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3 Ways to Push Through A Dry Season

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

Three years ago, l entered a dry season. Up till then, l had been a private school teacher for 14 years; l had worked 75 hours a week, including on the weekends and during school holidays. I was constantly exhausted and struggled to attend church and my home group regularly. To get in some God time, l tried to pray and read my Bible on my daily commute. In April 2016,  my body and my mind gave out and l had a mental breakdown. Consequently, l was diagnosed with burnout and depression, and had to resign.

During the first weeks of my convalescence, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest l would soon get back on my feet. However, as time passed, it became evident that the damage to my health has been greater than what l had initially realized.

Completing everyday tasks overwhelm me. I get panic attacks in open spaces and have been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Severe headaches leave me bedridden, and l often experience stabbing pains in my left arm. I fall into deep pits of depression that last for weeks and have become a social recluse.   

Although l regularly seek the advice of a psychotherapist and other medical experts, l believe ultimately in the power of God to heal. Thus, through prayer and thanksgiving, l lay out my petition of a full recovery to God (Philippians 4:6) every day. However, sometimes it feels like my prayers aren’t reaching God, because l can see only a little improvement in my health. In my darkest moments, l despair whether l will ever experience a healthy, joy-filled life.  

However, after much struggling and griping, I have come to realize that God is using this journey in the wilderness to teach me to completely trust and rely on Him.  

Here are three ways that has been helping me push through the dry seasons:

 

1. Keep my focus on God

The subject of God’s healing, in particular His timing in relation to it, is something l struggle with, and l know l’m not the only one. God says in Jeremiah 30:17 that He will restore health and heal wounds, but He doesn’t say whether that healing will take place in this lifetime; maybe it will occur when He calls us home, or when Jesus returns.

Instead of thinking about the “when”, l try and think about the “who”—I  focus on God and l praise Him for all the times He’s helped me in the past and l thank Him for the time that He will heal me in the future, which l leave to His perfect timing. Praising God despite not seeing a definite change in my health gives me peace in my everyday life, because it keeps my eyes focused on God and not on my circumstances.

This season has also taught me that words have power. Instead of complaining and allowing my situation to control me, l show God my faith—l praise Him not only in my prayers, but l also praise Him out loud as l go about my day. It fortifies my trust in God and reminds me that God is bigger than my problems, not the other way around.

 

2. Keep studying His Word

During this dry season, there have been times when l have wandered around aimlessly as the Israelites did in the desert. I was confused and doubtful as to whether my circumstances would ever change. Like Job, l felt that God had left me alone to fend for myself (Job 23:8-9).

However, God has been with me the entire time in this arid wilderness—my mind and heart just weren’t attuned to hear His voice. Thus, instead of hoping for rain, l had to dig deep inside myself and ask Jesus to stir up His living waters in me (John 37-38).  

Studying the Bible has been a revelation for me: It’s been like discovering a get-to-know-God manual (2 Timothy 3:16). Through His Word, God gives me courage when l am afraid (Isaiah 41:10), strength when l am weak (Isaiah 40:29), and corrects me when l mess up (Hebrews 4:12). On days when l feel disheartened, God meets me where l am (Matthew 11:28).

Studying the Word every day is now a fixed part of my morning routine, alongside prayer, worship, and journaling. It’s not always easy setting aside time every day for study, but the  spiritual comfort and inner peace l gain from doing it motivates me to open up my Bible daily.

Knowing the Word helps me realize that l am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ and that l shouldn’t believe the lies of the enemy that say otherwise (John 8:44).  

 

3. Keep persevering in faith

Last summer, l started going to the gym. At first, l found it strenuous and my body felt stiff and sore after every workout. Nowadays, my body is accustomed to the physical exertion and l can see muscle definition forming.   

Similarly, l feel like God is using this dry season to grow my spiritual muscles. When l get a panic attack or become depressed, l am learning to hand the situation over to God, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me.  

Though it’s hard, l appreciate that God is using affliction to purify me of emotions that aren’t serving me, such as fear (Isaiah 48:10).

