Pastor Louie Giglio explains how an extremely busy year, full of ministry and travel, led to a bout with depression that nearly ended his life. He'll share how a combination of medication, rest, and worship brought him out of his tailspin.
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Louie: So what happens when darkness falls? You know, for me, darkness came fast, and it crashed in, and it shut me down. There was a time, seven years ago, about this time of year, that I fell into a hole - a pit of darkness, depression, worry, fear, anxiety. I was so disabled by it all, that in the months of that journey, me standing here today in front of all of you, in my right mind, proclaiming it the truth of who God is, and serving people, that was equal, in those days, to me riding a bicycle to Jupiter. It seemed like such a far-fetched idea that I would be back in this place again using the gifts that God has given me to lift up the person of Jesus and encourage people in the world. But yet, God did that. He did that very thing. And because of that, I can say today that this comeback idea is not just a book. It’s not just messages. It’s not just some idea. It’s reality. And I think a lot of us in the room have that story - of God’s faithfulness in the toughest place of our lives.
2008 was a crazy year for us. I - it was a perfect storm for me. I like to say that, so it takes a little pressure off of me, um, and it kind of - I can deflect a little bit of the story. But if you remember, we had a global financial meltdown in 2008. Does anybody remember how awesome that was? And all of a sudden, big banks on Wall Street were disappearing, funds were evaporating, uh, economy was just in a free fall, and no one knew where the bottom was. It was the greatest economic crash of several generations. And we were watching it happen right before our eyes. And I was in the zone of people - I didn’t have a truckload of investments, and, um, I wasn’t some big Wall Street, you know, whiz-bang. But what I’d worked hard for was evaporating right before my eyes, and that was, I think, unsettling for probably every person in my zone in the world at that time.
Add to that - a few crazy things - um, my mom - my sister and I, our mom was diagnosed with a debilitating disease that ended up taking her life. And we did this crazy thing in 2008. We did a world tour - a Passion world tour. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We saw amazing things happen. But the last event of the tour, the 17th city was Sydney, Australia - sold out Sydney Entertainment Centre, Darling Harbour, phenomenal night. I’ll never forget it. We go to our hotel that night. And we’re like, “Hallelujah! God has provided. We have survived. We’ve lived through it all. We made it to the end of the road. We just got a flight home from Sydney. And we’re just gonna be giving God praise and thanks.” Woke up the next morning to Shelley yelling at the top of her lungs, screaming, shot up in bed. And I was like, “Man, what is going on?” - ran to the bathroom. And Shelley had collapsed in the shower, on the floor of the shower with the shower running with a ruptured disc in her back. And as far as she could get that day was onto the floor of the bathroom.
It took us days before she could even get to the airport to get on the most excruciating flight I think I’ve ever seen a human being endure all the way home to Atlanta. And now she’s been flat on her back for a couple of weeks. Throw into the mix that we planted Passion City Church. But planning a church is a different animal. And even from all the things we had done in life, I learned right off the bat that when you seek to build up the local body of believers that Jesus loves so much, you are stepping into a different zone and a different battle. And all the collision of those things were swirling all in the exact same moment in our lives.
I remember Shelley and I went to dinner one night. We had a phenomenal meal. We drove back to our house in Alpharetta. We went to bed. Um, she was slightly better but still in a really difficult spot. Two o’clock came, and I shot straight up in the bed, full sweat, like you see in the movie, I mean, just drenching - never happened to me before - heart was blowing up. And I had never experienced that before. But I thought, “Man, my granddad died like this, and my dad died of a heart attack, and I’m gonna die of a heart attack right now.” And I got up, and I got out of bed, and I did what people do - I don’t even know why you do it. I’d never done it before. I’ve never done it since. I went in the bathroom, and I ran cold water, and I was just splashing it all over my face - didn’t do a thing to help what was going on, but...
