Last weekend, Bernice and I had the privilege to minister at a camp for college and university students from the Petaling Jaya Evangelical Free Church. This was a group of bright people, most of whom took their faith seriously. We had no doubts that from them would come people who would impact Malaysia and the world for Christ.
The camp was held on the Malaysia Bible Seminary campus, located a short distance north of Petaling Jaya. We had a great time interacting with the group, so much so that I almost forgot that the campus was the place where I first experienced the onset of my clinical depression.
There are some days in your life that you never forget. That night in 1998 was one of them. I can’t remember the date but I can never forget the year. It was the year after the year that Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died. On that evening I preached at the ordination service of my good friend Pastor Jerry of Klang Baptist Church. After the ordination service I was to join an evangelistic camp organised by a College and Career Fellowship. I also had to give a ride to one of the campers.
After the ordination service, I had to first go by my house to get what I needed for the camp. When I reached home, I found myself gripped with anxiety and fear. Everything I did seemed to take an incredible amount of energy. Packing my bag was the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. When I finally reached the camp I found myself with absolutely no energy to do anything. It felt like someone had switched off my master switch.
The few days at the evangelistic camp were torture. I normally enjoy mingling, and indeed was expected to mingle, with the folks, especially, the non-Christians who had been invited. Instead I hid out in my room. The only thing that gave me some relief were hot showers. So I showered a lot. I dragged myself to give two evangelistic sermons. Again, that felt like climbing Mount Everest. I felt that I had let the team down, which only made me feel worse. (It was years later that I found out that at least one person accepted Christ that weekend. That really had to be a God thing.)
I didn’t know then that I was suffering from depression. It was only a visit to a psychiatrist that helped me understand what I was going through. He said that with proper care I should be out of the acute phase of my depression in about four to six months. He was right. But those early days were hell. It has been thirteen years since.
I pause to give thanks to God. As I reflect on the joy of last weekend’s camp, I remember what happened thirteen years ago, and how far I have come. I remember the grace of God. One good thing about growing older is that you have more opportunities to see how certain things pan out. I know my propensity to forget the blessings of God. It doesn’t help that a consumer society encourages one to be aware of things you don’t have, rather than to appreciate what you have.
When I first agreed to take last weekend’s camp, I had no idea where it was to be held. I believe that the location was not accidental. I believe the Lord wanted me to remember where I had come from and where I am now. I believe the Lord wanted me to remember that though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Therefore as we go through the breaking moments of life, we remember that sooner or later, in this life or the next, God will deliver. In remembering, we find the courage to press on.