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Just listen to Sherry Barnett for a while and it won't be long before you will detect a consistent theme running through her conversation.
"Halloween was to me as a child what Christmas was probably to other children," she says. "I thought it was a cool thing. Wicked things were cute, and I didn't see any harm in it. Whenever the going got rough, I could always rely on suicide because that was a way of escaping. I liked the idea of being dead, not existing anymore."
It is hard to imagine how a person could end up in such a self-destructive state. Sherry says that there was nothing unusual about her home life, so what was it that made her obsessed with death?
"My childhood was the perfect childhood. I had perfect parents. We did not have the Lord in our home, but I had everything a child could want," she says. "The fascination for the occult began back when I was 5, and it started with simple things like little childhood storybooks about witches and ghosts. That just grew."
As she grew older, Sherry's childhood obsession with vampires increased.
"It just grew into a lifestyle for me, as opposed to somebody else just watching a vampire movie and saying that was cool. I took it to heart. I made it my life," she says.
Indulgence in drugs, alcohol, and sex became a lifestyle for Sherry and her fascination with the occult brought with it a price. When she slept, her dreams became nightmares that were hard to distinguish from reality.
Says Sherry, "Sometimes I could almost hear something coming down the hallway. I could feel it, like something was coming into my room. It got so bad, I couldn't move. I couldn't wake up. I just always remember that every time I would struggle, I would hear the same voice telling me, 'Sherry, don't struggle. The more you fight, the worse it is going to get for you.'"
Sherry's drug and alcohol use escalated as she tried to suppress the dreams. But the result was depression and worse nightmares.
"I would feel this heavy presence on me, pushing me down, trying to suck all the life out of me," she says, "and then I would hear this screaming. It would start really quiet, and the scream would get louder and louder and louder to the point where it was just deafening to my ears, and I would wake up screaming myself.
"I remember this one night I was just so depressed I wanted to die," Sherry continues. "I thought, I am going to give myself one more chance, and I am going to pray to the devil. I wanted to pray to Satan himself. I am going to ask him to come and help me. I am going to give my life to him, I am going to give my soul to him, and maybe he will help me out of this. So I drew a pentagram on the floor, got the candle, put it in the circle with me, and prayed to the devil. I just gave him my soul that night. Nothing happened. I cried and cried and cried, and still nothing happened. I thought, That's not going to work."
Nothing else was working for Sherry. Even marriage and a baby could not drive the depression away. When a coworker gave her husband, Rick, a Bible, Sherry took an interest in it.
"I sat down and read a little of it. I started thinking about it, and that's really what started me thinking about God. It is like something started asking me, 'Sherry, Where is your hope? Where is your hope?' I just grew up thinking that God was out there, but He wasn't for me. He was for priests, He was for pastors, He was for other people, but not for me."
Sherry says she was finally ready to believe that maybe God was for her.
"I was busy doing my housework and kind of just whispered to myself, 'Well, God, if You can take away the love for drugs, I will give my life to You.' I just said, 'God, I can't do it. I cannot do it.' I didn't realize it at the time, but I was really talking to God, and God heard me," she says.
As she went to sleep that night, Sherry says that something unusual happened.
"It was like a bolt of lightning went through me and I just sat up, bolted up, and felt like I was sober, instantly sober," Sherry says. "All of a sudden, I heard this voice. I heard this voice tell me--it was a comforting voice this time, nothing scary--'Sherry, you are going to stop this. You have to stop this. No more drugs.' Right away I felt I was sober. I was shaking, but I had this new type of feeling in me.
"That little prayer that I rambled off in the kitchen, it wasn't even formal," she explains. "It was pretty much just talk. He delivered me, and that day is when I gave my life to the Lord. I said, 'Lord, this is it. I am going to be a Christian and going to live my life for You.' I have never been the same. There was no more blackness inside, no more having to run out and fill up the blackness. That darkness, that oppression inside of me, it was gone. It was gone, and I never think about death anymore."
Rick gave his life to Jesus Christ soon after Sherry. They are now raising their three children in a home where love, not fear, reigns.
"The Lord has brought so much hope into my life," Sherry says. "I know who I am. I know why I am here. I have stability now. He is faithful. He has been faithful to me to this day. Hasn't let me down at all."
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