Jackie's Story "Shackles Are No More"

Back in November, I submitted my original story to 7 Billion Ones. It amazes me how we can think we are on the right path but in God’s eyes, we aren’t living out our full purpose or potential. I thought I had it all figured out. But God had something else in mind. Something I had known all along but refused to accept. I spent years seeking a calling and purpose when God had placed something in my heart as a young child and I was running from it because I felt so unqualified for my calling. Yes, God qualifies the called but I never saw how that could apply to me considering everything I had done. He had me right where He wanted me. Broken, vulnerable, and outside of my comfort zone.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, depression, anxiety, Steven Furtick

As a child, some of my earliest memories were attending a Catholic school from kindergarten through third grade in Wisconsin. Every week, a different class was in charge of putting the Tuesday morning church service together for all of the school. When it was our turn, I always found my way to the pulpit to share a reading from the Bible or a message of some kind. I just felt this pull that I couldn’t describe. I understand now that God was already positioning me to be used by Him for greater things later in life.

Outside of school, my family attended Lutheran services every week. Both churches had many similarities in the style of worship. I thought that’s all that was out there. Before the start of seventh grade, my family packed up and moved to Missouri. It was a huge step of faith considering we didn’t know anyone here. It proved to be one of the most life-impacting changes we made. In my sophomore year of high school, I started attending a church and it was a much different environment from the Catholic/Lutheran services I had become accustomed to. This church had so much life and energy. One night after church, I prayed a prayer that changed my life going forward. In that moment, I surrendered my will to His purpose for me. A couple months later, I felt a calling into a life of ministry and service in the church.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, depression, anxiety, Steven Furtick

I started faithfully in the children’s ministry. If only life continued to go the way I thought it should. Over time, not overnight, I started being involved in the wrong relationships, opportunities, and lifestyles. I became involved with drugs, alcohol, and every bit of immorality you could imagine. I would always find myself justifying where I was at. Denying the impact it really had on my life. I was in one abusive relationship after another. I was carrying trends from the past into my present and then wondering why things weren’t changing.

I eventually reached rock bottom and attempted suicide on multiple different occasions. Each time, I would always say that if God brought me back, I would know that I had a purpose. Well, as you can tell by reading this, He definitely brought me back…but I would always fall into the same relentless cycle. As time continued to pass, I eventually moved forward. I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and felt that I had arrived. I was preparing to serve an 18-month mission for the church and had a spirit of anticipation for what was going to happen. But something was still missing.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, depression, anxiety, Steven Furtick

I was career hopping, desperately seeking a “purpose” for when that season was over. In my head, I remembered what God had placed within me that summer at camp. But I brushed it away. The LDS church has a lay ministry which means you don’t get paid for your service so it couldn’t be my calling. And to top it off, I had been through so much that I felt like God couldn’t use me effectively anymore. I ended up not serving a mission and over time, I slipped back into my old ways yet again. I felt like I couldn’t get my life together no matter how hard I tried. I settled that this was how I was always going to be. I couldn’t change because this was me. I figured that if I was still going to be the same person, the least I could do is give myself a fresh start in a new city. I moved to Huntsville, Alabama. Everything started out kind of rocky but that’s to be expected when you move somewhere new.

With time, things started to smooth out. I started a business and was pursuing a goal of financial freedom. I had a group of people surrounding me that I felt would become like family. I had a good job that was paying my bills. But there was still an emptiness. I couldn’t pinpoint what was missing. I started becoming extremely depressed and anxious again. Over time, my health suffered. I had to make a decision on whether or not to go back home to Missouri. I knew it was best but I didn’t want to leave what I had started in Alabama. After approximately six months in Alabama, I made the decision to return home. The transition proved to be more difficult and trying than I had anticipated. I felt like I had given up on my goals and purpose by moving back.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, depression, anxiety, Steven Furtick

My depression and anxiety worsened. With my mental health deteriorating, I found my physical health deteriorating along with it. I once heard a friend say that sometimes God will put you on your back so the only way you have to look is up to Him. That’s exactly what He was doing. During this time, I started attending a Bible study. One night, I just felt like God was telling me it was time to come back to Him and that He had been waiting for me. I surrendered my will to His purpose for me again, not knowing what would happen or what He was about to do.

One night, I was researching sermons about anxiety and healing on YouTube and the sermon When Anxiety Attacks by Pastor Steven Furtick popped up in the search results. I was immediately drawn to the message and his in-your-face preaching style. Most importantly, he showed me how the application of the message in my own life. It was what I needed. Since that sermon, I have found a church home with Elevation Church based in Charlotte, NC. I lead an online eGroup and serve on a volunteer team. With that service, I have discovered that my purpose never left. I am in the process of applying for a bachelor’s degree program in Christian Leadership and Management to fulfill the calling that was placed on my life as a child.

7 billion ones, randy bacon, depression, anxiety, Steven Furtick

I realize now that everything I went through, no matter how dark or heartbreaking or stretching it may have been, was there to fulfill a purpose in and through me. It’s there to help other people going through there own struggles. My desire is to see people raised to life in Christ. It isn’t about a religion or being spiritual. There is a living God that wants to meet people no matter where they are or where they have been… Just like what he did with me. When I was broken and on the biggest detour of my life, God was there walking through it with me. Pastor Steven Furtick said that God is in the detours, details, and dead ends. Not just the destination. For this, I am grateful.