I flipped through the pages of my journal, pages filled with dark scribbling and depressing thoughts. I found a clean sheet and began writing. More dark thoughts spilled onto the page. What’s the use? I wondered. Nothing I do makes me happy, even for a minute. Death would be easier than struggling against this darkness. But then another thought settled in my mind: Death is for the weak. I tried to pull myself together. It took all the energy I could muster just to go to class.
I’m Vasily [vah-SEE-lee], a university student studying in Tomsk [tom’sk], Siberia. For the past several years I’ve led two lives. Most people thought of me as a kind and responsible person, active in sports, and a good student. But inside I was gloomy and depressed, and I felt alone. I tried to shrug off the depression with alcohol and later with drugs. I barely managed to keep my grades up and hide my addictions—and my depression—from my family. But it was hard. As I dragged myself out of bed each day I found myself repeating, I just want this to be over.
“Good morning,” Galina, the cleaning woman, said with a smile.
“Morning,” I muttered, thinking, Even the cleaning woman is happier than I am! She was even happy when she was scrubbing filthy toilets! She befriended the students, and many had shared their problems with her. I’d heard her talking about God with them and knew she was a Christian. “Why can’t I be happy like Galina?” I muttered to myself.
One day Galina gave me a Bible as a gift and lent me some books to read. I wasn’t focusing on my schoolwork, so I read the books instead of studying. I tried reading the Bible, but I became bogged down and set it aside. I returned Galina’s books and tried to avoid her.
My depression worsened, and my wild behavior increased. My frustrated parents didn’t know what to do. I stopped using alcohol and drugs and I felt a little better. But the depression still had its claws in me. Thoughts of suicide were never far away. Some days it seemed the only way out.
Then I remembered Galina. Maybe she could help me. A few minutes later I met her in the hall. She invited me to her home that afternoon. I accepted, stunned by the timing of her invitation. I realized that Galina’s invitation was not a coincidence at all, but a call from God. God hasn’t given up on me! I thought. My heart felt almost light as I walked toward Galina’s home.
As we talked I realized that Jesus was speaking through her to me. That day with Galina’s help, I invited Jesus to live in my heart forever. As Galina prayed for me I felt God’s presence, and for the first time in years, I felt happy.
Galina invited me to church, and I went. There I discovered the joy of praying and studying the Bible. The depression wasn’t entirely gone, but I knew that God was fighting that battle for me. I no longer wanted to die; I wanted to live and tell others about the joy in living with Jesus.
When I told my parents that I had given my life to Jesus, they thought that I had lost my mind. But as they saw the changes in my life, they realized that God was living in me and that my life really was better. My mother began reading the Bible just to see what I was finding there. She even visited the Adventist church with me. My father respected my religion and acknowledged what God was doing in my life. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I met what God was doing for me.
Back at school I could focus on my studies. My grades improved, and I’m motivated to do my best. I still have crises, but God is near me and helps me through them. And when I become depressed, I know that God will lift me and carry me through the tough times.
Many people once thought that I was the black sheep of my family. But now I’m God’s lamb, following my Shepherd, Jesus.
I’ll graduate from university soon, and then I want to become a Global Mission pioneer. I want to work in an area where there are no Adventist believers. I want to bring light to other people’s darkness, just as Jesus sent Galina to bring light to me.