Discovering God’s Grace in Depression

Yes, I’m writing a book about my 12 years with a depressive illness and mood disorder. In fact, we are doing the final editing now. The working title is “Discovering God’s Grace in Depression: A Personal Account of Suffering and Discovering God’s Intimate Love and Sufficiency for My Brokenness.” I thought some of you might want to start reading a portion of it. In light of that, here is Chapter One. Feel free to leave a note at the end.


2003 had been a rough year to say the least. In fact, up until that point, it had been the worst year I’d ever experienced. During the previous two years, we wouldn’t just live through some major transitions and experience a few nuisance stressors, we’d find ourselves swallowed up and drowning in deep waters. We’d live by barely surviving from one day to the next, neck-deep in those tumultuous waters. As a couple, my husband and I had experienced various ups and downs growing up and subsequently in our eighteen-year marriage, but for the most part, I didn’t believe it had been a bad life. In fact, I might have even called it good. Then, in a matter of twelve months, it all crumbled down around me.


Starting at the beginning, in the Spring of 2000, almost every area of our lives changed simultaneously. Bill, my husband, graduated from seminary and a little community church a few towns over would call him to be their pastor. We’d spend the next year living either at home, or at church, or halfway in between. Added to that new stress, it would be a tent-making pastorate (which basically means that he’d have to support his family with a secular job on the side so that he could devote himself to pastoring without additional undue financial hardship on the small church). He continued his full-time secular job as a professional firefighter, meaning he’d be gone two or three 24-hour shifts a week serving the department. This would still allow me to stay at home with the kids and home-school them. We’d juggled ministry like this for twenty years so we were pretty sure we could make it work.

It wasn’t too long before we started looking for a new home in our church’s new community. Unfortunately, we found we were unable to afford most of the homes there, so we decided we’d just build our own home. Bill was a handyman and was fully capable. Besides, several of our friends were building their homes as well and it was a perfectly doable project. “No problem. Instant equity.”

So, we sold our home, bought some property, moved 95% of our stuff into storage and bought a 37’ travel trailer.  There was no way we could rent a home and pay for a construction loan, so we convinced ourselves we could temporarily live in a travel trailer on our property which would allow us to build in our “spare time.” We had experienced seasons of stress before; we’d simply put our heads down and just get through it this time, too.

As if things weren’t crazy enough, the property we purchased didn’t yet have power or water. So, after looking for a place to park our new temporary home, we landed in the back lot behind our new church. There we were, my husband and I, our four kids (ages 6-16), a dog and 4 cats, living a few steps away from our new church.

We knew going into it that the church wasn’t very healthy when we arrived. It was understood that this was a rescue attempt; the physical, mental and emotional demands were exhausting. It was kind of understood that one’s first pastorate after seminary graduation shouldn’t be expected to be an easy one. No healthy, established church was going to take a chance on a young, untested, wet-behind-the-ears seminary graduate no matter how much youth ministry he had under his belt; we’d have to pay our dues and prove ourselves worthy first. So, besides the overwhelming time and energy it takes to lead a small church without solid, healthy leadership in place, it was a stressful period of change that wasn’t always embraced by our new flock. We seemed to spend a lot of energy the first couple years putting out fires; it was difficult, but we assured ourselves that anything worth doing was worth the investment of time and energy. “It was just a season,” we thought.

This was also a season of change for our children. Our older girls transitioned from home-schooling full-time to attending the new local public high school. Our son transitioned from public grade school to being home-schooled and our youngest daughter transitioned from a Christian school to a public school. It seems crazy but it made sense for us.

In some ways, the burdens seemed to ease a bit. My husband stepped outside our “home on wheels” and stepped right into his office at work. I’d spent several years as an administrative secretary at a very large church before we were called to this new little church, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to jump into the role of church secretary here. It wasn’t a paid position (it never was), but I had always been my husband’s secretary in our former ministries. I found a great deal of gratification being so intimately involved in his ministry. The work was something I was good at and I felt useful.

But even though we felt an incredible sense of fulfillment and joy serving in our new church, we really were unprepared for how much time and energy it took to pastor, to work a full-time firefighting job (Bill) and to build a house. There were days we’d work all day, go back to the trailer to eat dinner, then go right back over to the office. There was also a sense that the church’s very existence depended on our ability to bring this little church into the 21st century. We chalked it up to embracing it as a “season;” we would invest every ounce of energy for the promise of a better, healthier future.

The kids often stretched out into the church building where they’d find a quiet room to work on homework. The church was our younger kids’ playground. If we needed a second bathroom, the church was only a few steps away. If we started to experience cabin fever, we could step out of our 330 square foot home and into the church building. We were doing it; and everyone was just fine, we thought.


As if we weren’t swamped enough with doing ministry together, Bill holding a second full-time job and keeping both the county building inspectors and the bank happy, we’d have to do as much of the work ourselves as possible. This meant first pricing out everything it would take to complete our home (acquiring all the bids and estimates, submitting it to the bank and the county, then obtaining the permits and the financial backing to do so).

There was incredible financial pressure having undertaken multiple loans to make all this life-change possible. Building a home with a construction loan is not for the faint of heart. The bank required accountability. The county who granted us our permits demanded progress and accountability. The church required accountability. We tried to balance family time with church life. But truly, we were being pulled from multiple directions. Every day seemed to require just a little more from us.

