Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Email 11 - 24 April 2007 : My further reflections of God’s love and faithfulness

A friend wrote to me to express his concerns over what my Doctor said in my email 10. The following is my reply to this dear brother as I reflect on God’s goodness despite the dark prognosis. He is sovereign and we can trust in Him Who loves us and gave His life for us.

Dear friend,

Thank you very much for your kind email and encouragement. Thanks again for praying.

Truly the Word of God brings much comfort to my soul daily. His love, sovereignty and faithfulness is my source of strength daily. I may not always understand the paths He in His love and sovereignty is allowing me to go through, but I have no doubt at all of His love for me and those that belongs to Him. He Who has laid down His life for us will keep us for eternity. Whatever difficulties or afflictions we go through in this life is only temporary or “light” in comparison to the glory that shall be worked out.

Personally, I think that my Doctor is being very honest to warn me of the extremes of my illness. Being bipolar, means I am under the danger of falling into 2 extremes at worst. I sincerely pray and trust that God in His mercies and providence, may spare me from such extremes. But I also know the reality of it through my own experience and that of others. I am still horrified when I recall how during that severe relapse of major depression end of last year, I was so irrational and not able to think clearly to the point that I actually attempted to do away with my own life on 11 Dec 2006. Now that I am better and my mind clearer, I will never never do it and pray I will not be tempted to do it even in future relapses, as I recognize it as a “sin of the broken minds”. It dishonour God when one takes his own life even when it is through a mental illness. It will sadden and stumble other believers and non-believers. I pray that God, by His mercies and grace, will not allow me to dishonour Him through my illness. I would rather He takes me home to be with Him than to dishonour Him in anyway.

We are comforted and exhorted in the Word of God to His other beloved people:

“…..exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Act 14:22

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:16-19

Although these passages may be more directly apply to a situation of the persecution of the believers by those who are against God, I think we can also apply it when God sends dark providences into our life. We can take comfort that other believers, by God’s sovereign will and purposes, have through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. We have not suffered to the point of shedding blood like them. Some of them were sawn asunder and thrown into the lions den. So our sufferings in these manners are still considered light to some extend. I think the only exception is the lost of the joy of the Lord or His countenance for a sufferer in an episode of severe clinical depression as it is like living in hell daily.

Proverbs 18:14 says “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” Steve Bloem when commenting on this verse, on pages 204 and 205 of his book “Broken Minds”, Chapter 17 The Biblical Evidence, said the following:

“The Severity of a Sick Spirit

One of the clearest statements recognizing the problem of depression is hidden in the midst of the Proverbs of Solomon. Proverbs 18:14 observes,

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity;
but a wounded spirit who can bear?

The writer is saying that the human spirit given by God is resilient and helps people get through all kinds of sicknesses. But when the spirit itself is wounded or broken, there is much to endure and no inner resource to help endure it.

Spirit is used here of the person’s inner being. If your spirit is broken, then you cannot endure; you cannot sustain the sickness. Proverbs doesn’t offer a solution for this dilemma, nor does it go into reasons why the spirit may be wounded. It simply makes a statement: When the healing mechanism is what needs to be healed, that’s a serious problem. A broken spirit, whatever the cause, puts a person in the category of not being able to go on with life in a normal fashion.”

Yet despite the extreme pain and suffering of a person with severe depression, “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deu 33:27). We are preserved solely by God’s grace.

My Doctor’s frankness is helping me to cast myself more wholely upon God. It is true that ultimately it is our Lord Who heals us of all our diseases. We use whatever means that is available to us within our reach and continue to place our hope and trust in God Alone Who loves us and gave His Son for us. Sometimes He does not send healing immediately for His own sovereign purpose. When Mary and Martha knew that Lazarus had died, they send for the Lord as they knew He could raise the dead. But the Lord delayed for another 2 days before He went to them. By then they thought it was pointless as the body would have rotted. But the Lord Who loves them dearly, wept at Lazarus’ tomb, signifying that His delay was not a display of a lack of love. It was recorded for our comfort and edification that He loves Lazarus. He then did what no mortal human being can do - He raised Lazarus who had been dead for 2 days back to life. Such miracle greatly glorified His name and clearly demonstrated that He Alone is the living and true God Who has the power to raise the dead. In all our prayers for our suffering loved ones, we must continue to humbly submit to the sovereign will of our loving Heavenly Father.

I am attaching a very encouraging sermon by Spurgeon entitled “Beloved and Yet Afflicted”. You probably have read about this. It has brought great encouragement to me in my own struggles with persistent poor health over the years. It is comforting to know that we can be beloved of the Lord and yet afflicted. But the afflictions are consistent with His love. He in His faithfulness has afflicted us.

Spurgeon said about how the sisters much have thought upon Lazarus’ death: “We love him, and would make him well directly: thou lovest him, and yet he remains sick. Thou canst heal him with a word, why then is thy loved one sick”? Have not you, dear sick friend, often wondered how your painful and lingering disease could be consistent with your being chosen, and called, and made one with Christ? I dare say this has greatly perplexed you……

Spurgeon said about Lazarus’s death :

‘Lazarus was permitted to be sick and to die, that by his death and resurrection the apostles might be benefitted. His sickness was ‘for the glory of God.’ Throughout these nineteen hundred years which have succeeded Lazarus’ sickness all believers have been getting good out of it, and this afternoon we are all the better because he languished and died. The church and the world may derive immense advantage through the sorrows of good men: the ungodly may be awakened, the doubting may be convinced, the ungodly may be converted, the mourner may be comforted through our testimony in sickness; and if so, would we wish to avoid pain and weakness? Are we not quite willing that our friends should say of us also “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick”?’

