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Hurtful Words I Needed To Hear

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Every Wednesday, I meet with a team leader and my colleague Abigail* for lunch fellowship. Though it’s just the three of us, we thought to heed the call in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Two weeks ago, our leader was on sick leave. Deep down, I was not very keen on meeting Abigail alone as I found her a rather defensive and self-centered person. But Abigail was keen to meet so I relented.

That day, Abigail brought food from home to heat up in our office pantry before fellowship. While she was in the pantry, another colleague, Jacqueline, asked if I wanted to join the rest of the team for lunch. When I told her that Abigail and I were getting ready for fellowship, Jacqueline said in a friendly manner, “No, you should join us for lunch. You don’t have to go for fellowship since your leader is not here. Anyway, both of you don’t really get along, and you always grumble about Abigail anyway. You should join us, learn about the other gods and be open.”

Jacqueline’s words cut like a knife. Yet, I knew exactly what she was referring to. For the past couple of weeks, I had been complaining about Abigail behind her back, telling others about her selfish attitude and lack of team spirit. Still, Jacqueline’s words hurt me and made me feel like a failure. Though I had claimed to be a Christ follower, I had given in to my flesh and neglected the Spirit.

A few days later, I came across John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The words struck me and I thought of the earlier incident again. I knew for a fact that God was using this passage to speak to me.

I needed to love Abigail and accept her, not just on the surface, but completely. I had to stop pretending to be friendly with her, and complaining about her behind her back. This showed disunity between me and Abigail, and disunity between my faith and my actions. How then could others see that I am Christ’s disciple?

I had to change and start speaking words of grace, words that reflected Christ. I needed to fight against my flesh and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me to produce fruits of love, kindness, and self-control.

As I remembered how gracious and patient God had been with me, how He didn’t give up on me no matter how self-centered, mean, and defensive I had been in the past (Romans 8:1), I repented and stopped complaining. I told my team leader honestly about the struggles I had, and she arranged for Abigail and me to talk about it.

Initially, Abigail was upset at me. She felt that I had misunderstood her, and said that she couldn’t trust me anymore. We did not speak for a few days after that. Our leader was very concerned and spoke to us individually on a few separate occasions. Eventually, we both reached a common understanding.

In all of this, I had been too quick to judge and condemn. I also began to realize that Abigail is actually a very nice friend to have, because she is quick to forget grievances and does not hold grudges for long. Subsequently, I also noticed how her attitude towards the rest of us changed; she is a more helpful person now.

I realize now that condemning and complaining had prevented me from seeing the good side of Abigail and learning more about the grace of God. But now I am free. I am glad that Abigail and I both have learned more about one another from this episode, and we are now able to love one another through the grace of Christ. We are sisters in Christ, we have the same Abba Father, and we have the same eternal home.

 

*Not her real name.

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How Long Should I Wait for Marriage?

Written By Emily Hoosier, USA

At my Christian college, I quickly learned that most Christian couples marry young. We even have a phrase for it, “ring by spring”, which refers to two people getting engaged (ring) before graduating from college (by spring).

I used to assume that if a Christian couple dated for too long, they were either refusing to commit to holy matrimony, or were enjoying sex before the big day. Waiting one year was reasonable, and two years was commendable. Beyond that, it looked suspicious and sad to date without an engagement ring.

But when this story became my reality, I came face-to-face with my own prejudices.

When my now-fiancé and I started dating over four years ago, I told him, “I don’t want to date for five years. If we decide we want to marry each other, let’s just get married.” These words may look aggressive in print, but they represented the honest overflow of my fearful and foolish heart. They also echoed advice I had heard from trusted leaders. I was afraid of making a mistake, and I thought marrying quickly was the right thing to do.

We both knew we wanted to marry each other since the early days in our relationship. With that in mind, I thought we should begin discussing venue locations and cake flavors. I did not see any value in waiting to marry. To me, it actually seemed harmful. How is it possible to practice abstinence for years with the one you love? Why would we choose to live separately when we could choose to live together?

But for my then-boyfriend, choosing to live apart for a time was a matter of responsibly stewarding the gift of our relationship. He wanted not only to finish college, but also work in a good job before asking me to join his life as his bride. He believed our purity was possible, even when I cried in fear of failing such a daunting standard.

