A little background about myself to begin with:
I first received Christ in 1999. Ever since, I've attended church services and cell group regularly in a local church. My highest qualification attained was a Diploma in Chemical & Pharmaceutical Technology, awarded by Nanyang Polytechnic in early 2005. In the same year, I did my national service and completed it in March 2008. Following April, I enrolled into Bible School and graduated in September 2008. I was awarded with an Advanced Certificate of Theology. My first employment was an assistant project engineer in October 2008.
From April to September 2008, I started facing issues with the church leadership. This also affected my relationship with my ex-girlfriend. We broke up eventually. In October 2008 to April 2009, work took a tremendous toll on me. I started experiencing acute chest pains and panic attacks due to the intense stress. Family members don't seem to understand how I felt and could not be of much help. Long story short, at the end of it all, I was very hurt, disappointed, angry and bitter.
On 23 August 2009, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder at Institute of Mental Health (IMH). I was in a state of panic, anxiety and depression. This was a result of snowballing many setbacks and disappointments overtime before I came to a mental breakdown.
This was how I felt back then:
I was stuck in life
I don't know my direction in life
I stopped working
I was angry with myself, family members, church members and God
I was fearful for the future
I was fearful if I could not fall asleep every night
I was afraid to speak out, even if I did, no one could understand
My finances were running low while I still had bills to pay
My heart was shut by walls of negative emotions
I hated myself, my life and God
I contemplated suicide
I've been a patient since, and still going back for repeated consultations bi-annually. As of now, my condition has improved tremendously by the grace of God. Doctor's advice was to continue medication.
It may sound rather shocking to some of you because you would not have thought that I'm a mental patient when you first associate with me. Truth be told, there are many things we often don't see just by looking at people physically. There's more to a book than its cover. As I narrate the pages in this book, I hope my story will encourage you to not give up in life despite what it does to you.
Medication every 3 months. Top left, Omeprazole (20MG) for chest pains caused by gastric reflux. Bottom left, Fluvoxamine (25MG) a common anti-depressant. Top right, Hydroxyzine (25MG) a common sedative. Bottom right (left), Imipramine (25MG) for anxiety. Bottom right (right), Diazepam (10MG) or sleeping pill.
In June 2009, God responded.
10 years as a believer, I had a lot of head knowledge about God. Sadly, I hardly knew Him until this particular encounter. I had a few encounters before, but none was even close to this. I was on my computer randomly browsing through YouTube until I came across the "Prince of Egypt". It was the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Deeply drawn by video, I began to tear as I saw how God demonstrated miraculous signs and wonders to deliver His people from slavery. When Moses plunged his rod (representing God) into the Red Sea, the waters parted. I burst into tears in front of my computer screen. The emotion was intense. Then came a word from the Holy Spirit.
He spoke gently to my heart, "Son, one day I'm going to use you to bring forth a miracle like how I did through my servant Moses." This doesn't make any sense to me. What was God trying to say? In response, I replied with a host of questions. "Lord, are you kidding me? You want to use me? How can You use me with the state I'm in now? Is there anything in me that You can use?" Of all the questions I've asked, only the last one came with an answer. It was revealed through a word of knowledge. He said, "I gave Moses a rod to represent Me, what do you have that can represent Me?" Immediately, something came to my remembrance. The only thing I had left was my guitar.
Coincidentally, guitar is made from wood and so was the rod. The cross which Christ died on was made from wood. In that split second, I received my revelation. I was blind but now I see. God removed the veil from my eyes. Things started to make sense. God already saw this was coming. He had also made the provision 8 years ago when I first picked up guitar. Being brought up in a fast paced culture and rigid education system in Singapore, I was completely blinded from a destiny God has long prepared for me.
I was taught once I completed my studies, I will begin the vicious cycle of life like every Singaporean does. My thoughts were so calculated, logical and rationalized. Never would I expect myself to be struck by mental illness which totally realtered my path. God had a plan for me but He needed me to be completely brokenned. In brokenness, I saw that one thing I had with me many years but never really paid much attention to until now.
I could still remember the song playing in the background as I watched the video. The title is "When You Believe" sung by Mariah Carey and the late Whitney Houston. I want to share with you the lyrics of this song, perhaps it will speak to you.
