• indoubt Podcast
  • ·
  • January 27, 2020

Ep. 211: God’s Got This

With Kayla Stoecklein, , , and Daniel Markin

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The heartbreaking and harsh reality of this life is that it’s broken. Anxiety, grief, depression, and suicide are all things that we have, or will, come up against, and in this week’s episode of indoubt, we touch on those topics. Facing the aftermath of suicide with the loss of her husband, Kayla Stoecklein now speaks out about suicide prevention and acts as a mental health advocate. Kayla joins us to share about her recent journey of grief and her connection to mental illness. You’ll hear Daniel and Kayla discuss how her life has changed and how what she’s gone through can be an encouragement for all of us. Her message is one of heartache, but also hope as she clings to and persistently pursues Jesus.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide as a very real option, please go to www.suicidehotline.org and tell someone about the pain you are experiencing. And if you’d like to reach indoubt to have us pray for you, or a friend, contact us by email at info@indoubt.ca.

View Transcription

Kourtney Cromwell:
Welcome to the indoubt Podcast, where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s Word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca or indoubt.com.

Kourtney Cromwell:
Hey everyone, this is Kourtney and I’m really thankful we have the opportunity that we do on today’s episode. We’re really opening up the conversation on suicide, depression, and grief, and we have the privilege of talking to Kayla Stoecklein. Kayla talks about her journey through grief and loss after her husband died by suicide in 2018, altering the course of her life completely. Kayla now stands as a mental health advocate and speaks on suicide awareness. Daniel and Kayla discuss what it looks like to walk alongside someone who’s suffering from mental illness and what life looks like now.
Suicide, depression, and anxiety are all things that we take seriously at indoubt. We also realize we don’t have all the answers and we instead return to the Bible. By placing your life in the hands of God, our Creator, it doesn’t mean your life will be simple, easy, and without heartache or suffering. We know that this life isn’t perfect, nor is it permanent and we must trust God, knowing that our lives do not belong to us.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide as a very real option, please go to www.suicidehotline.org and tell someone about the pain you’re experiencing. And if you would like to reach indoubt to have us pray for you or a friend, contact us by email at info@indoubt.ca. Here’s the conversation with Daniel and Kayla Stoecklein.

Daniel Markin:
This is Daniel Markin and with me today is Kayla Stoecklein. Hey Kayla, how are you?

Kayla Stoecklein:
I’m doing well. How are you?

Daniel Markin:
I’m doing really well. It’s a beautiful non-raining day here up in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. And my understanding is that you live in California, is that correct?

Kayla Stoecklein:
I do, yeah. I’m down here in Southern California, just outside Orange County, so not too shabby down here.

Daniel Markin:
Well, Kayla, as we begin today, I just wanted to ask you, who are you and then how did you come to know Jesus?

Kayla Stoecklein:
I am a former pastor’s wife. I’m still doing ministry now; it just looks a lot different. I’m a single mom, I have three little boys, ages three, five and almost seven, and I came to know Jesus growing up. I grew up in a Christian home, so I grew up going to church every week. I was really involved in youth group, but I would say I claimed my faith and my relationship with God for myself in junior high. We went to this amazing camp called Hume Lake in Northern California and I really just had an encounter with God there that just changed my life forever.

