The s-word. It carries more judgment, stigma, and
heartache than any other word in the English language. Yet it affects more people than we care to
realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it. According to the National Institute of Mental
Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious
thoughts about wanting to commit suicide.
I can relate to those 9.8 million people. Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide. However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation.
Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an
adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a
support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The
good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and
people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got
through Jesus and my support system as well.
I would also like to share some things that my support of family and
friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I
feel like life is just too much:
You are a survivor!
Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed
and abused you. But, then, Jesus will
give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life
are never enough, and that you always fall short. Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength
you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,”
but more importantly, how He sees
success. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for
you, or really knows you. But, then,
Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong. So, keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you
don’t belong anywhere. Then, Jesus will
provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact
their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!
Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I
almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I
never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!
I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that
nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I
have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to
life in eternity with God. I have sensed
in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia,
you don’t have much time left.” The
following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I
believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:
I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and
final—but it doesn’t have to be. Dying
well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One
can have that, and still not die well.
Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love
you. To me, dying well means to have
lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when
you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one
needs to find out what it is! I believe
that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter
Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy
Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose
However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you
will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the
people He puts in our path. For
instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and
continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting
people around me and to strengthen my character. In this job, I am learning, not only some
marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and
at peace with life. I have learned that
anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.
When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to
fulfill His purposes for me. When it is
my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments
He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.
Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She
became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used
people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her
character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be
recounted long after she had departed this earth. Although Rachel died what many consider a
tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to
her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have
in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and
fulfilled her God-given purpose.
I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact,
in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must
deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose
it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jesus is saying that in order to live, and,
ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires,
ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.
I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly,
I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before
me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry,
resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires
and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my
circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly. I also find the same is true for those around
me. Those around me who complain the
most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not
submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God! What a miserable way, not only to live, but
to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable
life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am
tempted to believe this very lie!
However, in reality, the opposite is most often true. When we are willing to sacrifice for others,
we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be
content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.
Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve
others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves,
it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we
are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to
focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and
service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather
than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means
having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not
just out for yourself.
In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to
fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to
live to serve God and others with a whole heart. As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You
don’t have much time left.” Yes, we
don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use
what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.
I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school:
“I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being
physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could
only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it,
at least in me?” I had no hope. I was
fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside.
I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life. Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one
year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come
out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I
had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere,
even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that
I thought were forever shattered. Hope
has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure.
Hope was, and always is, Jesus.
Hope has given me purpose to live. Before I became a follower of Christ, I was
living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never
really thought about blessing others with it.
I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more
difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent.
With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger
than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and
hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the
drudgery that life often brings.
Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still
struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God
will bring good out of even that. I have
hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive
episode. I have hope because God has
surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.
Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had
never known before. Since I found Hope,
He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back
and who care for one another. This
support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of
my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.
Hope has provided me with my current job and some great
managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new
things. I want to give a shout out to my
now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to
be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well. I want to give a shout out to my now former
manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me.
Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always
believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to
accomplish His great will in my life.
Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have
put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on.
Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given
me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past.
When I was growing up, I was a naughty and very active
child. Despite my energy, I did not
really have any close friends. Back then,
I dreamed of one day going to a prestigious university, like my parents, and
getting the best grades possible. I probably thought, unconsciously, that if I
made it to a prestigious and a good university, I would then be able to get a
job that would pay me a lot of money, and thus I would win friends and
Indeed, I worked very hard in school and got decent
grades. However, I really didn’t have
passion for the content of what I studied; I just wanted to do well to please
my parents and also to be “the
I wanted to be respected and
valued. In retrospect, getting good grades at school became a sort of idol for
me. I worshipped the god of achievement,
and without it, I reasoned that I was worthless.
Then, when I was sixteen years old, I struggled through
several classes. I no longer got the grades I wanted or needed. I was even in
danger of failing a class. One of my teachers even said in so many words that
he didn’t believe I would ever amount to much in this life, probably partly due
to the fact I wasn’t doing so well in his class. I also lacked peer support. In
fact, no one in my class dared to counter what that teacher said to me. I also
I felt my family could not relate to the turmoil inside me, as they seemed to
be living a different life. In fact, in
a journal entry from April 1999, I had written, “I wish I could be more […]
effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I
don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that
greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?” I was so
depressed that I wanted an escape, maybe to even end my life.
