New Topic Every Monday!
Topics: Introduction • Workaholism • Anger • Self-Esteem • Worry • Envy/Jealousy • Bitterness • Domestic Violence • Forgiveness • Depression • Grief/Loss • Discouragement • Decision Making and the Will Of God • Victory over Death • Perfectionism • Loneliness
- GudanSam is a man of fifty who has just lost his wife of twenty years. They had no children and did most things together throughout their marriage. Even though he and his wife had common friends, he now felt alienated from all of them. He has been overcome by loneliness.
- Gekhunliao has been married for some time. She thought that getting married would end her loneliness. But it did not. She is searching for a medication or method that would end her loneliness.
- Yigeren can't stand going to all her friends' weddings. These are not happy occasions for her. It has been five years since she graduated from university and she longs to be married. However, she spends most evenings alone in her tiny apartment.
Definitions & Thoughts
Loneliness is a human response to being alone. Not surprisingly, this happens because God created humans and set him/her into a web of relationships to meet their need. It's the negative feeling of isolation, disconnection from others and alienation.
This happens when a person feels there is no one with whom to share joys and disappointments. Sadness and loss of hope results. From birth, humans seek attachment and connection. As humans were made in the image of God, it is no surprise that humans were made to reflect the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, where relationships exists from eternity among themselves. It was therefore "not good" for Adam to be alone (Gen 2:18).
Intimacy in both the vertical relationship (with God) and horizontal relationship with fellow human beings) are required for human happiness. But due to the Fall and sinful nature of humans today, intimacy itself was tainted. Alienation, disconnect and loneliness crept into lives:
(1) The use of clothing by Adam and Eve typified separation;
(2) Adam blamed Eve (Gen 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent (Gen 3:13).
(3) Instead of being good steward of God's creation, there was alienation and resistance from those who Adam and Eve were tasked to tend to on God's behalf—the ground, thorns and thistles, agricultural barrenness.
Through Christ, people can discover the path to genuine intimacy again. Nevertheless, due to our sinful nature, intimacy is still difficult to achieve. Therefore people often still experience loneliness.
See you for day 2 as we journey together with our friends on this study this week.
The man who lives by himself and for himself is apt to be corrupted by the company he keeps. -- Charles Henry Parkhurst
The world's greatest tragedy is unwantedness; the world's greatest disease is loneliness. --Mother Teresa
Hell is loneliness to the extreme—separation from The Creator. But before death, we ask if the various types of loneliness have already strangled us.
(1) Situational Loneliness
This type is a response to physical or emotional separation, e.g. through death, divorce, moving residence or having a handicap induced inability to move around to socialise. Here, the previous intimate relationships are forever cut or hindered. This might be brief or prolonged. While sufferer might know that help and care are not far away, continuing with life entails being alone (e.g. due to job requirements or long hours at school etc). When the separation is drastic (e.g. due to death), this type of loneliness is tough to manage.
(2) Emotional Loneliness
So near yet so far. Emotional separation (as opposed to physical separation) can also lead to loneliness. There are many people around, e.g. after a crowded church service. But a person might see them as have little or no intimate connection. The loneliest people are often in very crowded areas, bringing greater despair. There is an anxious desire to connect, but you get only superficial responses at best. If coupled with physical loneliness, this is virtually unbearable.
(3) Chronic Loneliness
Chronic loneliness can result from a history of feeling unbelonged or misunderstood. You see the shortfall of social skills of others, the severity of which had caused you to give up hope of ever connecting with them again. Personal isolation and despair very often end in suicide, bouts of anger display and cutting off the world totally.
A catalogue of question to assess the degree:
1. Do you feel alone even when you are in a room full of people?
2. Does the loneliness ever go away?
3. When it does, what are you doing?
4. What would a typical day be like for you?
5. Have you prayed about and poured out your loneliness to God?
6. Do you feel that God understands your loneliness?
7. Do you blame yourself for your loneliness?
8. Do you have a friend you can share these feelings with?
9. Talk about another period in your life when you were lonely.
10. Do you remember what you did or what got you out of the loneliness the previous time?
11. Do you think you could change your loneliness in a similar way now?
12. Tell me about any of your outside involvements.
13. Tell me about your interests and hobbies.
Work the about out and see you all for Day 3: Wise Counsel & Steps to take.
The one you are helping needs to understand the source of loneliness. Perhaps his or her loneliness is based on a perception of a situation that might be changeable for the better. Perceptions can be changed once the cause of that loneliness is perceived. Is the person feeling lonely because of a mistaken perception of the situation? Can the situation be changed? If yes, think and act according to that possibility.
A person's loneliness may be a healthy part of the grief process as he or she deals with a loss. This is natural and can pass if the person does not let the loneliness cause complete isolation from others. It sounds like a paradox, but there may be times God requires a person to be alone to move away from loneliness. Loneliness can cause people to draw closer to God and to others. Reach out to God and others! God will bring people into our lives at various times. A person might not always have the same trusted friend to confide in. People will come and go. But God is always there.
1. Recognize the Feeling
Help the person to say out his or her feelings for a start. If that is awkward, have his or her thoughts penned down in a journal-as a way to determine the source of the loneliness. It need not be passive. He or she can take the active steps of making social and spiritual changes to move out of loneliness (for example, become more involved in the community; devote time to communion with God every day).
2. Seek God
Lonely times can draw one closer to God. God wants His children to be dependent on Him for everything. While social relationships are still lacking, for the time being, enjoy your relationship with God. He is the closest friend you will ever have. He will never leave and never disappoint you (see Heb. 13:5). Be positive and cherish the fact that God has a will for each day and each stage of life. Journey with God.
3. Get Involved
Join a church caregroup of fellowship. Sign up for a Bible study, community outreach, support group, sports team, or hobby club. Volunteer! Volunteering for some community agency is a great way to help others and at the same time engage in meaningful relationships. Do more than just attend church. Ask the leaders how you can contribute and build God's community, contribute to the mission. When at a social event, identify the person who looks loneliest and start there.
4. Be Confident
Loneliness will be overcome in time. Remember that no one is truly alone if he or she has God.
See you all for Day 4: Bible passages.
I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mothers children. (Psalm 69:8)
Loneliness is tough to handle because we might possibly feel alone even when surrounded by others. But David found that God was near, even when his siblings or kindred became his enemies, or were simply not around (especially when he was fugitive for years in the wilderness). With God's presence, he was in fact not alone at all.
Our own strength and courage fail at times, when others that were supposed to be with us and support us withdrew that support, or simply disappears. Take comfort in the knowledge that God is always with us. When we know Him, we are never alone.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
God reminds His people that in their loneliness and inadequacy they need not fear or be dismayed. Why? Because He is their God and because He is with them, holding them in His "righteous right hand". We suffer from bouts of loneliness at times, and the fearfulness follows. Then fear can disastrously draw the lonely person's attention away from God.
But feelings of loneliness can be helped. Lonely people can attend church (Heb 10:25), be a friend to someone else (Prov. 18:24), listen to Christian music, and pray for God to work in and through them to take away the lonely feelings. Take up a fun ministry in church.
The soul hardly ever realizes it, but whether he is a believer or not, his loneliness is really a homesickness for God. --Hubert Van Zeller
See you all for Day 5 for more Bible passages.
Verse 3: Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD. Jeremiah 20:1-2
The verse reveals the life of an intensely lonely man, even a prophet of God. On the scrolls of Jeremiah, we anger, resentment, and self-loathing jostle with praise and confidence. But the fact that he continued to communicate with God meant that he knew he wasn't completely alone. He did not give up on God.
