Sharing in our brokenness

BY SANDY ALLEN & BENNETT ROLAN

S andy Allen was on her knees, begging God for a way out. As a long-time BSF teaching leader, she was steeped in God’s Word and committed to seeking Him in prayer.  

But Sandy knew her debilitating condition had returned, and she cried out to her Savior 

For months, she pushed through the fog. She would deliver her BSF lecture, then collapse at home in exhaustion.  

Pounding thoughts would suffocate her joy and desire for living.  

Life is just too hard.  

Nothing is worth it. 

Your life is worthless.  

The very part of what makes you youis worth nothing.”  

Years of Suffering

T wenty-five years earlier, Sandy was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. After medical treatment and therapy, she slowly recovered her personality and worked to restore her relationships 

“Over the years I faced the darkness many times,” Sandy said. “God has seen me through, and every time I thought, ‘Whew that is over. Surely it won’t come back again.’  

She was hopeful the battle was over. But those familiar thoughts returned in the fall of 2018 

“The scary part is that I couldn’t see it,” she said. “I thought I was fine until my depression started affecting others.” 

Recognizing the signs, Sandy sought professional help. Today, her relationship with God is stronger, and her faith is deeper. But Sandy’s journey to this point has been difficult 

“I thought everyone had those days when they hated their lives and wanted just to die when the living felt too hard to do,” Sandy said. People say things like,Tomorrow you will feel better, it’s just a rough patch, life can be hard sometimes.’ But I was overwhelmed and aching inside, without any real idea of how to make things better. But, boy, did I try.”  

“I was overwhelmed and aching inside, without any real idea of how to make things better. But boy, did I try.”

She tried vitamins, sleep, exercise, diet, caffeine, vacation, more work, less work. Even prayer, worship, church counsel and Bible study did not alleviate the growing depression and anxiety.   

Nothing changed the way I felt deep down, about myself and my life,” she said. Life was too hard, overwhelming. People seemed mean. I didn’t really want to do anything.   

Every day felt like I was walking through some sort of thick mud trudging along. The tears would fall, I would think, ‘What’s the point of this life – it seems to just get harder.’   

Finally, a compassionate friend said, “I think you might be depressed. After research and multiple doctor’s visits, Sandy accepted that she had a condition many of her BSF friends could not understand.  

But the God who created Sandy and knew her thoughts intimately met her in the despair.  

“I remember lying in bed,” Sandy said, “the tears falling, and crying out, Lord I know You are God, but You feel so far away. I need You close to help me though. And in the darkness, I sensed His presence, remembered His words that He would never leave me or forsake me,’ and I knew He would carry me through somehow.  

“I remember lying in bed,” Sandy said, “the tears falling and crying out, ‘Lord I know you are God, but you feel so far away. I need you close to help me through.’ “

After years of professional counseling, medical treatment and family support, Sandy feels compelled to share her story.  

And through her honesty, we can find freedom in sharing our own struggles and moments of brokenness. Together, we can celebrate God’s faithfulness, acknowledge our weaknesses and rely on one another as we seek Christ in a fallen world.  

Uniting in Trials

L ike Sandy, many of us face circumstances, diagnoses and difficult relationships that our BSF family may not understand. We walk into our BSF group each week feeling lonely and misunderstood, trying to hide the deep places that reveal our vulnerabilities 

But 2 Corinthians 12:9 promises God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” And through our painful experiences, God strengthens the body of believers.  

“… So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). 

Our study of Acts and Letters of the Apostles will bring our sin, shortcomings and pain to light. Instead of hiding these moments, we can encourage group members to share how God is working in the midst of those trials.  

The Power of Faithful Community

T o help us navigate these difficult topics and conversations, God’s Word gives wonderful insight into how the early Church pursued gospel-centered unity.  

They committed to study, fellowship and prayer.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 

Which person in your group today needs your prayers, or who needs to know you are praying for them? How will you reach out to them this week?

They put others’ needs above their own.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 2:3-5 

Whose needs are your focus? How can you ask God to help you show someone else that they are valuable?  

