A couple of weeks ago my dear friend, Suzan Cartagena, shared the story of her long-time battle with depression. Today, I’d like to tell just a little of my own story.
When I was nine years old, my mother had a nervous breakdown. Perhaps it was me turning nine that aggravated her already fragile mental state.
What would that have to do with it?—you ask.
When my brother was nine years old he followed my father into the potato field. The assumption is he tried to jump across the foot-deep irrigation ditch and fell and hit his head. He was unconscious when my father found him and pulled him from the water.
Dad rushed him to the house and laid him on the couch. He died a short time later. This was before CPR, and they lived on a farm too far from a medical facility to get help in time.
My mother had been canning fruit.
She had shooed Arlen and my other brother and sister out of the house (I wasn’t born yet) because she was afraid the pressure cooker might blow up. It was not her fault. She was doing what any good mother would do under the circumstances, but she carried unreasonable guilt for my brother ‘s death the rest of her life.
At nine, I didn’t understand the reasons behind my mother’s mental breakdown, but I remember the pain in my father’s eyes. And I remember a sad little girl watching her mother descend into a dark place.
When I was in my forties, I went through a period when I thought I was going to follow in my mother’s footsteps and have a complete nervous breakdown.
I was going through some tough times, but I couldn’t point to any one thing that was causing me to feel the way I did.
It was just a fog that was dulling my senses and keeping me depressed to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I couldn’t watch a movie or read a book or enjoy friends or family. I knew what was happening, and that I had no reason to feel as bad as I did, but depression does not recognize reason.
The mind is a powerful thing.
My mother told my sister once that during her breakdown she would see terrifying things. Once she saw a panther by the refrigerator. Imagine how you would feel if you walked into your kitchen and found a wild beast staring at you. The panther was as real as the refrigerator to her.
Even if you don’t suffer from severe depression, most of my readers would probably admit to fear and feelings of hopelessness.
There wasn’t really a panther in my mother’s kitchen. She had nothing to fear. But her mind told her something else. Our minds don’t always tell us the truth. In fact, our minds lie to us most of the time.
The Bible says in John 8:32 You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
So, what is the truth and where can we find it?
When I felt myself teetering on the edge, I knew I had to do something to keep from falling off the cliff. I’d been a Christian a long time, and I knew the Bible better than most people. But I had to be missing something because it wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing in my life.
The Bible is not just a book of stories and rules. If you read it with that mindset, it won’t be of much help to you. It must be mixed with faith. It’s a living thing, and it’s written to reveal God to us.
I forced myself to start journaling as I read the Word because it helped me to concentrate and to remember what I read. It changed my life. As I write this article, I’m looking at that stack of journals on my shelf. I got to know God on those pages. I treasure them because they were the road map to peace for me. Those journals are my children’s inheritance. I haven’t got a lot to leave them when I die, but they are better than gold, as far as I’m concerned.
Every day, I would open my Bible at random and begin to read.
I’d copy scriptures that stood out to me and write down my feelings about them and my prayers. As I began doing this, I remember God speaking to my heart that I didn’t expect anything from Him anymore.
Why? Because I didn’t think I deserved it. I didn’t pray enough or tell people about salvation enough. I wasn’t a perfect wife or a perfect mother. Why would God do something for me under those circumstances?
As I began studying in earnest, I got to know God in a way I had never known Him. How did you get to know your husband or your wife? By talking to them, living with them, being around them all the time. I got to know how God really felt about me—His heart toward me.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the true, intimate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Amplified
Knowledge: From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (G1909) and (G1097); to become fully acquainted with
How do you become fully acquainted with God? Just like you become fully acquainted with anyone. You spend time with Him.
The intimate knowledge of God brings us grace and peace.
I like what Suzan said about having a honeymoon in Columbia with Jesus. God wants us to truly know Him. Why? Because He is madly in love with us. He has a plan for us, and He can be trusted. He has our best interest at heart. If we get to know Him, we’ll know how much He loves us, and we’ll love Him back.
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace . . . be multiplied to you . . .
So what is grace?
One of the Greek definitions of grace is (G5463) to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy;
Cheer and calm happiness are multiplied to us when we become fully acquainted with God.
When you understand how much God loves you. That He’s not mad at you. That He’s not disappointed in you (as Suzan said in her book), that His acceptance doesn’t depend on your performance, then you can be calmly happy. Even when things go wrong. Why? Because we are acquainted with God and we know that He’s not trying to hurt us. He’s trying to help us.
Again, 2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you . . .
The Greek definition of peace is (G1515) quietness, rest, set at one again.
Quietness. Do you long for quiet in your spirit? Rest?
Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
There it is again—learn of me.
What do you know about Him? Do you just know what you’ve been told, or do you know it first hand because you have a relationship with Him?
Are you weary and burdened?
He sees the things that wear us down in life. All He asks is that we come to Him. He will give us rest. That doesn’t sound hard, does it? So why do we try to do everything on our own instead of letting Jesus carry our burdens for us?
Do you picture God as gentle and humble in heart or a taskmaster who is never satisfied?
I especially love the definition of peace—set at one again.
Several years ago, I went through a terrible heartache. It wasn’t a death, but it felt like one. During that time I wrote this poem:
Promises, spirits, dreams
Little pieces, shards
Shattered beyond repair
Let me put you back together
Give you peace
I’m here. I care
I love you
God did put me back together. He set me at one. He wants to give you peace. He loves you more than you can imagine.
Depression is a deep hole you can’t climb out of. But God can lift you out.
Lord, I pray for the people reading this post. Touch them by your Holy Spirit. Let them know how much you love them. Heal their minds and their hearts. Thank you, Lord.
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