Suffering with depression and anxiety are often the trials that drive us to a strengthening of our faith and a richer testimony of the faithfulness of God.
My mother suffered with it. My grandmother and aunt suffered with it as well. I didn’t escape its torment either. And that’s just one side of the family.
It’s a cruel invisible disease that hurts not just individuals but families and generations.
For more than 20 years, I have diagnosed and treated patients who suffer from the devastating effects of this invisible yet heart-wrenching condition. My heart goes out to them because I know the pain they face. I’ve been there. I remember the despair. I remember wondering if it wouldn’t be better just not to be…
Yet I am so grateful that God does give beauty for ashes, and the oil of gladness for mourning. And while I would never have voluntarily chosen for this to have been part of my ministry, I am honored to be able to use part of such a dark time in my life to bring about the light in others. What I wanted more than anything during those dark days was for someone to come alongside me, hold my hand, look into my eyes, and say “me too!” What a difference that makes.
A social media post that grieved my heart.
Have you ever had a post on social media be desperately misunderstood? A while back, I posted about the choices we make to let our experiences define us; this time, the experience of depression. I reflected on what I had learned during my journey from depression to joy, as well as my over 20 years as a mental health provider watching my patients as they journeyed from the pit of despair to their place of victory.
In essence, I said: When someone is depressed, they have a choice to make–to either let depression define them or to desire joy bad enough to seek after it with obedience and sacrifice. Jesus offered us the same joy he had; the fullest possible joy. What I’ve learned is that thanksgiving and gratitude is the doorway to joy. As Proverbs tells us, we are what we think in our heart. As we become increasingly grateful, God exchanges our worries and sorrow with His peace, joy, and abundant life. Our circumstances may not change, but our mindset does.
A reader’s response to the post shocked me. She found me insensitive and first thought I should have differentiated between clinical depression and subclinical depression, but then went on for several paragraphs to berate me for saying that depression was due to a lack of faith.
Her response grieved my heart. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I no more believe that depression is caused by a lack of faith than I do a tropical storm.
Seeking God’s answers with our whole heart
But I DO believe whether we are dealing with the blues, clinical depression, a concussion, or dementia, we must choose to seek after God and His answers with our whole heart. He says to cast ALL our cares on Him – not just when things are so bad we can’t handle them on our own.
God doesn’t inflict pain on His children to hurt us. But He can use our trials to build our faith, draw us closer to Him, and give us a testimony of His faithfulness for others to see.
In my darkest times, desperation drew me closest to Him. Desperation made me willing.
I see this same dynamic in my patients and in others as well. It makes me think of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:25 who was so desperate. She pushed through the crowd just to be able to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe.
In “Secrets of the Secret Place,” Bob Sorge says, “While none of us asks God for hardship, we can’t deny the fact that hardship produces desperation, which in turn produces intense intimacy…The wise will seek Him with desperate longing.”
Scripture says we need faith only the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and what’s more, Romans 12:3 tells us that God has given each of us a measure of faith. It’s His gift to us. Yet we can choose what to do with it.
There will always be things competing for our attention and our beliefs. We must choose whom we will serve, what we will pay attention to, and what we will believe.
When I was deep in the valley of depression, I was quick to believe the lies of the enemy, who Scripture refers to as the accuser of the brethren. He delighted in repeatedly telling me I wasn’t as good as others, I was unworthy of a life of joy, I didn’t have enough faith, and I was destined to always feel that way. As long as I listened to the lies of the enemy, I let depression define me.
4 Truths to Remember When Battling Depression
Yet God was faithful to remind me that:
- Depression didn’t determine my worth – HE did.
- Depression didn’t dictate my destiny – Christ’s death on the cross did.
- Nothing, not even depression, could separate me from His love.
- I am redeemed, beloved, esteemed, renewed, adored, and healed.
Once I began to recognize the enemy’s lies operating in my thoughts, my circumstances may not have changed but I could exercise greater gratitude for the truth: Depression didn’t define me, God did. God declared me redeemed, beloved, esteemed, renewed, adored, and healed. Knowing that and believing that brought inner joy despite the sorrow of my circumstances.
I have seen God heal people of conditions instantaneously. Other times it’s a process. Sometimes He heals through prayer and laying on of hands or anointing of oil. Other times it’s through medicine, counseling, or the daily renewing and transforming of our minds. Yet God always desires for us to seek Him in all our ways and let Him direct our paths. In my darkest days I clung to the promise in James 4: 8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” That’s how we grow closer to Him, and He gets all the glory.
It grieves my heart that anyone would think that I would declare that depression or any other condition would be caused by a lack of faith. The truth is, I think such situations often drive us to a strengthening of our faith and a richer testimony of His faithfulness. And in that, there is beauty for ashes.
Have you ever gone through such trials that made you desperate? Trials that strengthened your faith? I’d love for you to share your story in the comments. Your testimony may be just what another reader needs to hear.
Because of Him,
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
“It is refreshing to have a board-certified neuropsychologist acknowledge the spiritual component of depression, but it is even more impressive that Dr. Bengtson would be willing to share her own journey through the fog of despair. Her personal insights are invaluable for those who are struggling with what is often described as ‘the common cold of mental illness.’” ~ Dr. Neil T. Anderson, founder and president emeritus of Freedom in Christ Ministries, and Author of Overcoming Depression