It was the end of my first week out of counseling. It had been really rough. It was like everything I would normally have my counseling session to hash out at had come to the surface and punched me in the face. It was all I could do to hang on to the few moments of victory I did have. And when I think about it, that’s all we can ever do anyway.
I remembering talking to myself A LOT that week, talking myself out of negativity, talking myself out of assumptions I was making, talking myself out loneliness. I did a lot of praying; I made a lot of good choices. But it was SO hard. Trying to ward off depression like this was exhausting.
At one point that week, I came upon this blog post that really hit home. It was about breakthrough. The words that grabbed me were:
You’re on the verge of giving up. You’re barely holding on to the hope that someway, somehow, God is going to show up.
That’s a great place to be, my friend. You’re closer than you think.
And then the author provided these 4 conditions of what your situation before experiencing breakthrough:
1. It looks impossible.
2. It looks like failure is final.
3. It looks like you’ve waited forever.
4. It looks hopeless.
On an emotional and spiritual level, that’s exactly how I felt.
There was a specific area in which I knew I needed breakthrough, but I didn’t know how to get myself there. My silver linings playbook therapy just wasn’t cutting it.
It was this: Every time my mind went back to a moment I was crying in a room full of people or hiding in the bathroom at a group event or sitting paralyzed on a park bench or lying in bed in the middle of the day waiting for someone to do something to pull me out of this – every single one of those moments would still come back to haunt me and threatened to pull me back into the darkness.
I didn’t know how to shake these memories. They were so powerful all I could do was ignore them and look away when they came up. If I didn’t, I would go back down with them.
And then Thursday happened. Then Saturday. And then Sunday. Let me start with Thursday.
Thursday night, our church community went out on a treasure hunt. (Basically, we spent time asking God for clues and then wrote down these clues in 5 categories: location, a person’s name, clothing, illness, and other. Crazy, I know. There’s a book about it.)
I was on a team with a lady from Hong Kong, a lady from Korea, and a lady from Australia. The lady from Australia (who had no idea who I was and had only just arrived in Taiwan the other day) had written down “American,” “smiley,” “beautiful,” and “depression.” The lady from Korea (who happens to be a good friend), upon hearing these clues, exclaimed, “That’s you! We need to pray for you!” To which the lady from Australia replied, “But I wrote down depression and you’re not struggling with depression.” (You see how little she knew about me, which is extremely significant in terms of these clues BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL FROM GOD!) No one prayed for me, and the night went on.
On Saturday, this team of people from Hong Kong planned this mega prayer and worship event. I went to as much of it as I could, because somehow in my heart I felt like this was going to be it, going to be where I get my breakthrough; and I never feel like that.
It was the prayer stations that did me in, or I should say, let me out. There were 4 prayer stations and a prophetic room (a prophetic room being a place where people pray for you and say things to you and even draw a picture for you, all of this based on things God told them about you). The prayer stations were built around the passage John 20:19-22:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said,“Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Context: This was following Jesus’ death on a cross.
Each prayer station had a different “task” based on this passage. At the first prayer station, I took a padlock from a chain and thought about the lies that had me locked in darkness, just like the disciples were locked in a room out of fear and sadness.
Then at the next station, I sat at the foot of the cross, asking Jesus to unlock me. As I sat there, every moment I was crying in a room full of people or hiding in the bathroom at a group event or sitting paralyzed on a park bench or lying in bed in the middle of the day waiting for someone to do something to save me came to my mind. And, just as Jesus had appeared to the disciples, He broke into my darkness.
And just as Jesus appeared to the disciples hiding behind locked doors and the truth of His resurrection had set the disciples free from fear, Jesus appeared to me as I cried in a room full of people. Jesus appeared to me as I sat on a bathroom floor, sobbing. Jesus appeared to me as I sat paralyzed on a bench waiting for someone to come save me. Jesus appeared to me while I laid in bed in the middle of the day, feeling cut off from the world.
And He said to me, “Peace be with you!”
You’d think after such a powerful breakthrough like this, it would be enough. Now, I can go home, rejoicing; but there was more.
After Jesus appeared to me, I threw my padlock in the basket at the foot of the cross and stood up. Right before the third prayer station was the lady from Australia who had basically described me in her treasure hunt clues but didn’t know it. She was MY third prayer station, so I asked her to pray for me.
The words she prayed and everything else that happened after that was literally like God restoring me with truth: the truth of who He is, the truth of who I am, the truth of my connections with everyone around me. It WASN’T enough to just be set free. He was sending me out, just he like he sent his disciples. He was sending me out to break into the darkness of people here in Taiwan, where he sent me 5 years ago, just as he had broken into mine. And everything else that happened after that experience at the second prayer station were just words and words of truth and encouragement from people who didn’t even know me. Their words spoke directly to where I was, emotionally and spiritually. Their words were from God.
It was powerful. And then Sunday happened.
I want to share what happened on Sunday, because it can be quite easy to fall in the trap of thinking that everything gets easier after a breakthrough like that. It doesn’t; don’t ever think that.
It was Easter Sunday, and I was translating for the speaker that night. As a rule of thumb at our church, the speaker and the translator always spend time in the prayer room together before the service, in preparation and prayer. Later, they are joined by the pastor and the worship team and everyone prays for the night together.
You may or may not have gathered from other writings that I am currently taking a break from my church’s leadership team. Anyway, when I saw the words “the leadership team is getting stronger and stronger” as we were all praying, rejection and worthlessness suddenly overcame me. For 15 minutes I struggled to take a position against these feelings but kept failing. Finally, I knew the only way to fight this was to speak out (something I NEVER did during my depression and every time was worse for it), so I did. The lie was broken, truth was declared, and I felt God’s peace. I felt God’s love. I had done something I didn’t have the strength to do before.
And it was an amazing Sunday night!
And that is how Jesus unlocked the door of depression in my life and broke into my darkness. That is what He wants to do for everyone who feels trapped by the darkness of lies and depression.