23rd December 1999
Epistle to The Cyberchurch
To my dearest beloved,
I am very touched by the many many e-mails I received in my Eudora in-box that said something like "I was wondering why the long silence from you. Now I know." Thank you to each of you!
I am moved to detail to you the major marker points of my three month journey through depression, to testify to God's grace and goodness and mercy and love. Yes, I can glorify God now that I bask in His glory and love and warmth, and I also testify that I could praise and worship Him, even in my darkest moments, because my God and my Creator was with me every step of the way.
My Christmas present to you is a shared revelation: a revelation of
God made flesh, of how God became so real in my life... To His glory, and
HIS glory alone.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
The crash into depression occurred one night (19 August 1999) when I woke my wife at 4 am to announce "I am depressed". It happened just like that. Like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. (Actually a close friend had noticed I was behaving strangely for the prior 2 weeks.)
The trigger factor I explained, was that I had noted my office accounts were dipping into the red. I had thus checked the records and found that the downward spiralling pattern had been set in motion more than three years ago. Low turnover, careless spending, whatever. The bottom line was not healthy. And I was emotionally damaged. I felt horribly depressed. Like a frog at the bottom of a deep dark dry well, with no way of getting out. It was literally painful. I was wrenched with anguish. I felt lost. Drowned. Without hope. Unable to see ahead. No joy in life. No will to live. No desire of any sort. My world had crashed, like a house built on sand. Like a house built out of playing cards.
Already, right at the beginning of this storm, the silver lining of the cloud appeared:
A) I was able to share this with my wife: Very noticeably, previously I could share all my good points, my successes, my victories: But never my weak points, my failures. Yet there I was, at 4 am, telling my helper-mate, my completer, my constant companion and supporter, about how I was feeling depressed, and the reasons behind the depression.
B) We knew to turn to God. Yes, The LORD God Almighty was there with us right at the start: We turned to him in prayer. Called out in agony. I reflected upon the various sins in my life. I confessed my sins and received forgiveness. By break of dawn after wrestling for 2 hours, I sensed peace. I was uplifted. I was out of depression (so I thought).
But within another two days I was in the blues again.
God had prepared us by allowing us to store up treasures where moths and rust can not destroy and where thieves can not break in and steal. We had stored His Word, His law in our hearts.
Praise God for the bible, the living word of God. God turned our heart to the psalms and we read these over and over again. (We, because my wife came alongside me, and supported me physically, emotionally and spiritually, every step of the way.) Each psalm had a word of comfort for me, from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150.
Especially Psalm 1, and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6, and 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12...... As I look at each psalm in detail now, remembering how God spoke to me, I see it was not limited to any one psalm, but all 150 Psalms!
Yes Psalm 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28... I am trying to identify a Psalm that spoke specially to me when I was depressed and I find that they are uncomparable. Each Psalm, praise the Lord, is precious.
We have shared our burden with our friends (including our pastors) and prayed with them. Praise God for his church, the body of Christ!!
The next four weeks was to be a tremendous psychological and spiritual roller coaster ride: down in the pits then lifted up again; down in the pits then lifted up again: It was like 2 steps forwards, 1 step back: 2 steps forwards, 1 step back: 2 steps forwards, 1 step back: then 2 steps forwards, 10 steps back. A major psychological crash occurred at least once a week.
The depression was serious. Enough to upset my appetite, change my sleep pattern, and make my moods very labile. Loss of sleep soon was replaced with a desire to sleep all the time. I wanted to withdraw from the world. I lost more than 5 kg in 4 weeks.
WAKE UP CALL
Why should I be depressed?
especially with so many countless blessings from God?
We now see it as a wake up call:
I was too complacent.
I took God for granted.
I did not pray to Him fervently.
I did not thank Him for all I have.
I did not trust Him to provide for me.
Rather I wanted to do things in my own strength
too self sufficient.
So rather than let me fall prey to satan,
God allowed this depression to come upon me so I could be humbled:
and with a broken and humble and contrite heart, come to Him
confess my sins:
beg for cleaning
asking Jesus to save
asking God to forgive
asking God to help.
And even as I yearned to feel God's love He granted it to me:
He let me feel my spouse's love for me,
and He tells me she is a channel of His grace and mercy to me:
What a mighty God we serve!!
What I saw was that God was refining me...
my main sin: much too much self dependance
depending on my own power, my own skill
take God for granted:
never praying seriously or fervently:
such short perfunctory prayers.
Also financial indiscipline
spending money indiscriminately
unable to use wisely for the kingdom
expecting /demanding God would supply all my wants
It is never pleasant to be put in the flames,
they burn the impurities away.
Burning hurts and is exceedingly painful,
but God knows how much we can stand.
God disciplines us because He loves us.
So sad that so much of me is sin:
all the impurities burn away
and not much left behind..
But what is left behind is pure gold,
molten pure gold.
And on its surface you can see the reflection
of the face of the Refiner.
FROM BAD TO WORSE
The time to seek professional help is when you can not carry on with normal day to day functions. We were praying fervently. 4, 6 8 times a day and more. On good days I felt good. On bad days it was real agony, depression so painful that even now I cringe to think of it. Then the crunch came when I began to flirt with suicidal plans. I confessed to my pastor who advised a psychiatric consult to get my head mended and a psychological consult to get my heart mended: within hours we arranged that, and was seen to, medicated and prayed for.
