Depression and a God who is Stronger

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression. Some people think its no big deal and then others call it the cancer of the mind.

When I was growing up I used to be one of those people that thought people should just be able to power through. Trust God and be happy. 

Until last year. July 2013.

Each morning I would wake up with this weight. A thick dark cloud that followed me from my first waking breaths until I laid my head on my pillow at night. All day, I was alone. In a small apartment. My mind would spiral out of control. 

There were tears. 
There was anger. 
There was confusion. 

I couldn't understand why I continued to fail day after day and nothing was changing. I would pray and cry out to God only to find myself in a worse state of mind the next day. I was in a complete and utter state of hell in my mind. And when you get to a place like this... you start thinking some crazy, horrid things...

Fast forward, July 2014.

I was sitting on a twin bed, in a VERY HOT, third floor dorm room with about 10 high school girls. I had just asked them to answer 10 questions on a piece of paper. The last question I asked, was if they had any questions for me. 

We went around the room, one at a time, sharing answers and talking. Then it was time to go around the room asking me questions. Some girls didn't have any. Some had funny, random ones. And a select few had some more serious questions, all pretty much pertaining to the same thing. 

Aly, have you ever hit rock bottom? And if so... what were the steps you took to get out of it?

I sat there stunned for a moment. Earlier that day, as I was preparing for devotions with them for that evening, I was flipping through my notebook and I found an entry from July 14, 2013... It went something like this:

"Life is so hard right now. I am scared. I am so unhappy and each day is getting harder and harder to bear. I finally thought I saw a glimmer of hope and its all crashing down around me again... I've never had so many thoughts of death... thinking dying would actually be better than living on this earth. I continue to fail and every time I do - I feel more lost, more alone and more without a reason to be alive. I am more sad than I have ever been in my entire life..."

I looked at this little room of High School girls and blinked back a few tears thinking, "Lord, is this a situation that you want me to share what I have been through? Is this one of the reasons why I was going through what I went through last year."

So I began to answer them. Yes, I have hit rock bottom... It was just last year. 

I read a portion of my journal entry. Praying it was the right decision.

I shared with them that just a year ago... I was in a completely different place than I am now. And the ONLY reason why I got out of it... THE ONLY REASON why is because I have a Savior who never gives up on me. 

What were the steps I took? 

I stopped hiding. As hard as it was... I chose a select few people and told them how miserable I was. I forced myself to act exactly how I felt inside to these people. I told them my deepest and darkest pains and didn't HIDE. They made me realize that I needed professional help.

I sought help. I pursued counseling. I went twice a week because I couldn't even go a whole week without talking to someone about all the thoughts spiraling around in my head. I was officially diagnosed with depression and was put on a low dose of medication to help me "reprogram" my mind. I decided to use it as a tool to help me to battle this "cancer" of the mind. I went through 7 months of counseling and 9 months with the medication until stopping both. 

And now... I wake up every morning and I spend time in the God's Word. In Isaiah 44:22 it says, "I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you."

Hosea 6:3, "So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn and he will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth."

As I draw near to God, I find that I am safe in his arms. 

Isaiah 50:4b, "He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple."

As I begin to learn more about his grace and his love and how he pursues me, I have come to truly believe the words that I am reading and believe in his promises in a way that transforms my daily life. And on the days that I can feel my mind giving in to my old ways, I rest on passages like this:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fall and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation, The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like the hinds' feet and makes me walk on my high places." Habakkuk 3:17-19

It doesn't mean life isn't hard. It doesn't mean there won't be trials or hard times again. But there are promises in the Bible, made by a God who created everything. He promises to sustain me and be my guide. 

When I was diagnosed with depression... I couldn't even get to a place in my mind that would lead me to spend time in God's Word. I was lost in selfishness and despair. I was crying out like David in Psalm 13, "How long, O Lord will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?" 

At the end of this passage, David cries out that although he had been in despair, that he has trusted in God and is rejoicing in God's salvation. 

This was the part that I was missing before. I realized I had not come to the place in my life where I actually, truly, understood the grace of God. The gift that was given to me when Jesus died on the cross for me. He died on the cross to redeem me from my selfishness, my anger, my many mistakes. 

How could it be that I had come to my 25th year of life and had not understood the magnitude of this beautiful love story until now. I wished it hadn't taken me so long but am so thankful to finally understand it

I believe that I went through what I went through last year to help me to understand the magnitude of what my Savior did for me. And to use that amazing lesson to share with others. 

. . .

There are many articles, blogs, and statements floating around about Robin Williams death. He suffered from severe depression and while some people are romanticizing the situation... Some are calling him selfish. 