Of course, no sooner did we begin building but we ran into setback after setback. Not the least of which was getting utilities to the site. This was completely unforeseen; even the power company was unaware of the easement predicament that kept us from hooking up to the grid.

But we trudged on anyway; we’d adapt, and we’d get through this. Up until sheetrock, we’d run all the power tools off one small contractor’s generator. During late nights at the site, freezing cold, we’d sit down around a little kerosene heater wrapped up in coats and blankets, warm up some microwave dinners (yes, we ran our little microwave off the generator, too) and then go back to the various jobs my husband had assigned us all. That was “family life” for months. But it was only “a season.”


Finally, in the early winter months of 2003, we were able to hook up to the power grid. We moved our trailer onto our property. We were glad to be out from under the public eye of every church member and we were finally independent again. There was a huge sense of relief that the end of the daily stress that I’d gotten used to would soon come to an end. Yay!

However, trailer living in the mud and in the cold reminded me that my stress was far from over. There was dirt everywhere. The trailer began feeling increasingly smaller as we started to accumulate more stuff inside. I don’t think we realized how much we had depended on being able to spread out into the comfort of the church offices when trailer life was closing in on us.

We soon decided with six individuals needing a bathroom, we’d better order a Honey Bucket. So, there we were, living in a dust/mud bowl, in our little home-on-wheels, with a Honey Bucket outside our front door. Our children were stacked like cord wood on one end in bunk beds. Our bedroom, on the other end, was crammed with as many of our personal belongings as would fit and still allow us to crawl into the cave-like space which contained our bed. The living scenario was chaotic and claustrophobic.

But, “this was just a season of life.” So, we trudged on, determined that none of these difficulties were too much to handle in and of themselves.  “Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do,” we thought, “period.” Some days I was surprised at how well we all took it all in stride! How deluded I was! Like the lost boys in the movie, Hook, I felt like life was calling out, “You’re doing it, _____.” (I’m sure you know the character.)

However, on other days, I was simply overwhelmed by the exhaustion of it all. Throughout this insane process, we juggled, and we managed. We spread ourselves thin, but we gave each area of life its due time allocation. Usually, I worked on church administrative stuff from home while my husband held office hours at the church. Then, he’d come home, and we’d work into the night wiring or plumbing or something or other. What we naively missed was the quantitative effect all of this had on us, but especially on me.


By the spring of 2003, the church had doubled, maybe tripled in size. From all appearances, people seemed happy and excited about the progress and direction of the church. For three years we had completely spent ourselves; especially draining was the prior 6 months. Sheetrock had just gone up in the house. We were almost to the finish work. I couldn’t wait to bring this season of my life to an end.

And then, just when I thought life would ease up for me, it all came crashing down. As if our physical exhaustion wasn’t enough, we experienced “death” that spring when the birds did not sing, and new growth didn’t take place. A cancer had begun to grow in our little church, but we were too naive, immature and busy to see it for what its potential was. Before our eyes, our little church imploded. That little flock whom we loved with all our heart split right down the middle. Personally, and emotionally, we took terribly painful hits. As is frequent in church splits, somebody always has to play the part of the villain. There were lies spread about us and betrayal by some of our closest friends and church family. The power struggle that ensued began the demise of unity within the body and Satan used that to divide and destroy.

On Good Friday of April 2003, Bill sadly submitted his resignation in hopes of preserving the unity of the body, but it would prove to be too late. The freight train of destruction was already too far down that hill. The irony that this occurred on the day we remember Jesus’ betrayal before His crucifixion was not lost on us.

That Easter Sunday would be the first Easter in our lives we didn’t go to church. “How did this happen?!” we thought. We now had no church to pastor, no church family to cling to, no Christian brethren who actually knew fully the details of what had just happened to us let alone who were willing or able to comfort, console or counsel us. It had happened so fast. We were absolutely stunned. We were crushed, devastated and utterly broken.

Besides Bill losing his pastoral job and our family their church home, allow me to point out the other, maybe less obvious traumas our hearts experienced. We lost our closest friends and our co-workers. You see, when you pastor, your very closest relationships are developed inside the church and when you lose that, you lose all the people who mean so much to you and whose support you have come to depend on. We were isolated and lonely; there wasn’t an outside support system to whom we could turn.

Our motives and character had been called into question, but nobody stopped to wonder what our side of the story was. Worse yet, we felt it would be unbiblical to defend ourselves with the truth because it might defame our accusing brothers. (Unfortunately, that kindness didn’t work both ways). Our work and lives’ calling appeared to have been nullified in one devastating blow and we felt like all the good things God had accomplished in the prior few years had been completely erased. Maybe even worse than that, we pondered how much we must have disappointed our Savior. “How could we have been so reckless as to allow God’s flock to be dismembered and destroyed?”


What I naively missed during the prior year was that just because a body and a mind can experience on ongoing, chronic, high-intensity level of stress, tragedy and emotional trauma, doesn’t mean it’s okay. And, it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer the consequences of such self-abuse.

The hormone, adrenaline, is an amazing life-saving tool God gave us. Its miraculous function is to help us to survive critical, traumatic scenarios. It’s called the “fight or flight hormone” and it’s secreted by your adrenal glands. If you were to encounter a bear in the wilderness, it would help you run faster than ever before. Stories abound of people who have lifted cars off people after an accident, with seemingly super-human strength, because of the adrenaline that kicked in.

