I can recall a vivid scene from Sophomore year in college. My roommate and I would occasionally run at our apartment gym to make room for ice cream. On one particular night we were leaving the gym and decided to check our mail before heading back home. We walked around the corner and were met by a girl with her head bowed down, hair covering her face while slitting her wrist. My eyes locked in on the bright, red blood dripping to the ground. As what was unfolding clicked in my mind, I walked around to the other side of the building out of sight and ear shot to call 911. While I called 911, my roommate went back to the gym to get paper towels. We wanted this girl to know we saw her and we were there for her, but we didn’t want her to run away in fear. I remember the bright ambulance lights and the screech of the sirens as she was whisked away. I stood stunned.
This night rocked my world. I rushed home to call a dear friend of mine. I knew at one point in time, she gravitated toward self-infliction. I couldn’t stop crying and between sobs I begged, “Please, don’t do it anymore. Please don’t ever hurt yourself! I love you. “ I let out a sigh of relief as she told me she hadn’t thought of self-infliction in years, but frustrated with myself that it look a dramatic event for me to tell her I loved her too much to lose her.
As I was reading Acts there’s a story that reminded me of this time in my life. Paul and Silas were praising God in prison and God, in His great power, sent an earthquake to free them and all the prisoners. The jailer woke up to see the prison doors open and drew his sword and was about to kill himself. The jailer almost committed suicide because he failed at his job and the situation seemed hopeless. That’s all it takes though. One wrong event that sends our minds spiraling. One bad decision that convinces us our life isn’t worth living. One bully that makes us wrongly believe the lies they shoot like bullets to kill our hearts are true. One break up that breaks us down to nothing. Our minds can live in such a dark, depressing place that we find ourselves hopeless and desiring to hurt ourselves or others. The complexities and reasons for this dangerous state of mind penetrates me to the core. How do we overcome? How did the jailer overcome? A voice in the dark calls out to the jailer and says, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here.” If this is you today. If you are one choice away from choosing to terminate your life these words are meant for you. Don’t harm yourself. Paul pleads with the man. I am pleading with you. The jailer did four things after Paul’s exclamation. He turned the lights on, rushed in, fell down trembling and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
If we are sitting in darkness our life can become skewed and distorted. In the dark you can’t make out who is by your side. The color that once infused your days has long since dissipated and left you empty. I urge you to turn on the lights, rush to someone you trust can help and fall down in complete surrender to Jesus. Paul went on to speak the word of the Lord to this jailer and to all others in the house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. He was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God.
Moments earlier the jailer was filled with thoughts of despair and in an instant that despair was replaced with the joy of Christ through salvation.
There was a moment my freshman year of college when I contemplated suicide. I didn’t plan it out, but I had a fleeting thought that my life up until that point had been shambles and instead of enduring the remainder it would be better to leave the mess behind. I’ve been there. I didn’t believe I had anybody to turn to, but my heart began to turn to Jesus with every page I turned in my bible. For the first time ever, I found true comfort in God’s word. I look back at the verse that gave me peace and comfort and it’s actually surprising. Now, my life verse is Romans 8:28, “All things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” But that was not the rope I needed to lift me out of the pit I was in. The verse that pierced my heart says, “Say to people who are frightened, Be strong. Don’t be afraid. Look, your God will come, and will punish your enemies. He will make them pay for the wrongs they did, but he will save you.” Isaiah 35:4. You see, I was furious that someone had taken advantage of me. I was angry that I was used for sick pleasure and discarded like trash in a dumpster. There was a chasm widening inside of me from a collection of past pain and God drew me to Him and began to gently close that gap.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know one who does. Now as a Christian, I still get stuck in the battlefield of my mind and try maneuvering around ever mine that’s waiting to detonate. In those moments, I have to fall on the support of not only my savior, but people who will surround me in love. I don’t know how I would have made it through that time of my life without God’s word and the love of my family. It was still a couple of years before I fully returned to the Lord, but in my moment of darkness he turned the lights on long enough for me to see I wasn’t alone. He was pleading for me to keep my faith in Him the one who supplies hope, loves lavishly and brings justice. Please, don’t reach for the quick fix. Reach for the one who left his place in Heaven to meet you on earth. Jesus meets us right where we are. He carries us, leads us, walks alongside us. He becomes whatever His children need. I met him that lonely night in my dorm room bed and he continues to meet me every day, every hour, every minute. Our lives are valuable and precious to the one who created us. The one who knows every hair on our head. The one who things of us more in one day than there’s sand in the ocean. How sweet those words are to my soul.