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Depression Led Me to Jesus

Written by Michelle Lai, Singapore

My depression started in December 2006; there was no trigger. I just remember feeling sad on a school trip to Japan and tired all the time.

It continued on into 2007, the year of my O-level exams. I had brain fog and I could not concentrate; I often had to re-read sentences. This affected my studies and subsequently, even my relationships. There was a constant dull pain in my chest, and I felt like crying or vomiting all the time. I remember crying and vomiting on my Biology textbook the day before the exams as I tried in vain to prepare.

By that time, I was so depressed that I applied to a school which very few of my classmates were going to, as I just wanted to get away from everybody I knew. I did not expect to make it to junior college because of my situation. Miraculously, I did well in my exams and was accepted into a Christian junior college.

But when lessons at the new school started, I skipped classes. I did not know that I was depressed at the time. All I knew was that something was wrong and I really needed help. I did not know where to find help, so I sought escape instead. I would either lie to my parents that there was no school, or I would wander the neighborhood in my school uniform instead of attending school.

One day, my teacher called me on the phone and said that he wanted to talk to me about my attendance in school. He wanted to know if I was facing any problems. After talking to me, he gently suggested that I see the school counselor. The school counselor suspected that I had depression and referred me to a doctor. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Major Depression and I was given medication to take.

During one of my counselling sessions with the school counselor, she asked me if I knew God and what Jesus had done on the cross. I replied that I understood a little, as all the schools I had attended were Christian schools. I remember crying in primary school during a Good Friday service when I first heard about Jesus dying on the cross. Back then however, I told myself that I could not accept Christ as I did not want to upset my mother, who was of another religion. So when my school counselor told me that God—not just my family—loved me so deeply that He sent His Son to die on the cross for me so that I can have life in abundance, I simply nodded.

Sometime later, my mum asked my uncle to bring me to church; she felt that her god and religion were not helping me. But she had one condition: I was only to visit church, but not to become a Christian. So I went to church with my uncle and listened to sermons.

I also started reading an autobiographical book about a woman who escaped from a cult. Though the book did not mention Jesus, reading it made me feel very blessed to be in an environment where I could know God, the one who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins. This led me to accept Christ in my heart and I prayed to receive Christ at the next counselling session. Although I was worried about my mother’s reaction, I decided to tell her. Sure enough, she was unhappy, but thankfully, she did not scold or hit me.

Today, my depression is under control with the help of medication and I consider myself healed as I am functional and well. I do my quiet time daily and I meditate on God’s words and promises whenever negative thoughts enter my mind. I also think of my journey battling depression and how God has constantly shown me mercy and grace though it all.

As I look back, I realize that I would never have become a Christian if I never had depression. While I’m not saying that depression is a good thing, I am reminded of Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

My journey towards God is nothing short of miraculous. Without Him, I would never have gotten the results I got for my O-level exams; I would never have gone to the Christian Junior College; I would never have met my school counselor. Without God’s divine intervention, I would never have received timely treatment for my depression.

To add to the list of miracles from God, my mother now talks to me about Jesus and church, although she is not yet a believer. And not only does she allow me to be a Christian, she even encourages me in my walk.

Praise be to God!

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Does God Have a Blueprint For Our Lives?

Written By Constance Opoku, Ghana

If you want a 21st-century snapshot of the tower of Babel, you should visit Belgium’s Brussels Airport. I recently had a short layover there while on my way home from a trip abroad.

At the airport, I realized something: loads of flights en route to Africa were coming through it. As I sat waiting for my flight to be called, I couldn’t help but notice lots of people around me who looked like me. That was in sharp contrast to the country I had just left, where I stood out.

A couple of hours into my wait, I saw a woman approaching me. The expression on her face said she was lost. Recognizing the patterned fabric of the clothes she was wearing, I was close to certain she was a fellow Ghanaian and would thus be on my flight. And then she opened her mouth.

Boy was I wrong! The language barrier told me that we were on very different itineraries. I made a feeble attempt to help by pointing to the TV screen showing the flight schedules, but they were in English and I don’t think that helped much. Eventually, she identified someone who was on her flight and who spoke her language, and was able to help her get in the right line. Whew!

