An increasing number of people in today's society suffer from depression. Words are inadequate to describe the thoughts and feelings which depression brings. Only someone who has been there themselves knows the despair and darkness which consumes the mind. Advice form well-meaning friends, such as, 'pull yourself together', or 'snap out of it', are useless. They cannot understand that when depression strikes, there seems no way out.
If you have depression you may be saying to yourself that no one can feel as bad as I do. But I assure you that you are not alone in your torment. Behind the false smiles and bravado of many people there is a mind which screams for release and peace. Do not despair, there is hope, there is a way out.
For years I struggled with clinical depression. Facing day after day took all my strength, and the voice of suicide was an almost constant presence in my thoughts. But then I made a decision which radically changed my life.
One evening I was sat alone in my misery and torment, and was drinking heavily in an attempt to blot out the pain which life had become. Suddenly realised that I had nowhere left to turn. Was this it? Was this all that life was going to be from now on? I had already suffered many years with depression. Now the death of my grandfather had pushed me totally over the edge. He had been everything to me, my grandfather, my father and my best friend all rolled into one. Now he was gone, and a despair gripped me like never before. I would wake up in the morning and for a brief second I would feel ok, but then the horror would rush in, just as if it were waiting for me, and once again the darkness would flood my whole being, and I would drag myself through yet another day.
I spent many drunken nights attempting to escape the mental torture which had become my reality. My thoughts and despair would inevitably drift toward my grandfather, and I found myself in tears praying for his departed spirit, even though I wasn’t religious. I was not a believer in God, for after all we are conditioned to think of all that stuff as superstitious nonsense. However, on the night my grandfather had died I had somehow sensed the exact moment that he had passed away, even though I was in a different room, so I did think there may be a spiritual dimension to life. I believed that there must be something out there, some greater life force, or energy, and it was to this unknown power I addressed my prayers.
And so here I was yet again, another night drinking my way to oblivion, but this night something different was about to happen.
I had made my attempt to escape in the bottle, and had got to the ‘praying to the Great Spirit part’, when in the depth of my misery a different voice spoke into my mind, one which did not seem to be from myself. Very clear, very calm and very direct, the voice of thought said, “Pray for yourself.” I broke down weeping in total despair. I had never considered praying for myself, so I was shocked to hear this clear inner voice of thought telling me to do so. But my response was almost immediate. I knew there was nowhere else to go. So for the first time in my life I prayed for myself. Not the repetitive prayers we used to say at school, or like those I had heard at weddings and funerals, but one from the very bottom of my heart and soul. With tears in my eyes I simply said, "God, if you are real, I need your help". Instantly something happened deep inside. It was almost un-perceivable, but there was a change. A spark of life ignited somewhere within the blackness, and somehow I no longer felt alone.
As the days went by I found myself thinking about God, but it was not just thoughts about some undefined Great Spirit. It was to the God of the Christians I was being drawn.
Months passed, I still suffered from depression, I still drank to blot out the torment, but I found myself somehow beginning to believe in God, and inexplicably my faith began to grow. I bought myself an old Bible from a secondhand shop and began to read the parts about Jesus. And the more I read, the more different I felt. I even began to think of myself as Christian! After all I now believed in the God of the Christians. I was reading the Bible, and I prayed. So, as far as I understood, I was a Christian.
Coincidence or fate, a new force was moving in and around my life. Two friends, who were heavily into the drug scene, suddenly started going to church! They had been to a Billy Graham meeting in Sheffield and 'gotten saved', whatever that meant. They hadn’t know about my depression, or what had begun to take place in my own life. Our experiences were unconnected, but the threads of destiny were being drawn together as if by some unseen force.
In the past when I had met up with them they would talk of the usual stuff, music and drugs, but now they began to talk about God and Jesus in a way I had never heard before. They had certainly changed, their eyes were alive, where before they had been dull and lifeless!
They asked many times if I wanted to go to a 'gospel meeting', as they called it. But I wanted no part of it. Church wasn’t for me, even though I now believed in God. However I very unexpectedly had a change of mind.
On evening I was again wrestling with depression. Things had taken the usual course. I was drunk and in misery, but I was praying for myself, just like the voice had told me, and I was thinking about something Jesus had said in his teachings. Suddenly the clear inner voice of thought spoke into my mind again! The voice simply said, "Go to Church". As I had decided that I was defiantly not going to church, I was again shocked to hear this inner voice of thought telling me to go. But immediately all the voices telling me why I shouldn’t go to church came flooding into my mind. "What will all your friends and family think? What about your tough guy biker image? If they found out you’re going to church they will ridiculed and mock you. Young people don’t go to church anymore, its old fashioned superstition, and not cool.
But then the clear voice answered. "None of your friends know just how bad the depression is, and why should you care what they, or anyone else thinks. It’s you that counts, it’s how you feel that matters". After much more inner debate between these two rivalling modes of thought, I made a decision, I would go to church.
I tell you the truth, it’s not an easy thing to walk in through that church door for the first time, but with the encouragement of my two friends, I did it. I would never have believed it, there I was, sat in church. I believed in God, I prayed, I read the Bible. That surly made me a Christian - But there was more to come!
