How to Overcome and Prevent Depression Wenjue Hu Hope Learning Center Houston, TX How to Overcome and Prevent Depression Scripture quotations in this publication are from the New American Standard Bible. Copyright © 2012 Lulu Author. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America DEDICATION To my precious son Aiden and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My thanks to my dad Genyou, and retired AFC missionary Jim Brubaker for looking over my book. Also thanks to my mom for watching my son Aiden so I could get started on the book. Introduction This book is mainly written for someone interested in missions or a mixed culture person who suffers from depression, but it may be suitable for anyone who suffers from this problem. Depression is a psychiatric disorder showing symptoms such as persistent feelings of hopelessness, dejection, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep, and, sometimes, suicidal tendencies. Although depression can be devastating, and is defined as an illness medically, it can also be used by God. Elijah and Jeremiah are among those who suffered depression in the Bible, but they were greatly used by God despite their depression. In fact, it is in their moments of depression that God drew them to Him (1 Kings 19:4; Lamentations 3:22-23). This book is meant to face the reality of the negative aspects of depression, and help the person to overcome it, so that there may be joy and victorious living instead in the person’s life. It is important to note that this book discusses the tools that allow you to overcome and prevent depression. To do so, you should use the tool that is most suitable for the particular situation that arises, in order to remove and replace the negative thoughts that may spiral you down to depression. As your life becomes more normal, you should also practice the tools in a regular fashion, on a rotating basis, which will help you to lead a balanced life, and prevent you from the tendencies to depression. In this way, this book can also be thought of a manual, and can be used in this fashion. Section I Spiritual Aspect of Depression Depression is an illness with biochemical, social-emotional, and spiritual aspects. The biochemical aspect of the illness is treated with medicine such as anti-depressants and taking care of physical health, and the social-emotional by talk therapy and family or friendships. The spiritual cause on the other hand is treated by the spiritual disciplines (Ephesians 6:10-20). I rotate the nine spiritual disciplines that I list in this section by focusing on one spiritual discipline each week. I list the nine spiritual disciplines in a word document on my computer, and work on one each week. On Sunday afternoon, my Sabbath time, I set aside my time to focus on this spiritual discipline. At this time, I also memorize Scripture as well. Usually, I memorize three Scripture verses. Memorizing Scripture helps you to sharpen and focus your mind, and invigorate spiritually. To overcome depression, I recommend focusing on the first five spiritual disciplines, which are the inward disciplines that place you in the presence of God. The last four spiritual disciplines, the outward disciplines should also be practiced on a regular basis to develop a well-balanced spiritual life. Chapter 1 Journaling Journaling is one of my favorite spiritual disciplines. Another word for journaling is diary. It is writing down what is happening in your life. It is a way to reflect on what has been happening in your life and record ways that you have grown and anything that you would like. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Journaling is a way of unburdening before the Lord. In journaling, you are able to write down problems or issues that you are facing, and make analyses that would help you overcome your problems. Another benefit of journaling is making positive plans for the future. Additionally, you can also make a journal of thanksgiving, a commemoration of God’s goodness, like Joshua did with twelve stones to remember how God opened the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to pass through on dry land (Joshua 3-4). Reading past entries in a commemoration journal will lift up your spirit in times when you are down. For instance, this book is my commemoration journal to celebrate and share God’s faithfulness in my journey to overcome depression. In these ways, journaling enables you to become better friends with the Lord, and with yourself. Besides focusing on journaling on a rotating basis, I often journal each week as well to make life reflections and recharge. One caution in journaling is not to equate it with venting. In some ways, it is very helpful to write down things that are bothering you, and un-burden yourself. This is the social aspect of journaling. You are able to talk to God or reflect your life to yourself through journaling. However, if you stress on the problems, sometimes venting may entrap you further in the problem. Overdoing it causes you to complain and not be able to receive the benefits of being set free from the problem. In order to be set free, it is also important to analyze the problem and find solutions. This is an analytical and problem-solving aspect of journaling. For instance, if I have a problem of needing a job, only describing my problem and reactions and feelings about the problem will not provide the way out. Instead, I should also analyze ways to overcome the problem. I could make a list of steps that I will take to find a job. Another example is that recently I was suffering from the problem of cursing since I started going to an American church. Sometimes I would get upset, and start to use curse words. This is a problem that I have never had in my 36 years of life, until just a few months ago. In journaling, I analyze the reasons that I curse, and ways to overcome. I realize that it may be that I am going to an American church that emphasizes incarnational living with the community around you. Having the problem helps me to be able to understand the average American better. Since realizing the root of my problem, I also realized that it was wrong to curse (Exodus 20:7; Ephesians 4:29), and I reduced the stress level in my life. Chapter 2 Meditation Meditation and prayer are the most important spiritual disciplines. They are like the two wings of an eagle that enable it to soar. In addition to focusing on meditation on a rotating basis, it is also essential to meditate on God’s Word and pray on a daily basis, preferably during a focused quiet-time, such as morning devotion. It is important to practice meditation through reading of God’s Word during quiet-time, as well as Bible memorization, and application to life. These are three ways that you can practice meditation in your daily life. Meditation is thinking about God’s Word. After reading the Bible in a quiet-time, you can pick out a few verses that particularly touched your heart to memorize, and to think about. In meditation, you think about the Bible verse repeatedly. It is also helpful to pick out verses that you may adhere to in your life. Meditation is a spiritual discipline that helps you to clear your mind and focus on God. If you are stressed or anxious, you can reduce the stress and anxiety by reading large chunks of the Bible such as Psalms, which is a book in the Bible composed of prayers and praise. Similarly, reading chapters of the Bible in the morning also helps you to wake up and focus on God. Sometimes you may not understand everything that you read, but the Word of God cleanses your mind of other thoughts much like the washing away of dirt with water. The more you read the cleaner you become. I believe that the Word of God functions in this way because it is the only book in the world that you can completely trust 100%. When you read it, you can be completely unguarded, and allow the Word of God to transform your mind and heart. For my daily Bible reading, I usually read 3-5 chapters of Psalms and 4 chapters from the rest of the Bible. At night, I read a chapter of Proverbs according to the day of the month. For the portions of the Bible that you understand, it is helpful to pick those verses to memorize or apply to your life. I often pick the last verse of each chapter of Proverbs to memorize, and this meditation of God’s Word helps me to sleep soundly at night. I also memorize Scriptures which are particularly applicable to my life situation. For instance, I memorized three key Bible verses from the New Testament that teach about child-rearing, and the Holy Spirit has really used them to guard my mind and heart and instruct me in wise parenting. These three verses are: Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:15). Keep his children submissive (1 Timothy 3:4). Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). When I apply these Scriptures to my heart and life, I have a good balance of love and discipline in my childrearing. In this way, Bible life application is able to target and solve problems, and take away stressors from my life. Each Sunday afternoon I set aside the time for my weekly Sabbath and I focus on one spiritual discipline, as well as memorize three Bible verses. For Bible memorization, I use a system from World Missionary Press (Scripture Memory Book), which teaches you to recite the Bible verse eight times in order to memorize it. Scripture memorization is another key element of meditation that helps you to clear your mind and focus on God. It is also a way for you to develop a sharper mind. If you have a wandering mind for instance, that you think about things not relevant to the particular topic that you are reading or discussing with someone, then Bible memorization will be key to heal you. A wandering mind causes you to lose a lot of your time in irrelevant thinking. The more Bible you memorize, the more focused your mind will become. You will be able to think on topic, and you will become a much more intelligent and efficient person. I have had a wandering mind for many years. It is also called ruminations. I believe that it started with daydreaming in my childhood. It is important for parents to encourage their children to memorize Bible at a young age, and participate in programs such as AWANA. Daydreaming should be discouraged in children. However, God was gracious to me. After years of a wandering mind, God healed me. Bible memorization was one of the important practices that God used to heal me. Now my mind is more on task – I am able to pay attention and hear what people say, as well as my reading is better. Although my mind is still often not entirely focused, but sometimes it is focused well enough to be photographic. I always had a great memory, being able to remember numbers and details of things that I encounter in life, which is why I was able to do so well in school