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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.

My Awful Baptism Story

Written By Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Holding a sunflower stalk, I waited at the foot of the stage. That day, my cell group member was getting baptized. When the pastor congratulated her with a hug, a huge smile spread across her face as tears streamed down her cheeks. Everyone stood up and clapped. I followed the rest of my cell members to surround her and handed her the sunflower. As I put my arms around her, I started to tear as well.

Since returning to God just a year ago, I had witnessed many touching baptism ceremonies. The joy written on each of the candidates’ faces never failed to move me. On some occasions, I would even feel envious. If only I had experienced the same joy during my own baptism as a teenager!

Growing up in a Christian family, I attended a traditional church when I was young. At the time, it was like attending a social gathering; it was an opportunity to meet up with and mingle with friends. The Bible stories I heard at church sounded like fairy tales to me, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. I also had a superficial understanding of the Bible: although I heard about Jesus, I wasn’t really interested to find out who He was, and I didn’t think He had anything to do with me. I used to wonder how one could believe in or rely on a God who was invisible. Slowly, I stopped going to church whenever there was an opportunity to skip it; I went only when I didn’t want to face my mother’s incessant nagging.

In my church, you could be baptized once you turn 15. So my mother and Sunday School teacher signed me up for baptism classes. However, I was clueless about the significance of baptism; the classes were a mere formality to me.

On the day of my baptism, I didn’t feel particularly joyful or happy. Instead, I was hoping for the ceremony to end quickly. To make matters worse, a fellow brother-in-Christ who was supposed to be baptized on the same day suffered a spiritual attack. As a result, I was afraid to attend church for several days following the episode. As far as I was concerned, being baptized made no difference to my life.

Some years later, I stepped out of the comfort of my home for the very first time to pursue an education overseas, in Taiwan. I was immediately drawn to the glitz and glamor of the outside world. At the same time, being alone in a foreign land, I was insecure and unfamiliar with my surroundings. So, when I finally made friends with a fun-loving group of individuals, I became very reliant on them and would follow them everywhere, including to karaoke outlets, pubs, and night clubs. Over time, however, a sense of emptiness crept in. I also felt it was unsafe going to those venues and having to return to my accommodation on my own every night. Yet, despite not enjoying those outings, I continued to go with my friends for fear of losing them if I stopped.

At the time, one of my seniors who was a Christian would invite me to attend her church every week. I went a few times, but found the service too boring, so I ignored her subsequent calls. It was only when I felt I could not continue living this way, that I started to think about church again. I contacted my senior and told her I wanted to attend church. However, nothing much changed when I did so. I still had my doubts about the faith, so I didn’t attend church regularly.

One day, my senior invited me to watch a play organized by the church. It was about a girl who used to have a close and joyful relationship with God, but was later enticed by worldly temptations like money, desires, and beauty. She started to drift away from God, unaware that God was calling out to her. But God didn’t give up on her. When the girl decided to break free of the temptations, God pulled her back to Him.

I was deeply convicted and moved by the play; I felt as though I was the girl and God was using this play to reach out to me. By the end of the play, tears were streaming down my face. I felt disappointed with myself. As my senior accompanied me back to my accommodation, I kept sobbing throughout the journey. For the first time that night, I prayed a very long and solemn prayer, asking God to forgive me and to help me break free from all the worldly things that were unsettling me. I prayed that I would get to know God intimately and return to Him wholeheartedly.

That was my turning point. From that point onwards, I felt as though God had woken me up spiritually. I wanted to attend church, be a part of a cell group, and rebuild my relationship with God. Amazingly, I also felt more at peace and was able to turn down invites to the places I used to visit. I no longer felt insecure and tempted by the things of the world. I started to attend church regularly and serve actively in various ministries. The more I got to know God, the more joyful, peaceful, and secure I felt.

Looking back now, I can see clearly how God’s love remained true despite my awful baptism experience and my years of rebellion. Although struggles and challenges didn’t disappear from my life, they prompted me to draw near to God and rely on Him more. Through each difficult moment, God’s tender love has never failed to guide me through. I have finally understood what it means to have faith and trust in a God who is unseen.

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!

An Accident Nearly Took My Life But Grace Saved Me

Written By Xueying, Malaysia, originally in Traditional Chinese

On 20 August 2011, eight days after my 26th birthday, I was nearly killed in a car accident.

That Saturday morning, I was driving around the outskirts of my hometown, Ipoh, Malaysia, with a colleague. Suddenly, another car coming from the opposite direction veered into our lane and collided with us head-on, wrecking our car.

The driver, an elderly man, suffered minor injuries and was discharged shortly. My colleague and I, on the other hand, were critically injured. Both of us had to undergo surgery immediately. Tragically, my colleague passed away that very night. I remained unconscious, with multiple tubes inserted into my neck and wrist. A metal implant was also inserted into my right arm.

