My battle with depression began in 1995 when I found myself paralyzed, imprisoned by darkness, sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark pit.  I was not alone. Depression is America's number one health problem. While many believe that depression is an emotional and physical disorder others insist it is a spiritual problem.  They are all right.  I had no idea how I had fallen into the pit of depression and could see no way of escape. So I did the only thing I could do.  I cried out to God! 

Psalm 40:1-2 "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."

God came to me with deliverance in His hand - steps uniquely designed for my journey from the darkness into the Light.  He has a plan just for you - a plan that will set you free and lift you out of the pit. 

Step one:  Get past the past

Freedom from darkness demands an accounting of the past, straining every life experience through the truth that "all" things work together for our good.  The will of God penalizes no one!  We can allow our past to defeat us or empower us. The choice to harness the power of the past became a compelling weapon in my war with the darkness. 

Step two: Be patient. 

Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the Lord."  "Patiently" means "without tiring". It is in the "waiting times" that God accomplishes His greatest work. Waiting is not a passive or weak choice. Learning to wait in the right way with the right perspective is spiritual obedience and crucial to experiencing freedom from the pit.  When I finally came to the end of myself, He was there, waiting to begin a new work that would redefine who I am and make clear His highest plan for my life.

The little boy saw the caterpillar wiggling a path along the sidewalk. Curious, he watched the caterpillar's struggle to get out of its cocoon. Wanting to help, he ran home, grabbed a pair of scissors and raced back to cut the moth prisoner free.  He watched anxiously as the caterpillar spread its wings, trying to fly - but couldn't - because it is in the struggle from the confining cocoon that the butterfly's wings gain enough strength to fly. Be patient, my friend, it is through the struggle of the trial - the journey out of the pit - that the very best part of us takes flight.

Step three:  Embrace the pit

Isaiah 45:3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."  (NIV)  Notice the word "LORD" is capitalized meaning "Abba Father" or "Dearest Daddy". God goes before us and in every dark moment buries a valuable treasure or stores a rich secret.  We can find the treasure or learn the secret by passing through that darkness - embracing the pit.

Step four:  Face the darkness

Isaiah 40:29 "He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak." (NLT) Emotional health begins at the point of emotional integrity when we are willing to say, "I need help!" My husband was the pastor of a large and fast growing church when I crashed and burned. We had a choice to make.  We could either openly share my struggle or pretend it didn't exist.  I finally encouraged Dan to tell the entire church and was amazed to find that sharing the crisis lessened its grip on my life.  Admitting the reality of the problem weakened the power of the problem. 

Step five:  Ask for help.

I encourage anyone struggling with depression to get a complete physical since this disorder is often rooted in a chemical imbalance or undetected illness.  If there is no physical problem - pursue Christian counseling.  God gave counselors their gift to minister knowing that we would need them!  Proverbs 15: 22 "Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success."  (NLT)

Another vast source of help is other believers.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 "An enemy might defeat one person, but two people together can defend themselves; a rope that is woven of three strings is hard to break." (NCV)  The strength of a cord doubles when two strands are woven together but when tripled, its strength increases by ten!  My family and the people of our church brought meals, cleaned my house, cared for my kids, called, wrote and prayed me out of the darkness into the Light.  God created us to need each other. A shared load is a lighter load.  Ask for help.

Step six:  Count on God.

God is drawn to broken people. Psalm 40:1 says,"He turned to me."  Notice that David didn't turn to God.  He couldn't.  David's strength was gone.  He had run out of answers and was totally helpless.  God saw the struggle of His child and turned to Him with love and healing in His hand. Just as God heard the cry of David, He will hear yours! 

A final thought:  Your path may seem endless and even cruel at times.  But when you cannot see His hand or understand His process, trust His heart.  Your deliverance begins and ends with one small step of desperate hope and absolute abandonment to God, the One who knows you best and loves you most.  Walk straight ahead through your fear and with each step, moment by moment the darkness will slowly but surely begin to lift.  One day soon you will look around to see that you are coming out of the dark!


 

Mary Southerland is a pastor's wife, mother of two, speaker and author. She has spoken to thousands of women all over the United States as well as Latin America, South Africa, Costa Rica, England and New Zealand. She is also the author of Coming Out of the Dark, the story of her personal struggle with clinical depression, as well as Sandpaper People due to be released July 1, 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Mary writes a weekly column for Rick Warren's Tool Box on pastors.com and has an extensive tape ministry that speaks to the heart of women in every season of life. Mary and her family live in Waxhaw, NC. Email: journeyfriends@cs.com or visit her website at www.marysoutherland.com