“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 ESV
The importance of this verse has been weighing heavily on me recently. So many of us have been in a long period of death. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago, the number of people struggling with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. Just last year, 16 million people in the United States suffered from depression.
How did we get here in the first place? If God delivers us from the valley of the shadow of death, then how have we fallen so deep into it?
Though this darkness is vast around us, there is still great hope. This can be seen through author Julie Busler’s journey. As a faithful child of God, Busler began having thoughts of suicide at a young age. These unaddressed thoughts began to grow until, one day, it was no longer a snowball but a true avalanche. Her fingers grazed the keyboard of the computer screen as she shattered. She was looking at her father’s suicide note.
He was gone.
As the thoughts started to grow, she made a plan to end her life. She found what depression told her was the perfect time. She had it figured out.
But before each attempt she made, God delivered her. When working in ministry overseas, God sent her husband to deliver her from the darkness. He led her to two different treatment facilities, one overseas and one in the United States. Here, she saw Jesus. He showed her scripture when she didn’t have access to a bible and provided her with people and tools to treat the ache that lay deep inside.
God used both His word and mental health resources.
The key was integration. When coupled, the integration of mental health resources such as counseling and treatment can change lives.
As many believe right now, there is a revival happening in so many hearts. The ways of the world no longer satisfy so many young adult hearts, and people are choosing Jesus instead of destructive ways.
When we fall into the valley of the shadow of death, we must take every thought captive. Jennie Allen in her book Get Out of Your Head states that to obey Christ, we truly do have to give every thought to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). As we focus on Jesus, gazing purposefully into His eyes, He has already won the battle over our minds. He fervently calls us away from independence and true freedom through humble dependence.
When we intersect with liberty at the emotional root of our thoughts, we have a choice. We can choose to get help; we can choose to feel safe enough to reach out. We can pray for wisdom and wise counsel from our therapists.
God has not forgotten about the light that resides in each of us. He does not see us in our mental health struggles alone, but by the spirit He has crafted uniquely inside each of us.
A couple of weeks ago at church, the pastor spoke a phrase that rang through the walls of the building: “God uses all pain for the good of His kingdom.” He uses the valleys and shadows of death so He can exonerate our name and further the bigger picture. So, take heart in the pain you are feeling. Speaking from a place of childhood medical trauma, I can say your pain will not be wasted. All the flashes of fear and anxiety and physical (or mental) weakness were still crushed under the weight of God’s goodness. I saw Him take my broken body and heal it with just my small amount of trust. I latched on to the edge of His robe with one last hope.
Your pain is not your fault or for a lack of glorious love. When we are weak, He is strong.
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