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.

Website: www.TaraJohnsonStories.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/

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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Resting in Christ

How God Responds to Our Pain

quote on suffering from Tim Keller

If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.

Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month paid internship in North Carolina. Eager for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.

Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate, which caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.

Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. I wanted to hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.

When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we are never alone, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. The Bible tells us that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. When we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the intensity of our pain steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.

When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” ‘helps,’ or more accurately, ‘joins to help,’ sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”

But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too Quote pulled from post with peace backgrounddeep for words” (ESV).

I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, then His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.

God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up, nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Do you trust that God is sees you, loves you, and is with you? What are some ways you remind yourself of this truth when life feels hard or frightening?

Join the conversation in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

If you’re going through a particularly fearful time, make sure to visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page to find numerous faith-bolstering resources.

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fear

When Others Deem Our Actions Foolish

quote from posts on blue background

Sometimes the best choices are the hardest to make. Sometimes wisdom appears foolish and faith fanatical. As a young mother striving to live for Jesus, I quickly learned just how contrary the things of God can appear to some.

When I chose to stay home, some deemed me lazy.

When I attempted to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and guard our daughter’s influences, I was accused of sheltering her. I was told my actions would ultimately harm her and leave her maladjusted.

My attempts to explain, or perhaps more accurately, to defend my choice, didn’t help. My discussion of God’s leading—of His gentle voice, spoken softly yet clearly to my heart—and the deep assurance that followed made no sense to those who had never heard Him or hadn’t learned to discern His voice.

Perhaps some even found me delusional:

“She claims to hear from God,” they say, with a raised eyebrow and slight smirk. “Does she talk to the Easter Bunny too?”

Over time, I learned to be a little more cautious regarding what I shared and with whom. And honestly, I hate that. I hate that I so often allow other people’s opinions to hold me back. I wish, like Paul, I could boldly and consistently say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Romans 1:16, ESV) and then back this up with my actions.

I’ve been ridiculed by my peers. He’d been imprisoned for his faith. I’d stood against cultural opposition to raise our daughter. He stood against the religious elite and angry mobs. I’ve been excluded from certain groups due to my “passion for Jesus”, but he’d been smuggled out of Berea in order to save his life.

There’s a lot of reasons I could give for why, at times, sharing the gospel makes my stomach knot and my palms text image using quote pulled from postget sweaty, and yet, in each instance, it comes down to this—whenever I stifle God’s message within, I’m putting my pride above someone else’s salvation.

When I look at it that way, my concerns and fears seem petty at best.

I imagine Paul felt as I have, on many occasions. Otherwise why the need to make such a bold and declarative statement—for I am not ashamed. Unless maybe he’d been tempted to feel ashamed in the past—perhaps when mobs of angry people shook their fists at him, spit on him, and hurled stones at him. Or perhaps others, maybe even believers in Rome, had demonstrated that they were ashamed of him. Or maybe he was simply stating a fact with all the courage the Holy Spirit allowed—I am not ashamed! No matter what others say, no matter how foolish or irrational my words appeared, I choose to speak life.

Even if it costs me mine.

Lord, help me have that same confidence Paul demonstrated again and again, regardless how others respond or how unpopular Your message appears. Because life’s too short and there’s too much at stake for any of Your children to remain silent.

Life’s much too short and Your love for the broken too strong for any of us, Your mouthpieces, to live afraid. Click To Tweet

To the contrary! As ambassadors of the sovereign King, we can walk into any and every situation with our heads held high, our voices sure, and our message clear: “I am not ashamed, and I refuse to be, because the words I speak have power and life.”

Let’s talk about this! When has obedience caused you to look foolish in the moment or left you misunderstood? How did you gain the courage to step forward in faith? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement!

Faith Over Fear imageIf today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear podcast, released by Salem Communications. Keep an eye out for her correlating Bible reading plan and weekly video devotions. You’re also invited to participate in her 10-week Faith Over Fear challenge, launching February 6th, through social media. Grab her daily focus calendars HERE.

fear, surrender

Fear of Missing Out

  • quote pulled from text with a purple background

My schedule had ballooned, leaving me fighting for air. Though I managed to juggle all the demands and responsibilities bombarding me each day, I made numerous errors. I epitomized the phrase, “Jack of all trades but master of none.”

Or perhaps that’d be better phrased as “Doer of all but proficient in few.”

My joy, peace, and relationship with Christ was suffering. In my constant rush to tackle one task after the other, my prayer time had shifted from treasured and protected soul care to something I squeezed into my already rushed day, out of guilt and obligation rather than a desire to genuinely connect with my Savior.

Though I claimed God’s sovereignty over my present and future, my schedule and mistakes—my choices, my will—became my God.