...Somehow we do that, you know. And I remember sitting down on the side of the tub for a few minutes. It’s dark in the bedroom still. And I thought, “Man, you know, do I wake Shelley up now? Or what do I do?” And like every, probably, man would do, I just went and sat back on the side of the bed and tried to hope it would go away. And I sat there for three hours until the sun came up. And it did not go away. I came to work that morning, took a shower, got to the Passion house we were working in Alpharetta. About mid-morning, my sister walks into my office, and she said, “Do you feel okay?” And I said, “No! My heart is, like, all over the map, and I feel shaky, and I can’t breathe.” She said, “You gotta go to a doctor.” And I’m like, “Okay.”
I went straight down to his office and went in and told him what was going on. He hooked me up to a EKG immediately, started checking my heart and did some chest X-rays. And, you know, I’m sitting out there thinking, “Man, this is taking forever, you know, for a result.” And finally, he comes back, and he gives me some anti-acids and says, “Take these and go home.” And I’m like, “Wow, this was, like, a big scare for, like, you know, Pappadeaux’s last night…” And so...
...I go back, think “I’m gonna go back to work.” And I just decide to go to the house. And somehow I get home, and I lay down. And it just starts escalating. Like, it starts going from bad to worse in a hurry. I mean, all of a sudden, I just - Shelley’s doing something. I said, “Honey, I don’t know what’s going on, but my whole face just went numb, and my arm is numb, and my chest is killing me, and my heart is beating fast, and my legs are convulsing on their own.” And I’ll never forget Shelley, bless her heart, she looked at me, and she said, “Stop doing that.”
And it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t - she’s not a bad wife. She’s the hero of this story. But she was like, “We’re going to the hospital.” So we get in the car. She drives to the hospital. It’s after midnight by now. We pull into the hospital. She drops me off at the door. And I learned pretty quickly - and I’m trying to make light of this because it - there was nothing light about it - but I learned how to get around the emergency room line - you know, the whole sit down, wait forever, you know, hold your wound, you know, so you don’t bleed on the floor kind of thing. I learned how to get around that. You just walk in. You go right to the counter. You say to the lady, “Hi, I’m 50, I can’t feel my face, my left arm is numb, my chest is about to blow up right now, I don’t know what’s going on.” And she was just like, “Come right in here.” And, I mean, immediately...
Immediately, they must have run 10 tests in a matter of 15 minutes - MRIs, EKGs, all kinds of stuff, hooked up, checking everything. And then they sent me back down to this little room. And I’m - again, we’re waiting. And I’m like, “Why are we in here waiting? I’m dying.” My blood pressure, when I walked in there was like, 190 over 170. I mean, I remember the person taking the blood pressure. You know, how they’re so calm and collected, and she was like...
“It’s not good, is it?” Like, “It’s all right.”
Long story short, eventually a doctor came in - the E.R. doctor - and he said, “Well, you don’t - you’re not having a heart attack, you’re not having this, you’re not having that, this checked out okay, this is okay, your blood pressure is nuts. I’m gonna put something in this I.V. that we’ve put in you.” And, I mean, “I’ll be back in 15 minutes.” He comes back in 15 minutes, and I’m like a normal person. And he knew right then what it took me about three, four, five, six months to fully understand. He knew right then that I had had a crash. In the old days, they used to call it - um, I hate to even say the words because we don’t use them anymore because we’re a politically correct culture now, and this term is, um, pejorative. I think they used to call it a nervous breakdown. But that sounds bad, so we don’t use that anymore.
We have a panic disorder...
...An anxiety attack. And I think he knew right there - “You’re crashing.” So he gave me a prescription. He said, “Take one of these two times a day for two weeks. I think you’ll be okay.” But the problem was the crash was, I think, even greater than he thought it was. And a collision of things, probably all rooted somewhere in depression - because that’s the root of a bunch of that. And I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist, and I’m not giving anybody advice today. But I think depression is down underneath a whole lot of the stress and the anxiety and the worry and the dread and the fear that has gripped our culture. And somehow, a crash was happening inside me. And it took me months to see the light of day.
And one doctor said to me, he said, “You know, I think what’s happening here is your brain is trying to shut you down because your brain thinks that you’re trying to kill yourself.” And I’m like, “Your brain can do that?” He said, “Absolutely.” He said, “Your brain is on its own page right now, and we’re gonna have to get it back to normal, and it’s gonna take some time.”
