By A.T. Walker
In my early teenage years, I dealt with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, uselessness, and many others that a lot of teenagers deal with from time to time. And, like a lot of teenagers, I wasn’t really sure how to process them. I couldn’t explain it or really put it into words (and it wasn’t like I was going to share my true feelings with anyone anyway). I still can’t to some extent. Writing this is the start of my process of really trying to understand it. It’s taken a long time because, honestly, I’ve always been afraid to examine it, to go back to that place. Not because I’ll end up in the same place again, but because I can still feel it. It’s still raw and it might always be this side of heaven.
It was like I had this black cloud that followed me around, like a voice that was quick to try to rob me of any happiness. Giving myself pep talks and getting praise for my accomplishments from others worked here and there but I still had to lay my head down at night and listen as the accusations would come.
You’re not good enough
You’re never going to find happiness
You don’t matter…
So I started doing things like watching TV or listening to music until I fell asleep, and those worked…for a while. It wasn’t long until I started drinking and using drugs. I thought I had finally found the solution. I felt great and I was distracted. It became the joy in my life.
Around this time, I was sent to a Christian school out of fear that I would get into trouble at public school. I still found trouble. But it was here that I met Suzanne. She invited me to her church youth group on a Wednesday night. I didn’t really care to go, but when you’re a single teenage boy and a cute blonde invites you somewhere…you go!!! I can’t tell you what was said that night because I honestly don’t remember. I never really put any real thought into what was being said there, but I made some friends and kept going back. The word of God has a funny way of working on your heart, even when you’re not aware of it.
From the point that I started going on Wednesday nights, things started to change, and not in the way I wanted them to. All the drugs and alcohol were not as effective as they once were at masking my thoughts and feelings. So I started using more, but still had the same result. Reality was starting to sink in that there was no escape from them. I had heard enough about Jesus from school and church at this point to know that he was supposed to help with this kind of stuff, but he wasn’t helping me (not that I was asking for his help anyway).
Not long after my 16th birthday, I started to reach a breaking point. I no longer had the excitement and rush that came with using drugs. Alcohol no longer numbed the feelings of dissatisfaction and uselessness that haunted me. God had ripped away every fig leaf that I had ever attempted to hide behind and left me totally to myself…and that was the absolutely last person I wanted to be with.
I realized that things were never going to be the same and that I would never find joy and peace here. It was then that I came to a decision…If I couldn’t be happy and live life the way I wanted to, then I didn’t want to live.
I went out into the woods with a shotgun. I was angry at God for letting me get to this point, which is funny because I never consulted him about my choices in life. All I knew was that the things I wanted to do in my life no longer saved me from me, and I wasn’t going to blame myself for it…so I blamed him. I didn’t want anything to do with him. And I was going to make sure I never did.
I loaded the shotgun, put the barrel in my mouth, and pulled the trigger…
No sound of gunfire. No pain. Just the same stillness that was there seconds before. I slowly opened my eyes that had been shut so tight. I gasped for air as I apparently had been holding my breath. I was holding the gun so hard that I struggled to unclench my fingers from off it. Trying to figure out why I was still here, I looked down at the gun and saw that the safety was still on. Now, I could have just pressed the safety off and given it another go, but something happened in that moment.
I could see.
I don’t mean just physically see with my eyes but I could see how God had been working in my life. I replayed events in my head where I could see God protecting me and keeping me from danger. I could see His hand moving, orchestrating everything, leading me to the school where I would meet Suzanne, where I would first hear the gospel and see people live it out. All the way to that moment where I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. Terror sank in as I realized what almost occurred so I threw the gun and ran as fast as I could. I never wanted to be in that place again. The next night there was a youth event at church. During worship at the end, when I would normally sneak out and go play pool at one of the tables in the next room, I stayed. I sat on the floor with my head down. I knew things were going to change. I knew I couldn’t go back to that same place ever again. And I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone.
I asked God if He would give me someone to talk to, someone to help me as I journey down this new path. Not one second after that prayer had left my lips, Suzanne sat down beside me and put her arm around me. She whispered,”If you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll be here for you.” I wasn’t sure how to say exactly all I was feeling or how to say a “Prayer of Salvation” but I was just completely blown away by God and all that had happened, so I said the only thing I could…”God, you got me.”
I was His.
I am still His.
Years later, I asked Suzanne to be my wife. She has continued to be the one who is always there when I need someone. The Lord has blessed us with three beautiful children. I look over my life now and think about what would have happened if the gun had fired. I would have never seen my wife’s beautiful face as I lifted her veil on our wedding day. I would have never held my beautiful babies, never heard them call me “Daddy” or say “I love you.” But most of all, I would have never known the spectacular love of Christ.
It hasn’t always been easy since then. NF, in his song “Mansions”, compares his mind to a house and there is this room where all the darkness of past pain and memories dwell. Now I have learned, studied, struggled, hurt, cried, sinned, repented, smiled, laughed, loved, and lived for many days since that one, but in an instant, I can walk back in that “room” and remember exactly, down to the last detail, what I felt in that moment as I started to pull the trigger. I can hear the sound of the wind blowing through the trees and feel the beads of sweat on my face. It hasn’t gone away. The memory still lingers. It still haunts. But now, instead of spiraling into depression, it reminds me of when my Savior rescued me. Now, I have hope in that moment.
I am no expert in depression or counseling. I can only tell you my experience and what, or should I say Who, pulled me out of that dark pit. If you’re in a spot that you feel there is no escape from, God has not forgotten you. Jesus loves us enough to bring us to the place where we realize that we need him. These are dark and depressing places. Dying to ourselves feels a lot like, well, dying. But the true joy, peace, and love that we seek is only found in him. Everything we use to try to fill that emptiness inside us is a distraction, and distractions ultimately disappoint. The reason they disappoint is because we were never meant to find satisfaction for our souls in them. We were meant to find it in Jesus.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:18-19
Jesus came for the people like us. Those struggling and suffering. He knows what it’s like to be us.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5
We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all have rejected God and sought our own way. That’s how we got to this point. But Jesus doesn’t abandon us here. He invites us to come and find forgiveness, find rest, find healing, find peace.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29
Please, if you have or have had dark times like these, don’t keep them hidden. Don’t bottle them up. The enemy loves to isolate those struggling. Don’t let him convince you that you are alone. You’re not. Start by confessing it to Jesus. He is always there and he knows what’s going on. You’re not going to surprise him or shock him. Next, find someone to confide in. A friend or relative that you can trust. If you don’t have someone, a staff member at your local church would love to sit and talk with you, and again, what you tell them will not shock them as they have most likely sat and listened to those in that same position before. They may have even been there themselves. Below are some resources you can use or contact if you feel more comfortable reaching out via phone or internet. Reaching out is difficult and scary, but believe me, it is far easier than carrying this burden alone.
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2443) or hopeline.com
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or veteranscrisisline.net
To Write Love on Her Arms: twloha.com/find-help/local-resources
Suicide hotlines available in most countries: suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html