Many nights we prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hope for a song
We barely understood
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could, whoa, yes
There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seems like the summer bird
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I'm standing here
My hearts so full, I can't explain
Seeking faith and speakin words
I never thought I'd say
There can be miracles
When you believe (When you believe)
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill (Mmm)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve)
When you believe somehow you will
You will when you believe
They don't always happen when you ask
And it's easy to give in to your fears
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see the way, get through the rain
A small but still, resilient voice
Says love is very near, oh [Oh]
There can be miracles (Miracles)
When you believe (Boy, when you believe, yeah) [Though hope is frail]
Though hope is frail [Its hard]
It's hard to kill (Hard to kill, oh, yeah)
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve, oh)
When you believe somehow you will (Somehow, somehow, somehow)
Somehow you will (I know, I know, know)
You will when you believe [When you]
[You will when you]
(You will when you believe)
[When you believe]
[When you believe]
With that encounter, it sparked me on a relentless journey to better my guitar skills both technically and theoretically. I decided to start teaching guitar as my career though I wasn't exactly sure this was God's direction. The only thing that I knew was, I had the peace of God. I humbly began my search for possible guitar students, starting from ZERO. The road was tough. I struggled with belief and unbelief at the same time. I believe because I knew the magnitude that encounter had to be God. It changed my life and gave me hope. I struggled with unbelieve because I started to see things through the eyes of men as not being practical. How can teaching guitar make you a living? Furthermore, I'm not a famous guitarist, no networks, no contacts and lack the skills to start a business. How do I even get started?
In spite of these questions that burned constantly in my heart, I decided to give it a shot. In March 2010, I registered this company and named it "Guitarworks". During the process of designing my company logo, I felt the leading to change the letter 't' in the word 'guitar' to the symbol of the Cross "†". With the cross in the middle, my guitar would represent God. I sincerely wish to thank a good friend of mine for designing this logo at no expense. I'm deeply grateful to his kindness.
At this point in time, I have decided to leave my previous church having found another better place. I received a word of confirmation in Gen 12:1-2 through a Christmas gift in December 2009. I obeyed instantly. I did not leave because of my disappointments in my previous church. Rather, it was God who was changing my direction. Currently, I'm attending the Chinese congregation of a local church. God has helped me understand what I was looking for in a church, its direction, its congregation and its culture. I got to know many new friends who are so pure and simple at heart loving God.
I faithfully attended every church service, cell and prayer meetings. I could be in church for up to 5 days in a week. Looking back, I realize that for the first 6 months in 2010, I was literally crying and weeping in almost every single meeting I attended. Now only did I realize that God was healing all my negative emotions accumulated over all these years. Jesus took away my hurts, disappointments, insecurity, pain, failures, low self esteem and sense of hopelessness. The healing was not instant, but over a period of time. God is more interested in the process than in the end result.
Things were slightly better when my emotions were healed. Guitarworks, however, was not doing well. By June 2010, I only had about 5 students if I recalled correctly. Looking at my income, I was only able to survive but not save up for the future. Meanwhile, I received job offers to teach guitar in several music schools. The easiest solution was to accept any offer immediately. That would solve all my problems. For me, this was not so. I decided to pray and seek God for His direction, not mine. True enough, I did not feel the peace of God and thus I rejected all the job offers. There was no particular reason why, it was just a prompting in my spirit that says, "Trust Me like how Moses did." With that, I obeyed.
I decided to set a goal of having 10 active students before 2010 ends. I achieved it and was grateful to God for His faithfulness. After detailed planning, I realize that 10 active students is not enough. I decided to set another goal of 30 active students before 2011 ends. I achieved it. At this point in time, I have decided to trust God fully that He will provide for all my needs by faithfully running Guitarworks.
Just in last 3 weeks of April 2011 alone, I experienced a miraculous growth of students coming to take up guitar lessons. I was shocked and amazed at the same time because I had not experience such growth before. Hallelujah, Amen! Now I can even save quite a substantial amount of money through my income, bless my parents and pay for all my bills. I have no lack! God is faithful.
Why did I choose to share my testimony?
First, I believe there is a God out there who listens. I'm not trying to be religious. My point to you is, if you're at the end of the road, have tried all ways and means but failed, why not give Jesus a try? What do you have to lose anyway? Nothing.
Second, I am just as human as you are. Life can be very broken sometimes, I agree. I too was a victim of it. This is not the time to keep silent and be alone, you need to find someone you can trust and start talking about your problems. If you need professional help, start looking for the appropriate channels and engage them. Go see a psychiatrist if there is a need. These are not permanent solutions to your problems, but you need to at least live on with that little bit of hope that you can find. Buy some time for yourself while you embark on a journey to find your solution.
Last, I believe in helping people. Compassion is a precious part of humanity that we all should embrace regardless of nationalities, race or religion. It is a universal language that can be communicated through words and actions. If there is anything I can do within my means to help, write to me, I will respond.
Now back to my testimony.
Why didn't God respond earlier when He already knew I was going to fall? Why didn't God save Joseph when he was sold into Egypt and eventually thrown into jail for a crime he did not commit? I really don't know, because I'm not God. However if I were to give my answer, I think God allowed me to go through this valley, experience the excruciating pain and then slowly walk me back up again. It was a period of humility before the Almighty. I was too proud, too full of myself to hear Him. The only way for God to get my attention was to break me. It brought me close to the point of giving up my faith in Jesus. The Lord remembers mercy when chastening His children.
