I’ll never forget the moment it happened—when I felt a crack in my spirit, the breaking of my faith. Chink.
It was an afternoon in November, just a few years ago. I was sitting on the couch alone. The house was unusually quiet. There were no shouts from little boys. There was no chaos. There was nothing to distract me from thinking, praying, worrying. There had been so much on my mind for so many months. So many things piling up, weighing heavy; a load of issues ready to drop as soon as I could no longer hold them. On this particular day, it was concern over my dad’s health that pressed down with the most weight.
And then I felt it. Crack.
The “what if” question manifested itself physically in my body. Just a little blip in my chest—a literal skip in my heart rhythm.
Smash. Thor’s hammer of doubt hit against the clear glass floor of faith holding all of those weighty issues, all of those uncertainties, all of the pain, all of the confusion.
That floor had always been so strong. It had always been so solid. It had always, always held. But the issues were heavier now. They were just so many more than there had ever been. And the strength I thought I’d always had simply evaporated.
The scattering of cracks along the glass was swift—they were so numerous. One wrong move and it was going to break completely—the solid floor of faith that had always held was giving way.
I couldn’t stop it.
Bang. The “what if” questions grew more numerous over the next days and where for years I’d always been able to come up with faith-based responses to quiet them, I now found myself at a total loss. It was an unusual place for me. A scary place.
Three days before Christmas I wound up in the ER, and the cracked floor could no longer hold. The glass shattered into tiny, glinting pieces of my once firm faith.
Crash. God was missing.
I could not find His goodness. I could not find His promises. I could not find any semblance of a reality where He had any kind of beauty in store for my life. I felt like I’d been robbed. I felt like I’d been abandoned. I felt extremely alone.
Exactly where the enemy wanted me.
Perhaps I should back up a little. Perhaps I should explain when this really all began.
I’m so lucky. Blessed. Honestly had the best childhood a person could ask for. I was raised in a Christian home by loving parents who taught me from a very young age how important faith was. I gave my life to Christ at the age of six and never considered any other path. Sure, like many, I ignored Him more than I should have in my teens, but came back around fully in adulthood. I led Bible studies. Taught Bible classes. Sang on the Praise Team. Followed Him through difficulties. Became pretty well known around my circles for living my beliefs. Life had its ups and downs, but it was good. Me and Jesus? We were good. Simpatico.
Sure, maybe I wasn’t a daily Bible reader, but that’s ok. Jesus got me anyway. Maybe I didn’t pray as much as I should have, but I prayed and prayed hard when I needed to. Maybe I excused and looked over some things in my life, but I knew that God had me. I was good.
I suppose I was too good on my own with all my me-based faith and expectations for my life.
2016 was supposed to be a stellar year. I was expecting baby #4, working a job that was more than a blessing, writing and loving it, and looking forward to moving into a place with a little more space for our growing family. But things weren’t all that great behind the scenes.
Bam. Our marriage hit a rough patch. A very rough patch. Worse than anything we’d been through before. Why, God?
Bang. Then there was some specific sin in my life that I was ignoring. I’m ok, right, God?
Crash. Next came a health concern for my husband, leading straight into the week our son was to be born. What if, God?
Those first three months of 2016 were some of the most difficult I’d had in my life up to that point, but I had no idea what was coming.
The day our baby boy entered the world turned into more than a day to remember. It was one of those days that became defining in my life. You’d think it was because of his birth and that’s partially true, but unfortunately, that day is remembered because of someone else’s choice that put me moments away from the grave. A nurse chose to defy doctor’s orders and I nearly lost my life. I won’t rehash those details now, but while there was joy in my son’s birth, I left that hospital a few days later with pain I could not explain—pain I did not have when I arrived. The pain was physical, but it was also mental and spiritual. I didn’t understand what I had just lived through. I was grateful to be alive, but I had so many unanswered questions. So many new fears. Why, God?
Clink. Bam. Bang. Pain became my bitter companion.
But I loved Jesus! This wasn’t what my life was supposed to look like.
Having a newborn is hard enough. Having a newborn plus three other boys is challenging. All of that plus debilitating pain, strep throat, and the inability to sleep at all is how the first few weeks back home went. Plus we sold our home, the baby had some serious reflux issues, and we bought a new home and had to move.
Bang. It was a lot.
And through it all, the pain continued. I learned very quickly that the doctors I had trusted for so long suddenly had no concern for me. I completely lost faith in the medical community. I was bounced from doctor to doctor, all of them hypothesizing about why I couldn’t stop hurting, but no real answers. Medications and treatments and theories were thrown at me, but nothing worked. And no one seemed to want to listen.
Not even God. He wasn’t listening to my pleas for help. Why, God? What do you want from me?
Chink. Clink. Bang. Pow. Smash.
