Friday, September 18, 2015

It could have been me...

Welcome to those of you visiting from the Encouragement Cafe today. It's humbling to be sharing a bit of my depression story with all the listeners there...if you'd like to listen in click HERE and then scroll down to the "Depression" show. As I prepped for and then reflected on the show, much has been on my mind - here's a bit of it -

We hear it on the news and experience it in our communities - suicide. A life taken too soon. Questions without answers. Deep grief, unexplainable guilt and broken hearts. The CDC says nearly 105 Americans die every day by suicide, that's one every 13 minutes. Clearly this is an issue in our society and something we all have a connection to...whether it's our own struggle or that of a friend. If you have lost a loved one to suicide (I have as well), I am so sorry and pray God wraps His loving arms around you.

I have a connection that is quite personal, but it's something I didn't want to acknowledge for years. Sixteen years ago this month, I was on the verge of taking my own life. Looking back I know I started slipping into the pit of depression in my teens and I fell deeper in college. Just over a year into life in the "real world" I was ready for it all to be over.

Lonely. Empty. Defeated. Hopeless. That was me, but if you knew me, chances are you wouldn't have known it. I put on the happy face and played the "I'm fine" game. There were moments, even days, when life was good and the smile was genuine, but there were others when life was hard and it really seemed pointless.

As I fell deeper into the hole of depression those bad days become more frequent and eventually seemed constant. The girl who wanted to change the world and make a difference became one who felt she didn't matter and longed to leave it all behind. One too many down days in a row left me thinking there was no point, so I devised a plan and prepared to take my life.

Those statistics I mentioned earlier? It could have been pains me to think about what might have been. As I share this story once again, I'm reminded of what God did - He intervened and saved me from myself. He worked in ways only He can to stop me from the unthinkable, to help me from what seemed unbearable and to change me in ways that I thought were impossible.

Opening up to my parents and a few friends helped as did medicine for clinical depression, but the true healing came via a saving relationship with Christ. I was the girl who wanted to die and in a way, I did. As I learned about Jesus and read my Bible I realized I had to die to myself and be born again. Going to church and believing in God wasn't enough. I had to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, Jesus wanted me to live for Him. I'd heard about grace and sang about God's "Amazing Grace" for years, but I finally received the gift God offers!

Sixteen years have passed and I'm still learning how to do this...walking in faith is a journey and a process. It's something that takes time. I still mess up, fall down and have hard days. There are even moments I wonder if what I'm doing really matters - what Mom doesn't think that?!? Those thoughts, lies and doubts still enter my mind and those feelings, the hard ones we don't like to talk about, are ones I still experience at times, but now, now I know what to do and I know where to go.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." While Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." Friends, we must practice self-control (and it's a fruit of the Spirit, so it is possible) when it comes to the thoughts in our heads. This is much easier said than done, I know, but it's what we need to do.

It's not enough to know what we need to do with our thoughts, but we also must remember where to take them. Like I said, for years I didn't want anyone to know I had contemplated suicide and for awhile there was even shame when I conversed with God about it. So if that's you, know this - God knows and His Word says, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though you sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool. If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.' Truly the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 1:18-20)

Friend, God doesn't just want us to come to Him, He longs for us to confess and receive forgiveness. He created us to listen and obey. This applies to countless areas in our lives, including the thoughts we have, feelings we experience and pain we encounter.

Depression is real. The pits we can fall in are deep and the darkness that sets in can seem overwhelming. But, God is real. The power He has can lift us no matter how far we fall and Jesus, the light of the world, can shield us from the darkness.

The fact that I could have been a statistic is something I no longer want to hide, instead I know it's a story God has given me to tell. This world is broken, our lives are hard and people are hurting. Many are where I once was...lonely, empty and without hope, perhaps even on the verge of suicide. I want them, perhaps even you, to know that's not how it has to be.

God has the power to change may not be your circumstances or even the pain, but He can change your perspective. He has a may not look the way you want or would be the one you'd choose, but it's for good and for your future. Finally, He has a purpose. He created you, me and all of humanity in His image and for His glory. (Genesis 1:27 and Isaiah 43:7)

A few months ago I was preparing to speak and share my testimony...I've done this before, but this time it was different - Joy, my 10 year old daughter wanted to go with me. I was grateful - my prayer is God would use my ministry to unite our family, not divide it, but at the same time I knew I had to tell her. I had to tell her my story. She knew what suicide was and in every discussion we'd ever had she couldn't understand why someone would want to do that. She knew I didn't accept Christ as Lord until later in life, but she didn't know what brought me to that place. As I shared, tears filled my eyes and emotion filled my heart. My girl leaned in and listened, God's girl (me) leaned in and listened to. My daughter heard my story, but I saw God's work.

Friends, it could have been me. My life would have ended, but it wouldn't have been the only one affected. The things you do, they matter. Who you are, it matters. Keep pressing on...don't become a statistic. Help is available and change is possible. Join me next week as I share a bit about what to do when depression hits...because sometimes it does. If you haven't walked this road, thank God now, but if you know someone who has, please join me because I pray the insight will help the depressed and their friends too.

I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.
Psalms 40:1-3


  1. Oh Jill... thank you for your beautiful transparency. Your courage has brought so many of us healing. I somehow missed the podcast but I'm listening to it NOW. I love you friend!

  2. Jill, your vulnerability and courage amazes me. But more than that, I am so grateful for the practical tools you have shared today to recognize the thoughts we have that can take us to dark places and how to take them captive with the Word of God through the power of His Holy Spirit. Thank you for this post and for your interview with Luann. God will use both mightily.

    Love you, Wendy