It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you. –Tyler Perry
But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. – Mark 11:25
With the tragic death of Robin Williams, a gifted comedian and actor, I have been soberly looking back at my own bit of depression that I held onto for 37 years. As you may or may not know, my story is that I finally became 449 pounds as I tried to eat myself to death. Robin Williams probably suffered the type of chronic depression for which remedies are rare. It takes intensive therapy and, especially important, antidepressants. Some people who are haters have posted “Why didn’t he just get over it?” Some things you just cannot “get over.” These things take the power of God to help you overcome them. I am not going to sit here and even suggest I know Robin Williams spiritual demeanor, that would be playing God, and I leave that only to God. This post is about the other half of my story, the depression that caused me to gain a lot of weight over the years.
My difficulty was used as an illustration in one of my pastor’s sermons without mentioning my name. He said he prayed that one day I would be willing to share this story with others, so others could gain power from it. I don’t share this to get sympathy, pity, or sadness for what I had to endure. I want to point out that if I had not gone through this, God could not have twisted this evil that was done to me into something good. That something good is to share that you are not alone, and I pray that many who read this will realize that they have nothing to be ashamed of since they were not in control of the situation. Of all the transformations that have happened in my life, this was the biggest. It began with a suggestion from a very good friend who was instrumental in helping me lose my weight. She said that I ought to check out the book The Shack, authored by William P. Young. The book is a one of the best books I have read, and it was life changing for me. In it, the main character has to deal with the heinous killing of his young daughter. At the end of the book, God is telling him that he has to forgive the man that killed his daughter. That touched me to the point of tears, and at the time, I had no idea why I was touched so deeply. I said a prayer, “God if I have ever not forgiven someone, please show me.” God answers these types of prayers. He let it stew in me for two weeks and then gave me an answer. He said to me through the Holy Spirit, “Remember when you were 10 years old and you were molested?” Then I remembered. It had been the same year I started gaining weight and the same year I gave my life to Christ. Thankfully, being saved — saved me from lifestyles that are far more destructive. Eating oneself to death is still destructive. The weight gain gave me severe asthma, sleep apnea, and heart failure. Bitterness and an unforgiving spirit ate away at my soul, and the only way I could find comfort was eating the comfort food that eventually made me so uncomfortable. What still amazes me is that I had no idea how beaten down I was. My recovery built my character by giving me a desire never to give up on life or trying to overcome. Let’s now talk about steps that can move us from a depressed state.
If you have some kind of continuing destructive behavior in your life, you may need to consult a counselor or a Christian psychologist. This may mean you are depressed, and I really believe one of the root causes of depression is bitterness. The point here is that you need to reach out and get some kind of help, whether it is a friend or professional, if it leads to that. What worked for me was sharing it with friends and family and getting the empathy I so needed to overcome my depression. This may happen differently for you, we all are different people; what worked for me may not work for you. The first step is examining your life and determining if you are continuing a destructive behavior. If you are, seek some kind of help. No man is an island, and we always need to reach out to people.
The next, hardest, but most important step is to forgive the person who wronged you. For me it was, “God, I don’t know where this person is, whether he is alive or dead, but I forgive him and pray that his life has changed around so that he will no longer hurt anyone in this way ever again.” I continue to pray that to this day. When I first prayed it, I felt absolutely nothing. I did hear the enemy tell me that was not a sincere forgiveness prayer. You may feel that way too, but ignore that thought. God will honor that prayer because He knows your heart better than anyone, even the enemy. The best ally you have is not only God, but also time. With the right attitude and forgiveness, time can help heal all wounds, even those deep inside of us. God uses time to soften the hurt that we have experienced and slowly will turn it around for the good. He always is faithful in doing this. It took a couple of years for me to finally feel completely free from bitterness, but the gratitude and love of life I experience every day is to me an indicator of my true freedom.
The last step is to help others who have experienced this pain. Sharing your painful story with others helps to empower them and to empower yourself. God doesn’t want us to be blessed and then leave it at that. He wants us to be instrumental in freeing someone else from his or her own prison. I allowed myself to get into a self-built prison and gave the enemy a stronghold in my life in which to destroy me. When we selflessly share our pain, we bring forgiveness to ourselves for something for which we should not have to be forgiven because we were not willing participants. Tyler Perry is one of my favorite people because he went through way more than what I had to endure, and what a thriving life he has. He found the key was forgiving the person or persons that did this to him, but also forgiving himself. He knows that forgiveness frees him, and he freely shared his story with the nation a few years ago along with over 200 men that were molested along with him. Completed forgiveness brings the freedom to share with others and the freedom to change other people’s lives and help set them free.
I found freedom from depression when I realized I had a problem, an issue, a pain in my life that needed to be dealt with. I shared it with close friends, found freedom through forgiveness, and shared it with others in order to forgive myself. It took me two weeks finally to finish this post. As I have said, it has taken a great deal of courage to share this in this medium. Sharing it with small groups is great, but this is even farther reaching, and I hope and pray many can gain some form of empowerment from this. Freedom from an unforgiving spirit gives you stronger faith, hope, peace, joy, and, most importantly, a love of others and a love of life.
© [David Howard], [David’s Body Temple], 2011-2015.