In recent days I have had so many of you friends tell me of the deep waters you are going through that I felt compelled to write this post. If you are walking in a valley right now, I hope you find this helpful. If you’re on the mountaintop now, I hope this post will enable you to encourage some friends.
In doing research for Fully Alive, I read a long forgotten entry written in my journal at one of the lowest points in my life. Back then I was struggling with debilitating depression. Reading what I wrote drove me to my knees in thanks for the full life I am living today. I was instantly reminded of how God’s grace brought me out of that pit.
I debated whether to share this entry,but I have no choice. Especially after encouraging you to journal about your life. This is exhibit “A.” Confirming evidence of the power of God’s love.
Here are some excerpts from the entry I wrote almost ten years ago:
I am paralyzed. Going through the motions without life. A zombie. The glimmer of hope seems so small compared to the weight of my sin and pain. Am I Judas? Am I Peter? I don’t know which one I will emulate in the end. I pray for joy. I pray for the cleansing of grace. I can’t see tomorrow from here. Yet I must plan for it. I feel like I am trying to build a house with the almost certain knowledge it will be destroyed. It is difficult to find the strength to drive the smallest nail. It is impossible to carry a heavy load of lumber.
Any moment of joy at seeing the house take shape is quickly torn to shreds by the vision of it’s destruction. The blueprints are covered with blood. Not just the blood of (me) the builder but all those who labored with me. And those who saw the hope of shelter within the walls. My bones are weary.
My strength is gone. I can do nothing to dispel the darkness that slowly envelops me. I will not curse God. It is myself that I curse. That I cannot feel his presence is my fault. I have built walls that are impenetrable. I can’t break through to see God. I long to see his face, to hear his voice. I long for his comfort. I am undone.
My only prayer is for a glimpse of your face. A ray of hope.
Please God Please.
It’s hard to believe I was there even as I read this today. Very few people knew the depth of my struggle. Those who did would later ask what I did to find my way out of such a pit. The ONLY thing I did was lean toward God. It was God that did something. I cried out to Him like a seaweed covered prophet in the belly of a fish and as with Jonah, God heard my cry. I felt like I couldn’t get to God but He got to me. He had never left.
To my friends who struggle with walking through the valley, I want you to know…
…there is hope!
One day I wrote in my journal. “I can see colors again. The world is no longer shades of gray. Storm clouds threaten but they are gilded with light, evidence that above them the Son still shines.”
On another day I wrote, “I was drowning. The harder I tried to make it to shore the harder the tide fought me. But my toes have touched sand. A foot hold! I am going to make it.
One other entry in my journal is to encourage people who have been discouraged by those experts who criticized them for taking medication to aid their battle with depression. It was the only entry for that day and it read… “It’s Monday! “Thank God for chemistry!”
Be encouraged my friends. The road to life is punctuated with some big potholes and setbacks, even deep valleys that seem impassable. If you experience any of this, it is not because you have been singled out for punishment, it is evidence that you are alive.
Here are a few intentional actions that helped me. Perhaps they will be helpful to you.
Look outside yourself. Try to find someone you can encourage every day. An outward look can lead to inward peace.
Look for the little blessings that God brings every day. A chipmunk stretching in the sun. A shaft of light cutting through a room. The sound of laughing children.
Turn off the television. Almost everything on television is depressing, especially the news. Read encouraging material.
Read the Bible I’m serious! Whether you consider yourself religious or not, you will be amazed at how many of the saints struggled with deep feelings of despair. Why? Because they were real people and they were alive. See how God blessed them in the midst of difficult times.
Choose to not wallow in the past or give a nesting place to fear.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only fear we have to fear is fear itself.” He wasn’t a theologian or psychiatrist, but he was right.
Get the medication you need to help you get a foothold in the sand and walk to shore. Medication is as much God’s gift as the food you eat. Most of today’s meds don’t make you abnormal, they help you get back to normal.
Lean toward God, he is already leaning toward you.[reminder]Please comment and share suggestions that have helped you.[/reminder]
Read the comments and encourage each another. (Outward look)
For men and women I highly recommend Fully Alive by Ken Davis. This is not a sales campaign it is a response to the number of people who have found real help by reading it.