Daniel Markin:
Amazing. Could you tell us then your story? Because we’ve brought you on here, we want to hear your story, but also, what your life has looked like in the last year. Ultimately, we want to hear from you and hear how God has been working through this.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Sure. It’s been quite a year, a little over a year now, but it’s been quite a 10-year run with just our family and our life and what we’ve been through. I met my husband at Vanguard University in Southern California in 2008, and we fell in love really fast and we were married in December 2010. And we went on our own little adventure up in Seattle only for six months and then came back to Southern California, and he started working at his parents’ church. He had grown up in the church, his parents started the church when he was three years old, so he loved ministry and was passionate about the local church and was an incredibly gifted communicator.
We came back and he was working at his parents’ church and just a few months later his dad was diagnosed with very aggressive leukemia. And so, we went on this journey with leukemia, it was about four years of relapse and remission and relapse and remission, and there was spinal cord damage and he was bound to a wheelchair. And it was a really tough, painful time for our family and for our church. About a couple of months before his dad passed away in 2015, Andrew was handed the official baton of leadership and became the lead pastor at 26 years old.
We had this really special service. We wheeled his dad onto the stage in a wheelchair and he had this little baton in his hand, and he handed Andrew the baton, and it was just this epic moment for our church and our family. And everybody was very supportive of this transition, and it was just a really, really special, special day.
A few months later, his dad did pass away, which was devastating for all of us. But our church was so supportive of Andrew, and Andrew just led strong through all of that. He hardly took any time off to grieve, only a couple of weeks, and came back and did this incredible series on heaven.
He was gifted, he was unstoppable, he was running fast. He held our church through a lot, throughout the leukemia journey and then through the passing of his dad. He just stepped up to the plate and was speaking a ton and leading a ton and just doing an incredible job. And then in the fall of 2017 he got sick and panic attacks came out of nowhere. We had a stalker issue in our family that really just sparked this sense of fear in Andrew, and the sense of fear sparked these panic attacks and the panic attacks were very debilitating and happening three to four times a week. He would be curled up in a ball and shaking and trembling and just hit … It’s a full-body experience. You feel like you’re going to die when you’re having a panic attack. It’s awful.
He was having them three to four times a week and we were seeing doctors and trying to figure out what was going on inside his body. And at first, we thought it was his thyroid. He had struggled with hyperthyroid issues in the past, so we were trying to see if it was his thyroid. And after testing and doctor’s appointments, they discovered that it wasn’t his thyroid, and his panic attacks instead of getting better, were continuing to get worse, and they got so bad that he landed in the hospital. At the hospital we all just decided enough is enough. This guy has been running hard, he’s been running fast, he’s been leading strong and his body’s just done. So, we put him on a sabbatical and just thought, man, he needs to rest. He’s been doing so much and he’s burnt out and he just needs to rest.
A few months, or actually just a few weeks into the sabbatical, he was diagnosed with depression and I’ll never forget sitting in the psychiatrist’s office with him and the psychiatrist said those words, “Your husband has depression,” and I was just shocked. I was stunned. Andrew was actually relieved to have a diagnosis because he had been having these panic attacks and he didn’t know what was going on, so he was relieved to have a plan and a diagnosis and to be able to get help. And I was just stunned and shocked and upset.
So we went on this journey with depression and he wrestled with depression from April until July 2018 and it was very, very difficult. We’re raising these three little boys and he’s sick and every day I didn’t know what I was going to get. A lot of the days he spent time in the bedroom resting and sleeping and running to God, and all of it too, oftentimes I’d go back in the bedroom and he’d have headphones on, and he would be blasting worship music and he would be emotional. It was just really intense and a really hard summer.
At the end of July, the doctors actually thought that his depression was getting better and that too much time away from work would actually make his depression worse. So, he returned to work and hit the ground running and gave two powerful messages on mental illness. He was using his own story as the example, and he talked about depression and suicide and give out the suicide hotline number and was giving out statistics, and he knew all the answers and he had all the facts. But unfortunately, headed into the third week he just had a really awful day in the office.
There was a trigger and the next day he attempted suicide, and we were all completely shocked and stunned. And especially our family, we had been through so much together and we thought he was getting better and he’s this strong, invincible man that had led our church and our family through so much. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him.
He attempted suicide, was in the hospital on life support and the doctors basically said there was nothing that they could do. And so, the next day on August 25th, 2018 he died and went to be with Jesus. I’m still completely shocked and devastated and I still can’t believe it happened, and it’s changed my life and the lives of everyone in my family and our friends, especially my three little boys forever.

Daniel Markin:
That is a whirlwind that you have walked through and are still walking through.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Daniel Markin:
And I would say this too, I’m so deeply sorry, and I was deeply grieved by it. I remember your story had reached so many people because this sort of thing had been shared all over Twitter. I remember seeing the photo of you and your family and being quite upset because the whole side right now, and this is such a relevant issue, which is why I’m so thankful that you are sharing your story, but the issue with mental illness and how this is affecting us nowadays, it’s amazing how many people this is affecting. But even just knowing people who struggle with this daily, it’s such a relevant issue.
And so, with the grief how … because I’ve often understood that grief comes in waves and it can be a terrifying thing knowing that wave is coming even when it’s a good time and then the grief is here. Here comes another wave of it. How have you been able to process that, and what has been really anchoring you and how has the Lord been your strength during this?

