Former gymnast Mari Perkins shares powerful testimony: 'Our God is a master at restoration'

I’m a military spouse, mom of three, realtor in Texas and former collegiate gymnast. I’m passionate about encouraging others in their Christian faith and testifying of God’s gift of undeserved grace. I wrote this testimony as a reminder to myself of God’s faithfulness. So many times throughout Scripture, God calls His people to remember who He is and what He has done. He knows we are tempted to doubt His goodness and forget His power.

It was also written to encourage others who might be going through a hard time. The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came that we may have life abundantly (John 10:10). Even though we will have troubles, Jesus has overcome and promises to use those trials for our good and His glory. I’m living proof of that.


There I was in the emergency room, waiting on a gurney in the hallway. There were no rooms available, so I couldn’t even hide in my shame and embarrassment.

It was 2016. I was brought to the ER because I had tried to commit suicide. I had officially hit rock bottom. But, sometimes it’s at the bottom when you discover that God is the Rock at the bottom.

I grew up in a Christian home in California and came to know the Lord at a young age, completely due to His sovereign purpose and undeserved grace. Most of my days growing up were spent in the gym training for gymnastics.

After national championships and Olympic training camps, I shattered my jaw in a competition during my senior year of high school. I spent a couple months with my mouth wired shut, and I decided to stop pursuing the Olympics and accept a scholarship to the University of Alabama. It’s interesting what happens when God makes you lie down, like He did with my injury. Surrender isn’t giving up, it just means we look to our Father and not to ourselves. I began to devour my Bible, because I couldn’t talk or do anything else but rest.

In college, there were many high scores, grades and championships won. However, I became burnt out and battled depression. Most of the time, I was competing sick or with an injury and a cortisone shot to numb the pain.

The struggles kept me coming back to God’s Word for hope. The trials kept me dwelling in the shelter of the Most High and resting in the shadow of the Almighty. God was building a foundation of truth on His Word that I could stand upon — not just temporarily but for the rest of my life.

I had Scripture in my room, in my car, on my locker, even written with a Sharpie on my hand. When I fell, the injuries led me to the Lifter of my head. And I fell a lot. Psalm 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

The pain led me to hunger and thirst for God, the Ancient of Days. My delight became the law of the Lord and on His Word I meditated day and night (in between studying for exams of course).


Mari Woven

Mari Perkins and her husband. (Photo courtesy of Mari Perkins)

After college, I married my high school sweetheart who had just graduated from pilot training the day before our wedding. In 13 years, we’ve moved six times, had three kids, made it through six deployments and countless temporary-duty assignments.

At our previous (and last active-duty) assignment, we made it back to California, where I thought we were going to stay. We finally made it back “home” with our 5-, 3- and 1-year-old, but my chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue and depression quickly escalated. “I can’t” was becoming more of my narrative.

I sought to find some kind of happiness in my kids, home, marriage, health, looks, family, friends. I was struggling with perfectionism, and it kept me from being still or ever feeling good enough. I was constantly seeking to find value in my performance and external appearance. I ran myself into the ground. I felt hopeless and I just wanted to go home. To my eternal home.

In 2016, I gave up; but that wasn’t the end of my story.

You see, in the context of grammar, a period signifies that two sentences are saying different things. However, a semicolon is used when a thought is not quite over even though the sentence is; there’s still more to come.

For that reason, a semicolon has become the symbol for those struggling with depression, mental health, addiction and self-injury. A semicolon represents a life that could have ended but hasn’t.

“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” — Psalm 68:20

During that season of severe depression when I couldn’t get my thoughts to go anywhere positive, I would go through the alphabet naming an attribute of God for each letter.

A – Alpha
B – Beginning
C – Creator

I still do this. Sometimes we have to speak to ourselves, instead of listen to ourselves.

“In 2016, I gave up; but that wasn’t the end of my story.” Mari Perkins


In that hallway in the ER, I put on my headphones and played worship music. Scripture flowing through melody. I knew I was vulnerable.