One month turned into six and exhaustion began to wear me down. Chronic pain will do that. It tears up your resolve, emotional health, and spirit with every lingering ache.
I’d never experienced anything like it.
Flash forward to Christmas 2016. I spent that day in mental agony, certain it would be my last holiday with my family. I’d seen so many doctors since the birth of my son back in March. I had so many physical issues at that point that I could hardly keep track. And I simply could not calm the “what if” questions. They overwhelmed me.
The floor of my faith had shattered—I had no faith left in anything. Not medicine, not myself, not God.
2017 brought more questions. I was lost, in constant pain, and I couldn’t see my way out. Tests, biopsies, more tests, more doctors…it was a never-ending cycle of fear.
I had only one truth at this point—God had one thing for my life: suffering. Because suffering was the only thing I could see in the world. Fear was the only thing I could feel.
No, it didn’t matter that I had lived through a near-death experience. The living didn’t matter to me. It was the almost dying that mattered. It was the mess of the aftermath that mattered. I was blinded to everything else. I became paralyzed by fear.
I couldn’t factor it into God’s plan for my life. The plan where I was happily married and raising boys and teaching and writing books and singing at church and living—that plan. What happened to that plan?
I wasn’t living—not really. I was existing. I was floating in the black abyss, completely lost, questioning everything. Me and Jesus? We were no longer ok. I just knew that whatever His plan was, there was no good in it. And I couldn’t understand why.
I couldn’t reconcile what I once believed about the loving nature of God with the pain, suffering, and evil I saw in the world. Even though His truth and goodness were still there, I could not find them at all. With each incident that happened in and around me, especially medical issues, my spirit shattered a little more.
I’d never “believed” in depression—not really. I’d always thought that someone who “claimed” to have depression needed to get up and get over it.
Until I fell so far down into a pit of depression and anxiety, there was no way I could pull myself out. How naïve I’d been. How cruel my view.
What’s depression like?
It’s like living inside of a swirling, gummy black cloud. You can see through it to the life you had—the life you want—going on around you, but you can’t seem to find a way to push the fog aside to participate. You know in your rational mind what truth is, but your emotions take over and crush the very joy out of your soul. Joy, peace, happiness, hope—they are all strangled by fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. There is nothing other than despair. There is nothing other than your own feelings. It’s a very selfish state, even when you don’t mean for it to be. The blooming, healthy vines that once carried your thoughts and emotions are strangled by black weeds of destruction, killing hopes for the future and replacing them with a new truth—that the only thing to be believed is that the worst of any situation is reality.
I slipped as low as a person could go into the foggy, sticky, black pit. I had the thoughts no one talks about. I faked being fine for a very long time. I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped dreaming or sleeping or laughing. I wallowed in my anger, so full of frustration that I, the one who had always been able, couldn’t do anything to fix myself. I was broken. I realized that I was doing damage to the people I loved most by talking about my fears, so I bottled them up as best I could. In fact, there may be those of you reading this who are surprised, maybe even shocked by my words. Maybe you’re re-evaluating what you think about me as a woman, a mother, a daughter of the Most High King.
And that’s ok. I can handle it because God can handle it.
I did seek professional help. I was treated by a wonderful Christian counselor for PTSD resulting from the trauma I’d experienced at my son’s birth and that was helpful for moving past that moment in time seared into my brain, but it didn’t really help with the big questions. I did try medication as well, but the side effects were, for me, far worse than what I was going through.
Please understand, this was not “just post-partum depression.”
This was a war—the kind waged in spiritual realms. I was under attack in all ways.
So I began to fight. I fought so hard that I didn’t think I’d have any fight left in me. I screamed in prayer. I searched. I became obsessed with finding and understanding my God again. I wanted to understand life again. I prayed like my life depended on it—because it did.
It isn’t my strength I fight with—it’s His.
I’m writing this for two reasons—1) Writers have to write what they know. And although I never would have thought it possible in my own life, I have come to know depression and anxiety, and 2) I write this because you need to know that if you, too, are a lover of Jesus and you are fighting through depression and anxiety, you are not alone. It’s not impossible for someone who loves Jesus deeply to experience the very depths of despair. Christians fight this battle, too.
And if this is you—if you’re fighting it now or you’ve fought it before, know that there is hope. I’m going to write in future posts about some specific things I’ve done to survive this season of my life and to learn from it. I’m going to write about how I found Jesus again—how even when I couldn’t see Him, He was right there beside me, just as He promised.
