Profile of a Leader on Mission

From the Editor: This article contains references to anxiety, depression, and suicide. While it is ultimately a story of God’s ability to redeem, these themes can feel heavy and alarming. Consider pausing to ask the Lord to direct your thoughts as you read.

If the last few years of Maria Morgan’s life were turned into a movie, the montage at the beginning of the film might look similar to scenes from your own life. Her days were full, overflowing with church activities and ministry engagements. Prior to the spring of 2021, Maria served alongside her husband Steve in their local church. She was a middle-school small group teacher, involved in the AWANA children’s program and choir and music ministries, active in one-on-one discipleship, a speaker for women’s meetings and conferences, and she taught online Bible studies. After the COVID-19 lockdowns began, she and a friend also started a weekly women’s prayer meeting that met through Zoom.

At the time, no one could have anticipated that this same woman was about to enter an intense two-and-a-half year bout with anxiety and depression which led to a season of severe psychosis and suicide attempts. Since then, the Lord has given Maria a passion to come alongside other Christian women struggling with mental health challenges, to help them identify and replace lies they have believed and to find freedom, joy, and purpose in Christ. 

After experiencing the Lord’s healing firsthand and returning to a place of serving women in her church, the message of 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 has taken on new depth for Maria: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

In this interview, Maria vulnerably shares about the dark pit of anxiety and depression she found herself in, the truths and resources the Lord used to heal her, and the advice she wants leaders like you to know. 

Q: What happened that led you into a dark season? What was it like for you? 

Maria: At the end of 2020, Steve and I were caregivers for my mother-in-law for three months. It was wonderful to be able to honor her during a difficult struggle with dementia, but she and Steve would often get into heated discussions. The conflict caused by those arguments became overwhelming to me but I didn’t understand why. When the three months were over, we dropped my mother-in-law off at another family member’s home. I remember driving away, fully expecting the feelings of anxiety to lift. But they didn’t.

I threw myself back into co-leading the prayer team and began teaching through a Bible study about comparison. The book was spot on, but because I was grappling with anxiety, I read each chapter from the distorted viewpoint that the author cautioned against. I began comparing myself with other women using the categories in the book. The enemy had me right where he wanted me.

My anxiety began with insomnia, followed by weight loss. Slowly, over the course of a year, I found it difficult to engage with friends and family. Even communication with my husband was difficult. I had stepped back from all ministries and was having a hard time reading my Bible. All I saw on the pages of Scripture were words of condemnation. I felt distant from God. I felt alone. Although I had sought counseling and gone to doctors, I was exhausted and only getting worse. In November of 2021, I attempted to take my life. 

Intense guilt and shame hovered over me. How could my family still love me after what I had done? I wanted to erase the memory and pretend everything was the same as it had been prior to slipping into anxiety. It was uncomfortable for me to return to church. I had been a teacher and leader and was mortified to imagine what people were thinking of me. Instead of taking my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), I allowed my thoughts to run wild. I convinced myself I had no friends, when I was the one who had severed the relationships.

After a ten-week intensive outpatient program and months of counseling with a therapist, there was little—if any—improvement. I was unwilling to get involved in ministry again and was reluctant to let anyone get too close to me for fear they would see the mess inside. I was desperately trying to maintain the image I thought people had of me, but I turned out to be my own worst enemy. 

375 days after my first suicide attempt, I gave up. I took a massive overdose on a stormy November afternoon in 2022 while my husband was away on a business trip. But God, in His grace, preserved my life again and gave me another opportunity to live. Psychosis set in, and my days and nights were filled with irrational thoughts. I lived in a world detached from reality. Because of what I had done, I could not reconcile my actions with those of a child of God. I embraced the lie of the enemy that I was unsaved. For eight months, I lived in a state of fight or flight, believing my husband, friends, and family were trying to kill me because of what I had done. I was terrified to die, convinced I would end up in hell. I was suffocating under an unbearable weight of guilt and shame. 

Through God’s wisdom, Steve was able to discern the root cause of my anxiety: childhood experiences that had led to a lack of trust. I had grown up with an alcoholic Dad whose words and actions created conflict. When confronted with these angry outbursts, I would shut down, wanting to avoid being the target of his rage. Seeing my husband and his mother arguing had taken me back to that place of being a little girl who could not control what was going on around her. I transferred the mistrust I had of my dad to my husband, and ultimately, I also transferred it to my heavenly Father. 

