“Shut up, stupid!” The words hissed out the corner of his mouth. I dared to dart my eyes in his direction, noting the angry countenance and averted eyes. My cheeks flamed red, and I stared at the ground, barely noticing the gym floor passing underfoot as we marched around the room in formation.
Left, right, left, right. Our feet pounded out the rhythm as quickly as my brain swirled with questions and embarrassment. Left, right, left, right. “I am NOT stupid,” I thought fiercely. “I’m NOT!” Left, right, left, right. “Why should I ‘shut up’? I may be only ten, but that doesn’t mean my opinion doesn’t matter!” Left, right, left, right. “I don’t want to be here. I want to leave! Why do I have to stand next to him?” Left, right, left, right. Panic and hurt rose in my chest, choking my throat. Roaring filled my ears. Left, right, left, right. Would this never end?
I have always been a very happy, people-loving person; and I tend to appreciate those around me, even when they have given me no reason to do so. I had “friends” (really more acquaintances) that I respected and wanted to be just like. They were awesome! Two years older than me, they knew everybody and were the perfect kids to be friends with! Unfortunately, they didn’t see me the way I saw them.
This night was the first in a long year of verbal abuse from the people that I looked up to. Some statements were hidden under quiet whispers, others were blatantly declared in front of the adults. But nobody did anything, not even my best friend.
Only one lady really bothered to find out what was going on. The mom of one of my brother’s friends, Tonya* came out a few times to visit her son at his boarding school. The first time I met her, she was there for only a weekend. She had just a few days with her son, but she took time out to spend with me. Tonya sat down with me one afternoon and we talked for several hours. Well, I talked; she listened. She comforted me, encouraged me, and pointed me toward God as my Truth. I left her feeling clean and strong.
I didn’t know that she had cancer.
For months, I watched her battle, wishing that we lived nearer so I could help. I read and reread her email updates praying and hoping. But they stopped coming as she got weaker, and we finally received the news. Tonya had lost the battle.
But my battle was just beginning.
“I told her my problems, and she died. I don’t want to kill others too!” I sobbed into my pillow at night. I knew that this thought was silly; but it was so much easier to tell myself this than to open up to someone else. I couldn’t stand being broken again, and that was much more likely if people knew what was going on.
“Nobody wants to be around me. I guess I am stupid, like they said,” these and other thoughts began dragging at my every step. I didn’t know what depression was, I just figured that no one wanted me. “God, please,” I begged one evening, “if you really love me, show me something!” I flipped open my Bible randomly and my eyes fell on Psalm 121.
“I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth,
And even forever more.”
Hope filled my heart and I relaxed in the knowledge that I was safe and loved.
But eventually even the Bible lost its power to calm my heart. Without realizing what I was doing, I began testing the love and loyalty of those around me, especially my mom. I turned into the stereotypical teenager, snapping back and reacting to everything out of anger. One day, I said something particularly angry and my mom’s patience snapped. She slapped me across the face, hard enough for me to lose my balance. I glared up at her angry face and felt the bond between us break. “Not even Mom wants me around,” I brooded. “Maybe I’ll comply to her wishes.” A thirteen-year-old girl shouldn’t be considering suicide as the best option; and a fourteen-year-old girl shouldn’t try it.
But I did.
I glanced around my room. It was evening so the curtains were closed with the lamp on. My door was shut. “Perfect. Hopefully it’ll all be over before anyone knows what’s happening.” I stared at the thin scarf I held in my hands. “Are you really ready for this?” I asked myself. “You will die. Are you ready?” I thought long and hard about my answer. I understood that if I killed myself, I would not be saved in heaven; but would instead die in the knowledge that I had broken God’s law. “Are you ready? Yes.”
I knotted the scarf around my neck and tightened. My breath cut off, and my brain clouded up. I thought, “So this is what it’s like to die.” Then, nothing. I could not think, I could not move. I couldn’t have reversed my decision even if I wanted to. There was no strength in my arms to obey anything I might have told them to do. My vision was darkening and my mind seemed to be full of fog. I was simply waiting. Waiting for death.
Suddenly, a voice ripped through the fog with three words. “YOU WILL DIE!!!” Fear electrified my body and my hands scrambled at my neck, ripping off the scarf. With the first breath, my mind and vision cleared; and again I sat staring at the scarf. “God, was that you?” I asked. “I was okay with those words — ‘you will die’ — just a few seconds ago. Now I’m terrified of them! Did you stop me?”
A few days later, I heard about a Bible camp coming near me. Somehow I knew that I had to be there and I begged my parents to allow me to go. After much discussion, they agreed to pay for me to attend. Some friends from church offered to drive me up, I packed my bags, and I was ready for whatever was going to happen next!
The camp consisted of a team that traveled around the world to wherever people called them, teaching people how to find God’s revival through Bible study and prayer. Prayer was a major focus with an all-night prayer meeting and a prayer room open all day everyday. Every meeting, people would get up front and praise God for working in their lives while they were in the prayer room. “I have got to try that,” I decided.