I’m going to write about how this strong-ish again, faithful, Jesus-loving wife and mama with grand plans for her life learned that God teaches us lessons in the ways we least expect. Sometimes He lets be weak so that His strength is supreme. Sometimes He lets us learn that He is faithful, even when we are not. Sometimes He shows us just how empty we are so that He can fill us with something so much greater. Sometimes He allows our plans to be smashed into a million tiny bits only to build new plans from those shattered pieces. The lessons are hard. Tear-stained, painful, belly-aching, heart-torn-open lessons that bring beauty from ashes. And sometimes that beauty looks nothing like what we’d planned, hoped or expected.
I’m not cured. Not a single day goes by that I don’t have pain in my body. It’s chronic at this point and still mostly mysterious. And I still struggle with the emotional war sometimes. But there’s more sunshine now—more light. More opportunities to celebrate His faithfulness when I trust Him. I can smile and laugh again. I can write again, and this post, the first in a very long time, is proof. I praise Him and thank Him for that! And if I’ve learned nothing else over the past three and a half years, I’ve learned that the fight with anxiety and depression affects far more people—Jesus-loving, God-fearing people—than I ever would have guessed.
Jesus hasn’t left you, child of God. God is still for you. His word is still true, despite what the enemy whispers in your ear and despite what your feelings are screaming at you today. I haven’t found a miracle cure or the answers to my tough questions, but I have found hope again. And that hope begins with simply saying, “I trust you, Jesus.”
So keep fighting. Keep praying. Keep reminding yourself that you are loved and God is good. Ask him to show you His goodness. Never give up because Jesus will never give up on you. There are questions, sure, but Jesus is the answer. Grab on to Him and fight the powers of hell with everything you’ve got. TRUST HIM. Know you are not alone. Know that there are others who know just how difficult, exhausting, and frightening the fight can be. I’m praying for you and I’m praying that these words are laced with grace from the Holy Spirit and that they’ll give you the courage to keep going. You might feel lost in that swirling black cloud of depression– but God sees you. He sees right through all of it to the very core of the soul in you He loves so much. He holds you. He has a plan for you. And He is the answer.
You are deeply loved by the Creator and currently prayed for by me.
12 responses to “When This Jesus-Lover Lost Jesus”
Thank you for sharing, Jenny. I’m grieved for what you’ve been through, but so proud of your bravery in sharing and enduring.
Thank you, Regina! I’m just praying these words encourage others!
Jenny, thank you for sharing your heart and your experiences. As a friend, my heart hurts for you and I want to reach out and show my support in whatever way I can. If you ever want to meet for coffee (or tea 😜)or something, I’d love to do that with you. As a Counselor, I am thrilled and relieved to hear that you have sought help and found some relief through a professional and fellow believer. As both a friend and counselor, and as I believe we are ever on a mission field, I would love the opportunity to one day sit down with you and share resources. I would like to discuss what has helped you in your understanding of and coping with depression and anxiety, both in the mental health and in the spiritual realms.
I have shared my professional page with you on Facebook and I am always posting resources there, so please let me know if you have any questions.
I am praying for you my sweet friend. I know that our battles are in the spiritual realms!!
Thanks, Crystal! I appreciate your support so much!
I am convinced that we have struggles in this life to bring us closer to Jesus and so we can connect with others and offer them hope. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I struggled for several years with depression and anxiety, and while everyone’s struggle is unique, the pain is not. Now I claim Psalm 27:13…I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living…and I do. Thanks for sharing Jenny!
I believe you are so right, Carolyn. I absolutely love that verse and have quoted it regularly on my darkest days.
Jenny, your words could be mine. In 2006, on the night my second daughter was born, I was rushed into the emergency room for a D&C. What I didn’t know at the time was that my blood pressure dipped so low (due to loss of blood) that they had to take me out of deep anesthesia. What I experienced was something I can only attribute to the depths of hell. I became conscious of the noise in the room and the pressure of the D&C, but I wasn’t conscious enough to know what was happening. I thought I was being raped—and dying—and I literally called out to Jesus, but I couldn’t get to Him. What ensued were years of PTSD and almost exactly what you’re describing. Pain. Unexplained physical ailments. Heart palpitations. Neurological issues. I went through dozens of tests. Several doctors. And still, no answers. My world shattered. My faith shattered. I tell people I felt like my life was a clay pot and Jesus dropped me. I was lying there broken into a thousand pieces of my pre-planned life. Nothing fit anymore. I was also raised in a loving Christian home and for the first time in my life, I realized I no longer “wanted” a Savior. I needed one. My thoughts and doubts and questions went to places I never want to admit. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to live a “normal” life again. Or that I’d ever be able to place my faith in God.
But God. Slowly. Patiently. Meticulously. He began to pick up the pieces again and put me back together. No longer did my vessel look like the one I had fashioned. No longer was I being used for the purposes I had envisioned. He was doing something new. Miraculous. Life-altering. He was putting my world, my life, my faith back together in the way He wanted me to be, for my good and His glory.
