In 2018, I struggled with depression for five weeks.
As a National Serviceman, I was transitioning from an old camp to a new camp. Things were run differently, and having to adapt to the new environment and people proved to be extremely difficult for me. I had this deep-seated fear and purposelessness in the pit of my stomach, which made me keep asking God: “What is the purpose of these two years in NS?”
Soon my life and emotions spun out of control, and I questioned the worth in living each day. All of a sudden, everything – even my calling to full-time ministry in the future – seemed meaningless and pointless. There was nothing worth living for.
Some days, getting out of bed was almost impossible. I found myself needing grace for the simplest tasks like waking up and going to camp, when all I wanted to do instead was escape and take an MC instead to pon (skip) work.
Self-condemnation soon seeped in: “Is it supposed to be this hard? Couldn’t every Singaporean male go through it without having a mental breakdown? Am I really in that minority who are just weaker mentally and emotionally? What’s wrong with me? Am I just giving excuses?”
I felt like a horrible testimony. I was obviously struggling to maintain my sanity, weak and incapable of doing my work well in camp.
Even the things I loved became struggles and chores. I recall going to get myself a plate of chicken drumstick noodles, and this feeling of deep despair and lethargy just swept over me after I bought my food. I needed grace for each mouthful.
Even the things I loved became struggles and chores.
Each day I had to choose between fighting to believe in what God’s Word said, or giving in to my emotions. It was often easier to choose to be sad and to sleep off the sadness, but that only drove me into deeper despair when I woke up and had to face reality.
For a long time I kept hiding and pretending that there wasn’t an enemy in front of me, mocking and attacking me. Eventually I realised that looking down at my feet when the enemy was attacking me wasn’t going to stop the enemy from attacking. I had to look up and recognise that my enemy had a name: depression.
And I was not going to run away from it any longer.
I refused to let my situation and feelings dictate what is truth to me. Instead, I clung tightly to God’s Word and it came alive to me like I had never seen before.
I have to choose each day to place my hope in Jesus again. When my thoughts wander and I begin to question my purpose, I cast it all to the Lord. I just have to walk humbly and faithfully with Him each and every day, and He will provide me His hand and walk with me through my calling and life.
I was prayed for by a minister who cast out the spirit of depression. I felt something physically leave my left ribs.
I also decided to seek help.
I had a referral for specialist treatment, but it took awhile before I could see my doctor. Meanwhile, I read a book my dad had given me – Hope Again: A 30-Day Plan for Conquering Depression by Bruce Hennigan and Mark Sutton. I resonated deeply with it because its authors had been through depression as well. Knowing there are people who have had depression and overcame helped keep me going as well.
And miraculously, I went for a healing service at my church together with my parents a few days before my psychiatrist appointment. I was prayed for by a minister who cast out the spirit of depression. I felt something physically leave my left ribs.
When I went for the psychiatrist appointment, I was diagnosed with adjustment difficulty, which is a less severe form of adjustment disorder. I guess I will never know if I did have clinical depression until the day I meet Jesus again. But this episode of my life definitely made me more compassionate towards others who face mental illness.
My biggest takeaway is how I changed my view of what resilience means. Throughout my down period, I kept beating myself up in my head for being so weak and for giving in to my emotions. But what I’ve learnt is that it is really okay to struggle.
I placed so much expectation on myself in the name of being a “Christian NSF”. Without even knowing it, I had slipped into a mindset of performance-driven Christianity. My witnessing was based on outward excellence and good behaviour. But that only creates unsustainable expectations where there is zero room for mistakes and weaknesses.
I clung tightly to God’s Word and it came alive to me like I had never seen before.
In contrast, all over the Bible I see instances where God’s power was perfected in His people’s weaknesses and shortcomings.
- Moses was not confident in his leadership abilities, yet God still wanted to partner with him to lead the Israelites.
- Elijah wanted God to just take his life away because he feared Queen Jezebel, but God was not done with him.
- Peter doubted and denied Jesus in Christ’s most painful moments, but Jesus restored him and built His Church upon him.
My weakness was turned into an opportunity to lean completely and deeply into God’s sufficiency and grace. Only then, did my strivings cease. It was enough to know that I am His. I’m His beloved. He poured out His love into my heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). I’m a child of God, and that’s all that matters. I didn’t need to prove my love to Him – God loves me. This changed everything and set me free.
So let us depend on Him and cling on to Him when everything else around us doesn’t make sense. He can redeem our dry seasons and weaknesses for His glory.
- What was the most difficult time of your life?
- Do you have a community to support you in times like that?
- What are some of your greatest weaknesses?
- Would you invite God into these areas?
- Who can you pray with for God’s grace this week?