Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Five)

Different Kind Of Miracle

With my last depression (which as I described was a doozy), I re-entered the life of a non-depressed right where I had left off. I was so in love with my Savior. I was committed more than ever to love and serve Him with my life! I was still in love with my husband and we could return to doing the things we used to enjoy doing together! I had a whole new relationship to build with my kids (as they were now adults) and my grandkids who hadn’t known me as anything but, “Oma feels sick today!”

It’s important to remind you that even in my very last depressive episode, I was unable to escape the torment and the lies. I was trapped inside that horrid existence. But as I emerged, I remembered all the things God had taught me during the previous 12 years and to my delight my spirit righted itself. Truly, the Anchor still does hold you even though you don’t even know He’s there. When the storm finally subsides, you might find you haven’t drifted too far from shore, after all.

As I consider all the anger I directed at God for abandoning me, only He knew that within the most violent depression I had ever experienced (to which I almost lost my life,) He was actually healing me! As I reflect, I can’t help but wonder how my life could’ve turned out without my kind, compassionate, prayer-warrior, Aaron!” It is an amazing story of God’s patience, kindness and miracle-working power! He was working behind the scenes through all the incredible, tortuous suffering to accomplish my healing. He was working it for my good! He had it all under His control after all! Wow! And, praise the Lord!

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On this side of my experience, I can declare that my soul learned to say, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”  Horatio Spafford

A Plea For Compassion

Compassion

Before wrapping up this blog I want to say a few words about suicide. Even after all the verses I claimed, the spiritual Foundational Truths I learned and how I learned to live with depression in the most self-compassionate way that I could, my final depressive episode made me suicidal. Think about that a minute. You see, most people just can’t comprehend that while a properly functioning mind might be able to reason clearly and integrate spiritual truths, a suicidal individual does not have a healthy functioning brain so they cannot access those spiritual answers that the Christian community thinks should be so simple.

Suicide is the evidence of the desperation of a very sick mind, not the selfish whim of a healthy person. Suicidal individuals aren’t selfish; they are sick. First, I want to make it clear that suicide is never a good solution to one’s suffering. But when I read the harsh and condemning statements made by healthy-minded people, they clearly, after all this time, still don’t truly understand that suicide is the result of a sickness that ended very badly. Many responses are cruel, resentful, angry, and harsh regarding that person’s supposed selfishness and cruelty to abandon their loved ones in such a violent way.

Instead, suicide should make us all break down and weep! These people only considered suicide when their minds could see no other solution to keep on living. What sorrow and sadness that someone had not been able to reach into these people’s suffering and pull them from the flames that licked their feet. I had an incredibly supportive family, but the last episode for me was so intense, in that I spiraled so deep and so fast, I lost all hope and no one could convince me that there was hope, except for my “Aaron” who stepped in to love on me and pray for me. My daughter’s unrelenting confidence and kindness to me and her hope for me likely saved my life.

Anyone who commits suicide is very sick with an illness that no diagnostic machines can measure, as it is all hidden deep inside their brains. It’s a silent killer. The world will never know unless they are listening carefully to their conversations about giving up and the haunting peace that comes from a sense of finality in their statements. This is a call to compassion and empathy. Can you just imagine the depth of suffering in their hearts and minds? Can you imagine the despair that they must have felt to believe that their loved ones would be better off without them?  Can you just imagine how distorted, tormented, and twisted their thoughts were to choose death over life?

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I wish the world would empathize with that degree of sorrow, sadness, sickness and despair, and weep for them rather than judge them. In fact, rather than allow them to suffer alone or get to that point, reach in and become that someone that they would be willing to confide their thoughts to, and offer them incredible 100% love and grace.

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Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Four)

My Moment Of Clarity

The week was almost done, and I was out walking; Bill would be home soon. Of course, walking is where I could think. I started asking myself, “Why is this depressive event not going away? Why is it so violent and extreme? What makes this particular time so despairing that I’ve actually been trying to come up with a way to kill myself?” While I had longed for heaven before, while I had idealized dying so I could finally be free of my suffering, I hadn’t ever considered the final step, the plan of how I might accomplish it. I hadn’t felt the need to write these kinds of notes before explaining why I might not be around some day because I had never gotten that close. Rereading those notes now, I believe that I was finally trying to say, “I am sorry and goodbye.”

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Anyway, I started asking myself, “When did this depressive event begin? When did it start getting this bad? I figured it had been just over a month, which was unheard of in my whole history of depression, 1) that the event would be ongoing and increasing in intensity for over a month, and 2) of course, that it never had felt this severe. And then it dawned on me. I had begun a new drug about six weeks prior, an appetite suppressant that my doctor wanted me to try to kick-start a new diet. I rushed home to look up the side effects. Typical side effects? Nope! Frequent side effects? Nope! Rare side effects? Nope! Extremely rare and potentially deadly side effects? YES!  What?!?!?!?!?

I had been enjoying regular weekly weight loss! It’d been years since I had lost 3-4 lbs. a week. Even in my depression, it was satisfying stepping on the scale. Better yet, I had no hunger! My doctor had implied, if I didn’t buckle down and lose the weight, it could kill me. I thought to myself, “If this is the reason for this depressive event, this might kill me!” I spent the night considering which way I wanted to die, by heart attack or by suicide. I texted my daughter first and told her what I discovered. She asked if I was going to stop taking them. I was still torn! Plus, I wasn’t absolutely sure yet that it was the drug. What if I were to stop it on a whim and the drug had nothing to do with it? Then, I texted my husband whom I had hardly texted all week, and asked him what he thought? Did he think it was the drug?