However, it was not designed to be used in a constant state of hyper-drive. The hormone was designed to be turned on when our lives are at stake or in short term, high stress situations when a kick in the pants is necessary, but to be clear, it’s supposed to be turned off during the normal routine of life so your body and mind can replenish and restore itself.

But as I lived the former few years, adrenaline was being used more and more just to get through each day. The reason I woke up amazed at my ability to cope during my high stress life especially during the preceding six months was adrenaline! It pushed me past just feeling stressed to “I need to survive this.” When I crawled out of my bed in the morning, I was already under an intensely heavy load of stress. It said, “Get up, get moving. Here’s a snort of adrenaline to help you survive everything that’s going to come at you today.” And off I’d go, with my new best friend, adrenaline.

Unfortunately, because the stress didn’t dissipate, more and more adrenaline was needed to get through the day. I got so used to having it turned on that I didn’t realize that it never had the opportunity to get turned off.

And how did I truly feel I was doing? I thought, “I’m doing just fine. I’m coping! I’m surviving. I’m okay. In fact, I’m amazed at how well I’m doing!” Frankly, I didn’t see any other choice; the situation demanded that I just keep pushing through it. Either I’d survive this, or I’d fall apart, but quitting at this point wasn’t an option.

Already at the end of my rope, the church tragedy kicked my legs right out from under me. I had already been exhausting my body’s supply of adrenaline for daily activities. When everything blew up, I still had to cope with daily, ongoing stress. We were still living in a trailer because our house wasn’t completed yet. In fact, the majority of the portion we had planned to do, the finish work, was just beginning. But after we experienced devastating blow after painful blow, there was nothing left in me, no adrenaline for my emotional or physical reserves to help me deal with the trauma of the experience. Not only was there incredible sadness and grief and even anger, but I could barely crawl out of bed in the morning. I was absolutely exhausted. There was nothing left in me to deal with either the trauma or daily life. I felt so incredibly weak, like Superman who had been given kryptonite.


Some mornings, I just laid in bed and cried, overwhelmed at the cruelty life had dealt us. How cruel people could be! How wearying life could be! How devastating it could be after trying to give the very best of ourselves for others, only to be tossed to the curb, not to mention vilified. We sacrificed all for the sake of that ministry and now it was gone.

Some days, I felt like I could hardly breathe; it hurt so badly. Other days, I would actually be surprised by the resiliency of the human spirit to be able to experience such hurt, such exhaustion and such tragedy and still be able to get up and face another day, then another, then another, not at all joyful or triumphant, but just able to take another breath, then another, and another.  In all of this, we both remained confident that the pain would lessen, and life would eventually get better. We’d grieve this loss and move on. So, that is what we did. We grieved and then we moved on. Or… so I thought.

During the next three months, solely dependent on Bill’s continuing income as a professional firefighter, we busied ourselves completing our unfinished home. It was exhausting labor, sunup to sundown and into the night. We still lived in a trailer, with our four children, two of whom were seniors in high school, trying to complete senior projects and term papers and all that.

During those few months, God brought a few of our wounded sheep back to us; we found a calling in trying to help them heal from the violent bloodbath they had witnessed. They needed a shepherd and God knew we needed a church family, so we began meeting with them on a weekly basis.

Six months later, with our home freshly completed, we were entrusted with a new baby ministry (praise the Lord). We had a supportive church family and had developed new friendships (praise the Lord). “We were healing,” I thought, and life was getting better. The seasons of life that almost took us out were behind us.


But personally, I still found myself utterly, physically exhausted. I felt numb at times and tearful at others. For the first time in my life, I asked myself, “I wonder if this is what ‘depression’ feels like.” I kept that question private, not even sharing it with my husband. “It couldn’t be,” I convinced myself. “I’m more resilient than that.” Plus, God was putting our lives back together. I generally dismissed any notion of depression pretty quickly. After all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yay, me! Right?

Yet, some days I didn’t even bother getting out of bed. Whatever this was felt like it was suffocating me; it seemed to reach its little fingers into every area of life and stole the good and the joy from every situation. I just lay there motionless feeling next to nothing and the tears would just roll down my cheeks. I’d wonder again if this is what “real depression” felt like. It felt pretty crappy, to be honest. It felt so different than simply being blue, sad or discouraged. It was absolutely incapacitating. “But, nah… Christians don’t get depressed,” or at least shouldn’t, I’d been told and had come to believe. My religious training told me, “depressed people were individuals who wallowed in self-pity, choosing to remain in a sad, defeated state, who refused to get over sin or to let God strengthen them.”

Bill and I both spent a lot of time individually, with each other and with our little flock grieving, and learning about and practicing biblical forgiveness. It hurt, sure, but life goes on, right? “Get over it.” The hurt, though not gone, was dissipating. The sting of betrayal and grief over the loss of our friends was painful but now new friends had surrounded us and were sustaining us. Our new house was complete and beautiful. We had begun a new ministry. Things were getting better, or at least should have been.

So, daily, I’d try to force myself to do as I had been taught, to pull myself up by my theoretical bootstraps and do whatever the “next thing” was that needed to be done. But it just wasn’t happening. I was losing the battle on a daily basis and this new helplessness was quite uncomfortable. I felt myself slowly slipping into an unknown emptiness and darkness I’d never experienced before. It was a void where nothing felt alive anymore and I felt dead.