His feelings are real. So is God's presence. He struggled greatly to make sense of what's going on with God's people, and God's promises. Nevertheless, still found comfort in having Someone to whom he could blah.
When we think that we are alone facing the greatest challenges of our lives, the Spirit of God within us will continue to shape us and draw us out to live for God. Let God do that.
Verse 4: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "1 will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
When people feel lonely, they feel "I don't belong", "no one cares", "this person doesn't care", "that person doesn't care", "I am unloved and unwanted". When believers feel lonely, they need to remember God's great promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". No matter how painful or difficult our situations are, no matter how alone we feel, God is there. We can look to Him for deliverance, commit the situation to His care, and take comfort in His presence. God is always with us.
We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves. --C. S. Lewis
Sample Closing Prayer: Your child has come today with a burden, Lord. He [She] is facing what You called "not good" from the very moment of creation-people should not be alone. He [She] knows he [she] has You, dear Lord, and I pray that during this lonely time, Your presence and friendship will be all the more real to him [her]. Then I pray that You will show him [her] places he [she] can serve, people he [she] can help, things he [she] can do to break out of this pattern ...
Victory over Death
How do you deal with sudden death which hits so harshly? An accident or a disease that you don’t see it coming. First of all, help the person who is hurt to start talking. We have to get the reality into our mind.
I’m glad that during my father’s 4 nights of wakes, although it was tiring, I get to repeatedly inform my relatives and friends of what happened on the day of my father’s sudden death. Every time I talked about it during the wake, it slowly moved me from shock to reality. And in reality, when my mind is clear, I can hear so much more of God’s words of peace, forgiveness and mercy unto me.
Reflecting on Job 1:21, God wants us to move our perspective, from loss to thankfulness to what we have. I was thankful that my father had a colourful life of 74 years, took care of me for 40 years and accepted Christ as Saviour 20 years ago.
He brought us to many countries (USA, Israel, Turkey, China, Hongkong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia etc…) and created so much nice memories. I also get to spend much more time with him in Singapore while working from home during this pandemic.
Most importantly, I know I will get to see him one day in heaven again. If God was to speak to me 20 years ago after accepting Christ that my father will have lot of joy and blessing before he died, will I say no? I thank God for those blessings and the gift of time to spend with my father.
Yes, we are here on this earth with a given time. God give the greatest gifts. The gift of Christ and the gift of forgiveness. For all who believe Him and trust Him, the sudden death bring life in heaven, a reunion with God. Thank God for the change in perspective, the blessing of time that He gave and the blessing of heaven for my father.
Application: Do you usually talk or will you shut down when you face death in your family? Will the change in perspective that knowing God gives so much mercy and blessings to you, helps you to cope better with a sudden death in your family?
Have you visited anyone seriously sick in hospital or in their home, living their last moments in life, knowing that they are going to meet the Lord soon? Or your loved ones, drawing close to end of their life, that they will always say something that will hurt you such as they are tired and sick of the nurses poking countless of injection needles into their veins, putting tubes into their mouth to the lungs, using machines to prolong their life of suffering etc… that they have enough of this and wanted to die? They know that their bodies are “done and expiring” soon. They just want to rest and in faith to be with Jesus. It is not about giving up or being suicidal. It is that they are showing their faith and trust in God, celebrating that joy give us encouragement. Apostle Paul wrote in v21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Likewise in v23, “I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” When your loved ones desire to rest in the LORD, they are choosing the better (a "gain" as Paul would put it).
If the sick is not a believer yet, the invitation for him or her to come to Christ is even more precious. Our lives are in God's hands, and we submit to His will regarding the length of time we have on earth. We are comforted by the knowledge that God is sovereign over all and those who seek to please Him need not be afraid of anything.
(1) Have you been through in a situation where your loved ones go through a long period of suffering from their illnesses, wanting to die and ending it to be with the Lord? How will you respond to him/her before this QT session? After reading Apostle Paul's verses above, how will you response to it now?
(2) Are you actively bringing your loved ones (or anyone) closer to the LORD, especially when you know that the inevitable and inescapable reality of death might just be around the corner somewhere?
After my father died for a month, I’m still in a state of shock, emotionally distraught and in self-denial at times. I realised that I haven’t really properly mourn for my father. As a son of my mother, a husband of my wife, I need to be present and be strong for them. I suppress my emotions these days and not release them. I’m in a constant state of hurt, pain and loss. I know that I need a renew relationship with God. I need to be in God’s words. I need to be in worship services, in bible studies, in F3.1 cell group, surrounded by my Christian community that can support, uphold and help me.
I need to let my emotions and tears to come out. God built us to have tears come out. Jesus wept too! Jesus was going to raise Lazarus and yet He wept (John 11:35), because His emotion came out when He felt the sadness of the mourners and the reality of death.
If you are still hurting with great pain after your loved ones died years ago, you need a renew relationship with God, go next level in the study of God’s words. It is ok to have those frequent tears. But God promises you, He gives you peace. Matthew 11:28 has “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (ESV). If you are emotionally distraught and suppressing those emotions, you would probably not have experienced rest but Jesus said that if you come to Him, as you desire for His presence so much, you will have real rest.
Only when we rest in God, there is peace and trust—God will change our perspective. God will change us and we will thank Him for the blessings that He gave to our loved ones. We will thank God for His mercy and forgiveness. There is a new way, "Take my yoke upon you" as Jesus challenged those listening to His invitation (11:29). His yoke is easy (11:30), unlike other yokes that you might be carrying by yourselves alone. Take His yoke, and God will change us. God will change us from the feeling of loss into a feeling of thankfulness for what God gave.
Are you still in a state of shock, emotional distraught or self-denial after your love ones had pass away long ago? Have you properly mourned and cried for your loved ones to release that emotions to grief over death? Are you willing to renew your relationship with God to the next level in His words, and coping with the death of your loved ones from God's perspective?
Decision Making and the Will of God
Welcome and stay tuned for all the 5 days, for a fuller picture.
Sam-Yan is trying to sell off his business. COVID-19 had cause irreversible changes to his industry. But he felt that if God had so clearly led him to start this business, he should not lightly let it go. How ah?
Ching Kiang has always been a bright student. But she hasn't figured out if God's will for her was a particular university or a group of possible universities. Now she has had a number of universities that accept her application for enrolment. For the first time in her life, she feels as though she doesn't have the answer. Which institution would God want her to attend?
Part-ar has been dating Charbor for more than two years. He is thinking of proposing to her, but with a lifelong decision such as this, he wants to make sure that this is what God would have him do. Not everyone in his immediate family supports his choice. His peers also gave mixed indications. Which "voices" carry more weight? His own voice?
At forty-five, Huan-Gong is not sure if he can handle another career change. A great opportunity has just surfaced, but he is wondering if his family is up for the challenge. He wishes he knew if this was God's plan.
LiHoon wants to get a divorce. She has met another man and wants a counsellor to tell her that it's okay for her to make that decision; she thinks the grass is much greener on the other side of the fence.
Do not tell the person what he or she should do, even if it seems obvious to you. The person is seeking God's will, not yours.
Encourage the seeker to wait on God's answer. He will reveal His will to those who earnestly seek Him. And remember that God is much more patient than we are.
Do not allow superstitions to enter into the decision-making process (such as blindly pointing to a passage in the Bible or merely following some dream or coincidence).
