Don’t Let Depression Define You

Editor’s Note: This article contains details of the author’s struggle with depression and self-harm.

Written By Marissa Cathey, Mexico

The first few years, it was simply a sudden and unexpected heaviness of heart and mind. The feeling of being stuck in thick darkness and finding no safety. But it was overwhelming.

Losing control of my mind, seeing fear take over. Despair settling in. Hopelessness filling my heart.

I felt empty. I could see, but without understanding or emotion.

I was walking in a haze, just mindlessly going with the flow.

What I could feel was only confusion.

I passed each day confined to my mind. Depression suffocating my thoughts. It pulled the shades down on any window I encountered that might offer me a view of hope or a future. Sometimes it felt like there was no escape from the emptiness of my mind. I carried the heaviness of absence everywhere I went. But, I still wanted to have a normal, happy life.

Deep, deep down I knew there are wonders to be discovered, there is a future to behold, a purpose to fulfill. I wanted to be there to experience it all.

“But who am I? What am I even worth?” I could no longer see purpose and direction, my vision had been blurred by the fog.

I reached the climax this year, in 2018.

Clenching my head with both hands, I yelled for it to stop, to leave me alone. But the darkness became even more unbearable, circling and enclosing me tighter and tighter. I craved for escape and relief, but felt bound to fear. Unable to even cry out.

Only one solution floated through my mind, sly and intoxicating. A voice repeating over and over, “Hurt yourself, hurt yourself.”

I didn’t recognize this voice, but it taunted me and would not desist until it was obeyed. As my mind slowly gave in, it became enraptured with an obsessive urge to hurt myself. To end my life. Now there was only the desire of freedom from the ties of this pressing darkness.

25 cuts.

The pain was terrifying, but I could not stop , I needed to escape from what had become a mental prison.

25 glides.

The blade ran across my skin, one long etch after another. “This isn’t truly what I want, it can’t be.” I’m someone who has wanted to live life to the fullest, embracing all that’s grand and extraordinary.

25 slashes.

“This can’t be the answer. Where is God?” I knew I needed help, and I desperately wanted it from Him. I knew He could help. But would He still listen?

Countless tears.

I look up, unable to call out, unable to see clearly, unable to feel much in my heart.

Then all of the sudden, a picture of a rope came into my mind. A hope to latch onto—Calling on His Name.

His holy, almighty Name.

The truest, most sincere cry arose from my heart. I couldn’t speak, my crying had turned to convulsions. But surely, even then He could hear me.

I felt a presence near me.

A presence greater than any other I’d felt. The room no longer seemed as if it were closing in. A breath of fresh air began flowing through me.

“Jesus, Jesus,” whispered my heart, “save me.”

And then, I saw again. I could feel again. Freedom. Release. Renewal. Peace. Purpose. The words came rushing in. Not from the voice before that was speaking harm, but a voice of truth and salvation. A voice of power and authority over all darkness and fear.

A voice that made the darkness flee and light burst in. All at the mere mention of its name. A voice my soul recognized as the only one worth listening to.

The voice of my King, my Lord, my Father.

 

…do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

Worth lies in Him (Luke 12:7). Purpose comes from Him (1 Peter 2:9). Strength is found in Him (Psalm 46:1). Peace flows from Him (Philippians 4:7). I am first and foremost His (1 John 3:1). I belong, for I am loved (Jeremiah 31:1).

I am loved. Deeply and passionately. His own scars prove it. His own marks show my value (1 Peter 2:24).

My gaze need not be on my self-inflicted scars, but rather resting on the illustrious glory of my Savior and the wounds He already bore in my place to give me life.

The depths of His love far surpass any darkness or fear.

How deep, how wide, how high is His love for us (Ephesians 3:18). For me. For you.

What beautiful, never-ending, unfailing, infinite love.

This is my story. It’s not an ending, but rather a beginning of renewed hope and joy. God restores and God redeems. Take courage.

As Christmas draws near, allow the word “hope” to resound in your mind. Allow it to manifest itself all the way into your heart and your soul. That is what Christ was born for, to bring hope. You have hope in Him as your powerful Savior and loving Father.