for many years. However now I can also remember what I read since my reading improved and I read a lot now, and I can remember what I see, because I have also become more observant and aware of what goes on around me. Not wandering in my mind has helped me in these aspects of my life. Another way that meditation and Bible memorization can help you to overcome depression is that you will be able to overcome anger and character issues. One time, I memorized the first chapter of the book of Philippians. At that time, I dropped out of the MD-PhD program at Johns Hopkins. My mom came to visit me and lectured me all day about what I should be doing in life. I did not say a word, but meditated on the Bible verses that I memorized. As a result, I was not stressed or depressed, and I did not become angry. I knew that God would complete the good work that He has begun in me, and that was enough for me. My relationship with God grew stronger as a result of memorizing this Bible passage, and even today, my mom has accepted Christ several years ago and has become closer to God as the years pass. She reads many Christian magazines now, and goes to church regularly. Chapter 3 Prayer Prayer is the other wing of the eagle that together with meditation allows the eagle to fly. While meditation is listening to God’s Word, prayer is communication to God by speaking to Him. Along with fasting, prayer is one of the most powerful spiritual disciplines that can be used to fight against depression (James 5:14-16). You can pray to God about anything on your heart. It is often helpful to use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, and pray to God using the acronym ACTS. Adoration is the first part of the acronym, which is praising God: Our Father who is in Heaven. Confession comes next: Forgive us our debts. Thanksgiving follows: Hollowed be Your Name. Finally is supplication: Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:9-13). Using ACTS in prayer establishes a reverence for God, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), and helps you to pray according to His will. One of the reasons prayer is so effective against depression is that it targets the spiritual aspect of depression. Prayer is particularly effective because God gives you the weapon to pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, and rebuke Satan. As Christ at His temptation rebuked Satan to be away (Matthew 4:10), so He also gives us the right to do so as His disciples (Matthew 18:18). One time I went to a Christian conference (the Chinese Life Magazine Conference in Chicago in 1999). At the conference I encountered a spiritual attack while praying together with my roommate at the hotel. She was attacked greatly by the evil spirit, and I also felt a physical wind hitting my face. Many pastors came to our room to pray over her throughout the night. After the conference, I was more aware of evil spirits roaming around particularly at night, and I was afraid. You see, before then, I was only aware of a world where there is Heaven where God is, and earth where we are here presently, and not a spiritual realm of the earth as well. So I started praying out loud, which took away my fear. Although I became a Christian around 1989, and I was baptized in 1996, but only after that Christian conference did I start to pray out loud, and sometimes really loudly. Praying out loud is a particularly effective tool in rebuking Satan. Additionally, it is especially helpful to pray with the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelations 12:11). At times of stress or anxiety, before you spiral down into depression, you can pray “Blood of Jesus Christ” repeatedly for 40 minutes, and your mind should clear up after that. The reason this works is that Christ died for us on the Cross, and His blood washes away all of our sins white as snow. His blood covers and is more than sufficient to demolish anything that is not from Him, including strongholds in our thought patterns (Isaiah 53:5; Psalm 51:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). For this reason while praying “Blood of Jesus Christ,” you should think about what Christ did for us on the Cross. Also you may not be able to make the 40 minutes of prayer, but if you are able to pray for a few minutes it may still help. If not, then continue as long as you can. One caution in this spiritual exercise is not to make this idolatry. In Appendix A of sins for confession, I mention the sin of idols. In fact, anything used out of context of whom God is and the entire Bible could be made idol. You can compare this prayer to memorizing a relevant Bible verse, and repeating it until it sinks in. If you meditate on it for a long time, then God will speak to you through it, and draw you closer to Him through the Bible verse. Another analogy to praying out loud is the widely available audio Bible. Sometimes you may be very anxious and cannot concentrate. At this time, the audio Bible may be of particular help to you. After you listen to a few chapters of the Bible in audio, you may find that your mind clears up, and you will be able to read the Bible in the written form again. In the chapter on worship and celebration, I will also mention singing songs of praise to God, which include songs that mention the blood of Jesus Christ, such as “There is Power in the Blood”. The blood of Jesus Christ is the single most powerful weapon against the spiritual component of depression, particularly effective instantaneously (Romans 8:37). In this way, praying out loud is particularly powerful. However, at times such as persecution where you are not allowed to pray out loud, silent prayer is also helpful. Silent prayer establishes the relationship with God, and allows you to commune with Him. For instance, while in captivity, Nehemiah prayed silently before speaking to the king, who granted him favor to rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:4). Other situations that silent prayer is helpful include being a busy mom. After my son was born, I found that I was really busy and did not have as much time in morning devotion. What I did then was I used my morning devotion time to read God’s Word. Afterwards, I then prayed silently while I was doing other things, such as lying in bed, or doing chores. Praying at night and laying all of my burdens before God, also helps me to sleep soundly through the night. Group prayer is another powerful resource in fighting against depression. Praying for each other is helpful, as well as praying in a group (Matthew 18:20). Having others pray over you such as in deliverance is another way that God may use to heal you (James 5:14-16). Chapter 4 Fasting Fasting, along with prayer, is a key spiritual discipline in the fight against depression. When you fast, you are able to focus on God, since food is no longer a distraction. In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness, after He had fasted for 40 days. While hungry, He was able to rebuke and overcome Satan, and be prepared for the rest of His ministry on earth. Other Bible figures who had practiced 40 days of fasting included Moses and Elijah (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8). Food is the sustenance for our physical well-being, and we are created to be reliant on it. However, God’s Word teaches us that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). You may ask how it is that fasting works to overcome depression, since when you fast, you may feel more depressed instead. In addition to drawing you to intimacy with God, the other side is that it allows you to experience suffering. You are able to experience what poverty is and how people would feel if they were poor and hungry. This kind of suffering acclimates you to the suffering and trials that come in life, and enables you with more capacity for character and endurance. Spiritually, fasting allows you to reach spiritual poverty, like hunger or medical illness would. The spiritual discipline of fasting prepares you to be able to weather the storms that may arise in life with joy. I have been fasting on a regular basis since I was 25 years old, for the past ten years, until I became pregnant with my son two years ago. When I was 20 years old as I was preparing for my baptism, I also fasted for a day, and felt cleansed and close to God. In the past ten years, I was able to fast through work, school, and other life situations. I first started fasting for 40 days through Lent my first year in seminary, with a prayer partner. We also had an author and speaker Elmer Towns come to our seminary to speak on this topic. Another notable Christian leader who fasted for 40 days was the late Dr. Bill Bright. When fasting, I limit my physical activity level. However, I do not recommend fasting for pregnant and nursing moms, nor for children. A vegetarian diet can be theoretically taken with caution. But if you are thin and in need of many calories like me, then please do not force yourself. During my times of fasting, for shorter than three days of fasting and never more than one week, I practiced water fast, which is drinking only water. Although Moses and Jesus both fasted without water, but these were supernatural phenomena. You need to fast with water for medical reasons. For longer periods of time up to 40 days, I practiced juice fast, which is drinking only juice. For 40 days of fasting, during the last 20 days, I drank blended fruits and vegetables drinks. Occasionally, I also practiced vegetarian fast, as well as bread only fast. The vegetarian fast is practiced by Daniel in the Bible. Bread only for 40 days was my least favorite fast because of its harshness to me. This is also called the John Wesley fast, named after the preacher and evangelist who followed this fast. Nutritionally, it is much harsher than a vegetarian fast, but spiritually it also brings you closer to God by bringing you to a level of spiritual poverty (Isaiah 30:20). Which fast you should choose depends on your health, size, and nutritional needs. For medical reasons, some people may choose to fast from one food item only or non-food items such as TV or email which I mention in the next chapter. As a medical precaution, after a period of fasting, you should not lose more than 10% of your body weight. The first time that I practiced a 40 day fast in 2003, I probably lost more than 10% of my weight. At the end of the fast, I had a large red blotch on my forehead, which was like eczema, and people kept on asking me what it was. Because I was keeping my fasting in secrecy, I did not know how to answer. But thank God it disappeared after the end of the fast. To start the practice of fasting and prayer, I recommend that you start with one meal, and increase to one day, then three days, one week, and up to 40 days of fasting and prayer. You can practice fasting and prayer anytime, but