Growing up, I seemed this bubbly, albeit, times, hyperactive little girl who got decent grades at school. I seemed to have it all—two parents who loved me, a cute little brother, and stability.
What they didn’t know was that inside I was being tormented by thoughts about never being “good enough” to the outside world. Unfortunately, many of them confirmed my fears. Most of my peers didn’t want to know me on a level deeper than “acquaintance”. I was bullied by several of them for any quirks that they saw in me. There also were some racial and cultural prejudices that I had to endure.
I remember at the tender age of ten when the word “suicide” first entered the recesses of my mind. The demons in my mind deceived me into thinking this was a way out of all the pain I held inside for so long, laughing that they were going to somehow get me to ruin myself.
However, God in His sovereignty didn’t let that happen. I am still here, more than twenty five years later.
Though God saved my life through Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary seven years after I first battled depression and that ugly word crossed my mind, it wasn’t until about seven years ago today that God revealed to me that I had indeed another weapon in my arsenal to defeat the demons in my head that had harassed me for so long.
However, I was terrified to be vulnerable (i.e…open up) to others about my struggles. I feared rejection, ridicule and condemnation, which I believed would kill me emotionally and spiritually, if not, physically as well. In fact, in high school, I was voted “Most Paranoid” because I trusted so few people.
But through the Spirit’s promptings, I obeyed Him, and began to share my story and my struggles to others—first just to close friends, then more publicly in my blog.
The rejection and ridicule I feared receiving was few and far between. Most people instead either related to me about their own similar struggles with depression or said that they would use my story to help their loved ones who were struggling similarly.
The more I opened up about my struggles, the more I saw people around me, both online and offline, the more I realized that my story needed to be told. God, in His sovereignty, had a reason for allowing me to go through these trials. He needed to use my story to give people His hope and love that He gave me so many years ago, when He first came into my life and saved me. God saved me from more than hell—He saved me from giving up on myself and those around me that needed to hear my story, as much as I needed to hear theirs.
A recent study by Cigna found that about half, or one out of every two Americans, feels lonely. (1). In the age where everyone and everything seem more closely connected than ever, especially by the Internet and social media, this statistic is particularly alarming. Moreover, a study by the CDC, found that suicide rates are also increasing by as much as 30% over the past decade (2). In fact, during junior high through my sophomore year in high school, when I felt the loneliness, I often had suicidal ideations. Thankfully, God, in His mercy and sovereignty didn’t allow me to go through with that option.
We were all created for community. Even when Adam was
surrounded with animals, God acknowledged his need to be surrounded by at least
one other person when God said in Genesis 1:18 (KJV), “It is not good that the
man should be alone.” So, after that God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Even
Jesus, in order to fulfill the purpose which the Father had for Him, had to be
surrounded by people, at least some of the time. Believers in Christ or not, we are all
created to be with at least one other person. This doesn’t have to be in the
context of a romantic or marital relationship, but we do need some kind
of relationship with another to truly be content with our lives.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really feel connected with
my community at school and I rarely attended church. As I consequence, I
struggled on and off with loneliness throughout most of my childhood. Many people, especially the younger
generation, sadly feel the same way I did when I was growing up.
Though we are, in some ways, more connected to each other
than ever, through phenomena like globalization and the Internet, we can also
be more isolated. While we may have more
virtual connections, our face-to-face connections as a society have
suffered. Because many people may see
that their face-to-face connections are suffering, instead of confronting this
problem head on, they may be tempted to retreat into virtual reality. For instance, in my personal life, I found
that when I am stressed and/or feel lonely, I tend to isolate myself more.
One of the things that God has taught me through all that,
is not to isolate. For instance, about two weeks ago, I was so depressed I
couldn’t get out of bed to go to church!
However, later I decided I should try to go the evening Sunday school
class at church, so maybe I’d feel better.