My previous experience of church had been mainly weddings, christenings and funerals, so I had expected it to be like 'songs of praise', the television program. But what I encounter was very different. I had always thought that a Christian was a person who believed that God existed somewhere, tried to be good, and then just hoped to go to an afterlife in heaven! And I think that is how most in society see it.
But what I heard was nothing like I had ever heard before. Up got the preacher and talked about Jesus as though he had met him! He talked about knowing God’s presence in your life. He spoke as if Christ was a reality one could know! That threw me, what is this guy talking about? I had never heard this stuff before! Here was a guy was telling me that I could ask Jesus into my life and know him - now! I began to look around. I sensed that there was something different about many people in the church. They had something.
The preacher continued talking about repentance, being sorry for all the wrong we have done in our lives, and turning away from them. He spoke of asking Jesus to come and cleanse us on the inside, and accepting him as Lord and personal saviour so that we could begin again, but this time with Jesus. To be honest I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but something was impacting me inside!
Then the preacher said something else that took me completely by surprise. He said that if there was anyone who wanted to ask Jesus, to come and stand at the front of the church, and in their hearts to ask Jesus to forgive them and come into their lives. He said we don’t need to know who you are or what you have done in your life, that’s between you and God, we will just pray with you.
Oh, no way! This was nothing like anything I had experienced before. But the strangest thing was the feelings and thoughts that I was getting inside. I had honesty considered myself to be a fairly good man. But now I suddenly realised just how black my heart was, and how bad I had been throughout my life. The lying, the cheating, the stealing, being cruel and vengeful. Now I realised that even the way I thought was just plain wrong. I was suddenly faced with the realisation of how much I needed cleansing and healing, and I knew that I wanted this Jesus in my life. But me, go to the front of a church, no way! I wasn’t that kind of person.
A battle began to rage inside my mind between two opposing threads of thought. I wanted to go to the front of the church, but another force was stopping me, and my feet seemed to be fastened to the floor. My heart pounded like a drum in my chest, my legs felt like jelly and a voice of thought was raging and screaming in my mind, "Get out, get out, as fast as you can. They are all mad! You don’t need this church stuff. They will all laugh at you if you go to the front. Your family and friends will make fun and think you’re crazy if you become a Christian. This is all rubbish. Run out through the doors now." And I almost obeyed those frenzied thoughts.
But there was other part of me which said, "Where are you going to go? You know that life out there, you have been there, and you know you need Jesus". And I knew I did!
I held on to the chair in front, rocking on unsteady feet as they sung a hymn, my mind reeling inside my head, until I could not hold on any longer. I made the decision, and despite the raging thoughts in my mind… I decided to ask this Jesus into my life, and I took a step forward.
Suddenly the raging thoughts went silent, and it did not matter what anyone thought of me. I did not care if the whole world laughed. From then on the rest of the way to the front of that church was surreal, like I was in a dream. I can only describe it as though I was being drawn, pulled to the front of the church by some invisible power. Wild horses couldn’t have stopped me getting out there. I asked Jesus to forgive me and come into my life. I asked for the new life he promised, and I meant it. The crushing, tormenting depression that I had suffered for years simply disappeared, it lifted from me like a great weight, as if it could no longer remain. And when I stood at the front I was a different person. I actually felt new and clean, and my mind was clear for the first time in years. It felt as though all my life up to that point had suddenly ended, and I had started again.
I stood at the front of that church with tears in my eyes, bewildered by it all, but I had been 'born again' (John 3:3). Strange as this may sound, I realised at that moment that the thoughts I had considered as my own, and which I had followed and obeyed over the years, getting myself deeper and deeper into depression, were not really me at all.
What I have told you is the truth. I share with you so that you too may experience God’s love, compassion and miraculous power to change our lives. God is real, and you too can be free in the name of Jesus. The same promise is there for all who believe. Simply pray, and read Jesus teachings, written in the four books of the Bible; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and he will reveal himself to you... if you genuinely want to find him. After all, what is there to lose if you have already reached the point of contemplating suicide? Whatever your circumstance, whatever your situation, put your trust in Christ' message. You don’t have to understand it all at first, for that will come later, just follow him and see what happens!
That was not the end of the story, but the beginning. I have found that Christianity is not superstition at all, it is logic, wisdom and knowledge. It is a revolution of the mind, which brings freedom from all the lies and deception which we have been conditioned to believe by the world around us. Deceptions which we have received, and believed by faith, and have made our life, because we knew no better. They say money can’t buy happiness, I know that is true. The ways of this world only bring short lived pleasure, but then leaves one empty. True happiness, and unity, comes from the presence of Christ within. Even so following Christ is not easy. It takes a spiritual warrior to brake with the habits of a lifetime, and pull down the strongholds which have bound us to deception. But the love, grace and truth of Christ will set us free. I know that Christ is alive, and he is the way, the truth and the life.
Mankind struggles within the darkness he has created for himself, the blind leading the blind. The real reality is Christ – follow him, not man, and keep following until you discover the mind of Christ, and your world will change!