it is practical to do so on a regular basis such as one day a week, and up to 40 days. Fasting for a period of time such as three days or one week can also be practiced for a particular purpose that God has placed on your heart. This is something that Paul did after the vision at Damascus for three days, after which God send Ananias to heal his blindness (Acts 9:1-19). While at seminary, I practiced 40 days of fasting and prayer each Lent season for three years. I experienced God in an amazing way through answers to prayers, visions and dreams, and growth in His Word. I remember God healing an African man from death, and a friend healed from a bleeding disorder. Another time I was praying on my knees and I fell asleep due to the lack of food. God gave me a dream about my mom. So I called her, and she told me that she was going to visit China the next week. I told her about my dream and she was amazed also, since I knew that something was going to happen with her even before she told me. If I did not call then, then I would not have been able to speak to her until she came back, since back then there was not Skype and we did not call international long-distance for no reason. In general, my mom really likes the times that I fast and pray, because of the miracles that happen, as well as my eating less. I have a large appetite otherwise. After those three years, I did not have depression anymore. Subsequently, whenever I would enter a depressive mood, I was always able to come out through practicing spiritual disciplines and drawing strength from God. It is also important that fasting is always accompanied by prayer. Although health-wise, fasting is healing for the digestive system by giving it time to rest, and also good for weight management, but fasting without prayer does not serve the spiritual purposes stated in God’s Word (Isaiah 58). Prayer is also spiritual protection for you during the vulnerable spiritual state of fasting, as Jesus experienced after His 40 days of fasting. Chapter 5 Conscience: Self-examination and Confession Guilt is a key cause of depression. The person, believer or unbeliever, may feel guilty about a sin. This guilt may cause ruminations or even obsessive thoughts about the past. Sometimes the sin could be a character issue such as pride and jealousy, while other times the sin could be more overt, such as alcoholism and sexual immorality. I remember for years it was difficult for me to serve in singing, although I was a really good vocalist. After I sing in front of a large audience, I would think about my performance for hours. I would feel guilty that I did not do a good enough job. I had a lot of character issues. Additionally, past experiences such as abuse during childhood can lead to depression later on in life. It is important to practice self-examination and confession to break bondage from the past, and receive God’s total forgiveness. Freedom from sin and guilt will allow you to be set free from depression. Self-examination and confession should be practiced on a weekly basis if not daily, to grow in a deep relationship with God. To overcome depression, these should also be practiced once in a lengthened and focused manner, possibly with the help of an elder or mentor. You should fast and pray during this process, and go through sins from birth and childhood to the present. Also go through sins from ancestors, which are called generational curses (Numbers 14:18). You must renounce all of these sins and break all of these bondages in the Name of Jesus Christ (Judges 3:9; 1 Samuel 12:10-11; Romans 8:1). Also, you need to remove all sinful materials from your life, such as anything with sinful content like books, music, video, and idols. Romance novels, unwholesome popular music, and movies with sexual or violent content are all examples. Idols from other religions should be destroyed and thrown away. If you are able to make your wall completely free of decorations including even pictures, that will be best. Freedom from any distraction will give you the space to focus on the Lord. To go through this process of self-examination and confession, you can use a list of sins from Neil Anderson’s Bondage Breaker, or see Appendix A. If you are presently battling sin in your life, you need to overcome the sins. Self-examination and confession must also be followed by repentance, which is turning away from and no longer committing the sin. You may find sin-addiction recovery programs such as Celebrate Recovery to be helpful. They will go through steps for you to overcome the addiction. To illustrate we can also use the example of quitting smoking. Instead of doing it cold turkey, which may be very painful, you can get nicotine patch from the doctor and a program to follow. You can turn down the amount of nicotine you receive over time, and eventually be able to quit smoking altogether. For me, I used to have an issue with email, which first started about seventeen years ago when it became popular. I used it for many hours each day. It was truly an addiction, because it affected my school work and basically I did not have time to do much of anything else. What helped me was that I did a forty-day fast from email. Instead I used telephone to communicate with other people. Since then, I do not have problems with email anymore. For a while, I also fasted from email one day a week. It has become something that is under self-control, and really useful. I use it for prayer requests and information, learning tool for child-rearing, and communication with family and friends. Finally, to complete self-examination and confession, claim God’s promises in His Word by memorizing Scripture (Appendix B). Appendix C lists praise songs that you should memorize and sing to claim Christ’s victory and reign in your life. After you have made a confession and renouncement of all of the sins, it is important to accept God’s total forgiveness of your sins (1 John 1:9; Romans 8:1). Chapter 6 Abstinence: Slowing, Silence, and Solitude This chapter begins a series of spiritual disciplines that involve relationship to other people. Similar to fasting, abstaining from food, slowing, silence, and solitude are spiritual disciplines of detachment or abstinence: abstaining from hurrying, noise, and people respectfully. These are a group of spiritual disciplines that free you up from the distractions of everyday life and draw you close to God. Slowing helps you to prioritize your life, and retreat from the busyness of work and daily life. It removes stressors and makes your life more balanced. We have often heard of the saying “learn to say no” to prevent burnout in ministry. It is important to focus on serving in one area according to your spiritual gift so that you do not become overwhelmed. A balanced life includes family, work, church, fellowship, recreation, and spiritual life. We will discuss some of these topics further in the second section on the social-emotional aspect of overcoming depression. Slowing down reduces extra work hours so that you may devote more time to other aspects of your life and God. It also allows you to be there for somebody who may need you by chance. In many non-Western cultures, such as Malaysia, Africa, and South America, people there have a general habit of slowing. For instance, they may be a couple of hours late to an appointment, while Americans usually are punctual. They may like to take daily afternoon naps. Also they may like to spend many hours talking and spending time together, while Americans may only have an hour for a Bible study or a birthday party. A friend told me that one time she went to a Christian concert in Africa, which was one week long. It was all praise music to the Lord for one entire week. Imagine how that much worship of God would change somebody’s life. Missionaries have problems initially adjusting to their new cultures when they arrive in the new country. One reason is this change in the pace of life. Yet this slowing of yourself ultimately grows you, as you turn to the Lord, and are able to spend lengthened time in fellowship with the local people. As the ministry picks up, this slowness of the local culture is something to continue to appreciate and incorporate into a balanced life with a weekly day of rest. In Western culture, we can also learn from the slowed pace of these countries, and give time to spend with others, and with God. While editing this chapter, I was almost finished with this book, and I decided to slow down my pace. I went to talk to friends, and I made my home safer. If I had not slowed down, then I would not have known that my home was not safe, and made changes. This slowing down also improves our health. Overworking sometimes causes health problems, and slowing down gives you the opportunity to recover in health. We can also be encouraged that no matter which culture you are in, there are many success stories. There are just as many doctors and lawyers, government leaders, and church workers from those of the slower-paced cultures as the busy Americans. In comparison, the other two spiritual disciplines of this category, silence is abstinence or freedom from noise, while solitude is being alone away from others. The purpose of these two spiritual disciplines is to place you in the presence of God for a set frame of time. In contrast to being in fellowship with believers, and serving others, silence and solitude, along with slowing, allow you to retreat and recharge in the presence of God. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily ministry, our Lord Jesus retreated to the mountainside to pray by Himself in order to choose His disciples (Luke 6:12). It is in this silence and solitude that you can listen for the voice of God, who often chooses to speak to us in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12-13). One time, while I was fasting and praying, I spent several days at home by myself. The reason is that I heard a pastor spent forty days of fasting and prayer in solitude. After several days of solitude for me, I felt like a changed person. Prior to this, I did not think it would be possible for me to be alone for so long. These spiritual disciplines of abstinence also help you to overcome problems you may have with loneliness. Being able to enjoy God and be joyful in a period of time of slowing, silence and solitude enable you to be truly joyful when you are in the presence of people. You will grow to enjoy people for who they are more as well, and not be lonely whether you are in solitude or in the presence of people. The effects of these spiritual disciplines illustrate how they work through detachment and abstinence. Similar to fasting, because you are no longer attached to food, or busyness, noise, and people, you are able to enjoy them more as how God has created them, in proper moderation and relationship. Chapter 7 Serving: Service, Sacrifice, Secrecy, and Submission The Lord teaches us in the Great Commandment to love the Lord Your God, and also to love others as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Serving provides a sense of purpose to life. When you volunteer or do something for others for free, you become a part of something bigger than yourself. Serving others and following God’s commands according to the Bible breaks through spiritual strongholds. That is why people often feel a spiritual high after a missions trip. By serving God, they are able to fellowship with Him in a deeper way (Philippians 3:10). After the spiritual high though, they may feel a spiritual low, and at this time they must turn back to the basics of the other tools mentioned in this book. Serving others is doing something for others that allows you to find meaning in Christ. By serving you are able to fellowship with Him in humility and servanthood (Philippians 2:6-11). Serving changes you by humbling you, and giving you love for others. You will grow in fellowship with others who serve alongside with you, and those whom you serve. Just enjoying a lively conversation while you discuss the Gospel with someone, or opening your ears to listen to someone’s heart who is hurting opens up your heart to Christ’s servanthood and inspires your mind. Although the fruits of your service may not be evident until many years later, especially if you serve people with hardened hearts, however, you can be sure that your work for the Lord is not in vain, and in due time you will bear fruit. The fruits of the work are another way that God encourages you in serving Him, and takes away your depression. For instance, one time, God used me to lead a person to Christ who immediately went to seminary a year later. I was greatly encouraged by this person’s faith and passion for God, and I went to seminary a year later as well. You also learn from serving by developing your spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12). You will enjoy serving more as you serve with your spiritual gift. For instance, if you are gifted in teaching, you will learn more as you teach others, from researching, analyzing, and learning from students. You will enjoy teaching, and you will become better and better at teaching. This is God’s gift to you, and it will give you satisfaction and a purposeful life. I used to serve in music a while back, and I sang in the church choir for about ten years. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about music, and I became great in singing, so much that I was a soloist for a couple of years, singing at many large evangelistic services through which many people came to the Lord, and I was also the only Asian in the Gospel choir at Oakcliff Bible Fellowship for a half year while I was in school. Later, after I completed seminary and linguistics school, I felt that I needed to focus in the spiritual gift of teaching, which was what God wanted me to serve in. Although I am not a good public speaker, but I still kept on serving in teaching. I taught church adult Sunday schools, and I worked as youth and college minister, and I kept at it. I was still not good at it, but God kept on improving me. After teaching ESL in reading and writing for a year, I improved in these skills, and I was able to read many books, and start writing. So after six years of focusing in serving in teaching, sometimes I really wanted to give up, I am now starting to see God using me in this gift, and it is becoming easier and fruitful. Imagine if I had taught conversations for ESL as well, I would likely be a good public speaker now. God has His timing, and His purpose to fulfill in us. In the same way, if you are able to find a profession that you are good at, which God has created you to do, then you will find much satisfaction in the profession, and your job will also take away your depression. I will also discuss service more in Section II of the book. Sacrifice is placing others before yourself, to the extent that you are willing to die for others (1 John 3:16). I feel that I have to sacrifice a lot for my infant-toddler son. I wanted to stay home to take care of him, but I did not have the expenses to be able to do so. In order to be able to stay home, I was able to obtain some public assistance. Along with support of my non-profit organization, I was able to make ends meet. It was much sacrifice to be able to stay home with my son, and much sacrifice to raise him whether I am working or not, but it is all worth it. Taking care and sacrificing for my son becomes a job for me, just like God’s Word says, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim 2:15). Being a mom gives me a sense of purpose, much like a profession would, and I also forget about myself. I struggled in the first few months of his infancy, having to take care of him by myself since my husband had left us before he was born, and Christian radio really rescued me. As my son grew up healthily, I became more joyful each day. I enjoy taking care of him and having my baby son in my life very much. He loves going to church, grocery shopping, laundry, and everywhere with me. I can see that he has more understanding of the world and God’s Word each day. To illustrate, though he is only a little over one-year old, but I can really see that he is much better behaved after we come back from a prayer meeting, without having any discipline. Being a mom is another way that God has taken away my depression. Perhaps it could be a person that you disciple, or an elderly or ill person that you help out with, having a purposeful relationship with someone sacrificially is another way to overcome depression. Secrecy is service without anyone else knowing (Matthew 6:1; 6:18). It is one of my favorite disciplines because it really makes you humble. Practiced on a regular basis, it is a great discipline that sets you free from pride, jealousy, and other character sins. An example of secrecy is cleaning the church bathroom. In this way, you may also be set free from the debilitating depression that may be caused by guilt over character sins. Submission is the last in this group of spiritual disciplines in service. Being in submission or yielding to authority is a spiritual discipline to practice from childbirth. It is important to teach children submission and respect for authority, including parents, teachers, and other caregivers, so that they do not stray from God when older. As adults, we can practice submission by praying for the government, submitting to employer, family, and others in the body of Christ as you serve together. Through the practice of the spiritual disciplines of service, you will be able to develop a better relationship with others, and be set free from character sins that debilitate you to depression. Chapter 8 Stewardship: Simplicity, Frugality and Generosity The spiritual disciplines of financial stewardship have organized my life to be prioritized, efficient, giving, and buffered to withstand hard times. I love the discipline of simplicity because I have a hoarder personality. I need to watch videos to organize my home, and years ago whenever I moved I would have accumulated so many more things that I needed to store things with somebody else. After practicing simplicity for the past decade, I learned to store a few important things in files at home or on the computer, and to have few things in my home. Usually I give away things through missions, local clothing drop-off boxes, church, and my ministry. Whenever I move now, I give away things so I can move all of my things in a couple of luggages if needed. In this way, my life becomes efficient and livable. Also I am able to travel lightly. I am not depressed anymore by a lack of natural organizational skills nor a cluttered home. On the other hand, I still appreciate that God created me to be resourceful. Simplicity is an example of a character improvement that has helped me to overcome depression. It is similar to my overcoming slow reading by chance through being an ESL teacher for several years. Also similar is my becoming more focused through the spiritual disciplines that I discussed in previous chapters. Frugality has helped me to be able to go through financial difficulties. God created me to be a frugal person. During financial hardship, often times as I prepared for missions work, about 75% of my monthly budget is used to pay for my rent. God has also provided some extra help for me through church and public assistance, so that I am able to have a good standard of living, in areas such as food, medical care, education, and home environment for my child. Basically, in these times, I do not go out to eat, except a few times a year for special occasions, and I get pretty much everything used. My monthly budget is something like 465 for rent, 20 for internet, 45 for electricity, 40 for toiletries, 5 for books, 5 for toys, and 25 for gas. I try to save any additional income. Along with an increase in income, being frugal will also allow you to be more generous as you increase in savings. I recommend David Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and Larry Burkett’s writings as additional resources for growing in wisdom in the area of financial stewardship. Finally generosity is a spiritual discipline that is crucial in your relationship with God and with others and you serve with money. It is important to tithe at least ten percent of income to church on a regular basis (Leviticus 27:30). When you are in a low-income level like me, you should still tithe at least ten percent unless you are in debt. If you are in debt, you can still tithe to continue in the heart and discipline of giving, but you should really focus your resources to paying back the debt first. You can also give to missions and other ministries as your income increases. Giving away your possessions on a regular basis will make your life simpler as mentioned above. It also takes away greed, and gives you a bigger heart for others. Used books can be given to friends and church libraries for instance, while used clothing to clothing drop-offs and ministries. By giving you will fellowship with Christ’s servanthood, and experience God’s blessing as you bless others. God definitely blesses people with the spiritual gifting of philanthropy materially as well (Mark 10:17-31). Having an organized life in financial stewardship will take away stressors and prevent depression. Chapter 9 Praise: Worship and Celebration Worship is a celebration of Christ. It is a prayer of adoration to the Lord put to music. The encouraging words of the songs enliven your spirit. Hymns are the most powerful spiritual songs of praise. They are set to calm and melodic music, which represents Biblical states of our hearts. The words are full of the Gospel, and with deep teachings in each aspect of