Note: In no way is this blog meant to diagnose any person’s depression. Clinical depression is a very serious issue that needs medical help, and praise God for doctors and counselors! This post is my own story of walking through a season of depression that God used to remove any self-dependence and pretense in my heart.
There are moments in life I wish I could erase but are seared onto my memory like a tattoo. One of those moments was last fall when I walked through a season of depression and intense anxiety. A darkness descended on my soul that felt unbearable at times. It seemed impossible most days to see beyond my broken state. Leading up to this season, the pace of my life had drastically sped up. Looking from the outside in, our life seemed to be flourishing in many ways. I was traveling to speak at various women’s events, we had a rambunctious, loving toddler, and were serving in our local church. And yet, in the midst of all this, I crashed and waves of anxiety flooded into my soul, making me feel like I was drowning.
The trigger for my anxiety and depression was a simple surgery to remove my gallbladder. Post surgery I didn’t anticipate a long period of healing and a body that needed to drastically slow down. I removed myself from all ministry and commitments, but even still, the darkness would not lift. I began to question myself: Does my depression disappoint God? Would I ever come through this? Had I ruined my testimony or showed a lack of faith and trust in God to be dealing with such anxiety? In my head I knew that God was still good good and that He would bring me through the valley of the shadow of death, but my heart struggled to fully believe. I felt hopeless and broken, like I had failed at living an honorable life to Christ.
I spent countless hours on my face in prayer and in Scripture. I filled up journals with pleas for mercy, writing out verses, and pouring out my heart before the Lord. I read every book I could get my hands on. I even made lists of practical things I knew would help (rest, pray, eat well, exercise, slow down, processing through wise counseling, etc.). Eventually, I saw a doctor and ended up taking medicine to help my body heal. However, the decision to take medicine to help with my depression and anxiety was one that I wanted to hide. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had gone so low as needing medication to help work through my trauma. I wanted to hide my brokenness. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to have it all together?
When You Don’t Have It “All Together”
That leads me to this: As the church, we must be willing to speak up about the darkness we experience and the light that Christ brings. By hiding our brokenness under a veil of shame, we are missing out on opportunities for people to experience true body and soul healing. When we come to church with a fake smile on and a bleeding heart beneath, we forget that the gospel saves needy people. Christ came knowing that we are broken, and He brought with Him healing. The more we recognize our uttermost need and God’s utmost goodness, the more we will come to realize that we cannot survive without Him. He is the ultimate Healer of our depression and anxiety.
Find the “Jesus, Jesus” canvas here .
I am not saying that there is no need for counseling or medication. What I am saying is that God uses all of these things to renew and restore what the enemy has tried to steal from us. He uses wise, Christ-centered counselors to draw out what is wreaking havoc deep within. He uses doctors who understand the body to prescribe and monitor medication needs and help put us on a track towards physical healing. He uses His living and active Word to reap a harvest of hope in our hurting hearts. He uses rest to revive our burned out minds. He uses prayer to speak to us and remind us that He has not left us in the darkness.
The truth is, as Christians, we will never have it all together while we walk this planet in human flesh. To think that we do, or potentially could, is to live in pride. Believing that we have to live up to a level of perfection is a lie from the enemy meant to steal the joy we rightly have as children of God. Striving for perfection keeps us from experiencing His mercies and strength in our weaknesses. The gospel reminds us over and over again that we could not save ourselves. It is all because of what Jesus has done that rescues us and gives us new life. We won’t ever have it “all together” here, but we know the One who does have it “all together” and He makes all the difference. He gives us help in countless ways to heal us from depression. The healing takes time, but God is patient and gentle with our souls.
Here’s what makes Christians different when we walk through seasons of darkness, depression, and despair: we have the hope of Jesus living within us. He fought a physical battle for our healing in dying on a cross. He fought a mental battle for us and was sinless. He fought a spiritual battle for us and defeated all the oppressors of darkness. Jesus is the hope within us that keeps us from being consumed by the darkness.
God is not disappointed when we are depressed. As a matter of fact, He knew that we would suffer from depression in this broken world. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 gives us this hope to cling to:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.”
Comfort by the God of all mercies in our affliction. That is what we receive in our depression and anxiety. His comfort. Not His wrath, not His disappointment, not His disapproval. His comfort. What a great, caring Father we have! May we never miss His comfort in our darkness by being too prideful to admit that we need it.
Asking Why and Looking to Who
Depression is not a new thing in the life of Christians. If you read the Psalms, it won’t take you long to see that many others dealt with anxiety and depression. I read countless Psalms when I walked through darkness, and for the first time I truly understood what many of them meant. Psalm 42, in particular, was one that I ran to often. In Psalm 42, the Sons of Korah write this question, that in many ways describes the depressed and anxious soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you…” (verse 5-6a). Why. It’s the question we ask when we walk through darkness. Why is this happening? Why am I so weak? Why can’t I get over this? Why?
