‘Counting On’ Star Shares Her Struggle With Spiritual Depression and Doubting Her Faith

Jessa Duggar Seewald ‘Counting On’ Star Shares Her Struggle With Spiritual Depression

Jessa Duggar Seewald grew up in the public eye as one of the ‘19 Kids and Counting‘ children. She is the fifth child in the popular Duggar’s family of 19 children. Jessa married Benjamin Sweewald in November of 2014, and they have three children together. She currently stars on the TLC show ‘Counting On‘ which is a spin-off of their previous show ’19 Kids and Counting’, which focuses on the lives of the older Duggar children.

This past Sunday Jessa posted a video on social media that has received over 600k views, where she gave her testimony of how the Lord saved her which she titled ‘My Journey from Doubt and Depression to Grace‘. In the video, she explains that growing up in the church she prayed to receive Christ as her Savior at a young age, but didn’t fully understand what she was doing by ‘praying the prayer’.

If anybody was the problem child of the family I probably could claim that title.

She said that there was no fruit of the Holy Spirit “just a lot of patterns of sin; selfishness, self-focus, self-seeking,” and explained that she went to church because her friends were there. Doubts about her salvation grew over the years, and every time the pastor gave an invitation to pray the prayer of salvation she repeated it to give herself security that she was ‘safe’ and was a Christian. At twelve, after a discussion with one of her sisters that knew that she had security in Christ, Jessa reached out to her parents and had a conversation about her doubts and insecurity of her salvation in Jesus.

Parents and Pastors Sometimes Mislead

“They didn’t pat me on the back and tell me ‘Oh honey that the devil, don’t listen to that,’” Jessa said of her parents’ response and pointed out that a lot of ‘well-meaning’ parents and pastors get it wrong when talking to a person about their doubts of salvation. She gave some examples of how false assurance sometimes is given to others, one was “Just look back to the date to whenever to committed your life to the Lord.” Another was, “They’ll tell them this is the devil trying to get you down and don’t listen to the devil.” Another popular one she said is, “Write the date in your Bible when you ask Jesus into your heart and whenever you have doubts look back at the date tell him ‘to get lost.’” She emphasized that writing the date down in your Bible is nowhere in the Bible.

Pointed to the Gospel

Her parents pointed her to the gospel, and her dad wasn’t afraid to share with Jessa that he too had doubts when he was a teenager. After her parents explained the gospel with her, she made the decision to trust in Christ and repent of her sins, and this time her heart slowly began to change. The transformation of her heart brought an assurance to her salvation because she could only credit God with these habit changes, saying “I couldn’t change these things on my own…God was at work in my life…one of the biggest changes is that I wanted to be in God’s Word, I never really ‘wanted’ to read my Bible before.” She also explained that relationships with her siblings that were broken and strained were slowly being repaired because God gave her a renewed spirit of joy.

Doubts Came Back

Jessa explained that she grew in Christ from age twelve to age seventeen then hit a plateau where she became frustrated she wasn’t where she wanted to be in her walk with Christ. This led her to begin to doubt her salvation again, and struggled with previous doubts because she knew she was a believer in Jesus but felt like she should be doing more, “I felt unsettled, restless, frustrated, and even angry sometimes,” she said. “I think if Christians were more open about the hard times, I think if Christians were more raw, you might find that more people go through this than you realize,” Jessa shared as she encouraged others to be open so that they could help others who struggle with the same doubts.

Why We Go Through Valleys

She gave great examples of why someone might be going through a valley that leads to doubting Christ’s work in one’s life, “It might be that there’s a certain sin that has a hold in our lives and we’re clinging to that sin and that causes our relationship with the Lord to be distant.” Another example she gave was a possible sin of omission, that’s not exactly sinful as it may seem to us, but it is because it is something that we should be doing such as doing good to others, caring for the souls of others by sharing the gospel with them. Trials like family issues cause valleys and doubts that make us numb instead of running to Jesus for comfort, she also said it’s a reason we fall into valleys of doubt and depression.

Jessa Duggar Seewald: I Was Spiritually Depressed

“If someone asked me if I was depressed I would have said no, but I guess you could call it spiritual depression.” When people are asked, especially at church, “How are you? ‘Oh great fine,’ people don’t just open up and share about dark times or hard times like we should. We’re not as transparent as we should be. We’re not as raw as we should be,” she says this type of action causes people to suffer in silence.

