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My-Daily-Struggle-Against-Negative-Thoughts

My Daily Struggle Against Negative Thoughts

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

I used to feel like I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride—experiencing a huge range of ups and downs in just one day.

In a typical day, I would wake up to a bright and sunny morning that put me in a good mood. Feeling that life was great and all was rosy, I might even buy some flowers to brighten up my room. However, these feelings of happiness wouldn’t last. By afternoon, I would be feeling so down that life itself would seem meaningless and tiring. Ask me why this drastic change, and I wouldn’t have been able to give you an answer. It could be due to something small that frustrated me, or just a helpless feeling of moodiness that day.

I used to experience these feelings almost daily. They poured on me like a huge storm, leaving me helpless and overwhelmed. I would try to get rid of my thoughts by sleeping early or, if I was unable to do so, calling a friend for a chat. However, these conversations would inevitably end up with dispiriting talk and my friends sharing the same feelings of depression.

The worst thing about having such emotions was that they made it hard to concentrate fully on reading God’s Word. At times like these, I tended to give up reading the Bible entirely. At most, I would just ask for friends to keep me in prayer. This often left me crippled with guilt. “Don’t you find joy in the Lord? If so, why are you still so depressed?” I would chide myself. “Look at your pitiful self! You must be in this state because of your lack of spirituality!” These voices in my head would plunge me into an even deeper abyss of negative thoughts and feelings.

I knew this was the work of Satan attacking me at my weakest point. It was a cycle that would repeat itself and leave me like a weak lamb awaiting slaughter.

One day, I decided that I had enough. It was clear that God had told me to trust Him and rely on His strength. That’s’ when I realized that it is only when we put on the full armor of God, that we can take our stand against the devil’s evil schemes (Ephesians 6:10-11). I resolved not to be a victim of self-pity. Instead, I decided to take up the sword of the Spirit and fight back (Ephesians 6:17). Here are some practical things I did that I found helpful:

 

Achieving victory with prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

This verse encouraged me and I decided to stop avoiding prayer. I wouldn’t hide from my pessimistic feelings or deny that they were there. Instead, I would admit that my lack of desire to pray was due to these feelings and ask the Holy Spirit to calm my heart. When these feelings continued to harass me, I called on Jesus’ name and commanded them to leave my heart.

I personally found such prayers very helpful. The Lord would comfort me and give me a sense of peace. I also came to realize that when I didn’t feel like praying, it was because I was ashamed; I shouldered all my burdens and found it difficult to bring them before the Lord. I learned that in times of distress, the only thing we desperately need is the Lord to change our hearts.

 

Meditating on the Word of God

After the Holy Spirit had taken those negative feelings away from me, I needed something to fill the cavity within. I desperately needed the Word of God to fill me.

That’s when I started to read Bible passages and take my time to think about what God wanted me to learn. I wanted His Word to be deeply etched in my heart.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul says that because of Christ, he can be joyful always: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”. In Revelation 21:3-4, John reminds us about the new heaven and new earth that we can anticipate: “God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Reading these passages gave me great comfort. Through meditating on God’s Word, I came to understand it in a clearer way and was able to stand more firmly in its truths.

Spending Time with God Daily

Ultimately, I believe that daily fellowship with God is important and should not be neglected. It is crucial to set aside a fixed time every day to spend time reading the Bible.

I must admit that I’m not an early riser. Hence, the evenings are a great time for me to read the Word. Recently, I have been training myself to be diligent in prayer. I keep a small book to record my prayers to the Lord, as well as people I pray for individually during my personal time with the Lord.

Having a fixed time to spend with the Lord every day has helped me tremendously in my spiritual growth. My time with Him has taught me that it is only when we have an intimate and personal relationship with Him, that we can resist the strong temptation to wallow in our own negative thoughts and feelings.

If you see yourself in the “old” me, I would like to challenge you to have no fear, for Jesus has already overcome everything­­—even death—for us. Guard yourself from the devil’s sly tricks and put on the full armor of God to fight him. May we learn to rely only on Him and become strong in the Lord.

Depression-Led-Me-to-Jesus

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!

I-Have-Depression-and-This-Is-What-I-Want-You-to-Know

I Have Depression and This Is What I Want You to Know

I never thought that I would have depression. It seemed like something only strangers had. Even when a close friend of mine struggled with depression a few years ago, I couldn’t relate to what she was going through. I just thought of it as a really low period some people had and would eventually get out of, if only they tried hard enough.

Depression was a faraway concept, and “depressed” was a word I used casually when I felt particularly sad. I didn’t understand depression—until it happened to me.