He didn’t leave me or forsake me. The lessons I learned in my wilderness are too numerous to share here. Just like you, I imagine, the healing came in small—and large—moments. Things that were specifically tailored for me and my walk—and other things that apply to us all.
Two major things helped me, and today I can finally say I’m healed. The scars are still there. Things still trigger the PTSD, and I still have days where I fight the doubts, but I go months now where I don’t even think about it. (Which is amazing, because I lived in a constant state of depression and fear for years.)
First, I went to a functional medicine doctor and learned I had a bunch of vitamin deficiencies. I learned what my genetic dispositions were and learned that I could turn on and off my genes through vitamins, sleep, exercise, and stress management. I had a tailored plan put in place for me and I followed it faithfully for years. I cannot tell you how important proper vitamins are for mental health! My husband went through his personal crisis the past few years and finally hit rock-bottom two years ago. He started to see a functional medicine doctor and he’s 85% better. He’s doing so well.
Second, I learned about a woman named Dr. Caroline Leaf. She’s a neuroscientist from Australia who writes and teaches from a Christian worldview. I read some of her books and went through her 21-day detox program. I learned how the human brain works and how emotions drive our entire body system. Her teaching literally saved my life and I cannot praise her work enough.
I’m so thankful you wrote this post and are brave enough to talk about these issues. I’m so thankful you’ve found healing and that you continue to fight. When you went through your near-death experience, I began to pray for you, because I sensed you were about to launch on a journey similar to the one I’d been on. I know they are two different paths, but I see a lot of similarities—and if there are two of us, I know there are more. We are not alone, no matter what the enemy would like us to believe. I’ll continue to pray for you and for anyone else who needs to hear these words.
I hate to correlate my shattering moment with the day my daughter was born, but sometimes it’s hard to separate them in my mind. It’s gotten easier with time. Next week, on June 19th, my daughter will turn 13. Wow. And God gave me the grace and faith to go through another pregnancy after hers. And we had twins. A double-blessing. God is good. God is faithful. And God is worthy of our trust. Thank you for letting me share.
I couldn’t read this without crying. I had no idea, Gabrielle. It sounds like our journeys have been very, very similar. I’d love to ask God, “why?”– and I have– many times. But I know I’m not going to get the answer this side of Heaven. So I’ve just been looking for what he wants me to learn in it. And He has been so gracious to allow me to learn and experience so much. You’re right– healing comes in little and big ways. There’s been no “magic moment” for me and in some ways I’m grateful because I’d have missed out on so many of the things He wants me to learn and experience through this season. And I do believe it is only a season.
I’m going to have to research a functional medicine doctor. I have seen a naturopathic doctor and done several regimens of supplements that did and did not work for me, but I’ll see if we have someone around here I could see in the realm of functional medicine. I admit, though, my anxieties and fears are 100% tied to my health now. Even a regular checkup causes me stress for weeks beforehand.
I have read several of Dr. Leaf’s books! I’ve also watched her speak on YouTube. She’s amazing and I have learned a lot from her. She’s definitely approaching the science of the mind from a place I’d never understood before!
Thank you so much for sharing with me, Gabrielle. It gives me so much hope to know that I’m not alone in this and that God has brought you back to a place of restoration. I’m on the road and even in all the difficulty, I’m thankful for the journey. Every day He is Good.
Jennifer: I’m so sorry for all you’ve gone through, friend — and for what you’re still facing. I’ve dealt with chronic pain, too, and it just wears. you. down. Thank you for your honesty — it allows others to be honest, too. Praying for you.
Thanks, Beth! I hate that you have chronic pain, too. It is exhausting, right? I keep thanking God for it though, because it reminds me how much I need him every minute of every day. Thanks for reading and thank you for your friendship!
My dear Sister…
Your sharing is a mark of courage that is a clarion call to all of us in Christ to be open and honest with each other. It is reassuring the path that God has taken you through and that even when it seems that all is lost, God is always there (as in the wonderful book of Esther).
The last few months have been a struggle for me as I too had brought myself to a point where “I” was in charge. I did more than shatter the ‘glass’ as you put it; I dove head on through it and kept going. Succumbing to old sinful patterns that left me ashamed and feeling unworthy of God’s love (but who of us is ever?), I dove deeper and deeper, shame fueling rebellion which in turn led to more shame.
Until, as the sometimes invisible God can do, I was reminded by your post that I am not alone in my questioning, doubting existence. No, not better yet, but perhaps no longer diving headlong into the abyss.
Jennifer this is really really powerful! I can see your heart for God and for people. I am very sorry that you had to endure this season of agony, but this powerful testimony is going to bring life to countless others. I am praising the Lord for the way that he is filling up a community of broken and hurting people with his hope through your sacrifice.