Thursday, October 27, 2022

End of the Rainbow

This is the story of how the Word of God literally saved my life and I found the end of a rainbow.  It is a story of deliverance from suicidal thoughts.  I have felt God leading me to share this testimony for quite a while, but with everything that has happened over the past couple of years, I haven’t been able to write it all down until now.  I also had to first tell my family about this struggle before sharing it publicly and this was very difficult for me, especially telling my husband.  My hope is that this testimony will help someone else find their own way out of the darkness.

Although depression has been something I have struggled with pretty much my entire life, it was not until after the loss of our daughter Alison (stillborn at 21 weeks), that I began to think of suicide.  The emotional pain was so intense I did not think I could bear it.  Friends and family were supportive while I was grieving, but I couldn’t tell them just how bad things really were.  It seemed like a darkness entered my mind that I was too weak to resist.  The dark thoughts were most prevalent when I was alone in the car during my commute to and from work.  Many times I would arrive home with my face and eyes swollen from crying.  Carpooling with a friend helped push the darkness off for a while and, somehow, I managed to get through the next couple of years, but it was still lurking in my mind.

Then, we made the decision to become foster/adoptive parents.  I sailed through the training and approval process without revealing my mental health struggle because, by this time, I was pretty good at hiding it.  Our home study wasn’t even complete when we got our first placement call about a newborn with a two-year-old brother.  I was scared to death, but we said yes and, suddenly, I was thrust emotionally and mentally from the frying pan into the fire.

Over the next several months, the darkness flooded back into my mind with a vengeance.  I began to think of suicide nearly every day and this went on for over a year.  With the pressures of foster parenting, working full-time, pastoring, and going to school part-time, I had become an extremely stressed, very difficult person to be around.  I was convinced my family would actually be better off without me.  That’s the thing about the darkness:  it feeds on your insecurities and lies to you.  At this point, the only thing that stopped me was the thought that if I did this, all the friends and coworkers I had witnessed to over the years would think there was nothing to my faith in God.  I just couldn’t bear that.

Since I was back to commuting alone, I usually listened to audio books or something like that to help pass the time.  My mom loaned me several cd’s with sermons on them and it was one of those sermons that finally set me on the road to deliverance.  It was a sermon by Dr Gerald Jeffers entitled, “Daddy’s Coming.”  At the end of his sermon, people were praying in the altar, but the recording kept going so I kept listening.  All of a sudden, he started speaking specifically to people with suicidal thoughts and, even across space and time, I knew he was talking to me.  Right then and there, driving my car with tears streaming down my face, I repented for entertaining those thoughts.  I turned my back on the darkness and stopped thinking about suicide every day, but I hadn’t completely renounced and released it.

For a few years, I shoved the darkness behind a closed door in the back of my mind.  Every once in a while though, when life felt unbearable, I would open that door and consider it again.  But then I would say to myself, “I am not a quitter!”  No matter how miserable I felt, I would persevere if only out of spite.  Yes, I’m stubborn that way.

During this time, my job in Human Resources was becoming increasingly stressful and I internalized much of this stress.  A fact which most likely contributed to some of my health problems and the development of an autoimmune condition.  However, God had an oasis prepared for me.  In June of 2017, I took off work to attend the KY District Family Camp Meeting, the last one held at the campground in Summersville, KY.  I felt such a peace being back at the place where I had received the Holy Ghost and spent so many happy times in the presence of God.  Bro Philip Harrelson was the day speaker that week.  He taught on the book of Jude and about contending for the faith, getting back to the basics.  He talked about the importance of God’s Word in our daily lives. On the last day, he taught on praying the Word and made a statement that caused me to see my sensitivity and tendency toward depression as something God could use and not simply a weakness.  All this connected with me and impacted me in a very powerful way.  However, it would still be a few months before I put it in to practice.

The turning point came in October of that year.  Some upsetting events had happened at work and I felt like my character was being called into question which is a big deal for someone in Human Resources.  That night, after everyone else was asleep, I lay on the couch in my living room crying my heart out.  Bro Harrelson’s lesson about praying the Word came back to me and I decided to finally put it into action.  I opened my Bible to Psalm 143 and began to pray the words.  I cried them out to God in desperation more than once.  When I was done, I felt a peace come over me.  Right then and there I determined to start reading the Word every day.

At Rick’s suggestion, I had previously downloaded the You Version Bible app onto my iPad, but I had yet to use it.  I started it up and found a reading plan called, “A Chapter A Day: Reading The Bible In 3 Years.”  I felt like I could handle a chapter a day, no matter how busy I was.  Anyone can do that!  Of course, I could have just opened up my actual Bible, but some of the features in the app really motivated me to stick with my plan.  I began reading the Word daily, usually first thing in the morning, and the chapter-a-day pace meant that I was reading slow enough for it to really sink in.

Over the next few months, my mental health began to gradually improve.  Certain things at work didn’t seem to bother me as much.  I was more patient.  My outlook was more positive and I rarely considered the dark thoughts still tucked away in the back of my mind.  In early 2018, I was prescribed a new medication to treat my autoimmune condition and one of the potential side effects was suicidal thoughts.  I was not honest with my doctor when he asked about my mental health history.  I was deeply ashamed of having these thoughts and could not bring myself to admit them to anyone.  Thinking that someone should be aware of the potential danger, I made a feeble attempt to tell my sisters, but lost my courage at the last moment.  It was just too shameful and I didn’t think I could handle my family’s potential shock.

June 2018 brought Family Camp around and, once again, I took off work to attend.  Bro Jerry Jones preached a sermon entitled, “You Can Get Out.”  He talked about people standing on the walls of the Old Testament cities of refuge, watching others go free and not being able to accept freedom for themselves.  When he gave the altar call at the end, I decided I wanted to be free, to no longer carry this darkness in my mind.  I went forward, knelt at the altar, and laid the darkness down, vowing never to let it in again.  I am convinced, though, that I could not have made this decision without the daily cleansing the Word had been bringing to my mind.  No matter how compelling the sermon, I would not have been ready to be free.

Fast forward to late August.  I’m driving to work and it’s raining, but not too hard.  I make the steep turn on I-75 before the Clays Ferry bridge.  And there it is:  the most beautiful, brilliant rainbow I have ever seen.  It curves from the trees on one side of the Kentucky River to the northbound lane in which I am driving.  It fills me with joy.  I know it is a message to me from God, a promise that I will no longer pass through the shadow of death every time I cross that bridge.  With grateful tears streaming down my face, I drive through the end of the rainbow and for just a moment, the brilliant colors fill my car.  Thank God I am free!