Praise, Decades in the Making
By Anthony Casperson

It’s an odd thing to think about in terms of an anniversary (and the word “celebrate” is really not something anybody would use in regards to it). But a realization struck me recently about this season we’re about to begin and reminded me of how long ago this certain event was in my life.

Twenty years ago, during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I attempted suicide for the first time. And entered a period of my life, about ten and a half years long, during which I tried to kill myself a total of ten times. Actually, the first three attempts were all in that first holiday season twenty years ago.

No wonder I always take the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to write about depression, anxiety, and similar dark topics with these blogs. I know firsthand how difficult and lonely it feels to suffer emotional turmoil during this upcoming season while people try to plaster a smiley face on us and then call us a Grinch or Scrooge for not complying. All in the name of “holiday cheer.”

But I’m not sharing—publicly on the internet—these dark moments of my past in order to prove some sort of authority on the topic. Or to make people feel sorry for me. No, my intent is actually to praise God on this week before the season where cheer and depression stand in a strange discordant harmony.

“Praise God?” some may be asking as you wonder how a memory of a two decade anniversary of a suicide attempt could ever possibly cause someone to sing forth praise of God. Yes, I want to praise him for being consistently patient with someone who seemed to require over a decade to learn the hard way. And needs to be reminded of his caring patience on a continual basis, even to today.

See, that third time nearly twenty years ago amplified its intent higher than the previous two. But instead of the cuts and blood that the very sharp knife should have left, only raw lines stood on my skin. Marks that remained for over a week.

I can only call that a miracle. God protected me from an act of stupidity and selfish defeat. And though I’d go through bible college and seminary during those ten years of attempts, even trying to start ministry near the end of it, I’d need that protection and patience a few more times.

Every moment of defeat wasn’t met with a god of disappointment and derision, but the God who walks beside us as he leads us into the valleys of death-like shadow. The God of patience and protection who wants us to grow deeper into our relationship with him through the darkness.

Now, I’m not promising that God will always protect his people who fall to such depths of depression. But that reminder makes me want to praise him all the more for the protection he’s placed in my life.

And I want to praise him for the good that he’s done through me. Good that has only been possible because of having to walk this difficult path. I don’t know the exact number of people who have faced difficulties with the words that God’s allowed me to write or speak since that day twenty years ago. But I do know that some have. Without God’s patient protection then, who knows what other person would have stepped up to speak into their lives. Or been able to.

It’s all because of God. The God who doesn’t use our failures as a way to punish us, but rather as a means through which he shows his power and strength. And I think that’s worth taking the time to celebrate him as I reach a strange anniversary to the origins of the man I’ve grown to be since.

Join me in praising him. For the amazing things he’s done. And for the dark moments where he guides us to become more like him.