Literal Hell

By Deidra Riggs

June 23, 2018

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5


I received my first prescription for anxiety and depression ten years ago. It was Lexapro. I had been to therapy, and it helped. But the tape still kept playing in my head.

When I was growing up, I knew mental illness was a thing, but no one called it that. Touched. A little off. Crazy. Loony. These are the words I heard. The adults in my life inferred that the right amount of faith would cure it, if you were looking for a cure. But mostly, some people were crazy—they had spells, and went out of their heads—and others weren’t.

I remember thinking I could completely understand how some people might choose a quick exit. I told my husband, and then I told my doctor. She asked a few questions (including, “Are you in therapy?”), and wrote the prescription.

It saved me. And I thanked God for doctors and therapists and partners and scientists and pharmacists and people with gifts that can save some of us.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.
  • Each year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide.
  • On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle age—white men in particular.

This would be a good place to say, “Being a Christian decreases a person’s risk of suicide by 100%,” but, as much as we’d all like this to be true, the facts simply don’t support it. Anxiety, depression, and other factors that influence a person’s decision to take her own life are just as real among Christians as anywhere else in the world.

There is no one thing that will fix it. There is no easy or simple cure. If you’ve been there, you know this. If you love someone who battles depression, you’ve seen it. One thing that might be helpful is for churches to begin to talk about the reality of anxiety and depression as something common to those in their midst — to remove the stigma and give people the chance to at least say, “Yes. Me too.”

Over the years, my prescription has changed, but I still take it, every day.

I just wanted you to know, in case you ever wonder what kinds of people need that kind of help. People like me need it. Sometimes I need it more, and sometimes I need it less.

Yes, God is in the darkness of depression and anxiety. I have met God IN the darkness, but the darkness is still dark to me. It is hell. Not figuratively. It is literal hell.

Something to Think About:

Does your church talk about anxiety, depression, or suicide? What have you learned about these topics from your spiritual leaders?

Something to Do:

Check out the interactive map on this website to discover the statistics about suicide deaths in your state.


Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

(From the Book of Common Prayer)

Deidra Riggs

Writer & Author

Deidra Riggs is a national speaker, an editor, and the founder and host of Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, a bi-annual event for writers, authors, and entrepreneurs. She is a storyteller who creates safe space for navigating...

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