I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.
-Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
For several years, I have struggled with something I learned to call “sleep panic.” Every now and then, and with increasing frequency as the years went on, the moment I crawled into bed I would feel a sudden onslaught of fear, and sometimes it’d even drive me into hysterics. After a while, I was afraid of the nightfall, afraid to get ready for bed, because I knew what awaited me: Upon being alone with myself, with absolutely nothing to distract my thoughts, I would find myself unable to escape the truth that haunted me. My existence was completely void of meaning, and I hated myself for that fact. On the surface, it looked like I had so much to live for – family members, friends, a boyfriend, a solid academic future, and so on – and I hated that all those wonderful things still weren’t enough of a reason for me to want to continue in this life. Those hours before I fell asleep were the only moments in my life that I hadn’t been able to fill with distractions,and so I faced this question of “Why should I live?” every night that I couldn’t fall straight into sleep. I fought to answer it with everything I had, and I always came up empty.
I didn’t really have the courage to acknowledge my fear that there might be no reason or righteousness in my life. I didn’t want to talk about it because even I was scared of me. I wondered what was wrong with me a lot because it didn’t seem like anyone else had this kind of monster lurking in their souls. And I couldn’t talk to anyone about the seriousness of my struggle, because it would scare people, and with good reason – who is so arrogant as to think they can be the one to give a suicide risk a reason to live? And so I held on, with the hope that maybe one day I’d find the answer, that maybe one day the question of my existence wouldn’t torture me so much, and that the people in my life would never have to know that they couldn’t fulfill me.
But I never could have saved myself. I never could have found that answer I was hunting, because there wasn’t one. I was never going to be able to find a reason to live unless God gave it to me, and the night I finally let that frightening truth sink in was one of the hardest nights of my life. I can honestly say without an ounce of exaggeration that I don’t think I’ve ever cried harder (and I have cried a lot in my lifetime). I felt a jagged emptiness in my chest cavity, and the next day I told my mom that I knew the Holy Spirit wasn’t living in me. The morning after that one, I opened my Bible to the book of John to pick up reading where I had left off about a week earlier, and there was John 6:37-40.
All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Christ saved my life that morning. That morning, when I laid eyes on John 6:37, I felt the shift. There’s a reason cognitive behavioral therapy is the hottest thing in psychotherapy right now – it’s because the truth can set us free. One tidbit of knowledge, one realization, one single truth has the power to completely alter a human being’s entire perception of life. It’s only been about a month, but every day since that first one, I have felt the peace of the Holy Spirit, because I have finally known the truth of Christ. I continue to face doubts, but they are like lions that have been turned into mice. There is so much I am lacking, and I still feel infantile in my weakness, but I know now, really know, that I have nothing to fear because of what Christ has done for me. I have never been more uncertain as to what my future holds, and I have never been more okay with such uncertainty. Every day the Lord teaches me more about what it means to walk with him, and he’s doing especially well teaching me to surrender my problems to him and trust him with my future. More often than not he even responds directly to my prayers and petitions through his Word. Hardly a day goes by that I pick up my Bible and find my questions unanswered. Almost certainly the days are coming when the Lord will not speak so plainly with me, but I have no doubt that he will train me and equip me for those days as well as all the other days I have yet to face. I am weak, but my God is strong, and in the end that will be what makes all the difference for my soul.