For women, I recommend A Thousand Gifts by my friend, Ann Voskamp
You are so welcome!
This is so me. I have been battling depression and bi-polar for the last 6 years. Last November i had a friend take me to her church. It was the being of the rest of my life. I found God and my realtionship with him. I am now off all the medication the doctors had given me for the bi-polar and also out of counseling. The best part of it all is the suicidal thoughts are gone. i have not had one since that day in November. God is Good…. All the time……
What an encouraging comment Audrey.
My relationship with God has become, for lack of a better term, “complicated”. For He continues to insist I go forth and share a message that He wants to remind everyone of, and I have reached a point where I am saying “no”, because I already went forth, and spread the Message He has told me to remind others of , for He shares the same message with all of us, but many do not want to listen, and the message was summarily rejected by most who heard it. The message of the importance of Fellowship and Friendship, as well as other important things, but the focus on that mostly. The reception I received from my fellow Brothers and Sisters In Christ has become very discouraging. I equate it to them taking buckets and buckets of water, and dousing the fire that once was in my soul. Sometimes I too wonder if I am Jonah, but I then say, no, because I went to Ninevah and shared God’s Message, and it was rejected. Perhaps I am being more like Jeremiah right now, shaking my fist at God complaining I have done all that you have asked and nothing good has come of it. Though I know the end of that story in the Bible, I don’t see how any good continuing what had become a futile effort in “my story.”
Add that, to all the health issues that I have shared with you before, and I still just want to go home. Right now the only thing convincing me to stay is not God, though my mind knows that should be the ultimate reason, but rather the family and friends that I know who would be hurt in my absence. But at some point even those reasons will not be sufficient.
It seems it has become a test of “will’s”, and who is the more stubborn: Me or God. I have hunch who would win that test. :- Though, I can remember, having more strength than I should when I was “on fire” for God. But as I said, that fire is gone. There may be some smoldering embers left, and once in a while, I come across someone who has not heard the Message, and it stokes the ashes and a small flame emerges, but not for long, for I know the buckets of water are in a Brother’s or Sister’s hand, ready to douse any fire they see, so I have stopped adding fuel to any flame that starts. My Brothers and Sisters in Christ don’t mean too douse the fire in me, but they are so conformed to the patterns of this world, they do not even realize it. Though, I too am conformed to this world as well. Trying to walk a path that doesn’t is hard when you are virtually alone in that walk. But I do believe God would ask me to do things I wouldn’t want to do, they don’t. I do believe God at times will ask us to drop everything we have and Follow Him without question, they wouldn’t want to. I do believe God believes fellowship and friendship, and when i say friendship, i mean to be willing to sacrifice all that you have to aid someone when called for, is more important than any material thing on this earth, including ones education, career, bank account, etc, to many of my Brothers and Sisters, station in life for them and their family is more important than friendship and fellowship with each other.
So if my final purpose on this earth is to share a message that very few want to hear, listen to, and accept, which in the end means a futile purpose, then tell me, without using any of the usual cliche’s that I have heard countless times, tell me what real hope is there left?
Ken L., Jr.
I hope will not take my response as a bucket of cold water. I hope you will believe that it is not intended that way. I am afraid that anything I write would be considered “Cliche” because you have already determined that there is no hope. Here is all that I know.
1. The efforts you have made to share the good news of Christ have not been worthless. No matter how you think people respond, some you will never hear from will be eternally affected by your words.
2. God has never expected you to “Get results” he has only expected you to be faithful in sharing his word. You have done this faithfully.
3. Your feelings are not unique to those who serve God. Paul spent much of his life in prison for preaching the Gospel. Many Christians despised him. Yet he said, I live to Glorify Christ, and if I die I gain.
4. Your hope Ken, is in Christ. How people respond is not a measure of your success. People responded to Christ’s perfect love by killing him. He refused to give up or change course because of his love for you and his commitment to glorifying the father.
