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THE HOPE THAT LIFTS ME HIGH TITLE

Poem: The Hope That Lifts Me Up

THE HOPE THAT LIFTS ME HIGH TITLE

Written By Phoebe Raymundo, Philippines

Every day I call to you
Every day You answer my cry.
I take refuge in You and You comfort me
Then wipe the tears from my eyes.

No matter how deep these wounds cut
Or how many times I’ve fallen down,
You are the hope that lifts me high
And in my heart, Your name resounds.

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THE HOPE THAT LIFTS ME HIGH

 

Please-Dont-Jump,-Theres-Hope

Please don’t jump, there’s hope

Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore

I was just about to leave for work when a policeman knocked on my door. “Sir, do you know of any elderly woman living along this floor?”

Behind him, a single stool stood next to the railing separating the flats on my floor from the ground, 10 floors below. It didn’t belong to my neighbor. Several policemen were stretching a white tape across the narrow common corridor in front of me. It didn’t take much to guess what had happened. In the old days, my housing estate was a popular spot for suicides; in those days, few buildings were this “tall”.

“Actually . . . most of the people here are elderly,” I told the cop. Then my thoughts went to my immediate neighbor. I glanced at her windows, just two feet from me. But to my relief, the policeman peeked through, turned to me, and nodded. “No, she’s in there.”

Then, another thought. A neighbor a few doors down had been rather depressed after suffering a disability. But I spotted his door opening in the distance, as policemen went down the row, knocking on door after door. His thin hands emerged. Another wave of relief.

The policeman then asked me if I minded looking at a picture of her face, to see if I recognized her. I didn’t.

The woman had probably come from another block in the estate, and likely planned this in advance. She had brought her own stool, and had chosen to jump from the quietest stretch of corridor; the other part faced another block, and she would have been spotted. My block was also one of the quietest ones in the neighborhood.

There was little else I could do. I walked out of my home, glancing over the railing along the way to take in the sight of a pitiful covered bundle lying on a concrete parapet, 10 floors below.

I nodded to the policeman, ducked under the crime-scene tape, and took a lift to the ground. As I walked out of the estate, I was engulfed by a wave of sadness. I didn’t know the woman, but my heart went out to her. In an ageing estate populated mostly by elderly folk, it wasn’t difficult to guess why she had dragged a stool to my block of flats, taken the lift to the highest floor, climbed onto it, and hurled herself over the railing.

Perhaps she didn’t have a family. Perhaps she wasn’t close to them or felt abandoned. Perhaps she was told about an incurable disease. Perhaps she felt that she had nothing left to live for. No love, no purpose . . . only loneliness and the certain prospect of years of emptiness stretching ahead. Nothing but hopelessness.

Nothing left to live for. No hope.

Death would have seemed to be the only escape, the only relief.

If only my wife or I had happened to come out the door when she was there. We could have stopped her. If only we—or someone—had a chance to tell her: Please, don’t jump. There’s hope.

Hope. Sometimes, it’s the only reason to go on living. When you’ve lost everything, and there’s nothing left to look forward to. When nothing is going right, and things don’t look as if they’re ever going to get any better.

What stops us from taking the only way out? What stops us from going to the highest building, from taking a handful of sleeping pills?

Hope. Hope that somehow, somewhere, things may eventually get better. Hope that amid the loneliness, there’s someone out there who still cares for us and who will tell us, “Hey, you mean a lot to me. Don’t go, I need you.” Hope that in the desperation of our current situation, someone will come along to stretch out a helping hand, give us a comforting hug, and say, “Don’t worry, I’m here with you. I’ll walk with you.”

Only one person can give us this hope. Only one person can promise us that he’ll be there with us, every step of the way. Only one person can keep up that promise, because he will never be too busy to listen to us. Only one person will never fail us. Only one person could say to us with utmost confidence, “Don’t worry, I’m in control. I know your situation, and I know what to do. I know what you need.”

