Dying of Thirst

You can die of thirst.

Not the turn of phrase we use in casual conversation after a hard work out. Literally die of thirst. You can live for about three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Tom Loftus blogged earlier this month about a young man who isolated himself in the desert and died this way. I identified with his story. I knew you could die of thirst in a desert alone because I almost did.

I will never forget the day my son was diagnosed with Autism. Even though I had begun to suspect it, hearing the doctor say the word; hearing him tell me it was okay to grieve the little boy standing right beside me – it shattered me into so many microscopic pieces I would spend the next decade picking them up and painstakingly gluing them back together.

Oh, I hit the ground running, looking for therapists, searching for funding, balancing so many balls I would have made a juggler proud. Going through every motion to FIX this. But nothing could fix me. Something cold took root and spread, infecting my faith. Short circuiting my hope. Numbing my joy. And I didn’t even know it. Didn’t recognize how far into the desert I had meandered, creating an open air prison for one.

I remember the first time taking my life occurred to me. I was driving home with my son in the back seat. I was still getting used to his absolute silence. To the way he avoided looking into my eyes. To the way he shrunk into a place in his head where I could never follow. I was still asking him about his day. Hoping he’d respond, knowing he would not. I was still praying in the car, hoping by some miracle he’d say “amen,” but he never did. And one day it just hurt too much. And the future scared me so much. And our financial problems weighed so much. And my marital problems pissed me off so much. (Can I say pissed in a devotional blog? Oh, well…) And a sinister voice in my head or my heart – I don’t know anatomically where we process these things, but I know it pierced my consciousness. An insidious whisper. A drop of poison in my ear. A shard of glass in my heart.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just end it?

I thought about the misery my life had become and wondered if it just might be easier to drive off the bridge. To close my eyes and let go of the wheel and roll into oncoming traffic. To end it once and for all.

That thought persisted for days. For weeks. Every day when I would pick my son up from daycare, that deadly imagination would revisit me. It frightened me. Me, the ever-optimistic, the bubbly one – contemplating suicide? I’d halfheartedly crack open my Bible, and it was like pages of hieroglyphics that made no sense. That meant nothing to me. I was afraid to admit it to anyone, so I kept opening the Bible, and finding no comfort. I felt my throat closing and drying. I was gasping. Parched. And nothing watered me. Not my husband’s reassurances, as much as he loved me. Not friends’ prayers, as much as I knew they meant well. This was an unquenchable, soul-deep thirst. And then one day, like a drop of water in a sandbox, one verse stood out and I clung to it like the Calvary.

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. – Psalm 118:17

And that truth was like a fire extinguisher to the lies that had been burning me alive.

Looking back, I recognize that I was depressed. I probably should have been on some serious meds. For real. But I don’t take all the credit for those lies. The Word of God says we have an enemy. Refers to him as the Father of Lies. And he is singularly focused on destroying you. Eliminating you. Exploiting every weakness and circumstance to convince you to give up. Whatever that looks like for you. He’ll tempt you with drugs, or sex or porn or adultery or food – and laugh when you finally realize it’s a mirage in the desert. That he slipped you a placebo and fooled you into thinking it would make things better. He will bludgeon you with falsehoods and slice you open with his lies, then walk away as you bleed out. Leaving you for dead.

And I entertained this fiend. I choked down his lies for days, for weeks. Nothing to wash it down with except my loneliness. My isolation. I was dry as a bone. Until I found that verse, or that verse found me, or we found each other. However it happened, it saved my life.

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. – Psalm 118:17

That one dollop of truth watered me. Seeped into my soul and revived me as I meditated on it. As I repeated it aloud. As I wrote it in my journal. As I absorbed it. Truth by osmosis. It become mine. It made me look around and realize I was alone in the desert. I had wandered off from the people who could help me. Who could remind me of the truth in the face of lies. The Bible and the Body. I had neglected them both. But as I continued to seek out God’s truth and to seek out His people in small groups, family, friends – I regained something the enemy doesn’t ever want me to have.

Perspective.

My circumstances didn’t really change all that much at first. My son was still severely autistic, and improving only incrementally. We still had medical bills and utility bills and every kind of bill you can imagine. We still had problems in our marriage that would take years to repair. But God, in His mercy and through His Word, using His people, righted my perspective. We live in a fallen world. A rotting, decaying creation waiting for the Creator to revisit it with the ultimate redemption. And until then, we are subject to its less-than-perfect conditions. The sickness, the sin, the strife – and every place this rottenness intersects with our God-surrendered lives is an opportunity for His glory. God’s end game is always His glory. Things do not always get better when we want them to, but God is constant. He is faithful. He does not lie. And His goodness will sustain you.

I have faced this enemy who likes to trap me in the dark. Who toys with me like a predator playing with his food before he pounces and devours. Who wants me to, like a fool, die of thirst in the desert surrounded by jugs of water from which I never take a sip. He wants me to forget God’s faithfulness. Wants me to forget God’s Word. Wants me to shun God’s people.

But I won’t. I will live. And I will declare the works of the Lord!

tina Pic

Tina Dula spent the last decade or so creating irresistible environments for the unchurched through service programming at North Point Community Church. She recently transitioned out of an incredibly fulfilling career in church world to focus on her son Myles and to run the foundation she established to serve families living with Autism, Myles-A-Part. In addition to volunteering with the core team of Perimeter Pointe Church, she’s returned to one of her greatest passions, writing. Her first book in a fictional trilogy through Hachette Books/Grand Central releases in June 2014 under the pen name Kennedy Ryan.

Leave a Comment