Last week I went to a women's conference in New Mexico. Our band, Finding Cadence, lead worship and I spoke at one of the workshops. My class was titled Silencing Depression: Cultivating Hope in the Desert Seasons of Life.
The whole weekend was amazing. The main speaker, Renay West, was anointed and used her testimony as a survivor of childhood abuse to speak about healing and freedom from bondage. The women were incredible worshipers, and they really responded to the services and classes.
I went feeling very dry, but knowing that God had appointed this event, so I expected Him to do something. And I left feeling more hopeful and expectant than I have been in a very long time. Even more, I feel like God began to heal places in my heart that have been open wounds until now. I have been living out what I shared in the class, trying to find hope in the desert. So as I taught, I was reminding myself as much as the women I was speaking to.
Ted recorded my class, but for some reason the tape didn't turn out so you can't hear anything. I'm really bummed, because I was going to post a link for some other ladies that need the message of hope. So in lieu of a video, I wanted to at least write about what God shared with me. Since there's a lot, I'll just post some of it today, and I'll continue with more in the next few days. I hope it encourages those of you desert wanderers.
The Bible says that we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). So I'd like to share some of mine.
I grew up in a pastor's home. Even though we loved the Lord and served Him, many in our family struggled with depression, including me. I was shy and sensitive. I married my childhood sweetheart at 19, and a year later I had fulfilled my life long dream- to be married to Ted and have kids. That's when I realized I needed bigger dreams. :)
After I had my daughter Emily, I had really bad post-partum depression. I was hearing things, having panic attacks, and wanted to hurt myself. At that time, I didn't support the idea of counseling or medication. I grew up believing that if you had a problem, you "prayed through" until you got an answer. I would pray and pray, but nothing changed. I felt like I was in a deep black hole and no one could help me.
And then one day, God miraculously healed me. I was at the funeral of a pastor who had died very young, and for whatever reason, God chose to touch me that day. It was like a huge cloud lifted and I could see and think clearly again. I started writing songs and poems out of the blue, and I felt peace and joy for the first time in my life.
I didn't have any more symptoms of depression until almost three years later. I was eight months pregnant with my second child, Daniel, and I could feel it coming on like a storm. I recognized the heaviness as it took over, and after my son was born I again had severe post-partum depression, even wanting to die. After five months I finally began an intensive outpatient program, with counseling and medication. Slowly, I started to mend.
I share that because I know so many are living with shame about having to take medication. I know God can heal people in an instant, but so often He chooses to use time and process. I don't know why He chose to heal me the first time miraculously and then later with meds, but I do know He has used it for His glory. I have much more compassion and understanding because I've had to take medication, and it seems like whenever I talk about it openly, other women can freely admit to the same.
After a year of counseling and medication, I started to feel sane again. After that, I had periods of time where I'd struggle with depression, but not to the depths as before. Four years after I began counseling and meds, I had my third child, Timothy. This time around I didn't have any depression, praise the Lord! Things in life were going really well, too. We were raising support to be home missionaries, loving ministry and people. We started a band and I began doing art. We were very fulfilled.
Then things started to slowly fall apart. We couldn't raise enough money to meet our budget, so Ted had to get a second job. The pastor at our church, who we were very close to at one point, left for moral failure. We had to take the money we had raised as a band for our first album and divide it between us, just so we could pay our rent. Our band dissolved, and I stopped writing songs and doing art. Ted continued to try for different jobs that would pay the bills, but it seemed like every door was slammed in his face.
God had spoken such beautiful dreams about what He wanted us to do in ministry and in life. We left our church feeling certain that He would show us where to go and what to do. Instead, we found ourselves wandering in the desert for the past two years. God provided manna for us. I can't even recount how many times someone gave us money or a reimbursement check would show up for something. He has been faithful to provide. But it has been a difficult process of not knowing where we're going, when we'll get there, or how things will be when we finally do.
Out of this time, God began to speak to me some truths about the desert. So when I was asked to speak about depression and hope to the women in New Mexico, I knew what He wanted me to share:
1. God leads us into the desert
2. God has a purpose for the desert
3. God orders a season for the desert
4. God provides streams in the desert
I'll save the rest for later. :)