God uses His Word, not luck or superstition. God is most interested in a relationship in which we lean on Him daily for our strength and guidance. He will not show a person his or her entire life's journey. He wants us to rely on Him throughout our lives. If a person knew in advance ALL the accidents that would happen, he might not be able to bear that knowledge and remain sane.
Decision making can be fearful for some people. They speak of past decisions that ended disastrously. Of course this doesn't mean that God wasn't in those earlier decisions.
Be careful not to put too much reliance in a person's feelings. Emotions can be misleading and may cause a person to sin. Often people will quote Psalm 37:4 and say that God wants to give them the desires of their heart. This is true only after the first half of that verse is fulfilled, which is that they should be delighting themselves in the Lord.
How does it look like?
Sam-ta has worked two jobs most of his adult life just to make ends meet. He has three children and a wife who works in the home and has a part-time job outside the home. Recently he lost the higher paying of his two jobs. If that weren't enough, their older son was suspended from school the same week, having drugs in his possession. Sam-ta blames himself for not being at home enough.
Sam-ua is a young woman who has been out of college and in the workforce for almost five years. All her college friends are married, and she longs for a husband and family. This is all she has ever dreamed of. She had a relationship for almost 5 years. She blames herself for the breakup, and wonders, What if? She sits at home most nights alone in her tiny apartment. A married friend is worried sick about her and doesn't know how to help her.
Discouragement is a feeling of despair, sadness, or lack of confidence. A discouraged person is disheartened. Three underlying causes contribute to discouragement:
- lack of confidence in ourselves
- lack of confidence in God
- lack of hope for the future
Because discouragement is a feeling or emotion, it can play games with our minds. We must learn how to control our minds, and thus our discouragement, and lean on God for strength.
Joshua was challenged with discouragement as he led the people of Israel into the Promised Land. God told Joshua, "Be strong and of good courage" (Josh. 1:6).
God also reminded Joshua that the key to overcoming discouragement was a personal relationship with Him. The Lord told Joshua: "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Josh.1:8).
Discouraged people often blame themselves or God and ask, What if . .. ? This is Satan's trap, his way of trying to have us think, I blew it or God isn't capable.
God has a much bigger picture for our lives than we could ever imagine. Challenges along the way are Gods way of refining us, preparing us for the bigger and better picture-the first prize.
If not dealt with, discouragement can lead to depression, which can stop people in their tracks. People must be taught how to deal with discouragement before it becomes depression.
Discouragement reveals an unwillingness to trust God. It can be dealt a deathblow when people consistently cast all their cares on God.
Discouragement can be caused by many different circumstances and feelings:
- shouldering one's own worries, cares, and fears; then collapsing under the weight
- out of control events
- circumstances that were within one's control but were handled poorly
- failure-either occurring in the present, in the past, or a perceived potential for failure in the future.
See you for day 2 - questions to ask seeking to know more about the discouraged person.
Some Interactive Questions To Choose From:
1. What are some things or events that make you discouraged?
2. Do you have control over these things or are they out of your control?
3. Describe yourself using three adjectives.
4. Describe what you think someone else would say about you (a friend, a parent, a coach).
(Note to questions 3 and 4: Sometimes there is an underlying problem of lack of self-confidence that leads to discouragement. If you suspect such a problem, it needs to be addressed.)
5. When you feel discouraged, what do you do?
6. Do you have a direction or plan for your life?
7. What do you see yourself doing three years from now, five years from now?
8. Is failure an option for you? What does God think about failure?
9. Envision yourself failing at something. How does that make you feel?
10. Envision yourself succeeding at something. How does that make you feel?
Redirecting the mind:
Discouragement ought to be the first indication that it is time to pray. People may become discouraged as they become overwhelmed and begin to neglect prayer (ironically this is when they need to be relying on God more).
Help the person understand that God uses our trials to shape our personal and spiritual lives for the better, and for His glory. Paul tells us, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Many times what leads to discouragement are events that are out of control. This is where faith in God comes in. Realizing that God sees the events in our lives before we do should help us not feel so overwhelmed.
There are times when discouragement is a result of something your friend could have controlled (such as flunking college or being late to work). These events should be seen your God has as wake-up calls and opportunities to improve, not hopeless or disastrous events.
Often the discouraged will need someone to be accountable to if this has been a before you; go lifelong struggle.
The person needs to be helped to see discouragement as an opportunity to grow in Christ and rediscover the person God designed in His image. Help your friend to see discouragement as a time to step back and look at life and perhaps change some goals or behaviors (consider whether the unachieved goals are in keeping with God's plan for the person's life).
Help the person understand that feelings of discouragement will likely creep into his or her life from time to time; this is normal because of our human nature. Share with the person that even when one has confidence in the abilities and greatness of God and has a better grip on handling challenges, it doesn't mean discouragement will never come again.
Grief & Loss
(1) Sam-Ma didn't know what was the matter. It had already been more than 2 years since his wife died. Even though it felt that these 2 years passed slower than his friends', he felt that nothing had changed. He still can't believe that she was gone, really.
The church and his friends rallied around him, his CG had brought him meals, his pastor had prayed for him, but nothing seemed really effective nor helpful in alleviating his grief.
(2) Sam-Na couldn't stop crying. She is now angry with her husband about their "upgrading" to better housing that was far away. This move resulted in their relocation hundreds of kilometres from their family, friends she had grown up with, church. All this in the name of greener finance pastures.
The frequent 回娘家 flights cost them greatly. Phone bills to keep in touch piled up. She didn't want to be here, and didn't want to make new friends. She didn't care about "upgrading life" anymore. She just wanted to go home now.
(3) Sam-La couldn't drive past that road that connected with the hospital without being choked and spoiling his day. He had spent many hours both day and night watching his mother struggle with cancer. His intense focus was on making sure that he did everything that he could, to make sure that his mother would make it through the cancer treatment. But now his mother was gone. He now blamed the doctor for not picking up the tumour early during a scan 4 years before the death.
Grief is intense emotional suffering caused by a loss. It is like a sense of entering the "valley of shadow of death". Grief is real, prevalent and is not fun. It is painful, a lingering process of hard work. Nevertheless, it is a healing journey that can last between 1 to 3 years, and for some of us, a lifetime. Some people never get through the process of grieving.
A sudden death can be more difficult to grieve because there is no warning and no chance to say the good-byes properly so as to begin to prepare for the loss.
Do note that grief is not always about death. It can also result from the disintegration of family, friendship, business; transitions in life, disaster or misfortune.
Grief is a complex set of emotions experienced by virtually all. These are normal. However, people who are grieving may experience their loss (1) psychologically through feelings, thoughts, and attitudes; (2) socially as they interact with others; and (3) physically as grief starts to affect their health.
Often friends don't know how to help. Trying to "cheer him up" or "get her mind off her loss" might in fact add to the burden. This is because the grieving person might have to avoid friends or fake a "I am ok, cool" look rather than to share his or her true feelings.
Sometimes loss is cumulative and awakens the grief of earlier losses that were not dealt with.
The sufferer of grief might experience intense feelings of guilt for aspects of the relationship with the person who has died, even asking if this was some kind of punishment.
Anger and sadness might even be turned towards God, blaming God as distant and uncaring.
However, grief recognised and expressed are good starts to gaining victory of grief and loss. See you for day 2.
We are healed of grief only when we express it to the full. --Charles R. Swindoll
Welcome to day 4. We look at some suggested steps to take in dealing with grief and loss, experienced by ourselves or those whom we are helping.
1. Be Patient:
Give yourself the time it takes to heal emotionally. An accidental cut in a finger might take a few days, bones might take months. Managing grief and loss, especially when the loss is of something very precious, might take even longer. Keep a routine, get lots of rest, and try not to attempt too much but direct your energies toward healing.
