Jack Cowart

Jack CowartI STRUGGLED WITH DEPRESSION AND SUCIDAL THOUGHTS

   I started struggling in high school. I just got really depressed and just didn't really understand why I was alive. I can actually remember imagining the face of Jesus and looking him in the eyes and saying "You made a mistake when you created me." I was going to slit my wrists or slit my throat. I was holding the knife and I was like, "I don't want to be alive anymore. I just want to die."

Helen Todd: That was Jack Cowart, today's guest on the Limitless Spirit Podcast. I'm your host, Helen Todd.

   Jack struggled with depression since he was fourteen. In high school, he was bullied, lonely, and had a strained relationship with his parents. Though he knew of God through the Catholic Church that his family attended, God was a distant of punishing deity to him.

   One day, he tried to cut his wrists and end his life, and fortunately was stopped by his appearance. When he finally cried out to God, he received an unexpected helper who led him to discover the true nature of God. Today, Jack is free from depression. He's free from anxiety and doesn't even have to take medications anymore. His life is filled with purpose and with a true relationship with Jesus.

   You will find out how all of these things happen and how God used Jack on the mission field when he shared his incredible story of healing and potentially saved a woman's life.

   Good morning, Jack. Welcome to the Limitless Spirit podcast.

Jack: Hey, Helen. Good morning. Thank you for having me. It's such a privilege to be on here with you.

Helen: Well, I have not had the privilege of being on a mission trip with you, but I got to know you through your wonderful wife, Kennan, who has been on many, and I really am excited to share your story today. Let's start with who Jack was before you accepted Jesus in your life.

Jack: I grew up in a Christian home. I went to Catholic school until high school. Most of my experience before I truly accepted Jesus was within the Catholic Church. With my experience with that, it was a very like surface-level faith of knowing about Jesus but not truly knowing Jesus.

Helen: What was your parents' Faith like? Were they Catholic believers? Were they very active in church? Did they go to church frequently or it was more of a nominal type of thing?

Jack: It's actually pretty interesting. My mom was Catholic but my dad is Protestant. So it was kind of an interesting dynamic. The reason we went to the Catholic Church was because my dad liked the teachings of that specific church more than the other churches in the area. It was interesting with a Catholic mom and a Protestant dad, but as far as the priorities with Church go, I was more active in the church than they were. With my experience of that church, there weren't too many opportunities for adults to be active within the church unless it was like a Sunday school teacher-type thing. We went to church occasionally on Sundays but not too often. I was even an altar server at one point, an altar boy within that Catholic Church for a little while as well.

Helen: At what point in your childhood, the youth, you started struggling with depression?

Jack: I started struggling in high school. I think it started towards the end of my freshman year of high school, is when I really started battling, but it really, really peaked my sophomore year when I was 15. It was just a miserable, miserable time for me.

Helen: Was there some kind of an event that triggered it or do you remember?

Jack: It was just school. I didn't have friends at my high school at all. I had like maybe two friends. I play football which was great and it was nice, during the season, to be able to take out some form of aggression and stuff, but it was terrible. I was constantly bullied and picked on. There was just no safe haven. My life at home, my parents, they were never abusive or anything, but when I was in high school, we did not get along at all. I was constant yelling and having fights, and that is very stereotypical. I'm a teenager kind of stuff, but at the same time, I didn't feel like I had a safe haven.

    I'll say I'm not a people person, but I love to be around people and interact with humans like a positive manner, and I just crave human interaction. The one of the things I love about always going on some of these trips is when I see Chuck. I love just going back and forth and having a little bit of banter with Chuck. It gives me peace. It gives me some rest, and I wasn't able to have any sort of interaction like that at all in high school. It was all just bringing me down, people trying to fight me almost every day, all these little things, and it just added up and added up, and I stored it up. I think it just exploded. Instead of me getting really angry, it exploded. I just got really depressed and didn't really understand why I was alive, frankly. I didn't feel like I had a purpose or anything. It got to the point where I literally just looked God in the face one day. I can actually remember imagining the face of Jesus and looking him in the eyes and saying, "You made a mistake when you created me."

Helen: If that's so bad that you actually attempted to take your own life, and you mentioned that your parents hugged you and were able to prevent you from doing that. Can you tell me how it happened?

Jack: I waited until they left. Nobody was home. I was going to slit my wrists or slit my throat. I hadn't really thought that far. I was holding the knife and just eventually held it to my wrist. Right as my parents walked in is when I put the knife to my wrist. My dad realized exactly what was happening before my mom did and he just yanked it out of my hand, both times. I didn't understand why, in the moment, I don't want to be alive anymore. I just want to die. I just want to get out of this. I felt like I was living in hell. I was like "It can't be worse than this." Afterlife, whatever it is, it can't be worse than this. It was awful.