Rom 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. As a result, my life became a testimony to many others who are struggling with depression. It gave them hope to believe that if God can turn it around for me, He can do the same for them. If you know the story of Joseph, it was in prison that he began to realize he had the gift of interpreting dreams. Eventually he interpreted Pharaoh's dream prophesying that Egypt will go through 7 years of prosperity followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph became the saviour of Egypt. He was promoted to become the Prime Minister, second only to Pharaoh.
Life is full of ups and downs. Only valleys teach you how to become stronger, not mountains. You will definitely fall down in life, thus you need to learn how to get up again. The process of getting back up is to fight, keep moving forward and to never give up.
God did not respond immediately when my life was on a downward spiral, because I was using men's methods to fix my problems. He was present, but only as a spectator. He was not Lord over my life. I wanted control of my life and do things my way. I did not seek His direction and His purpose. In other words, I am my own god. As a Christian, we are created in the likeness and image of God. If this is true, then the purpose of our existence should be closely tied to our maker. It is our responsibility to find our purpose, destiny and direction in Him. God has already done His part by redeeming us through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is now our turn to seek His will.
However, in this result-merit driven, ever-changing fast paced society, how many of us can afford the time to slow down and think about things like purpose, direction, what am I made to do? I thank God for the mental illness I went through. Painful as it may be, I think it is all worth it. It stopped my life, literally a complete halt. It was only then I took time to seek after God without any personal agenda on my mind because I simply do not have any agenda when I'm lost in life.
To anyone who has burning questions about purpose, direction and calling in life, kindly allow me to share my experience.
Before I go on, I wish to reiterate that I am only sharing my personal experience. What happened to me and how I responded MAY or MAY NOT apply to your situation.
STOP! Stop everything you're doing, shelf all your problems aside first, take a break or go for a short holiday. Spend some time with nature and God. By the way I quit my job for this.
A Chinese proverb goes by saying “休息是为了走更长的路”, I fully agree. You are only resting for a short while to fuel your energy for the rest of your journey. Looking at life through a microscopic view will only magnify its problems. Looking at life in its entirety, will lead you to making the right decisions for your life as a whole! God always look at our lives from a bigger perspective. Surrender and yield to Him, let Him direct your paths and make it straight.
Let me assure you that there will be times of suffering in life even as a christian. The bible says that we do not only partake of Christ's blessings but also of His sufferings. Thus, bad things DOES happen to good people. Never think we can ever avoid it. When we are suffering, it does not mean that God is judging you, it may just mean that it is a season in your life when you learn to humbly carry your cross and suffer like Jesus did. No one likes to go through suffering. However, it is not up to us to decide how our life should turn out to be, only God can. We can never comprehend God's amazing wisdom that precedes the boundaries of time, space and matter given our limited minds.
The good news is, once the suffering is over, you will be exalted by God once again. No suffering last forever! Through the period of suffering, your faith is refined like gold. Your attitude towards life will be tremendously changed and you will learn to see things from a different perspective. Your values will go through a complete RE-ALIGNMENT. As for myself, I would tell you that the person I was 2.5 years ago is completely different from what you are seeing now.
My outward has not changed much but my inward has went through a thorough renewal. Mental illness taught me so many things in life that I could hardly type every single detail out to share with you. I could only list the critical pointers for you to read and ponder. Lastly, let me encourage you by saying, don't be afraid to take hardships in life. Don't avoid it or run away from it. If there comes a time for you to suffer, pray without ceasing and ask God to walk through it with you. If you need to cry, go ahead and cry. Crying is a form of healing and release for your soul. Find friends who are willing to help carry your burdens.
One last issue I wish to address is how to deal with your past and all the painful emotions that still linger in your heart. God knows we are human. We have emotions that we need to face and deal with after the drama. The drama could be a bad relationship, a past failure, guilt, shame and a sense of worthlessness etc. You need God to point you to your new direction. Many a times, it is not because people cannot let go or move on from their past. It is simply because they don't have a new direction, new purpose or new destiny to move on to.
It involves shifting your attention from all that was negative to all that is positive. If your don't know your future, ask God to show you. Men cannot give you this. Only God (your creator) can, because He knows you from your beginning to your end. When you mess up in life, God knows the exact solution. The evidence of that is the peace which surpasses all understanding that only Jesus can give. That "GOOD" will begin to heal and erase your past. For whom the Son sets free, he is free indeed. Be still and know that He is God.
Thank you for taking time to read.
Dated: 1st May 2011
Owner & Founder
Mobile: 9755 8432