Kayla Stoecklein:
The waves are unpredictable. You can plan for some of them, like a big holiday or a birthday or those kinds of things, the anniversary types of things. You can plan for those ones. But oftentimes the grief just comes out of nowhere. It’s a smell, it’s a picture, it’s an image, it’s a place that you didn’t expect. And really for me, I try to just run to the grief. I try to go straight towards the grief and allow myself to feel it because I know that the only way through is through, and I can’t avoid it and I can’t go around it and I can’t go under it and I can’t go over it, and I have to just run to it and go through it and face it.
And so that’s what I’ve been doing with my grief, and God has just, like I said, been so kind to us. In that verse about, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and comforts those who have a questioning spirit.” It’s just so true. I’ve never seen the hand of God like I have in my grief. God has been so near and just provided in countless ways for our family. And it’s these little, tiny ways and then these big ways. I’ll give you an example of a little, tiny way.
I waited a week to tell my kids about the passing of their dad. I just needed to get my head around it and figure out how I was going to tell them. And so, they were with my dad for a week and I sat them down and I told them what happened. My little ones were too little, and we were prepped that they might just want to play after. So, my little ones went outside to play and my older son was just devastated. And so, I sat with him at the table and we were doing this little colouring book that someone had gifted us. The colouring book is called, “When Someone I Love Dies.”
We’re colouring it and on the first page it’s talking about the life cycle of a caterpillar. And so, there’s the egg, and there’s a caterpillar, and there’s the cocoon, and there’s the butterfly and we’re talking about how life changes and grief changes. We’re colouring this and we’re talking about Andrew and we’re talking about our pain, and then it was time for nap, so we were done colouring and I go over to close the curtains and the doors were all closed.
There wasn’t windows opened and I go to close the curtains, and at the top of the curtain there’s this little tiny caterpillar and we had just finished colouring this book that had caterpillars and butterflies. So, it was this really special moment. I picked it up and I showed my son, Smith, who I was colouring with and he said, “Oh my gosh mom, it’s a miracle from God.”

Daniel Markin:
Oh wow!

Kayla Stoecklein:
I didn’t prompt him to say that, he said that, so God’s given us these little, tiny miracles that my five year-old can understand too. These big, amazing miracles like a home. I did not think I was going to be able to … I’m a single person now and the breadwinner and having to provide for my family, and I did not think I’d be able to purchase a home. But an incredible army of support that we’ve had and the money that came in through the GoFundMe, God made a way for us to have a home.
So from a little, tiny caterpillar to a home, God’s been all over all of it. And just all the stories that come in every single day and every single week too, from literally people all over the world who have just … their lives have been saved, their lives have been changed, their lives have been restored, their marriages have been restored through just the sharing of our stories. So, God’s hand is all over it, and I believe what happened completely broke God’s heart. But I also believe that God doesn’t waste pain.

Daniel Markin:
Yes. That’s the thing, it’s always the cliché that Christians can say that God, He has a plan for it all. But what you’re describing is He does, and He does have a plan for it. And not that any of that is easy, but it’s this amazing thing, I think, for you to be able to see that. Here’s the trickle effect of this horrific thing and watch how God is using it for the furthering of His Kingdom, and that’s amazing.
As you share your stories, you explain ultimately what happened and how God’s been moving. Now, what are some of the things that you share in your life or let me put it this way. What are some of the questions that people often ask you from your story?

Kayla Stoecklein:
A lot of people will message me and just, they’re walking alongside somebody that’s struggling with suicidal thoughts or with depression, and they just want to know what to do to help them. That’s the main question that I get.

Daniel Markin:
My understanding is when it comes to suicide, no one’s ever in the right mind. And that’s the scary thing about it is it’s so shocking, and you wonder, how could somebody do that? But then also, imagine being in a place where they actually follow through with that. It brings you to a depth of pain that I don’t think many people encounter until like you were saying, you’re walking with someone through those sorts of things. How has your church been supporting you in this time? And because, as Christians, we have this family and my understanding is that you’ve been at this church for a long time now. What are some of the ways that they have just been blessing you and walking with you in this?

