Girlfriends in God - Jan. 7, 2008


January 7, 2008

Hope in the Midst of Depression

Part One

Mary Southerland



Today’s truth

Philippians 4:8 (NIVB) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.


Friend to Friend

While my eyes were riveted to the television screen, my heart went out to the handcuffed woman clad in an orange jumpsuit as she meekly followed the policemen who was escorting her to jail. A pastor’s wife…accused of murdering her husband. My emotions stumbled over each other as anger warred with compassion, confusion with condemnation and justice with mercy - and I was certainly not alone in my emotional battle. Newscasters vacillated between understanding the horrific and callous act she had committed because, after all, this woman was the wife of a pastor. Church members were stunned; some at a loss for words while others could only stare at the camera in a daze of pain and disbelief. Words like “perfect” and “ideal” were used to describe the Winkler family.


Then it happened. Mary Winkler raised her face slightly, long enough for me to gaze into hauntingly familiar eyes, eyes filled with emptiness and darkness. While I cannot condone or even understand the actions of this woman, I can understand the road that brought her to the dark place where she felt her only option was to commit a heinous crime. The pit of clinical depression is a place of devastation – the playground of Satan and the forces of hell. In 1995, I found myself sitting at the bottom of that same dark pit, desperate for God, pleading for deliverance. After two long, hard years of painful emotional work, fierce spiritual warfare and complete brokenness, I stepped into the light.


As God has allowed me to share my story with others, I have been amazed at how many women people struggle – in painful silence - with depression. I have good news for you, my friend! There is a way out of that pit and freedom from the darkness. Over the next few days, I want to share some of the truths God taught me in the darkness that have revolutionized my life in the light. One of the most important truths is that we can change the way we live and minister by changing the way we think.


As I sat in the pit of clinical depression, I began to see that my destructive thought patterns had become a vicious cycle of self-condemnation and insecurity. That cycle had to be broken. I began to pray, asking God to take control, knowing that only he could accomplish what I was asking. The steps that follow have re-programmed my thinking processes and literally transformed my life. 

Step one: Recognize the power of thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 says it this way: "For as he thinks within himself, so he is" (NASB). In other words, what we think about, we will become! The greatest battlefield for the Christian is the mind. Thoughts are real and powerful! Our actions, our attitudes, our habits are born in the mind – in our thought life. We can literally change our lives by changing what we think about. Isaiah 26:3 promises, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you" (NLT). Peace and joy involve both the heart and the mind. Wrong thinking will lead to wrong living. The first step toward a right thought life is to recognize the power of our thoughts.


Step two: Know God's standard for our thought life.


First standard: true thoughts “True” literally means “genuine, authentic, or real”. When we deposit God’s Word into our mind, it will transform destructive thoughts into healthy ones. Don’t waste precious energy trying to be what others expect you to be or trying to earn the approval of anyone but God. Be real!


Second standard: noble thoughts “Noble” literally means “worthy of honor and respect”. The word “noble” is used only four times in the New Testament. Each time it is used it is linked to self-control, specifically to control of tongue.


1 Timothy 3:11 “Women must be respected by others. They must not speak evil of others. They must be self-controlled and trustworthy in everything” (NCV).


“Admirable” is similar to noble and literally means “fair speaking” or “worth talking about”. In other words, if we think right we will speak right! Statistics say that the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking! (For us ladies it might be a slightly higher percentage!) If our words were put into print, a single day's words would fill a 50-page book; in a year's time, the average person's words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! What kind of book did you write today? Was it one of encouragement or condemnation, love or hatred, peace or anger? Proverbs 16:24 reminds us that “pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (NASB) Words are just like seeds. What we plant will grow.


James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (NASB).


An ancient fable tells about Proteus, a monster that had unusual power. Proteus could assume many shapes and appearances. He could become a tree or a pebble, a lion or a dove, a serpent or a lamb and had little difficulty in changing from one form to another. Proteus reminds me of the human tongue. It can bless or curse. It can express praise or whisper slander. It can speak a word of encouragement or become an instrument of destruction! The control of the tongue begins in the mind! The bridle for our tongue is a controlled thought life…a thought life that is admirable…a thought life that is noble…a thought life that is filled with light instead of darkness.


Let’s Pray

Father, as I examine my thought life, I see the darkness hiding there. Negative thoughts, critical thoughts, prideful thoughts…but Lord, I submit my thought life to You. I give You permission to pinpoint those thoughts that are displeasing to You. Please give me the strength to eliminate those thoughts and the source from which they came. I really want to think right and live right.

In Jesus’ name



Now it’s Your Turn

  • Read and memorize James 3:2 “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (NASB). How does the truth of this verse play out in your daily life and ministry?
  • Examine your thought life for destructive patterns of thinking.
  • Can you identify the source of those patterns? Get past the thoughts themselves and go for the jugular of that source. Root it out! Eliminate it! Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to stand against it!


More from the girls: My heart goes out to so many of you who have emailed me, asking for prayer and direction as you battle the darkness. Know this. You are not alone! Yes, God is with you! Yes, Gwen, Sharon and I are praying for you and committed to your journey into the light! Women across the world pray daily for you. Take a risk. Share your burden with another, knowing that we were created to need each other and that a shared load is a lighter load. Visit my new website where you will find free resources that offer practical ways

to find hope in the midst of darkness and depression. Not sure if you are depressed or just down? Take my quiz. I would love to hear from you!



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Originally published Monday, 07 January 2008.