I faced each new day telling myself, “Just get through the next thing.” The next thing on this particular morning was visiting my gyn doctor for my annual exam. Besides what generally occurs at these exams, I intended to ask her whether I might be experiencing premenopausal symptoms or whether there might be something wrong with me hormonally that was making me so weepy and often lethargic. I knew that perimenopause sometimes makes life emotionally and physically difficult on women, so I figured that must be the reason I wasn’t bouncing back. I reasoned that it was simply the change of life knocking at my door. “Why not?” I thought. “It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long I was there.”

“The first lie depression told me was that I did not have depression.” 1 Kelly Jensen


The kind motherly midwife sat me down and asked one of those psychologically leading questions that literally could have led the conversation anywhere. “So, what’s going on, Heidi?” Transparently honest, I replied, “I just don’t know!!! I’ve been so emotional lately. It seems I’m breaking down into tears for no reason multiple times a day. I’m tired, almost lethargic. I really think my hormones are out of whack!” I looked hopefully into her eyes, looking for that “aha” look which would assure me that she’d have a pill or cream or something to magically make my life less emotional and easier to cope with.

Instead, I’ll never forget her words (verbatim): “Honey, I think you’re clinically depressed.” I’m not sure I physically rolled my eyes at her or whether I just thought it in my head, but I responded, “I really don’t think so…” and then went on to list my reasons. “First, I am a Christian and we have a faith and a hope that just doesn’t jive with people who get depressed.” Wasn’t that spiritual? I just witnessed to her. “Second, if by some chance, I do have depression, my husband is a pastor. He counsels people for a living, and we’ve talked things through thoroughly. If anyone can help me and would have by now, he was the most qualified to help counsel me from a spiritual perspective.”

She persisted, “Has anything happened recently that has been more stressful than normal?” I chuckled, I think, and then started to list a few of the things that had happened recently that had been stressing me out. Intentionally vague, I was also clear to add that what I was feeling had nothing to do with those things.

“Well, we just finished building our house after living in a travel trailer for over a year with our four kids. My oldest daughters finished their senior year of high school from a trailer equipped with an outdoor Honey Bucket! Did I mention we also had three cats and a dog? It was an enormous strain trying to complete it and do life and ministry. But that was last year and now our house is done. It’s beautiful and we’re living in it. It was a rough year but it’s great now,” I tried to convince her. “Wow!” she responded, “That’s an incredibly stressful situation to live through.” I quickly assured her, “Ya, but that’s over and done with now.”

She went on, “So how are your relationships and your family life?” I smiled and said, “My relationships are great. My husband is the sweetest man; we’re still in love and we are great friends.” She smiled acknowledging me.

“What about your job and ministry and your other relationships?” she naively asked. “Well…,” I responded, “that area has endured a lot of stress and there has been a lot of hurt but that sometimes happens in life.” I dismissed it as if I were brushing a leaf off my shoulder. I was careful to try to represent the Lord well and not give a bad testimony to this unbelieving midwife. I left out the horrors, the backstabbing, the untruths, the betrayal, and the loss of people in my life whom I loved but had abandoned us. I did admit that my husband had to give up his ministry (“a job loss,” she would call it later in the visit, as if losing your life blood and passion is just a job loss) and that we had lost many friendships over it. But we now had new supportive friends and a new ministry with people who loved us very much (looking for the bright side to turn my sob story into a story of redemption). She saw right through me, “That sounds like it’s been a very difficult year of transitions for you.” I admitted, “Yes, I suppose so.”

She went on to explain to me that sometimes when life hands us such extreme stress and tragedy that sometimes our brain and body finally say, “Enough!” The avalanche of stressors can trigger several things in our body chemistry to stop functioning correctly and cause our brain to go haywire. “This chemical meltdown,” she said, “can trigger what we call clinical depression. Sometimes, people just need a little support to help their brain reset itself.”



“I could start you on an antidepressant,” she urged me. “No, thank you,” I responded. “I’m sure I don’t need antidepressants. Isn’t it most likely because I am beginning the change of life and that my hormones are messed up?” In my mind, she wasn’t listening very well. I privately reasoned with myself, “As a Christian, all the emotional pain was something I could and would overcome with the Lord’s help in time.” I was talking to her about lethargy, fatigue, being unable to sleep, being unable to keep up mentally, a lack of energy to function in the most menial of tasks and being unable to hold it all together.

Obviously, I had forgotten that all the while I was trying to convince her that I was fine emotionally, I had been sobbing buckets of tears. She was visibly uneasy, I believe, by a feeling of helplessness yet felt a strong sense of responsibility to help me whom she recognized was denying what was as clear to her as the nose on my face.

She tried a different, back-door approach. She explained that sometimes the brain needs a little help normalizing its chemistry so that a person can start to process things correctly. By correcting the brain’s chemical imbalances, the individual is better capable of absorbing healthy counsel and implementing their own spiritual strategies, whatever that religion is. She told me, in fact, that my brain was likely unable to use my own strategies for spiritual living in its currently broken state; it just couldn’t use those learned mental pathways that I used to depend on. She warned that if it were allowed to go unchecked and untreated too long, it could actually keep me from recovering at all. She did admit that hormones could indeed have something to do with it, as that is simply just another stressful life event, I was describing.