Kayla Stoecklein:
We have an incredible, amazing church and amazing staff and they have been so supportive through all of it. Through the leukemia journey and through the mental health journey. And they were cheering Andrew on when he took a sabbatical and we were really honest with the church and got in front of the church and told them your pastor is struggling with panic attacks and anxiety and depression and he needs to rest. The church was so supportive. And when he came back from the sabbatical the church was packed, people were sitting on the floor, it was a full house and they stood up and gave him a standing ovation and they were so happy that he was back. So, the church has been incredible through all of everything that we’ve gone through as a church, that’s losing two pastors in less than three years.
It’s been a really difficult season in the last 10 years for the church. But they’ve been wonderful and they’re the ones that started the GoFundMe and they also formed a little team. When Andrew passed away, they formed this little team called Kayla’s Care Team and it was a mixture of my friends and some staff members, and they filtered every single gift and every single letter that came, and they filtered it and they made sure that it was okay for me to read, and that it wasn’t nasty. They would pre-read everything and organize everything and then drop it off to me little by little, because they didn’t want me to feel overwhelmed.
They’ve been incredibly supportive through all of it. And the church, the Big C Church at large; our story touched a lot of pastors and a lot of churches because it was a pastor, it was one of them. And so, the Big C Church at large has been extremely supportive. And that’s been a really beautiful piece in all of it too. I feel support really from the Big C Church nationwide and worldwide.

Daniel Markin:
Totally. As I’m thinking about this and as I’m hearing your story, we have a lot of young adults here and anxiety and depression. I just know in my own ministry, working with young adults, this is something that is such a big thing for us. And it’s way more common than a lot of people would know, but also, way more hidden than a lot of people would also expect. It’s a thing that we always want to say that everything’s okay, everything’s all right, I’m doing fine.
How have you been able to encourage people to say, I’m not doing okay? If you were to encourage your young adults in that and if they’re struggling with any mental health or emotional health, how would you encourage them?

Kayla Stoecklein:
I would say if you’re struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and you have not said a word to anybody or you tried to tell somebody and they just did not get it, I would say to keep talking about it and keep searching for friends or family members that do get it. And if you still can’t find somebody that gets it, then call a counselor and sit with a counselor and explain it to them.
You cannot do it alone and you need help, and you need just to reach out for help and to make sure that you have people around you that can support you and that can walk alongside you and that truly get it, and aren’t trying to shrug it off and act like it’s not a big deal because it is a big deal and it does matter and your pain is real. And so to make sure that you find people that can sit with you in that pain, that can share in that pain with you and that can walk alongside you in it too.
We cannot do life alone, and especially if you’re struggling, you need community. And the sad part is that loneliness is huge. 46% of U.S. adults report feeling lonely, and loneliness is worse for you than obesity, and loneliness is just as bad for you if not worse for you than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So I would say the way to break free from that loneliness and isolation is to find community, and I think the church is the best place to find community.
I think serving on a team and if you’re a youth, if you’re in high school or junior high, going to youth group and finding a small group. And if you’re an adult, it’s like going to church on Sunday and serving on a team and also finding a small group. And if you don’t like the small group, you’re in, go find another small group. You can date around in small groups until you find the right small group. And if it’s not at the church then maybe go to the gym or join a fitness class or join a mom’s group. But there are so many ways that we can find community, and there’s probably more people around you that want to love you and want to be your friend than you can even see or know.

Daniel Markin:
Totally. Yeah, because we oftentimes you can be like, oh man, I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving that community group or leaving that … Like, “Why aren’t you serving with us anymore?” But sometimes it’s a matter of, I think, finding what’s the best fit for you. And then even just culturally, maybe someone’s in a community group and they’re like, hey I don’t … Because on the one hand, you want to obviously fight for community. Community is not easy, but I think I agree with what you’re saying that making sure you find a community that you get along with. That you’re not just pouring out, but you’re also being filled up.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Daniel Markin:
Kayla, let me ask you this then. As you approach the Scriptures and as you’ve been reading it and spent time with the Lord, what have been some scriptures that have just really spoken to you?

Kayla Stoecklein:
That’s a really great question. I have been sitting in this little devotional and there’s not specific scriptures, but there’s this little devotional that I’ve been sitting in, it’s called, Streams in the Desert, and it’s just spoken so deeply to my heart through all of it. It’s just this beautiful little devotional. They’re little one-page devotionals for each day, and it has poetry in it, and it has a verse for each day. And if you’re sitting in a place of pain, it’s a really beautiful little devotional, so it’s been more of that.
It’s been more of just sitting with God. It hasn’t been specific verses for me. It’s just been more just sitting with God, and I like to have this quiet time in the morning. So, on a good day, I get up at 4:30 and I sit by myself and journal and read my devotional and crack open my Bible. I’m a prayer journaler, so I’ll sit, and I’ll journal for a few pages in my journal and that’s just my time with God. And I would say I get more out of just sitting with God than I do reading the Scriptures, if that makes sense.