They were quick to listen and slow to anger.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20 

Listening can be hard, but will you challenge yourself to ask more questions as you interact with those in your group?  

Unity was a common goal.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:2-6 

What can you do to demonstrate humility, patience and love in your relationships with others? 

They sought to forgive one another.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:13-14 

Who do you need to forgive, because the Lord has forgiven you? When will you take action to reach out and forgive?

 

Walking in the Valley

F or those who struggle with depression, or see another who is hurting, Sandy Allen shared some helpful thoughts from her experience.

God does not expect you and me to do everything.

Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ ” Acts 6:3-4 

Sometimes our trials increase because we take on extra things. 

I love this truth: God’s plan is for His work to be divided among the body.  

When the anxiety increases, or the depression seems worse, allow yourself to let something go. Ask the Lord, ”What are those things you are asking me to do, and what can I stop for this tough season of my life?” 

Depression is a trial.

In all this you greatly rejoice,  though now for a little while  you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faithof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by firemay result in praise, glory and honor  when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 

Depression,  anxiety and  living with a loved one who struggles with it is a trial. 

In every trial  there  is  an  opportunity for Christ to reveal Himself. Seeking Him in the hard times proves that our faith is real  and that  we know He is the one to turn to. 

And in these verses,  we have the promise  that  as our faith is refined,  our lives will bring praise and glory to Jesus. 

So God is at work in the present hard time. Your faith is being made stronger while living with depression or  with  a loved one who struggles. 

God’s purposes for you are prevailing. 

If you see someone struggling, reach out.

“While the man held on to Peter and John,  all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.” Acts 3:11 

Who among you is hurting?  How can you,  through prayer and God’s compassion, reach out and give them a helping hand? Let them  hold onto you and  bring them to Jesus.  

Maybe ask: 

How  can  I  join you in prayer? 

What would encourage you? 

Can I give you a ride to BSF next week?  

Can I sit beside you during the lecture? 

Would you like to work on the questions together this week? 

When we notice someone is hurting, we do not have to fix them. That is God’s job. But we can be there, a place  to  hold onto,  in times of weakness. 

236 Comments

  1. As one who has battled depression most of my life I appreciate finally seeing articles regarding Christians and depression. At one point depression almost won, but I cried out to God and felt his protective presence immediately. I am on medication now and doing better. I am no longer ashamed to speak out about the depression I feel, it is real and sometimes scary. With my church, BSF, and care group I feel secure in the fact that if needed I have people that will remind me that this is not permanent and will pray with me and for me.

  2. Does anxiety combine with depression? I get annoyed by people and every so often I will make enemies all at once within same timeframe

  3. May God continue to increase you Susan as you teach and share real life experience such as Sandy’s struggle. The Acts study is for me. I am stronger as i apply what I learn about suffering. God bless you Susan and Team HQ

  4. Thank you for sharing your struggle. As someone who suffered greatly from depression years ago, and who has friends who struggle with it now, I appreciate your honesty
    and that you have opened up the reality of this struggle to those who might not understand it. Blessings to you!!

  5. Thank you for sharing.

  6. There is a fantastic book written by Kathy Cronkite, “On the Edge of Darkness.” She describes her own depression and has compiled a number of short stories of people who have battled and overcome depression. She describes the disease like a “Black Dog” that you never know when it is going to attack. In simplest terms, depression is a disease primarily caused by an imbalance of a “delicate cocktail” of brain chemicals. I went through this in 1998 after incurring a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury from a severe ski accident. “MILD” meaning, my brains were not protruding from my skull! I suffered from broken ribs, neck & back pain, vision impairment, Panic Attacks & PTSD for ~ 18 months. By God’s grace He dramatically and miraculously healed me. As I recall those dark days, the most frustrating experience was trying to explain my feelings to well-meaning friends, who, after 45 minutes of trying to explain how I was feeling, would say, “BUT, you look great.” I wanted to arrange their anatomy. However, I would not trade this experience for anything–God taught me about real brokenness, His sovereign control, His immense love and compassion (not only for me but my dear wife & family as well), AND that this world is TRULY NOT my home.

