A guest post from Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Some families are blessed with the genetic predisposition for blond hair and blue eyed babies, others are blessed with the predisposition for multiple births, others seem to perpetuate an artistic bent or an engineering mind. My family seemed to get the predisposition for anxiety on one side of the family and depression on the other side of the family. My mother endured throughout my childhood years, I just didn’t have a label for it—I just thought that was my mother. My grandmother and aunt suffered with it as well. I didn’t escape its torment either. And that’s just one side of the family.
Depression. It’s a cruel invisible disease—one that we can’t see but can have devastating effects that hurt not just those who suffer but their families and future generations as well.
As a neuropsychologist, I diagnose and treat patients in my office every week who suffer from the devastating effects of this invisible yet heart-wrenching condition and my heart goes out to them because I know the pain they face. I’ve been there. I remember the despair. I remember wondering if it wouldn’t be better just not to be…
Yet I am so grateful that God does give beauty for ashes, and the oil of gladness for mourning (Isaiah 61). And while I would never have voluntarily chosen for this to have been part of my ministry, I am honored to be able to use part of such a dark time in my life to be a light to others’ darkness. What I wanted more than anything during those dark days was for someone to come along side me, hold my hand, look into my eyes, and say “me too!” What a difference that makes.
While I hope I never see such dark days again, I learned several things along the journey that I hope will bring comfort to others as well.
I believe whether we are dealing with the blues, clinical depression, a concussion, or dementia, we must choose to seek after Him and His answers with our whole heart. He says to cast ALL our cares on Him – not just when things are so bad we can’t handle them on our own.
“casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
God doesn’t inflict pain on His children to hurt us. But He can use our trials to build our faith, draw us closer to Him, and give us a testimony of His faithfulness for others to see.
In my darkest times, desperation drew me closest to Him. Desperation made me willing. I see this same dynamic in my patients and in others as well. In “Secrets of the Secret Place,” Bob Sorge says, “While none of us asks God for hardship, we can’t deny the fact that hardship produces desperation, which in turn produces intense intimacy…The wise will seek Him with desperate longing.”
Scripture says we need faith only the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and what’s more, Romans 12:3 tells us that God has given each of us a measure of faith. It’s His gift to us. Yet we can choose what to do with it.
There will always be things competing for our attention and our beliefs. We must choose whom we will serve, what we will pay attention to, and what we will believe.
When I was deep in the valley of depression, I was quick to believe the lies of the enemy, who Scripture refers to as “the accuser of the brethren.” He delighted in repeatedly telling me I wasn’t as good as others, I was unworthy of a life of joy, I didn’t have enough faith, and I was destined to always feel that way. Maybe you’ve heard those same lies too.
As long as I listened to the lies of the enemy, I ignored what God had already said about me.
Yet God was faithful to remind me that:
- Depression doesn’t determine our worth-HE did when Christ died on the cross for us.
- Depression doesn’t dictate our destiny-when we become Christ followers and receive Him into our lives as Savior, that secures our destiny.
- Nothing, not even depression, can separate us from His love.
Once I began to recognize the enemy’s lies operating in my thoughts, my circumstances may not have changed but I could exercise greater gratitude for the truth: Depression didn’t define me, God did. God declared me redeemed, beloved, esteemed, renewed, adored, and healed. Knowing that and believing that brought inner joy despite the sorrow of my circumstances.
I have seen God heal people of conditions instantaneously. Other times it’s a process. Sometimes he heals through prayer and laying on of hands or anointing of oil. Other times it’s through medicine, counseling, or the daily renewing and transforming of our minds. Yet God always desires for us to seek Him in all our ways and let Him direct our paths. In my darkest days I clung to the promise in James 4: 8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” That’s how we grow closer to Him, and He gets all the glory.
The truth is, I think situations, like depression, often drive us to a strengthening of our faith and a richer testimony of His faithfulness. And in that, there is beauty for ashes.
Have you ever gone through such trials that made you desperate? Trials that strengthened your faith? Hold on to truth!
Because of Him, #HopePrevails
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.~~
Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com Dr. Bengtson’s book “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” (Revell publishers, August 16, 2016) is available for purchase now: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/
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To order Hope Prevails: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/