If I did X, Y would happen. If I failed to do C, D would never occur. And if I stepped down from a certain role that, potentially, led to promotion, my life’s dreams would be irrevocably derailed.

In other words, when I evaluated the root of my busyness, it came down to this: Fear of missing out. Fear that if I said no to a particular opportunity, I was potentially robbing myself of something good that could lead to something even better.

My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God.My fight for control and fear of missing out, of in some way hindering God’s very good plans for me, revealed deep-seated, faulty views of God. Click To Tweet

Either I believed He was sovereign or I didn’t. And if I did, then I didn’t need to stress over the small stuff or my ever-changing circumstances. Instead, I’d rest in the One who walks beside me, stands behind me, goes before me, and holds me secure.

Either I believed He was supreme and worthy of all my praise, or I didn’t. If I did, then I’d recognize that everything I engage in or pursue on earth is but a shadow of what God has prepared for me. I’d remember how insufficient temporary pleasures were in filling my deepest needs and heart’s desire.

My schedule revealed my priorities—my true gods. But perhaps most convicting, my stress and fears revealed what I truly believed about God, His heart, and ability to care for me.

That realization empowered me to make changes. I analyzed my thought processes and the things that caused anxiety in light of truth, and I asked God to center me in reality.

Text pulled from postHere’s reality—God is in control. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says , speaking of God, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all” (ESV).

Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins.Because God is bigger than any obstacle or setback I might face, and no matter how things might appear today, in the end, He wins. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with a fear of missing or disrupting God’s plans for you? How might focusing on obedience help you find peace in the uncertainties and abundance of opportunities assaulting you each day?

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to watch out for Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing soon by Salem Communications, during which she discusses how to overcome our fear of missing out to choose trust in Christ instead.

Hardships and Trials

When Disillusionment Steals Our Joy

 

It’s easy to allow discouragement to morph into disillusionment and for disillusionment to taint our heart, distancing us from God and blinding us to His hand. But, as my guest today shares, if we’re alert and prayerful, if we’re diligent to hold tight to truth and Christ, disillusionment can also lead to incredible growth and can provide a glorious redirection.

Quote image: God sees you

I Didn’t Think it Would be Like This.

By Donna Jones

We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?

Never.

The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.

Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.

I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?

I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by women in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the gal who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith, and failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom.

They all wrestle with the thought: I didn’t think it would be like this.

But it is.

So, what now?

 

Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:

Disappointment + Time = Discouragement

Discouragement + Time = Discontentment

Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment

How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?

You’ve lost hope.

You’ve checked out.

You’re desperate to control.

You’re bitter

You’re cynical.

You’re mad at God.

You’re suspicious of others.

You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.

May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah, the matriarch to the Jewish nation revealed in Genesis, and Job, the ancient man whose intense suffering is revealed in the Bible book bearing His name. At some point, most of us travel through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disillusionment determines how we come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

So how can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?

  1. Acknowledge Loss

It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.

During difficult seasons David, ancient Israel’s second king, poured out his heart to God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NIV).

1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”

When we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us.

If we bottle our burdens we may become convinced God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we may be certain God does. Click To Tweet
  1. Examine Expectations

Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.

Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.

Unrealized expectations leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.

When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?”

  1. Cling to Christ

When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.

Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.

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But reliance on God during my storm brings redemption from God to my story. Click To Tweet

Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard? 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

 

Get to know Donna! 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones is a Bible teacher/explainer, who’s spoken in twenty-five states and on four continents, keynoting events of more than 1000. Donna is the author Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a contributing author to the 365-day devotional, A Moment to Breathe. She has been on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family and Good Day Dallas, and writes regularly for Crosswalk.com. 

Donna loves sipping a really good cup of coffee, and hanging with her pastor/hubby or one of their three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram at donnaajones.

Disillusionment hurts and can derail us or push us to draw us closer to Jesus. For those of you who’ve been doing our Becoming His Princess study, you’ll see, for Sarah, unmet longing appeared to follow the negative progression Donna warns us of in her post. As Donna shared, we all face this risk. When disillusionment hits, it can drive us closer to Jesus or distance us from Him. You can hear my thoughts on this, and how we can actively guard our hearts against this, in Becoming His Princess’s opening session, week three. Listen HERE.

If you’re just starting the study, you can watch week one’s opening session HERE and week two’s opening session HERE. (Video sessions will be uploaded as they’re completed.)

You can listen to session two HERE.

And you can pick up your own copy, free, HERE.

Cover image for studyIf you live local, you can still join us for live teaching each Tuesday night at Wildewood Christian, located in Papillion. You can also join us, starting in March, for live teaching on Tuesday mornings or evenings (two options) at Christ Community Church in Omaha. (Registration links will open soon.)

Want us to come to your church? Contact us HERE.