Chest Pains as a Cause of Depression


Chang Ming Jia was a 66 year old woman who lived just outside a large city in China.  Her husband died from a heart attack two years ago after a 41 year marriage.  She and her husband were not able to have children and so she lived alone.  Last year, she started having chest and back pains.  She went to her doctor, who said she needed to have some more tests for possible heart problems.  Before the tests were even run, she had a heart attack in the hospital.  She was treated immediately and ended up having by-pass surgery.  The hospitalization was difficult, but she did recover and was able to go home. 

Once home, Chang Ming Jia began to feel anxious that she would have another attack and no one would be there to help her.  Some of the neighbors did stop by, but not often enough to ease her fears.   Then, Chang Ming Jia began to have trouble sleeping.  She had no energy and felt awful, but attributed it to the surgery.  She lost her appetite, but tried to make herself eat.  She frequently started crying for no known reason.  She felt so alone.  She stopped doing many of the activities that she had enjoyed before the heart attack.  She stopped gardening and her housekeeping chores went undone much of the time.  Chang Ming Jia appreciated the neighbors that had stopped by to check on her, but she did not want to see anyone.  She found herself feeling nervous whenever anyone would visit her and turned down any invitations from friends to chat.  Chang Ming Jia felt sick, sad and alone.

What bothered her most though was the re-current chest pains which were just like the ones she had just before she had her heart attack. She went back to the hospital and they ran tests and told her that the chest pains were not from her heart. She went back many times, often weekly only to be told that the chest pains were not from her heart.  Finally a friend came by and spent some time with Chang Ming Jia. As they talked Chang Ming Jia’s friend thought it might be best if she accompanied her to the hospital and assist Chang Ming Jia in talking with the doctor.

Chang Ming Jia arranged a time and went back to her doctor and told him about her symptoms.  The doctor told her that her heart attack probably caused some of the weakness, but that some of her symptoms were due to clinical depression. 

The doctor explained that often people with depression have symptoms, like her chest pain, which are exactly like the symptoms they had with their real symptoms and disease. In this case like her heart attack symptoms. The doctor told Chang Ming Jia that he saw this often. He reassured Chang Ming Jia that she had nothing to worry about. He reassured her that all of her symptoms were not from her heart and that her heart was fine.

Though comforted a little by this Chang Ming Jia was still uncertain. She had always been anxious about things.  Then death of her husband and her heart attack certainly gave her a lot to worry about.

Chang Ming Jia’s friend who accompanied her to the doctor was concerned about her. After they returned home her friend told Chang Ming Jia about a person who could help her with her problems. Chang Ming Jia was not interested in a person but a medicine or herb which could help her. However, she did not want to upset her friend who had taken the time to help her. So she listened.

Her friend told her that five years ago she had had a similar situation. Chang Ming Jia’s friend told her about some pain she had in her stomach. The pain turned out to be a cancer. She had an operation which the doctor’s told her would cure her of the cancer. However, Chang Ming Jia’s friend was not so sure. She had pain in the same place for months after the operation. Chang Ming Jia’s friend, at that time, was very frustrated. She also became very depressed and the pain became worse. Then a friend told her about the person of Jesus Christ. After studying and thinking for awhile Chang Ming Jia’s friend came to faith in Jesus Christ.

After coming to faith in Jesus Christ Chang Ming Jia’s friend had peace and joy which she had never had before. Slowly over several months her depression resolved and also her stomach pain. The doctor’s had told Chang Ming Jia’s friend that her pain was not from the surgery or a return from cancer but only psychological pain from depression. At first Chang Ming Jia’s friend was angry when the doctors told her this but now she knew they were right.

Chang Ming Jia was very interested in this person Jesus Christ. Her friend’s situation and hers were very similar.  She wanted to know more. Her friend gave her a Bible which Chang Ming Jia’s friend told her was God’s love story for all of mankind. Chang Ming Jia started to read the Bible to learn more about this person Jesus.

Chang Ming Jia returned to the hospital to see the doctor.  She was still quite depressed. The doctor talked with her about depression and told her that there were some medicines which she could use to help her come out of the depression. The doctor prescribed a medication that was designed to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain, which contributes to depression.  He told her that she would have to take the medicine every day and that she should see some improvement in two to four weeks.  She took her medicine and found that she did feel somewhat better.  She slept better and had an increase in energy.  She also noticed that she did not cry as often.  The depressive symptoms had improved with the medicine, but she still felt that something was wrong.  She still had the chest pains, though she was less worried about them than in the past.