And in that process, I had all of these phobias. Has anybody had any phobias before? I thought I was dying every day. Um, I thought I had every disease you could have. And when you have that, which is a disease in and of itself, which is crazy - a real disease - not hypochondria - but there’s this disease called the ‘fear of death syndrome’ - hello. And when you have it, they can’t tell you, “Oh, you have the fear of death syndrome, you’re gonna be fine.” No, you have to go to every doctor and get every test and get a good result on everything until you believe that you’re not gonna die. What a pain that is! And that was me because I would wake up in the morning - my brain is saying ‘symptoms.’ And the symptoms, to me, were real. I’d go to the doctor. I’d say, “This is what I’m having.” So “Oh, well, you must have that.” Then they checked for that, say, “No, you don’t have that.” And I said, “Well, I surely feel like I have that.” It’s crazy. And then I started going online. Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever...
Don’t ever do that. One thing I read said that part of it can be caused - the 2:00 o’clock wake-up - because, see, that’s what happened. That thing that happened that first night happened every night. And I’d go to sleep, sure enough, at midnight, or whatever time it was, but 2:15 was coming. And, man, when I would wake up again at 2:15, it was like this cloud would just hang there. That’s when the darkness was closing in. And it was just, like, dread. It’s like, doom. And I just was shriveling under the weight of it every single night.
John: You’re listening to Pastor Louie Giglio on Focus on the Family. And a quick note, you can get his book,, or the audio of this message with quite a bit of extra content when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459 - or request those resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Let’s return now to this gripping story from Louie Giglio.
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Louie: I read online that, um, the 2:00 o’clock thing could be parasites.
No, it said, “Have you traveled anywhere outside the United States?” And I’m like, “Yes!”
And then it said, “Have you been anywhere below the equator?” I’m like, “Yes - Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines - I don’t know, that’s close to the equator - Australia - they don’t have parasites in Australia. Yes, I’ve - we’ve been places. We went to Jakarta, Indonesia, for crying out loud. Maybe I got parasites.” And they said, “Yes.” And here’s the thing, they’re below-the-equator parasites, so they sleep while you’re awake, and they’re awake while you’re asleep. And so when you go to sleep, they wake up about 2 o’clock and start parasite activity in your body. How nuts is that?
It’s so nuts that I had to go to a guy - and I’ll spare you the details - and figure out whether I had parasites. I didn’t. He said, “No, you don’t have any parasites.” I’m like, “Wow, I was sure that’s what it was.”
And I think it’s good to make light of it now, but, man, it was dreadful. I didn’t leave the house most days. I don’t know how Shelley really made it through all that. I didn’t go to work. Any little activity - like, you know, “We have to go meet so-and-so,” I’d just shake. Any unexpected event, and I would just melt down. I remember going to a little small - one of those small home meetings for our church, and I knew better than to go, but I felt slightly good enough that - late that afternoon to go. And Shelley was driving me there. And as we’re going there, I just started shaking. And I thought, “I gotta go into this house and tell these 25 people that the guy that’s gonna lead their church is melting down.”
And that went on and on and on and on and on. Doctors were helping. For a while, I was on this medicine to reset my brain. I only say that because I just want to tell my whole story. I never dreamed I would be on antidepressants, but I was for a while. And I think it was a key component in what helped my brain reset. And I know a lot of people don’t believe in that. But, man, when you’ve done everything you know to do - I was just desperate. And I’m so glad I did. And I - again, I’m not giving you advice. That’d be the dumbest thing I could do. But if you get in a moment where you need help, get help. Don’t let some church people tell you that, you know, “Oh, you just need to pray more.” Sometimes praying more leads you to wisdom, and wisdom leads you to someone that can help you. And if you get to that place, go get help...
