by Terri Niles
In early childhood, I learned that the way to be loved was to be who people needed me to be. Be quiet when people need quiet. Be happy when people need happy. Be fun when people need fun. Be brave, be restrained, be big, be small, be nice, be decisive, be polite. Be what people need you to be and you will be loved.

Then as a teenager, I met Jesus. All of a sudden I had a purpose and a reason for my life because of Him. He said He knew me in my mother’s womb, loved me, counted every hair on my head (that’s a lot!), had a purpose for my life, is my Father, made me in His image, and that I could trust Him and He would never leave me.

In my early twenties, I dealt with depression for the first time, or the first time that I had a term for it. I wrestled with the tension of being a Christian and being depressed. I remember many nights being fearful of going to sleep and not having the words to wrap my mind around why. How could this be? I know Jesus loves me, so why is it so hard to go to sleep? Or get up each day? I spent a lot of time in Bible Studies, small groups, discipleship groups and still just couldn’t shake this heaviness that would come each day and night. I would ask God for healing many, many times. Still, I was struggling.

I remember a particularly hard season when I found myself curled up in the corner of my bedroom next to the stinky, dirty clothes pile. I was weeping and crying out to God, “Please Father lift this weight from me. Please. Heal me, please! I don’t want to keep feeling this way.” I was asking why and wondering if maybe my brain was just broken? Or maybe my heart lacked the faith to muster through these moments? Maybe I hadn’t memorized enough scripture? Maybe I never got my prayer life to be quite as intentional as it should be? Did I spend enough time in the Word? Enough time in prayer? And then I had this deep, deep conviction that I am Loved and He is with me. Unexpectedly and maybe miraculously I started thanking Him for the dark seasons. (What?!?!) Because of these dark and painful times, I’ve known the Lord more intimately. In the near way. My source of life and hope. My constant. My shelter. Not in spite of them, but because of these seasons, I have leaned in. Leaned into the truth that “my flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” Psalm 73:26. It’s interesting that with the depths of hardship and pain I’ve come to a place where I’m grateful for them, not in a tidy or polished sort of way, but in a barely getting by, superheroish, imperfect with hair disheveled sort of way. I’m thankful now for the hard times that have flexed my muscle of dependence on Jesus.

It always brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat when thinking of Jesus in the Garden praying and sweating blood, when He asked the Father to take the cup of the cross from Him. He quickly followed it up with, “not my will but yours be done”. The heavy weight of the cross, the road He was about to walk was overwhelming in a brief moment for our Lord. Something about that gives me great peace. I can relate to that. The gut-wrenching cry to the Father to take the pain, lift the burden or heal. If Jesus can’t get out of this life without overwhelming heartache, pain and grief I guess I don’t expect to either. I trust His will is higher and greater than mine even in midst of pain, tragedy and loss. And in the moments when I don’t, I fall back on all the ways He has been faithful before. All the dark days He has seen me through.

I believe what the Lord wants you to hear from my life is He is with you. He cares deeply about the heavy in your heart. He is near and will never forsake you. Young Terri thought she needed to be something to be loved but what she didn’t understand is that the Lord had already renamed her, her name is Love. He established me as Loved when Jesus died for me. He deemed me worthy and significant when He allowed Jesus to be nailed to the tree on my behalf. For a wretch like me. I think of Gideon. He was in active hiding when God renamed him Valliant Warrior. He was running away when God named him courageous. That’s me. God has loved me from my beginning, and while my wayward heart was searching, he renamed me Loved. I hope this brings you some comfort during the quarantine-weirdness. Jesus loves you. The Lord deemed you worthy. He can stand up to your biggest questions, darkest days and deepest fears. He will never leave you or forsake you. You are Loved.

My prayer for you and for me is that we have the kind of faith that mirrors Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3 when they were being thrown into the firey furnace and remained faithful to the One True King - “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."”

But even if He doesn’t friends. Even if he doesn’t cure the depression, anxiety, loneliness, cancer or mend the broken family.....Not for a moment will He forsake you.

Strategies for living daily with depression:
  1. Memorize scriptures. Post them everywhere in your house, on your phone, desk, stove and in your car and white knuckle them in the darkest moments, like you would a roller coaster safety bar.
  2. Crank up the worship music!
  3. Keep a prayer journal of other people’s needs in addition to your own.
  4. Get outside and get some fresh air. Creation declares His glory!
  5. Exercise. There are scientific words for what happens in your body when you exercise so google it, because I’m no scientist!
  6. Talk to someone about your struggle. It will let some light in.

Not for A Moment
You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me
After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me