Not only did I feel better, but some of my friends were able to help me
through what had been causing me to feel depressed in the first place! Also, when we are part of a community, there
is place for both accountability and vulnerability. (Yes, there are toxic
communities where people will not feel safe to be vulnerable or accountable. In
that case, I would find another, more genuine community, and not give up until
I found the right one.) . In a community, we can learn from one another, be
accountable, and can encourage one another. That is why, in Hebrews 11: 25,
Christians are encouraged not to forsake the assembly of believers (i.e…Don’t
neglect your local church community).
Another thing that God has been teaching me about combating
loneliness is the connection between being lonely and the temptation to forge
idols. I know several people who have
turned to idols, whether it be smoking, workaholism, alcoholism, gambling, or a
number of other life-dominating vices, because they sensed a void, or
loneliness, in their lives. One of my
pastors said that the reason that many people turn to idols because they have a
mistrust of some aspect of the character of God.
So, God has been teaching me, that In order to combat true
loneliness, I need to forsake any idols that I have used as a “filling in” for
any of my perceived feelings of loneliness.
One thing that I have realized combats both the loneliness and idolatry
is basking in God’s presence and learning about and believing His character. In my class that I attend Thursday nights at
church, when I learned about God’s steadfast love and that He would never leave
or forsake me, through Scripture, I found that I became more joyful and more
aware of His presence in my life. It goes without saying, that I no longer felt
stressed or lonely that day, in dealing with life. Also, I was surrounded by a
community of believers that were able to help and/or teach me to overcome some
of my temptations to idolatry, so I would be less likely to fall into that trap
God has also been teaching me that some people are lonely
because they feel afraid to forge connections with others, even though they may
crave it. This may be due to a number of
reasons, but one of the major reasons I found in what I have observed with
people around me, is that people don’t want to forge connections because they
are afraid of getting emotionally wounded by another person again. They have been wounded, manipulated, and/or
betrayed by so many people in their lives; they would rather risk loneliness
than be abused again. I don’t blame them for this reaction, but ultimately it
will ruin them as well. I used to be one
of these people who was afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with others,
and thus, I was constantly depressed and lonely. However, I found that when I
became vulnerable and was able to be myself that I not only became less lonely,
but I also became more confident of who I was and where I was going in
life. So, how was I able to be more
“real” and “vulnerable” with others?
First of all, I surrounded myself with people that really had my best
interests in mind and were supportive and caring, even in my darkest
times. I also strived to forgive those
who had hurt me somehow. For instance, I forgave several managers at work who I
had bitterness and anger against for a long time. Since a lot of people
respected them, I sometimes felt alone.
However, when I let go of my bitterness and start to consciously think
good things about them, not only did I not feel alone anymore, my relationships
with these managers also started to improve dramatically! Also, in order to not feel lonely for a
prolonged period of time, we must persevere in forging relationships with
others, even though it may be difficult at times. People may irritate us, be
rude to us, or treat us unkindly, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on
relationships completely. Also, God may
want us to learn something, even if it is how not to be, from these rude or irritating people.
We were not created to be alone. That is why children and
adults who are isolated from others for a long period of time, may have
irrevocable damage and trauma from that experience. However, when we experience
true unity among one another, we can find love, joy, fulfillment, and community
in our lives that gives us purpose and hope for this hurting, broken world.
EDIT: Many people in my shoes would be unhappy about having to work tomorrow (Thanksgiving Day) in the U.S, but I’m thankful that I have a job and that they will serve a meal where I work. I am so blessed! According to a recent survey, by the Conference Board, only 46% of those surveyed in the U.S were “satisfied” with their jobs. I hear people complaining about their work every day at my job, and in other companies as well. However, for me, though there have been some days where the stress seemed overwhelming, I can say with confidence that I am grateful for my job.
One of the main reasons why I’m thankful for my job is because of how God allowed me to get this job. Before I got employed at my current job, I had an interview at a bookstore about twenty five minutes from my home. I really wanted this job, because I thought it would be my “dream job” and that I would thoroughly enjoy it. However, the interview didn’t go as well as I planned, and I quickly realized that I would not get the job and was not adequately qualified for the job. I was despondent and disappointed, but luckily I did not quit trying.