My desperate need to control everything left no room for the truth. As I leaned heavily on my own understanding, I forfeited the peace of trusting the Lord and following the path He had for me. 

Q: What was the turning point that started your journey toward restoration? 

Maria: Acknowledging what I had done and sharing my fears with my pastor and peers was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But instead of judgment and condemnation, I experienced unconditional love and acceptance. It was as if the door to my mind cracked open, and I saw a pinpoint of light. Hope

My husband, Steve, was a pillar of support and truth throughout our grueling battle. The Lord gave him incredible wisdom and enabled him to come up with an accountability structure for me, which involved the ladies who came over on what we now refer to as “The Day of Truth.” He put my irrational thoughts into a list of several categories and divided the categories among the ladies. I was responsible for connecting with each of them weekly to let them know how my thoughts were progressing in each area. 

One of the ladies invited me over to listen to a lesson she was preparing for our monthly ladies’ meeting. The topic was redemption. Once again, I was brought face-to-face with a concept I was all too familiar with but was struggling to embrace. I left her home with two things: a reminder there was no sin too great for God to forgive and an invitation to attend the next ladies’ meeting that Friday. The next day, I called a long-time friend, who mentioned a pastor who had written a book about Christians struggling with suicide. A lightbulb went on: I wasn’t the only one. 

On Friday, September 1, 2023, I drove to the ladies’ meeting at our church, where a friend shared some of the difficulties she was going through. I was surprised to hear her express some similar thought patterns. God was making it clear that I was not alone: other ladies wrestled with anxiety, depression, and dark thoughts too. 

After the meeting, I took out my list of irrational beliefs. I had a choice to make. I could continue down the exhausting path of trying to control everything or trust the Lord completely and allow Him to lead. The answer was clear: I trust you, Lord! And I want to go back to living normally, like I used to. Immediately, the weight of anxiety and depression was lifted. As my hands opened in surrender, the Lord healed me. 

Q: What truth from God’s Word helped you? Did God use anything else in the healing process?

Maria: Ephesians 1:3–7 says:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (emphasis added)

In addition to reminding me who I was in Christ, my husband continually pointed me to truth, even when I was adamantly clinging to lies. The Lord also used the faithfulness of fasting and praying friends who reached out via text messages, cards, and visits. This encouraged me and reminded me I was not alone, despite how I felt. 

Q: What would you say to the leader who finds herself in a similar situation? 

Maria: God created us body, mind, and spirit, so approach your concerns from a holistic perspective: 

  • From a physical standpoint, have bloodwork done to be sure you are healthy. Hormones and vitamin deficiencies can cause serious issues. Eat right, exercise, and get adequate sleep.
  • Our mind is the battlefield, and our thoughts and feelings are not always accurate. Seek out accountability partners you can talk with openly—women who can share your burdens. As healing takes place, compare your thoughts with Scripture: are you thinking on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)? Are you taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)?
  • Maintain a healthy spirit. Continue to seek the Lord through His Word and prayer. Share your fears with the Lord; He invites you to come boldly to His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Remember God has not given you the spirit of fear. He has given you the spirit of power, love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). You can trust the Lord, because He loves you (1 Pet. 5:7). Stay engaged with other believers and allow them to speak into your life.

Q: What advice would you give leaders to protect them from falling prey to lies?

Maria: Here are several keys to help us avoid the pitfalls of the enemy:

  • Search your heart; desire truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6).
  • Stay humble; confess sin (James 4:6).
  • Submit to God; ask for His will, not your own (James 4:7).
  • Resist the devil; don’t be ignorant of his devices (James 4:7).
  • Draw near to God; seek to know Him more through prayer and Bible reading (James 4:8).
  • Surround yourself with Christ-seeking friends (Prov. 27:17).
  • Be honest and vulnerable; share your struggles (James 5:16).
  • Praise the Lord; practice an attitude of gratitude through worship and song (1 Thess. 5:16–18).

Q: How did that season of your life shape you as a leader? 

Maria: I learned humility. The Lord has given me a heart of compassion for other women battling the giants of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thinking. He has restored my joy and is worthy of all my praise!

The Lord has continued the process of conforming me to the image of Christ and awakening me to the beauty of living in open-handed surrender . . . because when I am weak, He is strong! To God be the glory!

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him! —Psalm 34:8

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's blog A Patient Process is a record of the Lord's faithfulness in chronic illness, for even in suffering, He is good.