When l first became sick, l was convinced that this trial was designed to fail me. However, the further l push through this season, the more l see God cheering me on, as l learn to seek His face. Through this process, He has renewed my fallen spirit, given me a heart that is hungry for Him, and changed my mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.  

 

If you are experiencing a dry season right now, let me encourage you that your time in the wilderness is a temporary layover, it is not your final destination.  Stay the course, keep your eyes on God and ask Him to show you what you need to learn from Him to move on through. Keep holding on, you’re going to get through this!

Don’t Let Depression Define You

Editor’s Note: This article contains details of the author’s struggle with depression and self-harm.

The first few years, it was simply a sudden and unexpected heaviness of heart and mind. The feeling of being stuck in thick darkness and finding no safety. But it was overwhelming.

Losing control of my mind, seeing fear take over. Despair settling in. Hopelessness filling my heart.

I felt empty. I could see, but without understanding or emotion.

I was walking in a haze, just mindlessly going with the flow.

What I could feel was only confusion.

I passed each day confined to my mind. Depression suffocating my thoughts. It pulled the shades down on any window I encountered that might offer me a view of hope or a future. Sometimes it felt like there was no escape from the emptiness of my mind. I carried the heaviness of absence everywhere I went. But, I still wanted to have a normal, happy life.

Deep, deep down I knew there are wonders to be discovered, there is a future to behold, a purpose to fulfill. I wanted to be there to experience it all.

“But who am I? What am I even worth?” I could no longer see purpose and direction, my vision had been blurred by the fog.

I reached the climax this year, in 2018.

Clenching my head with both hands, I yelled for it to stop, to leave me alone. But the darkness became even more unbearable, circling and enclosing me tighter and tighter. I craved for escape and relief, but felt bound to fear. Unable to even cry out.

Only one solution floated through my mind, sly and intoxicating. A voice repeating over and over, “Hurt yourself, hurt yourself.”

I didn’t recognize this voice, but it taunted me and would not desist until it was obeyed. As my mind slowly gave in, it became enraptured with an obsessive urge to hurt myself. To end my life. Now there was only the desire of freedom from the ties of this pressing darkness.

25 cuts.

The pain was terrifying, but I could not stop , I needed to escape from what had become a mental prison.

25 glides.

The blade ran across my skin, one long etch after another. “This isn’t truly what I want, it can’t be.” I’m someone who has wanted to live life to the fullest, embracing all that’s grand and extraordinary.

25 slashes.

“This can’t be the answer. Where is God?” I knew I needed help, and I desperately wanted it from Him. I knew He could help. But would He still listen?

Countless tears.

I look up, unable to call out, unable to see clearly, unable to feel much in my heart.

Then all of the sudden, a picture of a rope came into my mind. A hope to latch onto—Calling on His Name.

His holy, almighty Name.

The truest, most sincere cry arose from my heart. I couldn’t speak, my crying had turned to convulsions. But surely, even then He could hear me.

I felt a presence near me.

A presence greater than any other I’d felt. The room no longer seemed as if it were closing in. A breath of fresh air began flowing through me.

“Jesus, Jesus,” whispered my heart, “save me.”

And then, I saw again. I could feel again. Freedom. Release. Renewal. Peace. Purpose. The words came rushing in. Not from the voice before that was speaking harm, but a voice of truth and salvation. A voice of power and authority over all darkness and fear.

A voice that made the darkness flee and light burst in. All at the mere mention of its name. A voice my soul recognized as the only one worth listening to.

The voice of my King, my Lord, my Father.

 

…do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

Worth lies in Him (Luke 12:7). Purpose comes from Him (1 Peter 2:9). Strength is found in Him (Psalm 46:1). Peace flows from Him (Philippians 4:7). I am first and foremost His (1 John 3:1). I belong, for I am loved (Jeremiah 31:1).

I am loved. Deeply and passionately. His own scars prove it. His own marks show my value (1 Peter 2:24).

