'I thought that as a Christian, I shouldn’t be having mental health problems'
Sam’s story | No one is perfect
“Perfectionism was a part of my life. I am an only child, born in Hong Kong. We moved to Australia when I was six. By the time I was in high school, I went to an academic school that was very focused on marks and getting into the right university degree. I aimed to excel at everything that I was good at. It brought on a lot of anxiety. Whenever I did something (that I knew I could do well), it needed to be perfect.”
“At the same time, my parents took me to church. They were first generation Christians. Strangely enough, I don’t think I heard about the cross during my childhood. I remember when I was about 15, a youth leader asked me what I thought Christianity was about, and I replied, ‘It’s about doing the right things and not doing the wrong things.’
“The youth leader then really challenged me. He challenged me to look at salvation through Jesus Christ. At the same time I was given a Max Lucado book called In the Grip of Grace. It suddenly opened my eyes. The Gospel is ALL about grace. Jesus died for me. I decided this is a faith worth believing.
“A few years later, in year 12, I was stumped on the issue of predestination and the sovereignty of God, so I listened to an online sermon on Romans 8 and 9. The preacher said that when Paul quoted Psalm 36, ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,’ he and his readers probably knew people who had been slaughtered for their faith, at the hands of the Romans. And yet still he wrote, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39)
“The truth of the verse really struck me. That’s when I decided I really wanted to live and die for Jesus because nothing can separate us from God’s love! Nothing. Some of the weight of perfectionism fell off me. I realised I was actually helpless. I’d grown up trying to fix the problems and find the solutions, but I wasn’t able to be perfect and Jesus had paid the price for me, willingly.
“It was a key moment … but the path of sanctification is long. I threw myself into my church. I became a ‘young, reformed and restless’ young adult. God and spiritual things consumed my life. I wanted to have a God-centred view of the world, so much so, that everything else became unimportant. It was actually quite a skewed life. I only had Christian friends, Christian contacts, only read Christian books and I was a Christian conference junkie. Everything was about spiritual things!
“In that time, my mental health went down. But I thought that as a Christian, I shouldn’t be having mental health problems, so I couldn’t tell anyone. After university, I went to Bible College. At the time, I expected that I would do quite well at college … but because of my mental health I wasn’t achieving what I expected.
“That’s when God worked in my life. Perhaps I hadn’t got rid of the perfectionism after all? Perhaps I thought that if I got my Christian faith right (or the public image of it) then that would be my greatest achievement. God really showed me that I’d been relying on my mental capacity all that time, rather than on him. He showed me how much I needed him. He showed me how much he loved me. He showed me that he loved me even when I could do nothing at all. He loved me despite my incapacity.
“And that was really humbling. God slowly reshaped me. He’s still reshaping me.
“I fondly remember every time I sat an exam, in reading time I would open up Zechariah 4:6 and read ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’”
Sam’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.