We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken… We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe… Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. (2 Corinthians 4:1-16 MSG)
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
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 aloneis enough for you. Cling to Him alone. He is your hope! He is your peace! He is your enough!!!
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.
You know, until the Lord takes you through deep waters, I think most of us remain in that place where Paul described the early believers in I Cor 13, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” Until you have had your faith tested and you have been tried by fire, you tend to lean on your own sufficiency.
But in those great periods of suffering come your deepest growth, depth of understanding and surrender are developed and refined, if indeed you learn to choose to surrender to Him. It is my confession that I am still a baby in so many more aspects of my Christian life than I’d care to admit. When life has been easy, I have been a rock. I knew the biblical answers. I had confidence in my God and Lord, so I believed. But when suffering came, I was shaken. I found my faith was only strong when things were going well. But I became distraught when things weren’t going well for me or weren’t under my control. I hope I’m not the only one who can admit to this. God has NOT been my peace, my ability to control the various aspects of my life was my peace.
This year, I believe God has been asking me to make Him my peace. My “Jehovah Shalom.” Things have been so out of control this year. In fact, even for the 12 years prior, when I “knew” clinical depression. Talk about a lack of peace which comes from inside the raging storm of my mind!!!! Then He took that weight from me (it appears) but replaced it with great physical suffering. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
During my years with depression, I came to see it as God asking me to surrender control of my mind and even my ability to act and think in a holy way (as if any of us are capable of being sinless creatures no matter how hard we try on our own). I was hopelessly under the control of something that I couldn’t beat into submission; I could not squash it down with a power of my will. It became an exercise of humility and surrender under the mighty hand of God, and a new perspective of God’s reminder to me that His ways are not our ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. He was in this, yes, even in this!
I think I’ve grown in this area of allowing God to be my Jehovah Shalom this year. I’m probably more like a pre-schooler now. I pray I am underestimating it but I know my human heart, my self-reliant, self-sufficient human heart.
This entry is getting long so I’ll begin to bring it to a close. On this journey we’re on, this journey we make in the grace of our Savior, can you relate to my confession? Is your “peace” in how good you feel your life is going right now? Or is it in Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace?
Just this past year, I was introduced to a new Christian musician who has ministered to my spirit so much. Many of Shannon Wexelberg’s songs speak of worship and surrender and touch me deeply. Meditating on the Word of God for me often comes attached to music; me and King David. Our spirits commune with the Lord through His gift of music. Music is the vehicle that opens up our hardened hearts, brings us to a place where we willingly let down our guard and then delivers us with a contrite spirit right into the presence of God, where He can start whittling away at our character and our self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.
This morning, I was listening to Shannon Wexelberg’s album, “I Have a Song” when one of her songs began (“Jehovah Shalom”) and I found myself in honest reflection, “Is God my Jehovah Shalom?” I know I want Him to be! I know it takes a confidence that flows out of the very heart of God Himself, from His Spirit, but also a surrender of my own weak spirit to His Holy Spirit’s control. Scripture tells us that His Spirit helps us in our weaknesses and He also promises that if we ask anything according to His will, He will do it. Sometimes we don’t know for sure what the will of God is (so we can have the confidence to pray expectantly to receive what we ask for), but I do know this: it IS the will of God that I make my God my Jehovah Shalom and I’m longing to make Him my Jehovah Shalom. My prayer is from the words of this song, “Jehovah Shalom.”
“Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shalom, You are my peace. You are my peace! In the darkness, Your presence wraps around me like a blanket of rest that covers me. When my heart is overwhelmed, You’re my comfort and my help. You are with me…. When the pain of my yesterday is before me, and the fear of the future floods my soul, You are singing over me deliverance and healing. You’ll never let me go. Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shalom, You are my peace. You are my peace. Your spirit soothes me, fills and renews me. I am completely in need of You! Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shalom, You are my peace. Yes, You are my peace. Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Shalom, oh You are, You are my peace!”
I say, Selah! And I echo the psalmist’s prayer, “Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Judges 6:24 “And Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “The Lord is Peace”).”