One Woman’s Heartbreak Fuels Ministry of Hope
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MASKING THE PAIN
Julie Busler grew up in a Christian home in Kansas. When she was only 8 years old, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Eleven years later, her mother passed away when Julie was 19. She explains, “My grandma woke me up and said it’s time. When I got into the bedroom mom got still. It’s really shocking to watch your mom being carried out in a body bag.”
Julie was responsible for picking out her mother’s outfit for the funeral. After her burial, the family carried on with life as usual and didn’t discuss their grief. When Julie returned to college, she did her best to hide the pain and none of her friends knew that her mother just passed away.
As her despair deepened, Julie turned to God for comfort. The dichotomy of Julie’s life puzzled her. On one hand, she had joy. Her friends even nicknamed her “Joyful Julie.” On the other hand, she struggled with such sadness that at night she googled how to end her life.
LIFE GOES ON
Julie graduated from the University of Oklahoma where she met Ryan. After they married, Julie danced with a ballet company for a while and Ryan was an engineer. They were actively involved in church and began growing their family. As time went on, they both felt called to the ministry. On the outside, they looked like a happy family, but Julie’s sadness ran deep. Even her husband didn’t know the depths of depression Julie dealt with.
“Depression doesn’t always present itself as someone lying in bed and crying all the time. I’m this blonde bubbly mom who’s at all the events. I hated how that felt but it was just natural to keep on going,” she explains.
At age 27, while pregnant with her third child, Julie received an email that her dad had taken his life. Devastated, Julie went about the business of burying her second parent. Realizing how hopeless her dad must have felt, Julie was determined to share the hope of Christ with others.
In 2012, she and Ryan decided to become missionaries and moved to Turkey. While there for six years Julie ministered and served those who were suffering even though she was still suffering herself. Weary and tired of the pain, Julie began planning her death. When her mother-in-law came to visit them in Turkey, Julie’s kids were so excited. She explains, “While cognitively I knew I should feel the warmth of joy as I watched my children joyfully swarm their grandma. I felt a hollow disconnect... We were hanging out as a family, soaking in her company, when a thought popped into my mind: While my mother-in-law is here, it would be a great time to kill myself because she could help my husband get the kids home to the U.S. and my body.”
In 2018, when Julie finally felt like she could open up to a trusted friend about her feelings, that friend encouraged her to seek help. Julie then shared her feelings with her husband, and they got her help. After talking with a psychiatrist, Julie was immediately hospitalized while in Turkey and diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They decided they needed to move back to Oklahoma for further treatment. While trying to settle back into home life, Julie felt ashamed, like a failure who let God and her family down. All of this created the perfect storm that deepened her depression. Julie had lost her will to live and was hospitalized again.
During this time, God surrounded Julie with friends and family who loved her at her lowest. One of her friends reminded Julie that just like David in Psalm 23:4, Julie was also walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Later, a fellow patient at the hospital was walking past Julie and when her leg brushed against her, she said, “I will fear no evil for you are with me” also found in Psalm 23. That random patient had no idea what that meant to Julie. Finally, when it was Julie’s turn to see the doctor, who had no idea that Julie was a Christian, he asked if Julie had ever read Psalm 23.
Julie shares, “I could not believe it! God was reminding me yet again of the beautiful truth found in this beloved Psalm. There is no place so dark, so isolated, so removed from society that God cannot reach His children still… He was restoring all of me that once wandered away. I could feel the change happening deep within.”
THORN IN THE FLESH
While reading about the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh, Julie realized that he asked God to remove it from him, not once but three times. Yet, God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul’s response to this was that he would boast in his weakness so that Christ’s power might reside in him (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). When reading Paul’s writings Julie was surprised how candid he was about his suffering when she tried so hard to hide hers.
Paul was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and persecuted but counted it all joy because God used his suffering for His glory. Julie says there is purpose in our pain. “When the storms of mental illness are raging, we must try to follow Paul’s example:
• Paul remembered who he belonged to.
• Despite everything, he called God good.
• He believed God would keep His promises.”
Therapy paired with medication helped stabilize Julie’s symptoms, but she had to come to terms with the fact that while God could heal her, depression might remain her ‘thorn in the flesh.’ Julie realized, “Dying to self may look like letting go of our idea of what your life should look like in exchange for what God has designed your life to be. When we grasp the sovereignty of God over every aspect of every single thing and believe in His goodness and love for us, we can embrace our weakness as the beautiful design to display His strength and draw others to Him.”
Julie says even though we must endure trials and tribulations in life, God has given us the tools we need to overcome. When Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and was tempted by Satan, the Lord’s preferred weapon against the enemy was the written Word as we read in the book of Matthew:
The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3-4, NIV).
The importance of saturating our minds with God’s word is of the utmost importance. Using the example of Christ, we can fight any attack from the enemy with scripture. Julie explains, “We cannot rely solely on medication or any other means that have been provided for us in the wilderness, but only by the Word of God. So, for us, what does that look like? It means getting up and opening the Bible and reading even when we don’t feel like it or even when only a few words are the best we can do because the Word does transform our thinking and becomes our weapon in war.”
To find out more information regarding Julie Busler's ministry and to purchase her book, "Joyful Sorrow," please visit: www.juliebusler.com.
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