I really should have been in a mental hospital. I had spent several months battling panic attacks, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, loss of concentration, and no energy. Our apartment was a disaster. I lost over 30 pounds in less than three months. I was sure I was going to lose my job. I couldn’t keep up with the bills. I spent hours on the phone with friends and family in hopes they could help me out of the despair that was invading my life.
I was amazed I was still alive.
I would have several panic attacks a day. I had tried several different anti-depressants with scary side effects. I wanted to die. I was convinced I had already ruined the lives of all the people who loved me, and the enemy further convinced me that I would keep doing more of the same. I read the bible and the verses that reminded me of how much I had failed as a Christian, as a human, and they seemed to scream at me in the loudest decibel.
Friends encouraged me to continue going to church and bible study. I didn’t know how to express that church was part of the problem. I tried, but they didn’t get it. They told me that I shouldn’t isolate…I needed to be around my church “family.” My church family, it seemed, was full of shiny, happy people who I perceived were looking at me like I was insane. I felt like Mary Magdalene running through the streets begging for help.
One lady, who I didn’t know from Adam, was commandeered to pray with me. She was kind at first, but I heard more commands from her than comfort and prayer. At one point she scolded me for not trusting God. When she walked away, I felt heavier and more hopeless.
The sermons that I was hearing increased my panic attacks.
I heard a lot about what I had to do – have BBQ’s for my non-believing neighbors, do mission work, help in children’s ministry, etc. I heard a few little tidbits about Jesus. It seemed like a new list was presented to me every week and I couldn’t even tackle the lists presented to me months before. I felt like a defective Christian and human being. I could barely get out of bed (even if I couldn’t sleep) in the state I was in; I couldn’t keep up with any checklist. I ended up at the first aid station a few times, unable to catch my breath.
There were a few women in our church, thank the Lord, who had been through the dark night of the soul. They took me aside and listened…really listened. I have written about some of those people in previous blog posts. They also prayed without trying to “fix.” They may have made a few treatment suggestions, but they didn’t scold or hand me more “to-dos.” One of those women was instrumental in starting the single mom support group I had been a part of for many years. I reached out to her because her husband was a pastor (a different pastor than the one mentioned above) and had spoken about his wife’s depression years earlier in one of his sermons (with her permission, I’m sure). He spoke about how she finally stopped telling her church family she was “fine.” She told them the truth – she was depressed and needed prayer.
During bible study in our single mom group one night, I pulled her aside and asked her if she would pray with me. She has never been one to deny a request for prayer. We walked outside to a sitting area. She told me she had heard I was struggling and had been praying for me and my daughter. She told me to explain what was going on. She let me talk (for a long time) and she listened intently. She didn’t try to explain away my depression. She didn’t tell me that I didn’t have enough faith and that I wasn’t praying enough or trusting in the Lord enough. She didn’t tell me I had failed in my Christian walk. She didn’t try to “fix” my situation, even if I wanted to be fixed. She reminded me of Jesus and His love for me – she told me He loved me before I was born and that His love had nothing to with my works. She said something about God turning my ashes into beauty. She held my hands and carried me into the arms of the Shepherd with prayer. When I left her side, I was sure I had just spent time with Jesus…and a tiny glimmer of hope opened up in my soul.
One of my favorite quotes is from Sydney J. Harris, “Never take the advice of someone who has not had your kind of trouble.” My friend had seen my kind of trouble, and what she did was greater than any advice in the world. She loved me right where I was, and allowed Jesus to speak through her.
Those months are still blurry and events are out of order in my mind.
I have journal pages filled with prayers and pleas for God’s help, but on many of those pages I didn’t put dates. I’m amazed I was even able to write anything at that time. All I know is that shortly thereafter, with the help of treatment (for a vitamin D deficiency) and many tools (e.g. healing prayer through Sozo, a ministry of Rapha God Ministries) the Lord provided for me, and I started feeling healthier. I was getting sleep again, I was eating, the panic attacks died down, and I was hopeful. For the first time in a long time, I believed I was loved – unconditionally.
Those scriptures and voices that had previously condemned me no longer had that power because I understood the truth – the Christian life is not about me. Those scriptures were perfectly placed there to remind me of my need for something that I could never achieve on my own…and now I believe the voices were perfectly placed in my life at that time too. It has always been about Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. He went to the cross for me – a broken, weary traveler in this broken world. He will never leave my side.
No Darkness Too Dark
We’ve all been hurt. In numerous ways. Most days, we don’t want anyone there: not those who claim to love us, those who claim they won’t run; not those who are professionals who deal with such events and trauma that we actually pay not to run; we don’t even want to be there ever, because we’re too busy running from it.
And, if we’re totally and completely honest, we don’t want God there either…because how could a beautiful, holy God enter into that mess, into that disaster, into that shame, guilt, regret, and grief and not shy away, appalled, disappointed, disgusted. How could He not say, “I can deal with so much of the stuff you’ve done and experienced, but this…this is beyond me” and leave us there, naked, humiliated, and ashamed.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
This is the amazing, wonderful, downright radical thing about Jesus Christ, God of very God, light of very light. He touched the dirty and made them clean, he un-ostricized the ostracized, He uncondemned the condemned, He made the dead living again. He is the light that the darkness cannot overcome…never ever. There is no darkness too dark for Jesus Christ to enter into and be overcome, because the darkness has been overcome once and for all in Him. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
And that’s what this series is all about: real stories about real darkness and real grace (upon grace!). We wanted to create a resource of testimonies about radical encounters with His light in our darkness that could be shared with others who are suffering in similar ways (we’ll have a variety of stories). We all have stories and testimonies to share, and we invite you to share them here, if you feel so led: Click Here to email your stories.
So, please, read these stories humbly presented by broken and beloved men and women. And I pray, I pray that these stories would draw you closer to Him, that they would give you courage to go there, into that darkness with the good, good, Shepherd who loves you—all of you—so much that He laid down his life for you.
This post originally appeared on: christinamariehernandez.wordpress.com.
These events occurred during the Winter (2012-2013)