The psychiatrist could see I was pathologically depressed. The diagnosis of endogenous depression was made from the classic symptoms of an over reaction that is far more profound and prolonged than the trigger factor would normally merit.
Some chemical inbalance in the brain has been identified (too much serotonin) and a selective serotonin inhibitor was prescribed.
The psychologist (church counsellor) worked with us to maintain openness and communication in marriage, that we would benefit from God's plan for us in marriage, to see us through this dark tunnel.
God arranged a short vacation for us at this time (early October), a week get away in Singapore; a week to get away from my depression, with a close couple, considered more family than friend: I was able to smile, laugh, joke, sleep, eat, play scrabble, do jigsaw, read the bible, pray, play, enjoy evening walks,
and come back to life within this closed secluded environment.
After the vacation it was back to the real world. I had ceased going to my office, and was still unable to. The depression was still there but to a lesser degree. Over the next two months, I slowly but surely recovered. We continued the head and the heart treatment. Then one day in late November, I clearly felt the remaining 1/3 of my brain which had been dormant and asleep for the last 3 months, awaken; I felt healed. Praise the LORD.
Like the prodigal son, I was lost, but now am found.
I was dead but now am alive again.
In dying to self, I am raised in Christ:
I am born again.
I am given a new lease of life.
I am given a second chance.
And I am not going to waste it.
Though the long dark night of the soul, God has spoken to me in a special way.
I am very very grateful for the way God has prepared me for this time
For we did not ask "Why, God?" but instead we knew to ask,"What do you want us to do, Lord". And we knew that through it all God wanted to draw us closer to Him, and closer to each other as husband and wife.
I re-evaluated my life and asked myself: "What is the most important
thing to me?" And I was very convicted and assured that the most precious
thing to me was my salvation: If I have salvation and nothing else in the
world, it is enough for me: it is well with my soul. Contrariwise, if I
have all the silver and gold of the world, but do not salvation, then I
am lost, doomed to death and destruction.
So it was a precious starting point: to be stripped away of pride, and to be separated from the desire for worldly possessions and prestige: to rest in God's salvation.
In the initial stages I knew I was to trust God. I could do so mentally,
in my head as "head knowledge"
but this was far from what my heart felt,
God says, "Be not afraid, I am not limited by your feelings: If your head says you trust Me that is enough."
Praise God, that after 3 months of depression, I was able to feel such solid trust in God, that despite the storms around me, being ensnared in a web of deceit and false accusations, I was able to get on top of that situation. The tangle of lies remained grim and fiery darts were shot into me, but I felt peace, total calm,and solidly trusting God in my mind, in my heart and in my soul.
GREAT THINGS AHEAD
Many of our dearly beloved came to console and pray with us over the last three months: Many had this vision: that God was preparing us for great things ahead.
One sister shared a vision of me...
On a green mountain,
with blue skies above,
waving a bible,
bearing prematurely, ripe yellow fruit,
wearing blue shoes of the gospel...
One brother from USA was guided back to Singapore to share this special word of affirmation with me: that I have ALREADY done great and mighty works for The Kingdom, and even if I spend the rest of my life as a nothing, as a road sweeper, as a recluse, as a gardener, God will be pleased with what I have done:
On top of that, he sees God's training now as preparation for great things ahead: with a body filled with scars I am being battle toughened: with scars and experiences I will have more courage to face the battle ahead: whatever blows that strike me in future will be nothing compared to what I have already experienced. Such is God's wisdom. I am humbled. I am awed.
At our Choir Christmas party we sang carols, and had the Christmas story shared.
Our pastor spoke of the shepherd's experience, as accounted in Luke 2, then asked us to be silent and meditate for 2 minutes on The Christ.
I clearly see the face of a 12 year old Yi village girl before me:
I see my Master in her.
"Give her a cup of water...."
"In as much as you have done it to her, you have done it to me..."
"Come to China.."
I am awed.
I am thrilled.
I am excited.
I have heard the call.
I will obey....
He is there waiting.
The call is to "come!"
No time frame is set.
No specific task is given.
In fact it seems I am to just do the little common things...
and allow myself to be used as a channel of his grace.
I believe that even as the past plans have been revealed to me a step at a time, so too will my future plans be.
So I will concentrate on preparing for the task, learning Chinese and studying the good book, till I get a prompting, a nudge, a shove, that eggs me on to the next step, very possibly to the North in Spring 2000 just serving cold water.
Thank you again to each one of you who have been faithfully praying
and interceding for us.
We serve a prayer answering God.
To God be the glory!
MY CLOSING PRAYER
What a joy it is to testify of Your goodness!!!
Thank you that because of Jesus I can praise you for my depression experience.
For through it all you were by my side, guarding, guiding all the way.
Abba Father, may each of my brothers and sisters and family and friends come to know you in a real and personal way.
That we may all join the angelic hosts in singing
"Gloria in excelsis Deo"
In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, King of kings and LORD of lords
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