How do I know that God is real? Why do I believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that God is who the Bible says He is and everything about Him is true? Why am I trying in every way possible to live my life for Him? Because He saved my life and He brought my soul back from the dead. He sought me when I wasn’t even looking for Him, and He gave me a precious gift that changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible. And this is my story.
My testimony isn’t a nice and neat walk-the-aisle story of salvation, but it is, nonetheless, a story of the power of God to transform a life and to redeem a sinner. I had an experience as a child where I knelt and said the sinner’s prayer, but I’m not sure I knew what I was doing. I don’t think I knew what it meant. I don’t think I understood sin and salvation and what Jesus was all about. I kind of thought that I was a good person and that saying that prayer and then getting baptized was just somehow making it “official.” Regardless of whether this experience was genuine or not, I certainly didn’t follow the Lord very closely after that. I went to church and read my Bible, but I didn’t have a relationship with God. I wasn’t living for Him or seeking Him. I was just kind of trying to get by and doing what the world says you do: go to school, go to college, get a job, just kind of do your own thing, do what you can to survive.
And I barely survived, in a way, because my life took a dark turn somewhere around 16 when I fell into the black hole of depression. I called it the deep darkness, and it consumed me completely for several years and is something that I still struggle with at times, though not as severely now as then. Depression is a beast. It is irrational and unreasonable, and it makes people do unreasonable things. It twists and distorts things and turns out all the lights so the deep darkness can grow and grow. It saps energy, ambition, confidence, and hope and sends everything good down some bottomless drain so you just can never reach it no matter how hard you try. It makes every lie feel true. It contaminates everything within and casts its long shadows over every aspect of life. It takes a heart and leaves it mangled and bruised, broken and torn. Most of all, it just hurts.
And it made me hurt myself. Physically with self-injury. Emotionally and socially. I was so withdrawn, so bound by that darkness that I couldn’t reach out to anyone for any reason. And spiritually, I was just going through the motions, just like with everything else, and my heart fell farther and farther from caring about God. I had stepped over boundaries and crossed lines. I was angry and hurting, and I hated everyone and everything. And I tried my best to hide it all from everyone, to keep it all so secret, to go along like everything was fine—like I was fine when I was far from it. That time in my life left me damaged and scarred. Even as I somehow managed to finish college and get a job, I just kept sinking. I was breathing, but I wasn’t living, and I didn’t even want to anymore.
I moved out of town for my job, so I was living alone and had nothing but my job and my apartment to keep me occupied while I continued the gradual decline depression was leading me down. I didn’t go to church, hadn’t read my Bible in years, and wanted nothing to do with God. All that stuff had let me down, I felt, so I set it aside. But my life had no purpose, and I could see no reason to keep going. My depression had always gone through cycles, and I was spinning down to probably the lowest I had ever been. There was no longer anyone to hide from, and I was afraid my self-destruction would be complete.
And then God stepped into my darkness. I had a daily devotional book that someone had given me, and I started looking at it, realizing I needed something besides what I already had, and I was looking for some kind of answer. God had been there all along, almost like an old memory I’d kept in the back of my mind, and He was nudging my heart open to make room for Him, though I didn’t realize it at the time. One weekend, some family came to visit, and we went to a church near my house that Sunday. I went back myself the next week. And I kept going back because every time I did, the pastor said something in the message I needed to hear or talked about something I had been thinking about or answered a question I had. God was speaking to me, and I was finally ready to listen. I started reading my Bible again, and I just couldn’t get enough of it or of Him.
Not long after that, I knelt down by my couch in my apartment. His Holy Spirit was very near that day. I realized, perhaps for the first time in my life, that the purpose I had sought for so long wasn’t some elusive thing—it was Jesus Christ. I cried out to God and asked Him to save my soul if I hadn’t really been saved all those years of pretending and going through the motions, lying to others and myself about my relationship with God. It struck me, so hard and so fast, that everything is to truly be about Him. The whole of Scripture encompasses Him, breathes Him out into a distinct Word in the air—Jesus. And now my life was to be about Him. My choices had taken me to a dead-end place. Doing things my way had gotten me nowhere. All along I was looking for a reason to live, and He became every reason. He was so real to me that day for probably the first time, and I couldn’t be the same after that. He had saved my life, as well as my soul.
God had been with me all along. And what an amazing thing it was for my empty heart to finally understand that God loved me and that Jesus died for me. My life changed so much that day, and I embarked on a journey to know this God who is my Savior. I’ve had my ups and downs in my walk with Him. I’ve continued to make mistakes and poor choices, but I’ve also continued to learn and grow, to serve and to love Him more and more. I wrote in my journal one time, “It doesn’t have to be deep dark anymore, you know. It can be deep light now.” And it has been. Jesus has poured an endless light into my life, and though I still struggle, I know He is with me, and I’m trusting Him to take me where I can’t get to on my own, farther and farther from the darkness. Sometimes I wonder if depression is my tie that binds, something that is necessary in my life to keep me close to God, to keep me remembering how much I need Him and that doing it my way got me nowhere. But whatever else it did to me, it brought me to a place where I would open my heart to Jesus and seek to truly live for Him.
My testimony isn’t a story about me as much as it is a story about God. I was just a bad person in a bad place when He found me and brought me back to life. When His mercy reached down into my brokenness, I had nothing at all to offer Him except myself, but it turns out that’s all He wanted anyway. I have come to know Him in a personal way I never thought was possible, and He always continues to amaze me with His love and grace, and I want to give my life to Him. I owe Him that. And I want more than anything for my life to honor Him.
No matter how we come to Jesus, He will take us as we are, and He will make us into something new. No matter what crooked path we take, He welcomes us with open arms and bids us follow Him down the straight and narrow. And when we get to a place where we can finally just let go of the world, of our past, of our baggage and everything else we hold so tightly and just come empty and hungry to Him, He will fill us in more ways than we could have ever imagined.
Depression taught me how to hide. But God taught me to tell the truth, and so I share my story that it might encourage someone else who struggles in the same ways I do. I share it to step out from under that facade I’d lived with for so long, to admit, finally, that I wasn’t always who people thought I was. Mostly, I share it to say that God is enough, God is good, God is faithful, God is love, and God is true.
And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.