Charles Wagner, West Chester, PA

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Charles Wagner, West Chester, PA

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I stepped out of the building that dark night with a mysterious peace I had never experienced before. It was the sort of peace a soldier might feel after an exhausting fight for survival on the battlefield, with his friends killed or injured lying on the ground near him. It was not the kind of peace of “all things are well” but the peace of “at least I don’t have to fight anymore.”

When you are suicidal, there is a battle for your very mind and soul. It is a struggle for making the right choice. The enemy keeps telling you that your life isn’t worth living anymore, that there is “peace” on the other side of the grave. The enemy tells you there is no hope for healing, that the adversity you are experiencing cannot and will not end the remainder of your life. The enemy tells you that you are weak, incapable of survival and recovery. The enemy’s voice is present in every subsequent disappointment in life, whispering “see, I told your life is not worth living”.

You fight these voices because you know deep down in your heart that suicide is wrong. Suicide may be the ultimate expression of rebellion from God, snatching from Him permanently whatever good He had planned for you to do for others after your season of adversity had done its transforming work. He will not be pleased when you face Him “in the next world”. That does not mean He will not welcome into heaven those who take their life, but suicide is a powerful way to communicate to God you don’t trust Him and trust is what faith in God is all about. ┬áSuicide is arguably the most selfish act that anyone can do, a statement that your need to escape pain is more important than the grief and dysfunction you will give to loved ones for the remainder of their lives, ignoring the trauma to the children from the scout troop who stumble upon your corpse.

This is the battle between right and wrong, between hope and hopelessness, and between love for others and hate for yourself. It is exhausting. The bullets never stop firing nor do the grenades stop exploding in your mind. “I want to die, I want to live, I want to die, I want to live.”

That night, I gave in to my desire to die. I would silence the voices of good. I wouldn’t concern myself anymore about how God will react to my suicide. I wouldn’t concern myself anymore with what meaning my life might yet have in the future that will be empowered by this hour’s pain. I wouldn’t concern myself about the heartache of my friends and family.

The dark voices had won and the battle ceased. Peace…so to speak. I understand how death devours people who reach that decision point. When the battle has ceased, the decision to end your life seems right. In a macabre theater, the actors and actresses for good and light seem like the enemy of peace and rest while the figures in the dark shadows seem to be your friend.

However……a sovereign God intervened as I drove into the dark that night, looking for the location of my final breath. He had His plan for my life and He wasn’t going to let me derail it. His compassion burst into my mind, a compassion intended not just for me but for anyone else who I can minister to or touch in the future because of what He did in my life to save me.

Before long, I was sobbing on the phone with two people who talked me back into the battle. The “I want to live” words were strengthened and resumed their war for my very life and ministry. I got up from the fox hole, loaded my rifle, and joined the war again against the enemy that was seeking the end of my life.

This was in April 2004, nine years ago, only two days after I had convinced the staff at the hospital into releasing me because I was “fine”. I had been voluntarily committed by compassionate professionals who feared I would end my life. When I wasn’t drawing pictures with crayons with other “inmates” in forced group activities, I lay in bed plotting the ultimate revenge once I was released – the very thing they had put me in the hospital for.

I am so thankful that God intervened and I am still here. Oh, this is no “happily ever after” since I made the decision to live. In fact, life only got more miserable for me in the last 9 years. The breakdown of my marriage that had left me suicidal did lead to divorce. After the divorce, a female close friend of mine who I cared dearly for died of an accidental drug overdose. I grieved for months and months, often thinking life would be better being where she now is. I have experienced unemployment and financial chaos, often not knowing how I would pay my bills. Trust me – financial stress is a leading cause for suicidal ideation. I have experienced disappointment in relationships that dashed my hopes for a future with love and affection.

However, a loving God has also been at work in my life. I have watched Him deliver me day after day from the things I feared the most. The certain storm that would follow the dark clouds on the horizon always seemed to blow over without inflicting the damage their rumbling in the heavens had threatened. I can thank the adversity for showing me how God does deliver, protect, and preserve. How would I know that if I didn’t have a time of chaos in my life?

My adversity has taught me that I really don’t deserve “happiness” in this life. I have rebelled from God, proudly thinking I can manage my life on my own without Him. I am often faithless, doubting His goodness and power. I have valued other things more than Him. I have made myself an enemy of God and justice for Him requires that I be punished for what I have done to Him. Imagine – He created me and I decided He wasn’t necessary in my life. I am the poster child for foolishness!

God rescued me from my rebellion 2,000 years ago. You see, I do believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and He was sent by the God who invented compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love to receive the punishment for my rebellion that I rightly deserve. God stepped in front of His own wrath that I deserved and let it inflict Him instead. That is love!

I understand what it is like to be loved by God!

And that has transformed me. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I’m still messed up. I’m still broken. I’m still a screw up. I still have moments when this life just seems too hard to put up with. However, I now understand that my purpose in life is to love others. Period. If you understand God’s love for you and if you understand how God loves others, there is only one purpose in your life – to love others.

I have focused that understanding on the creation of Gramazin. I simply want Gramazin to be a tool by which I can love others and give credit for that love to the God who rescued me and who commands me to love the people He loves. There are no people who God loves more than those who have totally messed up their lives. If your life is in shambles, I am convinced God has His war chest of love ready to flow into your life – if you will call out to Him. It is my prayer that Gramazin encourages at least one person out there to call out to God for help and enjoy the bounty of His gramazin love!

I do have a new peace in my life. It is not the peace of “happily ever after”. I still struggle in many areas of my life. My life does not match the script I would write for the movie of my life. However, I have come more to understand that the kind of adversities that led me to suicidal ideation are really blessings from a loving God. Adversity has helped me grow, helped me better understand God’s love for me, and made me a more loving and compassionate man than I used to be. I certainly have “peace” about that! I consider the joy of knowing that better than the happiness of life going the way I want it to.

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