However, several months later, God saved me from that. Fast forward a few years later, I went to
college, but not at a prestigious university which I had dreamed. After I graduated, I tried to look for work
in my field of study, but to no avail.
After that, I finally found a part-time job in retail.
There, I learned many customer service skills and other people skills I needed
to succeed. I did well there, but after
a while, I felt God calling me to somewhere else—a place where I never
thought I’d end up. It was during that
time, that God was preparing me for a new life, where He would give me more
than I could have ever dreamed.
I was so excited when I got an interview at one of the local
bookstores near where I lived! I had always dreamed of working in a
bookstore! I loved books, and the
workers there seemed nice. However, the
day of the interview, I quickly found out that I wasn’t the right fit. At this point, I didn’t think I would get
another job opportunity any time soon. The search went on.
Then, one, cold wintry day on February 25, 2016, I went with
my mom to the store I now work to buy a few things. What I did not know was that trip would
change my life forever.
I asked the HR representative the status of my resume, and
after that she offered me to interview at 1 pm.
Since I didn’t have adequate time to prepare or change into more formal
attire, my mom and I ate lunch at the mall nearby, and then I went back to the
store to get interviewed. When I got
interviewed, I was so nervous and stuttering over my words, that I thought
surely they wouldn’t accept me. To my surprise, I got a job offer! I waited
until the next day to accept, after I sought counsel from my family. On March 10, I officially started at my
Meanwhile, many people were leaving my now-former church. I
loved that church, but inside there were so many changes that it rocked the
congregation. About half of the congregation left or were in the process of
leaving. At about the same period of
time, my brother told my parents and me that he was going to go to school in
Texas to get his Master’s degree. What I
didn’t know then was my brother was going to live there permanently.
I felt, except for my new job, that my dreams were going to
be shattered all over again. I would
either have to accept the changes at my now-former church or find somewhere
different to worship. Not going to church wasn’t even an option for me. I would also have to adjust to life without some of the support of my brother.
My brother left for Texas in August 2016. The day he left,
the house felt hollow and quiet. The basement that used to be full of my
brother’s stuff was now almost bare, but habitable again. My dad went with my brother to help him move.
My mom and I remained at home. I felt numb and solemn that day. My heart felt
like there was something missing—the void where my brother’s physical
presence radiated my life.
Then, in mid-October, I said goodbye to the church that I
had been attending for about ten years.
It was very hard, as I had established so many friendships there, and
these people were like a second family to me.
Before I left to visit a church nearby, I was in tears, as I said
goodbye to some of the congregants.
However, there was a very bright spot, in the midst of all
the goodbyes, a month before I left my now-former church.
In September, I was working the swing shift, and one of my
managers, Hope* was closing with me. She
was complimenting me about my performance that day. Since I was still
part-time, I told her, “I am thinking of becoming full-time. However, Chris*,
my manager, said I should wait a while. I was wondering how long I should
wait.” Then, Hope replied, “You shouldn’t have to wait. You deserve
full-time.” Later on, or the next day,
she put me in for full-time. Later, Chris also approved my full- time status. I
was ecstatic! Because of all the
challenges that I had to face, I never dreamed I would ever get a full time job
in my life!
A month later, after I had left my former church, I visited
another church. It had many more people
than the one I had previously visited. A
friendly couple greeted me and I sat by them.
Even the pastors were friendly. The sermon that day was very
thought-provoking and relatable to what I was going through in my life. I
didn’t know yet if this was going to be my new home church, but I liked their
genuineness and their devotion to the Word of God, so I kept going. In August
of the next year, I officially became a member of my current church. Through my church, I have learned how to have
an engaging quiet time with God, how to view life more positively and
differently than most of the rest of the world, and how to forgive people who
have hurt you deeply.
God’s Perfect Plan
No, I never got the six figure salary I had dreamed of, nor
did I get into a prestigious college. However, I have been blessed with more
than I could have ever dreamed. Through my church family and people at work, I
have gained a strong support system. Also, I am still in touch with several
people from my old church, who I still consider good friends, even though they
live very far away from where I am now. Through the tough situations I find myself in
at work, God has used those to strengthen and shape my character into His. Through church, I continue to train to be
able to share the love and hope that I found in life through God and His
gracious plans for me. Yes, I still have
bad days, but overall, I have found more joy and satisfaction during these past
two years, than at any other time in my life. God has certainly blessed me with
more than I could ever dream!