One wintry day in February, I just happened to stop by my current place of employment to get a few items, and God’s Spirit happened to impress on me that I should check the status of my resume since I hadn’t heard anything back for a couple of weeks. Long story short, I got an interviewed scheduled for a few hours later. Even though, I was super nervous during the interview and wasn’t sure I would be accepted for employment, I got a job offer not even an hour after the interview! The next day, I accepted, and the rest is history.
Another reason why I’m thankful for my job is because of all the things I learned that I can apply to other places. The first day I worked there, I knew next to nothing about working at my current company and was unable to help customers as well as I can now. I did not even know how to operate a cash register, which is essential in retail. However, my now-former manager Elizabeth* allowed me to train on the register for at least 15 minutes every week, even though many people discouraged me from doing it because they thought it would be too stressful or anxiety-producing for me. Because Elizabeth continued believing in me and refused to listen to the negative voices about me that surrounded her, I was officially a trained back-up cashier about a year ago today. Someone told me that the CSMs (the Customer service managers that are responsible over managing the cashiers) would probably never call me up to ring. However, just two days ago, I was called up to ring, and the day before that I was cashiering for one and a half hours, which is a long time for a back-up who also had to straighten up two departments and do returns afterwards!
I also learned how to relate to different types of people. Because of the diverse crowd that shop at our store, and the associates that are employed there, through different experiences that I have been through, I am constantly learning how to relate to different types of people. Even if I fail at an encounter, I do better next time, and thus God is using my relational experiences with all these people, both good and bad, to help strengthen my character and to help me see something about Himself. For instance, I had a difficult time with a fellow associate, but through a series of circumstances, I learned how to forgive them and realized that I was sent by God to be a light to them and to be an encouragement to them, and not have them blaspheme God’s name because of my un-Christ like actions.
Even though I am not considered wealthy, by societal standards here in the U.S, I am grateful for my job because it provides income and benefits. I am also grateful for the meals that my store provides the employees each year on Thanksgiving because it shows that they appreciate us working that day. I also am grateful that I am able to be full-time at my job, which means more hours and benefits.
Even though there may be many reasons why I could be unhappy at my job, I am happy because God has given me everything I need at my job and in life. When I make God and doing His work my primary focus, I find that I am happier and that I am able to have purpose in my work that goes beyond just getting a paycheck. That is where I can find true joy and gratitude in my work.
All my life, I had wanted to be happy and be
loved. According to Pastor Mark Jobe, it’s a desire of 95% of people you may
meet randomly on the street. I even remember reading an article ( I don’t
remember which one.) that quoted A.J McLean of the Backstreet Boys saying, “
What do people want? They wanna be happy!”
However, the longer I have lived, the more I have realized that the
pursuit of happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found that for many
people that their pursuit of happiness often turns into self- indulgent
hedonism that can quickly spiral out of control if one isn’t careful. But being
happy isn’t a bad thing. Moreover, if these things are true in your life, you
may be well on the way to true and
In order to be truly happy, we must live with
an other- centered focus. If we live with a self-centered focus, we will most
likely sprout seeds of discontent in our lives because there will always be
some people and situations that won’t comply with our wishes! We will also miss
opportunities to truly make a positive difference in others’ lives because we
would be too busy thinking about ourselves. A self-centered focus always
demands more for itself, and thus is never satisfied with what one already has.
However, if we live to see that others are happy as well, we will be too busy
serving them to even think selfishly. Moreover, we may even see the fruits of
our service to others, and there is great satisfaction and joy in that. For
example, my former pastor served faithfully at my current church for over 40
years, and, as a result of the relational investments and services he made to
others, many people he mentored are either now in leadership positions in my
church or on the mission field. These people are likewise also actively serving
in their communities. Thus, we are able to make a great impact on the world and
the heavenly Kingdom as well.
