Escaping the Pit of Depression

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 and put their trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

It was the spring of 1995, and I was empty. My energy was gone. I was exhausted in every way, but honestly, I had the right to feel that way. It had been a nonstop year for me.

My husband was the pastor/teacher of a contemporary, seeker-sensitive ministry in Fort Lauderdale that had exploded in growth and begun meeting in multiple services. I attended every service, going early to welcome newcomers, and staying late to smooth the ruffled feathers of disgruntled church members. We were in the process of transitioning from a traditional church to a contemporary one. Change is always hard, but this experience had been a nightmare.

I had never encountered such opposition or been the target of such criticism, and I had never known such rejection as people I thought were friends attacked my husband’s integrity, heart, and vision. I felt like a wounded soldier and wasn’t sure I would survive the war. I knew we were being obedient to what God had called us to do, but some people in our church disagreed. I was hurt and angry, and didn’t know what to do with those emotions. 

My ministry as the church pianist had become more of a pain than a joy. Singing was no longer the overflow of a daughter’s full heart, but the hollow performance of a spiritual chore. I loved being a mom, but, lately, even that role felt more like an unwelcome burden.

I was usually the one who gave help – the one other people came to for advice. People who knew me well would describe me as a strong woman. I was driven to excel in everything, and if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I didn’t do it at all. I was legalistically disciplined … with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn’t get out of bed. The simplest decision often sent me into a full-blown panic attack. The great wisdom-giver couldn’t compile a grocery list. The woman who taught hundreds of women couldn’t bring herself to face crowds of any size. The large tasks of life were out of the question, and even the simplest tasks seemed like huge mountains. 

Meals, housework, and shopping were all left undone. If I somehow managed to get out of bed and get dressed by the time our kids got home from school, it was a good day. All I wanted to do was sleep. I wanted the world to go away and leave me alone.

I was paralyzed. 

I had fallen into a deep, dark, nameless pit.

I had no idea how I got there. And even more frightening was the stark reality that I had no idea how to get out. 

I decided I was just tired and needed to rest, so my family and I escaped the hot, humid flatlands of Florida to enjoy three weeks in the cool mountains of North Carolina, my favorite vacation spot. That vacation is a complete blur. Our children knew something was terribly wrong. They had never seen their mom so quiet … so still … and so sad. Dan listened patiently as I poured out my fear and confusion each night. There seemed to be no answers … only questions. In his eyes, I could see the growing fear that I felt in my own heart. 

We had never been here before. It was a foreign land. We had no idea how to navigate these unfamiliar waters. I was in serious trouble, and I needed help. 

As each day grew darker, Dan and I both realized we had to come up with a plan – quickly! We decided I would see a Christian counselor Dan often referred people to and in whom he had great confidence. My first appointment with Betty was uneventful as far as I could tell - and a total waste of time. I was furious! She was supposed to “fix” me in those few hours and had failed miserably. She did, however, accomplish one thing.  She named my pit.

Clinical depression was a problem I knew little about. Evidently, strong, committed Christians were not supposed to get depressed, because I had never heard anyone in the church even talk about depression, much less admit they struggled with it. I recoiled at the thought of such blatant weakness in my life. I felt ashamed of what was obviously a great failure on my part, but I was desperate and willing to do whatever it took to climb out of that pit.

I also knew I could not make this journey alone. Over the next year, Dan and Betty, along with many others, climbed down into that dark, slimy pit with me and became God with skin on. God really did work through them to bring me out of that pit.

I believe one reason God allows me to struggle with depression is to help others.

You do not have to be a prisoner of the darkness.

You do not have to stand helplessly by while a friend or family member drowns in the darkness of depression.

We were created to dwell in the light. 

Lift up your head, open your heart, and listen for the voice of the One who knows you best and loves you most. He is with you and He will deliver you.