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

 

*In 2014, I started battling depression. In 2015, anxiety entered the picture. But it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I finally got professional help and in 2018, was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety. With the help of a wonderful Christian counselor as well as a Christian psychiatrist, I hopped on the road to recovery through medication and a renewed understanding of God’s love for me.

I recognize the need to fight depression both on the spiritual and biological front. This is so important for anyone struggling with mental illness to understand .

This doesn’t mean I’ll never experience hardship again. And taking medication is not the permanent solution, I could struggle with mental illness the rest of my life. Or not. I don’t know.

But even in the darkest moments, God never leaves me. And He will never leave you.

It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, both from Him and from people you trust. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting help to live a better, healthier life.

At the end of the day though, remember and hold on to the fact that God is your hope. He will always make a way forward.

I Was Wrong About Giving Tuesday

As someone who works closely with several non-profit organizations, I am distinctly aware of Giving Tuesday.

In the United States, this Giving Tuesday “holiday” comes from an honorable desire to help non-profits continue their good work. However, there’s also an angle of manipulation, used to capitalize on a season when Americans are already spending a lot of money and feeling guilty about it.

The idea is that after several days of self-indulgence—which would often include a Thanksgiving feast, days off of work, and lots of spending—Giving Tuesday is a chance to use your resources selflessly.

When I began working on fundraising projects, I would often dread this time of year and the hectic (and sometimes annoying) campaigning that it brings. I knew that my clients’ appeals would most likely get lost in the avalanche of emails, social media posts, and phone calls that characterize Giving Tuesday. What was the point?

Why should Christians, many of whom already tithe or volunteer with their church, join the Tuesday craziness? Don’t we give enough? Isn’t it just a marketing ploy, anyway?

This year, however, I am working on one Giving Tuesday project that is very close to my heart. This non-profit creates multimedia Bible study tools which equip churches to include persons with intellectual disability.

I desperately want to see this organization reach their fundraising goal because I have seen firsthand the good that they do. And I know the leadership well; I respect their vision for the future. It’s enough to make me wonder if there’s more to Giving Tuesday than I originally thought.

Here are three reasons I’m choosing to participate this year:

 

Reason #1: To exercise my giving muscles

Have you ever heard it said that forgiveness is like a muscle in your body? “Exercising forgiveness” can be compared to exercising your body—the more you exert it, the stronger it gets and the easier the task becomes.

Giving is like that. The more we practice generosity, the easier and more natural it becomes.

A small step of faith—even if the amount you choose to give is very small—softens our hearts to be open to something bigger and better. God calls us to be people who are saturated in the habit of generosity—people who are full of kindness, goodness, and gentleness (see Galatians 5:22-23 for more on the fruit of the Spirit). And it doesn’t come naturally; we must practice and “do our exercises” with His help!

 

Reason #2: To make a difference

But we don’t just give for our own edification; we give because it truly makes a difference. This year I have seen the impact that even a small gift can make.

For the campaign I mentioned earlier, this non-profit client only needs to raise a few thousand dollars. It’s a big sum for one person, but if it were split among all the people on their mailing list, it would only amount to $2 per person. The price of a cheap cup of coffee. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? What’s difficult is getting a few hundred people to believe that their small gift is meaningful.

Let me tell you that God can use anything—even $2, or two loaves of bread (remember the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14?). Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12, emphasis added).

 

Reason #3: To express joyful gratitude

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Actually, it’s only a favorite because I know it so well; my dad watches two or three different versions of the play or movie every year without fail.

In the story, the character of old Mr. Scrooge is transformed from sour, cynical, and abrasive to giddy, hopeful, and kind. He has been given a second chance in life and sees how fortunate he truly is. Scrooge’s newfound joy is immediately translated into generosity—he showers gifts on his employee, generously tips the errand boy, and makes a large donation to a local charity. Why? Because joy is expressed in gratitude—especially when joy comes from knowing that you have been forgiven a great debt.

Friends, we have been forgiven a great debt through God’s son. Jesus told his disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8b). Generosity is a way for Christ-followers to gladly proclaim, “The Kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 10:7).

 

So… Giving Tuesday. It’s here. It may feel like too much, and perhaps you’ve vowed to stay offline all day just to avoid the appeals. But I encourage you to give it a try—a small gift, a generous gift, a joyful gift. It will make a difference in that organization. And it will make a difference in you.