Both of them said, “Toss the drug! It’s not worth it.” It was a weight loss help! It wasn’t directly saving my life! It needed to go! The next morning, with some sadness, because I had tried for so many years to lose this weight, I didn’t take my pill. Nor the next day, or the next. In fact, I never took another pill. Slowly, I started to feel my “self” return. It was slow; in fact, it took about two-three weeks to feel like myself again. In fact, it was about a month before I felt depression-free for the first time in a few months. But I felt like I was back; praise the Lord! When I went back to my doctor, I was his first patient to experience this type of reaction. He sat there in the room and looked through the known side effects, and sure enough read, “Can make existing depression and mood disorders worse.” It is now listed on my chart as an allergy!rescue

My Rescue Came From My Worst Depression

Glad to be relieved of this really bad episode, life went back to normal! My normal, anyway. I had a good week, then expected to fall back into another regular depressive episode the following week, one less severe as was typical. A week went by, then two. Then three! Then a month! I didn’t say anything! For months after that horrible month, I wouldn’t experience another episode of depression. I even experienced some other really difficult physical health issues. Yet, the type of incapacitating sorrow and irritability never returned. It was surprising to both Bill and me but neither of us dared to utter a word about it. We were almost afraid to believe what might be true. We’re not at all superstitious but yet, I think we were both just waiting for the next episode to show up as it had for twelve years. Still we waited, not believing it could be over. Another year and a half would come and go, and normal human emotions of frustration or discouragement would show up, but they felt “normal.” They felt like they had the first 39 years of my life: appropriate, rational and fleeting.

At thanksgiving, our family has a tradition. After dinner, we go around the table and say what we are thankful to God for in the prior year. On Thanksgiving Day 2015, I would announce to my children and my little grandchildren who would not understand what Oma was crying about, “I believe God has healed me of my depression. It has been 19 months since I last experienced an episode of depression.” The entire table began to cry; it had been a terribly long haul and they had all been there. Praise the Lord! God restored my mind and my capacity to reason and to cope and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. The expected lifelong loop of negative self-hate simply went away.

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For those of you whose jaws you need to pick up off the floor, there was a medical reason! In short, I believe this drug so violently affected all my hormones, that it crippled my reproductive system and chemically shut down my hormonal system for good, putting me into menopause. The menopause stopped the cycling, so my body and mind were finally restored to normal functionality. All that suffering just ended because my hormones just stopped.

Back In The Light

I remembered then what the research doctor and researcher had told me back in 2008, 6 years prior, that the current consensus among researchers at that time was that when women with my rare depression went into menopause causing the cycling hormones to stop, that the ravaging mood disorder would dissipate and go away. Remember, he warned me that I should continue to get counseling so that when it did happen for me, I’d be able to find my way back to the life I used to know— that is, I would need to create new pathways to learn how to cope, to make decisions based on my upbringing and my faith, and to be able to know how to make good decisions.

What I was fearful would permanently damage my brain after so many years with depression did not occur because of one thing, I believe. During my years of depression, when I was able to crawl out of the darkness into the light, I devoted my thinking to adjusting my expectations of myself and my view of God. You see, I’d been seeing a different kind of Counselor. God had been renewing my mind, teaching me about Him and His everlasting kindness for me. He was teaching me Foundational Truths which adjusted my view of Him.

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God Was Working Behind The Scenes

As I look back, during my depression episodes themselves, I couldn’t see what God was doing in my heart. Even after twelve years of learning how to view my own condition, learning how God might view me and learning about Who God was in His person and character, I could not see those truths, nor could I see Him “inside” the depression. But “in the light” (when I would temporarily emerge clear-headed), deep inside my soul everything was changing; I was being remade. These lessons didn’t deliver me from my depression, but instead it comforted me and gave me an underlying peace about my depression—a hope and a confidence in the One Who knew all and controlled all. God didn’t rescue me from my hell, nor did He tell me to just push past it. He lovingly made a way to make His presence known to me. He simply walked alongside me, working behind the scenes, repairing the broken pieces of my heart and life, and making all things new in my view of Him while all the while He was repairing my own view of me.

Continue to Part Five (the conclusion)

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Three)

The Anchor

Well, the week continued, and as had been my habit for about 6 years, I went for my daily walk down my street. I turned on my playlist and felt nothing. In fact, all I really felt was anger and resentment. Sometime during that walk, I heard, “The Anchor Holds,” sung by Ray Boltz. My ears perked up as the song bemoans that the songwriter’s dreams and life had slipped right through his fingers like grains of sand. Then, the chorus promised that God, being our Anchor, was strong enough to hold onto us in the most difficult of situations.

But for some reason, what I heard was that I’d only be held by this incredible Anchor’s strength if I were strong enough to hold onto Him. When I heard that, in my despair and the rage I was experiencing, I shouted at God at the top of my lungs, “But I can’t hold onto Your Anchor anymore!!!! It’s too hard! I just can’t do it anymore!”

I continued my walk, still frustrated, but I just let my music list play through on shuffle. I was pretty ticked off having suffered so long, learning a healthier perspective about God and embracing my new Foundational Truths, and now here I was shouting at God, because I couldn’t hold onto Him anymore. (Sigh) I felt doomed and condemned! Before this episode, I had had faith that I was trying to please God and had faith and confidence in my adjusted view of God, but now I was too weak to be strong enough to hold on to the only Hope I had! I fumed all the way up and down my street! It seemed so unfair! On the last leg of my walk as I was nearing home, another song began to play. I wish I could remember the exact song that played, but truthfully, when God revealed to me the following, my mind started racing to figure it out before my walk ended. I was on the precipice of something huge and I felt it in my spirit! This could change everything!

