The suicide of a Rutgers student who was incredibly abused online by a heartless roommate has reopened many conversations about bullying and despair. One hundred percent of the children and teenagers I know who have struggled with mental illness have been bullied ... and each one has dealt with despair. Most every caregiver of someone with mental illness also has had many long nights of anguish and despair.
One powerful response to recent suicides from the Gay and Lesbian community is a program called "It Gets Better." Tim Gunn of "Project Runway" recently posted a very powerful message about his own attempted suicide at age 17. You can watch it here
In the message he mentioned that people in despair cannot overcome it alone. That prompted me to think about God's reaction to despair, particularly the story of the day that Elijah got fed up with the strain of his life and decided that he wanted to die. That story is told in 1 Kings 19. After a day of literally running for his life, Elijah sat down under a juniper tree and prayed, "It is enough. Now, O Lord, take my life."
The reaction of God is telling because it shows that he is not harsh or judgmental, but merciful, to those in despair. As Elijah slept, an angel arrived with food and water. After Elijah had eaten and slept, he took a long journey to have a face-to-face with God. And in that famous passage, Elijah waits in a cave through a windstorm that broke off rocks on the mountain (for God was not in the wind), an earthquake (for God was not in the earthquake), and a fire (for God was not in the fire.) Finally, he heard a gentle breeze, wrapped his face in a cloth and went out to talk to God.
This story is one of the accounts of God's mercy to those in despair recounted in a good book called "Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties" by Dwight L. Carlson, M.D.
The main point: God is always on the support team for those in despair. He wants us to take physical and emotional care of ourselves. And he is there like a gentle breeze when we need to talk. He loves us all: gay and straight, ill and healthy.