By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide. It already is our greatest cause for disability nationally. Nearly twice as many women as men suffer with depression. In fact, every year, almost 18 million women in the U.S. suffer. If you’re not one who does or has suffered from depression, I guarantee you know someone who has, who is, and who will. I’m one of them.
I searched the bookstore shelves, desperately hoping to find a book to encourage me how to keep fighting despite walking in the dark, lonely valley of depression. As a clinical neuropsychologist, I had treated patients with depression for almost 20 years before I fell down that slippery slope. I tried all the things I had been recommending to patients for years: therapy, medication, diet, exercise, and rest, and they helped to some degree, but they were not sufficient for eradicating the depression that plagued me.
So, I searched the bookstore shelves for a resource, from a Christian perspective, that could reveal what I was missing. But I found none. Discouraged and disappointed, I prayed and sought wisdom from the Lord. While I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, as I cried out to Him in despair, I sensed Him saying, “Michelle, unless you’re willing to address the spiritual roots of disease, it’s like putting a band-aid on an infection and hoping it’ll get better.”
I knew God was right. I had been addressing the physical, the mental, and the emotional components of depression, but I had ignored the spiritual contributors. God began to open my eyes and help me learn where so much of depression comes from, and how to combat it.
Once I became free from depression’s grip, I knew I couldn’t keep the information to myself. People contacted me from not only around the country, but around the world, asking for my help. I knew then that I had to write a resource for all those who couldn’t come into my office but nonetheless deserved the same freedom God had given me.
Resources for Breaking Free from Depression’s Grip
Out of my professional training, and my personal experience with depression, my book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” was born in August 2016. As people began to read “Hope Prevails,” I began receiving testimonies of how it was providing hope to others walking in depression’s valley. Hearing such testimonies truly gave beauty for my ashes and brought me to a place where I could thank God for the trial I had endured.
It wasn’t long after the release of “Hope Prevails” that I began receiving reader letters asking me to write a companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” I’m not proud to tell you that, initially, my response to such requests was a firm, “No…I don’t write Bible studies!” But over time, God got hold of my heart and convicted me that while I didn’t have the confidence in myself to write a Bible study and do it justice, He was great enough to help me do it with His inspiration and assistance. God used a letter from a reader by the name of Hope, to soften my heart toward the idea of providing an additional resource for those in depressions valley.
Here is part of Hope’s letter to me:
Dear Dr. Michelle,
My name is Hope. In the last two years I have attempted suicide four times. Every time, God stopped me either by literally stopping me or by a failed attempt. I have battled depression for at least 22 years and probably longer. The last time I tried to kill myself, in the middle of January, I took over 20 blood pressure pills and it did absolutely nothing to me. It didn’t even make me dizzy or light-headed. It did NOTHING to me.
I haven’t had a permanent job in over two years. I have worked some temporary jobs, but right now I have no job. I went to my pastor and talked to him. I told him what had happened. He asked if I ever thought I had a problem with depression! I said, “I KNOW I have a problem with depression, but without money to go to the doctor to get a prescription or to go get the medications, I couldn’t do anything about it.”
I asked him how I was supposed to do the things that everyone keeps telling me to do, stop the thoughts that keep coming into my head, how I was supposed to learn to trust God and have faith again. I even asked him if he knew someone who had been through similar experiences that I have gone through, who made it out that I could talk to and ask them how. He didn’t have anyone who he knew of. He did have the church pay for me to go to a doctor to get the prescription anti-depressants that I needed. It definitely helps, but not completely.
No one seems to be able to tell me that. No one seems to have any idea how to overcome all that I have been through. Just keep faith. Just trust God. Like that was so simple and easy to do.
On my birthday, I spent that day doing things for me. I took myself to eat at a nice restaurant, went to the local Christian bookstore and just did things for me. I really didn’t need to spend the money, but I did anyway. I had been caring for an elderly woman and getting a little pay for that, with room and board, so I went and did something for myself. It’s not like there is anyone else to do it.
Anyway, the bookstore I went to was going out of business and I went in to see what they had left. I found your book, “Hope Prevails.” I saw it first because it had my name in the title. I picked it up and read the back. I was getting a discount so I bought it. I don’t have to tell you what it is like to finally be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it not be an oncoming train. That is what your book has been for me.
I did not read it all at one time. I read it in sections. I finished the book two days ago and am now reading it through again. Right now I need that hope it gives. I’m not completely healed, but you have given me the knowledge I needed to start the healing process. You have given me the tools I need to get where I want to be. You have revealed to me the hope I need to get through this.
I have talked to so many people over the years; friends, pastors, family, counselors. No one has been able to give me the tools that you have given me with this book. It’s like you were in my mind, knowing the very thoughts and feelings that I have had to fight with for more years than I can keep up with.
I am eternally thankful to you. I don’t know if there are words to be able to express my gratitude. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough. I even took your book to my pastor and told him how much help I was getting from it and he took a picture of it. After talking to me, he had talked to his sister, who is a counselor, and she told him there just wasn’t much out there in the way of help for people like me. I would love to be able to sit down with you to discuss this. As that is unlikely, I thought I would go this route!!