This is the voice of truth that God wants us to hear in pain:

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” — James 4:8

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew 11:28

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” — Psalm 51:12

I was soon admitted into a behavioral health center, where I was able to address the chemical imbalances in my brain. Also, I could spiritually and mentally address where the enemy, the father of lies, had planted seeds of deceit that I had allowed to grow into actual beliefs.

I recognized the lie that I had come to believe — that my value was based on my performance. In sports, value is based on performance, but I am saved by grace through faith. I am bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus, given a deposit of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing what is to come — eternal life in paradise in the presence of a Holy God.

I am an heir and co-heir with Christ to the Kingdom of Heaven. I am His daughter, His beloved. I have access to His presence now, supernatural power now, freed from sin and no longer hopeless now. The veil was torn top to bottom, not by human hands, but by our Creator who has made a way for imperfection to worship perfection.

My value is based on who God is and what Jesus has done, not anything I’ve accomplished. And when there are truths God wants us to hear, there are also lies the enemy wants us to hear more loudly. I have to make sure I don’t re-arm the same devil that Jesus disarmed on the cross.

Mari Woven

Mari performing a gymnastics routine at Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Mari Perkins)


I found out that I have permanent brain damage from numerous concussions and a family history of depression and mental illness. I’m grateful for the medical advancements of anti-depressants. My pride doesn’t want to admit that I’m on them or need them, but if this is how God is graciously allowing me health and stability, I will humbly accept the help and rely on Him, who is providing through the medication.

My faith is a filter that allows me to process my experiences through the goodness of God, choosing to reject what I can only see physically and clinging to what I know He is doing. Sometimes God shows me He is in control is by putting me in situations I can’t control. God knows I need to be reminded of my dependency on Him over and over again, for as long as I live.

I would rather be broken and desperate for God than “healthy” and walking away from Him. And there’s a certain fellowship that takes place with Jesus in times of suffering, because no one knows suffering better than He does. In His incomparably great power, God will one day make all things new.

There is more to come in life, no matter what you’re going through. I’m still here to testify of the breakthrough power of our Restorer and to give hope to anyone else who is struggling. Hope sprouts in the hurt. When we face truth with God, pain becomes possibility. Heartache becomes an open door to experience God with more intimacy.

If you are heartbroken, it’s OK to let the tears fall and hand what remains to Jesus. Even in the desolate landscape of a grieving heart, hope can take root.

Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” I’m here still standing to declare the praises of Him who called me out of darkness and into His glorious light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. God’s love is better than your worst day, stronger than the most defiant will, and more forgiving than your cruelest sin. When you give up, love goes on, and when you fall down, love picks you up. Our God is a master at restoration.

“I’m still here to testify of the breakthrough power of our Restorer and to give hope to anyone else who is struggling. Hope sprouts in the hurt. When we face truth with God, pain becomes possibility. Heartache becomes an open door to experience God with more intimacy.” Mari Perkins


Sometimes, it can feel like we have to have it all together, and we can avoid talking about where we are or what we’ve walked through. I want to open up and ask Jesus to use my story to shine His light in the darkness.

I’ve been down to the pit of depression where it was so dark I lost my way. I’ve been to the place where hope seems to be extinguished. But with God’s help through doctors, family, friends and the weapons of prayer and worship, I made it back to the land of the living. And by the grace of God I’m still here today.

If you are struggling with mental illness, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and you are not the only one. I’ve been there and I’ve lived through it, and I’m here to tell you, you will make it through by the grace of God. He is bigger than what you are facing.

Talk to a friend, your doctor or a counselor. I want to encourage you to step out of the darkness of isolation and into the light of His glorious grace in community. He restored my soul and He can restore yours too. God’s plan is not to take you out of the world, but for you to be changed by His Word and sent back into the world.

This is my testimony of how God has been, is and will forever be my RESTORER.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” — 1 Peter 5:10

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