Then it hit me: One, it takes enormous planning and organization by an airport and the various airlines that serve it to make sure that everyone ends up on the right flight. Two, we really can’t assume that just because someone has something in common with us, they are on the same trajectory we are.

I’ve felt like that sometimes with God, wondering how He could have a custom-tailored plan for my life shuffled in with His many kids. I’ve looked at someone else’s life, thought their journey similar to mine, and freaked out because I’ve been afraid that I was going to end up just like they had.

But God is not into mass production.

Brussels airport has an organized plan for every traveler to ensure they board the right plane. God has a beyond-detailed plan, tailor-made for each of His children. That blueprint is so good that we can’t wrap our minds around it (Psalm 40:5).

When I got home, our camaraderie as fellow passengers on the same plane ended the moment we passed through immigration and grabbed our bags. Some headed for a 20-minute drive home, while those who were going to other destinations the next day stayed back in the capital. I had a 45-minute flight to catch to get to my home city, then a 20-minute drive before I could finally open my door and plonk myself on my own sofa. Regardless of united we seemed to be on our journey back to Ghana, we eventually went our separate ways, taking distinct paths on our journeys in life.

If Brussels Airport can plan a few hours for me to make sure I’m on the right track, God is definitely able to plan a few decades of my life to ensure the same.

It’s easy to feel forgotten sometimes. We may wonder if in the grand scheme of things, we really count. But we can look to a God who is a gazillion times more organized and more concerned about our paths than we could ever imagine.

He’s not just watching us; He’s amending things and straightening roads just to make sure we get home.

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When I Couldn’t Feel God

Photo taken by Alan Ang
Written By Edna Ho, Malaysia

I glanced across the hall. There were hundreds of people, all from different states across Malaysia, gathered together for the annual convention organized by my church. My heart was bursting with excitement and anticipation. I thought to myself, “This is it. There are so many people here with hungry and thirsty hearts. God is surely going to move in this place. If He’s going to speak to these people, He will surely speak to me.”

I bore high hopes that I would be crying tears of joy and drowning in His unmistakable presence throughout the three-day convention. After all, my pastors and leaders had been encouraging the congregation to expect God to move mightily in the convention lest we fail God through our faithlessness—as the Bible mentioned in Matthew 13:58, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

After the sermon on the first night, there was a special ministering session where the pastor asked those who felt lost, stagnant, or far away from God to raise their hands and rise from their seats. Many hands went up, including mine. Then he started ministering encouragement while the worship team sang  softly in the background. It was nothing short of powerful and the pastor emphasized that he could “sense” God’s strong presence.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I wasn’t “feeling” God that much at that point of time. Yes I did cry, yes I did feel the words of the songs when I sang them, but I seemed to be missing out on something. All around me, people were in tears, kneeling on the floor, and lifting their hands up high to God. Was there something wrong with me? Why couldn’t I feel God as much? I tried to search deeper in my heart for that same feeling, but nothing came up. I still couldn’t experience Him as much as those around me.

I wasn’t going to give up. I told myself this was just the first night. The following night was the highlight of the convention; it was a healing and prophetic event. Sure enough, the guest speaker started prophesying on the second night. He called some of the participants by their names and stated their specific conditions. Then he called out those who had various illnesses, and got the leaders to pray over them. Some were healed instantly while others saw improvements. Lastly, he got the leaders to stand in a line, with those who needed prayers lining up in front of their assigned leaders. I stood in front of a leader I had not met before (and would therefore not know my innermost needs beforehand), expecting to receive some accurate prophecies. What I got instead was a general prayer.

Honestly, I was disappointed—not so much in the lady, but in God. I questioned Him secretly in my heart, “Oh God, I came with such high expectations. I even fasted and prayed before I came. What’s wrong? Why aren’t You speaking to me? Am I not desperate enough compared to the others? Is there sin in me that’s hindering me?”

God didn’t give me an answer that night. It was only days later when I was reading an article on a Christian blog that I came across these verses in 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT):

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”

That’s when it hit me.

