I've suffered from depression for years, and at least twice have come close to committing suicide. Many factors made me hold back. For the past six years, the longest period since I first sought help, I've been on antidepressant medication and receive regular therapy.

I have no current plans to do myself in and don't want to face that choice again. However, for me, the effects of depression have been so eroding that I believe it can be compared to many long-term physical ailments that are eventually fatal. Thus, it is possible for me to envision taking steps to end the pain on my own terms.

I'm not a religious person and incline toward agnosticism and sometimes total atheism, so being told that suicide is a sin doesn't register with me. Be that as it may, I acknowledge the hurt that suicide can cause others, which makes me feel guilty. If I ultimately choose that way out, I will try to prepare myself and my loved ones for the aftermath. In my own inner hell, this is quite a burden, but I sincerely feel it may be the best option for me. I think the notion that suicide is sin contributes to this inner hell for others, too, rather than being a persuasive force in refusing that option. Any thoughts?

- Anonymous via e-mail


Thank you for your painful and eloquent Cri de Coeur (cry of the heart). Your main point - that labeling suicide a sin just makes suicidal people feel more guilty - is true, and I make no apologies for it at all. Guilt has an unnecessarily bad name in our culture.

Guilt seems to be the label stuck on anything people say to dissuade us from what we want to do. However, not everything we want to do should be done. Sometimes, our burdens blind us to our blessings.

At such a moment, guilt can be a healthy reminder that we're not alone in this broken life we lead.

Our lives intersect with the lives of many other people who care about us, and even love us, when we can't find a way to love ourselves. This understanding is accessible to everyone, including those who haven't yet found their way to faith. In fact, it seems this very awareness was one factor calling you back from the brink of suicide.

I'm glad you felt the pull of love through your pain. I pray that when you enter the fog of depression again, you'll have a memory of the light that's entered your life along with the darkness. As Isaiah understood (45:7), God is the maker of both light and darkness. To me, this means that God can be found everywhere and at any time. If you can't identify that light of hope as radiating from God, that's fine by me. What I pray for is that you never lose track of the light.



Can you name for me the attributes you feel God would want a perfect human to exhibit and adhere to in order to reach His/Her afterlife kingdom? While I already have my own incomplete list, I feel compelled to ask you, as a practitioner in such matters, to update my designations. - A., West Palm Beach, Fla., via e-mail


1. Do justice. 2. Love mercy. 3. Walk humbly with God. I wish I could take credit for that list, but the credit goes to the Prophet Micah (6:8.).

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