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as someone who suffers from depression and has been a pretty severe asthmatic in the past (though apparently not anymore, thank God!), James Fong’s words in the latest issue of the Sydney Anglican newspaper Southern Cross resonated with me.

Depression is like emotional bronchitis. You just find it difficult to breathe. Antidepressants function as a bit of a Ventolin to help you breathe more easily, but you still have to do the hard work.

it’s a tricky time of year. we’re all so tired, we’re all so frazzled. it can be hard to get into the ‘Christmas spirit’, whatever that is. you help run multiple church services and carols services and feel cynical and jaded. you sing along to joyful songs and feel no joy whatsoever. all you can think about is how you wish it was holidays and you could just hide for a while.

but Fong has more words for those of us who are finding it hard to breathe, and this is the key.

The big turning point for me was acknowledging that God is bigger than my greatest darkness. I realised that even if things were really black, if I was incapacitated from serving in ministry, or even if I lost my mind, none of that could separate me from God’s love.

Thankfulness is the last thing on the mind of a depressive, but it’s the very first thing we need to do to reverse the effects…often you just need to stop for a minute and work out what you can be thankful to God for, just bit by bit.

so what am i thankful for?

  • that Jesus was born into this world to save it
  • that God loves me even when i am ungrateful and cynical and wishing i could just give up
  • that i have godly, loving and encouraging people around me like mum, jen, mark and barbara, to help me persevere
  • that God has given me the gift of music, that i can sing and play and express my faith and my feelings in that way
  • that mulan, a little girl from church who sings and plays piano, wants to be like me when she grows up (how cute is that?!)
  • that i have been given so much, that i am so wealthy compared to most of the world, that i have the freedom to come and go as i please, to eat and wear and buy what i want, to go to church, to go to work
  • that i can have Christmas celebrations in my own home, the way i want, with my mother and brother
  • that in small ways i am an encouragement and a Christian witness to others, even though i feel isolated and invisible most of the time

and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. it’s easy to get discouraged, but there is a lot to be thankful for when you stop and think about it, even for just a moment.

We build walls of pride around ourselves, and in the end I’ve found that my brokenness is a great gift: it’s an opportunity to allow God’s grace to seep through.

~James Fong, Southern Cross dec/jan, p19