2. Maintain Friendships:
Let others comfort you and share in your journey toward healing. Do not become isolated from people but rather seek meaningful connection with others. Make a list of friends to call. Locate a grief support group. Stay connected with your CG. Return to CG and church, stay even closer with them. Many of the things that you need to be reminded about God's Word, or what God wants you to learn or know, might somehow be prompted or recalled when you interact with CG or others in the church body.
3. Feel the Pain:
The intensity of your pain is normal and eventually will begin to subside. The pain probably might never disappear completely, but it will become bearable. Trying to avoid the "terrible pain" only prolongs the grief. Trying to hide the feelings of pain will only cause problems in other areas-emotionally, spiritually, or physically later on. Dealing with loss in a healthy manner can be a major avenue to growth and life-transforming change. You must move forward by experiencing the grief, while at the same time rejoining the living through acts of giving and receiving.
4. Realise Grief Is Normal:
Grief encompasses a number of changes. It appears differently at various times, and it comes and goes in people's lives. It is a normal, predictable, expected, and healthy reaction to a loss. Grief is each individual's personal journey, and his or her manner of dealing with any kind of loss - no matter how minor or severe it may appear to others - must be respected. It should be gently challenged only when prolonged in a manner that is detrimental to the person and his or her relationships.
Help the grieving person process any guilt and anger he or she is feeling. Help him or her redirect energy from excessive "if onlys" and wishing that things could be different to a focus on healing.
Proverbs 12:25 - Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (ESV)
Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (ESV)
Family history could be a link to depression, however it does not mean that you will have it. It only means that you are at a greater risk of developing depressive symptoms. I frequently felt that my inherited genes gave rise to my depression.
In the past, whenever I encountered challenges in life, no matter how great or small, it trigger a negative feeling of anxiety and sadness in me. Negative pictures would appear in my mind. I felt helpless in controlling the situation even though my mind clearly understood how the situation was to be handled.
Could it be depression? Virtually everyone goes through periods of deep sadness and grief. These feelings usually fade away within a few days or weeks, depending on the circumstances. But profound sadness that lasts more than two weeks and affects your ability to function may or may not be a sign of depression.
Several factors that contribute to depression:
(1) Stress due to a death, job loss, abuse, sudden change in finances or other life-changing event.
(2) A history of depression running in the family.
(3) Drugs or alcohol, which can affect the brain’s hormonal and chemical balance
(4) Medicines given might cause depression as a side effect. Seek doctors' advice on the possibilities.
(5) Physical illness, especially prolonged or severe illness that can cause changes in your brain that lead to depression.
(6) Hormonal changes (especially abrupt ones), can trigger depression. Women might experience this just before a period, after giving birth or during menopause.
Application : (a) Even though depressed feelings might cause someone to turn away from God, we should counter that thought with thankfulness towards God for His goodness and for his faithfulness. Whenever I encounter problems, God’s Word reminds me of how faithful He is. Whenever I looked back, I am always grateful for the incidents that turned out to be a good learning point for me.
(b) Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot see or feel. They must understand that happiness only comes from communion with God, not anything on the earth.
Recently, I have picked up jogging, and from my experience of it so far, I feel that this exercise had helped me to keep my mind at peace. Do not give up on life and do remember that no problem is too big for our God.
Christians should not have depression in the first place. If Christian understands and knows his relationship with God correctly, a believer should not be mastered by depression. But this happens in reality in this complex and, at times, mysterious fallen world. But do not lose hope.
While we might not be able to eliminate depression completely, sharing problems and difficulties with believers are Christian norms to cope with it. This practice is highly capable of conveying us to the future one day at a time (过日子). In addition, one can also present his or her problems and difficulties to God.
Some common causes of depression includes: No True Love. No Proper Communiction. No Valued Identity.
In Christianity, believers know that God is Love. For he or she who understands and experiences the love of God, having depression is practically impossible. God’s creation is one of the ways that He expresses His love for us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food provided.
Having the “right” communication with brothers and sisters, sharing the problems and difficulties faced are known ways of de-stressing. With support from others, we go through depressed situations with strength, receiving comfort along the way. Not only do we find solace in human to human communications, we also have the privilege to communicate with God. Peace can be given and obtained, sins forgiven, rest found in Him.
Upon accepting Christ as our personal Savior, we are called “Children of God” by God himself. We do not need man to tell you who you are; mankind does not create nor determine our identities and values—mankind does not have that right to do so. If we take on God's valuation of us and accept Jesus' payment on the cross with His blood for our sins, we would find the strength to move on.
His Word gives us the strength and wisdom to overcome problems and difficulties in life. Believers are able to overcome depression if they truly understand and experience the Word of God, because the true values of Christianity are the antidotes to depression.
Thank you Lord, for giving us identities of children of God. The world does not determine our worth, but our Heavenly Father you do. There is no greater love than your love—the love you have for me. Help us trust you, count your blessings, and use our past experiences (good or bad) to guide others.
What does the Bible say about handling depression?
(1) Jesus acknowledged the weight of our troubles, both physical and emotional ones.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
As for the question of whether or not to use medication for depression, the Bible does not address that specifically. But Jesus, in His life and ministry, made it clear that healing—and seeking healing—is a good thing. He also acknowledged that the sick need a doctor (Matthew 9:12).
As with all the problems that people face, there is one thing we are supposed to do with them: bring them to God! "Hope in God", as the psalmist wrote (Psa 42:11). But it is important to understand that just because we put our hope and faith in God does not mean our problem will go away. Like cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, sometimes we'll have to deal with it or manage it for the rest of our earthly lives.
(2) What about the conventional way of treating depression?
Medication alone and brief psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy) alone can partially relieve depressive symptoms. However, clinical evidence suggests that pharmacotherapy by itself is insufficient treatment for children and adolescents. Information gathered from patients do suggest that the combination of medication and psychotherapy generally provides a quicker and more sustained response.
(3) Personal Reflection
Based on the clinical diagnosis on depression, we should not belong to population of depressed people. However, most of us have experienced the dark periods in our life, when we thought we might get depression. We tried hard to struggle with life and work, and all those unfavourable unsatisfactory outcomes have been considered as negative by ourselves.
Recently, I was confronted with a similar situation where I felt anxious and frustrated that I could take good care of both job and children simultaneously. I am thankful to God that this feeling was transient (not always with me). It was good that can share my negative thoughts with God. It was a blessing that I shared with caregroup friends and family. Just by speaking out to fellow pilgrims in Christ who understood me with eyes of sympathy made me calm and greatly relieved.
God usually responds to us in this way—when we understand that life is not always cheerful nor ever positive, when we start to accept the unfavourable results at times, when we get to know that the challenges and difficulties could be preempted with correct and good purposes in mind, then we know God is always there with us.
As mentioned above, putting hope and faith in God does not mean problems will go away absolutely, but we get to know how to confront and deal with problems better.
"Which bible character struggled with depression?" Job came to my mind immediately. A couple of years ago, I came across a book which was helpful for dealing with depression.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1 ESV
Job was a simple man of humble means because it’s a rare person whose heart is fixed on God and also has everything this life has to offer. Job was not only righteous, but also wealthy.
He had 10 children, many servants, and his livestock numbered in the thousands. V3 “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” We can surmise that every need Job had was met and every desire was fulfilled.
We also know Job was a man greatly tested by God and even more greatly blessed by God. God told Satan "all that he has is in your hand" (Job 1:12). Job’s faith and faithfulness are tested.
