Depression, Suicide, and Spiritual Warfare

Posted: Jun 28, 2024

You’re looking at a scan of my brain, taken in 2014. A normal brain is smooth. Those holes and crevices reveal improper blood flow and/or that my brain isn’t functioning properly. This improper function can cause racing thoughts, depression, anxiety, unwanted, intrusive thoughts, or other problems. I’ve been living with a malfunctioning brain for the past 17 years. Maybe longer. Stir in the neurological effects of long covid, and it can make for challenging days.

Suicide rates are climbing, as are the number of people who are reeling with the trauma, confusion, and torment that comes from malfunctioning brain chemistry while simultaneously coping with intense spiritual warfare. I’ve watched the blog posts and articles that have been written on suicide and depression and have yet to read one that offers real world, practical answers for those who are suffering. Many could be summed up as “we need to talk about mental health issues in the church… go see a doctor.” You can tell they haven’t lived through that hell personally and are throwing our Scripture or counsel like it’s candy on Halloween.

Those who are living on the edge of insanity brought on by a misfiring brain face fear, the confusion that comes from doctors and counselors who give conflicting advice that may or may not help, the loneliness from feeling like a freak, and the vicious spiritual warfare from an enemy who is going all out to convince them there is no hope so they give up and end their life.

This isn’t an article I jumped at writing (there were several “are you sure?” conversations with God along the way). I can talk about porn or sex with ease, but this part of my story is darker, and I could have lost my life. It’s also a subject that many Christians misunderstand or know little about, which can trigger foolish comments from armchair critics. We get enough nasty emails as it is with the porn ministry (including from Christians); I didn’t need more.

But this article isn’t about me; it’s for anyone who might be freefalling down the same dark hole I did and struggling to find answers or hope. It’s also for those who want to help them.

In January of 2007, I was burned out. I had been torching the candle at both ends and fallen into a deep depression. I saw my general practitioner (M.D.) about the depression; he put me on an antidepressant, but it had the effect of spinning my mind like a gyroscope. We tried several other antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications (anxiety can accompany depression) but made no progress.

Then I started making the rounds with psychiatrists. Their approach was to put me on cocktails of 3-4 medications that included every antidepressant, antipsychotic, and benzodiazepine (addictive tranquilizer) in the book, along with sleeping pills. After several months of this, my mind and emotional state started cracking; by early summer of 2007 I was having panic attacks. Anxiety and fear set in, accompanied by deep bouts of depression.

I saw 6 doctors that year, with the result that every new cocktail of pills accelerated my freefall into darkness. In October, I was referred to a psychiatrist I was told was “the best in Colorado Springs,” and put on a new cocktail… that continued my downward spiral.

In December of 2007, I started having crying fits. I was now in so deep that my mind and emotions were a swirling mess of fear, depression, anxiety, and torment; I was losing hope.

I had seen multiple counselors that year. One counselor said what I was going through was rooted completely in unresolved trauma, so we kept digging and scraping everything we could from the bottom of the barrel of my past. There was no peace or healing in his approach and the endless digging drained my emotional reserves further.

I went to several churches for help. One pastor listened for 5 minutes and then went on a 50 minute monologue on how I’d messed up by my choice of previous counselors. I couldn’t wait to get out of his office.

My faith was in pieces, to the point where I began questioning my salvation. The fear and panic attacks, some of which were juiced by the medication, played a part in the spiritual torment. What made it even more confusing was that in the previous years I had seen God do a lot of amazing work through me to provide healing and breakthroughs in the lives of others who were in bondage to sexual sin. I didn’t understand how I had gone from helping others to total collapse in a short period of time, and why the Lord wasn’t providing answers or helping me.

At the end of 2007, I turned Blazing Grace over to another ministry. There was no way I could help anyone in the state I was in; I was groping in the dark on my best day. I was also terrified of the future.

In January of 2008, I went to another doctor who prescribed one of the few antidepressants I still hadn’t tried, and it pushed me over the edge. You know those warnings on medication that say “if you start having suicidal thoughts, get help immediately?” Those pills broke my mind, and I started hearing screaming suicidal voices. I went to the ER, and they admitted me to the psychiatric ward for what would be an eight day stay.

The psych ward was a living nightmare. Men and women were walking around like zombies, having been medicated into a coma by the doctors. I received the same treatment, and was put on a new, high dose cocktail of 4 potent medications that transformed me into a zombie like the other residents. The panic attacks finally stopped, but so what; now I was shuffling my way through a living coma.

All through 2007, Satan had been hitting me hard with thoughts of fear, despair, and hopelessness. “God has left you! Look at you! You’ve lost your sanity! There’s no hope for you now… you might as well end it!” The spiritual warfare, the chemical, emotional and spiritual mess I was, and the new bottom I’d hit in the psych ward had me teetering on the cliff of ending my life. All the doctors, medication, pastors, counselors, and constant crying to God for answers or hope had gotten me nowhere. I didn’t see any light and was grasping for a shred of hope…
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I originally posted this article in 2019. Since then, men and women have continued to find this article, share their stories, and ask for help. Some are in the same place I was, with doctors medicating them into a coma while they wrestle with mental torment and spiritual warfare.

Suicide rates are on the rise; in 2022 the CDC reported 49,369 suicides, a record. Suicide is now the number 2 killer of youth. Mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, are epidemic. We need to offer a lifeline to those who are hurting in these areas.

The Christians who are walking through these valleys often find themselves alone and under severe spiritual oppression by an enemy who is viciously trying to convince them there is no hope so they will give up and end their lives. There are many in the body of Christ who are walking this dangerous road.
Some stories end in tragedy. These are just a few examples:

South Carolina pastor’s wife dies by suicide
Alabama pastor dies by suicide
San Diego County pastor’s wife dies by suicide
30 year old California pastor dies by suicide
California church pastors commits suicide after long battle with mental health

I wanted to cry after reading these stories. Families lost their husband, wife, mother, father. Churches lost a beloved leader. I know of suicides, including of youth, from our circles of influence in the ministry and personally. These stories are pictures of a church at war that all too often tries to pretend that the demonic realm and spiritual warfare don’t exist and that mental health problems should be ignored, swept under the rug, or even worse, spiritualized away as a “lack of faith.”

Much of what is said in church circles about these issues—if they’re addressed at all—do more damage than good. John MacArthur recently said there’s no such thing as PTSD, OCD or ADHD. I wanted to throw up when I read that. If you can’t say something that will help those who are hurting or these ways, please don’t inflict more damage on them. We have enough strife and division today as it is.

When I was going through my dark valley, I learned very quickly that there are few believers I could talk to when it comes to mental health and spiritual warfare. Many Christians have yet to learn the art of listening, particularly when an issue intimidates them or is outside of their limited understanding or worse, their doctrine-box.

If you’re going through a dark valley, please take it seriously. I know from personal experience how dangerous such a valley is. Reach out for help, today.
Please don’t try to walk this road alone.