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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.”

A Letter to the Wandering Eye 

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA

Hey. Over your latte, I saw the worry in your eyes. I know this isn’t who you want to be; you never wanted to be attracted elsewhere, you thought you would always be contented in your marriage. But I know your longing runs deep and you’re afraid of your own heart.

If only “I do” meant our eyes never swiveled from our mate’s. But the reality is, they do.

Sure, marriage is a big choice we make once. But it’s also saying “I do” over and over and over again. When you’re drowning in household chores. When he’s flipping on the news and tuning out right when he gets home from work. When you’re depressed after your mom dies, and are looking for anyone, anything, to fill the gap.

Unfortunately, Christians can fail to understand and openly admit how our hearts are “prone to wander” until it’s too late. Emotional affairs, in particular, can arise and flourish because there’s no clear line between appropriate and non-appropriate behavior. We drift into them.

 

The Clever Lie

“It’s never a sin to love another human being.” I heard this expertly-crafted line in a recent TV drama. I’ll grant them this: Love is never a sin. But in the context of this show, the writer was justifying extra-marital affairs as well as other sexual sins. Our culture can translate love into getting to do what you want and being happy with the person for whom you have affection. (Ask the spouse of the person who has the affair, or the child whose family came apart, if he or she felt “loved.”) The Bible defines love as laying down your life, your happiness, and your dreams for what’s truly best for others.

It’s when we don’t feel fulfilled, that we tend to look for satisfaction elsewhere, don’t we? And sometimes, our life circumstances leave us feeling particularly vulnerable. Hungry. When I was going through this recently—it was a frustrating, insecure time for me—I realized my attraction was far less about the person I was attracted to. It was far more about feeling attractive and appreciated. Maybe for you, it’s about feeling wanted. Sexy. Connected. Happy. Free. These desires aren’t wrong in and of themselves. It’s when they become demands—things we must have, that we’re entitled to—that they become a problem.

Allow me to be frank, friend. No man or woman can fill this gap for you. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity: “Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy . . . something has evaded us.”

This could be part of the reason that 67 percent of second marriages (at least in my country, America) end in divorce. As I’ve seen in the painful path of a divorced friend, we carry so many of our problems with us into the next relationship. Because those longings, those holes, and even those dysfunctions, are within ourselves.

Hear me, friend: Yes, your desire is legit—but no, another person will not fully meet this. Let’s, like David in Psalm 27, beg God, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” I’m not trying to oversimplify our emotional, sexual and other hungers. But I do think that when we’re unsatisfied in our souls, it shows up elsewhere. When we finally satisfy the longings of those holes, it becomes a lot easier to get the rest of our desires in place.

I’ve cobbled together some ideas for days like these, when you feel your mind, body, or heart tugged away from “one flesh” with your spouse. Be fierce, friend. Fight in the way you’d want your spouse to fight for you. Here are some ways.

 

1. Set up hedges

Talk to your spouse and agree on how to avoid compromising situations. A friend of mine who’s exploring Christianity recently asked me about the rather prudish guidelines of Christian men not being in a house alone with a woman they’re not married to. I explained the concept of our lives being “above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2). Before my husband and I married, my parents requested that the two of us never be in a house alone together. It protected us then, and I still hold that general rule for men who aren’t my husband.

 

2. Flee away and toward.

Like Joseph in the Bible, flee. 2 Timothy 2 talks about “fleeing youthful passions”. Fleeing shares a root with “fugitive”: I.e, Do not get caught in this. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Whatever causes you to flirt with these fantasies or that emotional connection—cut it off. It might mean:

  • Unfriending the person on Facebook or other social media
  • Deleting or blocking their number or email address
  • Choosing not to go to a social event where that person will be
  • Confessing to your spouse your attraction
  • Getting a different shift at work, or dropping a class
  • Leaving the ministry that the person shares with you at church
  • Being exceedingly direct with the other person, in a way that leaves no doors open to their advances

Flee in the battleground of your mind, too: “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Don’t just flee away: flee toward. Toward God, hiding yourself in Him. Toward your spouse, acting in the ways of love—out of trust that your heart will follow. For 30 days straight, at least twice a day, pray for desire for your spouse.

 

 3. Give thanks

One surprising antidote for any other form of discontent, suffering, greed, or waiting is gratitude. Thankfulness can take my eyes from myself, from what I don’t have, and turn them upwards. It’s not some kind of glib positivity. It’s a belief that God is enough for me, and will give me enough.

When I’m facing attraction to another person, one of my go-to’s is to begin a mental list of all the things I adore about my husband, the ways he understands me, the life events we’ve endured and cherished together. If the Israelites could forget the God they loved and the miracles He created among them, I’m capable of doing that, too. I want to keep God’s goodness in my spouse in front of me.

 

You see, friend, marriage is a form of faith, but not faith in your spouse or yourself. It’s that God will give you everything you need to stay married.

He is enough.

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

An Open Letter to A Friend Gone Too Soon

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

Dear Joshua,

I will never forget October 23, 2017. It seemed so surreal seeing you lying motionless in the casket, dressed in your best. Tears swelled up in my eyes as I remembered how you had been such a good friend to my husband and me.