Anyway, as I was reading this morning, I had a thought come into my mind. I have asked so many people, so many times, for what I am learning reading your book and even this second time around new thoughts and feelings that are coming through. I was thinking what if I had someone be able to help me like this before I got to the point where I thought ending it was the only way to get away from it all? In thinking about this, I thought that there needs to be a Bible study, based on your book, to make this available to others. I thought it would be nice to create a workbook based on your book that people could go through, with others in similar situations, to help each other go through this. I also thought that it would be good to have it available to others who may not be going through it themselves but know someone who is. I just think there are others out there who would benefit not just from reading, but also to have someone go through it with them.
Thank you for writing Hope Prevails for me,
I had already considered God’s urging to write what is now the “Hope Prevails Bible Study,” but after reading Hope’s letter, there was no turning back. I never want anyone to feel alone in their pain like I felt, or Hope felt, or to look and not be able to find resources to help them, as was the case for me.
So today, I’m celebrating because while October is National Depression Awareness Month, October 25, 2018, is the one-year anniversary of the release of the “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”
A Pastor Saved from Suicide
Not too long ago, a minister of 50 years felt he had nothing to live for and contemplated suicide. After walking his dog, he came inside where his computer remained on. Across his feed came my video post on Facebook Live called Beauty for Ashes. He wrote to me later to explain that this video of me sharing my story gave him the inspiration to continue living.
Make no mistake about it, the thing is, whether people watch my videos or read my blog posts or books, God is the one who is reaching them through the words He has given me to share. I count it a joy now when I’m able to lend others comfort out of the comfort God showed to me.
I was very intentional in how I wrote the Bible study. It was written in such a way that it makes a great companion to the original “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” but it can also be studied even if you haven’t previously read “Hope Prevails.” It was also written so that you can go through the study on your own, or in a small group or online. Also, there are additional depression and mental health resources to go along with the study.
Now, will you consider helping others who are suffering? While you may never have suffered through depression’s dark valley, I know you know others who have. Will you consider sharing this post with them? Or consider giving them a copy of “Hope Prevails” and the companion Bible study? As was the case with Hope, it just might save a life.
If you are in that dark, lonely place like Hope, the minister I mentioned and I were, you might find it helpful to read some of my other popular posts on this topic.
15 Top Blog Posts on Depression
- 10 Verses of Hope for When You Are Down or Depressed
- Depression Feels Like a Broken Heart
- What Not to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- What to Say When a Loved One is Depressed
- Combat Depression with Truth
- Ask Dr. B: When a Spouse Is Depressed
- Don’t Treat Depression with a Band-Aid
- 10 Scriptures for Mothers Suffering from Depression
- 3 Things Depression Does To Us Spiritually
- 3 Hope-Filled Ways God Limits the Impact of Depression in our Lives
- There is No Shame in Depression
- How to Help a Depressed Loved One
- Is It Exhaustion Or Depression?
- Thankful for Depression
- How to Share About Your Depression With Your Loved Ones
Resources on Depression: Recommended reading on depression
A Prayer of Hope Despite Depression
May I pray for you?
My heart is heavy for the one reading these words right now who isn’t sure if there is a valid reason to keep on fighting. My heart hurts knowing the pain that depression causes, not just for the one who suffers through it but also for those who love them. I take comfort that you catch every one of our tears, and that you never waste our pain. I don’t claim to understand how, but you promise to use all things for our good and for your glory, even depression. I’m a living example of that, and a testimony of your faithfulness. Thank you, God, that you do not play favorites and that what you did in bringing me freedom from depression, you want to do for others, including the one reading these words. Draw them close to you. Be their refuge and their strong tower that they can run to for safety, and for comfort. Thank you, Father, that you promise that while weeping may last for a night, your joy comes in the morning. Bring morning quickly, Father. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails
Here’s what others have said about “Hope Prevails” and the “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”
“Your books and web resources are a God Send and helping me tremendously! I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. After a life of depression, hope is on the horizons…” ~ L.E.
“As a psychologist, I often purchase and study books written by authors who I respect. I am then able to share those books with specific individuals who I feel might benefit. “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression,” by Dr. Michelle Bengtson is one of those books. If you are struggling or have struggled with depression, this is a special book that I highly recommend. You’ll not find a better faith-based, practical, real and from-the-heart approach for tackling depression head-on than that shared by Michelle. Always remember that ‘hope prevails.’” ~ H.A.
“I have to tell you that your book, Hope Prevails is my all time favorite non-fiction Christian book EVER. When the Lord led me to buy it, I had no idea how absolutely perfect it would be for me. Just what the Doctor ordered. At first, I read through the whole book, all the time exclaiming “She gets it! She really gets it!” Then, I began going through the book as my morning devotional, page by page, making copious notes and writing out the Scriptures that affected me the most…
Thank you so much and may God bless you abundantly.” ~ PD
“Just when I think I’m at the end of my rope, God directs me to where I have to be, or read, or hear what I need to remember. Today it’s @DrMBengtson blog on the power of our words from her book #HopePrevails. Thoughts & words have life ~ so speak life!!! Goodbye #depression!” ~ SBG