I remember the weight.
Feeling the darkness drag me down to a place I thought even God couldn’t go. Where I was a nothing and nothing really mattered. Where loneliness devoured my insides but no human being could fill the void. In that moment, I knew only the darkness. The joy of the day before was a distant memory and the hope of a brighter tomorrow was impossible to imagine.
That was the reality of my depression.
For many years, I had no concept that I struggled with depression. I was just ‘sensitive’, ‘quiet’, or ‘moody’. I didn’t understand the struggle within me – no words to describe the turmoil that would unexpectedly come and invite itself into my life. And once it entered, it made itself at home in the dark corners of my mind and refused, like a good house guest should, to leave.
As a child, I daydreamed of a different life. Of a different me. As a young adult, I found respite in my music and a busy schedule that kept the darkness at bay.
For a time, my coping skills worked. Life as a twenty-something was adventurous. A move to a tropical county. Marriage. Two babies. Music. Friends. I found joy in all the above, but sometimes, when I stopped for just a moment to catch my breath, I found myself battling the darkness again. It seemed to hover ever in the distance – waiting for me to stop spinning and twirling – waiting for a chance to edge itself into my life.
Then came the decade of change.
Another move, but this time to the middle of nowhere. No friends, no family, no ministry to keep me dancing from one activity to another. Just a trailer in the middle of the prairies with two, then three little ones, and a husband who was busy farming. A perfect opportunity for the storm to finally descend in full fury and overwhelm the unprepared housewife.
I was a Jesus-girl from the time I was twelve, and I desired nothing more than to follow Him the rest of my days. We had been together for such a long time, surely I was a professional at all things Jesus by now. But it turns out, there was so much….so so much I didn’t know.
I didn’t know you could love Jesus and be depressed. I didn’t know you could serve in ministry and need ministering yourself. I didn’t know that running from my pain would catch up with me. I didn’t know how to change. I didn’t know where to start.
Thankfully my husband saw that I was not doing well and encouraged me to find help. Because my emotions were wildly swinging in all directions at once, I went on anti-depressants. I speak only for myself when I say that they were exactly what I needed for a time. The muting of my feelings was a gift! I was exhausted from the pendulum swing of my all-consuming emotions – the calm was a welcome relief! With the help of the anti-depressants, I was able to care for my family – be a wife and a mother – and focus on life beyond my own pain.
During this time, I also went to see a counselor for the first time. I only went once, but it changed my life! I will never forget her words after listening to my story: “Of course you are depressed! I would be depressed too if I were you! I’d be worried if you weren’t depressed!”
No one had ever given me permission to be sad before. No one had ever validated the feelings that were raging inside. No one had ever said it was ok to be broken and a little crazy. I left her office with a joy that I hadn’t experienced in years – and it stayed for days and days and days.
Amazingly, once my feelings were validated, I wanted more than anything to overcome them. I wanted healing.
After our move, we found a church we loved and began to attend a small group Bible study. It was one of the highlights of my life in that season. Not only for its friendships but for the time of learning it became. One of the most significant moments occurred when we were studying the concept of truth.
What is truth? Is truth constant? Is God truth? In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” Did I really believe that? If so, then I needed to believe the words He wrote.
One day I was full of the assurance of God’s love and then the next day, I doubted He knew I even existed. On my bad days, I couldn’t grasp the concept of 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!”
I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t believe it.
In essence, I was calling God a liar. My feelings were allowed to reign supreme over His Word. If I didn’t feel loved, then I believed it must be so! But I came to realize truth doesn’t work that way. Just like a compass pointing north, truth stays true to itself. It does not waver or bend according to time, custom, cultures, or the whims of the heart. Truth always leads you home – and best of all, it sets you free.
No wonder I was lost – I had allowed my feelings to dictate what was true! I had to learn to trust the truth of God’s Word no matter how strongly I felt the urge to head into a different direction.
Some days it was a battle to believe the truth. Many times I prayed the same prayer as the father who exclaimed, “I do believe;” and yet in the same breath, he cried, “help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Oh, it didn’t change my feelings overnight, but slowly….gradually….I was able to recognize the patterns of my depression. The fog would roll in, the darkness would descend, and I would start to question God’s love for me, His provision, His timing. Left unchecked with these thoughts, I spiraled into a pit that would take days to climb out of.
But once I realized that my thoughts were leading down into the pit, I started to speak truth to myself. Often straight from the words of Jesus, I would remind myself that I was loved, cherished, worthy, redeemed, valuable.
I always knew that I loved Jesus with all my heart and soul, but I never understood what it was to love Him with my mind. To love Jesus with my mind was to refrain from thinking lies about Him…to think truth, to choose to believe that He is Who He says He is and He does what He says He will do!
The journey from brokenness to wholeness didn’t end there, but it was an important beginning. It shifted the foundation of my thoughts and allowed me to see how my ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ had contributed to my emotional meltdown.
It also opened my eyes to the fact that we can be saved, redeemed, and still be unwell. My salvation wasn’t in question, but my sanity was! We all come to Jesus carrying baggage we have accumulated along the way, ideas we picked up from childhood, and coping skills we have fine-tuned to hide our illness, but that’s not what God wants for us. He yearns for His children to be free from the weight that hinders us, but that means choosing to live taking every thought captive and holding on to the truth. His truth.
If you are struggling with depression today, I won’t promise you will be healed on this side of heaven. Only Jesus can do that. But I encourage you to examine your thoughts and beliefs in the light of Scripture. So often we carry lies with us, and we are unaware, for they have been a part of us for as long as we can remember.
I can’t promise you will be healed, but I can promise that when you trust the truth more than you trust your feelings, you will stop sinking and your toes will finally hit solid ground.
My hope is built on nothing less than
Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
*I also cannot say strongly enough that if you are suffering from depression, be sure you reach out for help. A good doctor and a qualified counselor are important resources as you journey through the desert of depression.