Job suffered in many ways... he lost cattle (Job 1:14-15), servants (Job 1:16,17), even children (Job 1:18-19). He also suffered bodily (Job 2:7).
But how he overcome it, teaches us a lot about real faith. The famous passage of scripture: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21) reminds us that we are nothing without the Lord. His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. His friends assumed that he sinned and thus suffered.
Ultimately, Job gets his conversation with God. Job’s response to the character of God is: “I know that you can do all things,and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:1-3). After Job was blessed by the reminder of God’s character, he was further blessed as “the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). And the list of blessings continues in chap 42.
Application: God don’t owe us an explanation. At times, we ask why and he doesn’t answer. He already know what is going to happen in our life. The good, bad and ugly. Job was blameless and he lost everything. Job’s life is a testimony for encouragement for the depressed.
1. Suffering is a way for God to display His power and glory.
2. The depressed and those undergoing suffering can always look to the mighty God who love his people for relief and strength in tough times.
Unforgiveness is a state of resentment, bitterness, hatred, hostility, anger, fear and stress toward an individual who has transgressed against another in some way. Unforgiveness is as deadly as a cancer that eats away at the very soul of a person.
Let's take a look at the portraits below:
1. An critically ill old lady was laying in hospital deathbed waiting for her daughter to show up but her hatred-filled daughter just refused to do so. She was accused by her mother long ago for cheating her money. The two of them were seperated by a great wall of unforgiveness.
2. Mr T finds out that his co-worker had been criticising him to the boss and making negative comments about his work. The boss had elevated his co-worker and demoted Mr T. Mr T can't stop thinking of ways to get even with his co-worker.
3. Miss B cannot sleep at night. She keeps having nightmares about her mother, who abused her as a child. Even though her mother has been dead for ten years, Miss B still cannot forgive her for the pain.
Forgiveness occurs when the cold feelings of unforgiveness are changed to warm, loving, compassionate, caring and altruistic emotions because of a heartfelt transformation.
Human power alone is not sufficient to reach full forgiveness. There is an element of forgiveness that is divine. It cannot be reached without God --Frank Minirth.
 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (ESV)
When you do not forgive someone, in some way that person is in jail and you are the warden. You are incarcerated, too, because you have to make sure that the prisoner stays there --Kerney Franston.
Mark 11:25 - And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (ESV)
Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)
Reasons to Forgive:
1. Forgiveness sets you free to move on with your life.
2. It refuses to let the person who hurt you have any power over your life.
3. It opens up your relationship with God.
4. It keeps you from becoming bitter and thus protects those around you.
5. It keeps you from becoming like the person who hurt you.
6. Unforgiveness doesn't hurt the perpetrator at all: it hurts—only you.
7. Scripture commands us to be forgiving (Matthew 18:21-35).
Jesus stated that God's forgiveness of us is somehow related to how we forgive others. When we accept God's forgiveness of all the wrongs we have done Him, we should also be so grateful that we willingly offer that same kind of forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
The refusal to forgive others shows that we do not appreciate the forgiveness God offered us.
It takes two to reconcile but only one to forgive.
When a person seeks help to forgive, it is because the inability to forgive has started to disrupt his or her personal, emotional or spiritual life.
The inability to forgive (due to the stress it creates) may be the source of physical problems, such as lack of energy, sleeplessness, headache, joint pain or back pain. It might also be the root cause of depression or anxiety. Many a times the person does not realise that the origin of his or her problem is a lack of forgiveness.
The following reflective questions might be helpful:
1. Share with someone accountable about the background of the refusal to forgive.
2. Recall the source of concern?
3. Do you need to go for counselling?
4. What do you hope to accomplish with counselling?
5. What is the incident or incidents are you having trouble forgiving?
6. How did the incident(s) make you feel?
7. What can you tell about the person who hurt you?
8. What have you already tried to do to help you forgive?
9. How have you protected yourself from being hurt again by this person?
10. How can you tell that you haven't forgiven this person?
11. What does God say about forgiveness?
12. What do you think forgiveness is?
Isaiah 43:25 - “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (ESV)
When the guilt of past sins weigh us down, we must remember that when we seek forgiveness, God "blots out" our transgressions and does not let that event stay in the book of accounting for the "final closure of accounts" on that day. Blotting out sins is wiping the slate clean. Receiving God's forgiveness has many benefits—Whatever sins we have committed, God promises to erase them. He knows what we have done but He treats us as though we have never sinned. It is because God has forgiven us that we must forgive ourselves, and others
Forgiveness is best understood as an act and a process. When a person forgives, his or her heart will begin to heal. Forgiveness is to let the offender "off the hook" so as to protect one from the destructive power of unforgiveness, setting one free to move on with life.
Acknowledge & accept the fact that evil has occurred. One needs to grieve the offense and the losses that have resulted from any wrong committed against him or her. The hurt and anger are not sinful. Feeling hurt or angry are normal responses to an offense.
Minimise time spent with unsafe people. Unsafe people are those who hurt without regard for the damage it creates in another's life.
Recognise God's Hand
Know that God can use offense to promote personal and spiritual growth and dependence on Him for His plan and glory.
Ask God for help to love the offender. We are not the source of Love but God is. Praying for the offender will help one to move from wanting revenge to not wanting harm, and finally to wanting the best for the transgressor.
2 Samuel 14:33 - Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom. (ESV)
One person can forgive, but it takes two to reconcile. Forgiveness does not guarantee reconciliation. Forgiveness, however, does put salve on those who are willing to let go of the hurt and wrongs done by others.
Recall the hurt
Do not deny or minimize the pain. It is difficult but necessary to recall the hurt. But recalling your hurt is not for the purpose of finger pointing but a means to objectively review what has occurred.
Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness
Think about "giving" of forgiveness. Think of a time when you did something wrong and were forgiven. Reflect on the wrongdoing and guilt you felt. How did it feel to be forgiven? Would you like to give that gift of forgiveness to the person who hurt you? Through this step, also recall the great mercy and grace of God toward you.
Commit Publicly to Forgive
Tell your family or friends about your decision to forgive. By disclosing your forgiveness to others, you will be held accountable to your decision to forgive.
Hold on to Forgiveness
Hold on to forgiveness when doubts arise. Try to make "Stones of Remembrance". It is good to have something "concrete" to help you remember the day you set your offender free.
 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (ESV)
Prayer of forgiveness:
Lord, your servant has been deeply hurt. I want to let go, to be free of the pain, but I still find it very difficult. The emotion goes all over the place and I do not want this pain affecting me one more waking moment. Please help me to let this go. Please help me to forgive the offender as I have been forgiven by you. Please give me life once again. In Jesus name, Amen!
After almost 3 years of wrestling with my own struggle and watching other people, I have come to see how the Root of Bitterness becomes a destructive force in people. It is a spiritual cancer, and left unattended will destroy life.
Bitterness inevitably reproduces more bitterness. This root begins in our life hidden from the view of others until it begins to make itself known—with our words, perspective, actions and finally, our personality. When it makes its way to this place, the root of bitterness then defines our life.
Bitterness is what people think of when our name comes to mind. It is the characteristic they speak of in describing us, for this bitterness has somehow taken over our life. To say it is destructive is an understatement at best. For this reason, v.15 reminded us to watch out and not allow this evil spirit to become attached to our life. This bitterness will trouble and eventually corrupt us.