My Doctor’s frankness is also helping me to number my days that I may apply it with wisdom. I realize that I cannot take each day for granted or anyone for granted. I am thankful to God for using the Christian lady at Counselling & Care Centre to help me to identify some possible causes of my illnesses, one of which are some faulty thinking patterns which I am not conscious of. Through her help, I am beginning to learn to cherish the people around me, the time and strength God gives me each day to serve Him, God’s mysterious outworking in all the phases of my life whether ups or downs. I am beginning to be able to appreciate Romans 8:28 in a more intimate way. I could sensibly know that God is indeed working all things for His glory and my good though I may not fully understand the actual reason for these difficulties. I can see some goods coming out of it and I praise Him for them.

I am learning the importance of providing for my loved ones and to do so responsibly. I hope to get a will properly done up so that in the event that my mother survived me, she may be well taken care of at least financially. I also have lots of books which are very precious to me. I will sell my shirt to buy a book :-) I found much counsels and encouragements through the writing of various authors during times when I went through severe relapses of major depression and not able to tell anyone or seek other help as I was myself very confused and perplexed by what I was going through. I hope to properly will these previous books to our church library, God willing, for the benefits of other brethren and their children when I am no longer around.

I am forgetful person and tend to takes things quite lightly at time. I am sometimes easily complacent and fail to be good steward of God’s gifts and resources. Like the man with one talent, I sometimes choose to bury that one talent and gave some excuses for doing so. I have not served the Lord as I ought to. I pray that the reminder now of the possibility that one day I can lost all senses or my illness may terminate suddenly, and then I will not be able to seek or serve the Lord anymore, will enable me to be more earnest in seeking and serving our Lord Who loves us so dearly and to Whom we owe all worship and service.

So what my Doctor shared with me is not all so negative after all. I think we need to remind ourselves that we all are living as dying man daily. None of us can say for a certainty that we will live to see tomorrow. Maybe tonight the Lord will summon us into His presence. What a blessed prospect that will be! But can we do so without regretting that we have not sought and serve the Lord as we ought to. It is true that we can never do enough of these things, but yet we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Our inability to do as much as we ought to, is not an excuse for us not to do our best nevertheless because God can use weak vessels like us for His glory. He is the potter, we are the clay. All glory be to Him for the work of grace in our souls and the way He can use us for His glory.

Sorry for this long email. I am not defending my Doctor. Actually, he likes to joke. Hmm… I am not sure now whether these are part of his joke :-) But I think even if he meant them as a joke, there are some level of truth and seriousness there. I must not take my recovery for granted. I need to be vigilant in learning to manage my illness using various means, and depending on God’s grace to use them for my preservation and recovery. I have had so many close brush with death and yet God preserved me. The severe asthmatic attack in end Dec 2001 could have led to my sudden death according to my asthma doctor but I was wonderfully preserved. In end 2005, when our dear brother Pastor Cheah Fook Meng was suddenly taken home through an episode of dengue fever, I was wonderfully preserved in my own experience with Dengue Haemorraghic Fever. I never in my wildest imagination that I will bedown with DHF to the point of almost perish as I didn’t even know that I have had Dengue before and that this time it is Dengue again and therefore has turned into DHF. The Doctors told me that my readings were so bad when I was admitted to hospital that I almost went into the fatal Dengue Shock Syndrome. In fact during my hospitalisation, my platelet dropped so low to the point that I thought the Lord was really calling me home at last. I was then undergoing a relapse of severe depression and had been praying for many months that the Lord will take me home. So I really thought that at last the Lord is hearing my call and taking me home through this sudden DHF. But God in His sovereignty chose to preserve my life. My platelet went up and I was restored. Then there is the severe relapse of major depression end of last year in which my life could have terminated by the suicide attempted on 11 Dec 2006. Yet God once again preserved my life and led me to seek help by ways of medication, counselling, exercise, supplement, building support networks, prayers and His Words. Surely our Lord will continue to preserve me for as long as He wants me to serve Him here.

The reason why I am developing my website to share with others is so that many can benefit from my experiences. I hope especially that fellow sufferers of this perplexing illness will recognize that it is a medical illness that can be treated. There are various causes or triggering factors that we need to learn to recognize and manage them better so that we can either prevent or shorten relapse. I hope too that the website sharings will enable others who have no such experience to understand a little of the extreme pain and sufferings those are afflicted felt and be enabled to some degree, weep with those who weep, and pray for them if there is nothing else they can do. Often a sufferer in a severe relapse is not able to pray for himself for he mistakenly felt God is so far away and God has forsaken him. Scripture verses instead of comforting him only bring further self-condemnation. Read John Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding” and you will be amazed at the amount of sufferings he went through even though his is more of a spiritual depression. Depression often affects a person physically, mentally and spiritually. My own cousin sister, a professing Christian, committed suicide 4 years ago during a relapse of severe mental illness. She refused to take her medication and her families too discourage medication as they fear of the side effects of medications and ECT. But she was so ill and irrational that her life finally ended in tragic. I must not take things for granted. I know I must continue to pray and seek the Lord’s help to learn to manage my illness through using various means. But ultimately my dependence is on God, as only God in His mercies can deliver the sufferers by application of His Spirit and various means. If He doesn’t deliver us, He is still loving and kind, as He will then give us grace sufficient to bear with the afflictions and He will continue to work it for His glory and our good. This is our greatest comfort in all the changing scenes of life. May He enables us to live in this comfort and assurance.

Thanks for taking time to read this very long long email. Thanks again for all your prayers and support. May we live each day for God’s glory and the extension of His Kingdom.

Kept by God’s grace,

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