I was speaking to a friend recently. She is based in the States right now and the winter there as well being away from home was getting to her.
I told her about how when I was studying in England, I studied Psychology for my A’levels and there was a term to describe the depression that kicks in during winter. S.A.D (I kid you not) or Seasonal Affective Disorder. People suffering from S.A.D feel a sense of hopelessness, lethargy and have food cravings which can lead to weight gain during winter where the days are short and the nights are long. One of the main ways to help someone with this disorder is to put them through heliotherapy or light therapy. I explained how I bought the brightest light bulb I could from the shops and replaced the bulbs in my room with them. And then it hit me how this was a quiet time meditation in itself.
We live in Singapore where the days and nights don’t feel any longer or shorter 365 days a year but it does not mean that people don’t feel SAD. In fact, many people hunger and crave to fill up the emptiness in them, but have no idea what is it that they need to make them feel whole and right again. There are all sorts of spiritual junk food out there and some people fall victim to astrology, tarot cards, self-help books, emo music as they try to find ‘the answer- whatever that is.
I suffered from depression before so I know what Sylvia Plath meant in her poem, ‘Elm’ – “I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root: It is what you fear.” It was a dark place and I was often afraid, angry, sad, guilty, full of self-pity, self-destruction and self-loathing. I always felt that I could only write well if I were moody and depressed because I am an artist. I did go to church even then. I went for mass and I would kneel, cry and pray. Yet the darkness did not go away. I fed myself on a diet of Tori Amos and my German school mate introduced me to Sylvia Plath after she read my poems and could not believe I had not heard of her before because our style of writing was so similar. I was a Catholic but I did not turn to the Word. I thought going to church should have made a difference. I did not realise what kind of sermon I heard would make a difference.
When I met my husband, I felt sorry for him because I was such a gloom cookie. I would tell him, “If you want to know me, watch THE HOURS.” So he bought it and he told me it would be so sad if I had to never be happy in order to write well. It was the first spark. My husband is a Christian and I know it is no coincidence that he appeared in my life. I was a single mum by then and struggling with myself. He was very encouraging. What bothered me though was that I was a Catholic then and he was Christian. I knew our theological backgrounds differed. He never evangelised to me though and I just attended both our churches hoping to prove him wrong. But all those years of rituals and repetitive prayers fell apart in the face of the living word. I left the Catholic church. I was very moved by the sermons in the church we were attending and started to read the bible voraciously. I had found that glimmer of light in the dark and I was not going to let it go. Every moment spent studying the word made it a little brighter for me but there were still moments of guilt and fear. Some days the pulpit fed us but when the senior pastor was away, both Ian and I felt spiritually starved.
I did not know I was seeking for grace. We both were. We sang about amazing grace but I did not know I had only gone from legalism to mixture. It was only one day when I was ready for the grace message that I came to encounter it. I was walking around one day when I saw a long queue at Suntec City. I found out it was a bible study session. What I did not know was who the preacher would be. When he walked on stage I felt worried- it was Pastor Joseph Prince. My best girl friend had told me years ago about him (he is her pastor) but when she passed me cassette tapes of him, the Catholic I was then, felt repulsed that he was young and good-looking. I dismissed him as a cult figure. I wanted to leave the auditorium but was too embarrassed to as I was sitting in the middle of the row. So I stayed and I thank the LORD I remained because it was the most illuminating sermon I had ever heard. I had never heard anyone preach about Jesus and expound the Word of God so clearly and in such detail before. The next week, Ian who was a little skeptical at first, joined me. We ended up making New Creation Church our home church and got married there some years later. =)
I was healed of my depression and the consistent exposure to the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ… the SON-light… has kept the darkness at bay. Even when I feel darkness trying to get to me, I hear my Shepherd’s voice loud and clear & I cannot help but be filled with light. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
What the world needs isn’t feel good books or DIY books. Feelings are transient. Joy is not like happiness which depends on something happening first before I can feel like I am victorious. Happiness can be taken away if the outcome is wrong. Joy is founded on the fact that I am ALREADY victorious and I know the final outcome is that the LORD will use all the things that the devil means to hurt me with and turns it around to bless me above and beyond all I can think of or imagine. It is an eternal security and that is the light that cannot be snuffed out and that shines bright in my life.