the Christian life, ranging from discipleship, evangelism, to celebrating God’s creation. All of these hymns are helpful for overcoming depression. The hymns most helpful are those that stress the abiding presence of Jesus Christ (John 15), and the blood of the Lamb (Revelations 12:11). The more you are able to celebrate God in worship and praise, the Holy Spirit will work in your heart to silently sing songs of praise in your heart when you are not even thinking about it. The hymns become spiritual songs for you. In this way, you are abiding in Christ, and spiritually in tune with God. For many years when I served in music, I would sing praise songs throughout my day; and often times when I was quiet, a praise song would pop up in my spirit and give me great joy. This kind of spiritual song makes me in awe of God, and thankful for His goodness to me. Praise is a first-line antidote to depression. When Saul was afflicted, David played music for him, and the evil spirit left him immediately (1 Samuel 16:23). At the initial feeling of slight depression, singing hymns is a great way to overcome the depression quickly, preventing sinking into a dark spell. Finally, it is helpful to memorize certain hymns and sing them throughout the day. This will prevent you from falling into depression, and help you to abide in Christ. I list a few in Appendix C, which are the ones that I memorized to overcome depression. Section II Social-emotional Aspect of Depression Many people think of depression as a socio-emotional illness. In many ways it is true. The Bible says two is better than one, and three is not quickly torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). God created man to have companionship, and there is strength in numbers. A healthy marriage, a therapist, or a spiritual friend could be what takes away the depression in your life. In the modern age, depression may be caused by the prevalence of individualism and aloneness, excessive labor and stress, a break-up of the family structure, past experiences, and illnesses. Reports of law-breakers come from this background. Many individuals who commit suicide at universities are also loners who were not reared to withstand the storms of life. The recent mass murder in Newtown, CT resounds with the epitome of this depression. Adam Lanza was from a middle-class family, but a broken home, and nerdy, in other words, not popular among his peers. Easy access to weapons, and an addiction to violence on TV or video games were likely other causes for the crisis. Instead, a close relationship with your family is healing. If there is not a father, then close relationship with grandparents is helpful. In fact, studies have shown that the life expectancy of male children is higher with the presence of maternal grandmother, more than the father. Also, having a good adequate male role model in a Godparent is valuable. Finally, the church provides lots of resources to support the family. Mentorship programs, men’s groups, and sports programs are all possibilities. Having a healthy church will enable the child to grow up in a Godly manner. It is important to bring the child up in a loving and safe, while disciplined environment. Instead of a regular public school, you can consider a bilingual program, or home school, which is also affordable. If expense is not a problem, Christian school can be a great option as well. It is important to limit and censure TV and video games. The most essential issue remains leading the child to know that he is a sinner, and to salvation in Christ. Notable successful public figures who grew up in broken families include the Olympian Michael Phelps, President Barrack Obama, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Additionally, well-known single missionaries in the past have suffered from this ailment. Amy Carmichael is a notable example. Although God used her greatly to reach the people of India, and write many Christian books and poems, she suffered depression. In this section, I discuss the tools to treat the socio-emotional aspect of depression. They range from therapist, friend, hobbies, sports, pets, cleaning home, to cooking. Chapter 10 Talk Therapy From a quick solution to depression to a long-term treatment, talk therapy is a treatment of choice. When you are going through difficulties, or when you are serving as a missionary and have difficulties adjusting, you may find it helpful to meet with a Christian counselor on a regular basis. Although it is best to have a Christian friend, such as a prayer partner or an accountability partner, but if you do not have one due to different circumstances, a Christian counselor may be the right answer for a time. Meeting with a counselor when you are down may lift you up, and help you face certain challenges with a new light. For long-term treatment, maybe a half-year, or two years, or even longer, may turn out to be what you need to overcome some deep issues that are causal for the depression. The counselor may just be a listening ear for your problems, or help you organize your struggles, or go through disciplines and antidotes discussed in this book. For me, I found it helpful to meet with a counselor for a duration of time, as well as meeting and sharing with a Christian friend. The benefit of a counselor is that the talks are confidential. I have found meeting with Christian and non-Christian counselors are both of help. At those times, I just needed somebody to talk to. Over time, as I improved in my reading skills, which I mention in the next chapter, I was able to read more counseling books. Also as I worked on the spiritual disciplines on a rotating basis, I was able to turn to journaling, which worked similarly for me as counseling when I grew in this discipline. For example, since I had a broken marriage, I met with a Christian counselor a few times. Then I was able to read most of the important Christian counseling books on marriage, around 20 books, and I did not need to see a counselor anymore. The two most important ones for me are Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson, and Boundaries in Marriage by Townsend and Cloud. Counseling books provide you the tools to face relevant life situations with wisdom, while journaling alongside will help sort out issues. Chapter 11 Facing Disability Sometimes an illness or a handicap causes you to become depressed. For years, I used to think that depression was the thorn in my flesh, like Paul had (2 Corinthians 12:7). According to Biblical experts, his thorn in the flesh was an illness of bad vision and blindness. As I improved in my health and overcame depression, I realized that God still allowed me to have other thorns in the flesh. It is fortunate because His grace is sufficient for us, and He perfects His strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I had so much to learn in terms of humility and character. Recently I was able to overcome my slow-reading issues by chance, by becoming an ESL teacher. One way I became better in reading was that I watched TV with subtitles. Though they were in Chinese, but they helped me to read faster in general in all languages. If you are like me, from a mixed ethnic and bilingual background, you may have gone through school without proper ESL classes in the bilingual environment. For me, I had two months of ESL before I went to regular school completely. I did extremely well through many years of school, including obtaining a full scholarship to a prestigious MD-PhD program. However, my reading skills were not good. In fact, I never read anything non-fiction outside of school. In school, I also seldom read my textbooks. Instead, I learned from the classroom. If your reading is not the best, you may suffer depression or other life frustrations. You may not even be able to tell others that you have a reading issue, particularly if your spoken English is excellent and you are bilingual, or if you hold an advanced degree such as a doctorate already. I have many friends who are bilingual, who are even doctors and pastors, and if they came to the US between 6 – 12 years of age, they usually have reading issues, except if they were in a bilingual program such as in the Latino community. Many people do not understand how you are able to obtain advanced degrees without good reading skills. However there are many ways to learn, such as learning from other students or teachers. You can still overcome the issues as an adult by spending time in ESL as I did inadvertently. Consider teaching overseas as an ESL teacher for a year or two, or here in the US as I did. What if you have another thorn in the flesh that you cannot overcome, even if only in the present. Some people have severe or terminal illnesses or go through other suffering, but they are still able to witness for God. Corrie Ten Boom is an example of a Christian lady who was imprisoned in the Holocaust for helping Jews escape. Yet she still witnessed for God by writing and speaking for Him throughout her life. Joni Eareckson Tada is another example. Although she has been quadriplegic since she was a teenager, but God has used her in booming ministries, through her books, paintings, disability ministries, and Wheels for the World. Although at times they may battle depression, but God used them nonetheless. For the past couple of years, I also acquired a new thorn in the flesh, a broken marriage. Although I have been a Christian since a couple of years after I came to America, and I practiced purity all my life and waited for the right person to come along in my life, but I still met somebody who left me after a few weeks of marriage, and then again a few weeks into my first pregnancy. Before my marriage, I was serving in missions in the urban city, and I paid off all of my debts a few years before, so financially I was doing ok. After the marriage though, I was left with an incredible amount of debt, and I could not find the means to support my baby son and myself. It was really hard initially, and I could not believe why God would make me go through so much suffering in this area of my life. I thought that I had the looks and the smarts, but how come I could not wed the right person. God provided me a lot of support through Christian counseling books (many from the church library), and journaling. He made me see that He was in fact still in control of the situation, and He has really blessed me. Since I listened to the counsel of elders to get married before I turned 35, He blessed my obedience by giving me an incredible and wonderful son. He is such a bundle of joy to me. I did not plan to have a child by getting married, because I have been in medical school, and worked in the obstetric field. I was incredibly scared of a painful childbirth. However, nine months into my marriage, having spent only a few weeks together with my husband, I got pregnant. I