No matter what you believe about hell in the afterlife, if it’s literal or figurative, some of you, like me, have have been through hell on earth, and can testify that it’s no fun. Some of you have a loved one or friend who is hurting inside and you don’t know how to help. Hopefully this post will help you or them a little.
For many years I went through emotional torture, involving a continual tension that I had to work to please God. Along with that, I had a great deal of anxiety and sometimes depression and suicidal thoughts. I suffered in this private hell for years. I thought getting married would make things better, but it actually made things worse, and I treated my wife terribly in our first years of marriage. From my perspective, though, it couldn’t be helped–I was continually dying inside, so the only thing I had to share was death. Loving others was difficult because I was scared all the time–scared of messing up my marriage, messing up my kids, scared of being a terrible ‘witness’ to those around me. Scared, scared, scared.
At the time, I believed that God was on my case 24/7, that I had to grow up, but I was such a failure at that that I wanted to die so I could go to Heaven and get God off my back. I make light of that now, but this diseased thinking was what made me want to die.
I make light of those years now, because I discovered the Gospel of Grace around 5-7 years ago, and it changed my life forever. By ‘grace’ I mean that I found that:
- I am a new creation in Christ (have been crucified with Christ), and the old me is no longer alive.
- I am in Christ, and nothing I can do will get me out of Him.
- God loves me no matter what, no matter how I feel, whether I’m having a bad day or a good day, He will never leave me nor forsake me and his love, the length, width, height, and depth of it always applies to me. Nothing can take me out of his love.
These New Creation truths, along with others, saved my life, quite literally. Getting my mind out of schizophrenic religion helped save me from schizophrenia. I was literally hearing voices at times, voices either telling me to do harm to myself–to give up–or to do stupid things. I could make an entire embarrassing list of dumb things I did because I thought I was hearing the Holy Spirit, and I probably will do some more of that as the embarrassment wears off.
But in the meantime, here are three things that made me not give up, despite the fact that I wanted to end my life:
- My family. I knew that being the sole breadwinner with a new baby, that I would devastate my new wife and little one–that things would never be the same for them. I couldn’t stand the thought of my wife growing old without a husband, or my child growing up without a father. This guilt mixed with love kept me going even when nothing else would.
- My morbid, or providential, curiosity. I had had prophetic promises from God through others and through communion with him directly (when I could get a few moments of peace), promises that things would get better, no matter what happened inside or out. Inside was hell. Outside we always had money problems. I was curious to see if things really would get better, if these promises would indeed come true.
- The knowledge that, if I somehow made it through, that I would be able to help others–turning a ‘test into a testimony’, so to speak. I’ve always had a teacher mentality–when I learn a new truth, I immediately think, ‘how can I best relay this truth to others?’ Again, my curiosity got the best of me–if it ever got better, I would be able to do something with what I learned.
I harp on medication a lot because medication also helped. I have an anxiety disorder and a mild case of chronic depression, both of which don’t go away with counseling or confession, they only go away when I take my medicine. Like anyone else, I hate having to take medication to be able to deal with life, but something that comforts me in that is: most people are on some sort of medication for anxiety or depression or other disorders. Most of them are also ashamed for having to take their medication. So I know I’m not alone.
Maybe these things will help you out, or help someone you know out a little. I am not a doctor, repeat, not a doctor, but if I can be of any help, email me (stephentshores at gmail) or contact me through Twitter or Facebook at any time.
I bless you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Spirit enlighten your eyes to the understanding of Christ. Amen.