On Suffering and Depression [and the lies we believe when we’re in the midst of a battle]

It felt like I didn’t breathe for several minutes as I stood there, my head dripping suds of shampoo. I slipped to the floor of the shower, hot water running down the top of my head and forming into little droplets on my eyelashes and nose.

It mixed. The tears. The snot. The water.

I let it run down my cheeks as I leaned my head against the ceramic tub floor. I was glad no one was home—that no one could see the way I stumbled out of the bathroom and laid on my bedroom floor. That no one could hear the desperate sounding whispers mixed in with my cries.

I don’t want to live, Jesus. Take this from me. I don’t want to live anymore.

And I meant it. In the deepest, heaviest way. And I felt it for days and months. Sometimes I’d whisper it into the night when it felt like no one was listening—Not even God.

And in the morning, when the sun shed light on my weary face, I was glad I could hide it from everyone else.

_________________________________________________________________

I’ve been hesitant to write this. Doubts and insecurities have kept my fingers from fleshing it out on paper. Will it seem too vulnerable? Will it feel like I’m looking for attention? Will it come across as more dramatic than it is? Will people wonder if I’m fit to be in ministry?

But these are just some of the many lies that the enemy has been whispering to me for nearly a year now. Lies that keep us isolated from community. From hope. From freedom. From experiencing the love of JESUS.

Standing under the shower-head this morning, I was reminded of it all again. Of the wrenching soul pain. Of the guilt. The shame. The loneliness.

And I was reminded of all the deeply beautiful and rich conversations that the past six months have led me to with deeply beautiful women who have also hidden their struggles.

And it made me angry. Angry with the enemy who whispers cowardly lies into my ears at night. Who had me convinced that I wasn’t fit to come before the Lord for comfort—That if I felt low and empty and anxious—that I must have done something wrong. Done something to deserve it.

And as the water trickled down my face, I felt Abba Father say, “None of you are alone, Audrey. Share your story. Because I’m all in it.”

IMG_6299

I’ve sat with young girls and women who didn’t want to live.

In camp cabins. In dorm rooms. In small little hallways with no air conditioning and mosquitos flying around our faces. I’ve gripped my fingers into dirty old carpets as I’ve listened to their stories. As I’ve looked up at heaven and silently sent up a, ‘Why, God?’

I never thought I’d be one of them. I guess none of us really do.

But pain is real. Anxiety attacks are real. Depression is real [and can be clinical and chemical]. And there is only so much our preciously formed bodies can carry before they go into survival mode. Before we crawl into little balls in our beds or on our floors or in the corner of our church worship gatherings.

For months, it felt like I was walking around yelling for help but no one could hear me. I walked around with no makeup and tired eyes and I would randomly burst into tears. I felt like no one understood the gravity of what I felt. And day after day, I began to believe lies about who I was to God.

Maybe you have too. And if you have, I hope you read this and are able to call them out for what they are—cowardly stabs of the enemy in a battle that has already been won for us.

Lie #1: My pain and my suffering will burden my community.

Truth: We were never meant to carry our burdens by ourselves. I tried. We think it will make us braver and stronger—that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We believe that no one has time to listen or take care of us. But the body of Christ is here to lift up our arms when we can’t lift them ourselves. Your pain will not burden them. It will give them the opportunity to live out the Gospel.

Lie #2: My suffering is a result of God’s Disapproval with me.

 Truth: Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. You are not anxious or depressed or sick or experiencing pain as a result of God’s disapproval. In fact, He’s actually pretty enthralled by you. And regardless of any choice you make—this will never change. [If you’re ever curious about how God sees you—go through this worksheet!]

Lie #3: My suffering and Anxiety is a result of me being outside of God’s Will.

 Truth: God’s will is for us to righteously follow Him. So if you’re sitting there like I was/sometimes still am, wondering if you’re struggling because maybe you should have taken this job or dated that person or not dated that person, take a deep breath and trust that GOD’S WILL IS MEANT TO BE FREE AND FUN. Someone said that to me recently. And it rocked my world. Don’t get me wrong; there ARE certain choices outside the will of God. And we have to deal with consequences of those sinful choices. But God’s will is not for us to constantly fear and wonder if we are on the right path. If you are seeking the Lord and growing and love him, then you are on the right path. And He will keep guiding you. God is not going to inflict anxiety or suffering upon you because you made the wrong choice by choosing to work at Publix over Kroger. In fact, God doesn’t inflict anxiety or suffering period.

Lie #4: All suffering is related to my spiritual walk.

Truth: Our bodies are complex entities with souls in them. And I 100% believe in the spiritual realm and spiritual attacks. But as complex systems, our bodies sometimes get out of whack. Hormone imbalances exist. Chemicals in our brains can get off balance. Fatigue and sickness and mental illness are real. Sometimes as Christians, I think we have the tendency to over spiritualize things. So, if you’re struggling and someone has just told you to pray more or read your Bible more, I want to say I’m sorry. A thousand times over, I’m sorry. Those things will help you, no doubt. But your struggle is not the result of you NOT doing those things enough. God doesn’t work that way. It’s okay to go to the doctor. To be on medication. To seek counseling and to change your diet. To get more sleep and say no to things that are good so that you can practice self-care. Hear me loud and clear: You are not struggling because you’re a bad Christian. Satan wants to convince you of that because he wants us to feel guilty before the Lord. My advice? Kick him where it hurts.

Lie #5: No one can understand what I’m going through.

Truth: No one can understand exactly what you’re struggling with because your story is your own. But there are so many people that have struggled in similar ways. We have sat in closets and cried at our office desks. We have stayed in bed for days and lost our appetites and had panic attacks at restaurant tables. And we would love to talk with you over a cup of coffee. I would love to sit down with you and say, “Me too” and “It’s going to be OKAY” and “You are so not alone.”

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Addiction. Self-hatred. Guilt. Shame. Whatever it is, I pray you find community. I pray that your eyes and your ears and your hearts would be opened to the truth of God’s character. I pray you would feel the hand of others in your own, walking with you. And I pray that you would feel wholly loved, fully seen, completely understood, and shameless before this friend we call Jesus. And oh, what a friend we have in Him.

 [If you’d like to hear more of my story, please reach out to me at audreyjackson05@gmail.com. I’d love to share more of my journey with anxiety and depression. I’d love to talk with you about my journey with God and church and being in ministry in the midst of it. I’d love to laugh and cry with you over a cup of coffee.]

4 Replies to “On Suffering and Depression [and the lies we believe when we’re in the midst of a battle]”

  1. Thank you Audrey for summing up what many of us have felt and didn’t have the words to express it. I will be following your writings and please keep up your journey – we are all in this together. May God bless. Love, peace and grace, DrD

  2. How did you sum this up so perfectly? I have a difficult time reconciling being a Christian and yet simultaneously wanting to die. I’ve considered leaving the faith because I can’t make sense of it in my heart and in my head. Thank you for your encouragement and letting us know we are not alone in this.

    1. Courrney, You are so definitely not alone. I would encourage you to not give up on Jesus. He loves us so much and the enemy wants us to feel isolated in our pain! I’d also encourage you to open up to your community about your faith struggles. Your questions. Your doubts. It’s okay to walk that path right now. God can handle it and so can they! And if you feel you don’t have anyone to talk to, email me! (email listed in blog above)

Have Thoughts? Please share!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s