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Thought for the weekend

By Rev Craig Cooney, Hope Community, Craigavon

Late, on an October afternoon in 2016, I sat alone in the waiting room of a medical practice in inner-city Dublin. As tears filled my eyes, I asked myself how it had come to this.

At the time, I was leading one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the Republic of Ireland. To many, I was perceived as a ministry "success". However, inside I was exhausted and empty. I wanted to run away from everything.

My experience was by no means unique. In the Old Testament, the great prophet Elijah had just achieved a powerful victory over the false prophets of Baal. He should have been buoyant and full of bravado. Yet we read: "He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life'." (1 Kings 19:4) Elijah had hit rock bottom. He simply wanted to end it all.

Tuesday past was World Suicide Prevention Day. Ironically and very sadly, on the same day it was also reported that a well-known American church leader, whose books have impacted me, had taken his own life.

Jarrid Wilson was only 30 and seemed to have everything to live for. He clearly loved God, was gifted and had a beautiful family. Yet he had an ongoing battle with deep depression.

Shortly before his death, he had posted on social media: "Loving Jesus doesn't always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn't always cure anxiety. But that doesn't mean Jesus doesn't offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that." Tragically, within hours, Jarrid Wilson had committed suicide.

The reality is, faith in God doesn't shield us from deep mental and emotional pain. Life is complex and messy. Our brains and bodies get battered by sickness and stress. We become weary and worn out. Yet we don't think we can stop.

Thankfully, in 2016, beginning with the visit to my doctor, I got the help I needed. The experience has given me a deep empathy for those who struggle in the areas of burnout and depression.

If you're in this place, or edging towards it, please do whatever is needed to get well.

People might be depending on you. However, you simply can't give what you don't have. As we are instructed by airplane cabin staff each time we fly: "Before you try to help others, put on your own oxygen mask first."

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