Once upon a time, I was afflicted. The first time I became aware of it, I was eleven years old. My mother was placed in a sanitarium after having had yet another nervous breakdown. I was, as usual, shuffled off to my grandmother's house to stay. It wasn't the first time my world had been turned upside down overnight. Change and instability were staples in my life; if my mother wasn't hospitalized due to mental illness, my parents were separating and this meant going to live somewhere else temporarily, and often at a moment's notice. I'd become accustomed to moving every two years for one reason or another, but this time was different. I wasn't rolling with these punches as easily as I had before. I felt sick inside in a way I never had, and it didn't seem to go away. I was plagued by uncertainty and insecurity. I cried myself to sleep every night. I didn't know how to process this weird new feeling, and I didn't dare tell anyone about it. At eleven, I didn't have the language to explain the concept of despair. Eventually things returned to normal, but only for about a year, until my parents separated for good. I knew this time there would be no reconciliation. Within twenty-four hours time, I was living in a new place. The only thing that came with me was a bag of clothes. Everything I cherished was ripped away. Up until that day, all I had to do was be a kid. Build forts in the woods. Ride my bike for miles and miles. Climb trees, conquer playgrounds, turn cartwheels, and dance like a fool up and down the sidewalks with aspirations of being a great dancer someday. After that day, I wasn't the same. I died a little inside.
Over the following years, that sick feeling began to revisit me again and again. Episode after episode of rejection and abandonment left an open door for that gut wrenching, life sucking monster to worm its way in and rob me of any kind of normal life. Physical and verbal abuse left me questioning my self worth. Betrayal took a few more crucial whacks at me. By the time I was twenty years old, and a mother to four small children, that feeling of despair had now taken up permanent residence in my soul. For ten long years it camped out in the recesses of my mind. It crept in slowly, casting doubt and poisoning my thoughts. The self hatred was intense, but I hid it well. Everything about myself sickened me. I would recall episodes of rejection and abandonment and would just wilt from sadness. This 'thing' was taking over and I was helpless against it. I went on with my day as though it wasn't there. I would spend the day volunteering in preschool classes with a smile on my face, and within hours of returning home, have fleeting thoughts of suicide. I contemplated how I would do it if I were going to actually go through with it. But then my eyes would inevitably fall on a pile of Legos or a picture one of the kids drew, and for a time, the darkness would scatter. There was no foreseeable way out of the pit I'd found myself in. I resigned myself to the idea that this was the only kind of life I'd ever know.
And then a funny thing happened. When I was 30, Jesus showed up. Suddenly I was too preoccupied with Him to really look inward too much. An invitation was extended to come to the table, and in a total state of brokenness, I was ravenous for a feast. I can't explain what occurred on the inside over the next several months, as grace smashed headlong into every dark thought that tried to come between me and my new friend. A year and a half later, I was delivered from depression and the wounds began to heal. I threw away the medication that, just a year before, I was told I would probably have to take for the rest of my life just to remain functional. A decade of despair was suddenly replaced by radiant joy. I came alive on the inside, and it showed on the outside. I wish I could describe with words the transformation that took place inside literally overnight, but there are no words that do such a transformation justice. I wasn't a victim anymore. I wasn't bound by the things that happened to me in the past. I was no longer held hostage by anger and bitterness. I was given permission to forget the things that had shaped who I was up to that point, and to move forward with a clean slate. I was FREE!
The depressive spirit however, doesn't relent easily. Even after Jesus makes our acquaintance, life happens, hurt happens, and we're forced to offer up a response to it. I thought that deliverance somehow provided me with an impenetrable force field that made me impervious to attacks from the oppressor. So when depression began to set in once again, I was crushed. It begged the question: Was I really delivered? God said it... did I believe it? Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Likewise, 1 Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." Who is it though, who seeks to convince me otherwise? And what do we know about his character? John 8:44 says the devil "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is NO truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies." It's important to establish the intent of the heart when it comes to those contending for your soul. It's important also to know that you have a choice regarding who gets it, and it's pertinent to choose wisely.
It seems that we can always find something to feel depressed about. It's easy when you have those tendencies, and life offers no shortage of disappointments to dwell on. I keep reminding myself though, that I HAVE been delivered from this, and God doesn't take back those blessings, no matter what I think of myself, how many times I screw up, what I've done in my past or what my current circumstances may be. Free is free, and despite what the enemy would have me think, that's exactly what I am- no longer bound by a spirit of depression! That's the truth of it. When the Holy Spirit takes dominion and begins to clean house, we're no longer Satan's property. He's been evicted, and any claim he had over us is thereby terminated. Why give it back? There's no authority for that depressive spirit to rule over us, unless we GIVE IT PERMISSION TO. Into everyone's life a little trauma must fall; no one is exempt from the bumps in the road. We all hit them eventually, but the difference between being tested and taken out completely comes down to two things- one, knowing the truth about ourselves as God declares it, and two, not allowing our shortcomings and past failures to keep us from believing and receiving it. God doesn't take back healing. He doesn't change His mind. WE do.
I will surely face my oppressor again many times. He will lie to me, and continue to try and regain access to what God has already claimed as His. I'm reminded of the saying "Fool me once, shame on you... fool me twice, shame on ME." Regrettably, the devil has fooled me more than twice, but the revelation of choice and the grace that enables me to use it will ensure that in the future, I won't get fooled again.
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." --John 8:36