The Hope of Peace

The long and tedious project of recording my book for the purpose of creating an audio book is almost complete (Discovering God’s Grace in Depression). It has been a labor of love for those who find it difficult to read because they suffer from depression and cannot concentrate long enough to read lengthy chapters, but also for those who’d prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.

As a gift to anyone who cannot wait to hear some encouragement for today, I am offering my final chapter to you here. My prayer is that you may find hope and peace in the arms of your Savior and that you would sense the smile of Jesus upon you. God bless you. Heidi

Chapter 39: The Hope of Peace (From the book: Discovering God’s Grace in Depression, written by Heidi Austel. All rights reserved.)

P.S. Look for the audiobook later this year on Audible. It may also be acquired directly from my book’s website (DiscoveringGodsGraceInDepression.com) when it is released in simple audio files. More details regarding that will be ironed out at a later date.

Ultimately, there comes a time when you need to decide, if the sweet smile of Jesus alone is enough for you. Cling to Him alone. He is your hope! He is your peace! He is your enough!!!

Listen to the last chapter of my book, “The Hope of Peace,” on my blog, DiscoveringGodsGraceInDepression.com.

My softcover book and kindle e-book can be purchased on Amazon.

My Book Is Finally A Reality

After four years of writing and remembering and agonizing over every word, my story is finally available in paperback and kindle on Amazon. I’m hoping to release an audiobook in the future.

It’s exciting as well as scary that my story will be available for the world to read. The whole good, the bad, the ugly. But the gospel and the grace of God overshadows it all. The gospel is this: “when we could do nothing to rescue ourselves, God did what had to be done as our substitute, so that we can be at peace with God.” And, it really does change everything.

All my failures, all my inadequacies, all my “not-good-enoughs,” and all the frustrating helplessness I felt during my depressive illness were washed clean by the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The sad thing is that I floundered for about 5 years before discovering that I could find relief in the grace of God. God allowed me to experience my depressive illness, I believe, so that he could first help me see my own self-righteous, Pharisaical heart. Unable to rely on my own strength, in my weakened condition, He could finally start to do what would heal my heart. He placed me into a weakened position because He knew it was the only way I’d give up on ME trying to save myself, so that He could show me the power and strength of my Savior, the preciousness of the gospel and the significance of the cross.

His gifts of grace, kindness, mercy and unconditional love helped me to bear up under the crushing weight of the emptiness and despair of clinical depression. His sweet Spirit kept whispering, “Endure, my child;’ I am doing something new.” What was that new thing? He wanted my heart! Not my perfect behavior! He wanted me to long for a relationship with Him.

Whereas I had originally believed the Christian experience was all about getting more holy, getting more righteous, and getting stronger in my ability to be victorious in my Christian experience, God wanted me to learn that it wasn’t about me at all! It was all about Him; it was about His glory. It was His story and He was the Hero of that story.

When I discovered that I was no longer condemned for anything I thought or did, that He had justified me, reconciled me, redeemed me and freed me (and those are just the start), I was finally ready to embrace His incredible gifts of grace and mercy. My Shepherd King began to demonstrate to me all of His kindness and compassion which caused me to fall more and more in love with Him. And, isn’t that the greatest commandment anyway?

And [Jesus] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NASB

Contrast what Jesus said in Luke with what God says here: “The Lord said, Because this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, BUT they remove their hearts from me and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13 NASB and Jesus repeated it in Mark 7:6 NASB And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.'” (Can anyone say OUCH!?)

You see, what is different about my book about depression, is that very rarely will I suggest you have to DO anything! Because focusing on DOING, as it turns out, creates Pharisees which Jesus condemned. But, A) Jesus came that we may know Him and love Him out of a sincere heart devotion. Most churches will tell you if you pray and obey, you won’t experience depression; they push “doing” at all costs. B) But God wants us to understand what He has “already done,” (that is what it means to KNOW Him – His life and His death help us to know Him), to believe in the “already dones” in full faith, and to rest upon the “already dones” when depression beats us into the ground.

The interesting thing about meditating on ONLY gospel-drenched, grace-saturated principles when you are weakened by depression is that one’s heart is drawn to God’s heart out of love. You see, A + B will produce a heart that is MORE in love with God, and is a grateful recipient of His mercy and grace. It produces more of A: Loving Him out with a sincere heart devotion, which is obedience to the GREATEST commandment, according to Jesus. Intriguing huh?

Now, the gospel principles God taught me didn’t take away my depressive illness, but that wasn’t what God wanted most of all-my comfort. But, it sure made depression more bearable. I came out loving Him more deeply, embracing His grace fiercely, and embracing the gospel as the way Jesus wanted us to live. With a healthy mind, the rest comes naturally (the doing is produced as a result of His grace).

But with a depressed mind, it is a life preserver–not a life ring–but that which offers the depression incredible hope and peace that will help preserve their life as they seek to persevere under the most difficult and horrifying of afflictions, to humbly surrender to what God has ordained for them. to have faith to believe He knows what He is doing and to rest in His promises of reconciliation and peace with God.

