Mental illness

What I Learned About Depression — Guest Post

Quote: You're not alone

What I Learned in the Darkness

By Tara Johnson

I’ll never forget the night I told God, “I want out.”

I was Miss Christian. I did it all. Taught the classes. Organized VBS. Took the teens to church camp. Always smiling. Always ready to lend a hand.

And I was miserable inside.

Depression is a silent cry. Likewise, anxiety is a storm of crippling intensity inside the mind, but can appear like a tranquil lake on the outside. Click To Tweet

Depression is not always the dark-clad figure hiding in the back of the room. It’s the smiling cheerleader, the teacher, the mother, the pastor, or the successful businessman.

It demands perfection. Time. Energy. Spinning plates. Productivity above all. Do more. Be more. An ever-growing list of ‘shoulds’. How weighty the ‘shoulds’ become when they shift from daily tasks or career chores to demands more spiritual in nature. “I should give more.” “I should be nicer.” “I should sign up to take on one more activity at church. Isn’t that what God asks us to do…be a servant?”

Depression is the yawning chasm seeking approval. Acceptance. Sometimes it’s the brokenness of a past that has never been dealt with, a trauma never healed.

Sometimes, depression just … is. There’s no rhyme or reason for it. A broken body in a broken world.

The pressure from trying to do it all left me unable to breath, paralyzed in fear. As I lay sobbing on the bathroom floor, I remember saying, “God, I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. This isn’t the victorious life I was promised. Get me out of this. I don’t care how.”

It took a vicious battle with depression to help me realize several things: being busy for God is not the same as being close to God. Click To Tweet Second, approval and love are not the same thing. I had fallen for the lie that the way to feel loved was to do more for people. Earn their love. I was wrong.

Third, I learned Jesus is tender. He cradled me in that difficult season and loved me back into a healthy mind, restored heart and transformed spiritual walk. It wasn’t easy. I needed medical help. I needed to unlearn and replace harmful thought patterns that affected my behavior. I needed time. I needed grace.

He gave it in abundance. He also provided sweet people along the journey who had experienced the same thing. Their encouragement was a lifeline. I had no idea so many believers struggled with depression, but they do…far more than I realized.

I also met folks who didn’t understand. Who hurt me with their ignorance and hastily flung remarks. Though none of them meant to be cruel, these people taught me as well. They taught me what not to say to those who are hurting.

I believe with all my heart that the enemy of our souls uses depression as a spiritual weapon. He attacks those on the front lines with discouragement, isolation and fatigue. Click To Tweet He convinces us that sharing will mean condemnation from others. (And sometimes, it will.) Accusations of ‘a lack of faith’, or simply sharing a scripture in hopes that the afflicted person will soon bounce back from a blue funk, often cause someone battling depression to recoil deeper into isolation.

The solution is not that simple.

Complex brain chemicals and deep-seated emotional issues are not created overnight, nor can they be healed overnight. We have become a people uncomfortable with the messy. We don’t like what we don’t understand, so we try to force it into a box, put a bow on it and say, “Jesus will heal it. Smile and let’s praise Him”. Meanwhile, those who are hurting know the wounds have not been cleaned…merely bandaged over.

A wound left untreated creates a full body infection.

I don’t have all the answers. I only know we must do better supporting each other. Click To Tweet Listening more than we speak. Making sure our pastors and spiritual leaders take weekly time to rest, turn off the phones, and have safe places to share their messy stuff without condemnation. We must stop piling more on the uber-organized because they are good at what they do and take responsibility for ourselves. We must each examine our motives. Why do we serve? Strive for that promotion? What is the true intent of our hearts?

And we all need to put down our obsessions with productivity and learn to dwell with Jesus. Presence over production. Connection over to-do lists.

Most of all, we should pray. Pray for sensitivity. Pray for our eyes to be opened to those silently suffering. If we see another struggling under the weight of their load, we offer a helping hand.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2

For all the uncertainties, lack of answers, and complexities, there was one abiding truth I learned in the darkness … Jesus is there. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! Did Tara’s post resonate with you? Do you feel alone? What are some ways you can remind yourself that God is with you and sees you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with Wholly Loved Ministries on Facebook and Instagram!

Get to Know Tara

Tara Johnson's headshotTara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and finaled in the Carol and Christy awards. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.




Check out her latest release Where Dandelions Bloom:

Tara Johnson's Cover ImageCassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

Buy it HERE.


If this devotion encouraged you, make sure to check out our Bible reading plan available now on the YouVersion app! You can find it HERE! And maybe sure to grab a copy of our 90-day devotional, Drawing Near. You can find that HERE.

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned About Depression — Guest Post”

  1. My depression has lasted a lifetime! Counseling has helped me battle suicidal thoughts. I am studying God’s word and hoping in His promises to make me into the creation He intended. Your prayers will strengthen me. Thank you for your email messages.

    1. Gayle,
      That is so hard. My daughter has lifelong depression and anxiety also, and it has been such a battle. Some days that battle is easier than others but she may fight it for the rest of her life. All that to say, I understand what a hard and painful road that can be! I’m so looking forward to heaven and the day when sickness, pain, and everything we struggle with now will be conquered for good! I’m going to say a prayer for you right now.


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