“You were created for whatever storm you face because you are bigger than the storm, therefore the storm ceases. It’s time to ask God “what is the promise in this storm?” And take that revelation of who you are and walk over the very thing that tried to sink you”
Those were the words I closed my message with that summer Sunday morning. The moment I released that prophetic word, I felt the life-giving presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. I love the presence of Jesus and I’m amazed and humbled I get to spend my life inviting others to experience His presence. That day people responded to the invitation at the close of the service and the teams ministered. I prayed for a few people then quickly headed to my office, shut the door and laid down on the couch. I had just come out of a room where the spirit of God was so real, so transforming, and so alive…but something was wrong inside of me.
Let me pause for just a moment to say, over time, I’ve talked quite openly about my journey through depression. I’ve experienced the affirming love of God that washes over, wave after wave. Inside the waves I found healing, strength, joy, and grace – lots of grace. I have total freedom in sharing my story because I believe my breakthrough is your breakthrough. My testimony releases the Holy Spirit to bring freedom over and over in the lives of others.
So, back to the couch that Sunday afternoon…
I wasn’t naïve to what was going on. I had experienced those same feelings before, three years before. I didn’t want to believe it. Maybe I’m just a little overwhelmed, right? Wife, Home school mom of four, full-time pastor, overseer of a ministry school. We had just moved our church into a new building after 14 months in a temporary setting. There were expectations from people; if I failed to meet the expectations, I beat myself up and couldn’t sleep for days. Maybe I’m just feeling the weight of it all? Maybe my boundary lines had become invisible and I was overworked? This happened to be the re-opening year for the ministry school and my first time leading it by myself, I could just be anxious? As I lay there trying to convince myself of what I knew wasn’t correct, all I could do was cry uncontrollably. I felt like an impostor. I had just told our congregation they were bigger than their storm and I actually believed every word I told them as truth, but why does this feel so overwhelming? Why do I feel so much pain? I just wanted the pain gone.
I went home that day and got in bed, I barely left my bed for days. I’ve heard how some people descend into depression like an airplane making a smooth landing, others drop from a 10,000 foot altitude and crash land – that was me. The thought of dealing with the depression was exhausting; it felt like I was being asked to swim around the world, it felt impossible.
I’ve been in church my whole life, I love the church. Even though she’s incredibly flawed, she’s still God’s best solution for world transformation. But being depressed AND being a pastor? Depression has a stigma in church among Christians. I had learned through observation that there are only certain people that have depression in church; those that don’t know how to take thoughts captive, have sin issues, allow their feelings to dictate their life or they just don’t know how to receive healing. The feeling of the deep agony was so tangible. If you’ve ever suffered with depression, you know what I mean.
I so desperately wanted God to “zap” me, heal me, set me free and please do it by Sunday! Can He do it? Yes, absolutely yes.
I had witnessed someone firsthand set free from years of depression instantly. Just like he can heal cancer or any disease in just a moment, I had the faith He could do the same for depression. But that wasn’t my experience.
During those days, I read the Psalms over and over. They were life to me. You might be amused to hear that! After all, logically the Psalms probably wouldn’t be a “go to” book of the Bible for relief from depression, am I right? Sounds crazy, but truly, it was feeding something deep within me. David’s worship leader, Asaph, was the director of worship and held that position for about 40 years. During that time he saw and experienced all the seasons of David’s life, the tragedies, the highs and the lows. He was very close to David and saw firsthand, the good, bad, and ugly. In one season, he’s grieving over David’s death and then in the next he’s rejoicing with Israel over the temple being constructed by Solomon, David’s son. He celebrated Solomon’s reign but then went through the devastation of Solomon walking away from God. He witnessed Israel being torn apart and the temple invaded by the Egyptians. It was pretty obvious Asaph had many opportunities to wrestle with some demons of despair. Asaph was a man that had seen the best and worst aspects of life and he was a “feeler” he allowed himself to stop and feel the enormity of the pain. That is confirmed in his writing. Asaph is described as a “seer” he was prophetic.
I think it’s important to note that many “seers” are deeply connected and moved by what they sense and if not kept in check, we can carry concerns that aren’t ours to shoulder. Those concerns can easily turn into feelings of hopelessness.
In Psalm 77 Asaph pours out his heart to God, giving us a glimpse into what the rawness of disappointment and agony look like when they are REDEEMED. Remember, God always redeems. Here in this passage he’s so very real and isn’t trying to hide.
“Will the Lord cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
8 Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
10 And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:7-11
I can relate to Asaph, I’m sure a lot of us can. He lived life, he loved the people in his life and couldn’t control life or the situations that arose. As prophetic people, it’s crucial that we come back to the place of realizing that ultimately, WE ARE responsible for our own heart health. The Word says that repeated disappointment will make our heart sick. You’ve heard it said, the enemy battles us most in the area of our greatest calling. He battled with Asaph over disappointment. After so much despair, it’s hard to keep seeing and speaking hope.
I have to imagine that after all that, Asaph was probably burnt out. I didn’t realize that “burn out” was an actual medical condition. Through my doctor, I learned it was the instigator behind my own depression. My expectations and others’ expectations of me had created an insurmountable bar set so high I would die trying to meet. I’m skipping over a lot of my story but I will write more on this again soon. I drew a great deal of strength from this passage during my season of trial. Here is the gold I came away with that I still practice today:
- I allowed myself to feel the agony and didn’t run from it.
- I remembered His goodness, recalled His miracles and rehearsed His ways.
I laid down my resentment toward God (being real here) for even struggling with depression in the first place, and my healing began.
When I have a day where I feel those feelings creeping in, I start at #1 and go through #3, then repeat. Because, I’m not giving you a foot in the door today, depression – not today.