I have been saddened to read of the suicide of Robert Enke, the German goalkeeper this week. Suffering from depression beyond his ability to deal with or share, he ended his life under a train at a spot where he often walked his dogs.
A successful footballer. Rich, married, though he had lost a young daughter some time ago, he and his wife had recently adopted a child and seemed to have so much in life. As if that mattered – which is what the reports all say.
Anyone who has suffered deep depression has been at that point of giving in. Most get past it. I’m told Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Apparently 20% of the population suffer from depression in some form, and 10% actively find themselves under its grip today.
I’ve chronicled here before how depression plays its part in my life. Reading about Enke brings tears to my eyes. I’m pretty sure most of the reports I’ve read don’t really get it; but those of us who live there do. Have I ever reached that point? Of course. So how have I coped?
You know, I often say that the point of being a Christian is not the eternal insurance policy – the going to heaven when you die. No – I mean, I believe in eternal life – but the real point is the having Jesus now. The difference knowing God makes today.
I don’t know how people who don’t have that hand holding theirs, that voice speaking softly in their ears, that smile comforting them, that light breaking through the dark, dark, darkness – I don’t know how people without all this can possible begin to cope. I couldn’t. Really, I couldn’t.
I could recall specifics. I’m not going to – perhaps apart from the blessed gift of sleep which has sometimes got me through the very, very worst hours. I will say this: “there but for the grace of God” is not a phrase I use lightly or meaninglessly. I live as best I can a life that tries to worship Jesus every day because the fruit of the acts is in the living – and when push comes to shove, at the really crucial moments, he has always been there, and somehow I have managed to see that. The seeing in the darkness, my, that's the trick.
So I write these few words as an encouragement in the light of this week’s news story to anyone reading today needing a little hope. God still loves you, even if you are feeling unloved and unlovely. I have no cure to offer – but I know that I am not alone, and that Jesus stands with me when I am lowest; so I know he is with you too. We have company – of one who understands, and loves, and listens, and stays right here.
In the midst of depression so often it's the loneliness that's the killer. But we are not alone.