You try so hard and get nowhere. You are not good at this. You will never be good enough. No one cares about you. If you died today they wouldn’t miss you. You aren’t special in any way. You are just white noise. Nobody loves you. You are alone. These are the types of harsh, cold words that race through your mind when you sink into the dark pit of depression.
Chronic depression doesn’t just go away with medicine and encouragement.
It is not a one-time occurrence. It is a sickness and a battle. Many people don’t understand depression and mental illness because those that suffer from it usually suffer in silence. Unless you have personally suffered from it or know someone close who has, then it is hard to understand.
It took me 20 years to admit the truth, to confess that I had been suffering for a long time. I didn’t want anyone to know the darkness and the battle I was facing. I felt confined. Even if I wanted to tell the truth, I couldn’t. I thought so little of myself, and I thought if people knew the truth they would think even less of me. I didn’t matter, so why would it matter if someone knew?
Not good enough
It started when I was 11. No one teased me. I had a good family. I was in the “popular” group at school. I was athletic. Regardless, I determined I wasn’t good enough and I never would be.
My mind swirled with lies that I started to believe.
I would cry myself to sleep at night, plot ways in which I could kill myself, and wish to be gone from this earth. One day I overheard a friend at school say that when you pray it is like talking to a friend. So I tried it. As I cried at night I would pray that if God was truly all-powerful, would He please give me the strength to kill myself or at least kill me (somehow) so I could go to heaven and not have to live this life anymore? As painful as it is to admit, those were my first prayers to God.
As the years went on the Lord would rescue me (though I didn’t realize it at the time) and pull me up out of the pit of despair but eventually I would stumble back into it and fall deeper. After meeting my husband in college when I was in a deep depression, I thought maybe I had finally come out of it, but it continued to be an ongoing battle.
Yearning for peace
In 2007, my husband and I started regularly attending a church. My grandparents gave a Bible to my husband for Christmas that he started reading every day. A friend from work invited me to a Bible study group and I started reading a devotional every morning. God was drawing us to Himself. I also started praying on my way to work every morning. I didn’t really know what or how to pray, so I would just talk to Him and kind of complain and say I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, but if He could just give me peace.
All I wanted was peace. I prayed for peace for over a year.
In 2008, I had a job interview with a group that I had worked with when I was in college. My former employer asked me to apply. I thought for sure I would get the job. My husband and I were excited to move back to our college town, and I thought this would be the solution that would finally make me happy. That is not what the Lord had planned for us, though. I didn’t get the job. I remember crying as I drove home. I was crying out to God and asking Him what He wanted from me. What was I supposed to do? I thought this was the answer . . . now what? Then I felt a sensation like someone was hugging me, and I sensed the words, “You are right where I want you to be.” I felt the peace I had been praying for, and I knew He was real and He had heard me. The job didn’t matter anymore. I had been selfish. I hadn’t asked the Lord what He wanted for my life. For the first time God was real to me and I believed.
“Make it STOP!”
A few years passed and we added two amazing kids to our family. I was now a believer, so I thought I was impervious to depression. Right? Wrong. Satan knows your weaknesses. I was trying to keep up with freelance work at home, take care of a hyperactive three-year-old and a new baby—and somehow in the midst of stress and lack of sleep I let my guard down. The lies started to seep in. I could feel the darkness creeping in and I immediately went to God—not in desperation but in anger. “How could this happen? I am Yours! Your Spirit is inside me! How could Satan, the father of lies, sneak in and drag me back to that dark place? God, you are all-powerful! You can make it STOP!” I prayed and cried out for Him to take it away, but He wanted me to do something first.
Confessing the truth
His response was for me to confess to a group of women from church about my depression. He wanted me to tell the truth. I refused. They will think I am crazy! I can’t do that! I can’t admit the truth. It is my secret.
So, after battling God on the matter for a few weeks, it came time for the women’s Bible study group. The leader led us through the book we were doing, and at the end she asked for prayer requests. She went around the table and came to me last. I just started to cry . . . and I confessed.
I told them that I had faced depression off and on for a good part of my life and that I felt myself slipping back into the darkness and I didn’t want to go there again.
Then I started crying so hard I couldn’t say anymore. I felt so embarrassed, but then without a word all of the women stood up. They came over and laid hands on me and started to pray. I had never experienced anything like that before.
As I drove home that evening, the dark feelings started to dissipate. Like Jonah, I had obeyed and done what He asked me to do, even though there was a lot of grumbling and complaining beforehand. As much as I didn’t want to tell the truth, I really didn’t want to experience that darkness again. He was faithful to free me from the darkness again.
A week later one of the women from the Bible study group brought me a book by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. It has a chapter dedicated to depression and it helped to fill my thoughts with truth. I would write verses on index cards and have them in my purse, by the bed, in the car so I could constantly be reminded of the truth.
Satan is crafty and may prey on your weaknesses, but God is stronger and more powerful.
The only way to combat the darkness is with light, and the only way to combat lies is with the truth.
It is a battle. It doesn’t go away, but the Lord can give you strength. The Lord gives you some pretty incredible weapons, too (Ephesians 6:10–17). The truth really does set you free (John 8:31–32), and depression is a stronghold that can cripple you and prevent you from admitting the truth or believing the truth. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could admit the truth . . . and even then I didn’t want to do it. God has been faithful and He has rescued me so many times.
Looking back, those first prayers that I prayed to God, asking Him to kill me so that I could go to heaven and not be on the earth anymore . . . in a strange way I feel that He answered them. If I had committed suicide like I wanted to back then, I would not have been able to be with Him in heaven, because I had not yet received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. When I became a believer, my “old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6) and I now have a new life and the privilege to be with Him in heaven one day.
Powerful and present
God is at work and He is faithful. He hears us when we pray and His truth is powerful. If you are suffering from depression or know someone who is, remember the power of the truth. The Lord sees you. You are not alone. Draw near to Him.
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 ESV).
*Jenn works at a nonprofit in Birmingham, Alabama.