When my parents heard about the accident, they rushed to the hospital. When they saw the state I was in, they broke down. Every day after that, they would go to the temple to pray for my recovery. During that time, my relatives, friends and colleagues also visited me.

A week after the accident, I was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to the general ward as there was insufficient space in the ICU. Two months later, I was discharged; I was still unconscious.

For the first two months, I remained in a coma and was fed through a feeding tube. Pastors and church members streamed in to visit me. They held my hands and prayed fervently for me.

By the grace of God, I regained consciousness two months later. That, however, was just the beginning of a long and challenging journey. Due to injuries to my brain, my cognitive ability was severely impaired. Although friends and relatives tried to talk to me, I was unable to respond.

I had regressed to infant behavior. I had to re-learn simple things, like drinking water. My father removed my feeding tube and my mother tried to feed me with a milk bottle, coaxing me like a baby and saying repeatedly, “Come, swallow, swallow . . .” Apparently, it took me a minute just to swallow one mouthful.

Because the nerves on my left brain were so severely damaged, my mobility was restricted. I was lying on my back all the time, and it took me a lot of effort just to sit up.

Several months later, I started to walk again, supported by a pair of crutches. I will never forget the tremendous difficulty this took—I had to take a break every one or two steps, since it was too tiring to move my body. Each day, I could manage only a few hundred steps.

It was utterly exhausting. Back then, I didn’t know that I could rely on God, until a church friend passed me a Bible one day. She said to me, “Xueying, try reading the Bible when you are able to read. You can find answers to all your life questions and doubts in the Bible—true answers.”

As a child, I used to attend Sunday school; I loved singing worship songs. In university, I also attended church. However, although I knew who Jesus was, I never bothered to develop a personal relationship with Him. The only times I prayed were before exams or before the exams results were announced.

But the accident made me wonder about God’s purposes. I needed to know why I had to go through so much suffering in my life and why my loved ones had to suffer along with me. As such, while learning how to walk, I started to read the Bible.

I remember the first time I read the Bible vividly. I was casually flipping through the Bible and stumbled on this verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Instantly, my heart was lifted. This teaching by Jesus reinvigorated me and filled me with hope—God loves me and I am His new creation! From then on, I would tell myself whenever I felt like giving up, “Don’t cry, don’t be discouraged. God will lead the way, just follow Him in faith.”

In the five and a half years following my accident, I barely touched any form of technology—this despite the fact that I was working as an electrical engineer before my accident. Instead, I would read the Bible voraciously every day, spending time to reflect on how to follow God’s word.

During my recovery, I had five major falls—each caused unbearable pain. The fifth time, I lost my balance in my own bedroom and landed heavily. The scab on my left wrist scraped against the wall and blood started to flow profusely. The pain was excruciating and I sat on the floor because I was unable to get up from the floor on my own. I closed my eyes tightly and cried out to God, “Please help me Father, I’m in a lot of pain!”

At that moment, a song that I had learned more than 21 years ago came to my mind: “Although I’m weak, God is strong”. This immediately strengthened and comforted me. I reached out to grab some tissue to wipe the blood off my wrist, and told myself not to be afraid and to wait for my parents to come and help me. Ten minutes later, my father walked past my room and saw me sitting on the floor. “Why are you sitting on the floor, does your head hurt?” he asked. I could see the look of pain on his face when his eyes landed on the blood-soaked tissue on the floor beside me.

As he helped me up, I assured him by telling him my head did not hurt—it was just my left wrist that hurt. I added, “Wow papa, you can lift me up so quickly! You’re so strong!”

As I look back on this accident, I thank God for using it to change me inside out. He has saved me from being the pessimist I used to be, and rescued me from my dark thoughts. Now, I follow Him in the light and give thanks for everything I have in life. I’ve since learned that though there will always be difficulties in this life, with God I can overcome them all.

To a person who has gone through a near death experience, I have come to see that being able to live each day is nothing short of a miracle. And having experienced God’s saving grace, I see how it is the gospel that gives us the hope of living.

Coming from a village in Malaysia where most villagers are not Christians, I am especially aware that it is the grace of God that has enabled me to get to know Him. Therefore, I am making it a priority in my life to learn more about Him and tell others about God so that many people can get to know Him as their Lord and Savior. God’s word from Galatians 6:9 reminds me to spread the gospel zealously. My parents for instance, are not Christians, but have been opened to learning more about God. It warms my heart when I see how interested they are to hear the Bible stories.

A year ago on Christmas Eve, I testified about God’s goodness in church in the presence of my parents. I shared about God’s saving grace in my life and how He changed me. I compared my experience to the process of the metamorphosis of a pupa that faces difficulty when it breaks out of the cocoon. When it does, however, it emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

More recently, I have managed to ditch the crutches and make it up to the second floor of my church to attend service on my own feet. Praise be to God!

It is my prayer that I will continue to be found faithful sharing the gospel of Jesus, so that His word can light the way for others, just as it has for me.

“We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”—Hebrews 3:14