give God the glory, because at one time He used me to pray for my friends who had problems with fertility, and He blessed them with child, yet He still allowed me to have children as well. I remember that I used to think since He also used me to bring couples together, at least two Christian couples that I know of, how come He did not bless me with a beautiful marriage. It is pointless to ask these questions about suffering, because only God knows. It is even less consequential to complain about it. After going through different trials in my life, the book of Job becomes more meaningful to me. I start to understand what Job is saying about life, because I have really experienced the same in my life (Job 30). The fact of the matter is, the Lord gives and takes away. Now He has blessed me with the gift of an incredible son, but He has also permitted me to have a broken marriage. I can wait for the Lord to fix it, but in the meantime, when it is a thorn in the flesh to stay, I still rejoice. I see the other side of the other gifts that God has given me, and I see the changed character, endurance, wisdom, maturity, and compassion that God has brought in my life. Then I am ok. Say that you have a severe illness, then you must take medications, which may be God’s gifts to you, because they make you well in the time being. You may need to slow down more, and take time to take care of your overall health. Your income may become less, because you may even need to take a medical leave of absence from work. But God may still provide for you financially through Disability. If you have pain, God may heal you through pain medications, or naturopathic medicine. If you have disfigurement, then you may realize that your good looks are not the definition of you. Your humility and being a changed person will contagiously bless many people around you. Chapter 12 Hobbies Spending time on your favorite hobbies will warm your heart and give you joy. If you like reading books, read healthy books on a regular basis at the best time for you. If you enjoy watching TV, most people in the Christian community limit themselves in the amount that they watch. You should probably watch less than 10 hours each week, unless you work in media. Growing up, I was allowed to watch one hour each day, and a few extra hours Saturday morning. For me now, I regularly watch a half hour of TV daily or at least weekly. Because I spend most of my time in spiritual disciplines and work, or nowadays caring for my child, for many years I did not watch TV at all. Then about six years ago, I started watching Korean soap operas with Chinese subtitles on my computer. The advantages of watching TV are that it gives me entertainment as a hobby, and helps me to fit into society better by becoming more aware of what is going on around me. This all becomes helpful for my overall well-being. It is important to censure what you are watching, such as watching only PG or less, or no sexual and violent contents. This way, you will not be exposing yourself to temptations. If you do not know the rating of the movie, such as a foreign-language movie, then you can usually tell by the title or synopsis. You can also focus on Christian TV. For me, watching TV has truly been a helpful hobby for the past six years. I was able to experience more that Christian life is a balance. I used to think that it is evil, but now it has helped me to become a faster reader. What men meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). However if you are good in reading already, I do not think you need to force yourself to watch TV if you do not enjoy it. If you are able to watch a movie or two each week, it is more than enough for you to become aware of the culture. Another past-time for me is spending time on the computer. Reading news and magazines online and in paper form on a regular basis helps me to be updated on what is going on around me, and be a better mom when I read child-related magazines and websites. A key is to censure. Do not even think about getting on websites you are unsure about. If anything pops up accidentally, such as during searches, do not glimpse at it, quickly go to a clean page, and never think about them. Do not become guilt-ridden over anything that pops up accidentally. Just remember to not glimpse at it. It is not sin if something unhealthy pops up accidentally, as long as you never give anything like that a second look. For instance, the other day I saw this headline on a major newspaper website, and I decided to not look at it – “Michigan judge in nude picture scandal under fire for allegedly impregnating witness.” Though it would be tempting for me to read it, since it seems to be juicy gossip, but there is no benefit for me to read this article at all. Additionally, you may be able to avoid unhealthy sites popping up by avoiding secondary websites as well. For example, some newspaper websites may be more pop culture and contain more links to unhealthy websites, while others less. Also once you know the specific newspaper website well, you will know what links to avoid. The strategies to avoid unhealthy websites are endless, and you can be sure to take control of your computer and web browser and use it for God’s glory. Years ago, spending time on the computer and watching TV were all considered to be possible sins by themselves. However, with more information technology booming, more people are turning to computers and TV. If you can get all the information you need from paper, you may not need the computer, but for most people, computers and TV are here to stay. It is important to take advantage of them, and make sure to pick and choose clean programs and websites. God will use these media to bless your life abundantly. Another hobby for me is music. However, I am living in the urban neighborhood right now. I still spend a lot of time in singing to my son, even making up my own nursery rhymes, and teaching him rhythm and some early musical skills. However, I do not spend any time in playing the violin, which I played as a child. In this way, my hobbies become fitting into my present culture, and help me to relate better to my community. For the past two years, I have been trying to figure out a way that I could be able to fit into my neighborhood and still be a missionary in another culture. I wanted God to use me to mobilize the urban-dwellers to be missionaries also. Finally, God started to work in my life, and make me more like those around me. I became less reserved, and I started working on my writings, which I began six years ago, completing only one chapter throughout this time until now. Many other hobbies can give you enjoyment, such as sports, having pets, cooking, sewing, and the possibilities are numerous. It is helpful to pick an activity most meaningful to you to develop and spend time in this hobby. For instance, if you enjoy music because you can serve others through music, then it will be healthy for you to spend more time in this hobby, so that you may develop in it, and be able to enjoy it more. This way, you may be able to develop your gifting (1 Corinthians 12). On the other hand, it is also important to vary your activities to keep a healthy balance. You may develop most in the activity that you enjoy most, however, you can also spend some time in other hobbies that you like as well. This way, you may be more aware of what is going on around you, and you may find refreshment in the variety (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2). Chapter 13 Fellowship Work on nurturing relationships in your life, particularly in fellowship and church. If you are single, you may have time to meet with someone on a weekly basis. Consider having a spiritual friend who can be your prayer or accountability partner. If you are able to have a close Christian friend it will be better than talk therapy when you go through difficulties in life. During chapel in seminary, I remember a lady who was a pastor’s wife telling us that she had a spiritual friend that she met with for over ten years, and they went to different churches. This may work out better for confidentiality. If you are married, you can also have a spiritual friend. Additionally, you can have friends visit and share a meal with you once a month. If you have children, you can have regular playdates together with friends as well. In missions, your prayer newsletter will also help in communication with your long-distance friends. Having people in your life whom you can trust and obtain help from when you are in need is a great asset to your socio-emotional health. The regular fellowship activities will prevent you from sinking into depression as well. For me, as a mom of a young child, being a part of a regular mom’s group is crucial to my socio-emotional health. Also it is a good idea to keep in touch with your family and relatives by videos, pictures, and Skype. If you are able to visit each other, you can do so. Being in healthy relationship with your family is key prevention for depression. If you live in the same city, you can make visits on a regular basis. In addition, consider those that you serve together with. If you have a weekly prayer meeting, or a daily devotional, those meetings will be crucial to your fellowship and communication with one another. Being able to get along with those that you serve with is stepping stone for your missions work (John 13:35). Finally, it is important to be a part of a healthy church and fellowship. After a couple of years of searching in Houston, God blessed me with a wonderful church and fellowship group at my church. The church is multi-ethnic, and has a great missions program. It was so much more than I had asked for. Being a part of a healthy church has helped me to get started on my ministry Hope Learning Center (hopelearn.org). Chapter 14 Acts of Kindness It is important to use your strengths and gifts to serve others. You can commit acts of kindness randomly, or use your gifting to serve others on a consistent basis. This holiday season, I decided to spend the 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas committing an act of kindness each day. They are usually pretty random and may be something small. I decided to do this because I did not have much income this holiday season to be able to afford lots of presents for my son. Although I was not able to fill each day with an activity, God still gave me opportunities to be able to give to others. Things I did included volunteering at church, writing cards, and making a papercut Christmas tree for my son. It culminated with Christmas caroling in my neighborhood, and making new friends in the community. It was definitely much more than I had expected, since I had been trying to fit into my community for the past two years. You may also serve others with your gifting. If you are a good cook, you