According to the Singapore Mental Health Study conducted in 2010, major depressive disorder is ranked as the most common mental illness, with one in 17 people in Singapore suffering from it at one point or another in their lives.

But reading statistics or stories on mental health issues is one thing; experiencing and living with it is another.

For me, depression was—and is—a heavy cloud hovering above my head, a coldness creeping in my heart, a veil darkening my sight. It’s days of moving slowly and numbly, nights of overflowing tears and thoughts. It’s lashing out against my family while pretending to act like a normal functioning human being in school, in church, and outside. It’s sobbing uncontrollably one moment and feeling nothing at all at another. It’s thinking to myself that I’m getting better one day, and completely breaking down the next.

It’s been three months since I found out what I was going through had a name.

I have depression, and this is what I want you to know.

There is nothing wrong with what you’re feeling

There’s so much stigma surrounding mental disorders that when I first started feeling this way, I felt confused and guilty. Weren’t Christians supposed to be happy all the time? If I had depression, did that mean I was doing something wrong? Was having depression some sort of sin?

An article I came across in Christianity Today said: “While spiritual problems—like habitual or unconfessed sin, lack of faith, or, in rare cases, demonic attack—certainly can trigger depression, those things are often the result of depression, not the cause.”

Don’t beat yourself up for having depression, because it is not your fault. What you’re going through is a mental illness that could stem from a myriad of potential causes, such as genetic vulnerability, significant life events, personal problems, or illnesses. Just as you wouldn’t blame spiritual problems for a fever or a broken leg, you shouldn’t automatically assume the same for depression or any other mental illness.

In my case, my depression was triggered by a particular experience I had undergone.

However, if you do think that your depression may have spiritual causes, talk to your pastor or Christian counselor.

Trust that God is always with you and for you

There were many nights when I felt utterly alone and wretched. There were many occasions when the sadness felt too heavy for my shoulders to bear, and fleeting thoughts of death would cross my mind. I felt like I was wasting away, like my life had been drained of all color and that there was nothing else for me to cling onto.

A few weeks ago, the preacher at my church wrapped up his sermon with one sentence which has stuck in my head since, and which has given me much comfort: God is with us and is for us.

Even though you may feel that everything is meaningless right now, remember that God is, has been, and always will be sovereign, omniscient, powerful, gracious, merciful, loving, kind, and good.

Depression cannot separate you from the love of God, even if you feel numb to it (Romans 8:38-39). Though the nights are long and filled with mourning, remember that joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5). He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3).

God wants to help you. He is on your side in this battle. He sustains and strengthens you. All you need to do is to call upon His name and cling onto Him.

And one way of remembering these precious truths of God is by reminding yourself of them daily—and even more so as you battle with thoughts and feelings of depression.

Turn to Him in prayer, worship and in word

It can be difficult to turn to God, especially when the weight of depression weighs so heavily upon you that opening the Bible or even uttering a prayer feels like a chore. I know, because I’ve felt that way—and sometimes still do.

My mistake was to turn to other lesser means of comforting myself, which would only numb me temporarily without actually filling the aching hole in my heart.

Yet God does wonders with us when we choose to turn to Him. His Word has comforted me greatly in this season—especially the Psalms, which I used to find boring. But now, in the midst of my tears, I can finally empathize with the psalmists who wrote them when they were in great anguish and even on the brink of death. There are many psalms which tell of the psalmists’ suffering and hurt, of turning their eyes to God, of remembering His faithfulness and steadfast love, and of being delivered by his mighty Hand (Psalm 23, 30, 31, 62, 143).

I wrote down verses which God used to speak peace into my heart that surpassed all understanding, and would take them out and read them aloud to myself when I felt the shadows of depression looming. I also listened to worship songs which centered on Christ’s character as my cornerstone. I’m especially thankful for American Christian musician Steffany Gretzinger’s album, The Undoing, which spoke to me in many ways.

It can take effort to look outwards and upwards at God. But it is only Him alone who can give us the peace and comfort that we so desperately seek and need.

Tell someone who can help

At first I couldn’t articulate what exactly I was feeling or going through. All I knew was that I was inexplicably crying, almost mourning, over a deep sadness that wasn’t going away. I have always been close to my family, especially my parents, but I found that I couldn’t and didn’t know how to tell them what was happening to me.

I reached out and told my close friends, a mentor from church and my aunt, many of whom prayed along with me. There were times when I was taking things badly and God used these sisters to share with me Bible verses, a song or words of encouragement which I really needed to hear at that time.

