I didn’t flinch when the lecturer gave that statistic; 21-year-old me knew it firsthand. Because I had found myself gripping the seams of my life.
My twenty-first year hadn’t gone like I’d hoped it would. It broke me. Earlier that year, my mom went in for surgery. It was a life-threatening one, but the doctors eased our minds. Yet after the surgery, she fell into a coma, and that’s when time seemed to stand still. I waited patiently for the call that she had woken up. But that call never came.
Instead, the call said she was gone.
That call was the catalyst for the tearing of my heart. I felt as though the tragedy was happening to someone else. It was like I was living outside my body, watching a young, ambitious girl become more worn out by the day. The sympathies ran right over my head; the pain was overwhelming, and the wounds were still raw.
As the days went by, I tried. I tried to hang on, but the days felt long and longer. Normal tasks seemed harder. I found myself pulling away from my friends and family, and sadly, God.
I had so many questions: Why was this happening? Where was God? Why-me doubts took over my heart, contaminating my passion and purpose. The vigor I once carried seemed to have drifted off in the sea of my tears. I didn’t feel like me anymore. I talked to my family, but it felt like they truly couldn’t hear me.
My life seemed like a blur in the world.
I was standing outside at a bus stop after a lecture. It was raining, and I was clenching my red coat when a boy tapped my shoulder. I didn’t know him, but he said something that shook my insides.
He said he had been praying, and God had led him to wait at that very bus stop to pray for someone with a red umbrella. Someone who was struggling with grief. He didn’t say much more but asked to pray. His prayer spoke over the numbness, the brokenness and the intense feeling of being unloved.
“God wants you to know that He loves you,” the boy said.
That simple act of obedience sparked something in my heart.
I was still riddled with questions, tired, overwhelmed and unable to stretch my faith any thinner. After the bus stop incident, I talked to my sister. She knows me and knew I had been masking pain. My usual introvert tendencies weren’t well versed in handling that kind of severe hurt. My mind was flooded with painful memories.
“Take it one day at a time,” she told me.
Tomorrow seemed so far. That’s all I could think about. But her advice eased my anxious thoughts, so I tried to take it slow. One hour at a time.
Not long after that, I was led to read the book of Ruth. Ruth, too, suffered from grief, but she loved relentlessly. She was loved entirely despite her pain, and the hand of God was on her; she found hope in her new home.
God’s Word gave me some comfort and showed me His love. But the pain I was suffering still felt like a veil that kept me from enjoying it.
I Love You
The year seemed to unravel me, and I struggled to find my footing. Grief was winning. Depression was seeping in, and I had no strength left to fight it. It was easier to wallow in it than to conjure up any remaining strength. I carried on with assignments and work, but when I found out I failed my graduate school admissions test, I was convinced there was nothing left to live for.
I found myself on the edge of my bed, crying, fighting to end my life. But then something happened that changed everything.
Peace found me.
It found me drenched over my sink, crying out to God, begging for help. It found me at the point of giving up. It was as if God kept whispering, “I love you. I love you!” because in that moment, that is all I felt. Love. A love that was undaunted by my resistance and hurt. A love that spoke through strangers, friends, and family, and directly into my heart.
My heart was broken by a string of tragedy. But a more hopeful set of events counteracted that. Those subtle moments — the bus stop, my sister’s advice, the book of Ruth — tore down the walls I had put up.
I understand how someone can find herself in the depths of despair. Now I know how easy it is to get to the point of almost choosing death over life. The journey felt long for me; the tunnel looked as though it had no end, no light. But I discovered that light can find its way through the thickest walls. Light can find its way to the hidden spaces and weave the loosened seams of a broken heart back together.
I almost became a statistic. But in that moment, I believed in my heart there was more to life than depression. More to life than pain. More to life than a broken dream.
And now, I am certain of it.