For years, Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh served in various ministries, was a singer-songwriter, and a host on "The 700 Club." But she was hiding a dark secret.
Today on the Focus on the Family radio program, Walsh ended a two-part series on her struggle with depression, something she hid for years.
"I came into a relationship with God with so much baggage. I felt like every day I had to be good enough, I had to be a perfect Christian woman," she said. All of this focus on perfection caused a deep depression in her and stemmed from something that happened during her childhood.
While her early childhood was normal and happy, Walsh said that everything changed when her father had a cerebral hemorrhage leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak. It also affected his personality causing him to become a "violent stranger" to the family, and especially toward Walsh.
She said that as a child "all I could think was I need to do better," believing that her father was lashing out at her through something she had done. When she became a Christian at age 11 she said she spent the next 30 years "making sure God never turned on me," always striving to do everything right believing this was a second chance that she never had with her earthly father.
So in order to redeem herself, she hid in Christian ministry and lost herself in the Church. "I was the most involved person so people would say 'you're so together,'" Walsh commented. But she always felt despair that no matter what she did it would never be enough.
Things finally hit a breaking point in 1992 when she went from doing a morning show sitting next to Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club," to checking herself into a psychiatric ward later on that day.
She says she fell apart on TV when the woman she was interviewing asked her how she was doing. She said she had no answer and just started sobbing. "I did not have time to pull my defenses up and I started to cry and I couldn't talk. I felt as if I was living in the darkest, deepest place," she told Focus hosts.
It wasn't until she checked herself into the hospital that she had seen her father locked in, and spent time facing her fears and recovering that she got a day pass to attend church.
Walsh said that sitting in the pew that day she never felt so lost. But the pastor got up and said, "Jesus is here. You don't have to get yourself out of the hole, you just have to reach up and grab his hand."
Walsh ran to the front of the church and lay down at the altar. She said she finally realized it's "not about me getting it right. I am not the good news; never have been, never will be. It was the most grace-filled moment I've ever experienced."
And she realized that day at church, "We spend this life trying to be better at this, better at that. We spend our life on things that don't matter at all in terms of the Kingdom of God, or in terms of the greatest privilege of all which is to be a conduit of the love of God. That's all that matters, the rest is just stuff," she said.
Being broken by God is not something anyone would want to sign up for, Walsh said. But it's something you never want to change after it happens. She is grateful for what she went through because now she is able to comfort other women through speaking with Women of Faith.
Walsh said now she spends her quiet moments sitting with the Shepherd. "In Israel the shepherd always goes ahead, he leads his sheep," she said. "I take great comfort I don't have to get it all right, I don't have to have all the answers. I just have to stay really close to the shepherd, and one of these days I'll discover that it's taken me all the way home."