5. Have prayed many times that God would restore to you the Joy of your salvation. I prayed again today for you specifically. My hands are open, no empty bucket used to throw water. I can only hope that stay the course and not give up. Even the water throwers need to hear the words God gives you.
Your friend Ken
Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Just a point of clarification. What I meant by having Buckets of Water dumped on me, is the typical responses I get are:
“God would never ask me to do anything I wouldn’t want to do”
“It’s more important for me to work 2 jobs so I can by X, Y, and Z for my children (like iPod’s, plasma TV’s, etc, not real needs!)
“You want to live in utopia Ken, this is the real world, you should wake up”
Also what I meant by cliche’s, if I hear one more time “God has a Plan for me” or “God only gives to you what you can handle” I swear I’m going to throw up. YES, I know those things are true, but as someone who has been down this path in the past, with depression and hopelessness, those words are truly empty, in terms of helping a person through their current trials.
Thanks again for listening.
P.S. I was watching It Makes an Old Man Cry, and find it interesting because you shared your thoughts about the people who want to share the love of Jesus, but are also miserable, and want to share that too, and you ask God to just “take them now Lord”. I can tell you, God’s answer to that is NO because I keep asking, and i’m still here.
That’s what I like about you so much. Your comedy is fantastic but the openness about your struggles is the reason I follow your post and buy your books. I feel as if you understand and being uplifting and encouraging is your talent from God. Your openness encourages me to open up and share with others when and where I can. Thank You!
Thank you Tim, The opposite of openness is “closed” Nobody benefits from closed. thank you for encouraging me.
Ken, thank you so much for this post. Anyone who has ever experienced depression needs to read this. I have had trouble with anxiety/depression in the past, and I have a child who is dealing with similar problems now. Your intentional actions are spot on. They are the exact actions I took to begin my healing process. God grew me to a whole new level through that time – I think He may have allowed me to skip a grade or two! 🙂
Thank you again for sharing your life and experiences so freely. So many withdraw with mental and emotional illness because of the stereotypes and stigmas related to them. It is not only refreshing, but very necessary for all of us to share our experiences to help others. GOD BLESS YOU!!!!
Your words so touch my heart and my soul. This is a very dark time of sorrow for me. I am struggling with having known the pure joy of true love with my beloved John, only to have him suddenly taken from me on June 17. What we thought was the flu was something more serious and he grabbed my hand and told me “Something is wrong…” with such intent and anguish that I turned directly to the nurse and implored, “He is saying something is wrong…something is wrong..” I looked back the next instant and he was gone. In a moment without a sound. It’s been hard to pray. It’s been hard to just move. I have a best friend who calls me twice a day, once in the morning and stays on the phone no matter how long it is, just letting me take the time I need to get up. She encourages me and tries to remind me that I am loved, when I don’t feel I even have a heart any longer since it shattered on June 17. She calls me in the evenings when she knows the night stretches out in front of me and the feelings of wanting to leave this place to be with my beloved are the strongest and most deceptive. And every day that I push myself through, dealing with this depression that is like a thick blanket that threatens to suffocate me I wonder if I can possibly exist through this pain one more minute, one more second. Stories like yours remind me that there are these times that nothing seems to be able to comfort us or reach us and then God sends a light. Whether it’s a person or a drug or a song or a cloud shaped heart to remind us that He is there and we are loved. For as much as my heart feels shattered I remember the joy that I felt being loved by John and I know that was a gift from God. And I know he won’t leave me in this place of despair.
Thank you for this beautiful column and for sharing your heart at a time when so many of us are broken.
I am so sorry for your loss. And it is too soon for any words to comfort you; but I can assure you that one day and I don’t know how long it will be; but you stand in the yard and feel a soft cool breeze gently caress your face and you will know you are ok..
WOW! Even as you were going through this I would have never known. I’m thankful you have found the ray of light in our Heavenly Father. I must say though….even through the darkness, you were quite the poet!
I wrote this once when I had gone through a very long dark valley and I think you would enjoy it. Thank you for sharing
T o GOD-MY LOVE,MY HOPE, MY JOY
My life-so filled with hopes and dreams
Lay shattered at Your feet
So many tears, so many pains
I’d laid before Thy seat
Can I look upon Your face of love
And question what You’ve done?