...Whatever the help you need is. And all of our hope doesn’t rest in doctors, obviously. All of our hope doesn’t rest in medicine, obviously. But if you need help - and I was blown away because I started taking this antidepressant. And people’d say, “How are you doing? You seem like you’re doing a little better.” I said, “I am doing a little bit better.” And they said, “Well, how is it working?” I said, “Well, this is happening, and that’s happening. And this is good, and that’s good. And I don’t have that, and I’m not dying of that. And I don’t have all these other things. But I mean, I’m also taking this whatever.” And I would name it. And they would go, “Oh, that’s amazing. That’s - I take that. It’s really helping me.”
And I would be like, “You do?” “Oh, yeah. I used to take whatever, but then my doctor switched me to that. And once he switched me to that, it’s really helped me a lot.” And I’d be like, “Wow, I thought I was the only person in this boat.” That’s one of the things that happens to you when you’re in this hole and in this pit. You think you’re the only one in this hole and in this pit. I learned later that there are a lot of people having exact same happen - thing happen to them that happened to me, I mean, down to the convulsions and the whole deal. And I’m like, “I wish I had known anybody that had had that before because then I would know, ‘Oh, I’m not the only person who’s ever gone through something like this.’”
I had no idea how many people in America are making it through life because of some sort of aid. And the people who don’t want to go to a doctor, can’t afford a prescription, don’t want to go through the embarrassment of being that person, they’re just having two glasses of wine every night.
And somehow, this thing called fear and worry and depression, man, it has got a hold on us. But the psalmist at Psalm 46:10, one of the most powerful invitations in life, he wrote, “Be still,” which translates, “Cease striving”, “and know that I am God.” In other words, there’s got to be a place down underneath all this stuff we say we believe where we really can rest in the confidence that whatever the circumstance - a debilitating disease, an economy crashing, the world crashing, crazy rulers, dictators, um, divorces, diseases, death, relationships blowing apart - whatever the circumstance is and whatever the challenge is, God is greater than the circumstance. And where I cannot fix it in my own power, as hard as I try and as much as I want to, I can have confidence that God can hold it in His hands.
And somewhere down in “be still and know that I am God” - not “be still and feel that I am God” - but “be still and know that I am God” is a reset down in the bottom of us that I know that I needed in that moment. My breakthrough - you say, “So how did you get out of that?” I got out of that dark hole in that dark valley through something called worship - amazingly. And you’re like, “Well, what took you so long?” I don’t know. I think when you get knocked down and you get knocked out, and your brain isn’t functioning right, you don’t function good, and you forget a lot of what you know and don’t know how to put in practice some things that you remember.
But I know there was a night, and it was - for me, it was D-Day. It was the zero point for me. It was the bottom. And that 2 o’clock came. And I just thought “I cannot - I can’t do this again. I cannot do this again. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what else to pray. I don’t know what else to think. I can’t go to another doctor. I’ve already been to every doctor I can possibly think of, and not one of them said to me ‘A, B, C, you’re gonna be better.’” And the Holy Spirit brought a scripture into my mind. It was a scripture that I knew, but for these weeks, months, that had just been in the backdrop. And He just brought it right to the front. Job 35 - “our God gives songs in the night.” And I learned that when darkness falls, God is still as good as He was when it was noon-day light. And the best response, in the light and in the dark, is to get our eyes on God and to worship Him, and that He will actually give us a song to sing in the nighttime. And that song will hold us until the light comes again. And that popped in my mind. And I’m sitting there. And I’m like, “Okay, but I don’t know what to sing.” And you’re thinking, “How do you not know what to sing. I mean, have you ever heard of Chris Tomlin or David Crowder or Passion or - surely, you can think of a song to sing. How about How Great Is Our God? That’d be a good song to sing.”
