“… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:13)


God@Work in the life of Dodd Terry

"As David wrote in Psalm 40, I was in the ‘pit of destruction’ and in the ‘miry bog.' "

If you’ve been attending FAC for any length of time, chances are good you’ve crossed paths with Dodd Terry in one way or another.

Dodd and his wife, Ami, live in Cherry Hill and have been attending FAC since they married 13 years ago. They have three daughters: Sarah, 12; Julia, 9; and Noelle, 6. Dodd and Ami have been leading a miniChurch for the past eight years and serve as miniChurch coaches.

You may also know Dodd from the Kid BLAST ministry, where he serves as a teacher; or from the Men of Iron/Strong 27 ministry. Or you may know him from his past service in the Catalyst and Timothy Project men’s or Lay Counseling ministries.
You may know that for the past 19 years, Dodd has worked in the field of school counseling and coaches a high school boys’ soccer team. You may even know that, as a 20-year-old, Dodd prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior with his boss while working a summer landscaping job laying down mulch.

What you may not know is that God worked in a mighty and powerful way to lift Dodd out of a deep and dark depression that nearly caused him to take his own life almost 20 years ago.

A native of Monmouth County, NJ, Dodd was only 25 and had just begun teaching elementary school in Virginia when that fall he began feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of his new job.

“I was anxious, sleeping less, working around the clock, but my life soon was quickly out of balance,” he recalls. “By late fall, I was having serious bouts of insomnia, depressed thoughts, and even suicide ideations.”

Over the Christmas break, Dodd says, he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. However, when he was discharged from the hospital two-and-a-half weeks later, he felt no better than when he entered. Indeed, he was unable to return to his teaching position, even after a second stay in that same hospital. Having received a diagnosis of major depressive disorder with psychosis, Dodd moved back to New Jersey to live with his parents.

“As David wrote in Psalm 40, I was in the ‘pit of destruction’ and in the ‘miry bog.’ “

“My family and friends showed such great love and support to me during this time. Many people were praying for me,” says Dodd, who takes his first name from his paternal grandfather’s middle name, Dodson.

“However, I was in a really dark place. I was mentally ill; my brain chemistry was completely off. I had paranoid thoughts. My life had spiraled out of control. As David wrote in Psalm 40, I was in the ‘pit of destruction’ and in the ‘miry bog.’”

Dodd was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a third time and released again weeks later. But he continued to be plagued by the paranoid thoughts, despair, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

In June, he drove his car into a tree, resulting in multiple traumatic injuries. “For months, I felt that I would not make it to my twenty-seventh year,” Dodd recalls. “But when I was discharged this time, the paranoid thoughts were gone. My medication consisted of Prozac only and none of the other stuff. Over the days, weeks, and months ahead, I felt like a prisoner set free. The deep cloud of depression and paranoid thoughts had been lifted from me.”

One year after his struggle with depression began, Dodd went to work for a shipping company. He also began attending a local Bible church and seeing a Christian counselor weekly. He also joined a men’s Bible study and began to experience the joys of Christian fellowship. The following spring he was baptized.

The following September, Dodd was able to return to a career in education, this time as a high school guidance counselor and soccer coach.

“Strangely, just a year and a half after my life was spiraling out of control, students dealing with depression, anxiety, and other similar kinds of issues were coming to my office,” Dodd says.

Today, as he looks back and reflects on that period of his life, Dodd says three words most accurately capture his feelings: grace, hope, and identity.

“Grace, because I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone,” he says. “I believe that it’s only by His grace that He saved me from the pit of destruction and my mental illness and despair that day at the tree. I had thought that my life was over, but God in His infinite mercy saved me and had other plans for me, plans for life and hope. ‘He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to God.’” (Psalm 40:2-3 ESV)

Hope and identity, Dodd adds, are important because when he has looked for identity within himself, his pleasures, or his works, he’s only found diminished hope and even hopelessness.

“But when I look to Christ as my source of life and peace and identity, knowing that I am ‘in Christ’ as an adopted son of God Almighty, there is joy and hope in my life,” he says.

Asked what he would tell a friend suffering from depression or other mental illness, Dodd is clear: “Seek professional treatment and turn to the Lord. Depression is an illness and not just a weakness that we can lift ourselves out of by ‘trying harder,’ he says. “If someone breaks an arm, we put a cast on it to help it heal. When depression hits and our emotions are hurting so deeply that it impacts daily functioning, treatment is required.”

At the same time, Dodd says, it’s vitally important to stay connected to God through His Word and other Believers, and to be patient with yourself.

“It’s important to see yourself as God sees you. God loves you. God has compassion on you. God is merciful and gracious. As hard as it may be, stay connected with others and stay in his Word. Of course, the intervention of a psychologist or counselor is necessary and vital. All of these ― the power of God’s Word, fellowship, and counseling ― are how a person struggling with depression can see him/herself as God does.”

He adds, “As Christians, we long to have joy in our lives. We are instructed to rejoice always. Depression runs counter to this. A dangerous, downward spiral is to be depressed that you are depressed because deep down we know this is not the abundant life Jesus promised. But call on the name of the Lord and cry out to God. As God’s Word says, ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.’” (Jeremiah 29:12-14 ESV)

Freed of the depression that once bound him, Dodd says God in recent years has been teaching him to look at difficult circumstances as opportunities to cling more closely to Jesus and to let Him “change me and root me more deeply in Him. God is not always about changing my circumstances,” he concludes. “He is about changing me day by day as I put off the old self of performance-based living, fear, and people pleasing and put on the new self of trust, freedom, faith, and hope in our gracious Lord and Savior.” ·