When God called me into His saving grace at age 25, I already knew the catch phrases, buzzwords and clichés of modern Christianity. I had asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord when I was just 6 years old.
But this second salvation was different from what I knew as a conversion experience. All the youth group meetings, church conferences and Bible studies couldn’t dredge me out of the sludge of selfish pride I’d been sucked down into for years.
Yes, I said pride. I know it might sound harsh to blame myself for the deep depression I battled for most of my young adult life, but it’s true. I recently watched a sermon video online from Grace Church Nashville. The pastor, Lindell Cooley, set something in perspective that had never before occurred to me in the way he put it. I’m paraphrasing, but the crux of his statement was to point out that we humans are quick to be offended at things like famine, discrimination of man against man, and other affronts to our fellow humans. But how often do we get worked up when God is dishonored?
And He is dishonored, defamed and demonized daily by us all through idolatry. And that’s how I selfishly dishonored God. My depression became greater in my life than God was.
If I could give you a day-by-day picture of what my life was like during two specifically difficult seasons, I wouldn’t be doing justice to the emotional torture that Hell slaughtered my soul with. At most times, it was a moment-by-moment thing. Most days, I couldn’t sit in one place long enough to watch a 30-minute TV sitcom. My mind was so weak that I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain, which was a continual thing for me back then. In fact, one of the things I enjoyed most once the Lord freed me of this Hell was the stillness to do simple things like watch TV or read or walk the dog.
That just goes to show you how messed up I was. I couldn’t get the focus off of me long enough to even let God inside my soul.
I remember very clearly one night I spent laying on the bed, a small table lamp lighting the room. A good Christian friend of mine was on fire with the love of God and had a hardy Bible reading regimen. I wanted so much to be where she was with Jesus. I remember bringing my old leather-bound, rice paper Bible, engraved with my maiden name, onto the bed with me. I opened to Romans 8:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
Free. I wasn’t condemned to live in this tailspin forever. I was free to feel again without fear. Without shame. Without doubt.
In another scripture, I read what I needed to hear and so desperately wanted to believe.
“Don’t be worried on account of the wicked; don’t be jealous of those who do wrong. They will soon disappear like grass that dries up; they will die like plants that wither.”
That passage is found in Psalm 37: 1-2. The writer goes on to encourage trust and happiness found in God alone.
This particular passage hit me hard because the sinful life I was living held such a draw for me. I wanted what the sin-filled world had to offer, and after years of pursuing and living out those desires, my heart no longer had the softness Jesus’ love had once brought to it.
I want to be clear about this, though. Jesus’ love was never misplaced or AWOL; He was always right there waiting with open arms. But my own heart was so hardened and weather-beaten from constant rejection of His love that I believe God had given me up to my own evil desires.
This is a hard topic for many of us. You might be reading this, thinking, “Did she just say God had given up on her?” No, most definitely not. Rather it was me who had given up on God, and in His infinite wisdom and mercy, God allowed me to choose to walk away from Him.