When Joy Feels Too Far Gone with Mandissa Gabriel Bland // September 22, 2020
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“Optimist.” “Joyful.” “Upbeat.” Everyone knows someone who could be described with these words, and perhaps as you read this list of characteristics, a specific person even came to mind. One person who has stood out to many as a joyfully warm and upbeat person in the world of music is beloved musician and alumna of the American Idol Top 10, Mandisa. From the start of her career on the epic television show, with her soulful singing and forgiving heart toward Simon Cowell, to her Grammy-winning musical endeavors, Mandisa has become a source of light and inspiration for many.  Not only her personality, but also her songs like “Overcomer,” “Good Morning,” and  “Unfinished” evoke a life-giving encouragement. The last of those was birthed out of the reality that she, just like every other person, is susceptible to having her joy shaken when the storms of life come.

A few years ago, Mandisa lost her best friend, Kisha, in a fight against breast cancer, which catapulted her into a deep, overwhelming depression that eventually led to her considering suicide as the only means of escape. But, by the grace of God, she has come back out of the darkness and has found her joy once again. And she now actively desires to share the tools and hope that God gave her to overcome, because suicide was not her only way out—instead, it was the love and light of Christ that were the means to the freedom she so desperately needed.

“It’s interesting when you are facing depression, you feel like you are the only one that knows what that feels like. And I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people out there who know what it is to battle in darkness. When I’m praying for this album and praying as I share this story, it’s that people who are in the darkness and who know what it’s like to be facing depression, that they would see my story and that it would give them hope. Because if there’s anything my story says, it’s that if you are still here, if your heart is still beating, and if your lungs are still breathing, that means your story is still being written—that God is not done with you yet.” In the months before the release of her album “Out of the Dark,” and still continually, Mandisa has been all over social and traditional media calling out to those in the darkness that there is hope, there is freedom, and it’s not out of their reach.

As Mandisa opened up to us, she shared three practical steps that God used in the midst of her darkness to help her find freedom:

Community

“The first thing he showed me was community, which is interesting because I am a single woman. I have never been married. I mean, I lived with a roommate in college, but for the most part, I have lived alone for most of my life. I am also an introvert, so that means I actually get energized from spending time alone. However, I also recognize that isolating and being by yourself too much is a breeding ground for the enemy. And it was in that season of darkness and isolation that I was listening to the lies of the enemy. And so God has really shown me the power of community, the power of walking with brothers and sisters in Christ. And it was in large part to my friends and my loved ones chasing after me and saying that they loved me just as I was, but loved me too much to leave me there. That is what God used to help lift me out because I was going down a very dangerous path and so I’m thankful for my very persistent loved ones.”

Not Focusing on My Mistakes from the Past

“Second, God showed me that I have to stop focusing so much on all the mistakes that I have made in the past—that I needed to take it one day at a time, and not even focus on how far I have to go. My go to scripture for that is in Philippians 3:13; it says “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” We really have to take it one day at a time. And for somebody who feels hopeless and in darkness, it’s so overwhelming. And the only way that I can do it is to not focus on all the mistakes I made and not get overwhelmed by how far I have to go, but just today. What choices can I make right now? What can I do with Jesus to help me walk in fellowship with Him? Who can I be with today that is going to help me live in the light?”

Look for the Flicker of Light

“The third thing that God showed me was ‘Look for the flicker of the light.’ It came in so many ways for me. It came through my loved ones, and it came through listening to Christian radio. I’ll never forget being in my car, and it was the first time I had turned on Christian radio in forever because when I was in that dark period, I didn’t want to be around the light—I didn’t want to hear about Jesus. I wanted to stay in that dark place, and so I wasn’t listening to Christian music at all. So when I finally turned on my regular Christian radio station, I heard the song ‘One Step Away’ by Casting Crowns, and it said ‘You’re one step away from surrender. You’re one step away from coming home. You’re one step away from arms wide open.’ And for me that was a flicker of light. It brought in a flood of light for me. I was in darkness for so long, and it is amazing how a little flicker of light can change everything. I love being in a concert setting when one person will lift out the flashlight on their phone and then it just spreads throughout the entire arena—but it starts with one. And that just goes to show you that that is the thing about light; darkness is overwhelming, but all it takes is one little flash of light to chase out the darkness.”

So many people, across the world as a whole, but specifically in our own personal circles, are actively struggling with depression and may feel like there is no hope. Whether it be someone you know, or even you yourself who are grappling with the weight of that darkness, the truth is that none of us is alone. Even when it doesn’t feel that way, God is always there. And we, as the body of Christ, have the ability to be the active hands and feet of God by taking the time to reach out to those around us, those who may be battling such despair, and communicate the love we have for them. Take the opportunity you have today to be a glimpse of light in their life. Even if they don’t appear to receive it at the moment, you don’t know the life-giving impact your persistence could have in their life.

 

Little known fact:

Some people don’t know that I sucked my thumb until I was 24 years old. And so that’s why when people tell me that I have a beautiful smile, I kind of laugh because I know that it’s only by the grace of God. I always say that I was on the heavenly dental plan, because it is only by the grace of God that I do not have buck teeth sticking out of my face.