“So, here’s what I recommend,” she said. “Would you consider starting a very mild antidepressant for just a short period? Three months to start, maybe six at the longest, just to help you get past this emotional and mental strain that you’ve found yourself in? You don’t have to be on it a long time. Just long enough to reset your brain. Maybe you just need it long enough to help you clear your head to work through everything with the help of your own faith and your spouse and all the other resources you say you have. Would you be willing to just try it and see if it helps you get over this bump in the road and then… if you want to stop it, you can choose to do that?”

“Very keen, that midwife,” I thought. I reassessed my condition by the pile of soaking wet Kleenex in my lap. Exhausted by the line of questioning and shaken that some of the things she was saying were starting to make sense, I finally agreed. “I’ll take something mild for a short time and that will be all I’ll need to get past this emotional roller coaster I’ve been living on and get back to normal life,” I reasoned. “It’s just another season! Like for a respiratory infection, I’ll take a pill for a couple months, to strengthen my immune system, then I’ll be as good as new.” On the way out the door, she also recommended a book about women’s hormones and how they relate to emotional mood disorders. It would come to help me understand from a medical standpoint what might be happening to me hormonally. 2


Embarrassed and ashamed, I stopped by the fire station on the way home to admit to my husband that my midwife diagnosed me as having “clinical depression,” whatever that was. (As if, you know, it wasn’t the bad or good depression but the “clinical” one). I asked if he was okay with my filling the prescription. I was really feeling ashamed and pathetic asking for his permission to medicate my emotions but assured him that it would only be “temporary.” It’d just be to help me get back on my feet; I was sure I’d bounce back, and I’d be as good as new soon.

He agreed, in fact, encouraged me to go down this road. We both understood that for the past several months, I had clearly NOT been bouncing back, clearly not coping, clearly an emotionally wreck, clearly overly fatigued, having a very hard time getting anything done with my time and absolutely confused by my lack of resiliency (hmmm, look at that list of symptoms that are the epitome of diagnosing one with clinical depression).

Ashamed but hopeful, I took my first pill. Within a week, I started to feel somewhat differently but wasn’t quite ready to admit it. But within two weeks, I felt as if the weight of a hundred men had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt myself doing something I hadn’t done much of for over six months; I could smile. I didn’t feel happy or giddy; I just felt normal again. I felt a calmness and a peace; I felt the joy of my salvation again. “Wow! Where has that been for so long?” I sensed the Holy Spirit’s refreshment.  I’m not saying this world’s medicine gave me joy; I’m saying the barrier that blocked my brain from experiencing it was removed and the joy the Holy Spirit gave was available to me again.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel like life was too much anymore. It was manageable. The extreme sadness and despair lifted; I was healing. “Praise the Lord,” we both thought. There was a renewed sense of identity in my life and a new sense of purpose in our new ministry. I felt a positive sense that we were going to be okay. God was putting the mess in our lives back together.


This would only be my first year into and through my journey with depression. What did year one teach me? Christians can and do get depressed! Sometimes illness, traumatic experiences or long periods of stress can trigger a once healthy brain to become “broken.” Sometimes the world’s resources really do have scientific credibility. And… sometimes medication really is necessary to help normalize one’s brain chemistry so that one’s healthy natural emotions and feelings, even spiritual ones, can be reawakened and renewed.


“When I am exhausted, completely poured out and the well of my strength has run dry. When it’s so overwhelming, the needs come in waves and there’s no way to hold back the tide. When all that I am is still not enough; when fatigue and frustration speak louder than love. [chorus] Precious Lord, take my hand. Without You I’ve got no chance to do this. You alone understand how much I need Your help to get through this. And when I don’t think I can, Precious Lord, take my hand.

“When my heart is breaking ‘cause I know the end and I’m looking for someone to blame. When I’m pushed to the limit, emotions are raw, and the anger erupts hot like flame. When every last ounce of patience is gone, when I feel like a failure who’s getting it wrong….

[chorus] “Precious Lord, take my hand. Without you I’ve got no chance to do this. You alone understand how much I need Your help to get through this. And when I don’t think I can, Precious Lord, take my hand.

“When reality is more than my shoulders can bear, Lord, give me the grace to care the way that You care—when tasks go undone and I’m aching for sleep; when there’s not enough time and there’s no time for me.

[chorus] “Precious Lord, take my hand. Without You I’ve got no chance to do this. You alone understand how much I need Your help to get through this. And when I don’t think I can, Precious Lord, take my hand.” 3 Steve Siler and Scott Krippayne

1 Kelly Jensen, “Five Lies Depression Told Me,”

2 Deborah Sichel, M.D., and Jeanne Watson Driscoll, M.S., R.N., C.S., Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, The Brain, and Emotional Health, ©1999 Deborah Sichel and JeanneWatson Driscoll, © 2000 Quill-HarperCollins Publishing. Learn more:

3“Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” words and music by Scott Krippayne & Steve Siler, ©Pirk Music BMI & Silerland Music ASCAP (Administered by the ClearBox Rights LLC). You can search for and listen to this song at and

How My Religion Failed Me


My religion said, “After I was saved, God would turn me into a “good girl.” He would help me if I tried hard enough to keep getting better. And so if I tried, and performed better and better each day, week, year, God would be pleased with me.” And as I grew up in my faith and began to check off the things my religion said I had to do, (things like reading my Bible, praying, going to church, serving him and all the others), I believed that the Holy Spirit working in me promised to make ME more righteous, emphasis on ME. 

