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Don’t Waste Your Waiting

Written By Jalen Galvez, Philippines

In 2016, my mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

When I heard the news, I couldn’t help but ask God why. There were many questions in my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. It was hard for me to face the situation that my family and I were going through, because it was something that we didn’t expect. Of course, my faith was shaken too. Why did it have to be my mom?

Waiting is hard, especially when we don’t know what the outcome of our prayers would be. I struggled a lot during that time, because I desperately wanted an assurance from God Himself that there was a reason and purpose for all this. I doubted Him, because I didn’t know when and how God would answer my prayers. That’s the hardest part of waiting. But as I continually sought God through prayer and His Word, He helped me realize that He was working as we waited.

Days after we found out about my mother’s condition, I was doing my personal devotion at the school library as usual. I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me through His Word, and proceeded to read my Bible. That day I happened to be reading Luke 8:40-56, where Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter. In Luke 8:50, Jesus comforts Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Upon reading this, I was instantly comforted. I truly felt that perhaps God would heal my mother! More importantly, I was reassured that God would work through this situation and comfort us as we keep out gaze fully focused on Him—and we needn’t be afraid of our circumstances or what might happen in the future.

 

There Is A Purpose to Our Waiting

I’ve learned that in every season of waiting, God has a purpose. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Our trials require us to live and depend on the grace that God provides. Through this experience, I’ve learned that every waking hour is God’s grace to us. As I opened my heart to His Word and grew in my love for the Lord, I was assured that no matter what happens, I can hold firm to the knowledge that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

While we wait for Him to work in our lives, it is an opportunity for us to grow our patience, stretch our hearts, and surrender our lives to God. I first surrendered my life to God in 2012, when I became a Christian and was baptized. During this difficult time, I’ve had to remind myself again and again, “Hey, you’ve surrendered your whole life to Jesus, so He’s got this one covered.” I had to consciously remind myself, whatever happened, I could still put my faith in God.

Waiting is not wasting. While we pray for our desires to be answered, let us keep our eyes open to the greatness of the Lord. God’s time table might be different from ours. His plans do not need our approval. Even if we don’t know how our prayers might be answered, let us be assured that God is working behind the scenes.

Even when we feel like we are drowning in an ocean of fears, worries, and sadness, let us be reminded that God knows what He is doing with our lives. Sometimes it is only when we go through deep waters that we can look up to the One who can save us from drowning—Jesus. All that He requires of us to wait on Him with child-like faith, trusting that He is a Father who cares deeply about our lives.

My mom is currently undergoing oral chemotherapy. This is an answer to prayer, since our family hoped that she could avoid intravenous chemotherapy. This is her last session of oral chemotherapy. While she hasn’t been declared cancer-free yet, we sincerely hope that she will be fully healed! But regardless of what happens, we trust that God is in control and will be with us every step of the way.

Your grace is the only thing
That keeps me through
And patiently,
I will wait for You.

If God Is With Me, Why Do I Feel Depressed?

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

Depression is a mental illness that l live with every day. l was officially diagnosed with depression three years ago after l became burnout from my work as a teacher.

Here’s how I would describe my depressive episodes: My mind feels like it’s been overtaken by negative emotions and thoughts, such as sadness and futility. The onslaught either comes in sudden waves or l sink slowly into a miry pit of despair and helplessness that can last for weeks at a time.

When the depression is at its worst, l become either emotionally numb or undergo intense psychological anguish. I find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time and become easily overwhelmed. Seeing others around me living and enjoying life gives me heartache because l feel like a spectator standing alone on the sidelines.

To combat depression, l’ve chosen not to take antidepressants; instead, l prefer to eat healthily and exercise. I try to avoid stress and seek professional help on a regular basis.

Ultimately, I believe in the power of the Great Doctor to heal. Thus, I spend lots of time reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture. Whenever l experience mental turmoil,  I speak aloud the Bible verses that correspond to my situation: During bouts of fear, l speak Isaiah 41:10; when l am overwhelmed, l speak Isaiah 26:3; and when l feel myself sinking into the murky depths of mental darkness, l recall Psalm 40:1-3. I believe these verses work within me as I speak them aloud and help me keep my focus on God. I also am grateful to have people in my church who pray regularly for me.

