Rejoicing in Suffering: A Personal Testimony of God’s Faithfulness

This past summer was one of the toughest and most confusing times of my life, but through everything that I went through the words of James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5 kept running around in my head. James 1:2, which got me through the summer, says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Well, this summer, for me, was a collection of trials of various kinds.

My plan, for the past four years of my life, has been to go to West Point after high school. So, after God granted me acceptance this past spring, I was overjoyed with anticipation for the beginning of West Point’s basic training for new cadets, which began July 2. Early that morning my family got up and drove me to West Point, which is about an hour away from where I live in Manhattan. Upon arriving, I was greeted with a frenzy of lines and equipment checkpoints, leading up to a medical station. At the medical station, I was given a questionnaire which asked me if I had ever sleepwalked. I answered yes.

After handing in the questionnaire, I was taken to meet with a psychiatrist and held in a room for over three hours. My admissions officer eventually came in and told me that I would not be allowed to enter basic training with the rest of the class of 2022. He gave me a Letter Of Assurance and told me that I would be allowed to come back next year with the class of 2023 as long as another sleepwalking incident did not occur. Immediately, I called my parents, who were still on campus, and told them the news. Heartbroken, they started frantically calling my friends from camp, the ones who had told me about my sleepwalking. All of my friends said that they can’t remember me sleepwalking and that they never told me any such thing. That’s when I had a sudden realization.

When my friends had given me the impression that I had sleepwalked, they were actually just telling me about cramps that I had in the middle of the night that required me to walk around the room. I had separated two events that were clearly connected and suffered as a result. As soon as I could, I found my admissions officer and told him what had really happened; how I never actually sleep walked and how it was all a big misunderstanding. It did not work out and I was still sent home from West Point with the assurance that I would be able to come back next year if I wanted to.

My family was heartbroken and so were many of their friends, but God always has a plan in store. The plan that He had for me has been better than I could have imagined. Currently, I am a freshman at Wheaton College, in the best Christian environment, with the best friends, that I have ever been in. God’s plan for me is still unclear, and I do not know where I will end up, but perseverance and steadfastness that I know will come from this trial are still on their way. God has blessed me with what has happened beyond what I can imagine, and I have confidence that whatever his plan is for me will be perfect.

God’s Presence in Depression

Depression was never something I understood until I experienced it myself.

Death is what triggered my depression. I lost my grandmother, whom I was very close to, and her death was a very traumatic experience for my family and me. I simply didn’t understand why God had taken her so soon, or the circumstances which we had lost her under. I was angry with Him and I felt abandoned. I then began to question a lot of the things I believed and felt extremely separated from God. I isolated myself, shutting out family and friends. I had convinced myself that I was alone and refused to be told otherwise. I decided this was something I needed to get through on my own. While grief and depression have many similarities, they are different. My grief transformed into a depression that consumed me, and I saw how in isolation the lies of the enemy are the loudest.

I don’t believe depression has a timestamp. For some people, it may consume weeks, months, or years of their lives. I was afraid to label what I went through as “depression” because I thought it couldn’t possibly compare to what other people were experiencing, but depression looks different for everyone and awareness of that is extremely important. Those 14 months when I was depressed were the darkest times of my life.

Is it weird to say that my depression is what brought me closer to God?

Here are two key points I’d like to share with you.

  1. Know what the Word says about depression.
  2. Know you are never alone.

The Bible on Depression
It’s crazy how so much of what we deal with is addressed in the Bible. Proverbs 12:25 touches on depression directly, stating that “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (NKJV). Anxiety is the opposite of peace. An anxious heart can lead one into a downward spiral. The word anxious is found in Philippians 4:6, which encourages us to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God,” (NKJV). Hope is to be found in what the word says. Another area of scripture where this is addressed is when Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (NLT). The Bible is a window into the heart of God. We can often find rest from being reminded of His truth through His Holy Word.

God is Near
You might hear this a lot, but trust me when I tell you how true it is that God is near. Though it was easy and comfortable for me to stay isolated during my depression, there were a lot people who refused to give up on me. We may try to run as far as we can from God, but we can never truly escape the love and grace He provides. A friend of mine met with me during my depression, and upon expressing to her how abandoned and separated I felt from God, she encouraged me by telling me that nothing about God had changed. She said that God is the same he was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). She also encouraged me to think about how God had protected me and blessed me thus far. I couldn’t count the number of times he had done so, as He had been covering me since I entered the world. To sum up the message she was sending me: she was encouraging me to not let my circumstance push me far from God, but rather closer to Him. Psalms 40:2 reads “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along” (NLT).

So, to my friend who is struggling, who feels separated and weighed down by any amount of grief, weariness, anxiety, or depression, know and be encouraged that “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” Psalm 34:17-18 (NLT).