After lunch, I followed the signs down the hall until I found the small, upstairs room. A blanket was spread on the floor with tissue boxes scattered around; a half dozen chairs lined the walls; and water bottles and booklets were stacked in the corner. About a dozen people knelt in the center of the room praying. I joined them and waited for God to strike me with His power or whatever He was supposed to do. Nothing happened.
I went back to the next meeting and listened to more testimonies about the power of the prayer room. My jaw set in determination. “I want that! And I’m not leaving here till I get it!” Repeatedly I returned to the prayer room, but still nothing happened.
Thursday, the day of the all-night prayer meeting, arrived. I listened from my seat at the very back, alone, as the announcer invited everyone to come that night to pray. “I really don’t want to go,” I mused to myself. “God hasn’t done anything for me so far, so why should I even try?” I pulled out the information booklet hanging in a lanyard around my neck and flipped it open. Skimming each page, my eyes landed on the one containing information about all-night prayer.
“The Healthy Soldier Spirit Challenge: We encourage you to take part in at least one hour of the all-night prayer Thursday night.”
“Grrr,” I thought, “it’s a dare. I’m not stupid enough to follow every dare, but sometimes I know I need to. Fine! I’ll go, but only for an hour!”
Later that evening, I found myself seated next to my pastor’s family listening to the end of the evening devotional. Suddenly a wave of darkness washed over me. “I’m alone. Completely alone,” I realized. “Yes, I’m with friends in a crowded room; but no one cares about me, not even God.”
“…so prayer is a spiritual battle…” the voice of the speaker interrupted my reverie. “Spiritual battle?” I wondered. “Wait, Satan is attacking me? I can’t fight this alone, I need help. Who can I tell? Pastor? But what if something happens to him and his wife because I told them? What if they die like Tonya?
“No. No, I need help. I think I’m finally ready for help.” Quickly I scribbled a note to my pastor and his wife.
“Please pray for me,” it read. “Satan is attacking me with depression.” I watched them carefully out of the corner of my eye and caught the tender look of compassion that they cast in my direction. His wife tightened her hand around mine in a loving grasp.
The prayer time started with everyone crowding close together at the front of the room. I sat quietly on the floor next to Pastor, listening to the prayers. Suddenly, a shock traveled through me. A woman prayed, “Lord, be with those who are fighting something and help them to overcome, not someday but tonight!”
“She’s praying for me!” A tear trickled down my cheek, quickly followed by another one. A brief song interrupted the prayers, and I cried harder as each sweet note fell on my ear.
“There shall be showers of blessing,
This is the promise of love!
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above!
Showers of blessing
Showers of blessing we need!
Mercy drops ‘round us are falling
But for the showers we plead!”
Pastor noticed me crying and gently rubbed my back. When the song ended, the intercessory prayer time began when people would step to the front and be prayed over. Pastor whispered in my ear, “You see that lady in yellow on the other side of the group? Two years ago she sat in this very spot and asked for prayer and now she’s a changed woman. I would encourage you to go up.” I nodded, indicating that I would think about it. “Don’t think too long,” he warned. “I’ll pray for you.”
At the next break, I cautiously stepped through the people and approached the chair. Fear that I would be rejected hammered through my mind. My body trembled uncontrollably. I slipped into the seat between two staff members. I had never found the details of floor so indescribably interesting as at that moment. “How can we pray for you?” one staff member asked.
“Um, I think Satan is attacking me with depression and I want to be free,” I mumbled. A sympathetic sigh rose from the people around me. Two volunteers — including Pastor — prayed for me and one of the other staff finished. I couldn’t stop the silent sobs that were shaking my body. Everyone drew in close and laid their hands on me. Love poured through their touch into me, healing my tired and broken heart. I went for an hour and stayed all night, soaking in the love and warmth around me.
I was free from depression for a grand total of a day and a half. Saturday afternoon, my mom came up to visit, and I eagerly told her about what had happened. Her skeptical eyes revealed that she wasn’t sure if the depression that I was telling her about had actually happened or if I was just making it up. Her doubt crept into my mind, and I knew that this was a chapter of my life that I would have to hide from those closest to me.
Sad and discouraged, I made my way back to the prayer room. “I won’t pray for myself,” I decided. Kneeling with the others in that small, upstairs room, I began praying for my brother and others close to me. I’m not sure what happened, but suddenly I couldn’t hold the tears in. Sobs racked my body for minutes on end while I totally gave myself and my emotions up to God. I stayed in the prayer room for four more hours, weeping, rejoicing, and loving; but it felt more like a half hour; and I wished that it would last longer.
That was almost four years ago, and-praise God!-I have been depression free ever since! The staff that prayed with me during the all-night prayer meeting have since asked me to share my story at various conferences and events, and I have been blessed to meet people whose lives have been affected (in a good way) when they heard my story.
I pray that God will bless whoever reads this. If you are struggling with depression, know that God is with you and that there are people willing to pray with you and love you, even when you feel unloveable. I know the struggle is difficult, but I also know that it’s not impossible.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:24).
*Name has been changed