When I experienced depression, there was no evidence of any righteousness left in me. So, I had some options as to what was happening to me. 1) Maybe I wasn’t saved; I refused to believe that. 2) I just wasn’t trying hard enough and maybe I needed to do more self-flagellation. 3) Maybe, I needed to feel more remorse and sorrow and force myself to repent more. 4) Maybe, I just wasn’t worthy of the Holy Spirit’s or God the Father’s time to make me better. 5) Or maybe—just maybe—the whole foundation of my spiritual journey was built upon MY righteousness, attempting to make God happier with me, rather than allowing God‘s righteousness through Jesus on my behalf to satisfy all His requirements for righteousness: perfectly sinless behavior. 

You see, when you pull that foundation stone of my religious self-betterment out from the bottom of the pile, the whole tower comes tumbling down. Why? Because the foundation of my spiritual journey was that God’s favor depended on MY righteousness, the things I did, and the things I thought.

Jenga tower collapses

In my understanding, one needed to become more righteous as that was the only way God would be pleased. More importantly, in order to please God, righteous works were the absolute essentials in the whole ideological argument. Earning the pleasure of God always, always, always came from better behavior.

To my despair, I found my religion didn’t leave me any way in my depression to please God. And frankly, I could not believe that God—a good, loving God—would leave me in a place where I could not earn His pleasure.  No, don’t misunderstand me, as I’m not talking about earning my salvation. I’m not even talking about being God’s special prized possession. At this point, I just wanted to know that God wasn’t unhappy with me. 

beauty girl cry

Yes, I felt like a worthless, pathetic Christian, but I was more afraid that God’s un-favor or wrath might rest on me? In my depression, I felt with every worthless thought,  every unhealthy behavior, and every angry outburst, the rest of my world tired of me. I frustrated them. I wasn’t the nicest person or the kindest person that they could have known before depression. I was an entirely different identity whom I believed didn’t deserve compassion nor mercy nor grace because I found myself so revolting, yes, even to me. 

It’s not a huge leap to go from how you believe others see you, and in fact tell you how tired they are of having you act this way, or even worse see you for what they can only believe is simply a bad behavior issue, to leap to the premise that God surely must feel the same way. I didn’t feel that I could please my husband when I was depressed, I didn’t feel like I could please my children, my church, or my friends. In fact, in self-preservation and self defense, my depression kept me from caring what everybody else thought of me. It was the only way to keep myself from drowning in self-hatred and keep my head above water. 

So, when I could, I began to re-evaluate everything that I had learned about God, and everything that I had believed about Him, through Sunday school teachers, through parents, through pastors, through friends, through Christian school teachers—I had a lot of teachers who all tried to help me learn how to live to please God. Everything  I had come to believe hinged on one’s self improvement. It dealt with works and goodness. In my depression, I was unable to do any of these good things because frankly depression steals away the will to control your life in any way.

And yet, though I despaired, part of me had the state of mind to think, “this can’t be. If this goodness was required to please God and so many illnesses allowed the brain to become ill and thus denied them goodness, I couldn’t believe that my God would be so unkind and unfair as to leave the mentally ill condemned with no hope of pleasing Him. I determined that somehow in my childhood, that I had inadvertently inserted some kind of faulty building block that had broken my religion: my Christianity. Evidently, I hadn’t learned about God in a healthy way. I had distorted God.


In my Christianity, my pleasure to God always seemed to hinge on behavior. The more I felt like I was becoming “just like Jesus,” the more I felt God was up in heaven patting me on my head, and saying, “good Heidi- good Heidi.” To my despair, I hadn’t felt that “good Heidi” pat since my depression began. 

It was in that despair that I began to study the gospel, the good news, that my righteousness (and the whole world’s, in fact) was so wretchedly unrighteous, that Jesus came to die to pay the punishment for my unrighteousness and credited to me His own righteousness, in spite of anything I did after salvation. I studied living by “grace alone” instead of just being “saved by grace.” Instead of living as a believer with “grace a lot,” I began to believe God was calling me to live by “grace alone.” 

C2B7B30F-D0BF-4CF7-9D57-FC3DA5BEFE98So, after much thought and discussion with my husband, I ripped out that old faulty foundational stone which required my righteousness (my works, my obedience, and my good behavior) to please God. As long as it remained the primary requirement to please God, I was condemned and without hope.  


Embracing grace, I admitted and accepted that I would never be righteous (“there is none righteous,  no not one.”) Embracing grace, I began to replace that unfortunate delusion with the fact the reason God sent His son was to make me right with God, because the world had been trying for years to become right with God by obeying the Law which couldn’t make anyone righteous. It only proved that nobody could obey the Law in full. Embracing grace, I realized that God sending his son to die for me, a pathetic worthless sinner, was the only way I could be right with God. Embracing grace, I was determined that that old self-righteous, pharisaical way of trying to become righteous through my works needed to be torn down and completely abolished. When I put the right foundational stone in place as the cornerstone of my life in Christ, Jesus’ righteousness,  it’s like my eyes were opened. 


Every time I looked at my own behavior and the things I said and thought in my depression, and allowed them to condemn me and make me feel like God wasn’t happy with me, I corrected it with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God’s pleasure no longer would be based on my behavior. When I was ugly, I remembered that God had credited me with the righteousness of His son, forever satisfying that condemnation that He might’ve felt for me before He saved me. I realized that when His Word said the work of Jesus on the cross removed His wrath toward me and removed my sins as far as the east is from the west, He was trying to tell me that Christianity should never be about MY works, but HIS. 

