Some time ago, I went through a period of deep anxiety and depression. It got so bad that, for a brief time, I contemplated committing suicide.
I had experienced several traumatic situations, one right after another. Instead of practicing what I had been preaching to others, however—things like trusting the Lord with all your heart and not leaning on your own understanding—I did just the opposite. I allowed my pride to govern my responses. I convinced myself that I was tough enough and knew enough that I could handle everything on my own. Everything!
By the time I was ready to acknowledge that I couldn’t handle those things alone, it was too late. Through my pride, I had allowed Satan into my life, and he was bombarding my mind with thoughts aimed to destroy me.
“You know, you really don’t deserve all this stuff you’re going through,” he would say. “If God loves you so much, why is He allowing you to go through all this mess? If things get any worse, you might as check out of here and go be with the Lord, seeing as how you already know where you’re going.” His deception was very subtle; he knew that it would take only a little leaven to permeate my entire mind.
I have to admit, Satan’s lies appealed to my natural senses. Why would a good God allow me to suffer such hardships? Why shouldn’t I check out of this life and head to my heavenly home? I was so tired of the fight.
Looking back, I can clearly see that Satan’s aim was to take me out—to steal, kill, and destroy my life. It’s his plan for every believer. Satan knows he has no claim over those who are born-again believers, for they have been sealed in Christ unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). But even though he can’t get us—because he can’t get us—he does everything he can to make us ineffective for God’s kingdom. He is determined to shut us up any way he can. And that includes tricking us into taking our own lives.
Satan’s main tactic against God’s children is to get us to question God’s love for us. He tries to convince us that God’s promises aren’t for us, that He has abandoned us, and that we have no hope. He also attacks us with sickness and other physical trials, all with the hope that our thoughts and energies will be focused on our circumstances, and not on God.
Now, I have taught others that the stronger the test that God allows, the more confidence He has in our ability to endure it. I’ve reminded people that God has promised He won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear, but with every temptation He will also make a way of escape for us (1 Corinthians 10:13). I knew that. I’d preached it.
But when it came to my own life, it was a different story.
By the time I admitted I couldn’t handle the things I was going through on my own, I had been diagnosed with an advanced case of anxiety and depression. The doctors told me I was too far gone for any solution other than medication. And I was determined not to go there.
I was furious that God had allowed this to happen to me. I was a prime example of those written about in Proverbs 19:3, who ruin their lives through their own foolishness and then pour out their anger on God.
I refused to take antidepressants. I believed taking them would be acknowledging that I was losing my mind, and I was never going to do that. Taking pills seemed to me to be an act of weakness.
So I devised my own solution to my problems. I never once consulted God or considered for a second that medication and doctors might be something He could use to help me. Instead, I did things my way, and my way gave Satan an even stronger foothold in my life.
I began drinking wine and smoking marijuana to help me relax. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t sleep for more than two or three hours at a time. I also couldn’t eat. I was too nervous. I justified my self-medication methods, convincing myself that it was okay for me to use these things to help me sleep and eat better. It was for my health.
But Satan knew my former addiction battles with drugs and alcohol, and he knew that bringing these substances back into my life would open a door for my destruction. His plan worked. It didn’t take long for my addiction to make a come back.
Then came the guilt. I’m telling you, the guilt and addiction quickly outweighed all my previous issues put together. Now I was really angry with the Lord.
Before this depression thing came up, I had been clean for 27 years. Twenty-seven years! I just couldn’t understand why God would “allow me” to fall into yet another cycle of addiction after being clean for so long.
In my eyes, everything that happened to me was His fault—everything. I reasoned that, being a sovereign God, none of this would have happened if He hadn’t allowed it. Crazy, isn’t it, that I would blame God for my relapse in addiction? Did I really blame Him for putting the wine glass to my lips and the joint in my mouth? Yeah, I did.
In my deception, I began to bargain with the Lord. “Okay, Lord,” I said, “if You take away this anxiety and depression, I’ll stop smoking this pot.” After all, I wouldn’t have broken my sobriety if He’d have protected me like He was supposed to. It was His fault.
Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t work out too well. My addiction got progressively worse. I continued to blame my struggles on God, and again, suicidal thoughts attacked my mind.
Praise the Lord, I didn’t succumb to them. God, in His great mercy, gave me the strength to endure. With never-ending patience, He called out to me, even in the midst of my rebellion and pride. What a good God He is!
Looking back, I can see that my trials did not lead to my downfall and suffering. I know for certain God didn’t desert me. There was no lack of protection on His part. Rather, I allowed my own spirit of pride to deceive me into thinking that I was strong enough to overcome my addiction alone and that I knew enough to handle life in my own strength.
I learned the hard way that I have no strength outside of God’s. It’s only in His strength that I can do anything (Philippians 4:13). Apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
Praise the Lord, when I finally stopped blaming God and trying to negotiate with Him, when I humbled myself before Him, He lifted me up (James 4:10). He lovingly gave me a place of refuge. He became my source of strength. He became, as He always was and is, the ever-present help in my time of need (Psalm 46:1).
You know what else happened? The devil and his depression and anxiety lost their hold on me. James 4:7 says, “Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” As I humbled myself before God, He gave me the strength to resist the enemy and his lies. And that’s when I found victory and peace. My addiction was defeated.
You may not have experienced the same level of depression and anxiety that I did, but I’m sure in some way you can relate, even if to a small extent. Have you felt overwhelmed by life’s circumstances? Have you felt like God has abandoned, forgotten, or held out on you? Have you been tempted to face life’s battles in your own strength, agreeing with Satan’s lie that “you’ve got this”? Or have you listened to Satan’s lies that say, “It will never get better. You might as well check on outta here”?
If that’s you, please learn from my story. Don’t attempt to face your trials on your own and in your own strength. That leads to nothing but loneliness and despair. Instead, let God help you, and let others help you too. If you need medical help, get it. Don’t attempt to go through this journey of life alone. Ask for help. Accept help. Don’t cut short the life that you’ve been given. Live it with and for Jesus Christ.
Photo by Tom Sodoge