Garrett Thomas is from the Heartland and went to college in the Deep South. He is Southern Baptist and enjoys discussing friendship, family, and ethics from a conservative evangelical perspective. Follow his blog: The Night Is Nearly Over / The Day Is Almost Here. Follow him on Twitter @AlexiusIV.
Note to Readers: This came from quite a dark time in my life. But even in the dark, God works, and He is good, so good. May we never assume that everyone is always doing okay. Let’s ask one another and get in each other’s lives. The church needs to be a place of vulnerability and of honesty, where people are directed toward the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because, no one should ever die by their own hand.
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:8-12 ESV)
I’m writing this letter to you. Yes, you. You there, laying on your bed, distraught, lonely, and weary. This is coming from you, your future self. As you can imagine, if you’re receiving a letter from me, your plan didn’t work out like you thought it was going to.
It’s dark out, somewhere around 2AM. The stars are out tonight without a cloud to be seen. The moon is giving her pale glow. Everyone has gone to bed, wanting nothing more than to have a long night’s sleep. They don’t know what you’re thinking about right now; they don’t know what’s swirling through your mind. But I do. I know what you’re thinking; after all, I am you. Right now, as it’s been for so long, you’re weary.
You’re about 18, but you feel as if you’ve lived an entire lifetime’s worth of stress, disappointment, and sadness. You feel as if you’ve let everyone in your life down, even though you don’t know why. You feel as though you’ve always been the black sheep. You feel as if you’re all alone in this tough world with no one to talk to and no one who would listen. Your struggles are so deep, and you feel your brokenness so intently that you don’t even have the faintest idea that anyone might actually care for, or about you. You’ve convinced yourself that if the people in your life were to wake up tomorrow, that no one would miss you. That no one would grieve, or at least not for very long. They’d get over it quickly and move on, showing that you just weren’t that big of a deal to anyone.
The events in your life leading up to this point have been so altering and life-changing that you ask, “Why even go on?” You’ve been through some pretty traumatic stuff, Self, you really have. What you’ve heard from these events are that you aren’t cared for and that you aren’t loved. You believe that few people outside of close family would even come to your own funeral. You really do wonder, after all that you’ve been taught, does God even exist? Is He even there like everyone says He is? You see others talking about their relationship with Him, but then you ponder, “If He is real, why can’t I feel Him, or why can’t I understand what’s going on?” Your experiences with church haven’t helped you at all. If anything, they’ve only made everything harder and more confusing.
So there you are. On your bed. You’re about to get up very quietly and open the door so no one hears you. You’re going to go down the noisy, creaky stairs as slowly as possible so as not to make a sound. When you get into the living room, you’ll get up on the sofa. The curtains will be open, with the pale light of the full moon shining through. You’re going to look out the street light across the way trying to figure out which light was brighter. You’ll remember how you learned to ride your bike on that street, and you’ll start to silently cry. You’ll begin to wonder about your decision—if you were right after all. You’ll think back on all the happy memories in that home.
But then, you look back outside at the moon and the streetlight fighting for dominance, and you’ll come up with the simplest, and at the same time the most the complex, question you’ve ever had. This question will sum up the despair that you’ve been feeling for so long: “Will the sun even rise in the morning?”
By this point, you’ve lost hope in even the most basic knowledge that the light of the fiery star in the sky will reappear in a few hours.
You’ll go back to sitting on the sofa, deciding whether to take a cocktail of pills in the medicine cabinet or use a knife. But, Self, oh depressed and lonely Self, you won’t be alone for long. I’m about to give you news that you don’t want to hear right now, but that you will look back on and wonder in awe at the timing of it all.
You see, your mom is having trouble sleeping tonight. She didn’t hear you get out of bed. She didn’t hear you open your door, and she didn’t hear you come down the stairs. But, she couldn’t sleep, and instead of waking your dad up, she will be on her way to the divan on the other side of the living room where she will get comfortable and try to sleep. It will be a few minutes before she even sees you and asks you what you were doing up.
She doesn’t know the thoughts swirling in your mind right now. She doesn’t know the inner turmoil that feels like a deluge without end. She doesn’t know all that well that you’ve even been depressed.
Self, what she will do is…tell you things that, right now, you need to hear. You don’t want to hear these things. You may cringe at them, but you need to hear them all the same. She will tell you that you were not an accident. She will tell you that she and your dad prayed to have you for years. She will tell you that you were deeply loved and cared for and many other things that later on down the line you won’t remember. But, the aroma of those words will resonate with you long after the words themselves have faded. You will cry, but you’ll try to hold back the tears in that room empty of light. You will listen to her words with little to no interaction other than a question here or there. But mostly, you will listen.
You will love and hate the words you’re hearing. You will hate them because they will slowly start to tear down the lies you had been telling yourself, and the lies that would have made leaving this world so much easier. And you will love them for the very same reason; because, they will help you to stay. And to fight.
Those words, together with the remaining drive and courage inside of you, will allow you to hope. Nothing major will change; no earth-shattering deliverance will occur tonight. But there in the quiet of the night, you will be provided with just enough hope that you will begin to think, “Maybe tomorrow, maybe the sun will rise again.”
So you will survive the night. You will awake. You will go about your day.
The life ahead of you going forward…well, it will be rough at times. It will be difficult. You will have to come to terms with some major things affecting your life. You can’t hide anymore. You will have to face your problems and your troubles. There will be nights where you will be down again, where you’ll wonder about going on, but never again will you get to the point of not believing the sun will rise once more.
This life is difficult, Self. It’s full of stress and doubts and fears. One thing that you will learn going forward is that, although the sun will keep rising, problems will keep rising right along with it. However, you will begin to understand that the life that you’ve so desired here may never exist. And you will mourn for that, as you should. Moreover, and most importantly, you will discover that there is a better sun that will rise on a better day in the future.
So, Self, if there’s one thing I can tell you from ten years in the future, it’s to hold on. Even when you don’t know if you can, hold on. That day will be worth it. One day you will tell your mom of this, even though she may never fully understand how she saved you that night, even without her knowledge. You will remember this event as a mercy of the Most High. He could have let you go through with your plan, like you wanted. But he saw fit to stop you. Thankfully.
You will grow to understand that there is a day coming when the sun will rise and the night will flee for the last time. There is coming a time when all the tears that you have cried will be known and wiped away by your Creator. There is coming a morning where the problems of this life that you have encountered and wrestled through will be but a vague memory. Where your pain will fade at the dawning of that day, when you finally see the risen Christ.
Hold on. Keep running. Continue fighting. For the night is nearly over, and that great day is almost here.