As of Passover/Resurrection this year, I have been living alive in Christ for 39 years this side of glory. Because of the sudden, acute onset of generalized anxiety disorder, for 16 of those years, I have been in the care of a psychiatrist and therapeutic counseling. I only admit that by way of introducing one of the medical components embedded in the care disciplines of these professionals. That component is a questionnaire which every patient must complete on a periodic basis to assess the advance or relief of their condition. One of the questions focuses on the patient’s level of thoughts of death and/or dying, chiefly whether they are thinking they would be better off dead. The questionnaire also probes whether the patient is considering ways to take the matter of dying into his/her own hands.
Long before I was ever assessed for anxiety disorder, there were times in my life as an atheist humanist that I considered how I might end my life; as a humanist, I was not actually wanting to leave a mess behind for someone else to clean up. As a humanist in the moment of realization that I was a total failure at being master of my own destiny and the highest form of life in the universe, all I really wanted to do was to cease to exist—essentially, to have never existed at all. Suicide did not fill the bill for accomplishing that, since it erases nothing and only adds more to the failure.
As I reflect on David’s lament, I realize that God was making me lament my folly to within an inch of my life, as he says in verse 9: “…Because it was You who did it.” It is God who opened my eyes to the truth that “5…Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor…6 Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them…”
I was loudly and profoundly awakened to the raw truth that human life, in all its attempts at autonomy and achievement, is the most vulnerable on this planet, as David says in verse 11: “When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth…” because God’s holy gaze is directed at humanity.Psalm 11.4 reminds me: “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.”
Since my re-birth in Christ Jesus 39 years ago, I have never given thought to ending my life at my own hands. Nevertheless, I confess that I have thoughts of death daily. As a Christian it is hard not to have thoughts of death, since in Christ, we are aware of the corruption of this flesh we inhabit. More days than not, I am keenly aware that I walk under God’s holy gaze, and the “kavod”—the weight of His glory is the closest thing I can think of to being either extinguished, or changed as carbon is pressed into a diamond. It is one of the most extraordinary total physical and spiritual experiences a person could ever know this side of glory; and I can only take so much that I must cry out as David did in verse 13: “Remove Your gaze from me, that I may regain strength, before I go away and am no more.”
At 72, I am closer to knowing—even if vaguely—the measure of my days. To be sure I know more keenly how frail I am, and I pray: “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; do not make me the reproach of the foolish… according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.” (Psalm 39.7-8; Philippians 1.20-22).
Soli Deo Gloria.