Misunderstanding The Anchor

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It nearly stopped me in my tracks. I began to ask myself. “What is an anchor? What does an anchor do? Do ships hold onto anchors or do anchors hold onto ships?” I thought about the strength of an anchor. I thought of its potential for rescue and safety in the storm. I rehearsed in my mind the terrible storm I was in and I remember getting angry that my Anchor appeared useless to me. I knew my Anchor, Jesus Christ, was solid, strong and powerful, but what use is an Anchor, if I was too weak to hold onto the Anchor.

That’s when the Holy Spirit broke through the silence to speak into my heart. “You don’t hold onto an anchor! The anchor holds onto you!” I began to rehearse in my mind the dynamics and physics of an anchor. Let’s see: It’s attached to the ship. The weak link for a ship is its connection to the anchor; if it isn’t a secure connection, the anchor would be useless. But if the ship is designed right, the anchor is solidly built into the frame of the ship, tethered tightly to its hull. Once it is built, the anchor holds onto the ship. The ship doesn’t hold onto the anchor. (Gasp!)

I personified the Anchor and the ship. I pictured me as the ship grasping the anchor with imagined hands and holding on for all its worth, struggling to stay afloat. I thought how silly and worthless an anchor would be if the ship had to be strong enough to hold onto the anchor. Then I pictured myself as the ship, being tossed and turned on the waves, struggling, clamoring and clawing to find this anchor; one end was solidly tethered to my insides while the other end was firmly connected to the bedrock on the ocean floor. It was not at the top, in the storm, where I was looking at all!

It occurred to me that a ship in distress out in the storms of the ocean does nothing but let the Anchor fall to the bedrock below. Then, it waits safely through the storm while the anchor holds the ship in its current location. Yes, the storms still rage above, and the boat may get tossed about above the surface, but down below the surface, the anchor is firmly planted on the rock. It may feel desperate up above, but down below where the anchor is resting, it is calm.

I was definitely in the squall of my life. I was in a terrible storm, one which I felt could pull me under. I also knew in my brain that I was still a child of God. I knew God was supposed to be my Anchor. What I hadn’t realized till that day was that I had always assumed that in order to benefit from having an Anchor, was that I had to be strong enough to hold onto it through life’s most difficult storms. Me! I believed my strength would have to be strong enough to hold onto my Anchor. I asked myself, “What good would an anchor be if it’s merit came down to each person’s ability to hold onto it through a storm?”

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Bedrock Moment

Then I remembered it, a verse I learned during my youth. John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

There it was: My Anchor and the Bedrock. Nowhere did I read that I better be strong enough to hold onto God. I only read that no one and nothing can snatch me out of my Father’s hands (the Bedrock) once I have been placed into them. I knew I was in Christ, even in this dark, empty, vile wilderness and that Christ was in me. And just for a few moments, the grace of that precious truth caught me off guard. I pictured the footprints plaque. I pictured Him picking me up, while I was still kicking and screaming, and carrying me through this storm, all the while I’m shouting at Him for abandoning me. While I could do nothing to help myself survive it, I wondered if He could hold me through the violence of this storm.

My mind wandered back to the image of the anchor but this time, I visualized the ship as having arms. Imagining the first scenario, I thought about how ridiculous it would be for my figurative ship to reach down through the murky water to find the anchor sitting down on the bedrock, trying with all its might to hold onto the anchor.

Then, the image shifted as I internalized my newly discovered thoughts about anchors. This time, although my ship was still being tossed in the storm, up from the bedrock an anchor with massively strong arms reached up and wrapped his arms around the floundering ship and embraced it, holding it secure in its embrace. With the anchor firmly established onto the bedrock and with its arms encapsulating and protecting the little ship, it was safe. What did the ship do? The ship just sat there and did nothing. Yes, the storm was still pounding it, but the ship was at peace within the safety of the strong arms of the anchor, which was tethered to the hull of the ship, the “heart” of the ship.

I finished my walk with these simple thoughts. Today, I’d be content with this new realization that I didn’t have to hold onto my Anchor. I was safe in my Father’s hands. Not even in my own frustrating attempts could I wriggle free of Him. Today, I’d be content with doing nothing to hold onto the Anchor but would rest in the knowledge that if His word was true, the Anchor was still, even in this violent storm, holding onto me.

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Continue to Part Four

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Two)

My Aaron

Interestingly, my oldest daughter did check in on me during the week. She texted me the next morning and many of the same statements came up. I had been telling her I was in a bad way, worse than ever before. She’d offer to come over, but I didn’t want company; I was afraid I’d get angry at her, too. I often texted her when I wanted someone to pray for me. She knew that I wasn’t asking for advice or for her to cheer me up; I just needed a safe person to tell that I was suffering. This particular week, I could not pray myself! Her prayers for me were going to be the only ones being offered this week (although I later learned my husband was praying like crazy). Anyway, I knew she’d pray and beg God to give me peace and relieve my suffering. But this particular week, the tone of my texts as I reread them today, are haunting. Can you pick up on the cues of a suicidal woman? Can you sense the strange sense of peace and resignation that I was coming to a point where I was done with life, and was ready to just go to heaven and be done with it all?

Christine: “How r u feeling today? Or is it too early to know?”

