they weren’t to blame for my death.  I had talked to a friend for a few hours until she absolutely had to go.  That’s when I started praying and prayed all night.  Then 8am comes.  I never fell asleep and I had still been praying.  My mom opens the door.  She says, “Allie, where is your brother’s medication?”  My vision wasn’t blurry anymore but I had a hard time focusing on her when I looked at her.  The first thought that came to mind was, “Why am I not dead yet?”  Then the next thought was, “I’ve been caught.”  I told her, “Look in my bathroom.”  She goes in my bathroom and I hear her yell my dad’s name, “Allie tried to kill herself!”  As I type this I feel nauseated, I can still taste the poison I put in my body.  I couldn’t really get out of bed.  My dad had to help me walk.  I couldn’t walk on my own.  The seizing had stopped.  My dad drove me to the hospital.  My mom told me she fainted in the bathroom.  We get to the hospital, and I feel terrible for the poor lady working at the front desk.  As we were talking with her, I just started vomitting.  I vomitted all over her and her nice suit.  My dad just barely missed my vomit.  I’ve been told my eyes were darting all over the place.  I was admitted into the hospital in-patient.  I was poked with needles seemed like every 10-15 minutes day and night for three days straight.  My heart was still racing rapidly.  Every now and then parts of my body would start shaking on their own, like my arm or my hand, or even a single finger, but then it would stop.  My parents would visit often.  They’d bring me Wendy’s since I hated hospital food.  I couldn’t sleep, partially because of the IV that was in my wrist.  Every time I started to doze off the darn thing would start beeping!  I had to drink this weird cranberry juice that had some medicine in it that would make me go to the bathroom and man did it make me go!  Even while I was in the hospital though, I had some crazy hallucinations.  The screen that monitored my heart I thought had games on it.  I thought the bed was moving and I even thought there were camera’s on the bed!  I thought I heard drs whispering about me behind my back.  I thought I had memories of the hospital, even though I had never been there before.  I thought I heard a flute being played.  Then the craziest one was I thought the room I was in was infested with red ants!  Red ants crawling everywhere!  The walls, ceiling, furniture, everywhere!  They’d bunch up in certain places and if I looked up at the ceiling, they’d fall on me!  But if they fell in my mouth, they tasted like paper.  I got so scared, it all seemed so real!  I had to talk to a neurologist and they had to reasure me what I was seeing, hearing, feeling, and even tasting weren’t real.  I heard my dad even cancelled a debate or speaking engagement he had because he wanted to stay with me during that time.  I had to have help going to the bathroom since I was hooked up to an IV and so many other stuff.  I was absolutely miserable.  I was really mad at God too.  I mean, I had no intention on surviving.  I had no intention on ending up in a hospital.  I also knew after doing a stunt like this, I’d end up going to another hospital I feared even more than going to hell – a mental hospital.  I had to go to one years prior for self-mutilation and it was one of the worst experiences I ever had.  Sure enough, a lady came in and spoke with my mom and me and said, “We have a nice hospital your daughter can be transferred at from here.”  I ended up going there afterwards.  As they were getting me off the hospital bed, I still had to have help because I was so weak.  They loaded me into the ambulance and transferred me to what I thought was going to be my worst nightmare – the mental hospital.  I was so exhausted…after having not slept for four days/nights straight.  When I got to the mental hospital, I barely stayed awake until finally I asked, “Can I go to bed?”  They thought it was odd of me asking, but when I told them, they were okay with it.  I finally got my first night of sleep that night.  They came in first thing in the morning and took some blood only one time the whole time I was there.  It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  It wasn’t like the first mental hospital I had been to prior.  The staff was nice and it was kind of comfortable there.  I was in-patient there for four days.  I was then treated out-patient for a couple of weeks.  While I was there, I was still angry with God for allowing me to live, but I tried to make the best of it.  I was so hung over the guy I tried to end my life over, I thought, “If I get better, maybe he’ll take me back!”  I didn’t realize at the time I had only been a guinea pig to him the whole time – he had never given a care about me.  While I was being treated out-patient, I got an e-mail from someone saying, “I heard about you from (family friend) and heard you needed a friend.  I’m Nick Peters.  If you want to talk I’m here.”  I was intrigued to say the least.  So we corresponded back and forth.  I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t the nicest to him.  There were times I was pretty mean to him.  But there were times where he could’ve been really mean back at me, but he wasn’t.  There were times he showed he actually cared about me as a friend.  At one point while we were talking online, I was really quiet about something and got upset (I don’t remember what it was about).  All of a sudden I get this phone call from an unknown number.  I answer it and they’re like, “Are you okay?”  I ask, “Who is this?”

“Nick.”

“How did you get my number?”

“Facebook.”

He was actually worried about me because I got quiet.  I started seeing other things in Nick other than him just being nice to me.  I saw a joy in him about God I wanted to have.  I had drifted a bit away from God and I missed having a close relationship with him.  Instead of being angry with God, I tried to be thankful to him for rescuing me from death and tried to get closer to him again.  I also started developing feelings for Nick.  Eventually those feelings grew into something more and now we’ve been married for 4 years!  

 

God didn’t just save my life from death that day though.  My story is truly a miraculous one.  What I have failed to mention and will mention now is that the doctors thought I was going to need a new liver.  My liver and my vital organs should’ve failed.  All those drugs I took (and I haven’t said which ones I took on purpose – but they were some pretty hefty meds) were in my system for eight hours before anyone found me that morning.  I should’ve had organ failure.  My liver should’ve died…I should’ve died.  God not only saved my life, he protected my liver and my vital organs.  The only damage that was done to me was emotional and I have some brain damage that has a 50% chance of healing.  My story is one of hope, and I hope it gives you hope.  That day God showed me a portion of his power.  God said, “Live!” and I lived!  Today I am thankful to be alive!  God continues to show me his love and grace.  He had compassion on me through this difficult time in my life.  He has blessed me so much.  He is a God filled with compassion.  He is passionate for you!  Give him your burdens, for his burden is light.  He will give you rest.