This Helped Me

Jessa shared what helped her during her hard times and helped her get ‘unstuck from the rut’ she felt like she was in. Listening to sermons and podcasts online throughout the week provided encouragement and she recalled listening to a John Piper sermon as she often does, where he explained that the old hymn ‘Every day with Jesus (Sweeter than the Day Before)‘ was not true. This helped her realize that some days my relationship with Jesus isn’t as good as yesterdays and that’s okay, not that we become content, but that we don’t allow that to draw us into spiritual depression. “Hey this is John Piper, and he is being real about this,” she expressed her appreciation for that how it encouraged her.

“I had burdened down my conscious with an unscriptural expectation of (how) I have to have a quiet time every day that looks just like this, and I’d be so discouraged (because) I didn’t get my time in the Word this morning,” was another encouragement that John Piper gave her when he explained there is nowhere in the Bible that said a Christian has to read the Bible every day. Jessa explained she ‘hinged’ her Christian worth on whether she had good daily quiet time or not.

Next, she mentioned a book by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called ‘Spiritual Depression‘ that really helped her. She gave a brief overview of the book explaining how Martyn Llyod-Jones laid out why people might be discouraged in their walk with Christ, citing that a false view of justification may be a cause. When Jessa read this point in his book she realized that was exactly what she was struggling with. “Repentance in faith in the life of a true believer is continual and ongoing. We’re continually repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ,” she said as she explained justification and sanctification. “The main reason for (my) spiritual discouragement was I was mixing up sanctification and justification, I didn’t have gospel rest.” Jessa said that she wasn’t ‘resting’ in her justification, and after reading his book she described it as an ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Thank you Christ for saving me from my sin. I’ll take it from here. Which is not at all how the Christian life works.

Making a Vow

Jessa’s third helpful point was aimed at not making unobtainable (she called them ‘youth camp’) vows. Striving for holiness (in Christ) doesn’t take vows to make this happen, that it can actually have a negative effect in our Christian walk. She quoted Ecclesiastes 5:5 and gave examples of the two things we should vow to do in our life 1)vow to follow Christ; 2)if you marry a husband and wife vowing their loyalty to one another. ‘Youth camp’ vows (commitments) such as vowing to evangelize every week, reading your Bible every day for a certain amount of time, or vowing to not commit a certain sin, which should be a believer’s desire, can lead to a failure we bring upon our selves and don’t look to Christ as we should. Jessa said, “it really released my soul, that I had placed myself under…(speaking of not making unobtainable vows) it didn’t make me less desire to be in God’s Word (it gave me more).”

Song Lyrics

The last thing she listed was a handful of song lyrics that have helped her in hard times and her struggles with doubt.

Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor‘ by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

Christ the sure and steady Anchor In the fury of the storm When the winds of doubt blow through me And my sails have all been torn

His Mercy is More‘ by Matt Papa

What love could remember, no wrongs we have done Omniscient, all-knowing, He counts not their sum Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

He Will Hold Me Fast‘ by Keith Getty

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul‘ by Anne Steele

Dear refuge of my weary soul, On Thee, when sorrows rise On Thee, when waves of trouble roll, My fainting hope relies To Thee I tell each rising grief, For Thou alone can heal Thy Word can bring a sweet relief, For every pain I feel

Not in Me‘ by Sojourn Music

No list of sins I have not done, No list of virtues I pursue, No list of those I am not like Can earn myself a place with You. O God, be merciful to me– I am a sinner through and through! My only hope of righteousness Is not in me, but only You.

I Still Have a Long Way to Go

Jessa closed her testimony with these encouraging words:

I share my journey of faith not in saying that I have arrived, I still have a long way to go. We are in this journey until we die and our lives are over and then in an instant we’re changed in the likeness of Christ and we’re made perfect. In this life though we experience hardships we experience trials, there are mountaintops, there are valleys, and yet we keep holding to the anchor, we keep running after Christ, and Christ holds us fast. So I hope this is an encouragement to you and I pray that you will rest in Christ and his work of righteousness on your behalf.

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Jesse T. Jackson
Jesse is an undeserving husband to a beautiful wife, and a father to 3 beautiful daughters. His family is currently waiting to be matched for their adoption here in the states.  He is a house church shepherd and member of Apex Community Church in Kettering Ohio. Follow him on twitter here. See their adoption video here.