Through the Darkness
by Jake Niven
Middle school pastor
How often have you allowed the lies of the enemy to speak louder than the truth? When you find yourself in a dark place, where do you go to for help? There have been a lot of posts and articles that I have been reading this month because it’s suicide prevention month. I think about this past year myself when I had several moments of darkness creep in. I know that being able to have caring people surround you is very important but even though I know that, I have sometimes been guilty of letting myself feel alone.
I think about this because there are students in my current ministry that haven’t been through the pain yet and then there are many who are suffering with it more now than ever. The Gen Z generation is the most depressed and stressed generation yet. I have been working with middle schoolers now at Christ’s Church for the past seven years, and the pressure they are faced with today has led to some serious darkness in their lives.
This past week, a former student of mine came to me after one of my events. She is a high schooler who was turning eighteen at midnight! Over the past few months she has had an increasingly large amount of anxiety and depression that has led to self-harm. She had allowed so many of the lies to creep into her head that she started to hurt herself. She sought professional help and has continued to struggle. On one hand I was so burdened to hear that she has allowed the lies to speak louder than the truth. But I also understand, as just earlier that same day I allowed the enemy to speak bold-faced lies causing me to feel some anger.
There I sat at 9:00 pm listening to a broken student who felt lost, confused, overwhelmed, burdened, pain-stricken, lonely, forgotten, and was ready to die. I leaned in a little closer to listen to the weight from the world that was crushing one more person. I heard the laundry list of dirty lies that were overwhelming her soul. At that moment I was reminded of the freedom that Jesus has given me. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit works because just three days before I was looking at an event with a Christ In Youth staff member talking about a 2015 CIY conference. I showed her the students who were baptized that week and this girl whom I was now talking with was one of them—and in that photo she was smiling from ear to ear. When I pulled my phone out of my pocket to show this girl the picture that I stumbled upon that weekend that same smile appeared again on her face! In that moment the weight on her shoulders started to get a little lighter.
A girl whom I baptized four years ago expressed that she wanted to die earlier that day and now she was running back to the church where she trusted someone and needed to be reminded of God’s love. At that point she started to no longer share the junk that she was dealing with in her life, but rather some of her recent accomplishments. She talked about getting a solo part in her choir at school, how she got to tour Europe this summer with her choir, and how she has so much more confidence in herself now.
I saw her lungs begin to inflate again, her shoulders raise up, and there was life in her face again. She had not been in church for about two years, but she knew she needed to come talk with me. She sensed that even through the darkness her medicine and self-harm wasn’t cutting it—there was hope and light available. In that moment when I thought I was giving her confidence and wisdom, the Holy Spirit was reminding me of those lies that were yelling at me earlier that day. I reminded her of the fruit of the Spirit that we need to live with every day.
My friend said that she has helped her friends out and had them call the suicide prevention hotline but she had never done that herself! What? Doesn’t that sound so backwards? Working at Delta in the airline industry for five years ingrained in my head this instruction: “Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others.” Yet so many of us travel hundreds of miles out of our way to help others while letting ourselves deteriorate from the inside out.
So let me ask again, When you find yourself in a dark place, where do you go to for help? If you do not have anyone to talk to, please know that I am here and ready to listen.
One of the reasons I love taking our students to CIY conference every year is that they hear God’s truth spoken boldly. A song we sing at CIY is written by Brett Stanfill and called, “Sons and Daughters,” and it speaks to our standing in God. The next time you feel you need this reminder, I encourage you to meditate on this truth . . .
“When the lies speak louder than the truth, remind me I belong to You.
When I can’t see past the dark of night, remind me You’re always by my side. We are the sons, we are the daughters of God.
No matter where we go we’re close to the Father’s heart.
And though we stumble He will not let us fall;
We are the Lord’s and He will never forsake His own.
We are the sons, we are the daughters of God.”
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV).