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Life in Abundance - Mel's Story

by Melissa Furniss

I have believed in God for most of my life. I was raised in a loving, Christ-centered home and have genuinely enjoyed walking with Jesus since the age of 5. Almost 12 years ago, I married my high school sweetheart–a hardworking man who loves his Savior with passion and joy–and together, we have three beautiful children who are prayed over and surrounded by supportive friends and family. If you were to look at my life based purely on specs, it’s perfect. My cup runneth over. There’s nothing to complain about. Yet only seven months ago, I found myself alone in an acute treatment facility due to severe depression and suicidal ideation.

I’ve battled depression on and off since the seventh grade. It was the first time I heard those subtle, cruel whispers in the back of my mind. The ones that say, “you’re not enough, and you never will be.” “Everyone else can handle this. What is wrong with you that you can’t?” “It must be such hard work for people–even God–to love you.” I knew that Jesus did love me and was inviting me to walk closely with Him. But what did that mean practically? If life with the Lord was an ocean, my understanding was as deep as a kiddie pool. So in a culture marked by performance, I fell into the trap of doing everything “right” and expecting God to bless me with what I wanted. And when loved ones suddenly died, and marriage turned out to be really, really hard, and having kids wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, and jobs were lost, and friends came and went, and our babies were sick… my faith was shaken to its core. I had a theology for a God who would calm the storm. But I could not comprehend this God who was inviting me to walk with Him through the storm.

Those small, whispered lies–they began to feel truer and truer while hidden away in the shadows. I took medication for my depression and attended therapy on and off for several years, but I rarely brought the lies out into the light. On my own, I was unequipped to address the very real shame I carried around in my chest, but upon it, I built empires. Empires of resentment, self-pity, pride. Anger at my husband, anger at myself, anger at God. Fear of what others would think, being seen as disposable, and losing things I held onto too tightly. I was–and honestly, still am–addicted to myself. My empires were shallow graves.

After our sweet daughter turned about three months old, my depressive symptoms worsened, which is not uncommon in the postpartum season. But this time, they were utterly unmanageable. I couldn’t stop the voice from speaking, and it was getting louder and extremely specific in its suggestions. I was afraid, weeping in my closet, bathroom, and car. Finally, by God’s grace, my sister lovingly and firmly told me to call my counselor, and I was sent to an in-patient facility to treat my suicidal ideation and paralyzing depression.

I remember a pastor saying a few years ago, “no one talks to you more than you do, so the story you tell yourself matters.” The story I was telling myself drained the life from me. The words of the enemy permeated my bones, and I didn’t know how to go on. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance!” But this stealing, killing, destroying voice was the antithesis of Jesus. It was the grotesque opposite of His Kingdom. And in that dark place, I didn’t want to believe God was real.

But He was there. In those few scary days in a treatment facility, as I sat on that uncomfortable bed alone and scared out of my mind, He was there. He didn’t put on a big show. He didn’t speak audibly or give me a huge “aha” moment. I just felt His presence nearby, like a friend who refused to leave my side no matter how much I pushed him away. His presence guided my doctors to change my medication. His presence led my family to give this tired mama a helping hand with the kids. And His presence moved my spirit to sign up for re:generation at Fellowship Greenville and fully surrender to its process.

I’m less than halfway through now, and I cannot express enough how hard the work is. How brutally humbling it can be to look your sin in the face and repent of it every single day. But–and brace yourself for the obvious here–THAT is the Christian walk. It is working out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is not coasting on Sunday sermons and some worship songs throughout the week. It is unmasking yourself in front of fellow believers and saying, “I need help! I am deeply imperfect and in need of Jesus” and seeing that you’re not the only one; they need Him too. It is washing your mind with the Word every morning. It is covering your home in prayer each night. It is pursuing vulnerable, pride-stripping, grace-magnifying accountability. It is looking your husband in the eyes and saying, “That comment I just made– it was unkind and defensive. I sinned against you, and I’m really sorry. Will you forgive me?” And it’s doing that again and again and again and again until the Lord takes us home. It is a long obedience in the same direction– acknowledging the effects of the fallen world, but through the strength of Christ, not allowing it to call the shots. It’s not glamorous. It’s not easy. But it is EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS. Walking with Jesus, eyes fixed on heaven, one small moment at a time.

When I believed the words of that small, cruel voice, it was as if I was trying to bury my risen Savior all over again and myself along with Him. But THANKS BE TO GOD, HE. CAN. NOT. STAY. BURIED! He is alive, and He is life itself! He is every breath, every hope, every good and perfect thing. And He loves us too much to leave us where we are.

I still have so much to learn. Unraveling shame’s power will take time and faithfulness, and an abundance of grace. But if you’re out there and you feel alone right now in what you’re going through, please know I’m going through it too. You’re not alone. You’re fully known and fully loved, just as you are right now– not some future, “better” version of you. Our good God has generously equipped you with His nourishing Word, His present Spirit, and His messy, beautiful Church so that you may have life with Him today– and have it in abundance.

All glory and honor and praise and worship to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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