  7. Sandy I am a children’s leader who is diagnosed with major depression. I still have bouts with depression and miss quite a few classes. Some days are so hard I can’t get out of bed. I let a lot of people down which makes me feel worse. The darkness overcomes me and I ask God why. God has been faithful to bring me back into His light. I feel joy again and think I’m ok but it comes back again. I am glad you shared your story. It came out the day after I asked God if there was anyone else who has this disease. God Bless You and Keep you and May His face shine upon you..In service of our King

  8. Thank you so much for opening my eyes toward ladies who may be going through depression.

  9. Sandy, I praise Adonai for your testimony beloved, chosen, daughter of a mighty King and my sistah in Christ 🥰🌺🙏. I also have Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, ADD, Anxiety, Fibromyalgia, Chrons, Chronic Pain due to cervical and spine issues and am about to have my second total knee replacement in January. It got moved from December because Dr gave me a shot because pain was so bad.

    I am in counseling with a Christian Counselor, do take meds and have been doing TMS therapy. I totally understand where you are coming from. When I was a speaker for Stonecroft ministries after speaking I would feel completely wiped. Sometimes while on a week of speaking, I would have to speak twice in one day, those days were rough, but God and my prayer partners got me through. I am also a former CL which I loved.

    Many spiritual attacks during both those seasons which I am sure you can attest to. Those attacks only strengthened me and deepened my love for Christ. I depended on Him, cried out to Him and He was always there to gently comfort and guide me through.

    I recently went through another. Last Friday I awoke to hearing Satan tell me I was to commit suicide and then he told me how. Totally freaked me out but Holy Spirit immediately warmed my heart with Phil 4:6-9, instant peace flooded my soul. I have the heart of an intercession and am very empathetic. Gifts God has strategically used along the way to pray for others struggling, even to the point of actually feeling their pain.

    I will now add you to my prayer book. I am forever grateful for your transparency as you have opened a door that many others may find beginnings of healing and hope.

    • Tanya. My heart aches for what you have been through and are still facing. How thankful I am that you can recognize it as spiritual attack, and find strength in God’s word. I love how the Holy Spirit warmed your heart and peace flooded your soul, such a great example of what our Mighty God can and will do!
      Thank you for adding me to your prayers, and today I too pray for you, thank you for sharing your testimony!

  10. Thanks for being brave in sharing. My heart goes out to you and so many here. So many responses to read and so many good words. Don’t know if mine will help but my son has been struggling with severe schizophrenia for 12 years. He has dyslexia which is significant in schizophrenia. In all of the 12 years we have been through much turmoil and feared for my life on many occasions. We found no help so far in the psychiatric field for him despite the huge number of hospital stays. He is so sick he is a regular there in the psych ER at UNM. They lump schizophrenics in a big vat of those that they can’t help.

    We found help from Mensah Medical in Chicago. It is self pay mostly. He does testing and uses supplements and it did help my son. He was able to go to school part- time at UNM. He was found to be difficient in zinc which is a back bone element in neurotransmitters. Apparently it is also true that many with schizophrenia are gluten sensitive. My son is allergic to every one of the grains. There is a very good book called “Grain Brain”. Anyway if you watch Netflix there is a movie called “What’s with Wheat” and there is a lot of good info there as well. The grains impact the gut, the gut doesn’t absorb and the brain doesn’t have what it needs to function right. Turns out on this film I think they said none of the other countries will take the wheat from the US because it’s not good. It impacts autism as well I hear. Not sure if it’s the wheat or the chemicals to kill the weeds but somewhere giving thanks for our food and thanking God that if we eat anything deadly it will not harm us I think is imperative these days.

