As many of you know, my sister took her life on Jan 4 2004, alone, in a cold dark hotel room in Denton, TX. It has been almost three years and the pain is still very real and close. Her death is still more like a dream than a reality. In many ways she was my greatest encouragement for teaching through seminary and in my early years at Stonebriar Community Church. She was an active member and attended every class that I taught and every sermon I preached. She would give me both the good and the bad of my presentation. She was my biggest critic and my most encouraging advocate.  Now, after her depression and death, she still serves as my biggest encouragement to continue on in what I am doing. I know that there are so many people who go through tragic and meaningless suffering and pain, and I know that what you believe sometimes gets turned upside down by emotions and disillusionment. What you believe and why you believe it is the most important thing during this time as your experience fights for control of your theology. The experience of suffering can suffocate all that you thought you held to so strongly, making you feel like you never really held to it at all. Your previous confidence in faith can yield to the circumstances making your previous confidence seem like a deceptive hypocrisy where the mask of your former trust is taken off to reveal a horrible picture of a weak and dispassionate liar. I know what this is life as I have seen it and looked it in the face.  

I know that we often build up false expectations of what life is about, believing that these things happen only to others. It is only when they present their hostile and horrible face at our front door that we begin to come undone. Over the subsequent months as the pain does not correct itself, we do not wake up from the dream, and the “peace that passes understanding” is hard to find. We begin this self evaluation where we find out how deep the roots of our theology truly are. Do we topple over and dry out, slowly rotting away, or do we endure the pain, regarding our experience as that which is common to man, hoping for the restoration that is drawing nigh? My sister was extremely beautiful, inside and out. I do believe that I will see her again, even though her faith in Christ could not be found in the months before her death. I don’t know what the future holds as far as the ministry that God has placed before me with Reclaiming the Mind, but I do know that my past experience with my sister and my present experience with my mother (another story) motivates me more than ever to teach theology. I want people to be strong in their faith, knowing that sin has infected the world in such a deep and profound way. The hope that we have is true, even when suffering comes and does not let up. God has not promised anywhere that this type of pain will not come to our home. I wish that He did, but it is not true. In fact, God goes to great lengths to prepare us for it, telling us not to be surprised by it. Peter tells us as much when he encourages his readers “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). 

While I was a personal fitness trainer for five years, I never once had a call at my office to come to the hospital and help someone who had just had a heart attack. I never went to the ICU and helped anyone from the hospital bed to the treadmill or the exercise bike. Why? Because it was not the time; it was too late for that. Exercise is preventative. It does not work after the trauma. In many ways it is the same with theology. Theology prepares you, equips you, and trains you to avoid the trauma that so often accompanies suffering. It is important to note that good theology does not prevent the suffering nor make the suffering less real, but it does prepare you for it so that when it comes you will be able to withstand it, enduring the storm with a sense of peace that comes from knowing that redemption is our ultimate hope and the Cross has secured that redemption for all who trust in Him. My hope is that this is what Reclaiming the Mind Ministries is all about. 

If you would like, here is an 8 min video presentation of the life of my beautiful sister Angie, whom I love dearly. (The young boy at the end is her son whom she left behind).

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    2 replies to "My sister Angie and RMM"

    • disciple

      Christopher (vs. C. Michael), whom our second son is named after, on one hand I’m embarrassed that this is the first time that I’ve read this post, and on the other hand proud that my wife and I were at the most powerful funeral we’ve ever had the honor to be invited.

      I remember your mom, being strong for the students who dearly loved her.

      I remember your message, so clear with the hope of salvation that only comes through Grace through Christ.

      I remember Angie, who was and is beautiful, in Christ Jesus.

      Peace be with you most loved brother,


    • Chuck

      This is very sad for me. I’ve battled depression and suicidal ideation. I made an attempt on my life at 16 and have struggled with depression for many years. Christianity helped but soon the Calvinism that rooted my theology turned on me and my illness began to tell me that my illness was confirmation I was not “elect”.

      After a stint in the hospital, a good pyschiatrist, a small-molecule pharmaceutical drug, talk-therapy and a 12-step program I no longer struggle with anxiety or depression.

      I also have left Calvinism behind.

      I share this not to hurt or shame you but to beg you to approach cognitive disorders with respect that solutions may be found in the natural world. These solutions (at least for me) have also made supernaturalism a dangerous delusion which only invites my disorder.

      Depression is caused by a mutation in the brain which deprives the brain from essential neurotransmitters and like all genetic mutations the corresponding genotype (DNA architecture) has a resulting phenotype (symptom) if certain environmental conditions are met. The essence of five point Calvinism rooted in unmerited grace and total depravity can create an environment where depressive symptoms worsen. These symptoms are further complicated when well-meaning (but ignorant) religious people look upon the medical-condition of depression as either a character issue in one’s Christian walk or some evidence of “sin”. They are neither. They are as pathogenic as a tumor and just as deadly.

      I have rejected Christianity because of this new information. The environment is inconsistent with my understanding of a hopeful life and its insistence on supernaturalism as a default understanding of known natural phecomenon puts sick people in harms way.

      I feel for your loss but I also grieve the pain your sister must have felt surrounded by Christians who see depression as an occassion for “prayer-requests” rather than medical intervention.

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