4 Questions God Asked Me When I Got Attached

Photo taken by Rebecca Roberts

For some seven years of my life, I longed to be in a romantic relationship almost every single day.

I imagined that a relationship would bring me someone who truly knew and loved me, and vice versa. We’d be so happy sharing our life, joys and fears, and helping each other grow closer to God. We’d understand each other all the time and weather the storms of life together. Our love would bring us both self-fulfillment and fullness of life.

When I got into a relationship around two years ago however, I found that the reality was quite different from my ideals. God had to lead me to confront many unhealthy defense mechanisms I never knew I had.


1. “Do you trust Me?”

There were many times—especially during moments of misunderstanding and conflict between my girlfriend and I—when I strongly felt the need to defend myself. I did whatever it took to prove my point to her, to defend my position so that I didn’t have to apologize, to manipulatively use what she said to me before against her, to withdraw from her emotionally when I didn’t want to get hurt further, and to undermine her in a passive-aggressive way, among other things.

Over time, God helped me to understand that these defense tactics arose from my underlying fear of being hurt. Furthermore, He led me to realize that this boiled down to the fact that I didn’t trust God enough to protect me from hurts. I eventually learned to apologize to my girlfriend and repent before God.

God brought to mind that my best role model comes in the person of Jesus. When He was arrested, beaten, spat on, mocked, whipped, and crucified, He kept silent throughout this ordeal and chose not to retaliate even though He was never in the wrong and could have called upon legions of angels to crush those who were mistreating Him (Matthew 26:53). Jesus trusted the Father totally. He knew that God would vindicate Him and right the wrongs done to Him.

So when God asked me, “Do you trust Me?”, He was asking me if I would trust Him, just as Jesus did—enough to give up my “rights” and to let Him work in me and my relationship in the midst of my fears and wounds.


2.“Why don’t you live out what you want to see?”

Another major defense mechanism I’ve had to come face to face with was blaming. When God asked Adam why he ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed Eve for giving it to him, and Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her (Genesis 3:8-13). Whenever issues arose, I too found myself blaming my girlfriend. “If only she’d change,” I’d think, “then things would be fine.”

This was something God wanted me to die to as well. He convicted me to take ownership of my own issues and to work on changing myself first. One day, as I was grappling internally over some issues between us, God asked me, “Why don’t you live out what you want to see?” Instead of me expecting her to change to fit me, God challenged me to set the tone for what I’d like to see in our relationship.

He brought to my mind the picture of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. When Jesus served His disciples in this manner, He modelled for them what the full extent of love looked like, and told them to do likewise (John 13:1-17). In the same way, I am to take leadership by role modelling the kind of behavior I would like to see in my relationship with my girlfriend.


3. “If she doesn’t change, would you still love her?”

Another time when I was wrestling with an issue that I perceived as a problem with my girlfriend, God asked me, “If she doesn’t change, would you still love her?” That question caused me to search my heart and ask myself if I really loved her as unconditionally as I claimed.

God was reminding me to accept and love her—unconditionally.


4. “How does Jesus love you?”

One night, after an argument with my girlfriend, I lapsed into another one of my unhealthy thought patterns: comparing and complaining. I thought of how I would do certain things for her, but she didn’t seem to do the same for me. As I began comparing, I began complaining about things I felt were unfair in our relationship.

In the midst of this, it occurred to me that since my girlfriend and I were journeying towards marriage—in which the husband is to love his wife as Jesus loves the Church and the wife is to love her husband as the Church loves Jesus (Ephesians 5:22-33)—I had to prepare for that by learning how to love her in a Christ-like way.

That’s when God asked me, “How does Jesus love you?” It stopped me in my tracks, because I realized that Jesus’ relationship with me is very unfair. He reached out to me in love even when I was God’s enemy (Romans 5:10). Now that I am a Christian, He still loves me more lavishly than I can ever love Him, He gives me more than I can ever give back to Him, He forgives me much more than I deserved to be forgiven, and He gives me more grace than I should ever dare to ask.

I understood at that point that I was to love my girlfriend in this way. Instead of complaining about any perceived unfairness between us, I was to commit to out-give and out-forgive her, and to always give her more love and grace, because that’s how Jesus loves me. The Holy Spirit was reminding me to be like Jesus and to love like Jesus.


It’s really about how much I love Jesus

One year ago, when I was telling a pastor about the various difficulties I was facing in my relationship with my girlfriend, he said, “Your relationship with her is actually about your relationship with Jesus.” I didn’t fully understand what he meant back then, but I now see his point: Unless I know Jesus and grow in living and loving like Him, I cannot love my girlfriend well. American writer Liz Wann, addressing women, wrote, “If you want your boyfriend to turn into a husband who loves you like Christ, make sure he is walking with Christ. How else can he love you like Him?”

