by Tad Lindley
I have been running this column every year about this time in hopes that someone may read it and live to tell about it. It would seem like with the days getting longer again and summer coming, everyone would be much happier. And yet spring after spring for the 29 years I have lived in Alaska I have seen more people fall apart at this time of year. More suicide, more divorce, more pain. One would think that all of that should happen in the darkest times of winter. Why now? But it seems to be the case, and my daughter who goes to college tells me that now they have data to prove this point. It is with this in mind that I offer this in hopes that someone on the verge of giving up may stick it out. I’m glad I did.
Everything seemed to be going right in my life. I was living in McGrath, student teaching. I had a fiancé waiting for me in Fairbanks with whom I was deeply in love. I had set a course for my life that seemed to working out perfectly.
When my birthday came around, I couldn’t wait to get her call at the school and hear her voice wishing me a happy birthday (you see I couldn’t afford a house phone, and this was before e-mail and cell phones). No call came in the morning. No call at lunch. After school I got out my calling card and tried to get through. No answer. Something was wrong, she wouldn’t forget my birthday. Finally around 9:00 PM, I got an answer. She very quickly informed me that she had “had a relationship” (language cleaned up for the newspaper) while on a trip to Mexico.
It literally felt like a fist had slammed into my stomach. As I stumbled down the empty school hallway a feeling exactly like hypothermia overtook my body. Although a grown man, I lay down on the floor and curled up in a ball, shaking. That was where the custodian found me, numbly contemplating my next move.
Do you think I wish I had killed myself?
Or that I had gone down to Maguire’s Tavern and gotten drunk? Understand that both ideas crossed my mind. I did neither. Let me ask you this question: Looking back twenty-five years later, do you think that I wish I thrown everything away on that dark night? Do you think that I regret staying sober and staying alive, getting married and having children?
That night I held my future in my hands. By the limitations of my human mind, I felt that my heart had been ripped from me. My dreams lay at my feet shattered in pieces so small that they could never be put back together. At the same time, I knew in a small way that there was a God that made everything, and that on occasion, he had done the impossible.
My three options
Go back to drinking, end it all, or try my faith. (Keep in mind that I was not a Christian, just somebody who believed that there was a God). I tried my faith, and God came through.
If you are that person out there who is struggling and depressed, and you’ve got the funeral programs from suicidal loved ones up on your wall and you stare at them every day and you think about ending it all, I am writing specifically to you. You will meet me, and you will tell me, “I was at the end of my rope, I wanted to die, but in what would have been my last days, I turned to God and I have come into a greater life than I ever imagined possible.”
“For good”, not “feel good”
The Bible says this: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Notice that it does not say all things feel good to them that love God, it says all things work together for good. This means that, while it might hurt worse than a Civil War amputation, God can still work it out into something good.
I realize the pit that you are in may seem more impossible than the one I was in. With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27) No situation is too difficult for Jesus. Perhaps the most important word in Romans 8:28 is “all”. All things work together for good… “All things” includes those things which are impossible to our limited minds; it means ugly things, broken relationships, shattered dreams, betrayals, failures, and humiliations. All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose.
Answer: I am so glad I didn’t
A long time ago, when I was weak and broken, and my future was torn from me, I chose to take my life and my situation out of my hands and place it into His. I didn’t know a lot of scriptures, I did not know much about God, but I stepped out on what little I did know, and today I am living a life far better than what I could have imagined on that dark night when I stood at a crossroads.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.