Something changed that day. My heart began to hope again. I remember going home and heading straight into the bathroom. I locked the door. Took the bottle of pills from the cabinet and purposefully dumped them in the toilet. I remember standing there watching the water circle around the bowl when I heard the voice again. “This isn’t over.”
And it wasn’t. Depression didn’t leave me that day. It stayed for a long time after that. Something else stayed too… my friends. We started getting together regularly to pray for each other. They would call me in the middle of the day just to tell me they loved me. They sat with me in church, held my hand, smiled at me. They never judged. In fact they began to open up to me about their own struggles, their own failures. Every day they stood beside me and gave me strength to fight.
Word got out, as it often does in a small close knit church. Kind souls who meant well would hug me, tell me they loved me and whisper words of hope to me. Always the same words. Over and over again I heard it… the joy of the Lord is your strength. And it made me want to scream. What joy? What strength? While things were getting better, I was far from whole. Every day was a battle just to get out of bed and keep breathing. There was no joy in my life. No strength. Which made me wonder, maybe there was also no Lord in my life.
If there’s anything I’ve learned on this crazy journey of life it is that God is good. Even in the darkness. Even in the suffering. Even when I feel forgotten. God. Is. Good.
He was good when He tattled on me. He was good when He arranged for two women to attend the same church as me at the exact time when I would need them. And He was even good when I couldn’t find joy in His strength. Weeks after my self-appointed date with death He spoke to me about this scripture that had been quoted to me over and over. This verse that had become the very bane of my existence. He told me I didn’t have to listen to that verse. He wanted me to listen to another one instead.
You will make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy;
in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11
He wanted to show me the path of life. There was joy in His presence. Joy was being made available to me. And the amazing thing was I didn’t have to find it. I only had to find Him.
But I didn’t know how. My entire Christian walk had been about pursuing Him through works. And it left me broken and disillusioned. I remember clearly the first night I heard His voice. He simply said to me “will you let me hold you?” And like a frightened little girl I reached out my arms and allowed myself to be held in the arms of a strong and loving Father. That night I cried out all of my tears. The entire time I felt wrapped in love. Completely accepted. Completely free.
Here was the answer. Safe in His arms.
It’s been nearly fifteen years since I held a bottle of pills in my hand and wondered what death would feel like. I’ve realized many things in the last decade and a half.
- Depression still chases me. It still wants me dead. But I’ve learned to recognize him when he comes now. I know his voice. I’m privy to his lies. I don’t have to believe him. I don’t have to let him in. I can fight back. And I do.
- There is evil in this world. I don’t like to dwell on it, and I’m not looking for a demon behind every bush. But Satan is real. And he really does want nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy. He will stop at nothing to thwart the plans that God has for me. I must be on my guard.
- One person really can make a difference. My friends saved my life, literally. They invaded my personal life, they risked rejection and they got all up in my business. And I am so glad they did. They sacrificed for me. It took them away from their families. From their own agenda. I can never repay them. They will always serve as a reminder to me. I can make a difference in someone’s live.
- I am so thankful to be alive. When I was in the midst of darkness I was convinced that things would never get better. But they have! I can’t even begin to explain how much better they have gotten. Life is still hard; it still has its ups and downs. But it is GOOD! And full, and beautiful. Had I gone through with it I would have missed so much. I would have missed Christmas mornings with starry eyed toddlers. Watching my beautiful kids blowing out birthday candles. I would have missed weddings, anniversaries and births. Joy and laughter. Heartache and pain. All of it glorious. All of it good.
I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’ve never experienced the Great Sorrow. Maybe you have. Maybe you live there now. Wherever you are can I just say… He loves you! He really does. I know it hurts. I know you feel lost and alone and forgotten. But you’re not. I know you may not believe me, but it will get better. But you can’t stay here. You have to get free.
Remember the Great Nothing from The Neverending Story? How no one could defeat it? Well, that’s not entirely true. In the end the Great Nothing swallows up all of Fantasia. Every tree, every mountain, every living creature. Everything except one small grain of sand. The Empress holds out the grain of sand to Bastian and tells him that if he believes then anything he wishes for can happen and all of Fantasia can be restored. I don’t believe in wishes. But I do believe in faith. God promises that with only the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains. He also promises us that just like Fantasia everything that our enemy has stolen from us will be restored.
You can be free. You can live in the light. You can find joy again.