Daniel Markin:
Totally. Well, I think also we could fall into the trap of I have to read all this, read in order to be close to God. But I think what you’re doing is resting in Him.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Exactly.

Daniel Markin:
It is something that we are to do and contemplating.

Kayla Stoecklein:
And it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be a one page in a little devotional, and it can just be sitting with God. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Daniel Markin:
Yeah, and meditating on that thing, which is something that we don’t typically do nowadays in meditating. As you have been, again, walking through this, it’s been a year. What do you anticipate the next five, 10 years looking like?

Kayla Stoecklein:
What I’ve learned through all of this is I can’t predict the future. I would have never imagined that this would have happened to my family. I would have never imagined, I thought we were going to be doing ministry at the church for the next 20 years and leading the church and growing in our leadership and just being a part of the local church. And now that’s different.
I see my boys; I see me pouring into them and leading them and loving on them and just being a very present mom. I see continuing to do ministry, I see just continuing to share on different platforms and writing and speaking, and I think God will continue to use me in that way as well, and I think it’ll be more than just the story. I see God just pouring out a lot in me and through me in the next five to 10 years because that’s what He does. When we run to Him and we sit with Him and we are open to being His vessel and His mouthpiece, He’s going to want to use us in whatever capacity that we’re leading in, whether we’re a teacher or we work at the grocery store.
That light that seeps in when we sit with Him in the mourning is going to pour out onto others throughout the day. So, I just see Him continuing to pour out His light through me and my boys, and I just see us hopefully creating this happy, beautiful life. I call what we’re doing right now, rebuilding beautiful. And that’s what I also feel like I’m doing. I had this amazing, beautiful life that just got stripped away, so I’m rebuilding from the ground up. And so, I see us continuing to rebuild that beautiful life with God.

Daniel Markin:
Well, and as you do that, you are inserting beauty into other people’s lives. That’s an amazing thing. And so, let me ask you this then. As we are just coming towards the end here of our time, what is one final word of something that you would share?

Kayla Stoecklein:
I would say if you’re struggling, reach out for help. I would say if you’re walking through a painful season, keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep leaning into God, and if you don’t feel God then still keep leaning into God. And I would say if you’re sitting in a place of loneliness and isolation, then do everything that you can to break free and find friends. I would say don’t give up and keep going and that the best is yet to come, and just hang on through all of it.

Daniel Markin:
The thing I think about too is, man, Jesus is the one we need and the one we have to chase after and just holding so tight onto Him.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Amen.

Daniel Markin:
Well, Kayla, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story.

Kayla Stoecklein:
Hey, thanks so much for having me. It’s been an honour to be here with you today.

Kourtney Cromwell:
I’m really glad that we had the chance to talk with Kayla, and I’m really grateful that she’s willing to share her story. Kayla mentioned that she does speaking events and writes about her journey online. To find out more, you can go to Godsgotthis.com or follow Kayla on social media.
Obviously, we didn’t answer all questions about suicide and depression and grief, but if you have something that you’re wrestling with, don’t hesitate to ask us on social media or by email or talk to somebody that you know and trust.
I hope you join us again for next week’s episode as we’re talking to author, Drew Dyck, and Joshua and him will be discussing what self-control looks like in today’s culture.

Kourtney Cromwell:
Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more, subscribe on iTunes and Spotify or visit us online at indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Suicide & Mental Health - God's Got This with Kayla Stoecklein on the indoubt Podcast

Who's Our Guest?

Kayla Stoecklein

Kayla is a mental health and suicide awareness advocate who shares about her journey, continuing to speak about the grief and loss she's experiencing after her husband died by suicide in 2018. In addition to speaking events, Kayla writes a blog through the organization, God's Got This. Kayla is the mom of three wonderful boys and lives in California where she continues to "rebuild beautiful," relying on the Lord and the people in her life.
Suicide & Mental Health - God's Got This with Kayla Stoecklein on the indoubt Podcast

Who's Our Guest?

Kayla Stoecklein

Kayla is a mental health and suicide awareness advocate who shares about her journey, continuing to speak about the grief and loss she's experiencing after her husband died by suicide in 2018. In addition to speaking events, Kayla writes a blog through the organization, God's Got This. Kayla is the mom of three wonderful boys and lives in California where she continues to "rebuild beautiful," relying on the Lord and the people in her life.