This blog is a continuation of Blog 1-52, “The Enemy Despair—Part One.” I refer back to my book, Karen! Karen!where I write about my battle with depression earlier in my life.
There had been wispy thoughts of suicide that month—wouldn’t I be doing everyone a favor if life just ended?—which as yet hadn’t had a chance to possess me. Which would be the easiest and most painless way? These lingering vapors were only introductions to a hell through which I did not have to walk; but they fogged my mind as the blackness increased, until on some days it seemed an effort to breathe, despair had so polluted my inner air.
I hated myself for my ennui, for the dirty house, for the fact that no friends called or cared. Ugly, ugly, ugly be his name. Praise to me in my all-consuming ugliness. Think of Karen; dislike Karen. Adore this awfulness. Don’t lift your head; stay in bed today. If you struggle in this grasp you will only go deeper into the muck, the black February muck of winter.
It came with clarity and life—the thought from my husband’s sermon—he wants to destroy me. David was right, Satan’s desire is to destroy us.
Suddenly I could see the implications of my despair. The children’s lives could be ruined, their mother unresponsive to their needs and eventually resenting and hating their natural demands. Perhaps suicide, or huge psychological treatment expenses that would keep David from functioning in his ministry. It would ruin my parents if I died in this despair. The waves rippled on and on. Satan’s desire was to destroy me.
Something called to me at that moment of realization. I think its name was Love. It asked me to choose. Which did I care for most? children, husband, family, or the desperate wraith of my soul? The answer was obvious. But did I love them enough to struggle to preserve myself and them also? For the first time in my life, I consciously committed myself to spiritual warfare. I was determined that if there was power in Christ, I would find a way to escape the hold of the destroyer.
Recalling part two of David’s sermon, I realized it was my opportunity to overcome. My Christian background hadn’t counted as nothing in my life. As a child I had memorized I Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
I knew the words of truth; my problem was how to experience them.
I decided I would catch the enemy when he turned the handle on the door to my soul, rather than after he had dirtied the rooms with a few days’ sojourn. The worst thing about depression is it sets off dominoes of emotional traumas. It is like the back injury that causes pain to be felt in the neck although the ailment itself is located somewhere along the lower vertebrae. Helpless to discover the source of depression now that despair’s boa-embrace had severed my nerve endings, I resolved to stop everything the moment I heard the doorknobs jiggling.
When I sensed myself sinking lower than my normal moods, I would sit still and ask, “Now what is it that is causing me to feel this way? What has someone said that has discouraged me? or what have I said that I’m embarrassed about? Do I feel that David is too busy to give me attention? Am I really resentful? or am I physically exhausted and making more of things than they call for?”
I discovered that there was always a hook on which my adversary could hang his cloak.
Once the source of my growing uneasiness was discovered, it became a matter of refusing the enemy an entry. It became an intense battle to “stand firm.” It felt literally as though I were pressing my weight against a door while something heaved and shoved on the other side. I can remember fighting against giving way to my unhealthy feelings, sometimes for hours. “I refuse the power of the enemy,” I would whisper, teeth clenched. “I refuse to give in to this thing which he wants to use to destroy me.”
I would force myself to keep on functioning. Keep cleaning, keep working. Get out of the house, go to the beach, to the zoo. If you are tired, go to bed and sleep. Don’t allow yourself to brood; above all else, keep that door shut.
One morning, after several months of this off-and-on struggle, I had been in conflict for hours. Standing before the kitchen sink, tears streamed down my cheeks and dropped into the dishwater. I was weary with the heat of warfare, and certain I would go under without reinforcements.
“Oh, God,” I prayed, “I’m trying to refuse the power of the enemy in my life. I know he wants to destroy me. I have fought him over the last few months and all this morning. You have said you won’t let us go through anything you don’t think we are able to endure. I don’t think I can endure any more of this. David says your promise is your Presence. I can’t keep my back against this door anymore. If you don’t help me, I’m gone.” For a half-hour I repeated: Help me, please help me. Oh, help, God. Please help.
Soon I noticed that the door was at rest, the knob no longer turned, and when I peeked out, the black cloak had disappeared from the hook in the outer hallway.
By some insight of the Holy Spirit, some rare precognition, I knew that despair was gone for good. Though I had experienced depression in its minor and more severe forms for some eight years, I have never tasted it again since that day. It was the first evidence in my life of the practical, redemptive power of God, of His ability to deliver us from the teeth of temptation.
I was not so naïve as to think my responsibility for personal mental health was over. There were long-range life changes I had to effect. The process of building a whole person was about to begin; the armor of my self-image had huge holes that left me vulnerable to the enemy’s fiery darts. There was mending to do, rebuilding of the chain mail, a new insignia to be painted on my shield, a sword to be forged. Yet I knew the depression was gone, defeated by my Overlord. Instinctively, I was aware a battle lull had been provided for me to spend in preparation, garrisoning, and foraging for provender.
Many have been the lessons in knowing I’ve learned since that day; many have been the failures and successes. When I grow weary, my knees aching, my arms weary, when my vision seems blurred—I think back to the sink and my tears splashing in the water, back to my plea for God’s Presence, back to the instant knowledge that He had truly and finally vanquished my despair.
This buoys me, sustains me, lifts me up. It is my personal miracle of the Red Sea crossing, my water gushing from the rock, my pillar of fire by night. God’s promise is His Presence.
About Karen Mains:
Karen Mains, along with her husband, David Mains, leads Mainstay Ministries. Through their years in broadcasting, both radio and television, they also spoke internationally and between them have written dozens of books. Consequently, thousands look to them as spiritual coaches. Karen’s heart of compassion for those who are struggling and suffering has motivated her to look into her own life experiences and share what she has learned with those who need a word of encouragement. Through her writings, Karen continues to be a spiritual coach other Christian men and women.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
- Preparing to teach an eight-month mentor-writing course on writing personal memoirs.
- Promoting the Global Bag Project and hosting fundraising “Bag Parties.”
- Training retreat leaders for future Silent Retreats.