This is a small glimpse into my story and how Jesus personally, specifically rescued me from depression my first Christmas after the death of a loved one. If your heart is heavy with grief of any kind this season, know that Jesus is not passive about what has happened in your life, he is not distant from it. He loves you and is coming for you, to bind up your broken heart, to give you a double portion instead of your shame, and to bring vengeance for the harm committed against you. He is with you in power and love. Look for him this Christmas, and you will find him.
Our last conversation was spent dreaming of our futures, of what married life would be like together, of where we would live and how we would love. It was our last conversation because he died in a car accident the next day. And just like that, in an instant I went from the beaming, joy of newly committed love to one deeply acquainted with sorrow and grief.
Jesus, too, is acquainted with sorrows, he is familiar with grief. He understands, and he dignifies every human emotion. In my anguish, he allowed me the space to process everything I was feeling with him. No matter how hard I cried, how loud I screamed, or how deeply I felt panicked, Jesus was there with me. Never once did he stifle my emotions, never once did he distance himself from my pain.
But that wasn’t all he did. He also showed me how to have boundaries in those moments of grief. Sometimes the darkness crowded in so closely that I could have tipped the scales in my grief and come under the oppression of depression, but I didn’t. I walked through the worst pain of my life without stepping under the dark covering of depression because Jesus was there, allowing me to feel all I was feeling, while at the same time teaching me how to have boundaries that said “no” to the darkness even in the midst of anguish.
I have been clinically depressed before and Jesus walked me out of that bondage many years prior. I knew how to recognize it and I knew I wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing is worse than depression because depression makes your heart distant. When you are depressed, you feel distant from your own heart and if you are distant from your own heart, you have no heart to offer, and you become distant from others and even distant from God. He may be near, closer than your next breath, but you would never know it, because all you feel is the distance and the weight of the fog and fear crushing your your next breath.
In those first few days after the death of my beloved, Jesus kept whispering, “stay present” and I knew that I would only survive this if I listened to his voice guiding my path.
But his was not the only voice, there was also the darkness whispering, “Give up. Numb out. Don’t feel it.” And in those moments I had to chose whose voice I would listen to.
Or sometimes the darkness would come saying, “God betrayed you, you know. You can’t trust anyone. You are on your own.” And again, I had to fight the urge to agree with the darkness (even when their lies felt so true) and continue to give God access to my heart.
If you let him, if you give God access to your heart, he will chose the healing that is perfect for your unique soul and bring you into the greatness you were created for. He knows what he is doing. Just follow his lead.
For me it came something like this…
About two months after I lost my man in that car accident, I became aware that the Holy Spirit was highlighting verses about “covering” for me. It began in Isaiah 61 when I read that Jesus came into the earth to give me a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness. I began to wrestle with that statement, I needed to know if it was true.
After that verse came a whole collection of “covering” or “clothing” verses carried to me by the Holy Spirit. In my process of trying to discover if there was any truth to this idea of Jesus exchanging my heavy spirit for a garment of praise, I felt compelled to make a list of these “covering” verses and I began to make a habit out of reciting them out loud whenever I felt the thick heaviness of darkness fall on me like a shroud that made it hard to move.
I would say out loud, “I am clothed in the garment of praise” (Isaiah 61:3) and amazingly the heaviness would begin to lift. I thanked Him for covering me in “robes of righteousness, in garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10). I grew emboldened, declaring that He was “clothing me in strength and dignity” (Proverbs 31:25). My heart was kindled toward my eternal purpose and renewed in the dignity of faith as I recited that I would be clothed in “fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:8). My voice grew stronger as I grew sure that I was “clothed in favor” (Psalm 5:12) and “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) tucked “under the wings of the Redeemer “ (Ruth 2:12). And the greatest power came when I would declare aloud that I was “coved in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:11), with that statement, I could quite literally feel the darkness flee.
This realigning of my reality helped a great deal to fight off oppressive darkness.
As time when on, I began to question how much God was willing to do about my situation. I knew him to be a God who could comfort, but could he do more? Did he have a purpose in my suffering? Did he have a dream for my life? Did he have more to say about the life of the man I loved?
There is a fine line for the human soul to walk in faith-filled grief. I believe that we should bring ALL of our questions to God and I believe that He is a good Father who can and does give answers in love and kindness and glory. But a heart positioned to trust has greater reward, for a trusting heart questions without barrier between your heart and God. If you question him with accusation and distrust, you have already assembled a wall between your heart and his—from there it is more difficult to hear his voice. I teetered on the edge of this fine line a lot. And God was so gracious as he knew my heart had to learn how to kneel under his covering and from there, in the closeness, bring my questions before him.