Your abrupt departure from this earth caught us completely off-guard. Your mother shared with us the details of your sudden heart attack as you were preparing to leave for work that fateful morning.

As I stood by your casket, I pictured you right there with us, comforting us with your smiles as you stood together with Jesus—a reminder that you were off to a far better place than before (one where there would no longer be any tears or pain). That image brought much solace to my aching heart.

It’s hard to express the pain we felt from losing you. We shared so many good memories together and on some days it’s hard to believe that you’re gone.

You were truly a beacon of light that shone brightly wherever you went. I remember how my husband and I would quarrel over the most minor details on our trips together (especially in our early days of marriage) and how you would be the peacemaker. Your oft repeated phrase, “Please don’t quarrel, it troubles me when you do” still rings in my ears today and is something that I always remember whenever a quarrel is about to erupt between my husband and me. You can’t imagine how many unhappy quarrels you’ve saved us from! Your gentle nature and desire for peace reminds me to walk in the same manner and exercise the spirit of gentleness and self-control.

I know it was tough for you to have this perpetual heart condition. It mustn’t have been easy having to consume medication on a daily basis for the past 10 years (after having your heart bypass surgery). You also had difficulty catching your breath after walking a certain distance and would perspire profusely. Yet, I never once heard you complain or blame God for this sickness you had.

Instead, whenever you were feeling down, you would choose to bow down before God and worship Him. I witnessed firsthand how you lived each day for God, leaning on Him for the strength that you needed and trusting in His sovereignty over your circumstances.

You reminded me of Job in the Bible through the way you dealt with your sickness and how you responded to God in the midst of the most trying of circumstances.

I remember the times when you planned to go out with us but had to stay at home because you were feeling unwell. Whenever we met, you always had a smile on your face even if your heart condition caused you great discomfort.

You always placed the interests of others before your own too, showing consideration to others in the midst of your own pain and discomfort. Remember the time we were on our way back to Singapore from our short trip to Batam? We were in a hurry to catch the ferry and both of us were lagging behind because we could not run as fast as the others. You noticed that I was struggling with the bags of crackers I bought and in the midst of trying to catch your breath—and the ferry—you still stopped to take the load off me.

This small act of kindness left a deep impression on me and I can never thank you enough for all that you have done for me.

As I recall your life, the words of Joshua 1:9 come to mind (I remember that it’s your favorite verse too!): “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 You displayed such strength and courage even though your heart was weak and your body was gradually breaking down. You knew that the Lord was with you at all times and you never despaired of life, no matter how tough it got.

Through the way you related with all around you (especially caring for your elderly parents who have yet to come to know God), you have inspired me to want to live a faith-filled life with God.

Thank you for leaving us with a legacy of your faith that stirs our hearts towards our Creator.

You have fought the good fight, ran the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Now it is my turn to run this race well, just as you have.

Farewell and till the day we meet again . . .

 

Your friend,

Agnes.

A Letter to SHINee’s Jonghyun: What If There was Hope?

Photo by saranghaegdoppa on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Written By Lee Soo Yi, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

Dearest Jonghyun,

I was in disbelief when I first heard the news that you took your own life. I didn’t believe it was real. I thought it was a hoax, a sick prank someone had played. I couldn’t believe someone as jovial and happy-go-lucky as you would ever commit suicide.

It was only until I read various media reports on your death and the official press release by your management company, that it finally hit me: I would never get to see your cheerful face and your cute expressions, or hear your angelic voice again.

It breaks my heart.

I had always thought that you would use your voice to bring happiness to those who love your music. That I would get to see you releasing your next self-composed song, reuniting with the rest of SHINee, serving the nation, getting married, and even becoming a father in the future. It never crossed my mind that you would choose the lonely road of no return.

I’m so sorry that I only learned of your struggle with depression after reading the letter that you sent to your friend, Nine from Dear Cloud. In it, you wrote that “the depression that was slowly devouring me at last consumed me”.

On behalf of other Shawols who have supported you ever since you debuted in 2008, I’m truly sorry that we were unaware of all the pain and exhaustion you felt.

It feels particularly sorrowful to hear of your passing in this season of Christmas, and to think that you won’t be around to spend it with us. For all those who love you, this Christmas is going to be exceptionally difficult to go through.

Dearest Jonghyun, as I’m penning this letter to you, I can’t help but wonder what I would have said to you if I actually had the chance. Right now, the words that come to my mind are from Isaiah 9:2-6:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It’s not your fault for falling into depression and despair. But I wonder if death was the only way out for you? I wonder if you would still have made the same choice if you knew about Jesus, our true hope?

If you had known that 2,000 years ago, a baby—Jesus Christ—was born among us and His arrival brought light into this world of darkness and despair, and that He bore our sins and sacrificed Himself on the cross in our place so that we could have true joy and everlasting hope, would that have given you the courage to cling on despite the despair you felt?

It’s heartbreaking that we’d never be able to know the answer to this “if”.

Dearest Bling Bling Jonghyun, it saddens me that I would not have the chance to call you by this name again.

You’ve worked hard and we will always miss you.

Finally, I wish that nobody on this earth will have to feel the despair and hopelessness you felt, because there is an everlasting hope who can give us the grace to face the challenges of tomorrow.

His name is Jesus.

 

Your fan of nine years,
Lee Soo Yi