Me: “Pretty discouraged to the point of despair regarding what I have to go thru and how it affects everything in my life, including my relationships. I’m just plain unhappy! I’m weary of this whole thing! I don’t see how anything good can come from it. I’m tired of surrender! I feel disconnected from daddy, God and everyone in between! I’ve lost hope. I feel this whole attempt to be made whole or to make whole what is broken in my life is hopeless. And I don’t think this is depression speaking. I just reflect on my life today and the joy or contentment I once knew, and the results or consequences are more than I can bear in my spirit…I think the sadness may be subsiding but now I’m just plain worn out, discouraged, despairing and I think even resentful of this situation. I am so tired of this! I am really struggling with accepting this roller coaster life – tired of this life that I’ve been asked to live! It is miserable! I’m pretty sure I’m losing the battle.”

Christine: “I just don’t get it, either, mommy. The only thing that makes sense is that there are sooo many other people out there going through the same thing I think …only with less of a foundation under their feet than what you guys have. There just has to be reasons still yet unseen as to why God has allowed this…Your life is not over yet. There could still be a lot of future for you guys. Maybe, there is still lots of purpose to come out of this.”

Me: “I saw your post this morning that said something like, help us to see the “blessings in disguise.” I no longer believe that there are blessings in disguise anymore! I’m angry that I have to go thru this torture and the end result is a bitter and lost heart for weeks at a time! Where is the “blessing” in that!? I just don’t buy it anymore!”

Christine: “Ya, I know. Well, while you are worn out and done with all of this… I’ll keep believing for you…Because I just can’t believe God is done with you.”

Me: “Yesterday when I walked, I tried to listen to the music that reminds me of God’s purpose, grace and mercy and it was just a bitter pill! I had to turn it off because the words offended me! I have to admit, I am far from God right now and I am bitter about this! I’m fed up! My longing for God has been silenced! And the same way I push daddy away like a hurt, cornered, rabid dog, I find myself this week pushing God away, too! I’m just telling you where I’m at today honestly! I cannot do this anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Christine: “I just can’t accept it’s been a waste. I mean other pastors or ministry workers have fallen away from the Lord or they’ve slipped into adultery or something like that…that’s not you guys. You were doing what God called you to and have not strayed. Yes, I know today…this week…this season…you may not feel that. I know you are feeling embittered. I can understand. But it’s just a season. I know it. You guys are soooo Job!!!! You were serving the Lord and He allowed you to endure something terrible. Why? I don’t know. But it’s not the end of the story. ‘He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ It’s ok if you can’t believe it right now, mommy. I’ll keep praying it for you.”

Me: “Scripture says that the enemy seeks to tear down and destroy! I give up! He’s won; this depression has torn down and destroyed everything in my life I hold dear! Over and over again! I am worn out! Then I read that ‘When I’m weak, He is strong?’ Who’s kidding who? God is not strong today. I am weak and He is absent…”

Christine: “Maybe you don’t feel it today…But I just don’t believe it…It’s not the end. You are sick at home. I know I just keep sounding like I’m trying to convince you or preach to you. You know I’m not trying to do that. I see where you are. And I’m letting you ask “why” …But while you are in the pit, I’m still praying. I’ll help hold up your hands. Close your eyes and rest while I hold your arms up.”

Me: “Well, when a mind like mine is sick, I can see how it is better to lock us away. Because whatever a mind thinks, the heart follows. A when the heart sludges thru this mud for days on end, the heart follows. That’s where I’m at. I think my brain is no longer being tormented. I’m just done fighting it.”

Christine: “Maybe. I can see that. And after a longer struggle, the recovery process will be longer, too. But I still don’t believe it’s over.”

Me: “There is a point in mountain climbing when the journey just becomes too difficult. Once you’ve lost your toes and fingers to the cold, you’ve run out of food and supplies, there comes a time to just give up and turn back. I’ve reached that point; there is no point in battling on. I’m turning back. I’m out of steam; I’m out of courage; I’m out of reserve to hold on to; I’m worn out!”

Christine: “I know…”

Me: “I appreciate your hope, confidence and prayer. I am glad someone is interceding for me. I just no longer have anything left in me to do that for myself. I’m the one who has to live in this tormented mind. What possible good can come from a mind who is scourged to the point of being embittered toward life, husband and God! What good? My mind pushes me away from all these!!!!!!!

Christine: “I wish I had the answer, Mommy…” (end of conversation)

First, did you sense the times I was trying to help her understand that I was throwing in the towel and why? She didn’t know I was really suicidal, but she wouldn’t relent and let me give up. I also want to draw your attention to something: she never rebuked me. She didn’t tell me how unspiritual I was acting. She didn’t express disappointment in me! Her love, mercy and grace just kept coming at me one shot after another. Why didn’t she just let me give up, already? She was not intimidated. She didn’t walk away flabbergasted! She stuck it out through everything I was vomiting up! Finally, she had confidence in our God when I had lost mine! You can bet she was a vicious, prayer warrior that week and took her job seriously, and I’ll tell you why I knew this in a minute.

What Did She Mean About Holding Up My Arms?

Exodus 17:8–13 (NASB): “Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So, Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow, I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So, it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus, his hands were steady until the sun set. So, Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

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In short, when Moses became weary and his arms began to fall from fatigue, the enemy they were fighting would start to overpower them. But, when Moses arms were up with the staff of God in his hand, Joshua’s army would begin to overpower their enemy. So, Aaron and Hur, realizing that Moses was incapable of doing it himself, stationed themselves, one on each side, and physically held up Moses’ weary arms for him. At the end of that day, Joshua overwhelmed the enemy and killed them. Here’s the principle: There are times when people become so fatigued that though they desire to do what God is asking them to, they just can’t. In those times, God calls along Aarons and Hurs to help them do what God desires, but they carry the full weight of it themselves. I knew this biblical story well. I knew what she was telling me.