Another thing we must practice in order to be truly happy is being grateful for all God has given us. I have observed and realized that people who constantly complain are one of the most miserable people on the planet because they only focus on what is wrong in their lives, completely ignoring the positives. Gratitude is why the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11, is able to say, “[I] have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (KJV) One way to be more grateful is not to compare yourself with people having “ more” of what you desire than yourself, but to compare yourself with those having less than you. This thinking has not only helped me be more grateful for what I have, but also be more compassionate to others in need.
In order to be truly happy in life, along with being grateful and other-centered, we must strive to try your best in life. One area we could do this in is our jobs. Most people I encounter approach their work and/ or careers as simply a means of earning a paycheck. But what if we approached our work as a way to serve others and make a great impact on changing our world for the better? What if we served God in our jobs wholeheartedly, instead of only doing the minimum required to “get by”?
Why should we give our best, not only at our jobs, but in all aspects of life? Not only because we will feel better about ourselves and reap the rewards of doing right, but because we will greatly please God and glorify Him. We will also reap much greater rewards if we know we have done our best we could in serving God with our whole lives than if we just did the minimum or accomplished something with minimal effort because we will be able to have a much greater impact and influence when we are passionate about living life positively the best we can.
True happiness, otherwise known as “joy,” had
eluded me for many years. I have struggled with depression on and off for more
than half my life. However, thanks to God, and to all my past and present
teachers of God’s pure and unadulterated Word, I have learned these secrets of
joy– having an other-centered focus, being grateful for all I have, and giving
God the best in my life, and serving Him with my whole heart. May you,
likewise, live in true happiness today by applying these secrets of joy to your
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am blessed that
God has provided me with two wonderful pastors, and one Pastor Emeritus who
have served and labored over my local church for many years. I have been in several different churches,
but my current church has been the best so far.
I have learned more in the past three years, than I have in the previous
sixteen years in the Lord. I owe all this to God and His sovereignty in placing
the people in my life today, especially the pastoral leadership of my church.
One of the major things my pastors taught is how to more
effectively relate to others. About
three years ago, I had a tumultuous work relationship with one of my managers
at the time. One day, things became so
bad between the manager and me, that I actually went into one of the services
upset and very bitter towards this person, even though I was not scheduled to
work that day and hadn’t even made contact with this person in a few days. So, I decided as a last-ditch effort to maybe
quell my intense emotions and be able to concentrate on the sermon that night,
that I would talk to Pastor John* about what was going on. (You can read the whole story here.) Pastor
John gave me a few poignant Bible Verses. I told Pastor John, “I tried to be
nice to him [meaning my manager], but I don’t think anything is happening. “ Then, Pastor John told me something I will
never forget: He said, “Patricia, you have to trust God’s timing. Just because your manager hasn’t responded
now, doesn’t mean God will not work in his heart later.” This not only convicted me to be more patient
with my manager, but also helped me to see that I hadn’t really been trying
that hard at all at being kind to him.
That night, I wrote an apology note to my manager, asking him to forgive
me of my bitterness towards him. The next day, I was able to see my manager as
a person in need of grace and love, rather than the monster that I crafted into
my mind for one and a half years. Thus, Pastor John was instrumental in helping
me reconcile with my manager, whom I’m pleased to say I’m on good terms with my
now-former manager and he’s happy where he is at now. Pastor John recently helped me to think
differently about my job, through one of the sermons he preached. Instead of
thinking of my job as a “necessary evil,” especially when I’m stressed, God spoke through my pastor, and they helped
me realize that I am at the job I’m in for a reason—to give hope to others
and to spread Christ’s love there. Yes,
my job gets very stressful at times, but as long as I’m doing what God (and
those He put over me at work) commanded me, God’s sovereign will and His
faithful love will cover me during those times.
Pastor Don* and Pastor Todd* also taught me how to more effectively
relate to others through how they are patient with others and willing to serve
wherever they are called.
Another thing that my pastors have taught me is how to be
more authentic, both in my relationship with God, and others. One of the things that I always appreciate
about people in general is their willingness to admit fault and to be
vulnerable, and not try to maintain this “perfect fake image” in front of
others. All my pastors model this to a
good degree, but I have especially appreciated this coming from Pastor Todd.