So, in order for me to be more Christ-like, I need to first know Jesus and walk with Him so closely that, as I’m more and more transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), it becomes clear to others that I have been with Him (Acts 4:13). This involves me being willing to die to myself, so that Jesus can live in me (John 12:24-25).


Dying to myself, loving like Jesus

To be sure, my girlfriend and I are very happy together and we do share our joys and fears with each other. We’re growing in knowing and loving each other better over time and in drawing each other closer to God. But the intimacy and understanding we have now didn’t just occur easily, but came through a hard-won process of learning to be more Christ-like.

Throughout this time, God has taught me that giving up the self is the way to true self-fulfillment, and that dying is the way to fullness of life. I don’t get it right all the time, but I am committed to dying to myself, so that I can love my girlfriend—and, God willing, future wife—with the love that our Bridegroom Jesus has for His Bride, the Church.



3 Things I Never Knew About Prayer

Photo by Ian Tan

Despite being Christian for almost 22 years, I never liked nor knew how to pray for the better part of those two decades. I’d always think, “Why do I need to pray when God already knows everything?”

It was really only in recent years that I began to understand more about prayer.

1. I Can Pray About Everything

For a long time, I thought God would be more willing to hear and answer my prayers only when it came to “Christian” things. You know, like praying for the salvation of others, petitioning Him to help my family or friends when they’re in need, or asking Him to give me the desire to do His will, among other things.

In case you get the wrong idea, these are all very good and biblical things to ask God for—and He will surely answer! What I’m saying is that aside from these things, I didn’t think I could ask Him for “little” things—like if He could provide a cab for me when I was running late or hold the rain until I could find shelter—much less tell Him about my day.

So God had to tell me through different experiences that He does care about these things as well. He wants to hear me tell Him my needs or simply, how my day went. A few years ago, a godly couple I had come to know shared with me that they would regularly talk to Him about their day over a cup of coffee, as though they were talking to a friend. What they said reminded me of Exodus 33:11: “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend . . .” They encouraged me to do the same because God likes to connect with me in this way, too.

A few weeks ago, God assured me of this again with a dream, in which “Psalm 18:6” came up. I didn’t know what the verse was, so I decided to look it up:

“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From His temple He heard my voice;
my cry came before Him, into His ears.”

I’m thankful that God isn’t a God who is far away and doesn’t hear my prayers. Rather, He is a God who will hear my voice when I pray to Him. And when He does, He listens intently, for my cry goes into His ears.

The Bible also tells us to “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6; emphasis added). When we do that, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Imagine a son who talks to his father only about the “important” things, like wanting to learn the ropes in his father’s company or asking his father to help his friends out when they’re in trouble. While these are good things for the son to ask his father about, that would be quite odd, wouldn’t it? In fact, it’d likely make his father rather sad. Which father wouldn’t like to know how his son’s day went, what things his son is excited about, and what are the concerns that weigh his son down?

In the same way, as much as our Abba Father loves it when we pray about the “important” stuff, He also loves hearing from us about the “little” stuff. When we spend quality time with Him, He listens attentively to us, as a loving father listens intently to his child’s voice.


2. I Can Pray to Partner with God

I also used to think that my role in prayer was quite passive. If something is part of God’s will, I thought, He’d do it even if I don’t ask Him to, wouldn’t He? As a result, prayer felt rather redundant and boring.

However, God led me to understand that prayer is one of the main ways He uses to work out His will. I was astonished when I found out that Jesus is always interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34) and the Holy Spirit is also constantly interceding for God’s people (Romans 8:26-27). Why does the Son of God and the Spirit of God, being Persons of the Godhead, need to pray to the Father? I don’t have the answer to this question, but it made me realize that if Jesus and the Holy Spirit are praying, shouldn’t I do the same?

While it is true that God already knows everything, I’ve learned that prayer is one of the important means God has instituted for His purposes to be accomplished. In fact, He invites us to partner with Him to let His kingdom come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

I now pray more actively with a sense of purpose, being fully aware that I am actually working alongside the Father to realize the plans He has. When I pray according to His will, He hears me and I have what I ask of Him (1 John 5:14-15).


3. I Can Pray to Have God Himself

Recently, I heard a pastor share a message on God’s power being made perfect in the Apostle Paul’s weaknesses. Even though Paul would have liked for God to take the thorn in his flesh away, God told the apostle that His grace would be sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

As I was listening to this, a thought—that I believe was a revelation from God—formed in my spirit: “Do I want God to answer my prayer or do I want God’s answer to my prayer?”