She said, “I will believe for you. I will intercede for you” (not just about me, but as a replacement for me). She was saying, “I trust God! I will trust God FOR you!” She didn’t offer any ridiculous advice to try to talk me out of what I was saying! She let me vent! The vomit kept coming. The only thing she wanted me to remember was to trust in God’s eternal purposes. She simply offered love, grace, mercy and support. Incredibly, she refused to be dissuaded to become discouraged herself! She believed when I couldn’t!

Well, I had a doctor’s appointment that day, so that was the end of the conversation. But later that day, I returned home from my doctor’s appointment and discovered that Christine had brought me a single red rose in a lovely little vase, beautifully wrapped up by a florist. Attached to it was a card which simply said, “Love, your Aaron.” Scrawled across my 6-foot bathroom mirror she had written in soap: “Love you! Both of you! Praying for you!” It was there on our mirror for months as a constant reminder. I texted my response to her in tears!!!! “Christine, Thank you!! This means the world to me!”

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Continue to Part Three

 

Finding Peace With God in My Depression: Part Three

Part 1 can be found:  here!

Part 2 can be found:  here!

How Could I Ever Be Enough?

Third, God taught me that when I couldn’t reach God’s standard for righteousness, God Himself bridged the gap.

“When all you can do is all you can do, then all you can do is enough.” I call this my “Enough” principle. If on any given day, I was given the grace to behave somewhat righteously, I was HS filled, I did all the right things, I served in the church, I was kind to my family, I lived in the joy of the Lord, I still wouldn’t be able to attain the righteous holy standard of God Himself. 

But, whatever I lacked in perfect righteousness, God looked at the righteousness of Jesus on my behalf. and said, “Whatever you lacked today, I’ve got this covered. You are 100% righteous before Holy God. I am now pleased.”

Sand Illustration: 

Imagine that I am holding a bag of sand and a empty jar. In the example above, I was able to partially fill up that jar myself with my good works out of a heart for God and love for Him. So, God filled my partially filled jar of sand to overflowing. When Christ’s righteousness and your efforts are married together, that is enough to please God. Let me be clear, YOU are not enough! God multiplies and redeems your efforts and God’s work is enough!

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However, when I was in the pit, I despaired, I became angry, I refused to talk to anyone, my social behavior was despicable and unacceptable, I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit and He was not in control of my thoughts. I wanted nothing to do with God. In fact, I had little to no desire for Him. I was nasty and testy, my soul felt empty, and I had NO joy! 

But the Lord looked at me and compassionately said, “Whatever you lacked today, I’ve got this covered. You are 100% righteous before Holy God. I am pleased.”

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Back to our Sand Illustration:

If you looked at my jar on those tormented, depressed days, you could hardly find the few grains of sand that I could contribute to the jar. But still, God looked at what I was able to contribute and then proceeded to fill up my almost empty jar of sand to overflowing. When Christ’s righteousness and your efforts are married together, that is enough to please God.

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My new relationship with Jesus was one of tenderness. It was one of compassion. It was one of Him being the Sustainer and my being the helpless one.  It changed everything for me. It took all my despair I felt for not feeling acceptable and gave me permission to stop trying to earn it. My eyes were opened to His shepherd’s heart and I fell in love with Him in a way that I had never done before. I was imperfect, but I was beloved. He was ok with my brokenness. He was ok with me, meaning my brokenness didn’t deny me His affection and love.

Paul says in I Timothy 1:15-16, “But I received MERCY for this reason, that in me, Jesus might display His perfect patience, as an example to those who were to believe in Him.”

Oh the joy that I felt when I was finally convinced that God didn’t require reciprocation for His love and kindness, compassion and ministry to me. God as my caregiver was able to love me past all my unpleasantness.

Fairness vs Grace

I felt, this can’t be! It doesn’t seem fair to let me disappoint on some days while He required others to behave? To not require me to try hard on some days? To accept less than perfection? To have mercy on my condition? To not make me bang my head over and over and over against the wall because I just couldn’t make my mind or my spirit to cooperate?

You see if you add anything to grace, it’s not really grace. It’s earning! Only grace … plus nothing … equals grace!!!!! And if there was one thing I knew God was doing to me in my depression, it was to demand that I learn that I was NOT in control. It was that He would be glorified, NOT in MY actions, but in HIS actions. Once again, He rolled me over onto my back and said, “Stay! You made a mess. Now, let me clean you up.”

Learning a New Way Of Living In My Depression

Although, I started to experience a new intimate relationship with Him when I was in the light, one of the continual affirmation that our relationship was still ok, one of being an ongoing object of mercy for anything I did that didn’t seem holy… MY depression still DIDN’T GO AWAY!!! So, that merciful feeling of peace that I’d receive when I emerged FROM the pit was still not available to me IN the pit. 

What I knew in my head, that I was an object of mercy, didn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings IN my depression. I’d still plummet into the darkness. I’d still plummet into despair, into ugly responses, into isolation, into a place where I still couldn’t feel God or see Him, but I was learning to live in a new tension. 

Learning to Trust In The Dark

I was learning to trust a God I couldn’t feel or see. I was learning to trust in the dark what God was teaching me in the light. (Read that again! Don’t miss this!) With only my will, I learned to cling to the truths He had taught me when I COULD see Him before our sweet intimacies slipped away into oblivion. I didn’t have to feel them for them to be true. I didn’t have to mentally assert them as truth. I didn’t have to verbally agree to them. I didn’t have to emotionally connect to them. I just welcomed them into the tension and let them marinade in my soul. 