Why I Was Ashamed to Tell People I’m Serving God

When I was completing my final year of university, my campus pastor sat me down and asked me to consider doing a one-year internship with my campus’ Christian fellowship. I jumped at the chance to spend a year getting paid to serve God.

After all, my time with the Christian fellowship had taught me the importance of the Gospel, and I’d received some encouragement that I should consider full-time ministry. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to nurture my own love for the Gospel and help others in their own faith while figuring out whether full-time ministry was for me.

However, it’s now been about six months since I’ve graduated from university, and this question still causes me to wince: “Oh, you’ve graduated? What are you doing with yourself?”

It’s the perfect concoction for awkward conversations at dinner parties or whenever I bump into former classmates.

How do I answer the question? I usually shuffle around clumsily and try to dumb down the Gospel aspect of what I’m doing. “Umm well, I work for my university’s Christian fellowship—basically I get paid to hang out with the students.”

I’ve conveniently left out the part where I work to help students further their understanding of the Bible, and challenge them to live by what it says. The feeling of guilt is almost instantaneous, and later that night I find myself wishing that I’d been bolder about my involvement in Gospel ministry. “If I can’t even tell people about my job, how can I hope to tell them about the Gospel?” I think to myself.

So, why do I find it so hard to tell people what my job is?

The truth is, I’m worried about what they might think. Many of my friends graduated and walked into well-paying jobs with great prospects of career advancement. They wear nice tailored shirts and pants to their office, right in the middle of the central business district; I’m sitting at a university bench reading the Bible with a student in the same t-shirt and shorts I was wearing a year ago. At the end of the year, they’ll all be jetting off on the well-earned holidays that their jobs allow them to afford; I’ll be working at an end-of-the-year Bible camp for university students.

To my friends, or whoever is asking, all this might seem a little foolish. In fact, I think the problem is that I think of it as a little foolish as well. After all, I’d just spent the last four years of my life working hard to graduate with respectable grades, only to earn less than half what most of my peers are earning. Sometimes when I’m being honest with myself, I do question if it’d be better for me to be working at a ‘normal’ job.

But we don’t have to be in full-time ministry to experience this. One of my best friends, still a student at university, spends the whole of his Saturdays serving at church, in the young adult’s ministry. I’m sure to many of his peers, that looks like a foolish way to spend his Saturdays, the day that most university students take to either relax or catch up on work.

I think, too, of the students who are members of the Christian Fellowship. They often spend their weeks preparing and facilitating bible studies, when they could be studying instead. In the face of impending deadlines and exams, I’m sure they look foolish to their fellow students.

Or, who hasn’t felt a bit foolish trying to tell their friends about the Gospel, or inviting them to church?

That’s why I’ve been so encouraged by the time I’ve recently spent reading the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians with a student. In 1:18, Paul declares, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It seems that we should expect the Gospel—the very thing that our lives as Christians is meant to be built upon—to be seen as foolishness to the rest of the world. After all, the ultimate display of God’s power, was seen by many as his ultimate shame—the man who claimed to be the Son of God executed as a criminal.

Paul then goes on to explain, that what’s wise in God’s eyes is always going to seem foolish to the rest of the world. But as people who have been given the Spirit of God, we are more than able to see and understand things with God’s wisdom. He implores his readers to apply God’s wisdom in their lives rather than just do the things that the rest of the world counts as important and clever.

This means that my friend whose Saturdays are spent in church can be encouraged in the knowledge that the work he’s doing is seen as wise in God’s eyes. The university students I work with can continue striving for the Gospel, knowing that while their efforts might seem irrational to their peers, on that day when they stand before God, they will see that it was all worth it.

For me, I don’t have to feel ashamed about my job because it is through the Gospel that we are saved, and as we grow in our knowledge and conviction of it, we are being transformed.

So now instead of shirking away from telling people about my job, I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to tell them about the Gospel. And while the work I’m doing at the Christian fellowship seems foolish, in my short time there I’ve been greatly encouraged by how powerful it is when students become convicted of the Gospel and begin to make mature decisions to live in light of it. Of course people might still find it silly that I’m working as an intern at a campus Christian fellowship, but I can take heart knowing that the Gospel truly is the power of God.

