“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’”
She was only 14, just a couple months shy of her fifteenth birthday. Hundreds of miles away from home, she sat alone in her dorm room. Her class trip to Washington, D.C. was supposed to be fun, memorable. It would turn out to be very memorable, but not in a way that anyone would have imagined. She left her room and walked down the hall to ask a friend for some pain medicine. Maybe she said her head was bothering her. All these years later, I can’t remember her exact words. Back in her room, alone again, she did it. Feeling empty inside and thinking the world would be better off without her, she overdosed. She had hoped that the pain would all go away. . . .
If you hadn’t already guessed, that girl was me. I was that scared, lonely and depressed teenager who made one foolish decision. I can’t begin to fathom all the reasons why God didn’t let my life end that day, but in His amazing mercy, He saved me. My roommates came in only minutes after I had swallowed the pills. They found me “out of sorts.” I told them what I did, and they quickly rushed me to a teacher on our floor. After a few phone calls, the ambulance arrived. I walked to the ambulance with the entire class lined up, watching, staring, wondering. I can still remember some of the faces of people that day.
The EMT and the hospital personnel were kind and excellent caretakers, but the pain did not go away. Having my stomach pumped was probably the most physically painful experience of my life (and I have had four children, mind you). Then I spent a night alone in a hospital, states away from home, under suicide watch. The next morning, my parents, my pastor and his wife arrived to take me home. I was humiliated and wishing I could just escape to some hole in the ground. Still, even then, I knew that God saved me for a reason.
“The LORD appeared to him from far away, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
I wish I could say that I never struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts again after that, but it wouldn’t be true. It seems like only weeks later that I found myself alone in my bedroom with pills again in my hand. Someone had told me that I had taken the wrong amount before; this time I wanted to get it right. I didn’t follow through that day, thank the Lord! I hated the medicine and counselling that I was put on to try and help, and I constantly battled my unstable emotions. Some people mocked and ridiculed me for my attempt on my life; while others promised to always be there if I ever felt that way again. Time and time again, people failed. I failed. I felt lost and hopeless, and oh so empty inside. God never stopped pursuing me. He never stopped loving me. Many nights, I would cry out to God to send an angel just to hug me. I didn’t know then what I know now—my Heavenly Father was wrapping His arms around me saying “I love you. I love you. I love you. And that is enough.”
“‘I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten . . . You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God.’”
The last time I vividly remember contemplating my life has now been over a decade ago. I was very newly married and pregnant with our first child. I sat on the floor of what would be the nursery holding onto his precious ultrasound picture. Tears streaming down my face, I knew I couldn’t do anything to risk this little life growing inside me. Oh, but it wasn’t easy. In the years that have passed, God has brought me out of that place of desperation. I can relate to Hagar who cried out in a barren wilderness. God saw her, and I’m so thankful He saw me, too! I can’t help but wonder why I still battle with depression. No, I don’t think about ending it anymore, but I still struggle with feelings of weariness, failure, loneliness and despair. There have been times when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to take one more step, one more breath of air before the pain would engulf me. Just in these past couple weeks, I have struggled with what I jokingly called the “winter blues.” But it isn’t really a joke. The battle inside is very real . . . but so is my God. I can also relate to David when he despaired. You can find his laments in Psalm, but you can also find at the end of many of his cries this one phrase: “I will yet hope in God” (my paraphrase).
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
I am not writing to stir up a debate about whether or not it is “sinful” for Christians to struggle with depression. And although I personally have and do take antidepressants, I am not writing to argue whether medications are right or wrong. There is one thing I do know: Life is precious. Every life is precious! Despite my misgivings and my struggle to sustain my joy, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God loves me. I don’t just mean loves me because He has to as one of His children. I mean He knows me and yet He loves me completely, through and through. He created me for a purpose and saved me for a reason. I wish all would know that kind of love! When I see others hurting in similar ways, I believe that one of the reasons that God saved me is so that I can share His love, His great compassion with others. And I have to tell you, just thinking about the ways in which God has worked in me and has used my simple life fills me with joy. His praise is one of the weapons I have to battle my depression. He has given me (and you) other powerful tools as well: 1. the fellowship and prayers of other believers; 2. His Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and make intercession when I don’t know what or how to pray; 3. His living, breathing Word; and 4. the knowing and believing that He alone is all I need and the only thing to truly satisfy my soul.
“I will not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.”
That is my story. What is yours? Is there someone who needs to hear it today? God redeemed us and gave us a story to share! Don’t keep His love a secret! If you are the one hurting and desperate, please, please know that God sees you. He loves you and values your life. Reach out to someone who can pray with you and for you and will share with you God’s miraculous Word!