I know of an old lady who had pass away 22 years ago took up this root of bitterness because of offenses against her and in her old age this bitterness now personifies her to the point that even her own family avoided her in her last days. Bitterness will reproduce, and we could very well be the source of it for someone we love. Do you want this bitterness to be reproduced from you to that person or persons?
If you do not want them to adopt your perspective and your future, it must stop with you now. The good news is that it can be stopped. But it will take some doing on your part, which is my topic for the week. Hopefully this poisonous root will be well on its way to being rooted out of your life by the time this week is over. This week we attempt to use "major surgeries" to cut off any trace of root of bitterness from our lives. But you’ve got to do your part with its destruction, by declaring that it stops with you…now. Do we have a deal?
The Root of Bitterness does not come naturally. It is like an alien infectious disease that is introduced to a healthy body such as a viral or bacterial infection. It is like the same thing that I experienced when I was diagnosed with pneumonia in year 2010. I was admitted to NUH ICU ward. The disease was the culprit or an aggressor to infected me.
This culprit is likely a person or event that contaminates us with some kind of disappointment or hurt. The offense may or may not be intentional, but these do hurt us, anger us, disappoint us, betray us, lie to us, slander us, scheme against us. As such, they infect us with their own root of bitterness. But that is where it begins, and it happens to everyone sometime in our life.
We cannot be exempted from this infection. I wish it weren’t so, for I would want all of my loved ones to avoid this pain and serious challenge in their life. It is what we do with it when it happens that is critical, for you see a healthy body will fight to reject any infection that comes into it as a natural defense. It might take us down for a few days, but in the end a healthy body wins out. But not when an infection incubates and grows stronger because there is no resistance in a body that is weak.
It is the same when the poisonous root of bitterness takes root and then our life becomes entangled by it. This is when damage is making its way to the surface of our life and infecting others. This is when intensive care is required to keep it from infecting others and spreading the disease. It is said that bitterness is unforgiveness that has fermented.
When someone has emotionally taken something from us and we cannot get it back, we want revenge. However, we either cannot extract it or we will not do so and it then burns within us. It grows bigger and we become more justified by how we feel. This flame of bitterness grows into a poisonous flame within us and our life is corrupted by the bitterness.
It is the effort and grace of God to forgive us our sins against Him. It requires effort! We do not have to feel like it or want to do it. For an example, I had numerous surgeries and life saving medications (Warfarin – Blood Thinner) that I did not feel like taking nor did I want them. But my desire for good health and a life unhindered by disease required them. It is the same with forgiveness. We might feel justified by our anger because someone stole an emotional part of us and by not granting forgiveness, in some way, we think we can get even with him or her.
But in seeing it this way instead of obeying Jesus with granting forgiveness, we nurture this unforgiveness into bitterness, and it is this condition that will hurt us more than any person can. To destroy the root of bitterness, we need to identify the source that started it and begin the process of forgiveness at this point. Then the root starves and it eventually dries up. There is some clean-up that we need to address. But we must start at the root before we can deal with the fruit of bitterness. More tomorrow about that fruit.
Application: Is there someone in your life that you find it hard to forgive for the deeds/words he or she did/said? What make it so hard for your to forgive such a person? Does this unforgiveness grow inside you to become hate and bitterness?
Have you ever walked past a big field with much weeds growing on the grass? When I was in school, teachers taught us that weeds are bad as they compete with the grass for nutrients, water and sunlight. I have a point about the root of bitterness. It too is an unwelcomed guest in our life. It has to be battled against so that life can be freed from it.
I have an aunt in China who is a master gardener. She has green fingers, as evidenced by her balcony in Shenzhen. She produces massive amounts of great vegetables such as chillies, sweet tomatoes, lady fingers etc... I know from experience and observation that her work begins with the soil before it gets to the harvest. The soil is broken up, fed, cultivated and then planted. Then the plants are nurtured. The result is juicy, sweet tomatoes and lady fingers, along with many other delicious fruits and vegetables.
Now here’s my point: Jesus spoke of a similar dynamic with the fruit that comes from our abiding relationship with Him. He also used the analogy - “good soil”, to describe the abiding relationship with Him. The harvest of good, tasty fruit is produced in an unhindered fellowship with Him. Like a plant that He illustrated, a fruit from our healthy relationship with Him is produced and this fruit then reproduces. It is the process that Jesus formed, and it is called The Church.
For the last 2,000 years, we have seen a naturally reproducing process formed from the few people who became Jesus’ disciples in its first year of formation, and then they taught others what He had taught them. He taught strongly about forgiveness. Why so? It is because the reproduction of bad fruit will also occur if we have a wrong relationship with Christ, and unforgiveness will do this. It will bear the fruit of bitterness. This fruit ranges from anger to outrage, from self-pity to self-centeredness, to many other kinds of expressions of the root of bitterness. These are examples of the fruit of bitterness. Like good fruit, the fruit of bitterness will also reproduce after itself.
It is a natural occurrence, just like those weeds in the field that I spoke of. Left unchecked, the weeds in your life will become your life, and since weeds are good for nothing, your life will become the same. To destroy these weeds in your life, you must begin with the soil to get rid of the seeds and to also make it healthy. The process begins way before the good fruit shows. It becomes an effort to root out the deep-rooted weeds of bitterness. When someone is trying to root out the root of bitterness in his or her life, the soil of their life must be improved. This is where the nutrition of God’s word and obedience to His instructions attack the root of bitterness.
We begin to see bitterness as Jesus does. It is an enemy. There is nothing good that can come from it. Therefore, if you want to destroy this root of bitterness and its fruit from your life, it begins with identifying the source, forgiving this person, and then preparing your life for the good fruit that follows. More on that tomorrow.
Application: Are there weeds growing inside you that prevents you getting close to God or becoming insensitive to His words? Are you willing to destroy those weeds now and be like Jesus’s disciples to teach/guide others what God had taught/guided us?
When the battle against bitterness is seriously waged in our life, there will be a joy and freedom in our life that would eventually be found.
We will be set free from a burden that grips us and robs us of so many things that God wants us to experience or give to us. Bitterness destroys our spiritual health and studies show that it also destroys our mental and physical health, not to mention interpersonal relationships. Because of this newfound joy and freedom, it will be real easy to become self-centred. But there is still much work to be done.
We must now become a voice of repentance, humility and healing to those people poisoned by our bitterness. If not, the fruit of bitterness in their life, which was outsourced from our bitterness, will continue to reproduce even though we are no longer in the equation. In the Scripture verses above, Jesus placed a responsibility for listeners to be proactive in our effort to right wrongs and become part of someone’s healing if we have offended that person.
He compels us to move closer and deeper into our relationship with Him, and He shows us how bitterness disrupts our fellowship with Him and hinders that journey. For our own good and for the good of our relationship with Him, bitterness must be cast out of our life. I think a lot of men tie their masculinity to being strong and tough. Humility and repentance don't sound like being strong and tough. We get ourselves muzzled in this misunderstanding.
I used to think this way until I got to know Jesus better from the Bible. I came to understand His life and what He faced while in this world. He was greatly challenged too, facing all the unpleasant situations that was thrown at Him. In fact, He is the strongest and toughest Man that I have ever known, and yet He is also the most humble and kind person I know. He showed me that true biblical manhood is to be right with Him, to be obedient to Him no matter the cost to me, and to live my faith out.
It takes courage to do this. When He tells me to do something, I know that it is for my own good and for a purpose greater than I can see or know. I know He is for me and with me, and this makes me understand that my mission to help someone else to find the freedom He has given to me. This is right for the other person and myself, for in this I find the freedom I need and hoped for.