It was in this questioning of how much Jesus was willing to do, that the Holy Spirit opened up a new layer to the wonder of Isaiah 61 for me.
On one particular day I was walking around the cemetery, feeling beat down, on the verge of soul-defeat, seeking God’s glory in my bleak circumstances when I literally fell, slipped on some sand and landed face down on the ground. I felt that the darkness had thrown me to ground, mocking my heartbreak, reveling in my defeat. I got up bloodied and bruised and angry. With a fire bent on seeing glory even in my present defeat, I cried out, “Show yourself to me God!”
That’s when he showed me a little secret, the reality that Isaiah 61 was not just a promise of healing, but also a bold and personal statement of vengeance. As I climbed into the hills surrounding the cemetery and perched myself upon a rock, with my bible in hand, and an indignant fire burning in my soul, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to an amazing connection between Isaiah 61 and Ezekiel 28. In Ezekiel 28 we read of all the honor, authority, and favor stripped from Satan when he rebelled against God and waged war in Heaven. In Isaiah 61 we read of all the honor, authority, and favor that was given to us when the Messiah came and fulfilled the vengeance of our God.
Yes, its personal.
Look into the scriptures yourself and see how many specific parallels you can find between the two passages. This is not an impersonal war we are in. Every strike, every advance, every reward—its personal. As this began to sink into my heart, I began to realize that Jesus is not passive about the suffering I find myself in. He is deeply invested, in fact, it is what he gave his life for—to liberate the captives, to care for the brokenhearted, to release those who are bound, to fulfill the vengeance of our God. This further set me sprinting toward the heart of God and out of any trap of depression. The choice to agree with the darkness and let myself slip into depression was and still is always before me, but at what cost? Jesus gave his life for my freedom from that spirit of heaviness.
Then one day, about 6 months out from the tragic moment that tuned my life upside down, I opened a cupboard at my mother’s house and found a Christmas mug that said, “Joy to the World” with a nativity scene printed on it like white chalk on a blackboard. It was strange to see it then, for it was the middle of summer and that mug should have been packed away. I had seen it many times before, but in that moment, the Kingdom of God broke through the ordinary and suddenly the truth of that statement “Joy to the World” Jesus has come and that changes everything, hit me with the full impact of that truth and I was undone. I reached for the mug as the tears began to fall. I cradled it against my chest as I sank to the floor and began to weep. I was aware of the New Covenant like never before. Jesus coming into the world was cause for celebration. This was the long awaited Messiah. His arrival has the capacity to change everything. This was more than a comfort, it was an empowerment. Under the New Covenant I am free, filled with the Holy Spirit, able to do even greater things than we saw Jesus do. Jesus has bestowed honor, and authority, and favor on me. Jesus has exacted vengeance for my soul. Jesus changes everything.
From that little Christmas cup with its oh so familiar words inscribed on it, I found a strength to step into the fullness of my identity and Christ’s reward. The New Covenant carries the power to transform the inner man until all that is mortal within us is swallowed up with life, and when that happens, life and love can overflow and things in reality shift and move as Heaven’s will happens here on Earth.
Later that day, I told my mom how Heaven came for my heart upon seeing that Christmas mug in the cupboard, and my mom kind of laughed with amusement and joy as she said, “I saw that mug there early this morning and said to myself, ‘what is this doing here?’ but when I went to put it away with the Christmas dishes, the Holy Spirit said to me, ‘leave it there, Makaila needs to see it.’” She went on to say how she thought that a little odd, but decided to leave it there and see what God had in mind.
Can you believe that? Yes, he is so personal, nearer than your next breath. He is a creative God who knows what your unique soul needs at this precise moment. Lean into him. He loves you so much.
That summer moment in my mom’s kitchen set me up to view Christmas that first year without my beloved in a radically different way than I would have if left to my own devices.
I spent that Christmas gazing into the Messiah’s eyes. Beholding his wonder and glory and promises for my future. I looked into his eyes and I saw a person more alive than I had ever imagined. I saw strength that I could rest under. I saw the fire of vengeance that soothed my writhing soul. I saw empathy and compassion from a man who was aquatinted with grief and knew exactly what I was going through. I saw Joy in those eyes that knew the purpose and point of everything, a hope for the coming reward. And I saw love, a love strong as death, as fierce as the grave.
If you are hurting this Christmas, I am praying for you, dear heart. I am praying that you feel the joy and the sorrow of the season. I am praying that your heart could be present—that the cloak of despair would lift and that your anguish would birth joy and gladness when his promises are fulfilled. I am praying that you seek the Messiah’s face, look for him like your life depends on it, and you will find more than you need to overcome. Jesus loves you. He weeps with you and he hopes with you. The Messiah has come, may it change your everything.