I wanted to live near my boyfriend, but God led us to colleges in different cities for most of our dating experience. Even after I finished college and could move closer to him, God provided me a career opportunity which required me to temporarily live in a city farther away. Each choice to follow and trust God’s leading in my life became a way for me to express love to Him.

God never changed my desire to marry my boyfriend as soon as possible. He did, however, change my view of the waiting. God let me see that dating for years was not necessarily bad and unhealthy. It could even be good and purifying. God used that experience, like no other, to redeem pain in my past, strengthen my love for Himself, and purify my love for my boyfriend. Because God called us to it, waiting was the most loving and faithful thing I could do for that time.

Marrying quickly is not inherently good or bad, but following God is always good. The paths God led me along were not always comfortable or approved by everyone, but I had the promise of Psalm 23:2-3: “. . . He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

While friends and family affirmed us in our walk together, not everyone in the church did. New friends and acquaintances asked how long we had been dating. When our answer did not include a wedding date, a few expressed concerns about our marital status and advised us on how to solve it. They offered stories about getting engaged or married before finishing college or finding jobs. Comparing those stories to ours only hurt my sense of security in God’s plan for us. At worst, I felt shameful and defensive about our dating story.

Those years brought almost as much pain as they brought joy. Despite the pain and loneliness in our waiting, we chose to live in that tension for years. I journaled frequently; those journals were my personal Psalms. When my boyfriend and I laughed together or simply enjoyed being around each other, I sang my thanks to God for His faithfulness and good gifts. When we went weeks without seeing each other, or wanted nothing else but physical intimacy together, I cried out to Him in my frustration and loneliness.

Going to God in prayer was essential. Through it, God received my weary heart and gave me strength to keep going. One day in prayer, my attitude completely changed. I realized that God understood what I felt. He understood what waiting for marriage was like. It was as if God planted the thought in my head―Jesus is also waiting to be with His bride forever. He knows what I feel. This revelation of God’s empathy for me in my pain drew me deeper in love with Him. This deepened love sprouted deeper trust. And I could see more clearly that years of waiting was the “right path for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

By God’s grace, I was able to give up my expectations of what life ought to look like. By His grace, I was able to surrender my own selfish motives for marriage. That was when we knew that our marriage would not be a selfish decision, but a solidly good one.

Marriage after dating four months or four years will have its own set of advantages and challenges. If God’s story for your life involves more waiting that you planned, take heart. No waiting is wasted with God. We can rest knowing from Romans 8:28, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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4 Ways to Keep a Regular Quiet Time

Written By Noni Elina Kristiani, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

It was at a Christian retreat where I first learned about quiet time.

An older Christian gave me a devotional book, which taught me how to spend time every day building my relationship with God. Since then, I have tried to have quiet time every day.

I do not always succeed. When I was writing for my school magazine, for example, I did not get enough sleep. I had a hard time waking up early in the morning and would forget my quiet time then. Though I told myself I would do it later that night, I would end up falling asleep without reading my bible. However, God always reminded me of my commitment.

But keeping up my commitment to have regular quiet time is not always easy. Here are a few things I have found helpful in keeping a regular quiet time.

 

1. Remind yourself of what it’s about

Quiet time is a special time where I get to know God more. I worship Him through praising Him, praying to Him, and reading His word. I can tell Him all my burdens and talk to Him like a best friend.

Through quiet time, God rebukes or strengthens me with His words and gives us the wisdom and strength I need for the day. At one point, I realized that how my entire day goes is determined by how I start it together with God.

When I am tempted to sin, the Holy Spirit reminds me through my Bible reading. When my burdens become too much, I believe in God’s deliverance. The Scripture reminds me that God is always with me.

 

2. Set aside your best time and set a reminder

We can come to God anytime, but I think we should give God our best. Instead of a short couple minutes between daily activities, I try to spend my quiet time in the morning, before I start my day. What works best for you might be different from what works best for me, but the important thing is that you find the best time to enjoy your relationship with God.

I set an alarm on my phone to help me wake up early in the morning, so I can have quiet time before I start my day. You can also stick a note on your wall, asking yourself, “Have you had your quiet time today?” or reminding yourself, “Let’s start this day with God.”