For You have been my only hope
My only morning sun
You’ve seen my heartwhen crushed with pain
Your hands have held it tight
When I have been so weak, so frail
You’ve shown Your strength, Your might
You’ve held me close within Your arms
When darkness filled my night
And when I could not see my way
Your eyes, they gave me sight
I lay my life within Your hands
That You may heal my soul
And keep my eyes upon You Lord
That I may reach Your goal
Shine forth Thy grace, Thy mercy Lord
And let me be Thy light
That all may see Your eyes of love
The blind, they might have sight
Let not the sorrows, nor the pains
Bring bitterness within
And give me strength to walk this path
Protect my heart from sin
I lay my heart, my soul, my dreams
Before Thy throne of love
I lift my eyes to You, My God
And seek Your will above
Thou art the only one I need
To fill my heart with glee
It is Your face, my one true love
Tis all I need to see
So lift me up and hold me close
Reveal Thy love divine
That through the holes within my heart
A world might see You shine
And if the sorrows of my past
Can touch a wayward one
I thank you Lord for each dark path
That lead them to Your son
I praise You now from mountains high
For each dark path I’ve trod
Twas there I found Your heart, Your love
Twas there I found You God
What great and wondrous joy I know
Because You are my king
And though the path I cannot see
My heart will trust and sing
A song of praise unto You Lord
Who knows what’s best for me
You’ll hold my hand and lead me on
In darkness, I can see
Your love, Your help,Your guiding hand
Is all I’ll ever need
So hold me close unto Your path
For this is all I plead
I’ll skip with joy along this path
Though darkness may surround
Because I know You hold my hand
My feet will e’er touch ground
I cannot fall outside Your love
I cannot lose my way
I’ll hold my broken dreams once more
And see them real, one day
A song of praise unto You Lord
Who knows what’s best for me
You’ll hold my hand and lead me on
In darkness, I can see
Your love, Your help, Your guiding hand
Is all I’ll ever need
So hold me close unto Your path
For this is all I plead
It is only when I stop the negative and actually concentrate over and around a bad situation, then I see clear. I am in a Valley of need. God knows I have the need. I know God will answer this , because otherwise my life is just passing me by. I am a healthy 60 year old female, very active. But I went through so much the last 13 years of my life, but hey, I came out alive. I thank God for that everyday. This need is financial. Faith in what God can do, that I cannot do. But truth is My dad, when he was alive, taught me all my life never to give up. Then God kept saving my life. I love God .So Lord I just need help now. <3
I just prayed for you today.
Hi Ken. I have struggled with Bipolar for the last 15 years and Borderline Personality Disorder for the last 7 years and now the experts are saying that I am also exhibiting traits of OCD. I just want to affirm what you have written here. There is light at the end of the tunnel even if that light is only the size of a pinprick. Meeting you back in December last year in Shellharbour was one of the highlights of my life because when I was 15 I watched Twisted Mind with my youth group and that message and knowledge that God doesn’t make mistakes is one of the things that gets me through the hard times. Thank you for preservering in the dark Ken. Your preservering impacted my ability to perservere
I am so encouraged, I had no idea you lived with depression. Much of your first entry is exactly how I feel right now and have had for months. Usually the winter months here in the north are unforgiving and I crave for summer sun. This year, it didn’t much matter, this has never happened in summer. The only glimmer of hope right now is close to another entry. Today I saw a squirrel stretching in the sun. Sorry, Ken, but we don’t have chipmunks here, that’s the best I could do. If you are bipolar, I do not take responsibility for you acquiring an instant manic spike after reading this 🙂 Thanks for the great journal entries.
It’s amazing how we can “assume” how one has it all together, when in all actuality they don’t. Goes to show you we are ALL human, in need of God and his touch. It’s only when WE as Christ followers, share our struggles that we can help and encourage others by showing them they are not alone. Showing your “tough” or “got it all together” doesn’t impress. It’s in showing our vulnerability than unites us and draws us closer to Christ.
Thank you for sharing that there is hope. I can’t wait to read Fully Alive!