Application: Are you willing to reconcile with whoever offended you, before coming to S-Word worship services with a heart of forgiveness? Will you embrace your freedom and reach out to heal a broken or wounded relationship?
I believe that when things are right with God and man, there is a holy rhythm or habits to life. There is a healthy connection vertically with God through His Spirit and there are healthy connections horizontally with the people in our life, thereby bringing balance to our life.
Sounds like the form of the cross doesn’t it, being both vertical and horizontal, with Christ in the centre? So it makes sense that all believers at the foot of the cross are all equal with need and hope. The playing field is totally leveled with the truth that without Christ, we are all lost with no hope. We all have that in common.
All of us fell short of God’s glory, so He sent His Son to enable us to join His family. We all started out lost, no matter where our personal goodness falls. We have that in common with each other. I know it sounds strange, but with salvation, even though there are people that you know who are much worse than you are, both of you enter your relationship as lost and estranged from God. This person and you had to enter into a relationship with God through His grace, because you cannot meet His justice yourselves.
If it was His justice, no matter how good you are, you would be shut out of His kingdom, just like the serial offender you think of as worse than you. You need God’s grace and not His justice. You are saved by God’s grace and not the Law. That is the essence of the Gospel.
How is this relevant to our escape from bitterness? It will reveal a major lack of application of the truth with how you understand how you are loved by Christ, and how, with His love you are to love another person. If bitterness is to leave you, you must escape from your illusion of your good nature and your offender’s evil nature, for you are not seeing something essential to help you escape it.
Here is why: Your bitterness is rooted in your pride! Your pride has been hurt. Therefore, you harbour bitterness because you think you deserve better. This condition is rooted in self-pity and self-pity is a sign that Satan has your ear. This self-pity causes you to want justice to be served and you want it to be hot and heavy because you are mad and hurt. When we are bitter, we think justice needs to be served for we have been treated unjustly.
Do we really want justice to be served in order for bitterness to be remove? Really? Are we also ready to be given justice for our sins against Holy God instead of His grace? Are we ready to apply the same rules to our self that we apply to others about justice or grace? Kind of stinks now, doesn’t it? Good, for if it stinks you are beginning to identify the truth of how far you have been pulled from the Gospel because of your bitterness.
To escape the bitterness that has you by the throat, it needs to start with an evaluation and application of the Gospel to your life, and then obey Christ with forgiveness, even though it may be undeserved. When you see how far you’ve strayed from the Gospel and with living it out toward this person or circumstance that has angered you, you can find motivation for expelling bitterness from your life. When you do, this good relationship with God and man will return to your life and the root and fruit of bitterness will be history. Make your bitterness history my fellow S-Word members.
Application: Are you willing to escape from the stinks of bitterness by putting Christ the centre of your life? Do you still harbour thoughts to repay evil for evil after reading and reflecting on the last 5 days of QT on bitterness?
Envy & Jealousy
There are many factors in causing worry. It seems uncontrollable as it has no “switch-off” button! Many people are worried about events that may or may not actually happen to them! The following are some general examples of different kinds of worry:
Scenario 1: As a student, there are many projects and homework that Ming has to handle. She worries as she has so much to do and may not be able to finish the school work on time.
Scenario 2: John discovers a lump on his right foot that stops him from running properly; he starts to think if his leg has a structural problem or worse, if it could be something even more serious, like cancer!
Scenario 3: Amy agreed to Brian’s proposal, and now they are planning to get married. However, Brian starts to wonder - how will he be able to support Amy when he can barely live alone on what he makes?
Scenario 4: Gary is two hours late getting home from being out with his classmates. His parents are angry with him for not calling. Furthermore, they also started to worry - thinking he might have encountered trouble with his car, or worse, had an accident.
Scenario 5: Frank joined his department of 5 employees two years ago. Now they are down to three and rumour has it that soon they will be down to two, or his department may even be closed down.
Scenario 6: Christine is pregnant again. After losing her last baby during her second trimester, she can’t help but wonder if this little one will ever have a chance to see the world.
Sometimes worry is the result of one’s own sin or guilt. A thief or a murderer will properly worry about being caught!
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many of us worry that we or our loved ones may be infected and the possibilities of suffering physically. When the pandemic impacted our economy, job security and financial stability are the main worries for many. Now that the vaccines are made available, many worry about their reliability and effectiveness. And the list goes on…
Do all these sound familiar to you? In fact, each of you may have your own set of worries! So what exactly are your worries? There is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with these problems of life.
This week, we are going to learn what practical actions to take to alleviate our worries and the biblical insight of worry. [LLCG]
Worry is like a rocking chair; it'll give you something to do, but it won't get you anywhere.
Worry is defined by Webster as ‘Metal distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated.’ In other words, worry is about things that have not happened yet. Worry is not an emotion: it is a mental exercise.
The unpredictability and toughness of life spawns much worry. You might have a problem for which no solution has been found yet. This causes us to worry—replaying possible outcomes over and over again in our mind. We continue to worry—refusing to be satisfied until the solution becomes a reality.
Being genuinely concerned about potential problems and taking action is natural—such as seeing a doctor when ill or consulting technicians when our office equipment emits strange sound. But worry is rarely tied to constructive action. It is unproductive most of the time.
The “amber light” or even “red light” flashes when worry rises to an unhealthy level, e.g., (1) You are not sleeping well, (2) You are not productive in spite of much exertions of energy / attention, (3) You are worried about two or more topics on more days than not, (4) You are focusing on situation of worry more than on the other activities of life. (5) You tend to be reacting to situations rather than managing life events well. Your life feels out of control.
Worrying about many things at once bring stress to an unhealthy level. You want to overcome the issue, but the problem doesn’t disappear. Worry is simply a smaller level of fear and fear is the opposite of faith. When we operate in fear or worry, then we do not have the faith or trust that God has a plan and is in control.
What is the difference between worry and anxiety? Although many use the words worry and anxiety interchangeably; the two are very different psychological states. According to Psychology Today, “Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral (in nervous system) in that we feel it throughout our bodies.” When we worry, our thoughts are often caused by realistic or specific concerns we can resolve by problem solving.
The effect on us is temporary and mild compare to anxiety. When we are experiencing anxiety, our thoughts can be irrational or vague. Someone with anxiety may experience symptoms such as tightness in the chest, an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, headaches, trembling, gastrointestinal problems or trouble sleeping.
The symptoms of anxiety can serve as warning signs of serious health conditions such as anxiety disorder, panic attack or depression. You should speak with a doctor if symptoms are persistent and interfere with daily activities. [LLCG]
If indeed worrying is like sitting on a rocking chair going nowhere, how then can we help ourselves or others to stop or to reduce the frequency of worrying? It might be helpful to help the person see things differently through reflection questions. In dealing with worry & anxiety, this might be an appropriate time for such a strategy.
The person may be instructed to just think of his or her answers and not necessarily speak them out loud:
(1) What has worried you the most in the past that your no longer worry about?
(2) Did these previous situations work out the way you thought they would or did they work out differently than expected?
(3) Did the pain of these previous situations help you grow? If so, how?
(4) What do you currently worry about the most?
(5) Do you think that these problem are too big for God?
(6) Do you believe that your are important to God?
(7) Will God take care of you in this current situation?
(8) There is only one person who can circumvent God’s plan for your life. Do you know who that is ? (You.)
(9) Do you have control over whether you worry or not?
(10) The bible says we are not to worry. How can you follow that instruction?
(11) What is the worst thing that can happen in this current situation?
(12) How has worrying helped you in the past?