This whole paradigm change certainly didn’t make my depression go away and it didn’t necessarily make me feel emotionally better. But I chose to let it feed my mind (Romans 12:1-2) with the truth of the Gospel, renewing my mind with the reality of the mercy that God provided for us when our depravity caused us to live in a sinful condition, and with the reality of His grace which continues to offer us favor that we don’t deserve, because of His work 2000 years ago on the cross bestows on us these titles: friends of God, beloved, and children of God. 

You see, as a Christian, the very greatest insult, shame, accusation, and condemnation that you can give to somebody who’s depressed and experiencing self-hate, because of their depraved condition, is to tell them that the God that came to the rescue their souls, they could no longer please, love or serve. You are in effect telling them they are disqualified even though they had up until this point been trying to love and serve Him with all their strength.


To tell them that God can’t see past their sick mental health state, that He is forever unhappy with them, and that God has no choice but to turn His back on them, is like a knife in their hearts. You see, for a believer especially, but even for one who is still lost, that is the greatest fear that they can have confirmed by you: That their “good and loving father” and possibly the only Friend that they feel they might have left in the world, is  not able to look past their depression and love and accept them. 

Knowing that this isn’t true still doesn’t cause the depression to go away, but it gives you something that might be worth living for. It offers you hope that though everybody else might turn their backs on you, He never will. When everybody else can’t look past what you say or what you do, and when the world tells you you’re unacceptable, God tells you, “you are accepted because I have accepted the sacrifice of my own Son.”

I don’t remember when I came to the conclusion that my distorted theology wasn’t working in my depression, and frankly, I don’t know how that faulty theology of works justification is supposed to work for anybody. All I know is somewhere in my depression I found peace and I found hope because I found that for everything that I was doing wrong over and over and over and over again (though God never said my deeds were righteous), He still saw me as righteous because He saw the sacrifice of His son which pardoned me forever.

I realize that it’s hard to understand this if life is going great for you; if you behave well as a Christian because you have such wonderful self-control and will power, oh, the peace you feel in your soul. To some of you, you probably believe that I even stopped trying to live like a Christian—that I stopped trying to love God. 

But, let me just posit this: there are far too many churches today, who teach works justification from the time a child enters Sunday School. Children are taught that if and when they love Jesus, their behavior will improve; just like a vending machine: in goes good works, out comes righteousness. If it doesn’t, it’s their own fault.


What is one of the many reasons that so many depressed Christians are taking their life? Why isn’t their faith and their walk enough to keep them wanting to live? One of the many reasons is because their religion told them that Christians don’t get depressed, they don’t act this way, and that there is no grace for misbehavior. It failed to teach that everyone falls short of God’s perfect righteousness, not just the depressed. It failed to teach them to build their foundation on the God Who has already taken care of their “sin issue,” evidenced daily by their behavior issue. It failed to teach them that the wrath and judgement of God have been appeased. It failed to tell them that God made a way through the cross of Jesus Christ to count them as righteous, as if they were righteous (even though none of us are). It failed to teach them that their ONLY hope IS in the overwhelming, undeserved love of God, mercy of God, and grace of God.

We need to understand that God, whose thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts, understands that we, the depressed have a sickness and that our mind doesn’t always work the way we want it to work, and more than anything we might want to sort it out and figure out, “when does God judge my action as sin or symptom?” 

The answer might surprise you. We sin every day. We have very few moments during the day when we aren’t having a prideful thought or a testy attitude or whatever. If we could be found righteous in our works, then, by golly, we wouldn’t need the cross of Christ, would we? But whether we sin big or sin little, we need Jesus Christ’s righteousness placed on us so that God doesn’t have to look at our actions or thoughts or behavior or our good works to make a decision about us, because He has already declared us forgiven for those things, past, present, and future.

You see, when I finally realized that I couldn’t control the thoughts or the behavior in my depression, I embraced a new pattern of thinking that could hold me up every day of my depressed life, whether actively depressed or not. I repaired my grace-less theology and learned to embrace “grace alone” which caused me to look to God’s grace, kindness, mercy and favor earned for me being showered down upon me. Together with that, I learned to reject everything that told me that I owed God for any of His favor, because frankly, if I thought I owed Him even one thing, I would despise myself for not being to give Him the one thing He might have asked of me. 


My new pattern of thinking rejected good works that were necessary to please God. “No, that’s not right,” you might say.  “God’s Word specifically says that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’” (Hebrews 11:6). Well, I would have to ask you, “if you were beat down, every day, and every minute of the day like I was, could you hold on to a faith that believed that the cross of Jesus was enough to declare you righteous? Could you believe that Jesus’ righteousness credited to you was enough to give you peace with God and justify you when you couldn’t do anything on your own to earn that? Could you believe that even in your deprave state, that God called you His beloved and His friend. How much faith do you think it takes to hold on to a God-alone, God-powerful, God-sufficient, and God-controlled life? Let me tell you: it takes a LOT of faith! I was recently reminded that sometimes all the faith that is necessary is only as big as a mustard seed. Think about that.