I also learned that my life could no longer be lived in “all or nothing.” I could no longer cling to a dream of living a perfect life. It wasn’t one of complete relational continuity—one of 100% faithfulness to God and obedience in every area, but more like a series of little moments.

This was new to me. Only a hypocrite thinks one thing then turns around and does another! I fought the self-accusation of hypocrisy! “I couldn’t count on tomorrow! I couldn’t even count on the next five minutes!” But when God opened a window and peeked in, and I caught just a glimpse of His smiling face, I welcomed the intimate moment with Him (even though I knew it was fleeting). But fleeting as it was, I chose to welcome moments freely, worship Him freely, embrace Him warmly! And then, over and over, the moment would be gone. The despair would remain. 

The Locket Of Trust

But I chose to put God’s truth in a locket and hung it around my neck. (This is a reference to Matt Hammit’s song, “Trust.”) My locket contained the truths I’d come to learn about God and about myself that I had discovered in the light. However, these truths, while life-changing, didn’t change my current circumstances and they didn’t change my depressed illness. But I still hung them around my neck in confidence that God was calling me to trust Him and have confidence in something OUTSIDE of what I could do and could feel.

When I went into the darkness, I clung to God’s Truths safely stored in my locket which hung around my neck. While I was in there, it was too dark to see them or feel them, but I held onto the locket determined that I was still ok. And when I emerged from that darkness, I opened the locket and all the memories of God’s promises and faithfulness came flooding back. 

While I studied the foundational truths of God in His word in the light, I began to feel layers and layers and layers of guilt-motivated, good-intentioned,  performance-based righteousness fall away. I felt like Jesus was lifting weight after weight after weight off my shoulders reminding me: “Heidi, it is already finished! Done! You are redeemed, yesterday, today, forever! There is nothing you have done, are doing or will do that isn’t covered by My love, My mercy and My grace!

You no longer need to strive to earn My favor! In fact, you never did! Simply look to Me, the Author and Perfecter of your faith! I’m just waiting for you to stop trying to run your own world and let Me have control. Let me give. Let me take. Let Me shower my love and grace on you! Stop striving after the wind! It’s exhausting and it’s defeating! My grace is sufficient for you and is made perfect in weakness!” 

Wow! I thought, if we are saved by grace, why is it so hard to remember we must also live by grace!? I prayed, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears You. Teach to me embrace grace in this tumultuous affliction You’ve ordained for me to endure. 

These are those truths I learned and clung to:

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I remembered The Lord is my shepherd. I remembered The Lord is my Redeemer.
My soul was at peace even when my spirit was not. My peace didn’t COME from the darkness, but it is FROM within that dark place that I was forced to trust in the all-sufficiency of Jesus to make our relationship right.

I remembered that only God was holy. God and God alone. Although I knew that He was holy, and that although His longing was for that day in glory when I would finally lay aside this sinful shell, I trusted that He alone could present me to the Father as righteous and acceptable.

I was convinced that God Himself was asserting His sovereignty and His authority every time He allowed me to be subdued by depression. I learned sooner and sooner to just surrender to His hand. I cried out: “Lord, I don’t want to go back in there. It’s so dark and lonely.” “I know,” He said, “but I’m always right beside you even when you don’t feel Me there.”

I came to trust that while I was in the darkness, He carried me like a wounded lamb. I was unable to feel Him or see Him. I couldn’t reach out and feel that He was still beside me, carrying me, His wounded little lamb. But, I learned to not fight Him to stand on my own. In my weakened condition, it was always safer to just let Him carry me.

I was convinced that He knew my heart was one that ultimately desired to please Him, but was weakened by my affliction that held me captive to my depravity. I didn’t need to PRETEND to be holy to please God, something I was NEVER capable of doing in the first place.

I trusted God to be able to handle my authenticity. I’d spend many hours lamenting and expressing my sorrow. I came to trust His compassionate heart and came to depend on His mercy and grace as I opened up the wounds of my soul for Him to tenderly clean up. 

I was convinced that there was nothing I could do to earn His favor, but I still believed it was because of His intimate favor that He Himself had wounded me – not to punish me but simply so that he could show me His mercy and ongoing love. 

He reminded me, “This thorn in your flesh, I gave it to you to keep you from exalting yourself.” And though I begged the Lord too many times to count to take it away, He told me, “My grace is sufficient for you. MY power is made complete in YOUR weakness.”

I was convinced that the cross of Calvary had settled it all and that God had credited the righteousness of Jesus to me, making me righteous in His eyes.

And when the darkness passed, my relationship with Jesus came right back. He looked into my eyes and I looked into His, and He said, “I know that was hard. I know that was scary. Are you ok now? Are we good?” I’d say, “It was scary, Lord. And it was so hard. But I never felt your condemnation. I only sensed your mercy. I never felt you were angry at me. I only sensed your compassion. Ya… we’re good.” 

Can you see that as difficult as the struggle was for me, how necessary it was for me to live in that desperate place of tension, all in order to get me to the intimacy on the other side? I needed to give myself permission to search my own heart and ask God some really hard questions. I had to live in the struggle of some really hard theological tensions. I had to challenge my whole foundational belief system as to what it means to “please God.”

I had to own the utter helplessness of my own depravity and my desperateness for someone other than myself to save me. I had to see myself from God’s perspective. His relational intimacy with me was MORE PLEASING TO HIM than my thoughts or good deeds were to Him. But this I know, He needed to remove my strength before I would accept His mercy.    (to be continued tomorrow here)

Finding Peace With God In My Depression: Part Two

Part 1 of this 4- part series can be found: here!


