God Prevails Over the Battle of Depression
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Depression had taken over Joseph Cantu’s life. The youth pastor, husband, and father of four says he contemplated suicide every day, believing that was the only way to escape the memories haunting him. “For me, the answer was literally death,” Joseph explained. “I could not get it to stop no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t pray it off. I couldn’t take enough sleeping pills to make it go away. And it scared the life out of me.”
Joseph had struggled since he was 10 years old. After his parents divorced, his mom would disappear for years at a time. His dad, who was in the military, worked long hours. “Dark thoughts of feeling worthless, unneeded, were permeating in the back of my mind often,” said Joseph.
As a teenager, Joseph would find acceptance in a gang, embracing the lifestyle of drugs, violence, and crime. “I believe that at the time, being in a gang made me feel part of a family.” That is until one day when a man named Ralph approached 16-year-old Joseph and started telling him about Jesus. “He took me under his wing,” Joseph recalled. “And really, that is where my life really started to transform with a new hope.”
Shortly after, Joseph got out of the gang and started living his life for Christ. “So, finding Jesus was the answer that I needed to all the emptiness that I had felt as a young teenager…wanting to feel part of a family, wanted to be loved was everything that Jesus was and what I needed,” Joseph said.
Having put his old life behind him, Joseph went on to marry his wife Stephanie, open a dance studio, and start a family. Still, his battle with depression continued. In 2017, he started counseling. One session would reveal memories, difficult memories Joseph had long since blocked out. “Some very dark childhood, um molestation came out,” Joseph stated. “Young friends, always, who just for some reason, always felt comfortable wanting to do something to me or access my body in some way.”
Feeling a darkness so heavy, sometimes he’d go out in the middle of the night and walk the streets for hours. Stephanie watched helplessly as her husband continued to spiral downward. "I didn’t know what thoughts were going through his head,” Stephanie explained. “I was thinking the worst that he may have wanted to harm himself. I was terrified to walk in the door after work. I was terrified to open the door. I thought that I would see him lifeless. I thought I would see him, not breathing.”
Suicide seemed to be his only escape. “I knew I loved my wife. She is the closet thing to me,” Joseph said. “And all I could think about was ending the pain and the sorrow and this torture in my mind that would not stop.”
Every day, Stephanie and their children prayed, sang worship songs, and read scripture to Joseph, believing God would heal him. “God told me to just keep praying and just keep seeking Him, and that He was gonna help him,” Stephanie said. “So I did that. I just kept trying to pray and getting the kids to pray and believing that hope and healing was gonna come.”
The family wasn’t alone in their prayers. The community and their church also rallied around Joseph. “I had a strong team of praying intercessors that were helping us fight through this very tough battle together,” Stephanie added.
Fighting the urge to end his life, Joseph prayed for the Holy Spirit to help him. One night, God answered their prayers. “I heard the Holy Spirit tell me, 'If you’re willing to fight, I will take this from you right now,'” Joseph recalled. “I felt a hand, is the best way to describe it, touch my forehead. And without words, I know that I felt that hand say, ‘Keep living, you are healed.’ As soon as that hand touched my forehead, right here, this darkness and this heaviness just, boom, just came off. It lifted off of me. It was gone,” he said.
For the first time, Joseph was completely at peace and able to find joy in his life and work. “Victory from this was like the best feeling every…to see him standing, to see him walking, to see him coming back to life,” said Stephanie. “It was literally like he was dead, and he was coming back to life.”
“I wake up every day now and I tell God I’m so happy to be alive. It’s just a complete opposite from where I used to be. Thank you, God, for another day,” he concluded.
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