2017-07_LT-EverythingSoHeavy

I was driving home last week when I heard the news on the radio. Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, had passed away of a suspected suicide. The DJ expressed his condolences and the band’s song “Heavy” spread over the airways…

“Why is everything so heavy?” Chester hauntingly asks in the popular song.

That’s a good question. And it’s no coincidence that the Gospel reading of the day provided an answer:

Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”
(Matthew 11:28-30).

If Christ’s burden is light… why can everything be so heavy?

Never the Answer

A good place to start when asking these deeper and darker questions is here, drawing the line. Suicide is not okay. It’s never okay. That’s a black and white matter — there is no grey.

It’s never a solution. It never fixes things. It is only destruction. It leaves more pain than it takes away. And worst of all, it’s irreversible. It’s a lethal step into the complete undoing of the greatest gift God has given you: life.

However, as Christians, we must always approach this serious topic with sensitivity and mercy. Just as addiction can alter culpability for one’s sins, mental health issues can rob individuals of their control; their judgment is compromised and they are not fully free in their choice to fall into temptations and serious sin. Those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or complete the act of suicide need our prayers and charity, not our judgment. After all, they are victims of a darkness they didn’t ask for, left so hopeless that the worst choice seemed to be the only one.

If you’re reading this article because you know the heaviness firsthand, then I invite you to take a step out of your comfort zone and ask yourself a few questions. Or, if someone you know is affected by these thoughts, then I invite you to do the same on their behalf:

Do you know you are loved? Do you firmly know that suicide is not the answer, even if your emotions or temptations suggest otherwise? Are you equipped to address these temptations head-on?
Have you told someone? The first step in this head-on approach is making sure you don’t carry the burden alone. Talking with an appropriate resource (a priest, parent, counselor, or trusted adult) can not only provide support and validation, but can also help with accountability as you learn to fight the heaviness. When things get cloudy in your head, their perspective could make all the difference.

If you answered no to any of those questions, it’s essential you reach out for help. You’re not a bad Christian for being tempted in this way. Rather, you’re a beloved child of God who’s lost sight of your dignity. I promise you, there’s more to you than you can see, and speaking up, though terrifying, is the only way to get out of your own head. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Check out the bottom of this post for some resources and Life Teen posts that can point you in the right direction.

Finding the Light

Professional support is so important when it comes to mental health, just like the doctor is crucial to treating a broken bone. Issues like depression, anxiety, suicide, and more are rooted in the psychological. They’re often the result of genetic predispositions triggered by stress, imbalanced neurotransmitters, or an overly excited HPA axis, for instance. But, just as we are more than neuronal responses and flesh, psychological issues are more than just physiological. Because they affect our very souls, there’s a spiritual component we must address, too, while we patch together the physical.

So what does Jesus say about this? How does He instruct us to stay afloat when it seems like we’re drowning? How do we carry the load when everything is far too heavy?

Well, let’s start with the yoke Jesus mentions in the book of Matthew.

3D illustration

A yoke is used to connect a wagon or farming device to oxen, who pull the load together. That last word is the important part…a yoke is meant for two oxen, never one. Together, they bear the load.

So when Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy, we can imagine that, although we’re being asked to bear a load, we’re not doing it alone. Rather, we’re strapped in, inches away from our Savior. We can hear His encouragement. We can even smell His sweat. As we walk, we never walk alone.

But what about a light yoke? How can Christ say this? Doesn’t He know our struggles? Doesn’t He know what it’s like to feel alone?

He sure does. The wood of the yoke isn’t much different than the wood of the Cross that once rested upon His shoulders. That sure wasn’t light; after all, He fell three times on His way to Calvary carrying it. And yet, this heavy, bloody tree, this symbol of torture and death, has become a sign of our redemption.

Christ has transformed the heavy—death, torture, isolation—into a cause for rejoicing. “By His wounds we have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

That means that when our night is dark and isolating, Jesus knows. But more than wallowing in our sadness with us, He brings us out of it. Sure, we may not instantly feel better or see our stressors vanish at the snap of a finger. But all it takes is one glance to the Cross to be reminded of our joy, a joy that reaches deeper than our emotions or fears. It exists always within our souls, even if we can’t fully attain it in this world clouded by sin and our fallen human nature.

Even when things feel heavy, we can rest assured that we are not abandoned. We are not too far gone. We have a peace deeper than this world, a peace we cannot yet understand but which awaits us in fullness and assuredly in Christ’s Kingdom.

Escape

St. Augustine once said of his sinful habits, “There is no rest to be found where you seek it.” He was speaking to himself, encouraging himself to leave behind the inclinations that bombarded him.

So what about you? What temptations rear their ugly heads at you? I bet you can name them. And I bet you know that they won’t bring you rest, not real lasting rest. When they call to you, block your ears and fill your mind with what is true. The following words from St. John Paul II are an empowering battle cry against one’s demons:

“In times of darkness do not seek an escape. Have the courage to resist the dealers in deception who make capital of your hunger for happiness and who make you pay dearly for a moment of ‘artificial paradise,’ a whiff of smoke, a dose of drinking or drugs. What claims to be a shortcut to happiness leads nowhere.”

No matter our temptations or the intensity of our heaviness, we must keep in mind these words of encouragement. While addressing both the human and divine roots of our sickness, it’s necessary that we be vulnerable, that we seek support from our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we learn to arm ourselves for battle.

Our opponent, the Devil, is prowling (1 Peter 5:8). He doesn’t want to play nice; he wants to devour you. So be strong. Be courageous. Whatever your temptation, tell the devil who you are—tell him you’re God’s beloved. And tell yourself that, too, until you’re sure you believe it.

It takes courage to win this battle. It takes courage to ask for help, to realize your weakness, and ultimately, to be strong when everything around you is dark. But God’s grace will see you through it. His grace is sufficient; His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Christ’s strength will hold you up when you are weak. The load you carry may be weighing you down, but let Jesus in to bear it with you. You’d be surprised at how much lighter it can become.

You are not alone. You are loved. You can do this, one step at a time, with Christ by your side.

“Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do.” -One More Light by Linkin Park

If you think you or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours everyday).

Related articles:
I Am Not Depression
He Was Only 14: A Case to End Bullying

About the Author

Faith Noah

I’m a college student at Vanderbilt University studying neuroscience. I’m from the great state of Texas, and my hobbies include rapping along to Twenty One Pilots, jamming out on guitar, and watching NCIS marathons. However, at the end of the day, you’ll find me either engaging in sugar-induced fits of hyperactivity or having a deep stimulating theological discussions. One extreme or the other. Fun fact: my whole name (together) is in the Bible. Hebrews 11:7. No big deal.