can make and deliver meals to others. People who need meals include the elderly, ill, and moms with newborn. If you are a retired teacher or scientist, you can tutor a child. Church and missions after-school programs are great options. If you are a medical worker, you can offer free services for needy people at your office, or consider serving at a ministry. I would like to grow Hope Learning Center to be a missions outreach in the local community with such educational, helps, and medical programs. God-willing later the work may expand to unreached areas overseas. Committing acts of kindness is service and secrecy simply put. In other words, you serve others, and occasionally you may serve in secrecy. Chapter 15 Organization If you are like me, a detail-oriented person, then you should also spend more time in the organization of daily life. Paying attention to the details may make you resourceful and intelligent, however, without a bigger picture organization, you will get lost in the maze of details. Organization includes making a schedule, organizing your home, and keeping it clean. Practicing the spiritual discipline of simplicity helps you to be a more organized person. It is important to prioritize. In making a schedule, you can make it simple by choosing one activity a day to do, for your child, for yourself, and to serve others. Also I have a schedule of when my child eats and sleeps, and when I make meals. The rest of time I have to myself, when I can enjoy hobbies, read, work on my computer, and sleep. For devotion, I usually have a morning quiet time around 5 AM, and after I finish reading the Bible passages I go back to sleep, and pray in my bed as well. To save time, I also practice praying silently throughout the day. An added bonus devotional time is that I read the Bible and pray together with my son each morning and before his bedtime in the evening as well. We also pray together before meals and read Bible stories during the day. When possible I listen to Christian radio, and watch Christian programs on TV or computer. When I was single, I had enough time to spend several hours each morning in devotional time, including about half of the time in prayer. However, since I am busier now, with good priority and organization, I am still able to have adequate and quality devotional times each day. I discussed organization of home in the chapter on the spiritual discipline of simplicity. Additionally, it is also important to keep the home clean by regularly cleaning it on a weekly basis. An organized and clean home will make daily life much more manageable and enjoyable. It will also save you time, if things at your home are easily accessible. You and your family will also have better health and fewer illnesses as a result. Having a custodial worker roommate during seminary, and staying at a Korean family’s home for a month were instrumental in my becoming good at cleaning. In addition to learning from the internet, having people who are organized in my life as roommates also helped me to become more organized. Such an organized and clean home environment will prevent depression for you. Section III Biochemical Aspect of Depression In the present age, a lot of people are couch potatoes. Together with the immoral and violent content of the media, the resulting bad health of the person is cause for depression. Instead, it is important to take care of health through nutrition and exercise, sleep, and medicine. This is what God created us to do. Through creation of animals and plants, He gave us plentiful food. Exercise can be part of the normal daily life, as we move about and take care of the work that He gives us to do. If we do not eat, at times when we fast and pray, then we need minimal exercise. Although exercise can improve health tremendously and take away depression, still spiritual discipline is more important than exercise (1 Timothy 4:8). Sleep is another part of creation that God intended for us. He rested on the seventh day of creation. God wants us to rest. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says that rest is better than striving after wind. Sleep is important. It restores us, and takes away worries and troubles of the day. In fact, sleep is critical for brain development in the infant. The dreams that we have are for a purpose, that we reflect on our day, and our neurons will grow to make healthy connections. Lack of sleep exacerbates depression, and triggers the mania of bipolar. Thirdly, God also created medicine to help us to be healed from illnesses. Even Jesus used such tools in healing (John 9:6-7). If you need the medicine, then you should take it. However, if you are able to overcome depression by the other tools, then you do not need to take the medicine, because medicine has side effects and can be addictive. It is important to note that some medications such as antihypertensives also cause depression, so if that is the case, if possible you may try to find another one with different side effects or try to work with the tools to overcome depression as well. Finally, although depression appears to run in families, there is no evidence for a “depression” gene yet. This may be comforting to us, that we do not have to be depressed, and can try to overcome it with the resources available to us. We may hear the voice of God in the process. Chapter 16 Nutrition and Exercise It is important to get a balanced diet. You can follow the food pyramid to get enough nutrition from each food group. Vegetables, grains, and dairy are all keys to a balanced diet. However, it is still important to get enough calories in your diet as well, and you may need some fruits and meat, as well as a little fat. However, use moderation in fruits and meat, as well as fat, in order to keep sugar and fat intake low, preventing illnesses such as Diabetes and stroke. Many vitamins and minerals are essential to prevent depression. That is why having a balanced diet helps to prevent depression. Vitamins and minerals important to the prevention of depression include Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, and E, Folate, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, and Potassium. Particularly, eating a diet rich in Vitamins B12, C, and D, Magnesium, Iron, and Potassium will help prevent depression. At times you may find it helpful to take a multi-vitamin supplement if you are unable to obtain all of the vitamins and minerals from diet alone. Some herbal supplements are also helpful in the prevention of depression. They include Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lecithin, Lemon Balm, and Inositol. These can be safely taken in preventing or treating depression. Finally you should avoid stimulants and addictive foods including caffeine, chocolate, tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Exercise is another important activity to prevent depression. If you are able to exercise regularly on a daily basis for 30 minutes, you will maintain good health. In fact, studies have shown that having 45-minutes of exercise at least three times a week prevents depression. Exercise raises the endorphins level in your body, thereby giving you a sense of satisfaction or well-feeling, countering depression, as well as promoting overall general health. Chapter 17 Sleep Patterns Too much or too little sleep will make you prone to depression. It is important to get around seven to eight hours of sleep each night for adequate rest. When you do not get the adequate amount, you will lose focus during the day and not be able to think as clearly. Small things may agitate you more easily, making you more prone to mental disturbances such as depression. Many things can help you to relax and sleep well at night. Make the home environment quiet, clean, and conducive for adequate sleep. Exercising during the day, at least several hours before sleep is one way to make you tired at night and sleep well. Reading is another helpful aid. Reading the Bible is particularly helpful to take away worries and distractions. Praying right before you go to sleep helps you to lift up anything on your heart to the Lord and takes away your worries, and is another great sleep aid. Writing also helps similarly to reading. Watching ten minutes of TV, which is relaxing and inoffensive can be extremely helpful. However, if you watch TV for a lengthened period of time, it will make you tense, or it may become addictive, causing inadequate sleep and possibly psychological disorders. Additionally, reading or watching anything too intense will make you unable to fall asleep. I noticed that in my bedtime reading to my son, if I acted out the story with big hand-waving motions, then he does not have good sleep at night. If you cannot fall asleep, after about 10 minutes, you should get up and try a relaxation activity until you become drowsy again. Occasionally you may find a medicine to be helpful. Sometimes I have pain due to an illness, and a pain medicine like Ibuprofen take away the pain and gives me sound sleep. If I do not have uncontrollable pain, I only take it for a few days, and stop, so that I am not addicted to it. If you do not get an adequate amount of sleep at night, a short 15 minute nap during the day is helpful, and will make you refreshed. In general you do not need naps as an adult during the day if you are able to get an adequate amount of sleep at night, and your night sleep will be better if you do not nap during the day. Additionally, the practice of night prayer vigils is helpful (Luke 6:12). Although it will make you tired the next day, but you will be less dependent on sleep, and more dependent on God. I do not recommend more than one vigil a week, although I have gone to a few night prayer vigils in a row at a Christian conference. After the conference when I got home, I went to sleep for 16 hours straight. Children should also get adequate sleep according to their age group. For infants and children, sleep aids such as music, milk and cereal before brushing teeth, swing, holding baby, security blanket, and so forth are all soothing and helpful. Adequate sleep during childhood is important to prevent depression later on in life. An example of a resource to consult for baby sleep training is Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Chapter 18 Medications I took the anti-psychotic, Abilify, several years ago for one month. Also many years ago when I first met with a psychiatrist, the doctor gave me Prozac, which I took for three days. I found that Abilify made me really drowsy, however it worked pretty well to clear my mind from any thoughts. Prozac also made me feel clear-minded as well. With Abilify, I felt like it knocked out all of my thinking process, which is what causes my ruminations in the first place. The reason that I decided to stop taking it after one month was that I did not want