So I have basically just put this out there for the world to read so that you could ask yourself some hard questions, especially if you have friends and loved ones who are depressed and are looking to you to support them. As for you who are content with your religious upbringing, because you have pretty strong self control, and you think you’re  pretty good already, and you’re pretty proud of yourself, and you think that God is more pleased with you than He is with me, I weep for you. Why? Because one day, most likely, something will happen and you will not be the saint that you have believed you were and that will make you question the love and kindness and mercy and grace of God. Because your hope has been grounded and fulfilled in your improving behavior all these years rather than in a gracious and merciful God. But take comfort even in this, even when your pride fills your heart and you truly believe you’re doing pretty good in God’s economy, He still loves you the same. Your self-righteousness which is something God has always despised is forgiven, too, and He returns to you the same unmerited and unearned favor, as well. 

Here’s a fact, nothing I do will ever be counted as righteous. There just isn’t any good works that are perfectly sinless and 100% righteous (sorry to burst your bubble). Obviously, bad works are always bad. But it isn’t the things I do for God that earn me God’s pleasure. He is never pleased with my half-baked, partial righteousness. My partial righteousnesses will never meet the standard that actually pleases God—the things I do for God, my works, the thoughts that I have tried to bring under control, my acts of service, are all acts of love. They do not earn me anything. 

God says that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. And the  commandment that He Himself says is most important to Him is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. There is a point when you realize that as much as you want to do the things that show your love to God, (your intentions and your desires), you will never be able to do as much as you want to do or that would be required of you to earn a righteous standing. You will not ever be able to be completely righteous nor completely committed.


So aren’t you glad (I know I am), that God is pleased with those who believe in Him, trusting that that He knows the intentions and desires of our hearts? Aren’t you glad that He said that the cross has set us free from the curse of sin and the Law (our guilt), and that we have been reconciled to God forever? Aren’t you glad that your righteousness/unrighteousness has been overwritten by His perfect righteousness? Aren’t you glad that no matter how bad you feel you are, how many times you have failed, and how much you feel your life disappoints the God of the universe, His righteousness has made you perfect in His eyes! Aren’t you glad that the good news of the gospel is that He sees you now as flawless? Boy! I sure am! 

Flawless by MercyMe

Things I’m Learning from Facebook | by Sandi Patty

The following blog by Sandi Patty was written so well and touches upon a principle that I am VERY, VERY passionate about that I felt I would just re-blog it today. However, at the end I do want to share Jason Gray’s song: “Holding The Key.” Have you ever considered that YOU may be holding the key to someone feeling loved, feeling cared about, feeling encouraged, feeling lifted up in prayer, feeling grace applied to them, feeling unashamed, feeling like they belong, feeling the arms of God Himself around them, feeling set free? 


“Last week, we posted a very simple question on Facebook: “How can we pray for you today?” I have to say that I truly wasn’t expecting the response and I have spent the last several days trying to find words for my heart that has been deeply moved. I have read each and every one and have been praying over each person as I read.

I have been moved by many things —

– the level of honesty.

– the tremendous needs in our brothers and sisters.

– there is a level of authenticity that exists on Facebook.

– there is a freedom to speak deep personal truth.

– there is a need for each of us to share our hurts.

– it is a clear reminder that we are not alone in our pain.

And it makes me pause to be puzzled at this thought… Why do we seem to feel more freedom to be open, raw and honest on Facebook, than we feel the freedom to be vulnerable in our church?  

It seems to me that one of the very things we desperately need in our church community is a space of grace to be real. It’s very hard to be real. I honestly spent the first many years of my life trying to pretend I had it all together — that I was perfect… my life was perfect. But truly, I was just hiding behind that mask of pretense. And then I fell… HARD! And made choices that people quickly surmised — “She is FAR from perfect.”

But can I tell you, since that day, when I said, “I don’t care what people find out about me, I don’t care to whom I share the truth of my wounded-ness and wrong choices, I don’t care if it costs me my career… the ONLY thing that matters, is to be right and clean before the Lord. So I will be bold and I will be honest, truthful and confess…” When I got to that place in my life to FULLY surrender, THAT is when true freedom began to plant its seed in my heart.

I felt that same sense of freedom on Facebook, as I read through message after message of gut level authenticity. I have come to believe this with my whole heart: Where there is truth (and often that truth is about ourselves and so hard to bear), there is freedom. Jesus says “The truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). That truth is God’s Word, but that truth is also about the honesty of our heart. Where there is truth, there is freedom, and where there is freedom, there is GOD, right smack dab in the middle! Because He is TRUTH and FREEDOM!

So, here is what I’m learning from FACEBOOK ––

  1. We so desperately need community –– people to come along side and walk with us; people to whom we can simply say, “Here is where I am today; I just wanted someone to know.”
  2. Oh, how I pray that our churches will not only have a sanctuary but that churches can be a sanctuary! A safe place to cry out, “No I’m not okay! I just need someone to know!”
  3. We are not alone. While our hurts and wounds are unique to us, there are others who share similar pain. So often, it just helps me to know I am not alone.
  4. WE NEED EACH OTHER. It’s that simple.
  5. Keep sharing your story. In the pages of my own story, there are chapters I’d like to rip out. But I find that it is within those very pages, I have seen God most at work.

Lastly, I want to share one of the sweetest verses I have found in the past few weeks.

Romans 15:13 (ESV):
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Be encouraged my friends — there is a hope that awaits us.  Be encouraged, today!

– Sandi via Things I’m Learning from Facebook | Sandi Patty.

 Now, listen prayerfully to Jason’s Gray words.

“Holding the Key”  by Jason Gray