Though I believe that I will receive complete healing when Jesus returns again,  l also believe that God can heal me today and wants me to enjoy life “to the full” (John 10:10) while I’m here on earth. Thus, l thank God for His goodness and present my prayers and petitions to Him (Philippians 4:6). Every day, l wait with hopeful expectation for deliverance (Micah 7:7).

 

I’m not defined by how I feel

Having depression holds me back from leading a healthy, functioning life. In particular, l feel like God has called me to start a writing ministry, but l struggle to find the strength and concentration to sit down at the keyboard.

During such times, l ask myself why God doesn’t heal me so that l can do His work. However, when l consider the numerous individuals in the Bible whom God entrusted to further His Kingdom, who suffered from sorrow, anguish and desolation, I realize that if God can use them, surely He can use me?

In Psalm 69:1-2, David relates his feelings of despair and distress as being akin to sinking into deep murky waters with no foothold. Yet God considered David “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), and anointed him as King over a united Israel, gave him many victories over his enemies, and made a lasting covenant with him.

Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1), cursed the day he was born because of the loneliness, ridicule, and rejection he experienced (Jeremiah 20:14). Despite that, God called Jeremiah to be a “prophet of the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-10) who revealed the sins of the people of Judah and the consequences of their idol worship.

Even Jesus, on the eve of His crucifixion, confided His feelings of distress and anguish to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). Where would we be today if He did not go all the way to the cross?

These individuals’ refusal to allow their emotional state to hinder their obedience to God in walking out His purpose for their lives motivate me to keep writing on days when my mind wants to give in to the darkness. It reminds me to let God, not depression, define me and His will for me.

 

Learning to trust Him in the dark

Many a night, l have lain awake and cried out to God in distress for healing.

When the darkness did not lift, l had to make a decision: If God wants me to endure this season, then l can either choose to love Him and trust that He will work out everything for my good (Romans 8:28), or l can turn away from Him and fend for myself.  Considering that my life was a total mess before l entered into a relationship with Christ, the latter was a poor option.

During the times when l sit emotionally (and physically) in the dark, l remember what God has spoken to me in the light: He will not test me beyond my endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He will never fail me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). With these reminders in mind, l choose to trust, lean on, and rely on Him.

Since I’ve put on eyes of faith, l’m now able to see God’s grace, provision, and favor instead of my struggle. He has blessed me with kind doctors, provided financial provision, and enabled me to write productively, for which l am truly grateful.

 

Reaching out to others

One of the ways God has provided for me is through a Christian counselor who attends my church. She specializes in depression and can empathize with her patients, as she used to struggle with depression herself.

This counselor’s healing testimony encourages me that God can heal me as He healed her, but more importantly, l take comfort in knowing that I have someone l can talk to who knows firsthand what l am going through.

Since then, I’ve started to turn my focus away from myself and ask: Is there someone around me with depression whom l can be a testimony and friend to?

Though this season is challenging, I believe in the goodness of God and His healing. I know that He is with me and nothing, especially depression, will keep me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

l will continue to have faith that God has a wonderful purpose for me; depression is only part of the journey He wants me to take in order to fulfill His plan for my life. And in the meantime, l will enter His rest, and watch with hope and expectation for His restoration.

If you also suffer from depression, my heartfelt prayers are with you. I invite you to join me in believing that this is not the end of our story; God says that He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and that He will mend us and bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3).

He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and pain and mourning will be ours to suffer no more, for He will make those things pass away (Revelation 21:4). I have faith that on that day, we will experience true joy—one that lasts for all eternity.

When God Doesn’t Take Away Your Anxiety

A question I’m often asked is, “How did you stop having anxiety?”

I haven’t.

Then comes the inevitable follow up: “You mean, you still feel anxious?”

Every now and then, yes.

“You mean, God hasn’t healed you from it?”

These questions are not uncommon to me and I imagine they’re not uncommon to others in the church.

