Victoria Riollano of Victory Speaks
The Suicidal Christian
To the outside world, things were going very perfect for me! A mother of four children, well respected in the military community, worship leader on Sunday, and a person many depended on.
However, on the inside, my world was closing around me.
Overused, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, confused, loss in the shuffle….hopeless.
I was indeed, hopeless.
In this moment, I was a mother of four children with no career, life plan, or passion in site. I had many great dreams but no idea how to make it happen in the midst of my responsibilities and roles. Each role was important .... everyone "needed ME".
So much that I could no longer NEED me.
And I felt myself sinking.
Not just figuratively, but literally.
One night, during a bath, I decided, I was done. Life would be easier if I just wasn't around. The pressure of life was too much. What was so confusing for me is that I had not experienced this level of depression since I was a teenager. And suddenly, in this moment, I thought "What if I just sink?" "What if I JUST sink, and not come up".
In my mind, I could hear whispers of how the world would be so much better without me. How I could be free from the pressure. A few minutes after processing these thoughts, I decided to keep fighting another day. After all, who would fulfill my "roles"?
Needless to say, for days after I felt as though a dark cloud covered me. No matter how hard I tried to smile, laugh or enjoy the scene, I couldn't. My mind kept flashing back to just…sinking…in. Why hadn't I JUST.... gone... under?
A few days later, my husband and I went to a leadership meeting at the church we were attending. If I could be honest, it was as though nothing in me wanted to enter that door. My stomach turned all day and I was physically ill throughout the meeting. I was hoping and not hoping that the pastors would pick up my depression from a mile away. Truthfully, I didn't want to be "outed". After all, I led in worship, I was well respected. How could someone like me accept depression as my current reality? An extra dose of shame was instantly added to me just by walking into the room. Sure enough, half way into the meeting, the pastor says…"Victoria, we need to pray for you right now. I'm not quite sure why yet. But stand in the middle". I can assure you the "deer in the headlights look" was the understatement of the year.
I stood in the middle as over 25 leaders in the church began to pray for me. And suddenly, I felt as if people were pulling layers of old dusty coats off my back. With each word, I felt lighter. Each word, each prayer, piercing my heart. Each word affirming that my motherhood was intentional and that God had a plan for me. Each word, spoken in love, grace, and truth. No one judged and no one condemned. I was surrounded by God's amazing love through His people. By the time, I left the room, my cloud of sorrow had been replaced with unspeakable joy. It was like I was a different person. I am so thankful to say, I've never experienced another suicidal thought again.
Some of you may be thinking here….soooo….I don't have a room full of church leaders to pray for me. My friend, there is still hope! Here's the thing, I am certain that it was not the quantity of those in the room but the words that were spoken. And even more so, my ability to accept them.
The Bible teaches us that the power of life and death are in the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21-The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
In that moment, life itself was spoken over me! Hope was infiltrated into my sorrow. Those in the room gave me a hope, in fact, that I was unaware existed any longer. I believe, that had I been willing and knowledgeable, I could have spoken these very words over myself. And even more powerful, I could have gathered with those who knew the Lord to help me. I believe that had I found someone who I could be vulnerable with and accountable to, they could have also helped pray me through this difficult time. The strongest advice I can give to anyone who find themselves in this dark place of depression is to seek help! You would find that many are willing to be the voice of Christ to you, they just may be completely unaware. Seek bonds among those who are strong in faith so that when the tough seasons come you are not alone. Ask God to give you eyes to see those who have the compassion you need in these frail moments.
And to those who do not struggle in this area, will you have the eyes to see? Throughout my time in Christian leadership, I cannot count how many I have encountered who suffer from severe anxiety, depression, shame and fear. However, there are some who will never speak up. They will keep quiet for fear of anyone knowing that they are really crumbling inside. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the broken among you, I can assure you HE will! The suicidal Christian in your midst doesn't have to continue to be lost in the crowd. Sometimes even those who are "saved" can use someone who could look past the smiling Sunday morning faces, and say "I see you and I am here for you". May you be moved by compassion to reach those who may not so easily reach back because they are too hurt inside.
I praise the Lord that this is my testimony and that I was able to come through a rough season victoriously. I can say the Lord has given me the ability to empathize and hurt with those who are broken. The great news is that if the Lord has brought me through such a low moment. He can do the exact same for you and the ones hurting in your midst. I leave you with these verses that you can use to speak life over yourself or those around you who are silently struggling to maintain their well-being.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit
Psalm 147: 3
He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
The Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you will only move upward and never downward if you listen to the Lord your God’s commands I am giving you today and are careful to follow them.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.