to become dependent upon it, as well as that it knocked me out so much, that I was too exhausted to function well. I felt much better without it physically, so I decided to stop taking it. However, mentally it was pretty helpful for me. What helped me afterwards was that I knew from the experience what it actually feels like not having any ruminations. Prior to the one month of Abilify, I always ruminated, and I felt like my mind raced all over the place all the time. Having taken Abilify, I realized that it is possible for me to not ruminate, since I felt how it was when I was on the drug. After I stopped taking Abilify, I was able to practice not ruminating. Previously it was very difficult for me to do so, because I did not have a tangible goal to work towards. I never knew what it feels like to not ruminate, and be “a normal person.” In the back of my mind, I always thought that everybody ruminated, even though people told me that they do not. But most people are private about what they think about usually. I just did not understand what they thought about if they did not ruminate. It was one of Satan’s lies to me, to trap me in ruminations all these years of my life. Now I know what being “normal” is, and I tried to not ruminate anymore whenever I can. If you are good at reading, you can probably figure out what normal is from books and websites. On occasions I still ruminated, which helps me to think through issues and come up with answers. For instance, I may be thinking about the next thing I will write for this book, and thinking through for a while, I come up with something positive. You can also think of scientists trying to solve a problem. Suddenly while they are eating their dinner, they thought of something, and they are on their way to complete their project. The critical key is self-control. Make sure that the ruminations or your thought process is controlled. Do not dwell on worries, and try not to think about anything most of the time, except the presence of God and His Word (Psalm 1:2). If you are reading or listening to people talk, you must put aside other thoughts and focus on reading or listening instead. To help you when you are reading or studying, or working on projects, you can write down a list of important things that come up in your mind and work with them later. Many years ago, even when I wrote down things that came up in my mind, I still could not concentrate on reading. I had issues such as obsessive guilt or other types of ruminations. For instance, after I was baptized, suddenly I became particularly guilty over any small thing that happens during the day. I could dwell for many hours over a sentence that I said or did not say, such as if I did not say “Hi” to people that I should have. I could not control my thoughts at all. Many years of Christian personal growth through the spiritual disciplines and steps that I described in this book really helped me to overcome. These steps also help me when I experience occasional times of feeling overwhelmed. It could be that I did not get enough sleep. It could also be that I became over-excited about something. You will figure out the self-control process with time, and as you practice the spiritual disciplines and other strategies as discussed. If you are suffering deeply from depression or other mental illnesses and they are disabling your life, you might find that taking medication for a set amount of time would be helpful. Be sure to only take it for a short time, so that you do not become dependent upon it. You may find that they will help you discover for yourself what “normal” is. If you do not like the medication that you are taking, then you might ask your doctor for another one with different side effects. Although all of the depression medications have side effects, there are newer drugs with fewer. You do not have to take medications if none seem to be suitable for you. If you are able to find the strength to go through a detailed life confession and repentance experience, or better yet a lengthened fasting and prayer, such as forty days, then you will be able to get the healing that you will need to overcome depression. After these two major healing experiences, talk therapy will also help. I had an acquaintance who had bipolar disorder in seminary. He was a solid Christian who wanted to serve God in missions. Because he did not like his medications – he felt that they blunted his intellect – he decided to not take them. However, he had a bipolar episode and left his hospital. His body was found in a coal train hundreds of miles away a couple of days later. I think if he had known about the different medications that were available for him, he could have tried different ones with different side effects. Many options could have been helpful for him, but I do not think that he knew about them. More importantly, mental illness was probably a taboo for him since he was a solid Christian who wanted to serve God, and some of the Biblical strategies that I mentioned may not be understood from his conservative background, so he could not get the help that he needed. Most importantly, it is comforting to know that he is with the Lord, and God had a purpose in his life and death, and whatever had happened, God had everything under control. Conclusion Many people shy away from a thorough confession and repentance experience, as well as a lengthened fasting and prayer. They may not feel that these are Biblical strategies. However, if you are able to look at life from a three-tier worldview of God – angels and demons – physical universe, instead of the two-dimensional God – physical universe most common in the western world, then you will be able to understand that these are Biblical strategies that we should aspire towards and take control of in these end times. In fact, it is important to seek out the spiritual disciplines first and foremost in the strategies to overcome depression. The Bible is clear that being Spirit-filled is much better than alcohol (Ephesians 5:18). This points to the Biblical teaching of medications that although they are helpful (1 Timothy 5:23), but they can only be temporal. To be truly joyful in this suffering world, we must strive to be Spirit-controlled. In summary, the strategies to use to overcome depression are most importantly for the long-term confession and repentance, and fasting and prayer. Then as prevention, you should work on overall spiritual health, socio-emotional health, and physical health as outlined in the book in a rotating fashion. For immediate episodes, you can choose any of the tools that are most relevant to the situation, and particularly praying the “Blood of Jesus Christ” is effective, as well as reading and meditating on a Psalm or a memorized Scripture, singing hymns (see Appendices B and C), journaling or talking to someone, and taking care of your health. Therapy and medications can also be very helpful aids to help you overcome depression on a temporary basis. Appendix A List of sins for self-examination and confession from birth to adulthood 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. It is important to go through and renounce occult, cults, and other religions that you may have been involved in first. You can find a list of these in The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson. Additionally, I also recommend going through a list of sins for self-examination and confession once for deliverance, and possibly on a yearly basis as a spiritual self-check. Here is a list of sins you can use: Idolater and other Slander Lust religions Not resting and Divorce wrongly Occult and cults meek Homosexual Non-believer Busybody practice Not going to Worrier Trans-sexual church Unrighteous Dressing Cursing Ungracious indecently and Swearing Not resisting the immodestly Corrupt and foolish devil Steal conversation Wickedness in Swindle Reviler heart and thoughts Not tithing Sowing discord Sexually immoral Not giving Gossip Adultery Greedy Provoking children Love of the world Not honoring Complaining Envy parents Unrighteous anger Covet Despising Murder Bribe authority Abortion Lie Disobedient Sloth Fraud Resisting God’s Enslaved by Gambling Word pleasures Gluttony Not disciplining Pride Drugs and instructing Boasting Drinking children in the Lord Selfishness Smoking 38 Appendix B Scripture to memorize and use for deliverance Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 6:14-17 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. Revelations 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. 39 Appendix C Praise songs to memorize and use for deliverance I need Jesus by George O. Webster I need Jesus, I need Jesus, I need Jesus every day; Jesus in the sunshine hour, Jesus when the storm-clouds lower; Every day along my way, Yes, I need Jesus. There is Power in the Blood author unknown There is power, power, wonder working power In the blood of the Lamb; There is power, power, wonder working power In the precious blood of the Lamb. Glory to the Lamb author unknown 荣耀归主名，荣耀归主名 主宝贝血将我罪洗净，荣耀归主名 Jesus, Jesus traditional Jesus, Jesus Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noon-time Jesus, Jesus Jesus when the sun goes down. Refrains of Hymns and other short spiritual praise songs are all helpful. 40 References Neil T. Anderson. The Bondage Breaker. Harvest House Publishers, 1990. Wes Burgess. The Depression Answerbook. Sourcebooks, 2009. Larry Burkett. Financial Parenting. Moody Publishers, 1999. Rose Goodman. Scripture Memory Book. World Missionary Press, 1984. Robert Kellemen. Personal Counseling and Discipleship. Capital Bible Seminary, 2003. Keith Kramlinger. MayoClinic on Depression. Mayo, 2001. David Ramsey. Financial Peace Revisited. Viking Penguin, 2003. Elmer Towns. Praying for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts. Regal Books, 1996. Rick Warren. The Purpose-Driven Church. Zondervan, 1995. Marc Weissbluth. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books, 2003. http://www.scribd.com/doc/14087682/667-Sins-in-the-Holy-Bible http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/happiness-6-myths-and-truths?ec d=wnl_prg_070812 41 About the Author Wenjue Hu is a married and separated mother of a one-year old son. She makes her home in Houston, TX, by herself with her son. She is educated with certifications in teaching (CUNY Queens) and linguistics (GIAL), Masters in Biochemistry (Johns Hopkins) and Biblical Studies (Capital Bible Seminary), and one year short of obtaining both MD and PhD twelve years ago at medical school due to depression (She dropped out, and was subsequently dismissed). Thereafter she completed her seminary studies and certifications, and has worked in medicine, education and missions. This book starts off her ministry Hope Learning Center (www.hopelearn.org).
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