The giant chasm which exists between faith and mental health would suggest that this will always be a difficult topic to discuss. Many Christians, including myself, do not understand how these two things, God and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), could possibly co-exist.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people who ask me about my faith and its role in regards to how I cope with anxiety. Where does God fit in?

They might expect me to give them cookie-cutter” answers like “Because I’m a Christian, I don’t struggle with my anxiety.” Or “trusting in God removes all anxiety.”

But as someone who has suffered from anxiety and is still affected by it at times, I can only tell you that there are no simple answers.

Instead, let me offer you five things to keep in mind if you’re a Christian struggling with anxiety.

 

1. God can heal us from anything, even anxiety.

As a Christian, I believe that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him (Luke 1:37). Does this include healing people from illnesses, including mental illness? Yes.

I know people who have personally experienced God’s healing from different neurological or psychological disorders.

Yet for me, and perhaps to others, the question remains: is there room for God amidst an anxiety disorder when He hasn’t taken it away? Where is God when the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet?

The answer is not so black and white.

 

2. Having anxiety is not a reflection of your lack of faith.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well-meaning churchgoers tell me, “You just need to pray about it more; you really need to go before the Lord.”

Let me tell you about my going before the Lord.

As someone who dealt with panic attacks and anxiety disorder throughout college, I can say that I wasn’t only just going before the Lord, but I was face-down-lying-on-the-bathroom-floor going before Him.

If you have been there before, you will know what I mean. Our body meets the end of ourselves. All dignity is pushed aside, and we beg and plead, often on our knees. Or in my case, on my hands and my knees.

Take this from me, God. I cannot do this anymore. It’s just too much.

 

3. Healing comes in many forms.

The night that I lay face down on the bathroom floor of my apartment, God did not take away my anxiety disorder. He did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety in one instant act of extraordinary intervention. I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a work meeting to avoid a potential breakdown.

My experience wasn’t one of immediate relief. It wasn’t a miraculous healing that some encounter in church pews. Instead, managing my anxiety was a long and drawn-out process.

It was the result of many months of intense counselling sessions and emotional energy. But in that process, I found relief. And I experienced some healing.

It all started by going to speak to a complete stranger about my fears. She taught me tools to help stop the onset of a panic attack. I slowly learned how to manage overpowering feelings of anxiety.

As I accepted the fact that I struggled with a disorder, I also began the frightening process of opening up to my family and friends. I took a step back and observed the bad habits I needed to break, and I even had to say goodbye to some unhealthy relationships. The process was anything but easy or formulaic, but it allowed me to slowly regain that peace of mind that Philippians talks about.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

So did God heal me? Did I achieve breakthrough?

Not in the way you would think. Not in one heavenly instant.

I have no shame in admitting to you that my prayers didn’t result in the end of my disorder. Healing takes place in many different ways. Sometimes, it’s the immediate relief from anxiety during a worship service, and sometimes it’s ongoing treatment from a doctor.

What I can attest to is that God gave me the peace and determination to manage those days where anxiety was too close for comfort. And through that, I found grace, and ultimately, freedom.

 

 4. We are not alone in our anxiety.

It’s important to recognize that God does not promise we will never experience hardship.

I would still feel a sense of nervousness from time to time, even after attending a counselling session. I still had the occasional random panic attack in the supermarket (bless the dear woman who consoled me in the freezer aisle). We will never live a life free of adversity.

But God does promise that He will be right there with us when we go through those difficult times.

How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in those moments of darkness! I have the companionship of one who has already overcome anxiety. He’s been there, done that.

In Matthew, it says that Jesus overcame the world. He knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed. To feel anxious. He knew pain and suffering. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief to know I am not isolated in this fight.

 

 5. The road to recovery can be slow and messy.

I’ll be honest with you: today, I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. I still have those moments of uncertainty. My faith does not remove the voice of negative self-talk.

But I do have confidence in one thing: God meets me where I am. He has been with me every step of the way, from diagnosis to recovery. And looking back, I can certainly attest that I am not the same person I was several years ago as I sat in the doctor’s office discussing different side effects of anti-depressants. I can confidently say that the worst is behind me.