Finally, I began to see a Christian counselor. Over the past two months, she’s been helping me to work through issues which may have triggered my depression.

It’s important to reach out to trusted friends and relatives who can support you in your time of need. If necessary, you may also want to consider seeing a Christian counselor or a doctor if your depression persists. I know how scary it can be to tell your loved ones, and to take that step to speak to a professional, but I’m so grateful that I did. Because without their support, I know that I would still be in a very bad place.

Since then, in God’s goodness and faithfulness, He has been lifting the fog of my depression, little by little. In this difficult and dark season, He has been my light, my strength and my song. He’s placed people in my life who have shown me the love of Christ through their encouragement, support and prayers. Most importantly, in the process He’s been giving me a sweeter and deeper appreciation of who He is, and gently promising me that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

For that, I give Him thanks.

I want you to know that you are not and never will be alone. You are loved as a child of God, who has been, is, and always will be with you and for you. Rest and be still in His love, dear brother and sister.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
— Psalm 139:7-12

Behind-my-Happy-Mask-I-was-Suicidal

Behind my Happy Mask, I was Suicidal

Written By Janene Kd, Singapore

Suicide. We cringe at the very sight of the word. It’s scary, it’s confronting, and it’s all too real. We read about it in the newspapers and watch it on the news, but most times, it doesn’t hit us personally. From a distance, we comment, “If only someone had done something. How could his or her family not have known?” 

But sometimes, there are no warning signs, no alarm bells signalling impending disaster.

Sometimes, the signs are there, but they’re subtle. We may attribute mood swings in others to pre-menstrual syndrome in the case of girls, or think that it’s just another phase that they’d eventually “get over”. We tend to think about how we got through our own pain and hurt, and expect others to soldier through it like we did.

But what if the sadness they feel isn’t what we’re familiar with? What if it’s consuming them bit by bit? What if the pain they feel inside has totally overtaken any form of rationality? What if the thoughts in their heads make them believe that physical pain could remove the numbness of emotional wounds?

Suicide is a topic dear to my heart because I’ve seen it happen to people around me and people close to me. And, because I’ve been there myself.

 

The Beginning

My brush with suicide isn’t one that involved someone talking me off a ledge, which many tend to think that suicide is all about. It was a quiet, personal—and largely internal—struggle. Often, these are the most scary, because there are no physical signs. No one knew the thoughts that were forming in my head but me.

I’m pretty sure no one expected me to fall into depression or even harbor suicidal thoughts. People usually see my laughter and assume that I am a cheerful and jovial person. It’s not that I wasn’t happy; I liked it when people thought that way—and that was the problem. I felt like happiness was my responsibility, an obligation. And so, I hid every ounce of sadness I felt.

But truthfully, I wasn’t doing well. I desperately craved love. Although it confused me, and I couldn’t comprehend it in all of its complexities, I wanted it. I wanted to feel loved, but more than that, I wanted to be in love. Maybe I was deluded by movies and television shows that had me believing that I needed human love to be complete. So that was my pursuit for most of my teenage years.

I remember trying to get help from a school counsellor at the age of 15. Although counselling was something people avoided for fear of being judged as problematic or abnormal, I was curious. I remember bumping into my school counsellor at the stairwell while on my way to choir practice. By the end of the conversation, I felt misunderstood. “You don’t need counselling,” he had said. “You’re just like every other kid, craving attention. You come from such a perfect family, what problems could you possibly have?”

Those statements stayed with me. “You don’t need—“, “You’re just like every other kid—“. “You come from such a perfect family—“. And I don’t blame him. He probably had many other students to deal with, and I seemed like the last kid in need of help. But I knew. I knew the loneliness that would barge into my bedroom, uninvited, as soon as I was alone. I knew the sadness I was capable of sinking into.

That experience affirmed what I’d always believed: I couldn’t let people in. I couldn’t cry; I couldn’t let go. Eventually, the very feelings I tried to get away from engulfed me. Feelings of melancholy, anxiety, and helplessness would creep in when I least expected it, especially in the moments just before I drifted into sleep. And I’d feel like I was being suffocated—like I couldn’t breathe. I’d feel a combination of unworthiness, bitterness, and anger, all at the same time. I didn’t know how to make sense of what I was feeling. More than anything, I was confused.

