Sis. Vicki Leonardson, tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
I have served as full time Music Minister for 14 years at Calvary Gospel Church in Madison, WI, pastored by Bro. Roy Grant. My husband, Scott, and I have been married for 34 years. He serves as Worship Leader at Calvary. We have one daughter, Scotia, and one son, Dayn.
Scott and I are part of a team that has been ministering to a struggling community for about three years. Once a week we have Family Night in the community room. Our worship services include demonstrating the steps of worship (very important for folks who aren’t accustomed to Pentecostal worship), prayer, Bible classes for children and adults and fellowship afterward. We are witnessing healings, deliverances, and people being filled with the Holy Ghost.
Please share your testimony of how God brought you out of depression.
I thought I knew God before. Raised in a pastor’s home by wonderful parents, I was taught by example how to pray by them and my grandmothers. However, somewhere along the path of my life, I listened to the lies of the enemy and began to suffer tormenting depression.
The symptoms began with three months of complete sleeplessness. Sleeping pills didn’t help. I felt like there was a huge boulder on my chest at all times, making it difficult for me to breathe. I shuffled when I walked because of no energy and thought I might have cancer or heart problems. I suffered with Agoraphobia, avoiding everyone. One person was one too many. I cried often, lost 35 pounds, couldn’t make decisions, and had extreme anxiety. Trying to figure out what to wear to work brought a flood of tears. Anxiety pill-induced sleep was my happy place. I was disappointed when the morning sunshine filtered through my bedroom curtains, because every second of every day was agony. Prayer helped very little, because I would cry and feel worse. I was never able to escape the extreme anxiety to focus on a book or anything to escape my sadness.
I visited two medical doctors and two psychiatrists. I pleaded with my doctor for another drug because the two prescriptions I was taking were no longer working. I devoured any information I could find on mental illness and studied scriptures concerning fear and torment. I spent hours in prayer seeking answers, only to feel more confusion.
On April 12, 2008, God delivered me! That day, Satan was tormenting me with feelings of hopelessness and despair. I called a friend who had experienced panic attacks years earlier, and as she shared her story of deliverance, I felt faith rising in my spirit. Our Associate Pastor had advised her to spend her sleepless nights in prayer. When Peggy said her panic attacks left and have never returned, I started doing a victory dance. I hung up the phone and started worshipping and praising God for complete deliverance. Since that day, I’ve been praying and studying the Word like never before. When Satan brings negative thoughts, I remind him of the scripture in Revelation 20:10, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
How common is depression in the U.S.?
Depression is an epidemic all over the world. I read online recently that depression is the number one cause of disability in the world. Children, teens and adults are all vulnerable to depression.
What are the primary causes of depression, and how are they normally treated?
In most cases, depression doesn’t have a single cause. It can be genetic or can be triggered by a combination of things, including past or current circumstances, trauma or grief, emotional abuse, health problems and stressful events such as the death of a family member. Women can suffer depression due to hormonal changes, and are twice as likely as men to become depressed. Elderly people are also at a higher risk of depression, and certain medications can cause depression as well.
Depression is most often treated with medications or therapy. Although both may help some or help temporarily, the best treatment for depression was the one I found complete deliverance through, the Lord Jesus Christ!
When someone shares with you about struggling with depression, how do you advise them?
Praise and worship God daily, thanking him for every blessing in your life and for dying on the cross for you! Speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38) every day is crucial. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Rebuke him with a loud voice of Revelation 20:10, and he will flee! Repeat this as many times a day for as many times as it takes for complete deliverance. And remember, feelings of discouragement are from Satan 100% of the time. God NEVER condemns us, but encourages us to put every care at the foot of the cross. We must leave relationship challenges at the foot of the cross! Avoid pity parties, because they lead back to depression. All confusion and negative thoughts must be placed at the foot of the cross. Avoid negative people! You may need to make entirely new friends. Get involved in outreach, witnessing and sharing your personal testimony of healing and deliverance.
What should pastors and churches do to help people struggling with depression?
At Calvary we have Life Support Ministries and staff that are available for counseling. I also facilitate a weekly inner healing book club. We are currently going through Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands, and I highly recommend this book.
What are some of the common misconceptions people have about depression?
Well-meaning Christians make comments like “Just rebuke Satan, and your symptoms will leave” or “Study God’s Word, and you will feel better.” I was in such a deep pit of depression that this counsel was not working for me. The very best support you can give to a depressed loved one is prayer, fasting and loving them unconditionally the way that Jesus loves us.
Do you give seminars? Contact information?
I love to share my story of God’s delivering power and have spoken at Calvary, other churches and events. I have a blog, revivalridge.blogspot.com, and have written hundreds of posts, based on my daily Bible study. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.