Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10
I've delayed sharing the following experiences, but after much prayer and contemplation I've decided it was time. I've waited because I don't want it to seem that I'm soliciting pity and attention, and also because I know that many won't understand and will give sympathetic but unhelpful advice.
Many people know that my mother suffered from acute depression and actually came from a family with a history of mental illness and emotional problems. (Her story I hope to write one day.) Unlike my mother I had a great upbringing in a Christian home, nevertheless I didn't realize until later in life my own problems with depression.
My purpose in sharing my experiences is to give encouragement to those who have, or may be suffering in the same way. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 2 Corinthians 1:4 I know it was a comfort to me to read about those who had had similar experiences, so now I share mine.(read the story of Marcus Tresothick, the English soccer champion.)
My life has been travel and I've always loved it. "Just give me a blank airline ticket and I'll fill it in!" I used to tell people. Now long trips are a challenge for me. Imagine being a professional racing jockey but having a deathly fear of horses! Or being a commercial pilot for a major airline and having a breakdown upon boarding the plane from fear of flying! So it is with being a full time singing evangelist with travel as your enemy.
On my fourth trip to India in February 2007 I experienced acute depression. Feelings of hopelessness and despair plagued me. As I played with the kids of the Hope Children's Home I felt I would soon collapse from mental and emotional weakness. When I finally made it back home I wept uncontrollably.
After 2 1/2 years I decided to return again to India to visit the HCH kids. It was worse this time. The first night there I walked the halls of the hotel all night weeping and fretting. I got no sleep. Once again feelings of complete despair plagued me and I found in my mind no reason to live. The next few days of the trip I had a feeling almost like strangling except it emotional/mental rather than physical. I avoided any thoughts of my wife and kids and would not look at the pictures I had with me.Only by God's grace I made it back home and began to recover.
I resumed my usual travel schedule and after a few weeks began to feel better. In July 2010 I sang in Nashville and was to fly home the next day. I got very little sleep the night before my early flight. I felt sick as I headed out to the airport about 5 a.m. and ended up missing the exit. When I finally got to the parking area to turn in my rental car, I felt so nauseated I opened the door and threw up. I then grabbed my suitcase and raced to the ticket counter only to find I had missed my flight. I'd have to wait 3 hours for the next one. I've never been good at sleeping sitting up so I got no more sleep that day. My connection was changed from Memphis to Atlanta and so I finally arrived there in the late afternoon. Everyone boarded the plane and it was announced there were mechanical problems and there would be a delay. After waiting a half hour or so another announcement was made for everyone to exit the plane while repairs were being made. There was a lot of moaning as you can expect. We waited quite a while in the airport till it was finally announced there would be no flight to Alexandria,La. that day. Passengers lined up for hotel vouchers and later a bus shuttled us to a hotel. I was utterly exhausted and couldn't wait to go to sleep, but as soon as I settled in the bed and began reading the scriptures, depression came in like a black cloud. I felt I was going to die if I didn't exit the hotel room so I quickly dressed and headed down to the lobby to be around some activity. Anything to distract me. I called Jennifer and wept profusely. I told her I couldn't travel anymore. At that point, surviving was the only thing that mattered to me. If I had never traveled again it would have been fine with me.
Finally the next day my plane made it home. I cancelled a couple of weeks of church appointments so I could rest and try and recover. The depression hung on for weeks and every day I fought to keep my mind focused on anything other than my future.The Atlanta experience left such a profound impression on me it was months before I spent another night away from home. I kept up my singing schedule but would avoid overnight stays entirely. Sometimes I'd wake at 3 or 4 a.m. on Sunday to drive to my appointment, then drive back that night arriving back home at midnight or after. 20 hour Sundays were not unusual. All this to keep from having a panic attack/ depression episode.Several people said I should see a doctor and have an antidepressant medication prescribed. I made an appointment with a doctor but cancelled it because I felt the Lord had given me more faith to believe I would recover without medication.
The Lord has made 2 Corinthians 12:10 real to me. Not long ago I was traveling alone on a Saturday night and those old feelings began to creep in and I began meditating on this verse. Charles Spurgeon said "The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity." The Lord seemed to say, "Shawn, this depression, these panic attacks are sent from me so that you can know my strength.. Nothing is more of a threat to you than your supposed self sufficiency. Therefore, I've sent something to cause you to know your weakness and My strength."
I've spent countless hours trying to put together the reasons for my episodes of despair.I'm sure they had something to do with the fact that my dad was at home recovering from quadruple bypass heart surgery when I left for India in 2009. At that time he did all of my scheduling of churches for my ministry. Another major factor I'm sure was the loss of our relationships with many churches who no longer would let us come sing because of changes in their music styles/standards.
I praise the Lord that He has given me grace and strength to continue to sing and travel. I am getting more comfortable with traveling longer distances and staying overnight, although I must be dependent regularly on the Lord to deal with any feelings of panic and despair that arise. It's amazing how God has provided through all of this and I love Him for it.
Some scriptures that have helped me in my depression and fear:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow: for what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
I highly recommend the reading of "To the Golden Shore, the life of Adoniram Judson."
He experienced great depression in his ministry as did Charles Spurgeon.