 

The Breaking Point

My breaking point came some years later. I was 19, and had just gotten out of a horrific relationship. The break-up wasn’t the main cause of my sadness, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it made things worse. I lost everything I loved—no, actually, I lost the one person I loved. I had invested so much into this one person; without me even realizing it, he’d become a part of me. I had allowed him to define me and my identity. When he was happy, so was I. When we fought, I blamed myself. When he was away, I felt like a part of me was missing. And so, when we broke up, I felt as though a part of me had been ruthlessly ripped from my very being.

So I picked up Thai boxing. The training was intense enough to make me feel something, but not enough. I picked up longboarding, and skated recklessly in order to feel the adrenaline surging through my veins. Going downhill at incredulous speeds was exhilarating—but it wasn’t enough. Then I got a tattoo. It hurt when the needle pierced my skin, imprinting the word strength on my lower back. Maybe I wanted the pain, and maybe I wanted to be strong. But still, it wasn’t enough

Sadness doesn’t go away just because you want it to. It lingers. And just when you start to feel okay again, it creeps in to remind you of how unworthy and small you’ve always felt. And so I fell back into the consuming sadness again. A couple of months after that painful break-up, I found myself in another relationship. It didn’t take my sadness away. In fact, I would still feel incredibly sad from time to time. When that relationship ended about a year and a half later, I crumbled.

I was in my second year of university, away from home. When you’re in an unfamiliar environment, when your comfort is taken away from you, you have no reason to keep it together anymore. So I let go. Those seven days following the break-up were some of the worst in my life. I contemplated suicide, and I stopped eating, barely drinking any water; my mind was so preoccupied with hurt, guilt, and doubt, that I was incapable of any rational thought. I hid from people. I just wanted to have my own pity party away from everyone. The only time I ever left the house was to go for tutorials, which I reluctantly sat through. It came to a point where I was numb to everything. I was just going through the motions, not thinking, not feeling, not being Janene.

 

The Intervention

But God was the one person, the one friend I couldn’t hide from. I tried, but He didn’t make it easy for me to hide. At that point, I didn’t know God—I knew about Him. I had grown up reading the Bible, listening to stories about a great God who watched over His people for 40 years in the desert, who protected Daniel from lions, who was with David as he defeated Goliath, who was with Job even when he had everything taken away from him, and who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, protecting them from the flames, allowing them to walk out without being burnt.

But I didn’t know God personally

The same week of my break-up, I went for a Christian retreat where I was surrounded by some of my closest friends. That’s when I broke down and allowed God to work in my heart. I can’t begin to describe how it felt when the burden was lifted. It was just so . . . unreal. I’d never felt joy of this intensity before, because I had kept God out of the equation and had chosen to look for love in all the wrong places. On hindsight, I realize that I had a God-shaped void within me that I tried to fill with everything else but Him. Nothing was big enough, and everything fell short.

But as I lay on the ground wailing and crying out to God, He took me out of the sea of self-doubt, depression, anger, and hatred that I had drowned myself in, and immersed me in His grace. He reminded me of my worth in Him, and how nothing could ever separate me from His perfect, unfailing, and unwavering love. Knowing that the God who created the mountains, filled the seas and fed the birds of the air also knew me by name and loved me all the same, I was overwhelmed. At that point, I stopped running, and allowed myself to be embraced by God. I began to understand love, and how real, pure, and furious love could only be found by seeking the father’s heart. That’s when I made a conscious decision to pursue the God who never stopped pursuing me.

Things did not become a bed of roses after that. I fell back into sadness so many times after; I still do now. But the difference now is that the sadness doesn’t consume me. I can talk to God about my feelings, no matter how difficult it is to verbalize the demons in my head. Of course, it’s still hard for me to be vulnerable and not lie about being okay. Sometimes, it takes me hours to open up to people about my hurt, for the fear that once I expose these wounds, they’d get infected and not heal. But they always do. Perfect love casts out all fear. And His love heals all wounds.

I know that not everyone believes in the existence of a God, and mine is just one story. But I hope my sharing can help you see that you’re not alone. We’re all human, and sometimes, we allow inadequacy, self-hate, anger, and unworthiness to consume us, to rid us of our self-worth and importance.

Know that you can always talk to someone about your sadness. Express your thoughts in words, verbal or written. Physical pain will only make you feel for so long before you drift back into the state you were in. It doesn’t heal you, it numbs you. Slowly letting go of your baggage, however, heals.

It’s going to be painful and difficult to endure your situation at times. Memories have a way of seeping into and infiltrating our moments of happiness, and bringing us back to painful times in our lives. But if you summon every ounce of strength you have to reach out to God, this sadness you feel won’t have to win. God will give you the strength to fight it. And better than that, He will fight on your behalf. You need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).