Just as Elijah had to learn that God could choose to work in quieter ways, God was telling me that He did not need hype or big events to move and speak into our lives. He has been speaking, is speaking, and will continue to speak even in the mundane and the routine, just like a still small voice in our hearts. We shouldn’t be chasing a certain experience or feeling when we worship Him. Instead, the correct way would be to focus on God Himself and His faithfulness. Sooner or later, we’d be enveloped by His overwhelming goodness.

I had been wrongly chasing a certain feeling and experience throughout the entire convention. But not experiencing the feeling did not mean that God was not there. He was still there, and His truths are still the same, equally valid and equally life-changing.

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Experiencing Lent for the First Time

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

This year marks the first time I’m actively participating in the season of Lent.

Apart from it being an annual liturgical season, I originally had little idea what Lent was about.  However, a few weeks before Lent rolled around, I found myself being asked by many fellow students at my small, Christian college what I was giving up for Lent. Initially surprised at the question, I would usually flip it back to the one who asked, to avoid having to respond to it myself.

I was intrigued to hear that many of my friends were giving up things like chocolate, sweets, or other unhealthy practices. It seemed to me that Lent was simply a second attempt at a failed New Year’s resolution; a time for Christians to pledge themselves to being healthier, exercising more, and giving up unhealthy habits.

With this initial skepticism, I almost didn’t go to the Ash Wednesday service being held in my school’s chapel that Wednesday morning.  Like a typical college student, I was also exhausted, and wondering if my morning chapel break would be better spent napping on the couches in the library.  However, curiosity got the better of me, so I went.

Lent, as it was explained during the service, is a time of self-denial that helps us remember the suffering of Jesus and prepare our hearts to commemorate His death on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the forty day period prior to Good Friday.

Lent was starting to make sense to me; after all, giving up chocolate for 40 days certainly ranked as suffering in my book. As the service went on, however, I began to realize that Lent had a much deeper meaning than merely giving up a daily comfort. It is not so much about giving up something as it is about starting something new; it is about denying ourselves in order to become closer to Christ.

The time came for the receiving of the ashes at the end of the service.  During a traditional Ash Wednesday service, there is a point in the service where the participant has the opportunity to have their forehead marked with a cross of ash.  The ash symbolizes grief at our sin and grief at the suffering Jesus undertook to redeem us from the eternal consequences of our sin.  The practice of giving up something from our lives, and then standing up to receive the ashes, encapsulates the Lenten experience in a symbolic gesture of penance and remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection.

I still felt unsure if I should participate though; I had never been to an Ash Wednesday service before and I didn’t have something in mind to let go of yet. However, the risk of being the only one still seated prompted me to get up like the others to receive the ashes. When I reached the elder holding the basket of ashes, I bowed my head towards him and waited. “Because of your sins you will die, but because of Jesus Christ you will live,” the elder proclaimed over my bent head as he painted the symbol of the cross on my forehead.

Later that day, I sat down to reflect on my Ash Wednesday experience. It made me want to participate in the Lenten experience of suffering with Christ. I wanted to grow closer to God through denying myself of something harmful in my life, something that hindered my relationship with God. I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews 12:1, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

In the end, the decision was clear to me. Earlier that week, I had read through an article on Facebook about things to give up for Lent other than chocolate. Based on some of the ideas from that post, I decided to give up . . . worrying. I know that doesn’t sound like denying myself of something special or enjoyable. However, God has been working in my heart since the beginning of this year to surrender my worry to Him and trust in Him. I have come to realize that excessive worrying, while not exactly nice, is in reality a self-indulgent practice. God was calling me to give up feeling sorry for myself and taking a twisted attitude of pride in being more stressed-out than others. He was calling me to put those actions and attitudes aside, and to trust in Him.

Giving up worrying has been especially relevant in this Lenten season as changes in my family and school situation have led to a lot of uncertainty for the coming year. Now, more so than ever, I’m tempted to fill my days with worrying over the future and being stressed about what is to come. However, when I reflect on Jesus’ coming and resurrection, I am reminded that because He lives, I don’t have to worry. I am loved by a God who cares for me beyond what I can ever imagine and I know that I can trust Him with my future.