Helen: Did your parents tried to help you?

Jack: I saw a counselor for a little bit but that was really it. The counseling did not really work, especially in high school when I needed help.

Helen: At one point did you hit the rock bottom, and how did it happen that you decided to reach out to God? What was that turning point?

Jack: I started struggling with depression when I was fourteen years-old and a freshman in high school and then carried on through college. I was twenty-one at that time when I looked in the mirror and realized that I was the guy I made fun of in college, like the stereotypical animal house movie-style guy, that was just drinking all the time and all I thought about was girls and that's it. I hated it. I hated it so much. I was in my bathroom, looking in my mirror, and I just started crying. I was like, "Okay, God, let's try this again." Because in high school, in the midst of my depression and struggles with suicide, I actually stopped believing in God for a little while. So then, that night in college when I just broke down and said, "Okay, God, let's try this one more time. I think I could use some help here." I picked up my little new American translation Catholic Youth Bible that I got in fourth grade because that was the only Bible I had.

Helen: Well, it is interesting that you carried that Bible with you to college. What caused you to pack it? Did your mom slip it in?

Jack: Yes, she did. I didn't know it was there. She put it in my bag. It's funny that you asked that because it really is one of those instances of how the Lord works in mysterious ways. It's really cool looking back on that now.

Helen: Well, the reason I asked when I interview my guest, there are several interviews I can think of, off the top of my head, is when a person reaches that breaking point in their life and there is a Bible right there. Either a grandparent slipped it in or a parent did. I remember two other guests and she was a little girl that her parents were getting a divorce and she was sent to live with her aunt, and she just decided to pack a Bible with her and it helped her. I just love to hear that because I so believe in the power of the word of God. Not only it is powerful but it also, somehow, is available just when we need it. That's very cool.

Jack: It's awesome.

Helen: Anyway, you reached for your Catholic Youth Bible and?

Jack: The only book that I'd ever chose to read was Proverbs. I was comfortable with Proverbs. I just opened up Proverbs and read the corresponding chapter for the day of the month. Since there are 31 books to Proverbs, I believe. I did that for a couple of days and I started praying before I went to bed. I am so thankful to have another day to live. I was trying to change my mindset and eventually I did that for a little while, and later on that month, I believe it was February in 2017, I just said, "Hey, God, I'm doing better with this whole life thing." Because at that point, I still had my perspective of working for my salvation which was indoctrinated through Catholicism.

And so I asked God, "Hey, how am I doing with this whole life thing?" He told me, "You're doing better." He's like "I'm proud of you." I was like, "Okay, great. Can I have some help with this from an earthly person?" He was like, "Yeah, let me see what I can do."

Helen: I love your conversations with God, Jack.

Jack: That's how he talks to me. We talk to each other in a fairly blunt but also laid-back casual way and I love it. It's so cool. It really is the best friend aspect of God. He said, 'I'll see what I can do about that." And I eventually gained enough confidence to start dating. I made some online dating profiles. Well, let me rephrase. I changed my online dating profiles from quick flings to I actually want a serious relationship, and matched with this one girl who I thought was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen and still do. We met and we got coffee. Her name is Kenna. I didn't even like coffee, and I met her at a coffee shop. We just talked. It was the first time that we met face-to-face. We talked and talked and talked, and eventually, Christianity and Jesus came up. I told her, kind of a rough outline, I was like "Yeah, I don't really go to church. I kind of read my Bible. I'm kind of trying to believe again." She was like, "Oh okay, all right." Then she told me what God meant to her and it was so serious and so beautiful, and the relationship that they had, I could just tell that her relationship with Jesus was just absolutely fantastic.

   Then when we left coffee, I dropped her off at her apartment. I went back to mine and I was just thinking, "Man there is something really different about this girl. Something is just so, so different about her, and I'm trying to put my finger on it. Then after a while of talking to her and getting to know her a little bit more over the course of several weeks, I could tell it was Jesus. I knew that Jesus was what was making her so different from anyone I had ever met before. That she truly knew Him, but she confidently could say, "Jesus is my best friend." I'm like, "What the heck does that mean?" It made me really look at scripture and relook at Jesus as not just a king that you have to please in order to get into heaven, but somebody you can lean on. Somebody you can just go to in prayer and say, "Hey, God, my life is kind of crazy right now. Can you just listen to me and let me vent to you." He said, "Yeah, man. I'm here. Go for it. I got time."