When I hear that there is no room for God in the whole “mental health” debate, I want to remind those people of one of the key issues at the centre of this whole conversation: God loves people in their humanity and we are to do the same of one another. Despite our perceived “weakness” and our human tendency to fear and to feel insecure—God still uses us to inspire, to lead and to love others. He uses anxious people.

I am the most peaceful I probably have ever been on my journey, but every now and then, I still feel a little off. But it’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to be perfect.

I don’t have to feel perfectly. I can just be. And that’s perfectly okay.

Chester Bennington’s death: Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it

Written By Priscilla G., Singapore

It was just one of many suicides among celebrities. But the death of Chester Bennington, the frontman of American rock band Linkin Park, struck a chord among many fans of my generation.

The 41-year-old was found dead in his home two days ago (July 20), on the birthday of his close friend Chris Cornell. Media reports say Bennington’s suicide is similar to that of Cornell, the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, who also hanged himself two months ago.

The news triggered memories of the rasp in Bennington’s voice on songs like “Numb” and “Somewhere I Belong”, which captured the angst I felt as a teenager. Millions of people felt the same way—the music video of “Numb” has had more than 560 million views since it was posted in 2007.

I remember particularly liking that song, which is about the frustration of failing to meet people’s expectations, when I was 14 years old.

I was a head prefect in my primary school when I was 12, and I was very disappointed when I failed the probation to become a (normal) prefect in my secondary school. Becoming a little more rebellious seemed like a cool idea, although I was really more of a closet rebel with angst that I kept to myself. The “Numb” lyrics also expressed how I felt towards my father, whose words typically came in the form of scoldings or instructions instead of encouragement or concern.

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there / Become so tired, so much more aware / I’m becoming this, all I want to do / Is be more like me and be less like you”. I thought of my father’s weaknesses as I sang that last line, about wanting to “be more like me and be less like you”.

But all the times I screamed out the chorus could not drown out the voice of God in my heart. Towards the end of that year, I rededicated my life to Jesus.

Shortly after, I stopped listening to Linkin Park’s songs, because I grew to realize that the message in many of their songs did not align with Christian values. The last line in the “Numb” chorus suggests self-centeredness, pride and an attitude of ‘I am better than you’ towards authority figures whom we disrespect. The song’s suggestion to numb emotional hurts is also not helpful.

To numb something is to ‘deprive of feeling or responsiveness’. But to be able to feel pain is to be able to sense that something is wrong, and that ability is important. Without pain sensors in our body, a person’s hand on a stove could be burning without him even realizing it. As American Christian author Philip Yancey, writes in his book, Where is God When It Hurts?: “By definition, pain is unpleasant, enough so to force us to withdraw our fingers from a stove. Yet that very quality saves us from destruction. Unless the warning signal demands response, we might not heed it.”

Having read about Bennington’s life from media reports, I see a man who was in pain. My own experiences cannot begin to compare with his, but it seems that he didn’t deal with it in the best way.

From the age of seven or eight, he was frequently molested by an older friend till he was 13. His parents divorced when he was 11. His first marriage ended in divorce in 2005. His struggles with drug and alcohol addiction inspired some of Linkin Park’s top hits, but did not end despite the band’s success.

Bennington said in an interview in 2009: “I have been able to tap into all the negative things that can happen to me throughout my life by numbing myself to the pain, so to speak, and kind of being able to vent it through my music.” Bennington added earlier this year: “If it wasn’t for music, I’d be dead. 100 per cent.”

While venting negative emotions through music or other avenues (such as drawing, poetry, or running) may be better than bottling all the feelings inside, it doesn’t result in a complete healing of emotional wounds.

Numbing pain is like using fingers to plug the holes in a leaking water bottle: the leaks stop temporarily, but it is pressurizing (literally) to keep plugging those holes, and all this does not address the ultimate problem.

If you are feeling broken, know that God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Broken cisterns that cannot hold water will not help, but the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13) will. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

I pray that you will find the true source of comfort and joy.

 

Photo credit: Kristina_Servant via Foter.com / CC BY