3 Truths to Cling to When You’re Hit With Challenges

Written By Cassandra Yeo, Singapore

Whenever we’re hit with challenges in life, we often expect our situation to improve and get better. I know that I often carry this hope into my prayers to God. I expect Him to intervene and provide breakthroughs during the vulnerable moments of my life.

However, when prayers are delayed or seemingly unanswered, I am forced to grapple with uncertainty. Understandably, in such situations my friends who support me in my journey do not know what to say to comfort me. In the face of my own doubt, and the uncomfortable silence from others, I begin to doubt God’s goodness.

However, in spite of my growing disbelief, God shows up in unexpected ways, and He uses difficulties to teach me about His constant character in the midst of changing circumstances.

 

1. Remember that God is still in control

When I grapple with loss or anger, I am reminded of characters in the Bible who also went through crises. Ruth, Joseph and Paul, for example, were people who had lost much. Yet, their responses were vastly different from how I would expect someone to react in a crisis.

When Ruth was a childless widow, she chose to follow her mother-in-law to live in a foreign land, and to follow God (Ruth 1:16). Joseph decided to show hospitality to his brothers despite their earlier ill treatment of him, as he knew the Lord was doing good in the injustice he faced (Genesis 50:19-20). Paul continued his ministry despite facing persecution, knowing that his work would result in many others coming to Christ.

In each of these situations, God worked through the difficult situations to ultimately bring good: Ruth became great-grandmother to the first king of Israel; Joseph preserved the lives of the twelve tribes, and Paul spread the gospel throughout the known world.

Whenever calamity strikes, these examples from the Bible remind me that God is still in control, and He is still good. I need to be thankful for His work in my life, even if I can’t always see the outcome. In times of difficulty, I often go to trusted friends and groups to confide in my struggle to remain thankful, and rely on them to remind me of God’s goodness.

 

2. Remember that we can trust God in the midst of uncertainty

I had planned to find a stable full-time job before I graduated from university, and had begun actively searching long before my peers did. However, what I thought would be a one-month hunt became an eight-month affair. With every passing interview, I prayed that God would open the door to an opportunity, only to realize that every door was shut.

While it was immensely difficult, I saw God’s hand in the midst of my circumstances. I found a contract job quite quickly, which allowed me to earn some money and hone my professional skills while still looking for a full-time job. In the process of seeking, praying and waiting, the job search taught me perseverance, humility and joy in the midst of fruitlessness, allowing me to grow in my relationship with God. Slowly, I began to trust the Giver, rather than long only for the Gift itself.

After a long search, God finally provided an open door—one that I wasn’t seeking or expecting, but one that was in line with what I was looking for. I’m about to begin my career journey there in December. This experience has trained me to trust God to provide in the midst of uncertainty. It was no longer a job search that was based on my own terms, but rather, what God had in mind for me, and it was beyond what I had in mind for myself.

 

3. Remember that our worth is found in Christ alone

In university, I served God actively in fellowship and church. However, throughout my journey, I was met with many roadblocks. I faced the untimely death of a friend and my grandma, lost treasured friendships, and my grades dipped even though I worked doubly hard to keep them up. The fight to keep my hope and self-worth afloat seemed like an endless struggle, even as I saw my friends and peers sail through their university life without much difficulty, and easily obtained the academic success I yearned to have.

When the pillars of my security—grades and friendships—were taken away, I had to examine whether I was basing my worth on how much I have, or in how God Himself sees me.

Despite the odds, God provided a breakthrough in my grades in my final semester. On my graduation day, as I looked back on the journey, I knew that the ultimate milestone was not academic success, but rather, the lesson of where my worth should lie. Moreover, this has also propelled me to share with others my struggles in my walk with God, allowing for encouragement, accountability and prayer to take place.

 

All the experiences that I have listed were the challenges I faced in my life, which were bitter to taste when I was experiencing them. However, I am learning to see that the bitter experiences can be turned into opportunities to walk ever so closely with God, and to understand His purposes and goodness in spite of difficulties. I challenge you today to look at the challenges you have in your life and to learn to see beyond the struggle—God can turn it all into something beautiful in His own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).