(13) Do you think that worrying will help you now?
(14) What difference will worrying about the situation make one hundred years from now?
The worrier needs to understand that he or she really does not control over whether he or she worries or not. Some people are more inclined to worry than others. That is not a character’s flaw. It is just a built-in reminder to pray and give it to the Lord.
“ I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” Psalm 34:4
“Don’t worry!” is easy to say but difficult to change. One approach is to set limits so that the worry doesn’t continue to rage out of control. It is probably nearly impossible to eliminate worry totally, but to manage it well and mitigate its destructive effects.
The following plan might assist to help change thought patterns for life’s worrying issues:
(1) Start each day with God: Begin each day with time alone with God. Tell him the concerns of the day (this is your time to pray about your worries – see step 2). Anticipate your day. Pray about what’s ahead. Ask God to give you peace.
(2) Pray about your worries: Set up a specific time period in which you can pray out a plan for your worries. Limit worrying to a ‘worrying list’, and take that list to the Lord in your daily Bible and prayer time. During the course of the day, when a worry strikes you, repeat the following sentence: ‘I will take care of that with God at my prayer time tomorrow morning’. During prayer time, bring the worrisome situation to God. Ask for guidance and direction.
(3) Keep a Journal: Write down the prayer requests and the worries that you are bringing to God. Write down the answers God gives. Go back and read these answers as constant encouragement that any new requests you bring to God will indeed be answered. As you talk to God, write down anything you feel He is telling you about your course of action. Keep in mind that the course of action may be purposefully to do nothing until God gives you further direction.
(4) Set Boundaries: Get facts and expert advice to prevent worrying unrealistically about a situation. Set deadline to make decision, rather than chew over it forever. Realise that your will not please everyone all the time. Learn to say no.
(5) Thinking Differently: Delegate chores and other responsibilities. Give yourself permission to relax and to make mistakes. Eat, sleep and exercise properly. To keep a sense of perspective, try to see the humour in a situation. Declutter and organise, using calendars and to-do lists. Mentally put your worries in a box with a lid and put them on the top shelf of your closet. Don't look at it for the time being.
(6) Seek Balance: The goal is to walk in peace, in calm, in trust, and in assurance. This is done by finding the balance between prayer and action and, ultimately, this produces freedom from worrying. See you for Day 5 as we look into what the Bible says about this. For now, consider the following:
‘To say that we are waiting on the Lord, and then to go around with a sense of worrying, misery and dread, is to contradict the truth” -- Professional counsellor, Rosemarie Scotti Hughes
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bone” -- Proverb 3:5-8
We want to share Bible passages on worry today.
Exodus 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.
The Israelites were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the waters of the Red Sea. In panic, they blamed Moses. But Moses had seen enough of the power of God to respond in confidence. What problems are you facing? Don’t panic. Instead, turn to God and trust in His power to do what seems impossible.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Worry fills people’s minds with useless clutter, leaving no room for God to work on. Worry clouds perspective, causing people to focus on themselves rather than on God. Jesus said that God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, so He will take care of His children.
Trusting God involves trusting Him to care for us. Jesus tells us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Matt 6:33). As believers we must still work to meet our needs; we don’t sit back and expect God to do it all. We work but we don’t worry. We know that God will care for us!
Luke 12:22-23 Then He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.’
Worry can be a time-consuming, almost obsessive, behaviour. After all, everyday brings new things to worry about! Worrying about every situation in life whether big or small will only distract us.
Worrying is not part of problem solving. In fact, many problems get worse because worry is immobilizing; thus, no action is being taken to try to work through the dilemma. Worry can thwart the work of the kingdom.
Jesus has the perfect situation for worry. Instead of worrying. He invites us to put our faith and trust in God’s provision and care. This can free us from the anxiety that is caused by worry.
This total trust doesn’t mean that we should not have goals, plans, investment, and so on. It does mean, however, that for everything we should trust in God, putting Him first in our lives.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Those who worry are not trusting God. Worry can be a natural first reaction to an uncertain situation, but to persist in worry reveals a lock of trust that God is in charge. Power helps us have strength of character and confidence in any situation. Love helps us have graciously deal with difficult people. A sound mind helps us remain self controlled and self disciplined no matter what happens. We can set aside our worry and replace it with these gifts from God.
Sample Prayer: Dear Lord, Worrying is immobilizing your child today. We know that we don’t know the future but You do. We know that we need to trust You, so we bring our worries to You today, Lord, like a burden we cannot carry, and we ask that you take them...
Self-esteem are the feelings or evaluations that we form after "looking at ourselves in the mirror"
Scenarios check: Feels that marriage no hope? No purpose in life? Feels that he/she is nothing? Overwhelming sense of trying to please others? Discouraged? Low energy at work? Views himself/herself as ugly and stupid? Fear close and intimate relationships? Pressured to give in to the demands (unreasonable or immoral ones) of others due to fear of rejection?
Inner sense of worthiness that responds well to attacks and criticisms from others (valid or otherwise). Self-esteem are the feelings or evaluations that we form after "looking at ourselves in the mirror". Paul reminded readers not to be proud (Romans 12:3), but evaluate honestly and accurately. Low self-esteem is displayed in many ways. Use God's perspective to evaluate self rather than be conned by others. Negative feedbacks in the past do shape our self-esteem. But these need to be revisited and dealt with. We are valuable because God created us with noble purposes, and He paid the price to redeem us.
REFLECTING: Many feel bad about themselves without identifying the cause. Feeling like a failure or strong sense of inadequacy might cause extended depression and all sorts of anxieties. Going through these 20+ questions help you reconnect with your past and increase self-awareness of why we are who we are today. REDIRECTING: Helping a person with low self-esteem does not meaning telling him/her "therapeutic lies" so that he/she feels better. It does, however, mean that he/she needs to develop a realistic set of assessment of both strengths and weaknesses. Wanting to be healed of low self-esteem is a good start (many prefer to remain in self-pity and blame everyone else for decades at a time). Challenge your friend/yourselves to deal with it now in our CG setting.
Render Timely Help: (1) Recognise our high worth, (2) Stop recycling harmful thoughts, (3) Start healthy thought patterns, (4) Allow more time for transition, (5) Read God's Word.
Elaborations on Exodus 3:11, Psalm 8:4-5, Isaiah 43:1, Matthew 10:29-30, 1John 3:1. Prayer: Thank God for looking upon us as precious, of great value, given gifts and the special package of background, interests, abilities, ideas that make each one of us God's special creation.
Intro video on Weekdays' topics / Devotion
Start the year by looking at the big forests, and ask God for His will on what is the outcome for 2021 and beyond in your participation at S-Word EFC. Don't lose your bearing when you get pulled in many directions this year by various people and programs. Spend some moments in silence to pray to God and seek His will for 2021. ... Align our lives, resources, time, relationship etc to the agreed desire outcomes, so that our united journey together can be enjoyable, meaningful and God-pleasing, for 2021 and beyond!
Challenge: In 2021, reduce chaos (避免步步惊心) by committing to the church that God has called you to belong and building that church up in the short time of span we have on earth. We probably do not have sufficient time to change church often to search for, settle down and build the desired outcome of intimacy. The factors for consideration can be:
(1) Where The Word is preached properly (Bible)
(2) Where the Sacraments are administered correctly (Holy Communion & Baptism)
(3) Where there is Evangelism / Disciple-making to end of the earth (World Mission)
(4) Where it is a place you not only GET or RECEIVE but also could GIVE (Contribution)
(5) Where you Know Others and many others Know You (Community & Belonging)