BY SEAN TERRY | MAY 10, 0221
Many are aware that on Friday, March 5th I fell from through my ceiling and broke my back. Definitely the most serious injury I have ever experienced. But few are aware that two months prior on Tuesday, January 5th I was in a far, far darker place.
After 17 years of suffering from depression I had completely given up. I had gone through countless seasons of feeling lonely, guilty, helpless, and hopeless — and each time had somehow found a way to eventually get myself out of it. But at the beginning of 2021 I just didn’t want to keep fighting it any more and was contemplating a way to end it all. I have been a Christian my entire life, but nothing I had ever learned or experienced seemed to be helping me in this moment. It didn’t matter anymore how much others loved me, liked me, or valued me. None of the good work I had accomplished for others as a staff member at my church, or a missionary in Panama, Peru, and Germany, or a ministry school student traveling the country amounted to anything! After everything I have done for God I believed that He had finally abandoned me so that Satan could tear me to pieces!
This was a full mental breakdown. This was rock bottom. And I felt like God wasn’t down there.
As morbid as my situation might have been, it wasn’t especially unique. In the book of 1 Kings we follow the great prophet Elijah. He had done many amazing miracles by the power of God and had even faced down the powers of darkness with a smirk on his face. But by chapter 19, somehow, he had come to believe that God had abandoned him to die.
The infamous story of Jonah the prophet is very similar. Shortly after leading literally an entire city to repentance, a feat that would forever cement him as one of the greatest of evangelists, Jonah climbed up on a hill, had a meltdown, and begged God to just let him die.
So it turns out the heroes of the Bible are not as heroic as we tend to wish they were. At the end of the day, we are all just weak men and women in need of a mighty God. And eventually we are all going to hit a rock bottom.
By the subtlest grace of God, instead of losing my battle with depression that Tuesday night I made a phone call to my older sister Samantha, a doctor, and asked her to help me. Several weeks later, after taking time off work, getting proper medication, and going through about 100 hours of therapy, I had made some progress towards getting healthier. That is, until I fell through my ceiling. Now something you should know about my condo I live in is that beneath the very thin carpet is solid concrete. So, doing the math, when I fell I hit that concrete floor with literally 2,000 pounds of force! No wonder I fractured two vertebrae.
It might be hard to believe this, but I mean it when I say that breaking my back is the best thing that has ever happened for my mental health! With depression, I tend to isolate from others and suffer in silence. But with a back brace on and a walker equipped, it is hard for anyone to ignore that you need help. Since my accident, I have experienced a lot of compassion. I’ve had friends and family reach out to me, buy me groceries, pick up anything too heavy for me, tell me how sorry they are, and treat me like a champ for persevering. Even total strangers at CVS want to strike up a conversation with me because I look like I could use some encouragement. Besides, it’s not that often you see a younger guy with a back brace and a walker. I won’t lie, it is really enjoyable to have others recognize that you need help and actually help you!
I would choose breaking my back every time over suffering from depression. How could I not? Depression locks you up, but breaking my back has set me free to be loved. I was wrong. God was down at the concrete bottom with me. He never left for a moment.
But there is still a big question that needs to be answered. Why does God let us suffer, even allowing us to feel abandoned, when all we want and need is to be helped? It’s easy to conclude that it must be our fault. Maybe I was depressed because I didn’t do enough for God, or I somehow disappointed Him. Well, maybe Elijah also failed God. And Jonah must have also been a failure. Maybe all of us are just giant failures and we deserve to be abandoned by God and to be chewed like a bone by the devil.
But hold on a second. Jesus never failed God. Not once. Jesus was fully righteous and perpetually in a perfect relationship with the Father. So it should be a real head scratcher as to why Matthew 4:1 says “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Interesting. The perfect Son of God, was led directly into a crucible by the Lord Himself. But why? Because there are some things in life that you have to qualify for. Jesus put himself through misery so that you would know that he understands your misery. Jesus is our truest friend because he alone knows exactly what we are going through. There is nothing that this world can do to you that it hasn’t also done to him.
Remember that sometimes when you are going through suffering it isn’t just about you. The trial isn’t happening to you, but happening for others. Since my ordeals, both of them, I have felt truly seen by Jesus. So now I want you to know that no matter how far we fall, Jesus is there with us.
Psalm 139:7-8 NIV
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
1 Peter 5:10 ESV
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
P.S. There are so many things that could be said about helping others that suffer from mental health issues. If you suffer, please let a professional know. And if someone is reaching out to you, my best advice would be to treat them just like they broke their back. It should be addressed with the utmost seriousness. Go above and beyond to help with even the most basic things.