Developing a Relationship With My Alpha

Do you know what all that “Wait, Submit, Stay” was all about? Relationship!!! It was HIS longing for ME to enjoy a relationship with HIM of trust and of authority. The first thing He knew I had to learn, was that if our relationship was going to work,  I’d have to recognize and surrender unquestionably to my Alpha. There cannot be two top dogs in the house. 

Secondly, He was assuring me that He wasn’t hurting me, just subduing me, if for no other reason but to convince me that He could because He had the authority to do so. 

Thirdly, He was showing me in His eyes, that although I felt incapacitated, He wasn’t unhappy with me. And truthfully, the more often I experienced Him pressing me into my incapacity, the more I felt He loved me. It didn’t make sense, but there was something in His demeanor toward me that demonstrated to me compassion, mercy and grace. 

The Nagging Question Of Justice

And while I experienced this one aspect of peace, that is, that He still loved me even though He was subduing me, and that I didn’t feel He was angry, there was still the nagging tension of the holiness of God and my duty as a believer to live righteously. How could a holy God be ok with unholiness? How could a holy God, in all His justice, still be able to be pleased with one as despicable as me? It was not enough for me to only have a “feeling” that God was ok with me, but I needed to reconcile it with what I knew of His Word. I needed to have a confidence that He was ok with me. 

As a born and bred performer in the world of Christianity as a way of earning God’s pleasure, a Pharisee who looked to my obedience to the Laws of God, His mercy overwhelmed me! While I was still struggling with His justice, I felt the only thing I could do to bear up under ALL the incredible shame I felt was to cry out for His mercy! I cried out, “God, I can’t bear up under the burden of your justice! How can you still even look at me???? Have mercy on me a sinner!”

And He told me, “ My mercy is not held captive by your sin or My justice. I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy!” He NEVER told me my sin was righteous; He convinced me that my sin nature had ALREADY left me utterly unrighteous. But He told me, I’d always receive mercy when I asked. His mercy was absolute relief.

Psalm 51:16–17 (NAS): “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

I love Rich Mullin’s song, “Hold Me Jesus.” He sings it this way as a prayer, “You have been my King of GLORY, won’t you be my Prince of PEACE?” In fact, do you remember the Jews rejected their Messiah because He didn’t come to be a victor but to redeem them, to reconcile them to God, to establish a tender loving relationship with them that He could not do until He had buried their sins in the deepest of seas. But they didn’t want that kind of Messiah! They wanted a strong Messiah that would overcome and release them from their suffering. They wanted a Messiah to prove His victorious strength. Sadly, they rejected the Messiah who came to offer them relationship and are still waiting for Him today.

I, too, had seen God as the One who would turn ME into God’s glorious victor, but that left me with no need for His sufficiency; I felt no need for God’s peace when I was strong. I was already sufficient in myself. But what I really needed was the Prince of Peace, acquainted with my insufficiency, to speak peace over me in spite of my weakness and desperation. 

Complete Honesty

When He offered me mercy so readily, so graciously and so kindly, I couldn’t wait to bring Him one more thing, I was DYING to get it off my chest. My honesty! My authenticity! One of my greatest fears was that God could only offer me grace and mercy because I had been able to pull the wool over God’s eyes and He didn’t know really how bad my heart really was.

As great as it is to be offered grace for a seemingly perfect life, I was intensely afraid that God would not be so gracious if He really knew my wretchedness. So, if I was ever going to be able to take comfort in His mercy. I’d have to be convinced that He knew EVERYTHING He was offering me mercy for.

I needed to test our new relationship based on one-way favor. I needed to know whether He would cringe and turn away in disgust if I showed Him all my nakedness and all my wretchedness. You see, I could understand being loved by someone who had the appearance of righteousness, something I had been trying to portray to the world my whole Christian life. What I couldn’t fathom was God offering mercy to one who had NO appearance of righteousness!

I was dying to take off ALL my masks. If I tried to pretend one more moment that I was doing ok, I’d go crazy. I hated the feeling that I was just masking the dirtiness lurking beneath the surface in my depression. I felt like I was prettying myself up with my own ugly rags and hoping God saw them as righteous. But if I had to wear those ugly rags I’d been using to cover up what was inside one more day, I’d go insane. The pretending felt like weights on my ankles dragging me to the ocean floor. My ultimate freedom would only be proven to me if I could be absolutely honest and God would prove to me to be absolutely merciful and gracious. It was “all or nothing.” 

Could I trust Him with the truths of my soul? He reminded me, “This isn’t much of an offering, you know. I’ve always known what was in your heart. But thank you for sharing your honest confession.”

Michael Card sings it this way, “Come lift up your sorrows, and offer your pain. Come make a sacrifice of all your shame. There in your wilderness, He’s waiting for you, to worship Him with your wounds, for He’s wounded too.”

What About My Duty?

But there was still that nagging question I couldn’t let go of. “What about MY duty? What will I have to DO myself to be assured of His pleasure with me? What about His justice? It just wasn’t fair for God to be ok with me even with my wretched depravity on display. I couldn’t reconcile my ‘inability to DO’ with what His word demanded that I should do.

God Answers With Truths I Already Knew But Had Long Forgotten 

And then it was as if God opened up heaven and sun rays shone down in front of me and angels started to sing…. “Heidi, there is not ONE thing I have asked you to do that either 1) hasn’t ALREADY been done FOR you, or 2) for which I haven’t ALREADY paid for, putting in place a way for my justice to be satisfied! Right now, I don’t want you to do anything. I want to be the One to do for you. I want you to embrace an intimacy with me, where You know my heart and I know yours.