And yet, we learn here what we must do when our souls are in a state of turmoil and when come to a place where we realize that we truly don’t have it “all together.” The Psalmist turns from asking “why” to looking to “Who” can save him. He answer his soul’s question with this: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Verse 11b) The writer talks to his soul, tells it what to do, looks to the past faithfulness of God, and looks ahead to the coming hope. Don’t miss these words: “for I shall again praise him.” Again. Depression, anxiety, and darkness don’t last forever. They may be intense for a season, they may seem to never end, they may cloud out all light from your view, but, lo, the darkness will end and the sun will rise again. When we walk through seasons of depression, we have to remember that we haven’t disappointed God. He is with us and He has hope to offer us. We have to choose to move from asking “why” to knowing “Who” is able to save us.
If you are walking through a season of darkness and feel completely alone, know that you aren’t and you have never been. There is hope. You will praise Him again and walk with a light heart. The darkness will lift, because God is still on His throne and Jesus’ death on the cross is still sufficient. In His sovereignty and goodness, He has provide help and hope in several avenues: His Word, prayer, counseling, community, medicine, etc. He is the God of Whole. He doesn’t give us healing or hope partially, He gives it fully and in many ways. My prayer is that you would not shy away from your brokenness or try to hold your world together. Fall apart at the foot of the cross, because Jesus holds you together. Sometimes in falling apart, we find true soul healing.
I have learned to be thankful for the depression my soul experienced, because in walking through that season, I know even more now than I did before that Jesus holds my life together when my world is falling apart. I am now able to comfort and encourage other believers walking through similar seasons. I know because I’ve been there and I’ve seen God be faithful. This is the kind of testimony we need to be willing to share. God gets the glory when we bring light to the darkness and live exposed to our need for His grace upon grace.
May we move from asking “why” to knowing “Who” heals us, and may we be unafraid to share our stories and our struggles with one another. In sharing, we can say “me too” and point to Jesus who heals and offers hope, even in the darkest moments. May His light shine upon your hearts today, and may you see that you will again praise him.
Looking to “Who” brings comfort, hope, and renewal,
I’m overwhelmed and in tears .. this is my story! Had my gallbladder out too and then some other issues,but anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks.. I’m beyond thrilled to read this. This was ten years ago, but now it has returned and I’m back on medicine and I’m just so so grateful for your testimony, today was hard and I’m so grateful for this today. I can’t see how God will use this other than to help others. I feel like in my circle I’m the only one struggling with this and it’s lonely. I have wonderful Christian friends, husband and family, but no one truly understands unless you’ve been through it. God bless you and thank you. Kelly
Kelly, I’m not sure if you will see this, but I recognize the sorrow in your voice. I also felt alone bc no one else really understood what I was going through, and I couldn’t see the good that would come out. But God! He used my plight for a greater salvation for me and to show me His comfort (as Gretchen pointed out in 1 Corinthians). I want to encourage you to not give in to the lies that you will never overcome this or that your faith/spiritual life is not good enough. These were very helpful resources that I want to share on this page with anyone going though anxiety, depression, or fear (panic disorder): http://www.sinkyourroots.com and download the book Fire in my Mind…it is great for the sufferer and their supporters who don’t understand what they are going through. And, http://www.brokenvesselsministries.org.
Don’t give up friends! God loves you, and He will bring good out of this hurt, despair, and pain.
In His Love, Kim
Kim … I just saw this and you have no idea how grateful I am for your response. Thank you so much and I will definitely look into those resources. I’m so glad I came back to reread the article. Kelly
Thank you once again for sharing your heart and your walk. I related to to what you had to say and Kelly below as well. I am very thankful for the good days and the trials. God uses each one for His story and His light and you have shown His light again. Thank you for your words of encouragement.
How my soul needed this! Thank you!
Gretchen thank you so much for sharing and being vulnerable and sharing what God put on your heart! This hit home with me because of the anxiety and depression I am going through. There are days that are tough and will I ever get through this season and to see hope and light! I get so overwhelmed and try so hard to glean the nuggets of Gods truth and it sure isn’t easy. It is nice to know I am not the only one struggling with depression and anxiety! Thanks again for your encouraging blog post!
Thank you for bravely sharing this, Gretchen! I’ve been coming out of a season of depression – and do see a lot of tangible evidences of how God is restoring me. It’s hard to be gracious with yourself and others during depressive seasons. (Even, on the flipside, to be gracious and understanding with those suffering depression.) As always, your words are soaked with the Gospel and they are like a balm to the listener. Thankful for you!
Gretchen, I recently found your blog and I love it. This post was just what I needed today. I first started suffering from anxiety 3.5 years ago, and at that time I heard directly from God Psalm 42. Recently, I’ve had an increase in anxiety and God showed me 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. So great to see that He has used the same scriptures to speak to you. Also, thank you for mentioning that medicine, counseling, etc. are all part of the ways in which God provides for us in our times of need. I thank God that He has provided me with these things, and I hope anyone going through depression or anxiety knows that it’s okay to use any resources the Lord has put in his/her path. Thank you for this post!
Thank you! My soul needed this!
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