I do genuinely believe there is something about reading and writing and reciting and praying God's Word that brings forth eternal, Kingdom fruit in our hearts and lives. I think the same can be true for sharing our stories - just saying "This is who I am. This is what He's done in my life." So I'm doing just a short snippet of that today. I'll continue to share some other testimonies throughout the 31 days from this passage of scripture, but today I'm starting with verse three.
I first started falling in love with Isaiah 61 when I realized I struggled heavily with depression. For me, I genuinely believe that I struggled with physical and spiritual depression - meaning, I think there was honestly some brokenness in my soul that only the Lord could heal, but it was so intense that it also affected me physically. I didn't see it coming or feeling it creeping in on me. I ignored it and pretended it didn't exist until it almost swallowed me whole. I seriously attempted suicide twice as a teenager and almost never looked back to consider what inside of me thought that was a viable option. I went on to get married, have babies, and begin the process of growing up - and yet, death and despair and even suicide sat like a bird outside my window. Always there. Always present. Always an option, taunting me on bad days.
It was almost ten years after my suicide attempts when I finally voiced to my husband, "I think I struggle with depression". As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to put them back in. They felt needy and I knew that the acknowledgement of my issues would set things in motion that I couldn't take back. Cancelled life plans, beginning counseling, feeling like a liability. But each and every time I wanted to button myself back up and pretend like I was fine, the Lord pushed me a step further. It felt like free-falling like a big old mess, but it was really Him just pushing me gently towards healing and wholeness.
I'll never forget the day when two friends lovingly sat me down and confronted me about what they saw in my heart and life. One of them had a true testimony of the Lord's healing where it pertained to depression and I wanted so badly to be encouraged by her - but that would mean letting myself acknowledge I needed help. I remember saying such stupid things out loud, things like, "I don't have time to be depressed" or "maybe I'm not depressed, I'm just really, really tired". I'm so thankful for women who pressed in and spoke the truth that tired doesn't make you want to end your life and that the Lord always, always has time to heal us. The three of us went back and forth for a few hours when I finally let it slip. I let hope crack into the conversation.
I remember not being able to get through the question. I started out strong and somewhere midway through, my voice was rendered useless and the sobbing began.
"Do you mean...."
"Do you mean I could actually feel better?"
We all cried for minutes on end. I cried because admitting I wanted to feel better meant that I didn't feel good then. I cried because I realized it had been a long, long, long time since I had hoped that the Lord would cause good in my life. For me, depression fleshed itself out as the belief that I should be content just to be alive and that enjoying anything - the Lord, my life, our family, who He had made me to be - was a privilege that was too much to ask for. The truth, of course, is that as His daughters - we can come to Him boldly and confidently, asking for more of His presence, power, and provision. But at that point in time, I'd long since stopped believing that.
When the crying subsided and my friend answered calmly, firmly back that yes, she did feel better and she believed I could too - something shifted in me. A little spark of hope ignited in my heart that wouldn't and couldn't go out. And when I read Isaiah 61:3 a few weeks later, that spark was fanned into a dangerous flame.
If Isaiah 61 was a prophecy about Jesus, then that meant He could bring the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. He COULD heal me and I COULD ask. And so I did. Day after day, month after month, I asked that He'd exchange my mourning for gladness and my faint spirit for a life of praise. Eventually one morning, I woke up and looked all around my heart for despair and I could not find it. I looked for death and suicidal thoughts and they weren't there. He had healed me.
That evil bird flies in sometimes.
I see him perched outside the window.
And I look him dead in the eyes and tell him that my Jesus is good and living and died on the cross for me, to set me wild and give me freedom. The mourning may come. The faint spirit may return. But my hope is in Him.
And I know He'll bring the gladness and praise.
If you or someone you loves struggles with depression,
please tell someone in your daily life.
Find a counselor, a friend you can trust, a pastor -
I actually suggest all three.
I'm praying for you today - praying hope breaks through.
You are loved deeply by the Lord and He wants good for you.
I know that I know that I know that is true.