    Another great source is Dr Carolyn Leaf… She has a book about the 21 day detox. She is a neuroscientist. She is a christian and says our brains are wired for love. Isn’t that neat. She has many books and I watch her on you tube. We have searched for years for my son. The Lord gave me a supernatural dream one of the days I cried out to God in prayer like never before because I thought he was going to kill us all. It had to do with diet. Since then I have studied many articles about the gut brain connection and about how many schizophrenics are helped with diet. We have our son doing the keto diet now only for the last 5 days and he is off all antipsychotics for the first time in 12 years. None of them worked for him, they only made him worse.
    Most of the mass shooters were on antipsychotics. So glad he is off.

    I know most of the comments here are not about the most severe mentally ill like my son but I thought if it helped the most severe perhaps it could help the less as well. I feel bad in all of this because I have stated that”Life is not worth living” all the while knowing that it is but just very difficult circumstances and stress for so long, and this is not the only one sick in my family. There are more and it is overwhelming.

    I just thank my Heavenly Father that He really is my help in all of it. I can’t do this but I can rest in Him knowing that he will protect me and lead me to find help for my son. There is a call on my sons life and the enemy has fought hard to stop him but I know that through Christ he Always leads us in Triumph. So I press on knowing that we win…:}

    • Robin rejoicing with you that your son is doing better. You are a very courageous woman to share so honestly with us. WOW! What a testimony to Gods faithfulness to your heartfelt prayers on behalf of your son. Thank you for sharing the plethora of information. I know that will help many and bring glory to God our Father, Holy is His Name. I have added both of you to my prayer book. Love you beloved, chosen, daughter of a mighty King and my sistah in Christ 🥰🌺🙏

    • I also, have a Generalized Anxiety/Major Depressive Disorder condition. I thought I would sit and read these today. I have been going through a period lately where my symptoms are intensifying again. I have had all kind of testing done for physical conditions and they all read good. I am involved with an extensive outpatient support program through the hospital I admitted myself in to about 2 years ago. I too take medication. It inspires me to hear others that are staying strong through these type of conditions. I am focusing on the love of God, although I am experiencing a lot of exhaustion right now. If others experience this, I know we can all pray for each other and live happy lives. Blessings to everyone responding to this.

    • Robin – Your story is compelling and how you have faced it with God and medical and natural methods is proof that we are not a “one size fits all” people. I am so grateful you listed resources that have helped you, it does give some practical suggestions to those who read this blog. The link it wheat is something I haven’t heard myself, I lived in Europe for 10 years and am sad to say lots of my darkest days were there, so wheat may not be my own issue, but I find trying everything God places in your path a wonderful approach. Lastly is so encouraging to see how our Heavenly Father has been the ultimate help, and I agree we can’t face these types of illnesses with out resting in his arms – I love the way you pointed out the rest in him. Thank you for sharing your story.

  11. Thank you so much Sandy and BSF for being open and honest about mental health issues. Unfortunately, the church has not always been an advocate. As one can see by the many comments, this is a real issue that needs to be discussed. I did not know I could be a bigger fan of BSF, however, today I find I am! Keep being a voice for those suffering in depression and for God’s glory!

    • Dell – I couldn’t agree more with what you have said, the church and many many godly organizations seem to sweep this under the carpet, maybe because others find it hits too close to home and others have no idea what to do with it. So we see it avoided, and many pat answers given – “pray more, exercise etc”. Please pray for all of BSF to be open to face this issues. The HQ is very aware and seeking to bring this into the open, but there remain many classes where these topics are still taboo. Only Our Lord can change hearts and make each class willing to face those who are vulnerable and dealing with these issues.

  12. Sandy, I can’t thank you enough for sharing! I am a 4th year STL with depression and anxiety disorder I’ve struggled with all my life. After getting through feeling shamed and like I’m just not a “good enough” Christian, I’ve learned medication helps me have more freedom and ability to be who God made me to be. But continued med changes over the years has been rough! I go through hills and valleys, and in my last valley about a year ago, I completely resonated with your doing BSF/lecture for the week then crashing the days after. BSF took all I had then I felt like I couldn’t move, parent my teens and I just cried all the time. As Christians and leaders in BSF, and our in communities, we HAVE to talk about, and be a light and comfort to those suffering in this way!

    • Erin – I couldn’t agree more with all you said!

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