   It was so beautiful to see that and I wanted that so bad because I realized that that was when I felt my depression would be better, potentially, if I got to know God more. I wasn't sure of that but it almost feels like I'm missing something here. Maybe He could help me, which over time He did eventually end up healing me of depression...

Helen: I love that. We rarely know what we need. We have maybe an idea of a challenge that we're facing our problem, but more often than not, we just don't know how to solve it. We have an idea of what we need, but we don't know exactly. In your case, God sent you a mate, a person who became your spouse, your partner for life. How beautiful is that? You just asked Him for help. You said, "Let's try this. Let's try this whole God thing" and He literally fixed your life in the most beautiful way, by healing you from depression, and giving you a partner in life and partner in faith. That's a very beautiful story, Jack. I think it's very encouraging to anybody, including myself, that you weren't asking God for a mate. You're just asking for a little help and he helped you in the most profound way. I think this is absolutely incredible.

   Well, let's talk about how your life has changed since then. He healed you of depression. This is huge. This is giving you a gift of life where you were pursuing death and so he completely changed your perspective right there. But how else would you say your life has changed since you've accepted him into your heart? Let's talk about that moment when you surrendered to him. Can you describe how that happened?

Jack: Yeah, definitely. I was actually had an internship in Florida with Pastor Scott at Sunlight Community Church in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. I love that, man. I did some counseling with him over the summer and explained my struggles with depression. I was on anti-anxiety medication that I got through a counselor and a psychiatrist through my college's counseling system. I explained all of that to him and he was like, "Have you ever considered a prayer?" I was like, "No, I just know I'm supposed to take these pills at these times of the day." He's like, "Why don't you start praying about it?" I was like, "Okay. All right, Scott. I'll pray about it. I trust you."

   I started praying about that. I started praying and I remember Kenna gave me this book to read over that summer. It's called Wild at Heart. Sorry, I might get a little emotional here. The book describes what every man has and they call it as a wound, your heart is wounded, and I didn't realize that until I read the book. I was like, "This is my wound." My wound was my depression and what caused all of that. In the book, it says it multiple times. But shortly after my baptism, it was time for me to refill my anti-anxiety medication. I went to CVS and I was about to pull into the drive-through, and I just felt God was telling me, "Don't, don't. You don't need this anymore." So I went home. I didn't refill my medication. I lied to my parents and told them that I did because I didn't know how they'd react if I said, "Hey, God told me not to and he told me that I don't need these anymore." I had no idea what they would say, so I just told them that I did, and I was able to quit taking my anti-anxiety medication, cold turkey with zero side effects, which is not supposed to happen.

   After that, I was overwhelmed, frankly, by God and how much he loved me. That's really when I realized that this whole salvation thing if you will, I don't have to earn this. I'm saved by grace, and that's when all those teachings and everything that I heard at the Protestant churches, that's when it all started to click. I was like, "He does actually care about me as an individual. I'm not some like royal subject to him." Everything about that was just lies and then all of the negativity and everything that I felt and thought about myself when I was so depressed and so anxious that I just wanted to die, everything that I thought about myself and was being told was just lies from Satan. Jesus kept revealing that to me multiple times after that and it was just one of the coolest things ever.

   Oh, my gosh. It just felt like I was free. I felt lighter. I felt like I lost 100 pounds. I've felt freer to go about my life and more free to go about pursuing Kenna as my girlfriend at that time. It was so incredible. It really was like a high, almost.

   There's this one piece of imagery that I learned when I was going and studying for confirmation and all of that within Catholicism. They teach that your heart can change from the earthly-fallen form, which the imagery they use is a rock. Your heart can change from a rock into a rose once you truly get to know Jesus. I was like, "Okay, I think that's what happened." It was so cool. It felt so incredible.

Helen: Wow. You felt free you and you were free of depression, and it happened in a quite miraculous way. How did the course of your life changed and the intentions of what you were going to do with your life?

Jack: I just felt more of an adult. I stopped acting like a kid. I was able to prioritize a lot better. I was able to just be who I really was supposed to be, diving into scripture, getting to know Jesus more, making Him my actual best friend, and eventually, graduating college, and proposing to Kenna to be my wife, getting married, and having her push me the whole time. The one thing that I still was kind of iffy about was missions. I always thought missions were not a requirement until she and I talked about it a lot over the years and she really encouraged me. I learned that it's a great commission. Literally, the first two words are, "Therefore, go" and it's a command. It's not a request. It was just absolutely incredible to get to learn all of those things and get to come to those realizations. Then eventually, go on my first mission trip to Macedonia in September of 2020.

