Ben Godwin was desperate. He was beginning the fifth year of what he now calls his “dark time”—a long, hideous journey of depression that was sucking him downward.
On the cold evening of January 15, 2011, Ben was driving through the dark down the highway from his parents’ home in Oklahoma to an apartment he shared with a few other guys in Kansas.
With his hands gripping the steering-wheel and barreling down the highway at 70 mph, the thought suddenly came to him that if he were to merely run the car off the road and into a light pole, his pain would end upon his death.
He didn’t debate the question. He didn’t even hesitate. Instantly, he jerked to wheel hard-right and the car entered the shoulder of the highway and into the grassy area surrounding the nearest light pole.
And that’s when it happened.
“I felt my car actually bouncing back onto the highway—as if some force-field was repelling me away from danger,” Ben recalls. “I could even describe it as God’s hand turning the car back” from the danger he was determined to meet.
There is absolutely no doubt in Ben’s mind that God prevented him from committing suicide that night.
Ben was still not “out of the woods” concerning his severe depression—but at least God got his attention.
“I realized I needed help,” he says. “So I reached out to a Christian counselor, who worked with me for the next six months.”
Ben’s depression began during his junior year of high school and digressed so badly through his first year of college that he flunked out.
“After I dropped out, I got a job,” he goes on, “but my co-workers were a bad influence and I began drinking and partying.”
Then God intervened and prevented Ben from becoming another suicide statistic.
“During my six months with a Christian counselor, I knew I had to make some changes,” Ben says. “God was calling me into ministry; but where?”
Ben and Charlsie Gargis were friends since high school, and into college. He knew Charlsie’s parents were Salvation Army Officers (Majors Carlyle and Charlotte Gargis) from chapel services they occasionally conducted at their school, and from Christmas Kettle days that some of the students manned as class projects each December.
“I made a phone call to (then) Captain Gargis, hoping he might know of a place of ministry for me somewhere in The Salvation Army. He offered me a job on the spot, which even included an apartment to live in!”
Incredibly, Ben hung up the phone but put his decision on hold—for six months!
“I felt the depression returning but I was afraid that after six months the job offer was gone. But I called him again, anyway.”
“Sure, the job is still here for you,” Gargis told Ben. “I was just waiting for you to call back.”
Ben accepted and moved to become a corps assistant in Mountain Home, Arkansas. About a month into his new job, God had another surprise for Ben.
“I felt a call to officership and I knew that’s what God wanted for me,” Ben says. “But the specter of my continuing depression worried me.”
Ben asserts that he’s not one to “make demands of God” but sitting in his apartment one night, he knew he had to: “If this is what You want me to do, then You have to take my depression away from me,” Ben cried out.
The next morning brought something that Ben had not felt in five dark years.
“I woke up with absolutely no depression—and I haven’t had it to this very day!”
God healed Ben of his depression, but Ben realized further changes had to be made to keep his healing.
“I got rid of a lot of music, movies, and books that feed depression,” he says. “My music changed; my book choices changed; my movie choices changed. I no longer fed my depression, but instead began looking for things that negate it.”
Instantly, Ben’s aura changed. A lot of people noticed. Charlsie noticed it as well.
“We began dating and pretty soon my friend became my soul mate,” Ben says.
The couple was married in a ceremony performed by her parents. Six months later they were accepted as cadets to enter the Evangeline Booth College as members of the Messengers Of Light Session.
The irony of their session name is not lost on Ben.
“Those five years of destructive depression were my ‘dark years.’ Now that God has rescued and redeemed me, these are my ‘light years!’”
Lieutenants Benjamin and Charlsie Godwin were commissioned in 2016 and sent to their first appointment: corps officers at San Antonio Citadel in the Texas Division.
Lieutenant Ben’s near-fatal bout with depression has left him with a heart for other teens and young adults who are suffering and misunderstood.
“Teens suffering from depression are often ashamed they feel that way. They don’t understand why their emotions are so out of control,” he says. “I’ve talked to a lot of parents whose teens are falling victim to depression, and [parents] just can’t grasp it—or worse, blow it off and say, ‘Not my child…’”
So what would Lieutenant Ben say to someone who is drowning in despair, like he once was?
“I would plead with them to speak about it with somebody,” he answers, “and reach out for help—a friend, a family member, a professional; and, definitely, reach out to God!”
Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor