The book Joyful Sorrow: Breaking through the Darkness of Mental Illness was released well over a year ago. In a personal interview, author Julie Busler stated her life is like the proverbial adage “One step forward, two steps back.” Sometimes gaining traction in the struggle over mental illness is difficult. Yet, with Christ and the power of His Word, the lifelong journey can be filled with joy and hope.
On June 30, 2001, Julie’s mother died of cancer. Lots of unanswered questions were stuffed into the recesses of Julie’s mind. Then, in 2011, she received an email stating her father had just died by suicide. This news compounded the trauma she wasn’t dealing with.
Hiding in the Darkness
While in college, Julie came to the saving knowledge of Christ. There she met her husband, Ryan. They have four children. Years into their marriage, through a series of events and wanting to be obedient to God’s call, she and Ryan sold most of their possessions to serve as missionaries.
While she was serving in Turkey, depression, grief, and trauma began to surface. Julie was no longer able to ignore the irrational thoughts.
In the chapter “Healing Starts with Humility,” Julie shares her thoughts, decisions, and the steps that brought her to a Turkish psychiatrist’s office, then admittance to a psychiatric hospital. The darkness in her mind swirled with thoughts of suicide. Yet, as she looked at the Turkish women she had come to serve, Julie realized she was broken just like them:
I saw myself in a more accurate light which was both absolutely necessary in me grasping my great need for help, and sanctifying as I realized my place in relation to the Almighty.
God was going before her, preparing her with His plan for healing and bringing His joy into her suffering, in His timing. After Julie was released from the hospital, thinking she was better, she and her family came back to the United States.
However, within days of returning to Oklahoma, Julie formulated a plan to take her life. Providentially, she stopped and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the second time within a month. Her diagnosis: major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. In the book, Julie takes you through her experience and the importance of relying upon Scripture every step of the way.
More than five years have passed since Julie’s initial experience in Turkey. When Julie speaks with individuals or groups, she shares the following:
- Be in God’s Word as much as you can. Nothing transforms the mind like the Word of God. A few steps in His direction are better than no steps at all.
- Permit yourself to seek help and guidance, even though bringing things out to the light can come with fear. Start or continue to see a therapist. Therapy helps to unpack the trauma and irrational thoughts — it’s a process and takes time. If needed, take the prescribed medication.
- Walking and exercise have tremendous benefits. Go to a gym, or ask a friend to join you for exercise.
- Fight for joy! What does that look like? Joy is a supernatural fruit of the Spirit, not dependent on our circumstances. Joy is found in abiding in Christ and remembering the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Therefore, we can experience joy even in sorrow.
- Continue building relationships with family and friends through your church, organizations, and professionals. Beware isolation.
Sharing His Light in a Broken World
Serving as Oklahoma WMU president has allowed Julie to tell her story to others and proclaim the graciousness of God.
When asked how she has seen God at work, Julie pointed back to God’s faithfulness in her life:
Seeing how God has been working through Joyful Sorrow has been humbling. It’s been an honor to hear how my book has helped others seek professional help while pointing to Jesus as our hope.
I’ve also heard from those who love and care for someone with mental illness. They have said that the book has helped them understand how a Christian can struggle with their mental health. It has helped them see loved ones they’ve lost by suicide with compassion.
When I first moved home from the mission field and was in and out of hospitals, someone told me I was unsuitable for ministry due to depression. To see how God has birthed an entire ministry from my admittance of depression has shown me how boasting in our weakness doesn’t hinder our ministry but rather highlights the power of God to a hurting world. I’ve also heard from counselors around the country who are using Joyful Sorrow as a resource for clients.
Most of all, I’ve seen God’s beautiful redemption. He is faithful to shine His light through whatever I am going through.
Julie and her family have seen God use their story to impact the lives of others. Their missionary service continues in this broken world!
Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.