Today’s guest post is from my friend, fellow author and speaker, Patty Mason. Patty has walked through the valley of depression, and now on the other side, she shares hope for others in the valley. I know you’ll be encouraged by her story today.
When I was young, Christmas held a certain level of expectation as my brother and I waited eagerly for the gifts we’d find under the tree. I recall the Christmas I was four. Someone took a picture of us sitting with our mother on the stairs. Our open-mouth, wide-eyed expressions told anyone looking at that photo that Santa was in the room, even though he wasn’t in the photo. I had an aunt who not only dressed up as Santa each year, but also knew how to dress a large festive table, and fill it with an array of food.
As a young wife and mother, Christmas took on another kind of expectation—dread. My attempts at trying my best to make Christmas perfect for so many people only left me frustrated and exhausted. There was a special hope for Christmas in the eyes of my children as their excitement grew before the arrival of Santa; but, so often, as I frantically tried to fulfill my holiday to-do list, I found it difficult to simply enjoy the season.
Eighteen years ago, Christmas took on a whole new meaning. After spending what seemed like an eternity in the pit of depression, I came into the Christmas season in 1996 with a profound sense of devastation. I had reached a point of despair that was so deep that I contemplated taking my life. Even though I was surrounded by young children, a husband who loved me, a nice home, and a festive holiday that was meant to be filled with laughter and faith, I felt hopeless.
By mid-December I was at my darkest point. I had hit rock bottom and convinced myself that everyone would be better off without me. Deep inside I was conflicted. I knew committing suicide was wrong and my actions would hurt my family tremendously, but the darkness was so thick I didn’t see another way out. In one final attempt at finding relief from the pain, I cried out to a God I didn’t know at the time. There was nothing left. I had reached the end of myself. And through the sobs, I began to talk to God.
About a week later, I saw a poster for a Christmas play at a local church. With my two young daughters at my side we sat through four unique performances. For the final act, the church reenacted the birth of Jesus. As a child growing up, I had seen the reenactment several times. Yet, none of what I’d seen before touched me the way this one did. It was like I was seeing the birth of Jesus for the first time. It literally moved my soul in such a way that I wept through the whole thing. Suddenly Christmas took on a whole new meaning, and with this new revelation there came a new awareness of hope and joy.
That Christmas, eighteen years ago, as I handed God my brokenness and despair, He exchanged it by filling my heart with His Son. Since then, Jesus changed my heart, attitudes, and life in ways I never dreamed possible. He took all my striving, all my efforts to be perfect, all of my expectations that only led to disappointment and frustration, all of my efforts to find happiness and self-worth and offered me something much greater.
“To you, O LORD, I called; to the LORD I cried for mercy. What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 63:8-11).
Christmas is a time of celebration, but for many, as it once was with me, Christmas can be a dark time. If you are struggling this Christmas, know that God loves you and cares about you. He watches over you, and longs for the moment you will give your whole heart to Him. He sees your pain. He knows every tear you cry—and He knows the longing of your soul to find freedom. This Christmas, give God the opportunity to give you a new perspective. Freedom doesn’t come because your circumstances change, freedom comes when you allow God to change our heart.
My purpose in sharing my story is to offer you the love and hope I’ve found. I know what happens to a heart that is locked up in emotional chains, and I know the freedom that can only come from Jesus. You are not alone, reach out to Jesus. Invite Him into all the areas of your brokenness by acknowledging your need for Him. Open your heart and ask Him to give you hope. Ask Him to help you overcome depression, and to teach you how to live in Him.
Patty Mason is an author, the founder of Liberty in Christ Ministries, and the host of Joyful Living Radio. She has committed her life to offering others the hope, healing, and freedom she found through Jesus Christ. For more information, visit her website at www.libertyinchristministries.com