One time he admitted on the pulpit that he got pulled over for speeding!
Thankfully, because the police officer liked our church, Pastor Todd got off
with a warning. I found this
vulnerability and honest confession refreshing in an age where there are many
church leaders who will try to hide their sins and flaws; with the appearance
that they know “everything” and that they are “holier-than-thou.” There were
other times too that Pastor Todd was open about his personal struggles with sin
and temptation. This is refreshing to me because I feel that Pastor Todd’s
honesty makes him more relatable to someone like me, who also struggles with
sin and temptation on a daily basis. In other words, his vulnerability and
authenticity makes him more human and trustworthy!
One of the most important things that my pastors have taught
me is how to be more passionate about Jesus Christ. All of them have emphasized, over and over
again, God’s love and sovereignty over the whole world. I learned from Pastor John that God’s
sovereignty intervenes in our whole lives, down to the bosses we will have and
the parents we have. I learned from
Pastor John that if we loathe our bosses and constantly complain about them, we
also have a problem with God, because it is He who put them there in our midst,
possibly to teach us something or for God’s sovereign and good purposes in our
lives! This has taught me in order for
me to be more passionate about Jesus that I need to trust Him even in the
tougher circumstances of my life, and not to complain about the people He
decides to place in my life. I learned
from Pastor Todd that in order for me to be more passionate about Jesus, I need
to learn that Jesus loves me very much and He always has good in mind for me,
according to His purposes. I learned
from Pastor Todd’s teaching on the book, “God is More Than Enough,” that when I
become discontented with my circumstances, I need to check my heart to
eliminate any worldly and selfish desires on my part, especially the want for
something more than what Christ has already graciously provided me. Pastor Don, Pastor Todd, and Pastor John all
have taught me the importance of spreading the Good News and to show God ‘s
love to all those around us, even those we may consider our enemies.
Because of my pastors’ commitment to teaching exactly what
Jesus taught, and because they strive to live authentic and blameless lives,
they have helped strengthen and shape how my faith is today. Of course, none of
us are even close to perfect, but I will always appreciate the good that these
three men have done in our church and in my life.
The s-word. It carries more judgment, stigma, and
heartache than any other word in the English language. Yet it affects more people than we care to
realize or notice, but we dare not talk about it. According to the National Institute of Mental
Health in the U.S, in 2017, a whopping 9.8 million people have had serious
thoughts about wanting to commit suicide.
I can relate to those 9.8 million people. Having struggled with depression for over half a century, I have had those same thoughts of suicide. However, because of Jesus, He has pulled me through every one of those episodes and has never given up on me. Additionally, Jesus has provided me with a great support system that will listen to and help me through whenever I feel this way, without judgment or condemnation.
Unfortunately, not everyone struggling right now has an
adequate or a good support system. The good news is that, we can strive to be a
support to at least some of those around us who are struggling right now. The
good news is that if you are struggling right now, there are resources and
people who want to encourage you and give you the hope and encouragement I got
through Jesus and my support system as well.
I would also like to share some things that my support of family and
friends have collectively taught and reiterated to me over the years when I
feel like life is just too much:
You are a survivor!
Like me, you may have encountered people that have betrayed
and abused you. But, then, Jesus will
give you strength to survive them or He will take them out of your life. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel that your efforts to succeed in life
are never enough, and that you always fall short. Don’t worry. Jesus will provide the strength
you need to truly succeed—maybe not as the rest of the world sees “success,”
but more importantly, how He sees
success. Keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel sometimes that no one truly cares for
you, or really knows you. But, then,
Jesus brings people into your life that will prove you wrong. So, keep on fighting!
Like me, you may feel disconnected from society or that you
don’t belong anywhere. Then, Jesus will
provide His Church and/or those around you to remind you that you do impact
their live and that you do share a part of their heart. Keep on fighting!
Whatever you are going through and wherever you are in life, don’t give up! I
almost did, but I am glad that Jesus didn’t allow me to end it all, because I
never would have known the blessing of redemption and love!