When former Muslim Fernando Santana dos Santos heard that HeadHeartHand Media were making a documentary curriculum about Christians who suffer with depression, he sent us this beautifully inspiring testimony to God’s grace in his life.
The stigma of depression runs deep in today’s Evangelical churches. We ( the church) lack knowledge on the subject of depression , and it is imperative to educate our brothers and sisters. Instead of saying something rash, we can encourage the depressed believer, not discourage. Christ calls the church to lift up the fainthearted, the weak, the discourage (Rom 15:1; 1 Thess 5:14). We need to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). We rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). If we don’t care, who will?
Raised a Muslim
My name is Fernando dos Santos. I’am 29 years old, married to a beautiful women named Helnna, and together we are raising two little boys, Gabriel (8), Vinicius (3). I came to know the Lord November 15, 2006, at 11:45. Christ removing the old heart, and replacing it with a new one, is an experience I will never forget. Before my conversion, I was a sunni Muslim since birth. My mother was, and still is a wonderful women. She played, played well both mother and father. My father was intelligent and percipient man. He was an architect, and a good one too. He was strict in my up brining, and sometimes went to far when he disciplined me. It was so bad at times; to the point where my mom would have to intervene. However, I stilled admired my father. He was my hero.
Helnna and I were married on September 9, 2003. In 2004, we had our first child, Gabriel, and In 2009, Vinicius came along. I had trouble in the beginning raising Gabriel . I did not have the skills or training to raise him up. It wasn’t until my conversion to Christ, and the Lord bring godly men in my life; I was able to see, and observe the men interacting with their wives and children. It is a blessing too see a father fulfill his role; as the federal head of his home.
In the fall of 2009, my appendix erupted, and I was rushed to the emergency, where they performed emergency surgery. I was in intensive care for 6 days. I was discharged on a weekend, and by God’s grace, my wife was able to take time off work to care for me. I was so weak, when I was discharged and was now at home, it was tough to walk up the stairs, to take a bath, I was immobilized. I looked in the mirror and I looked like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. I weighed in at 145 pounds before the surgery. After the surgery, my weighed in at 115 pounds. It took a lot out of me (literally).
That same year, I was scheduled to go back to University, and that fell through because of my health. I also had to take a temporal leave of absence at my part-time job. Helnna’s pay check from her part-time job (at the time) was the only income coming in. It was a difficult time. But glory be to God! my church was able to come along side, and help with the bills. I saw God’s providence and His grace at work. But it again, they were those days when it was difficult. I started to lose hope. I saw myself as a loser, and a less of a man, because it was my wife who was bring in the manna, and not I. At that time, I was blind to see my behavior. I was prideful. Instead of casting and my anxiety and fears on the One who cares, I looked to other means, which were prescription pain-killers. Oxycontin was the drug of choice. Who would have known that a pill the size of a dime would do so much harm and damage to myself and my family.
Fake joy and false promises
I had that fake joy, the one the world craves for. It wasn’t like I was going to a back alley in the hood and getting the pain-killers from a guy; I was getting them legally from my doctor, whom I failed to tell I had a problem. I would sit in bed all day and night, and not move from there. I had the blind close, it was like I was the phantom of the opera, in total darkness. I spent little time with my children, I made false promises to them, and my wife who waited hands and foot on me, I was ignoring her. I wanted to be alone. The thought of suicide bounced back, and forth in my head. One night when I was left alone, my wife and kids weren’t home. The thought of suicide emerged and it was so intense. I went to into my closet; got my belt; made my way to the bathroom to end my life. I looked at myself in the mirror, “worthless” I thought.
Then my practical theology kicked in (praise God for Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology) and I thought of Calvary, and the atonement. Christ died so thatI can have eternal life and forgiveness, Thoughts of Helnna, and Gabriel, and Vinicius started to appear. Who is going to instruct and discipline my children in the Lord? Who will love my wife as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up to her? It was right there and then; I dropped the belt, and fell on my knees, and cried out to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If it weren’t for the Lord’s sovereignty, mercy and grace, you wont be reading this letter.
I sought help after that night. We called our pastor and told him everything. He was able to counsel me and I was able to get help from the local center of addiction and mental health clinic in Toronto. I praise the Lord He let me grow through that. Theology matters, and having a solid biblical view of God help through it. I still battle with depression, but now I’m on medication, and being on meds is not a stroll through the park. I read a book by a pastor and his wife, Steve and Robyn Bloem, “Broken Minds” a huge help in my life. The Bloems made reference to another book, “Christians Get Depressed Too” Again it was a super huge help in my life. One of the things I had to pray about, was being honest and seeking not to glorifying my story. I take this very serious. May God (if He so wills) use my petty story to bring glory to Himself, and to help the those who need it.
Let us remember the words of Christ, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt 25:35-40)