Over some 20 years prior to my diagnosis of bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness, I have had some 10 to 11 episodes of severe depression each lasting between 3 to 6 months or longer. During such a difficult time, I have a constant struggles with the question "What is the meaning of Life?". Whenever I am severely depressed, this question will surface over and over again.
Thank God for leading me to seek medical help in Dec 2006. In end January 2007, the Lord led me to seek counselling help. As I recounted my past history with my Christian counsellor, Sarah, she realized that the phrase "What is the meaning of Life" or "I find life so meaningless" keep recurring. So we decided to explore this together as she felt it will have an impact in my recovery process.
On Wednesday, I shared about my thoughts on what I think is the meaning of Life (Part 2). This is a difficult question as it can mean different thing to different people. Is there really a meaning to Life? Or am I here by accident and for no reason or purpose? If life has a meaning, what is it? If God has a purpose for me here, how can I know about it?
I told Sarah that I think to live a meaningful life is to be a useful person. For me it is to be able to serve God, care for my family and do a good job at work. I always strive to do my best at work. When I am able to contribute to my church work, my family situation or work or charity work, I feel that I am living a very meaningful life. Whenever I go through severe depression, I lost all my energies, strength and motivation to do anything. I felt that I am very useless and a total failure. Life seems so meaningless to me. But whenever I am well, I am able to pray, read the Bible, know God's love and comfort, able to take care of my mother, able to go to church, to work, enjoy my hobbies, etc etc. I find life very meaningful now.
Sarah listened attentively. She clarified some of my thoughts by asking me some questions. She didn't say very much whether she agrees with my views or not. Then she suggested that maybe we try and explore further through another method.
Sarah took out a very huge piece of paper and some colored markers. I wondered what she intended to do?
Sarah suggested to me to chart the major events in my life in a graph. For major events in my life, I was to use a black marker to chart the time/year it happened. For every happy and wonderful event, I was to use a green marker to chart the time/year it happened. I was then to use a red marker to mark out those periods of time when I went through severe depression. As I use these different markers to chart the different event over the last 20 years, there are often some overlappings.
Before I met Sarah, I used to look at my life as a total failure (this is one of the faulty or unhelpful thinking pattern Sarah helped me to recognize and try to change). Sarah helped me to see that in my life there were not just the black timeline, there were the green ones as well though also intertwined with the red ones. And by the mercies of God, I began to see that the green timelines scattered throughout my life, and they were not few. I began to see God's goodness and mercies in my life in a different way! Sarah helps me to see that in life we do experience up and down throughout different periods of time. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we are well, sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we failed. But none of these experiences represent us as a person. They are just events in our life, and everyone go through it. My past and present failures does not make me a failure. I can seek God's forgiveness and help to learn from my mistakes and to do better the next time, by His grace. I can become a better person and grow through each experiences, though they are painful and difficult.
We started charting with the events that happened after I became a Christian in 1990.
1) My relationship with my father improved.
One of the first thing that changes in my life after I came to know the Lord as my personal Saviour and Lord was that I was able to forgive my father for a past mistake he made. For a long time, I would not talk to my father. But after I became a Christian, I was greatly moved by the knowledge that I am a great sinner but that God loves me and send the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me to pay the penalty of my sins and delivered me from the bondage of sin and eternal destructions in Hell. I was greatly touched by God's love for me and the joy of forgiveness in Him. Though I am weak and continue to fail Him daily, He forgives me of my sins daily, He guides and leads me in life, and provides for my every need.
By God's mercies, He changed my heart. When I went home, I took the initiative to talk to my father. I no longer feel that I could not forgive him. I felt compassion in my heart for him. He is so lost without God, and that is why he committed that awful mistake in the past. I felt sorry for him. This event is very significant in my life, because this is one of the biggest changes I notice in my life after I became a Christian. I know that I would never have been able to forgive my father if not because God changed my heart and enable me by His Spirit to do so.
As I recounted this event in my life to Sarah, I was filled with thankfulness to God for His mercies in my life in leading me to know Him savingly, and also to forgive my dear father so that my relationship with him improved. I began praying for my father and my family. My father's relationship with other members of my family then began to improve.
Sarah, asked whether I realized that I had caused an impact in my family situation and especially in my father's life. That particular event, was used by God, in His mercies to bring about a reconciliation in my family. The Lord was using me! I didn't see it then. But now I realized that God was using me to reach out to my father and helped him to be reconciled to my family.
Sarah asked whether that particular event has any impact to the question "What is the meaning of Life?" which I have struggled with. Do I think my life is meaningful at such a time?
I thought about it for a moment. I said I think Life is meaningful because I was able to know our Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord. And I was able to forgive my father and love him once again. Sarah said I also did something very meaningful. She said God was using me to reach out to my father and reconciled him to my family.
Thank God! Now I saw afresh that my life was a very meaningful one right after my conversion.
Sarah suggested that we continue with the next important event in my life as we seek to explore the meaning of Life......
To be continued......