Set Free

set free.jpg

“You may lose many battles, so long as you win the war

victory is sure.” 

I’ve never really shared this for the very reason that I want this blog to be one of hope, but now, standing on the other side, the side of victory, I want to share this struggle of mine, so that you too can have hope over it. You can WIN THE WAR.

I used to suffer from depression.

You see, I’ve never really looked at the world optimistically, and there have been things in my life that have affected me greatly. I won’t go into detail because there are people that I have forgiven and things that I’ve gone through that belong in the past. If God permits me to share my testimony on that someday I will. For now, let me just say that I have been traumatized, bullied, betrayed, manipulated, emotionally abused, and have suffered loss in my life.

Adulthood was a new chapter for me, one which I had to choose what luggage I wanted to carry and what I wanted to leave behind. I discovered pretty quickly that it was easier said than done. As an adult, your childhood still clings to you, the pain and brokenness of your past doesn’t leave but raises it’s ugly head when you come across failure or moments when you feel vulnerable and alone.

Aaron has seen the broken side of me, it’s many jagged pieces, the parts of me that no one sees because to the outer world I’m just, “Smiley Riley.” I reached an all-time low just last year and even contemplated taking medicine to help me function, to keep smiling at the world so they wouldn’t know.

I felt like with every step forward in life, satan would come and shove me down. For every step, I would slide back several. Every happy moment in life seemed to be overshadowed by darkness, and each fleeting joyful memory was suspicious to me and a promise that pain would soon follow. I sought God with everything, and in the growth of wisdom I acquired, so did my sorrows.

I felt that I was alone, and misunderstood.

I felt that things would only get worse.

I felt that I was a slave to my emotions.

I felt that I had lost the battle. over and over.

The journey to recovery actually began with forgiveness. In forgiving the people in my past who had hurt me I was opening the cell door and allowing light to come in. Let’s face it, holding onto unforgiveness only hurts you, not them.

After that, I heard a single phrase that turned things upside down for me. You see, I felt entitled to feeling depressed. Like I earned the right to feel victimized or to pity myself. The phrase I heard was this:

“Don’t you know depression is a form of selfishness: humility isn’t thinking any less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” 

I was consumed with self, even if it was negative I still thought inwardly and let my emotions control me. I couldn’t heal because I was experiencing life through the lens of my pain and low self-esteem. I needed to view life through the lens of Jesus. It was appalling to me that I had been acting selfishly, the very sin I despised.

I decided enough was enough, my depression wasn’t getting me anywhere, in fact, I knew that it was keeping me from experiencing what God had for me. It was keeping me from rising from the ashes and living in power. It was affecting my marriage and other relationships as well.

My pastor’s wife walked me through a book by Joyce Myer called, “Battlefield of the Mind.” And I also watched videos from Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian author, and neuroscientist who knows the brain like no other. Both of these will change the way you think, and in fact, that is the cure.

It was time I re-wired my brain, that I filled my head with positive words and God’s truth when satan sought to bring me down with lies and negativity. Our minds can be re-wired? yes indeed.

This was a huge step, but the victory over depression only just recently occurred within the past few months. Never have I gone this long without feeling depressed. Something just clicked, I’ve felt wiser and more in-tune with God to the point of knowing when satan is trying to tempt me into depressive thoughts/feelings again, I can see right over the top of the feeling and avoid it completely. It is strange, almost like a road to Damascus shift in me, I just know that I am free, that I am changed, and that the war over this problem is over and I am victorious.

Despite the miracle of freedom, you must know that God only gives us what we can fully accept. Back then, I wouldn’t have accepted this freedom, this gift. Have you ever been given a blessing you weren’t ready to receive? I’ve heard stories of people that lived in poverty winning the lottery and ending up poor again within a few years. Why is that? The problem wasn’t their poverty, it was their heart.

Everything you do flows from your heart. Mine was broken and bent on remaining so. Joy is a choice. One we make every day, regardless of what happens around us. Jesus is our joy and our hope that can never be taken from us.

I’ve seen this truth demonstrated through the life of our friend Jared, who lost his wife in a car accident last year. He has chosen joy and experiences it fully with his young son Isaac. People often say, “I don’t know how he can do that…” to which the answer is, “through Jesus.” That is the only way we can do anything. He will see his wife again, and until then, he is going to live joyfully and continue pursuing what God has for him. That is a huge slap in the face to satan and what he hoped to accomplish through this tragedy.

“In this life, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” 

In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Rise up, dust yourself off, pull your sword up from the muck, and slay this thing, that cowers because you dared move against it. Can you taste the victory? Jesus paid for it, He dealt the beast a fatal blow, and now it is wounded and afraid. Don’t bow to it any longer! Your name is Victorious! You carry the heart and will of God inside YOU!



Below is a poem I wrote during my battle over depression. Even amidst it, I knew that God was the answer, the only one who could set me free. Oh if only I knew then that I could’ve walked out of the cell of despair at any time…it was never locked to begin with. My Jesus set the captives free a long time ago…


I don’t know where to go from here

I think I must be dreaming

To imagine this would disappear

A fantasy so fleeting


To say that I am satisfied

When life’s devoid of meaning

I walk through each and every day

A glimpse of hope I’m clinging


Why do we struggle on?

Our faces to the wind

Arms reached in sacrifice

Tears that never quit


I need you God like oxygen

Do you need me at all?

The fact that you still want me so

Is why I rise and fall


If it weren’t for you and those I love

I would begin to fade

Into this cursed ground

That always gives and takes


Lord, fill me up!

I need to see

A light in the abyss

A reminder that I’m not alone

And would be sorely missed


I need to bow before your throne

Place my burdens at your feet

To hear your whisper in my ear

“I’m always near to thee.”


If there is a purpose here

I need a helping hand

To see the bigger picture now

Is more than I can stand


Pull me from this hole I’ve dug

And I will understand

The emptiness inside I feel

Will fall away like sand


God, you’re the reason this world turns

I’m just a single man

Entangled in your masterpiece

Too big to comprehend




4 thoughts on “Set Free

  1. This was such a well written post and I agree with your steps completely!! I dealt with depression for a few years and it was exactly that, focusing less on myself, forgiving more, and coming to the place where I would turn my eyes off my own problems onto Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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