I couldn’t think of any songs to sing. And I might have even sung them all somewhere along the way in the journey. But I remember just saying this - it was just almost a little - it was all I got. I said, “God, I don’t have a song right now, but if you will give me a song, I will sing it to You, even right now at the end of the road.” And somehow, just like that, my heart just filled up with this little bitty song and a little melody. It was simple. The words were “Be still my soul. There’s a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing. His arms a fortress for the weak.” And I sang that little melody, I’m gonna guess, from about 2:30 until about 6:30 just over my lips over and over and over again. I just said, “Thank you. And I will say this to you, be still my soul. There’s a healer.” There is a healer. That doctor is not Him. That guy is not Him. That thing is not Him. That’s not Him, and that’s not Him, and that’s not Him, but there is a healer. Be still my soul. There is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing, His arms a fortress for the weak. And you’re like, “Man, that’s amazing. I cannot believe God gave you that little song. And so what? You woke up the next morning, and, bam, everything was changed, and everything was better, right?” No. Woke up the next day, same deal, went to bed that night, 2:00 o’clock came. But when 2:00 o’clock came that night, I had something - I had a song in the night. And when a cloud came that night, I sang my song. I did that night after night after night. You’re like, “Man, that song must not have been the right song because things weren’t really...
...breaking open for you. But there was a time, I remember, when there was - it was always cloud, song, cloud, song, cloud, song. And I remember when it was cloud, song, song, song, cloud. And I was like, “Oh, a little ray of light.” Then eventually, it was song, song, song, song, song, cloud, song, song, song, song, cloud, song, song, song, song, song, song, song, song, song, song, song. And one day, I realized I was standing in the light again. Standing in the light again...
That praise, that worship pierced the darkness and led me back to the light. Yes, doctors helped me. People helped me. Shelley helped me. People prayed for me. But that worship led me back into the light.
John: And that’s where we’re going to have to end today’s episode of Focus on the Family, featuring Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jim: We had to end there because of our time constraints, but Pastor Louie went on to explain eight ways that worship can help you during difficult circumstances. And we’ll include that extra content - almost 20 minutes’ worth - on today’s CD and audio download.
I gotta tell you, as I listen to the early portion of this message, I found myself thinking, “Wow, that guy was too busy.” And I think I’m pretty busy too. There’s a takeaway many of us need to hear. In our increasingly busy culture, you need to have some margin in your life. Just go ahead and schedule some down time. Put it on the calendar. Learn to say “no” when a new commitment would create too much stress in your life. Even Jesus took breaks from ministry. In Luke, chapter 5, we’re told that He often withdrew to lonely to places to pray. So resist the urge to overextend yourself, even if you’re doing work for the Lord.
Now, as Pastor Louie said, he’s not an expert on depression. So let me conclude with a word of wisdom from our own counseling team here at Focus on the Family. They tell me that Christians are often tempted to rely solely on prayer to overcome this problem, but clinical depression almost always requires outside assistance in the form of medication or therapy, often both together. And I want to stress: prayer is a key. Don’t misunderstand me. Here’s the most important thing, isolation doesn’t help. It only makes things worse. But we have the answer. Call us here at Focus on the Family. Take the most important step by reaching out to our caring, Christian counselors. And if you’re seeing the symptoms of depression in a loved one, odds are they won’t see it for themselves. So give us a call and we’ll give you some ideas on how to help that person.
And let me say thank you to everyone who supports Focus on the Family financially and helps us provide these resources for people who are hurting. We appreciate your partnership. And if you can give today, we’d like to send you a copy of Pastor Louie’s book on this topic called,. And we’ll do that for a donation of any amount. Just get in touch with us today.
John: Yeah, our number is 800-A-FAMILY - 800-232-6459 - or donate online and request the book and the CD or audio download with extra content at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And be sure to join us next time as we hear how to help your teens grow up by giving them more control.
Kenneth Wilgus: You now have the freedom. It’s up to you to make your own decision about music. What you listen to, that’s between you and God. However, if your little sister is caught on your phone listening to some of that stuff, then you’re gonna lose your phone for a day. You need to make sure - that’s just true of any adult - you have to be held responsible for your own behavior.
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Louie GiglioView Bio
Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church, with two campuses in the Atlanta area, and a newer outreach in Washington, D.C. He's also founder of the Passion Movement, which gathers college-age young people at events around to world to inspire and equip them to live their lives for Christ. Pastor Louie graduated from Georgia State University and earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has authored several books including Goliath Must Fall, The Air I Breathe, and The Comeback. He and his wife, Shelley, reside in Atlanta. Learn more about Louie at his website, louiegiglio.com.