Last week I celebrated a kind of anniversary with my birthday. As of this last birthday, I have lived 30 years longer than I ever thought I would. While I don’t let it identify me anymore, I don’t keep secret the fact that I struggle with depression and have done so all of my life. I’ve already shared with you a couple of times over the years that I had planned to take my own life on my 18th birthday but God stepped in and saved my life. (Yes, if you do the math you now know I’m 48 years old. I’m proud of my age because I worked hard and earned every one of those years!) As I look back at all the struggles in my life and the challenges I’ve had to overcome just to survive sometimes, I feel tired, not old but not young, and so very blessed.
Yesterday in church I heard prayers being offered for the family of a 20-year old woman who committed suicide and for a young mother who is slowly and miraculously recovering from a devastating stroke and I guess the timing was right because unashamed tears of gratitude began to fall from my face for the precious gift of life I almost squandered so many years ago. I started to think about what I’ve done in those years. Have I lived my life in a manner worthy of the amazing gift that it is? By human standards, maybe not. I’m not, nor am I ever likely to be, a famous celebrity or entrepreneur. I didn’t and won’t discover a cure for cancer or some other terminal disease. I’m not saving the planet by any extraordinary means. I don’t even have a secret recipe for making those pounds fall off or wrinkles fade. To the world I’m just one of the insignificant masses. But finally I feel I can say without hesitation that I really don’t place any value on how others may assess my success in life. 99.99% of the people in the world don’t know me well enough to have an informed opinion of how well I am or am not living my life.
Someday I am going to meet Jesus face to face and there is going to be a whole lot of joy and celebration in that moment. And then he’s going to ask me what I did with the precious gift of life he gave me. Did I really live? Did I love? Did I encourage others? Did I use the time to share his love and grace with the person next door and across the grocery store conveyor belt? I’ve thought a lot about this—He already knows the answer so why is he going to be asking the question?
Then it came to me: Jesus asks the question so I will finally be able to see myself the way he has all along. I’m going see how all the moments of my life, the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, molded me into a woman after his own heart—the kind of woman I’ve always admired and wanted to be. The kind of woman I am becoming. That is a life well-lived and worth presenting to my Savior.
If you are suffering with depression and wonder if the world wouldn’t be a little better without you, think again. Tomorrow without you is such a sad thought. I promise that it gets better. Lean into Jesus—give him your pain and your tears. Call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right now if you think you are going to hurt yourself. Get counseling. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Please hear me when I tell you that you are special—in the entire world, throughout all time, there is only one of you and I would miss you if you weren’t in my tomorrow.
For those of you not suffering from depression, chances are that you know someone who is. Depression is a dark and scary thing—don’t let your loved one go through it alone. Talk to them. Let them know they matter. Let them know it’s okay to be sad for a while, but that you want to celebrate the joy of life with them too. Show them how to not give up on themselves by not giving up on them. There are no guarantees. All you can do is love them and pray.