Today I want to write about the hope that I’ve found as I’ve learned to depend on God to renew my mind. Please let me note here quickly that I am NOT saying that praying super hard is going to heal your depression. That is a bit asinine. What I am saying is that the Holy Spirit is powerful, and disciplined practice in God’s word and through prayer, with the added practice of filtering all thoughts through the “God lens,” as I call it, has made an incredible effect on my everyday life, and it has helped me figure out how to cope on a daily basis and fight and WIN over depression.
So you should know that I’m kind of a fighter. I’m a spitfire. I’m fiery. I’m passionate. I hear these things about myself a lot. Forever, I thought this was a negative side of my personality, but I’ve learned to embrace it and control it and bring it out only when needed. Turns out that its a really great benefit, because it makes me a risk-taker and brave and fearless. Sometimes.
When I realized I had depression, I did the whole thing where I snapped three times across the front of my body in a zigzag motion and I was all like “nah-uh! You are not going to win, son!” (Side note: I do this on a daily basis to my actual son. I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.) My instinct was to fight it. Like, DARN IT I WILL BE HAPPY IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO! Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. So my second instinct was to sink into a personal hole and fall off the face of the earth in the name of binge watching television. That also didn’t work. My third instinct was what should have been my first instinct – taking it to the Guy Who Saved Me and checking out if He could handle it. Turns out He can.
I grew up in church. And not just your regular churcher. I was the Minister of Music’s daughter. I was in various 90s children’s musicals, including Daniel, Darius, and Delion, Nic at Nite, Go, Go Jonah, and Levite Genes. I was in Mississippi state competitive Bible Drill (I can look up ANY verse in the WHOLE BIBLE in less than 10 seconds). I was in Awana (TRUTH…ON THE MARCH!). I was at church at 7am on Sunday mornings, 4 pm on Sunday nights, all night Wednesdays, hospital visitation on Tuesdays. I used to be in the balcony of Bowmar Avenue Baptist Church for youth musical rehearsals while my dad ran the show and my mom played the piano and I’d do their choreography and be jealous that I was only a kid still. Once in 5th grade, my talent at the Awana Campout talent show was to say the books of the bible in less than 20 seconds. I can still do it, too. There was one week in Awana in which I passed 35 seconds in one night because I wanted to finish my book before the end of the year. I grew up listening exclusively to Christian music like Point of Grace, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc. My favorites as a teeny kiddo were the Steve Green Hide ‘Em In Your Heart Songs. I was the queen of “somebody backed out of singing a special at the last second, can you pull something out of thin air to sing for the offertory please?” (thanks to my mom’s piano playing amazingness and my dad’s unlimited repertoire access.) Anyway, I think you get the idea that I was like ultimate kid church nerd over here.
There are, to this day, incredible benefits to this life that I had. One of those is the excessive amount of scripture I was forced to memorize as a child. To illustrate my point, I’ll give you a few off the top of my head that directly apply to what I’m saying right now. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Most of the Scripture that I still have easily memorized was seared into my brain (and heart) thanks to Steve Green. Shoutout to you, Steve Green! You rule.
And Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em In Your Heart Songs were the first step on my journey to recovery. My parents bought us the CDs for Christmas (you can get them here, and you should, because they are AWESOME no matter your age) for my kids. We have been playing them NON. STOP. These songs are intended for children, and they have typical 90s arrangements (including recorder and flute as featured instruments!). But that doesn’t matter, because guess what? The content is rock solid. I’d even say the content is sword-like. Because it is straight up Scripture, y’all. And you can’t get a better weapon than that.
The best thing about listening to a song that is word-for-word Scripture is that it gets stuck in your head. And the best thing about Scripture getting stuck in your head is that it is literally hidden in your heart, and it comes to mind when you need it.
This is the first way that God healed me.
My mind is a black hole. I think very, very quickly, constantly, never ending. You can probably tell from the high volume of words in my blog posts. My mind and Lorelai Gilmore’s mind are very similar, although I like to think that I generally have a better filter than her (not always, but generally). Because of this, I tend to spin out of control with negative thoughts. Whenever I’m presented with a worry or negative thought, it is like poison. It takes over my entire mind. It makes my heart race. It controls me and it overcomes me. And then I remember (and when I say “I remember,” what I really mean is that God, in all His glory, takes a moment to remind me who I am to Him):
“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things. if anything (anything) is excellent (excellent), if anything is praiseworthy (praiseworthy), think about, think about, think about such things!”
“you knit me together in my mother’s womb, you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you, I praise you, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I praise you, I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
“there is a friend (there is a friend), a friend who sticks (a friend who sticks), closer than a brother! there is a friend (there is a friend), a friend who sticks (a friend who sticks), closer than a brother! an F-R-I-E-N-D who sticks closer than a B-R-O-T-H-E-R, closer than a brother!”
“when I am afraid, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, when I am afraid I will trust in you, in God whose Word I praise. In God I trust, when I am afraid, in God I trust, in God whose Word I praise.”
“the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
“do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, do not be overcome by evil. with good, with good, overcome evil with good.”
“let us not grow weary while doing good, in due season we shall reap. let us not grow weary, while doing good, in due season we shall reap. if we don’t lose heart, if we don’t lose heart, in due season we shall reap, if we don’t lose heart, if we don’t lose heart, in due season we shall reap.”
and my FAVORITE:
“a joyful heart is good medicine, good medicine a joyful heart. a joyful heart is good medicine, a joyful heart is good. but a broken spirit dries up the bones, a broken spirit dries up the bones. a joyful heart is good medicine, good medicine a joyful heart. a joyful heart is good medicine, a joyful heart is good!”
I just did all those off the top of my head. They might not be word for word, and I may have mixed up a few words. But you guys, this is my biggest weapon! Think about that last one.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22.
I love this verse so. much. I think it is so cool that it says that a joyful heart is medicine. We tend to think that a joyful heart is something that just happens, like “oh, I’m feeling joyful today, yay!” But it isn’t. A joyful heart is a conscious choice. Just like I choose to take some Tylenol when I have a headache to dull the pain, a joyful heart is something I can choose to put on when I’m having a broken spirit that is drying up my bones. I can choose to dwell in the joy I have through God’s provision. Joy is not a feeling. It is a choice.
This truth has been astronomically life changing for me. I realized that joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness comes and goes like a quick rain. It can quench for a while, but then I’m waiting for more. But joy is, to quote my pastor Jeff, a quiet river. It is always right there, steadily moving, consistently full. It is water that flows from another place, not water I have to make up for myself. I just have to choose to walk over to it, acknowledge it, and drink from it. For me, drinking from it is a change in attitude. It is replacing my sour, poisonous depressive and anxious thoughts with the truth of Scripture. I repeat the Scripture over and over again to myself. It changes my mind. It renews it. It quenches it.
The kicker is that truth is not always happy. The truth is that God allows seasons of heartache for us. Some of our dreams don’t come true. Some people never see earthly prosper. Some people lose everything. Job did. But the truth is that God is there. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There is nothing to fear, because I can trust in God whose word I praise. I don’t have to grow weary, because in due season I will reap (even if that season is not on this earth). I do not have to be overcome by evil, because I can overcome evil with good. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God is watching everything. He sees me. This is how we know what Love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. These things aren’t happy. They don’t make me go YAHOO. They don’t make me suddenly feel things. But they replace the emptiness with something full and powerful and eternally thirst-quenching.