Josh Phillips is a reformed business entrepreneur (business for the glory of God) turned church planting assistant. “Passionate in all my pursuits, with a goal of finding how I can glorify God through my relationships. Humbled he has chosen me to serve a church plant in Portland, Maine.”
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
If you were to meet me in person, you would think, “Southern accent, gentle smile, a little mouthy, but seems passionate and joyful.” That is the part, however, not the whole. What has plagued me since I was 10 years old is an ongoing battle with thoughts of suicide. As I write this, it has been about a month since my last fight. It’s strange because, the battle is never the same. At times, the depression comes on slowly, and takes a few hours to really set in. Other times, I have had suicidal thoughts overwhelm me so quickly and unexpectedly. Once, while driving, I fought the temptation to pull over & make a bad decision, whereas a mile before, it wasn’t even a thought. No matter how the battle occurs though, it’s always on the back end of a sin I have found in my heart and have yet to confess. Sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s self-gratification, sometimes it’s arrogance. Nonetheless, something always predates it.
This isn’t an article about suicide, but rather a reason why 1 Corinthians 13:13 is truth that helps me fight. On the day the suicide battle ensues, it rages loud in my mind. Thoughts, voices, messages, all screaming at me that there is no hope, my faith is worthless, and that my family could use another father’s love (in other words, my wife might remarry once I’m gone). It’s like standing in front of a speaker at a death metal concert, trying to have a conversation with a friend. No matter how close you get to each other, it would be impossible to hear.
And so it is, within my mind, on those days. It’s as if I lose the ability to hear the Holy Spirit speak His comfort to me. It’s as if the sin acts like sound-deafening earmuffs to my spiritual ear.
But, even though I can’t hear Him well, I feel and know the truth in my heart, and therein lies the key to this verse. My faith in the Lord grants me a Savior for my soul and in this case, my life. My study of the scriptures (and remembrance of the peace, wisdom, and comfort He grants me through scripture); worship; and memories of feeling Him close, is what gives me hope in those dark moments. It’s as if my mind reaches down into my heart to feel the truth… as a blind man would, because he cannot read the words with his eyes, but rather feel the words with his skin. I feel the words of the Spirit’s “braille” writing transcribed onto my heart. It’s hard at first, but the more I focus, the more I know and understand the Truth. The more I realize Jesus’ grace has set me free, and I am no longer slave to sin…all because of His love.
It is the truth of Romans 6:17-18 “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves to righteousness.”
I begin to realize in those dark moments that His sacrifice for me has set my heart free to love righteousness, and, to no longer be in the bondage of sin—where darkness and hopelessness reign. Once my faith becomes a part of the night, my hope begins to return, allowing my mind to remember this battle must not be lost! It shall not be upon my hands to determine the day of my death, but upon God’s.
The way I see this life, it is a war (Eph. 6:10-20.) I know that if I am to fight for the Lord, I have a battle coming within my mind and heart. For the enemy speaks lies to me, so as to torment my mind, in the hopes that he can take me out of the battle completely- by convincing me suicide is the best option.
There’s a reason why Paul doesn’t say, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the twine of truth and having put on the cummerbund of righteousness, and, as flip-flops for your feet, having put on readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, take up the blanket of faith, with which you can extinguish all flaming darts of the evil one and put on the veil of salvation, and the rose stem of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” No, he uses actual war tools to allow us to clearly understand this is going to be bloody. This is not a game.
Thus, it is through faith, hope and love that I find the emotional strength to pull on the seed He has sown into my heart, to fight for His Kingdom and not lay down for mine. It is because of His love that I am still alive today to fight this battle with you, which is why it’s the greatest of the three. Love leads to life.
Worship is one of my weapons, and in the words of Mumford and Sons:
“Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.”
May I so quickly remember that sin is what separates me from His love. May confession be quick, allowing His love to rush back in, quieting the rage and allowing me to once again hear the comfort of His Spirit. Amen.