Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of realities not seen. Hebrews 11:1 TLV
I unfolded a donation letter with a curious yellow post-it stuck on top. “There is hope!” was hand-written in bold marker. An international ministry took the time to place post-its on all its mailers. I got up and stuck the post-it at eye-level on our new apartment door in New York City.
Less than a year before, I had married my best friend and fully expected us to fly like two eagles into our new life. But this vision didn’t happen. A series of changes and difficult circumstances hit me at an intensity I had never experienced as an adult: rejection, loss, illness, injury, old trauma, death, disappointment, anonymity. Our move to New York, an adventure I had freely chosen, was the hardest blow. David was trying to get me to fly with him, but I couldn’t get off the ground. I couldn’t even look up. And at some point I didn’t recognize myself as a bird, let alone a soaring eagle.
On most days, I blamed New York.
Lies filled my thoughts. I entertained these lies so much that being tormented by darkness shifted to believing the darkness was who I was. The darkness rationalized that I was simply letting go of my dreams and growing older. I was not the woman I thought I was or the woman David signed up for. That woman had been a huge misunderstanding.
Depression is personal. You cannot compare one person’s depression to another’s because the damage of depression is in its despair, not its degree. But there is one comparison I can make. So many people in our world have depression and do not know Jesus. I have His Spirit inside of me, yet I remained on the ground, flightless. Depression inflicted a unique shame because it signaled a breakdown in my life in the Spirit.
Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery. Galatians 5:1 PHILLIPS
Other versions say, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” I had read that so many times, yet never heard it. He died for our freedom. He is freedom. And I was not abiding in the Freedom that He died for.
I do not have a formula for how to walk through depression. I saw a godly therapist and began taking medication. I absolutely know there were spiritual battles I could have fought and Truth I could have tapped into and didn’t. What I can share with confidence, is that community and obedience were my greatest weapons. In spite of the pain of every physical step and mental decision, I chose to show up. I showed up for teams, community groups, leadership classes, prayer conferences and freedom groups even when I felt like an imposter. How can I serve if I don’t feel love? How can I be in the Spirit if all I feel is pain? Regardless, I kept doing the things the woman I once was would have done and join in things bigger than myself. I’ll never forget the first time I invited every woman I had begun to know at Liberty Church to my home, expecting maybe one or two to respond, and having every woman say yes. Shortly after, God asked me to open my home to women’s groups and create a space for vulnerability and His presence. I couldn’t feel His touch, but I would watch Him touch others. As my relationships deepened so many people affirmed my value and my strength. I had no idea why because I never felt effective or productive. These people believed in me with no visible evidence besides the value they saw, the value He bestowed upon me. And He was always telling them to tell me that He was with me.
Exactly three years after my depression began, I joined our church’s 21 days of prayer and fasting. Two weeks into the fast, I walked up Broadway and the chill in the air reminded me of previous New York winters. The first winter I wanted to give up on New York. The second winter I was collapsing under the weight of my depression. I stopped the tape to observe my third New York winter - even though I already knew what I’d feel. I envisioned myself sitting back down into the well-worn chair of my depression to confirm the inevitable. But the chair was gone. I noted the lightness in my body and thought I recognized joy, which felt unnatural so I checked again for the chair because it had to be somewhere in the room. I could not summon the feeling of the chair. I then noted the clearness of my mind. My mind felt clean. With childlike curiosity, I searched the room for the woman I was before the depression. And then I remembered what it felt like to be her and then my eyes were opened.
That Sunday I told my Brooklyn community what God had done. They celebrated with me. I should have told them how much their love had paved the way for His healing.
God reminded me of the post-it note, over two years old now, still on our door. And in an instant I realized that note was not in everyone's mailer. It was in mine. It was His declaration of victory long before my battle would end.
There is hope!
He fights for our freedom. And He always wins.
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy's [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters