Julie Busler found herself in a place that many others have experienced, and it was only the relentless love of God that rescued her.
Like so many others facing grief, Julie felt ill-equipped to face the crisis and, instead, suppressed her feelings and tried to press forward in life.
She and her husband Ryan, who were members of Shawnee, Immanuel, had a growing family and were on mission with God. In fact, the couple, with their four children, were serving God as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Turkey with a productive ministry team.
From the outside, everything seemed fine. Yet it was during her time as a missionary that the strong grip of depression, fueled by grief and suppressed memories, nearly brought her life to an end, as Julie began to contemplate suicide.
“That thought of suicide was an invader to the beautiful moments happening with my family,” she said, “and rather than taking it captive and making it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), it captivated me.
“My mind was so enslaved to thoughts of death that I was unable to rationally see how my horrific death would shatter the hearts of those who loved me,” Julie continued. “I was functioning but not in the healthy way God desires. What I failed to fully comprehend at the time was that when my thoughts crossed the very dangerous threshold from wishful thinking to plans, it was an emergency. I desperately needed professional help, for without intervention it would only be a matter of time before my plans birthed irreversible action. In Prov. 23:7, we learn that as a man ‘thinks within himself, so he is.’ I was becoming what I was thinking.”
Instead of feeling the normal emotions of excitement, a horrible thought crossed her mind. “While my mother-in-law is here,” she pondered, “it would be a great time to kill myself because she could help my husband get the kids home to the US… and my body.”
Shortly after her mother-in-law’s visit, Julie reconsidered her death plans.
“I knew my life depended on something changing,” she said. “I told my husband just enough about my struggles for him to realize I needed professional help. He made an appointment for me to be seen by a Turkish psychiatrist, and I reluctantly agreed to go.
“Yes, there was an entire spiritual side of me that needed help, but the physical side of me was finally being treated. I needed medical help to steady my brain and keep me alive, but those treatments only stabilized the physical side of me. We are incredibly complex creations, and there is a spiritual aspect of who I am that was being neglected in my treatments. Medicine was a good gift, but Jesus was my hope.”
In her new book, “Joyful Sorrow,” Julie writes, “I was trapped in this vicious cycle of living one inner reality encased in a completely alternate reality for the world to see. I didn’t want to live this double life.”
As she sat in a psychiatric hospital in a foreign country, Julie looked at her surroundings and was enlightened.
“Men and women from all walks of life sat around me with one thing in common: brokenness,” she said. “Me, a woman in ministry, sat next to a man on meth. I saw afresh that mental illness is incapable of discrimination, and I wondered, ‘How could I go from standing in churches, declaring what the Lord was doing among the nations, to a patient in a locked psychiatric ward on suicide watch?’”
The medical treatment in Turkey, and later back in the United States, was difficult, yet hopeful for Julie.
“I was weak with sorrow, but the joy of the Lord was my strength,” she said. “He was providing the medical care I needed, and it was binding up my injuries. He was feeding my mind with His Word, and it was strengthening all that was weak in me. God was true to His Word by not abandoning me after all.”
With loving care from her Heavenly Father, a devoted husband and family and very special friends, Julie has emerged with a powerful testimony. Today, she uses her story and her book to encourage others who have experienced mental illness. The Buslers have been able to help others facing struggles, as they share the Gospel.
In her words, “The enemy almost took me out, but to that I say with confidence, ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’”