But the fact of the matter is... He was selfish! We are all SELFISH! We were born not knowing any better than to put ourselves first. And that is why God sent his son to wash us clean. 

I don't know where Robin Williams was as far as his beliefs. I don't know if he had a relationship with God. If he was seeking help or if he got to a point where he just began to hide. You never truly know what a person is battling with. 

Sometimes as Christians, we think we have to have it all together. We think because we believe in God we have to have a sparkly, clean little life and not have any major issues. Well, I will be first to stand up and raise my hand high... I got me some issues. But I have a God who is so much bigger than those issues and will not give up on me. 

Throughout this past year, He extended his hand to me, waited for me to grab a hold and then began showing me and teaching me what a life lived in abundance and joy really means. I am no where near a place of perfection in this area and I never will be, but I am eternally grateful for a God who will walk beside me until my dying day and promises to redeem, restore and love me each step of the way.

Life in Abundance: A Call to Die. A Call to Live.

Monday, August 4, 2014

There is a verse that keeps popping up lately. In my Bible Study. In the sermons at church. In my life, my friends lives, my parents lives. And, in the most recent book my husband and I started reading together. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. 
I came that they might have life and have it abundantly." 
- John 10:10

Andrew and I began reading David Platt's most recent book called "Follow Me". I have only read the introduction which is written by Francis Chan, but I have already learned so much. There is a small excerpt that grabbed me. I would like to share it:

"Probably the most memorable task Jesus gave was in Matthew 28. It stands out because of the dramatic fashion in which he gave it. He rose from the grave, and then prefaced his command with the words "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." No one in his right mind would ignore the next words out of Jesus' mouth: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." 
Jesus wanted followers from every nation on earth, so he commanded his disciples to reach them and train them. And that is exactly what they did - but this work is still not finished. He expects us to follow in their footsteps and structure our lives that our actions revolve around completing this mission. "

Life in abundance. What does this really mean? I think for some, we can get trapped into believing that its the things we own. Our house. Our car. Our travel plans. Our appearance. Our STUFF. We think that our life will be "happy" when we are comfortable and we have everything we need here on this earth. But the Bible says in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Theres a Men's Ministry called Man In The Mirror. Their Vision is "To reach men with a credible offer of Jesus Christ, to help them grow in knowledge and love for Christ, and to equip them to serve God in the home, church, workplace, community, and world. We help men change their lives by connecting the dots between the Bible and their daily lives. We measure our profits in changed lives."

Its been a little under a year since my Father accepted a position to represent and serve as an Area Director in Central Massachusetts for Man in the Mirror. It has been an honor to watch my parents as they seek God's direction, find investors and donors to support this ministry they have been called to, and start to make changes in their lives to do this full time. 

As my parents oldest child, born just a few years after they got married, I have watched as my Father has gone from job to job, position to position, working his way up from the bottom to the top, reaching a career that provided above and beyond for our family. Then, within the past year, committed to letting all of that go, humbling himself by letting others faithfully provide for my families needs, so they can serve their God-given area. 

It brings me to tears. 

The "sacrifice" of decades of hard work, building up a life and all their possessions, to then be called to ministry... and to give that all up. In other words... "A call to die. A call to live."

I've been calling my Mother every few days to check in on the progress. Thus far, they have sold their house, put in a few offers... only for them to fall through. And now? Well, they have 24 days to find a new home to move into. Kinda crazy... 24 days. 

In a recent conversation with my Mom we exchanged encouragement, tears, honesty and love. As we both confessed that the "call to die" isn't always the easiest. That sometimes the thief who comes to destroy is so good at trying to destroy. Living a life for God doesn't mean being comfortable. My Mom said to me, "you'd never think that one of the hardest things could be the thought that the kitchen table we have been sitting around eating dinners at for years could be so hard to have to give up... because it simply won't fit in the kitchen of the new house we will be purchasing."

Isn't it so true though. We become so attached to our possessions. I don't believe its wrong to have items that mean something to us because of the beautiful memories that they bring. But, when we are called to give those things up... how will we respond? 

To the house with the memories. The car with the sun roof. The kitchen table. 

I am so thankful that God has given me the opportunity to watch as my parents go through this. All the tests and confusion, the letting go, the eye-opening and life altering experiences, and all the lessons they will learn... it's a testimony to how big, how great, how loving, how trustworthy, and how beautiful and abundant a life lived with God as the center of our lives can truly be. 

Man in the Mirror Links:

Central Mass Facebook Page
Support/Donation Page

My Parents Home in West Boylston, MA that is currently SOLD.

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