When I Discovered Jesus is Better than Self-Help

by Melissa Coan

Photo by Benj Haisch  @benjhaisch

Photo by Benj Haisch @benjhaisch

My Muslim mother and Jewish father hired a loving Christian family to nanny me until I was 9 years old. Then, they put me into a Catholic school. It would be a good fit for me, they thought, while neither of them knew first-hand what Catholicism entailed.

After finishing my Masters degree, I moved back to NYC from California. Then came a season of intense spiritual searching. I obsessively read self-help books on spirituality, creative energy, and healthy living. I became a devoted Yoga to the People attendee in Williamsburg and spent one New Year’s Eve meditating my way into the New Year. I was on a quest to find meaning and truth in my life.

Even more, I had just moved into an amazing apartment, gotten promoted at work, and fallen in love. I thought I had mastered life.


Then, at the end of 2015, a traumatic event scarred my spirit. Nothing I practiced or believed in sustained me. I entered the darkest period of my life. For a year and a half, I experienced depression, suicidal episodes, and anxiety plagued, sweat-drenched nights. I found myself, on countless occasions, on the bathroom floor sobbing for clarity and healing.

I had never witnessed or felt what darkness was capable of up until that point. I had no idea what had just hit me.


Little did I know that every night on that bathroom floor, God heard every word.

One evening out with a friend, I told her I had given up, despite my best efforts to heal. My friend kindly and patiently, like she had been doing for close to two years at that point, challenged me with a question: "Have you ever prayed to God?"

“If God doesn’t hear me every night on the bathroom floor, I don’t know when he will,” I replied, annoyed at the question.

She continued: “Have you ever surrendered?”

I had no idea what that meant.

That night I went home and, in the bathroom, I stood at my sink and said, “God, I’m scared. Please don’t hurt me. But, I give up. If you’re real, you have access to my life and to my heart.”

Two days later, I woke up in my studio apartment where I lived with my boyfriend, and to my bewilderment, nothing in our apartment looked like mine. “This is not your home,” I thought.

I moved out the next day, with complete peace and conviction. I had to leave. I packed my luggage, not knowing if I would be gone a week or forever.

That week, I asked my friend if I could join her at church. Three weeks later a girl next to me asked me if she could pray with me. As I burst into tears, she asked if I wanted to accept Jesus into my life. Without any rational thought, I said “yes.“ Even though just a few days prior, saying the name Jesus made me incredibly uncomfortable.

I turned to Jesus that day, and my life has not looked the same since. The despair has completely gone. Now that God healed my heart, I’ve been able to counsel others in this kind of situation.

Is self-help letting you down?