The doctor had assured her that the medicines were safe to take for a long period of time. In fact the doctor told her that thousands of people around the world have taken these medicines for years without major side effects. The doctor also told Chang Ming Jia that it was important to also consider getting some counseling. Why asked Chang Ming Jia?  Because, the doctor said, medicines are not the sole cure for depression. He re-emphasized that her main problem was depression and not the chest pains.

The doctor asked her to come back and see him in several months to see how she was doing. The doctor also told her not to abruptly stop the medicines as there would be severe side effects from this. Also he told her than when she returned in several months they would recheck her heart and any effects the depression medicine could have on her kidneys, liver and blood.  Chang Ming Jia was fine with this plan.

Chang Ming Jia came to realize that, even though she wasn’t depressed like before, she still felt hopelessness about her future.  Most of all, Chang Ming Jia was afraid of dying.   She knew that she would die eventually, but had not thought much about it in the past.    Even her husband’s death had not made her think very much about her own death.  Now, her heart attack forced her to come face to face with her eventual death. 

Chang Ming Jia had never been a religious person.  Though reading the Bible now made her wonder if she would become one. She had always assumed that death was the end; that there was simply nothing after death.  It all seemed so hopeless.  She simply sat in her room day-after-day, her thoughts becoming more and more hopeless. 

Chang Ming Jia had heard that some people believed in a life after death in a place called heaven.  She had laughed at such stories as foolishness.  Even Chang Ming Jia’s friend who had become a Christian several years ago continued to challenge her to consider the life of Christ.  Her friend continued to talk to her on several occasions about Jesus Christ and about His loving her enough to die for her sins.  Her friend said that she believed she would go to heaven after she died, because she was a believer. Chang Ming Jia thought much about these things.

One day, Chang Ming Jia had a visit from her friend.  They chatted for a while about different matters and then the conversation became serious.  Chang Ming Jia asked her friend about her belief in Jesus Christ.  Chang Ming Jia’s friend was excited that her friend was showing some interest.  She had prayed for a while that Chang Ming Jia would become a believer.  She shared the fact that Jesus came to become a sacrifice for the sins of all people and that all Chang would have to do was to accept Jesus as her savior to be able to go to heaven when she dies.

Chang Ming Jia’s friend showed her in the Bible where it says, ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23) and then another place where it said, ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6.23).’  Her friend explained that we all have sinned and as a result are separated from God. The only way to come to God is through Jesus Christ. Coming to God through Jesus Christ gives us life with meaning now and eternal life forever.

After a long discussion Chang Ming Jia was interested in receiving Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord. She asked what she should do. Her friend told her that there was nothing to do. God had given Jesus Christ as a free gift to the whole world. Chang Ming Jia’s friend showed her a place in the Bible which says, ‘for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourself, it is a gift from God so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2.8, 9).’ Her friend told her that God’s grace is unmerited favor towards us. That is we can do nothing to deserve this salvation from God. It is a totally free gift. All we have to do is believe it and receive it.

Her friend went onto tell Chang Ming Jia what we must believe to receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. She showed her a place in the Bible which said, ‘if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10.9).’  Chang Ming Jia’s friend told her this meant if you believe you are a sinful person and that Jesus is Lord of your life because he died on the cross for our sins and if we then believe that after Jesus died on the cross he rose from the dead for our sins, we will be saved. What a great message Chang Ming Jia thought and how simple.

Chang Ming Jia believed this and her friend asked her to pray the following prayer to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior. Chang Ming Jia repeated after her friend this prayer, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinful person and do not deserve your help. However, I know that you died on the cross for me and after you died you rose from the dead to show your victory over sin. I now accept you as my personal Savior. Thank you, Amen.’

Chang Ming Jia had a new life in Christ. This new life gave her a new hope and purpose in life as well. This new hope and purpose helped in time to resolve her depression so that she no longer needed the depression medication and also she did not have the chest pains anymore. 

You too can have this new life in Christ which gives purpose and hope if you only will accept Jesus Christ as Chang Ming Jia did.