Where was I?
Oh yes: The summer of 2011, married, seemingly a ‘good’ Christian, secretly in the throws of depression.
As it turns out, unsurprisingly, my spiritual turmoil had led to Depression. Yes, with a capital D. I didn’t realise it at the time though. All I knew was that I felt as though I was at the bottom of a very deep, very dark pit with no way of escape and no reason to try. What was the point of living without God? I was going on with life as usual, in fact, no one even suspected that there was anything wrong. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, not even my husband. Instead of taking notes during sermons on a Sunday, I was drawing dark sketches of deep pits, tall walls, and endless fields or oceans, with a tiny figure lost and alone in the middle. This habit of drawing my feelings was actually beneficial, as it was the one and only outlet I allowed myself for my complicated emotions.
Eventually I asked someone from my church if we could meet up and talk. This woman was (I now see) sent from God. I had never spoken to her before, but I had been told that she was wise and known to help people. And so we began to meet up for coffee. She asked all the right questions, and didn’t try to fix me. And she was the one who suggested that I may have depression.
Although I thought it wouldn’t change anything, just knowing that I was not experiencing anything new, and that it was kind of out of my control, did help me a little.
And, interestingly enough, at some point after that the depression went away. Like a wart: it was there one day and then, without me noticing, it vanished.¹
But that is not the the end of this story (sorry).
Although my feelings were much improved, I still believed that God was not a part of my life. I wanted to believe that He loved me and saved me from a meaningless life, but I couldn’t. So I gave up.
I continued to pretend to be a normal Christian, and part of me was hoping that if I just went on as normal it would all right itself again. But at the end of 2012 I decided to just be a heathen. It seemed like far more fun: you could do whatever you wanted and not feel guilty, you could make all your own plans and not worry that they might not be what God wanted you to do.
So there I was, doing my own thing, and I was happy. I was having a great time! I wasn’t doing anything particularly bad, but I felt free. And I was. I was free of my guilt and shame.
Hang on a moment.
Isn’t Christianity supposed to free you from guilt and shame?
Doesn’t Jesus’ blood was all your sin away and make you righteous?
I was choosing not to feel guilty.
And then God spoke to me. Not with an audible God-voice, but with the voice of an inexperienced preacher at a church we happened to be visiting.
And this is what He said:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he would show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Now I had heard all that before. In fact I’d used those verses to encourage others, many times. But this time it was as though God was being personal: “I saved you by My grace, I gave you your faith, you never did anything to earn it. I saved you because I wanted to; I love you because I want to, and there’s nothing you can do to stop Me.”
All the hardened old walls of guilt and self-worthlessness and fear crumbled and all that was left in my heart was faith and hope and love – three things that had been dormant, but that God was now awakening.
God had finally pulled me out of the pit of despair I thought I had escaped once my depression had left. I had given up all hope, and succumbed to the lies that Satan had been telling me all those years. I was not like Job, I did not stand firm though my testing, I forsook God, I failed. But God picked me up anyway, and dusted me off, and gave me faith.
I still had a long way to go before my relationship with God was even nearly as close as it had been in, say, 2008, but I was once again on stable ground and God was eventually going to restore my joy, but in His time, and despite anything I did.
¹ I know not everyone’s depression just goes away, and I know that some have cycles of ever-returning depression, but I’m just telling you of my own experience.