This past week marked two years since I lost one of my closest friends to a disease called depression. It is such a strange thought to realize how very much has happened since that day. Looking back on it, everything is surrounded in sort of a hellish haze of uncertainty, grieving, and fear of losing others, but that time also seems like it happened to a different person in a different life. Maybe it did.
After all of the chaos and sorrow of that year, several of my friends and I had almost a mantra that we used as a wearied and battle worn vestige of hope:
We have a God who knows how to heal.
Over and over again, I would tell myself this in order to get out of bed in the morning and drudge through my day. We have a God who knows how to heal. I clutched at it like a lifeline. We have a God who knows how to heal. It was never that I didn’t believe it, but I had to keep telling myself that because my only steadfast hope was the future. At the time, life sucked. I was living in a world where I had built so many walls of apathy that I could hardly even feel the pain, but I was miserable nonetheless. The world was absolutely drained of color. It wasn’t in greyscale, it was like a watercolor after a flood. Like someone flushed a drain and all of the life, all of the color went with it.
But somehow, incomprehensibly that unrealistically resilient thing called hope stuck around. We have a God who knows how to heal. I knew that today was not going to be colorful again. I knew that it wouldn’t be tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day after that. But I had to keep telling myself the thing that I already knew, even if I didn’t understand it. We have a God who knows how to heal. One day, maybe weeks from now, maybe months, maybe years, it wouldn’t hurt so much to see the world in color again. The future may have been far away, but there was still a future. Little by little, each day would be a little less awful than the last until eventually I was living again. Not just surviving, not just walking blindly though the day, not just keeping my head above the water, but really truly living. That day wasn’t coming up soon, but it was coming, and that was a promise.
Let me say now, two full years later, that there is still a pretty enormous scar on my heart. I am not fully mended. Healing is a process, not an event. And I will be going through that process for the rest of my life. To what degree, I don’t know, but my heart will still carry the scar of that grief and all of the agony of the suicides will forever be a part of my life. I will not be fully whole until Jesus returns and makes me new.
But let me also tell you this: That we have a God who knows how to heal. I’m sure you are getting sick of me saying it by now, but I cannot begin to stress the truth of that statement. I’ve been more or less okay for quite a long time now. I know that’s a touchy word, but I really do mean it. The world is definitely colorful and vibrant again and for that I am immensely grateful. Life is joyful and I no longer spend every moment worrying that one more friend is right on the brink. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still bad days. There are. That doesn’t mean that my friends don’t still have days where they are in bad places. They do. But it’s not every day. It’s not even often that I feel vaguely close to that place in my life anymore. I am healing.
May thirteenth will always be an anniversary for me. It will always matter. And that’s okay. Like I said, I will be a part of this healing process until the day that Jesus restores me to true humanity untainted by sorrow.
This particular May thirteenth I was expecting a rough day. I know you should never anticipate bad days because the instant you think a day is going to be horrible than it will be, regardless of the circumstances, but that’s a tangent. Whether or not it was a smart idea, I was expecting a bad day. I wasn’t afraid of that fact; I just wanted to get through the day and get it over with so that I could go back to living life.
I woke up that morning and sent a message to some of my close friends on campus (none of whom, it should be noted, were ever actually involved in this situation at all, but who care about me and my well being nonetheless) and asked them to pray for me. Without fail, every. single. one. replied assuring me that they would pray. Several of them sought me out to give me a bear hug during the day too. It is always, without fail, a spirit booster to know that other people are talking to the creator of the universe on your behalf.
The rest of the day was actually kind of the best. I don’t remember the last time I laughed quite as hard as I did that day. My time spent with Jesus was so refreshing and uplifting. I had a good day in classes. I was super productive with my homework, which mean that something in my brain which usually doesn’t function was going strong. I had a ton of fun performing in an improv show. Got to watch Harry Potter, which is always a plus. I genuinely had a good day.
Better still, my friends from home seemed to be living and loving life. I cannot even begin to describe what a joy it was to talk to them and see them having so much fun. It was as if the whole world was starting to wake up from the nightmare. Like the sun was finally bursting forth in all of its glory above the horizon. And what a beautiful relief that brought with it. Did I still think about the anniversary? Oh yes. Was I grieving? No. To be honest, I wasn’t. And that’s okay. My friend would love to know that he wasn’t causing me sadness. I don’t have to remain sorrowful forever in order to remember. That, my dear friends, is called healing. And you know how that happens? Because we have a God who knows how to heal. Not only does he know how, but he does heal. He is healing. He is the very giver and creator of life and he restores it to its fullness in him. What a beautiful blessing that is!
A friend asked me on that day if I needed to talk about anything and I told him that I was okay. And I meant it. That was the most remarkable thing. Two years ago, I had to tell myself that healing was coming. I had to force myself to believe that there would be a day when I could openly, freely, and genuinely love life again. It was a struggle to make myself say it sometimes. And yet, by the grace of God, I am there. I am not healed, but I am so undeniably healing.
We have a God who knows how to heal.
It’s not a mantra that I have to say over and over in order to remind myself to believe it anymore. That phrase has become a praise to God because has done just that and continues to work healing in my life and in your life every moment of every day. It is no longer a desperate lifeline that I am clutching for dear life, but an exuberant shout of delight in my miraculous God.
I don’t know where you are at in your life right now. I don’t know what you are hurting from or what God is blessing you with, but I do know that your Great Physician is healing you in ways that you cannot know now or understand, but that will become the biggest blessings to you. Whether or not it feels like it now, remind yourself that in every day, in every hour, in every moment of your sin-broken life you have a God who knows how to heal and who is working constantly specifically for you. I don’t know about you, but I would say that is a far sight better than any bandaid, any medicine, or any healing that this world has to offer. That, dearly beloved child of God, is life at its fullest.