My gaze need not be on my self-inflicted scars, but rather resting on the illustrious glory of my Savior and the wounds He already bore in my place to give me life.

The depths of His love far surpass any darkness or fear.

How deep, how wide, how high is His love for us (Ephesians 3:18). For me. For you.

What beautiful, never-ending, unfailing, infinite love.

This is my story. It’s not an ending, but rather a beginning of renewed hope and joy. God restores and God redeems. Take courage.

As Christmas draws near, allow the word “hope” to resound in your mind. Allow it to manifest itself all the way into your heart and your soul. That is what Christ was born for, to bring hope. You have hope in Him as your powerful Savior and loving Father.

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

 

*In 2014, I started battling depression. In 2015, anxiety entered the picture. But it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I finally got professional help and in 2018, was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety. With the help of a wonderful Christian counselor as well as a Christian psychiatrist, I hopped on the road to recovery through medication and a renewed understanding of God’s love for me.

I recognize the need to fight depression both on the spiritual and biological front. This is so important for anyone struggling with mental illness to understand .

This doesn’t mean I’ll never experience hardship again. And taking medication is not the permanent solution, I could struggle with mental illness the rest of my life. Or not. I don’t know.

But even in the darkest moments, God never leaves me. And He will never leave you.

It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, both from Him and from people you trust. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting help to live a better, healthier life.

At the end of the day though, remember and hold on to the fact that God is your hope. He will always make a way forward.

My Loneliness Drew Me Closer to Christ

Written By River T, Malaysia

I’ve been mediocre my entire life. Coming from a family of high achievers, my achievements have always paled in comparison. And as an introverted middle child in a rather huge family, I have always struggled to voice out my feelings or opinions. Being invisible is what best describes me.

After graduating from secondary school, I came to Christ when my eldest sister brought me to church. However, the church that I attended was not able to provide me with the support I needed to grow as a new believer.

However, things changed when I went to Brisbane to study. Over there, I found a supportive community of leaders and fellow believers who helped me grow deeper in my walk with God. Their passion and commitment to the Lord and for the lost was so evident in their actions that it really inspired me to pursue God more.

While I may have been neglected or even forgotten by my community back home, the people I met in Brisbane cared for and loved me. Under their mentorship, I gradually learned to open up to and love the people around me. That was when I experienced the joy of belonging to a community of believers.

My time in Brisbane was so impactful that when I returned to Malaysia after graduation, it was difficult to adjust back to the life I had left behind. For one, I struggled to reconnect with my old friends upon returning home. While I was in Brisbane, I seldom contacted my friends back home. Furthermore, we share different interests and religious beliefs. As a result, we had drifted apart and I found it difficult to connect and share with them my struggles, especially those related to my spiritual walk.

I also felt out of place in my home church in Malaysia as I was now used to a different kind of church community and worship style—one that was warm, supportive, and passionate about discipleship. As a result, I retreated further into my shell and began to feel even lonelier.

Life back home became even more difficult when I started my first job. During my first rotation, the team that I was assigned to work in was extremely stressful. My superior was a perfectionist and had very high expectations of me. Whenever I failed to meet them, she would chastise me harshly in the presence of many. My self-confidence plummeted and I often felt incompetent at work. I would also have nightmares about my work when I realized that I had made mistakes.

I became very unhappy with my life, and my anxieties and frustrations paved the way to depression. I would experience breathing difficulties and had to frequent the toilet many times to calm myself down. Each day was agonizing and I began developing suicidal thoughts.

I couldn’t share my condition with my family because I have not been close to them since young. Neither could I seek help from my friends, colleagues, or church leaders. I resented that I had to leave behind the supportive community I had in Brisbane and yet not been able to find such support back home.

Being adrift from any form of community and support meant I had no choice but to turn to God. So I poured out my heart to God every night, spending more time with Him in prayer and in His Word. As it says in Psalm 119:92, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”

While my circumstances did not turn around immediately, I experienced God’s comfort through His Word in my distress. His Word gave me the courage and strength to live on when I wanted to end my life—and I learned to rely only on Him.

