How to Overcome and Prevent Depression Wenjue Hu Hope Learning Center

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
To my precious son Aiden and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Here is a list of sins you can use:
Idolater and other
Not resting and
Divorce wrongly
Occult and cults
Not going to
indecently and
Not resisting the
Corrupt and foolish
Wickedness in
heart and thoughts
Not tithing
Sowing discord
Sexually immoral
Not giving
Provoking children
Love of the world
Not honoring
Unrighteous anger
Resisting God’s
Enslaved by
Not disciplining
and instructing
children in the Lord
Appendix B Scripture to memorize and use for deliverance
Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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