That person is Jesus. Having once lived as a man, He knows exactly how we feel. Our depression. Our loneliness. Our hopelessness. As the Son of God, He has the ultimate power to handle our situation. He knows what comfort and encouragement we need, and He will be able to give it to us. Some of us will still have to live through our challenging circumstances, but we’ll have the complete assurance that He’s walking alongside us—every day, every hour, every minute. And, the most important of all, we’ll be able to go on in life with this knowledge: Jesus loves me. I matter to him. I mean the world to him—so much so that He died to save my soul. He has a purpose for me. He placed me here for a reason. He wants me to live for him.

When there’s absolutely nothing left to live for, when we’ve lost everything, we still have one thing. Jesus gives us hope. Hope to live. Hope to believe.

If you’re feeling hopeless, if you’ve given up on life, if you’ve taken a stool and are heading for the top floor of a block near you, stop. Please stop. There’s someone out there who loves you. Jesus loves you.

Should-Christians-be-Optimistic-or-Cynical

Should Christians be Optimistic or Cynical?

Written By M.D. Valley, Africa

In my earlier years, I constantly swung between being optimistic and cynical. Whenever I wanted something desperately, I would fix my mind on it and pour my 110 percent into it, along with a few prayers.

But whenever things didn’t work out my way, I would react like a spoilt child who didn’t get the candy she asked for. In those moments, overwhelmed by disappointment—and sometimes, resentment toward God—I would tell myself that it was better to be a cynic than an optimist. After all, I figured, optimism didn’t seem to pay off.

A friend of mine shared that he gives his best in everything he does, but keeps failure as a viable option. His reasoning was this: expecting the worst protects one from too much disappointment when things don’t work out.

But not for me. In my case, whenever things didn’t work out, I would be haunted by thoughts that maybe my wishes would have come true if I been a bit more optimistic. After all, if the blind man hadn’t cried out to Jesus to have mercy on him and heal his blindness, maybe Jesus would have walked on by. If he had sat back wallowing in his disability and believing that Jesus wouldn’t care and that there was no hope for him, then he would not have been healed (Luke 18: 35-42).

Over time, I realized that the root of our unhappiness—regardless of whether we are the cynical or optimistic type—is usually the same: we want something but we don’t get it. So how do we address the root problem?

The simple answer is hope.

Czech writer and philosopher Vaclav Havel once said that “hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out”.

The ultimate difference between hope and optimism is that the former is rooted in a deep trust in God. It is an assurance that God’s will would be done, regardless of the outcome. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That came before praying for our daily bread (Matthew 6:9-13). It was something that Jesus himself demonstrated at the most painful point of His ministry on earth.

In the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus faced the reality of His impending death on the cross. But though the prospect of what lay ahead of Him distressed Him to the point where His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44), He did not abide by His will but by God’s will.

To be honest, trusting God to the point of death is no easy feat. The human reflex is to flee from pain and sacrifice. A friend of mine once held a job that did not honor God, and she was restless in her spirit. She knew that if she quit that job, she would have no income to support her child and herself. She had no family support in the country she resided in and being an immigrant, it would be particularly difficult for her to secure another job.

But it came to a point where she knew she could not continue to dishonor God by her choice of career. So she took a bold leap of faith and quit. The first month went by and there were no offers and no interviews, but she hoped, and had faith. Three months later, a recruiter called her and offered her a better job that would sponsor her work visa and grant her child support.

I have since learned to change my prayer from “I want this and that” to “let your perfect will be done”. I’ve learned not to be optimistic but rather to have faith, to persevere, and to hope—in God.

Just a few years ago, I found myself in a job that was not what I had prayed for. At the time, I could not understand why God wanted me there. It was grueling work; my boss was so difficult that no one could work with him except me. After two years, however, God gave me a new job that was even better than what I had initially prayed for. Ironically, I was selected for that job because of my experience in my previous job—the one I had disliked. I realized that good always comes out of every circumstance no matter how difficult the situation is, and this truth has given me peace.

I have come to realize that God always answers our prayers with what is good for us (Rom 8:28), even though what we hope for may not come to pass in the particular way we envision it. He gives us what we need—and not necessarily what we want.

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