 

3. Ask others to support you

One thing that really helps us establish a regular quiet time routine is asking others to remind us and pray for us. When in college, I joined a Christian peer group, and it really helped my spiritual growth. We need a community that helps us grow in God. I would encourage you to become involved in a community of believers, where we can grow together. When one is weak, others are strong.

Are you involved in a community of believers? If not, you can find on at your church, school fellowship, or college.

 

4. Don’t be discouraged when you fail

Have you tried, but failed, to have regular quiet time? When that happens, I feel like I have disappointed God and that really makes me sad. But then I remember that God showed His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

God does not expect us to be perfect in our love for Him. He will look at our hearts and forgive us when we confess our sins before Him. Our efforts to grow closer to Him make Him happy.

 

If you ever feel like you don’t deserve to meet God, that is the moment God longs to heal you. Come to Him, spend time with Him, and tell Him what’s on your heart. He longs to talk with you. He listens, and He answers your prayers in His own time and His own wonderful way.

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Should We Give Help but Not Receive it?

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

During dinner some days ago, my father lamented about how times have changed. It used to be that bosses care about their workers even outside of work. When my grandfather worked at an architecture company, his manager would always visit the family every Lunar New Year, bringing some money along and asking if our family needed any form of help.

There was one time our family needed help building a house, and the manager sent some workers to help out. My grandfather initially refused this help. My dad shared that people back then often thought that accepting help would cause one to “lose face”.

I cannot help but think that nothing has changed today. Many people are willing to help others but unwilling to accept help.

Most of us have been brought up to give selflessly. A willing heart that gives selflessly, without expecting anything in return, is exceedingly noble. I used to think like that.  When I was in school, I would gladly help my classmates. However, it was very difficult for me to ask for help from others. This persisted even after I graduated. Many times, deep down inside me, I knew that I needed help. Yet I was unwilling to ask for it. In fact, when others actively lent a helping hand, I found it difficult to accept.

Should we encourage this behavior? Does God desire us to give help but not receive it?

God teaches us that we should carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The Bible also reminds us that in Christ, we are all members of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Helping each other involves two parties. If everyone refuses to accept help, who can we then help? How can we then live as a body of Christ?

 

Pride lies behind the refusal for help

God wants us to joyfully give and joyfully receive. So why is it that people find it so difficult to receive? If you ask me, the reason behind this difficulty is pride. Yes, you read that right.

We are often unwilling to admit our own weaknesses, and we are afraid that others may see them. In order to protect this fragile ego of ours, we refuse to accept help. I realized this around three years ago when I started thinking more deeply about the topic of giving and receiving. Looking back, I realized that my pride was my Achilles’ heel and the underlying reason I was unwilling to seek or accept help.

Trusting God is difficult when you refuse help

Giving without receiving makes it difficult to trust in God. God wants us to admit our utter brokenness so that we can completely cast our burdens on Him and trust in Him. The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) How can we surrender and trust in God fully if we deny help and rely on ourselves completely? We cannot know God genuinely if we do not admit our brokenness.

I remember one time when I showed up for a fellowship gathering burdened with conflicted emotions. At the time, I was deeply fatigued and though I could hardly bear it, I put up a strong façade. When it was time to share, I planned on talking about minor things that did not matter. However, an inner voice reminded me that I needed to come before God in truth. Just like that, my defense was demolished. I cried my heart out in the presence of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I confessed that I needed help. I confessed that I was not the least bit strong.

I am deeply thankful that God broke me, allowed me to see the dangers of pride, and allowed me to be built up again in His truth through His community of believers. Now, I often come before God in my helpless state, crying for His help. I know that I have nothing. I can do nothing. If not for God’s strength, every step I take would be difficult.

I also seek help from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever I am feeling troubled by life, I not only ask them to pray for me, but also seek their advice. The love and help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have blessed me with has helped me to feel the faithfulness of God. I also deeply feel the close connections I have with other members of the body of Christ.

 

Joyful acceptance sets us free

When I lay down my pride, I can finally be free of my struggles. When I joyfully accept help, I experience brand new freedom. I admit that I have weaknesses and I am inadequate. It is only when I completely surrender that God can have full control over my life. When I obey His will, God can demonstrate His strength in my weakness.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God wants you to have this freedom as well. Are you willing to lay down your pride that God may take control of your life?