Finally, out of the blue, God simply healed me. But I came out of knowing that God had set me on a mission. I knew my crucible was not for naught; I was to be His ambassador of grace to the broken. For all the believers out there who think they are beyond grace, beyond mercy, beyond kindness, beyond compassion… you are NOT!

My book tells you my story leading up to my diagnosis and the first 5-6 years of feeling completely lost. (Section 1) It educates loved ones about what it is like to be depressed; I open a window to my soul and show you where the conflicts were and what the wounds of my soul were. I describe how I wrestled over questions about my faith and how I was supposed to reconcile my Christian experience with my illness. (Section 2) Then, finally, I discuss the gospel principles that remade me from the inside out! (Sections 3-4) I return to my story to describe how the gospel and grace freed me from the not-good-enough hamster wheel, how it changed me and how I found the peace I was desperately searching for. (Section 5) Finally, I added 4 chapters of practical suggestions for the depressed, their loved ones and the church. I bet you can guess what they are about… GRACE! (Section 6)

It is crammed packed with Scripture which undeniably backs up the 50 foundational truths about God and His blessings to me (to you, too) that changed me, that freed me, and that helped me endure knowing my Savior wasn’t angry at me, nor was He disappointed in me. I also offer you my list of songs which ministered to me which might minister to you, too.

Buy it! Read it! Let the gospel of His grace renew you, too! Share the link with someone who suffers from the self-condemning voices of depression. Share it with the loved ones who just have no idea what in the world is going on in their loved one’s heads and why they are behaving like they are. And ask your pastor and church leaders to read it, too. If anyone, they need to learn what the depressed need to hear, rather than chasing the broken away with more rules and more demands. The depressed need grace, more grace, and then even more grace, but they rarely find it in the church.

Unless the church “gets it” and loved ones “get it,” the depressed really have no hope of living with this, because they have no support system to help them embrace these gospel principles. How can they embrace relief-giving grace if family and pastors beat them to death with expectations and rules and demands for behavior change?! They need YOU to show them that you are willing to invest yourselves into learning about this insidious illness and learning what is helpful and what isn’t. They need YOU to tell them their own gospel story of Jesus being enough for them and which make impotent all their feelings of not-good-enough. But you need to learn it first for yourself before you can help them. Be prepared for some challenging paradigm changes, though.

Grace is scary for a lot of people; everyone is afraid that if one embraces grace, all hell will break loose and it will create debauchery. But that simply isn’t true. Grace is what enables us to live with life’s difficulties without the self-brutalization of condemnation. Don’t be afraid; you can do it. Read my complete testimony of living with my incapacitating illness by embracing God’s grace and mercy. I truly believe they are key to helping the depressed live with their illness with less self-hate and self-condemnation.

My friends, God’s grace changes everything!!!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K1L3JMB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_pNsCFb6GYZK9T

Finding God In His Presence

Most depressed Christians don’t fully reject God as they experience their depressive symptoms, but they call out for and worship the King expecting Him be victorious for them, expecting them to rescue them from their suffering. What rarely occurs to them (or what their heart is unwilling to surrender to) is that Jesus may not desire to remove their suffering. He might want to be “Emmanuel” to them. What does Emmanuel mean? It means “God With Us.” In other words, it means God, present with us! 

The same Jesus came to offer Himself as “Emmanuel” to the Jews. He came to offer His presence among them, for the purpose of saving them in relationship rather than establishing an earthly victorious Kingship. He longed to offer them intimacy with the Godhead. He longed to offer them reconciliation with the Father. But, the Jews rejected that, thus rejected Him and what He came to offer. They wanted victory or nothing.  It was all about them and how they wanted to use God to escape their hardships.

Maybe, you experience depression but you fight it and fight it and fight it. You beg and plead for victory and for your suffering to end. Have you ever considered that your depression was intended to make you appreciate God’s loving presence in your suffering instead of your healing? Maybe, He’ll heal you; maybe He won’t! Maybe, He’ll rescue you; maybe, He won’t! Maybe, He desires you to call Him in invitation into your suffering and show you what “Immanuel” can mean to you!  This I know: “Immanuel” is one of God’s names so I can claim confidently that whatever you suffer, He wants to demonstrate “Immanuel” to you. He wants you to experience His intimacy in presence with you!

When believers can only see God as a God who always takes away suffering, who always gives us victory in our life situations, who always overcomes and destroys the things that painfully assault us or come against us, there is nothing left in their paradigm where their suffering, their disability, their sickness, their hurt, their pain, their depression, or whatever it is has been ordained by God. They miss the sweet presence of God ,and that my friends, makes Jesus weep! Because He is pushed aside for a God who will act to give them what they want, instead of embracing the God that He is, One who desires intimacy with us.

How can I claim that? Because He demonstrated this before His triumphal entry, shortly before He was rejected by the Jews, and then crucified shortly thereafter: 

Luke 19:41–44 (NIV): “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Has peace been hidden from your eyes  while you suffer because you haven’t welcomed Him into your place of suffering and experienced His tender presence, “God With You?!”

Note: The Greek words for “God’s coming to you” means: the act of watching over with special reference to BEING PRESENT, visitation, of divine activity. (BDAG)