Conversation: Chonda Pierce
Christian comedian Chonda Pierce has made millions of people laugh. Whether itÕs at one of her packed-out concert events or through a certified-gold DVD — or at the supermarket in the produce section — Pierce can tickle anybodyÕs funny bone.
But this modern-day Minnie Pearl has learned the hard way that life isnÕt always funny. Growing up in a home with a dysfunctional father and losing both of her sisters as a young adult left scars that are still with her today. In 2004 Pierce was diagnosed with clinical depression, spending months off the road trying to overcome the darkness that enveloped her.
Today sheÕs back. With a new DVD, A Piece of My Mind, and a new concert tour, sheÕs sharing her journey through depression with her fans and speaking out about the illness that threatened to steal her laughter. Pierce spoke recently with Assistant Editor Ashli OÕConnell.
tpe: Do you know what triggered this episode for you?
PIERCE: The mystery to me — and for a lot of people who find themselves depressed — is what did I do to bring this on? If I could pinpoint that, then I could try to undo it or fix it. But depression doesnÕt work that way. It is a chemical function in the brain. Serotonin is missing and so your brain is lying to you, telling you how bad life is.
I am 46 and head on into menopause and my doctor seems to think my body chemistry has done some flip-flops. That, and IÕve worked myself to a frazzle for the last six or seven years. We women are the worst at this — we call it multitasking and give ourselves a pat on the back for it, but weÕre really just wearing ourselves out.
tpe: Describe one of your darkest days.
PIERCE: I tell people to go get the darkest pair of sunglasses you can find and put them on for six weeks, and donÕt take them off. Then take the heaviest feather pillow you have and strap it on top of your head. Wear that heavy helmet — just heavy enough that you can function but where you just get so tired of holding your head up. That is a little bit of how it feels.
There are some dark points even worse than that, where the lies are ringing in your ears that your family would be so much better off if they werenÕt having to put up with this. I canÕt say that I devised a plan to cause myself harm — but I did thoroughly believe the world would be better off without me.
tpe: Did you think your ministry was over?
PIERCE: Absolutely. I didnÕt think I could be any kind of encouragement to the body of Christ if my life didnÕt mimic that God is working. And when you have to laugh for a living and nothing feels funny, how do you do that?
Comedy is based on an emotion youÕre trying to evoke from a crowd, and when you canÕt tap into that feeling of joy and laughter then your career does pretty much feel like toast. Truth is, God IS working — itÕs just that His ways arenÕt our ways, remember?
tpe: Why is it important for you to share this
PIERCE: Depression is very prevalent, even in the church. I think Satan has tried to trip the church up with theological issues — denominations, eternal security, women praying in church — those things used to be huge issues.
Satan then moves on to something else. He does whatever he can to keep us busy doing nothing for the Kingdom but just stewing with one another about stuff. When he fails at that he will move on and attack our bodies. Funny thing is, when God starts getting glory for miraculous healings or for beautiful homecomings at funerals, you know that makes Satan mad!
The best thing Satan can do right now is just keep Christians feeling down, distracted with feeling like theyÕre not worth anything — discounting their faith. One of the best ways he can do that is through depression.
Talking with audiences across the country about my experiences is just removing one more tool out of SatanÕs hand. Besides, it would be good if my testimony is current. This is as up-to-date as you can get.
tpe: What is the most important thing believers can do to help others going through depression?
PIERCE: First of all, donÕt condemn them! Also, one of the best things I did was to play praise music in my home around the clock. The Bible says God inhabits the praises of His people. If you have a loved one who is depressed, surround them with music that evokes that sweet tender presence of God. God says He will inhabit the praise of His people. ItÕs a promise. So, start praising.
If someone is in that deep, dark place where they canÕt come out of their bedroom or they are talking about leaving this world, go for help.
Another powerful tool is to read Scripture over them and to them. Some of the sweetest times were when Kathy, my pastorÕs wife, or Mike, my brother, would come and do this for me. ItÕs so soothing and healing — it keeps you from allowing that thought process to get the best of you. Never forget Joel 2:32 says: ÒIt shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be deliveredÓ (KJV).
Medicine is another wonderful tool. It can help clear your thinking. But while youÕre waiting for medicine to kick in, strengthen your faith in a million and one ways. Because, remember, what you learn about God in the dark will last forever in the light.
tpe: YouÕve been through a lot. From growing up in a dysfunctional family to the deaths of both your sisters, and now this — a lot of people run as far away from the church as they can. Why have you been able to use your pain in such a positive way?
PIERCE: IÕm sure when I first started out in comedy there was some dysfunction to it. But I think a time finally came when it really wasnÕt about the church, it wasnÕt about my pain — it just comes down to knowing God and knowing what He can do for people. Not just the salvation equation — but Him being there to help you navigate through this world. That is the biggest miracle in life.
I have fallen madly in love with Christ, and that came years ago in gradual ways. I just know that it really is true: He doesnÕt give you more than you can handle. People ask often, ÒWhere was God?Ó God just IS. He is, was, and will always be. And believe me, He never leaves just because itÕs raining.
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