Something I don’t usually talk about is that I dealt with depression that started when I was in high school. I was prescribed my first anti-depressant when I was 17 years old. I remember one time being on a walk with my mama and sister and feeling so overcome with heavy darkness that I turned around and started running back to the house with tears running down my face. I don’t even know why, I felt insufficient in everything I did. They were confused and so was I.
Like many women, I am a feeler and felt everythiiiiing. The slightest look or sneer in my direction would feel like a pang in my stomach that would shoot my spirits down. I often felt like I carried a heavy weight and didn’t know what to do with it.
Walking mopey around high school, college or anywhere is not cool, so I didn’t show what I was feeling on the outside. I was a pro at faking it and smiling and masking my sadness with a lot of enthusiasm and smiles.
In college, there were many nights that I strategized ending my life. I googled the easiest ways to commit suicide. I put so much pressure on myself to achieve high goals, to prove to myself and everyone that I was smart. I gained 25 pounds and consumed entire bags of frozen reeses while studying late at night, but then would run on the elliptical for hours the next day.
I was on and off of anti-depressants for 5 years and then I got back on them when I was Miss North Carolina USA and stayed on them for 3 years after that.
The weird part is, even with the help of anti-depressants, I look back on those years and don’t remember feeling joyful. There were definitely times and weeks I was happy, but happiness and joy are different. Joy is a deep fulfillment from God that is unwavering.
There were 3 years when I wasn’t close with God anymore. I drifted further from Him when I got into a serious relationship with a non-believer. I even remember questioning whether Jesus was really the truth and the way. I got annoyed by Christian posts on social media and by Christians in general. I wanted to make it work with my boyfriend more than God, so I compromised my beliefs for him.
It wasn’t until one defining moment, I found a conversation that revealed my boyfriend wasn’t planning on marrying me. It hit me that I had been living in a fog, disillusioned by compromising my faith for a person.
It was in that moment that a switch went off and I dug my heels in and said, “I’m pursuing God like I never have before. I have a lot of questions as an adult Christian, I need more understanding, but I don’t care how long it takes, I just want more of Him. I don’t want to turn my back on him anymore.”
I called my Christian friend who used to irritate me with her “christianese” and radical devoutness to faith. I asked her to come over every week and go through the Bible with me. She and I, with another friend hunkered at my tiny dining room table eating frozen yogurt and studied the bible together. I remember drilling my friend with questions and only accepting the red parts of the bible because those were the quotes from Jesus.
I was still on anti-depressants at the time, but one night we talked about how God’s presence lives within us and it grows when we nurture it. I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I fully let go and trusted God to replace my anti-depressant with His divine joy.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Now, four years later I have been off anti-depressants and am consistenly joyful. I’m actually in tears writing this because I am so deeply thankful for how sweet and redeeming God is. I’m joyful because I am partnered with God, I am moved to tears in worship with Him, I know He always has my back, and I as I look back on my life He’s never left me, not once. (James 4:8)
He has never left you either. He has always been there. He says that when you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. All it takes is simply turning back to Him and He is right there.
Now don’t get it twisted. I wasn’t inspired to write this because I feel perfectly joyful and happy all the time. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this because I felt down and depressed today. I got some messages that made me feel really weird.
Being a Christian and having a relationship with God doesn’t mean your life will be perfect, but leaning on God’s strength does mean that you can get through things without such low lows they won’t last as long.
When we are walking with God, we can go boldly to the throne with life’s trials and our wounds and the Lord will be happy to respond.
A daughter of God doesn’t let depression keep her down or dull her sparkle. You are made to radiate God’s light. Here is how to deal with that empty feeling when it comes creeping in:
1. Spiritual warfare: Recognize that demonic activity and attacks from the enemy are real. The devil’s primary goal is to steal, kill and destroy you, but you have been given the authority to trample over snakes and scorpions and the forces from the dark world. Claiming the name of Jesus and praying for protection from attacks is powerful. (Ephesians 6:12, Luke 10:19) Also, pray that God will break you free from depression, especially in instances where it runs in your family. God is a healer of chemical imbalances.
2. Ask why it bothers you: Be honest with yourself and go deeper by asking why something hurts you. Is it a brokenness within yourself that needs healing? The Lord will reveal it to you. (Luke 8:17)
3. Surrender it to God: Give your pain to God. We can be control freaks and fall into using forms of self-harm like eating disorders or cutting to alleviate our pain. But when we trust God with our mind, heart and spirit He will heal us. (Luke 10:27)
4. Read the Word: Every time I feel sad, I hope my bible app and read whatever pops up. It’s always exactly what I need and immediately clears the cloud from my mind. (John 6:63)
5. Sing songs of praise and thanksgiving: Shifting our minds onto the wonder, magnificence and sweetness of God changes everything. (Ephesians 5:19)
6. Be purposeful: My pastor said anyone who feels depressed usually feels a lack of purpose. Our lives are meant to have meaning and if we aren’t living that out, it’s only natural that we would feel a sense of emptiness inside. Even if you don’t know what your purpose is, see what you can do for someone else. Reaching out to pray for or help others always lifts the weight of depression.
I am not discounting the need for anti-depressants at all, I do think they are helpful and even crucial in cases. What I am saying is that I am amazed by how much drawing near to God can transform our life and give us the powerful resources to help us get through our dark times.
It takes knowing our true identity isn’t rooted in the outside world, our identity is that we are God’s chosen daughter and that makes us royalty no matter what.
Depression + Drawing Near to God= The Sparkle Effect
You care about my life, you care about how I feel. Father I hate when depression sets in and I don’t want it to rule my life. I want you to rule my life. God you came to give me life in abundance, so please invade my heart and draw so close to me when I come to you in prayer. Will you please let me feel you? I declare in the name of Jesus that I am set free from depression! I have inherifted joy because you are my strength. Amen
If this message blessed you, please share with others.