When no one was there for me, God held me close. He was my source of strength and comfort during the most difficult and painful season of my life.

I recall having lunch alone one day and I was swarmed with endless self-deprecating thoughts.

Why did I not excel in my studies or make a name for myself in society as my family members have? As an overseas graduate, I should be excelling at my workplace but why am I failing to perform at work? Why is it so difficult for me to make friends?

I felt utterly useless and worthless but in that moment, God spoke to me through Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I had nothing to be proud of at that time. But God assured me that I am still loved by Him, and nothing can separate me from His love.

After some time, God turned things around when I was assigned to a different team at work.

My new superior is nurturing and patient, and I have benefited greatly under her leadership. My self-confidence grew and I began to love my work rather than feeling fearful of being reprimanded as I had been under my previous supervisor. I am also closer to my new colleagues and they have been a great help to me when I meet with challenges in my work.

However, I still struggle with depression today, and I still do not have many close friends—whether at church or within my social circle. While I hope that I can one day experience the vibrant community life I had in Brisbane again, for now I’m thankful that I’m still alive and I have God’s Word to guide my life. He knows me full well and will be with me as I go through the high mountains and low valleys in my life. He is sufficient for me.

Letter to A Depressed Christian

Written By Carol Lerh, Singapore

Dear Depressed Christian,

I know about the scars on your wrists. I know you spend your sleepless nights crying. I know about the days that pass meaninglessly by as everything important you’re supposed to do remains undone.

I know you think nobody loves you, that you can’t do anything right, that you’re the laziest, most self-centered, incompetent, cowardly, ineffective speck of dust God has ever created.

I also know that you’re only alive because you’re still figuring out if you’ll go to heaven if you commit suicide now, and that you feel ashamed for being afraid to die.

You feel overwhelmed.

Just like Moses. The people of Israel started lamenting to God about only having manna to eat when they had fish, cucumbers and leeks back in Egypt. God was angry with them and Moses felt burdened with having to care for all these ungrateful people. In Numbers 11:15, he told God, “Please go ahead and kill me.”

You feel alone.

Just like Jesus. His disciples fled. The crowds screamed ‘Crucify!’ And in Matthew 27:46, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

You feel like it’s all your fault—or at least that’s what some others tell you.

Just like Job. He lost his property. His children died and he was stricken with illness. He didn’t do anything wrong, yet his friends said to him in Job 4:7, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?”

People tell you, “Everything is going to be okay,” but you can’t believe them. You’re in a dark cave with no torchlight and everywhere you walk is the wrong direction, because you have no idea where you are going. It’s hard to believe, but Psalm 40:1–2 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock.”

People tell you, “You can do it,” but you can’t believe them. You’re lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and you have no energy or willpower to do anything. And everything you do will be wrong anyway. It’s hard to believe, but Psalm 37:24 says, “Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”

People tell you, “God loves you,” but you can’t believe them. You’re in agony, alone and tired in a crowded room full of people with high expectations of you and hidden agendas, saying things they don’t mean. It’s hard to believe, but He promises in Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Our Comforter is not silent. Through His Word, He speaks to you and me.

It takes a mountain of effort to do anything. It’s going to be like this for a while. But don’t stop trying. Slowly, one thing at a time, start doing things like bathing, eating, and praying. Make it a routine. Then read the Bible, eat a meal with someone, or go grocery shopping.

Learn to find beauty in small things. Eating something warm. Hugging a soft toy. Reading a Psalm. It’s not easy because your world is colored grey, but it helps you to keep going. Thank God for something every day. It may not make you more grateful; but it is therapeutic.

Even if it feels like you are just going through the motions, keep at it; meaning is something you find by living.

Think of the people you can tell about your depression.

The people you just thought of are people who love you. You are loved. Tell them what you’re going through. They may not understand but you’ll feel better. Tell them what you think might make you happy, something funny you noticed, or comment on their new hairstyle. Ask them to pray for you.

Include God in that list.

Because God really loves you, above and beyond what any human is capable of. Romans 8:38–39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”