Helen: By the way, Jack, I meant to say that Chuck enjoys bantering with you just as much as you enjoy bantering with him.

Jack: We love it. We're cut from the same cloth.

Helen: You definitely are. So on that mission trip, you got to experience something that we talk a lot about on the series, Changed Lives, Change Lives. You got to experience that God can use your pain and whatever you have gone through in your past, to create something beautiful. Can you share about this?

Jack: Yeah. We were in Macedonia, obviously, and the church that World Missions Alliance has partnered with that particular trip has two locations in different cities. I went with a few other people on the team and with Kenna to that second location, and there's an opportunity to share testimonies prior to service. Chuck was like, "Oh, Jack, you share this morning. You'd be one of them." I was like, "All right, that's fine." Here I was in a country I'd never been to, a testimony I'd never really shared before, let's just say I was nervous and I just felt peace once I stood up there to give my testimony. It's felt like God was saying "This is where you're meant to be. This is where I want you." He's like, "Just talk." He's like, "Just move your mouth. I'll pop." I was like, "Okay, let's do this."

   I gave my testimony and I shared about my struggles with depression and anxiety and suicide. I talked about praying for help and how God gave me a partner. He gave me a wife and how she's constantly encouraged me and constantly pushed me. It was just incredible. I felt like God was really tugging on my heart and telling me, "This is what I want you to do." But after I shared my testimony, this woman came up to me. One of the translators was occupied at the time and she just comes up to me. She's bawling and she just hugged me and starts crying out to me in Macedonian, and I'm like, "What are you saying?" Its like, "Translator, please." They ended up just translating to me and saying, telling me that she also struggles with depression and she's had thoughts of suicide a lot recently. It was just so cool to hear what she was telling me about she thinks that God was using me to tell her to not and to try and encourage her, and to try and help her with her anxiety. I was able to share some of the truths that he revealed to me. I was able to share those with her about those negative thoughts and those negative things that you're feeling and that you're telling yourself and that other people are telling you. Those are just lies from the enemy because he's scared of you and he doesn't want you to be reached by God. He doesn't want you to accept Jesus.

   That's the thing that scares him the most, is you denying Satan and accepting Jesus scares the living crap out of Satan because that means you're going to fight to destroy him and end his reign over the earth and you're going to try and fight for Jesus. It's just another soldier added to Jesus' army, if you will.

   I've never seen a woman cry so hard after that was translated to her. She just broke down and we hugged and I prayed for her. It was just such an incredible experience. That's really when I felt the call, the actual call, to missions for the first time. I felt like God was telling me, that's what he wants me to do full-time with Kenna eventually.

Helen: Your testimony is incredibly important right now, Jack, because actually a few months ago, I did an episode on depression, and statistics about depression are absolutely crazy. It's among the top diseases in the world that kills people, more so than COVID or any other sickness. You probably, very possibly, saved that woman's life when you shared your testimony. We don't know at what point she was in her depression at the moment. I think of depression as, sometimes, it's a physical issue, sometimes, it's a spiritual issue, and sometimes, it's both, but it's like a filter that changes the perception of reality. It can become so strong that it can literally cause you to take your own life when it's a lie. That perception is a lie. It's not the truth.

Having someone share their experience, how God can take this away, instantly, is incredibly encouraging. I do think that God will continue to use your testimony, your story, and your experience all around the world. I really look forward to just seeing how he's going to use you and Kenna with her medical gifts and talents and her powerful testimony as well wherever he sends you.

Jack: Thank you. Thank you. It's so humbling.

Helen: Thank you so much, Jack, for coming on the interview, and being open and transparent and brave, and sharing your story. I am looking forward to being on an adventure with you sometime. I can banter too. I probably can't replace Chuck.

Jack: We'll see, we'll see.

Helen: What a great encouragement it is to hear Jack's testimony. Do you know that God can do the same thing with your life? Whenever you are on a mission field or with your friends or neighbors or a stranger, you can share what God has done for you, and impact someone's life forever. If you feel called specifically to missions, we would love to hear from you. We have several upcoming mission trips and you can go on our website, rfwma.org, and find out how you can get involved.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Until next time. I'm Helen Todd.

Man 2: Limitless Spirit Podcast is produced by World Missions Alliance. We believe that changed lives, change lives. If you want to see your life transformed by Christ's love or if you want to help those who are hurting and hopeless, and discover your greater purpose in serving Christ through short-term missionary work, check out our website, rfwma.org, and find out how to get involved.

Jack's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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