What?!?! But what about ME?  What about MY duties? What about the strength I felt when I had the power to not sin? What about the satisfaction I gained from presenting Him with MY righteousness?  I felt absolutely devastated because I would never become His Trophy of strength! While He was merciful to me as a poor schmuck, I grieved that I would never be one of His best. 

And although I am not claiming to have heard God audibly, that is when I heard him ask me, “Since when has this always been about YOU and your glory? Since when was this about YOUR righteousness? Since when has MY purposes been to help YOU have confidence in your own righteousness?”

You see, I had pre-determined which path I wanted God to use … to glorify Himself in my life. I determined that He would be MOST glorified in the strength of MY character, the strength of MY resolve, and the success of MY living out righteously. While my intentions were all FOR Him, and about Him, my trust and confidence had been in MYSELF to please Him.  

Contemplating God’s Answer To me

But what I hadn’t even stopped to consider was, What if He didn’t choose me to be a trophy of His strength? What if had chosen to make me a trophy of His mercy and grace?

What if when He looked down from heaven and pointed me out to the angels, saying, “Do you see that wounded, broken, bleeding lamb down there? She is special; she touches my heart. My other lambs run off and do their thing and I love them. My other lambs are strong. They please me in other ways, win awards at the fair, produce wool and milk for me. But this one…this little runt and I have a very special relationship. She knows how desperately she needs me. I am always finding her out stuck in the thicket, and she’ll cry out to me, and beg me to pick her up. And when I do, she nestles her head into my chest. That is when My heart leaps for joy. For she finds joy in ME.” 

What about SHAME?

Then finally, God, in His kindness, showed me what my silly heart had been hiding all along, in this dark place of torment, this depression: Shame. I was ashamed in my depression.

God is a God of JUSTICE!!!! And I couldn’t measure up to His holy standard. (Not now! Not in this terrible affliction of depression.) He is God, I was sure that fairness would demand that He would one day apply justice to my wretched sinfulness. I feared that I would eventually see those eyes of kindness turn to eyes of disappointment. So, I clung to His mercy; I bathed in His mercy, but my mind and heart still needed figure out how I never felt shame in the presence of God.

I kept wondering, “What about the wrath of God? What about the holiness of God? What about the guilt?“ Then, God reminded me that the justice of God didn’t just ignore my sinful depravity, the sacrifice of Christ fully satisfied God’s justice. Justice was already completed on my behalf.

The Cross

As if the blinders fell off my eyes, it all became very simple. The CROSS. It was the cross!! When Jesus died for me, He forever satisfied the wrath of God on me. He completely paid the penalty of my sin’s guilt. He forgave me all my debts  (ALL the debts I’d ever incurred in my past sins, ALL the debts of my current sin, and ALL the debts I’d ever incur for my future sins). He prepaid the cost; he left His credit card on file and said, “She’s gonna rack up a huge bill, but… it’s all paid in full.” He justified me forever. 

He reminded me that, choice or not, I was STILL helplessly chained to my sin nature and I’d remain that way. That’s exactly WHY He came to die for me in the first place. Every issue that the justice AND holiness of God required had been satisfied. “There is now therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) And the most wonderful gift of all was that, God took the righteousness of His own son and like a warm, comfy blanket, placed it over my wretchedness, so that when He looked at me, He would always see ONLY Jesus’ righteousness. Praise God, I was redeemed!!!

God’s Grace Covers It All

BUT the final tension… But what about all His commands about righteousness? I was not doing a good job obeying any of them. i wanted to, more than anything, but I couldn’t. I still felt like a failure in God’s eyes! His first answer was…  “GRACE, my child! The answer is GRACE!

Some of you may have to chew on this a while… You’ll have to wrestle in the tension of it yourself. Although you have a free will, every good deed and act of righteousness you do was FIRST enabled by God because of a gift of His grace. He plants in our hearts and minds a desire to live righteously. He grants the self-control and the Holy Spirit gives the enabling. But make no mistake, YOUR righteousness first came to you from God who enabled you to live righteously. It is HIS gift of grace that saves you. And it is HIS gift of grace that enables you to resist sinning. 

And if, because of illness, or disease, or something I’m not acquainted with, He genuinely doesn’t give you that gift today or tomorrow (say like a retarded child, a diabetic in insulin shock, a demented senior, or a depressed individual), then HE is God. That’s HIS choice. It doesn’t make Him culpable in the committing of sin anymore than allowing a child to be born retarded makes God culpable of that child’s actions or inactions towards or against God.   

God’s Compassion

Second, He saw me in the helpless condition that my illness left me in, but more than my obedience, He wanted relationship. Rich Mullins sings it this way, “I’d rather FIGHT you for something you don’t even WANT than TAKE what YOU give that I NEED.” 

Oh! What a treasure in the truth of those words. That was me for 35 years, struggling to offer God my perfect righteousness. I fought Him and fought Him and fought Him for the right and ability to live righteously, to gain His favor, to show forth my holy life. That’s what the whole Christian life is supposed to be about,right? Or is it?

But what I really needed was an intimate relationship with Jesus and peace with my Savior. What He really wanted was for me to embrace His kindness, His compassion and His grace. What He really wanted was for me to recognize that it could only be Christ’s righteousness on my behalf that could ever truly please Him. He wanted me to finally lay down my sword and accept His love for me and for me to love Him back with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, in whatever capacity or incapacity He ordained for me.

When Jesus was asked why He spent so much of His time on earth with the sinners, He told them (Matthew 9:11-13). “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and NOT sacrifice,’  for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

(to be continued tomorrow)

How My Religion Failed Me

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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.

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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