That was a hard-hitting, soul-searching question. When I pray to God about a certain matter or need, do I want Him to answer my prayer in the exact way that I ask or do I want His answer to my prayer, regardless of what the answer may be—“Yes”, “No”, “Wait”, “I’ve something better”, or “I’ve something entirely different in mind?” Do I trust that because God knows best, His ways are better than mine? (Isaiah 55:8-9)

If I were to distill the essence of the question, it is this: When I pray, do I pray wanting God to fulfill my heart’s desires, or do I pray wanting God Himself as my heart’s desire?

There’s a wonderful perspective on prayer from Mother Teresa that captured my heart the moment I heard it. She said, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.”

I’ve seen that a way for me to start caring for things I didn’t initially care about—but I know I should—is to pray about them. Because when I do, I find myself beginning to be more aligned with God’s heart on the matter. This happened when I started praying for Singapore, and again when I prayed for my cell group. The more I prayed, the more my heart’s burden and love for my country and my cell group grew.

I know now that prayer is something God can use to enlarge my heart until it can contain more and more of His heart. Ultimately, I’ve learned that the purpose of prayer is for God to keep breaking my heart for what breaks His, so that more of God can come in. Prayer is about having more of God and less of me, so that He becomes greater and I become less (John 3:30).


Prayer can be generally understood as talking to God. I’m so thankful that my Heavenly Father welcomes me to go to Him like a little child and tell Him my needs and concerns as well as my joys and passions. He lovingly listens to my voice and cares about what’s in my heart.

But as His son, what excites me even more is that my Father invites me to know His heart and to care about what He cares about. Nothing brings me more satisfaction and gladness than knowing that my Father is willing to confide in me what His concerns are (Amos 3:7) and that He invites me to work alongside Him to accomplish His purposes (Mark 16:20).

To me, that is what becoming a son of Abba Father is—to share Daddy’s burdens and to have a part in what He’s working on, and in so doing, to become more and more like my Daddy (2 Corinthians 3:18).

That, to me, is the heart of sonship—and the heart of prayer.


What to Do When the Bible Seems Boring

In November 2015, I decided that it would be a good idea to read through the Bible again. The last time I had done it was a number of years ago, and since then, I mostly hung out in the Gospels and the letters of Paul, venturing forth occasionally to Genesis and Proverbs.

It was about time I caught up on my Bible reading. I figured three or four chapters a day could get me from Genesis to Revelation in about a year. That should be simple, right?

Well, apparently not. It is now January 2017, and I am not even halfway through. What went wrong?

I started off great. On the whole, Genesis made for some pretty interesting reading, with the Creation story, Abraham, and all that. Exodus started off pretty well, but quickly got bogged down by all the rules that God laid down for the nation of Israel. Then there were more rules, followed by long lists of family names (called genealogies). I knew that if I persevered and kept reading, I would have other complaints, as I’m sure many of us do. But I just couldn’t get over the genealogies.

After setting my Bible aside too many times, I finally reached out to my friends in frustration. But I got the same response over and over again. “Just read straight through,” they said. They told me that I did not need to do in-depth study on everything—the important thing was just to read it.

Which I did. And I quickly discovered that when I do sit down and read through the more “boring” parts of the Bible (usually aloud, since that helps me stay focused), I sometimes notice things that I didn’t before. For example, I’ve read the story of how David took Uriah’s wife and sent Uriah to be killed in battle a good number of times (2 Samuel 11). What I had never noticed before was that Uriah was listed among David’s 30 mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39). These were David’s best warriors; many of them had been following him since the days of Saul. This meant that David knew Uriah personally. Suddenly, David’s sin took on even greater proportions. And God’s mercy seemed ever richer.

Of course, I don’t always notice something new. For me, the lists are often a chore to work through, and I have to fight to keep my eyes from glazing over. Time and again, I remind myself of 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

You’ll notice that Paul said “all Scripture,” not just the interesting parts. This includes the laws that God gave Israel. And all the lengthy family trees. And the obscure stories that I don’t quite know what to make of. God breathed out all of it, and all of it is useful.

Sure, there are many passages in the Bible that I still don’t get. But I’m going to take God at His word, and trust that if I keep reading and re-reading this entire book that He has given us—instead of just picking out my favorite verses or chapters—His Scripture will continue to teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness.

Think about it: during Jesus’ ministry on earth, He only had the Old Testament. And the books that He quoted from the most were Psalms and Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy! That makes me think twice about skipping it in my reading plan.

God reveals himself to us in both the Old and New testaments. He is revealed in every chapter, every paragraph, every smallest letter. Jesus told His followers, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). That makes the Bible worth reading.

I’m in the Psalms right now. I’ll be honest: I don’t love every moment of it. Unlike the psalmist, I do not always find God’s words “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

But I hope to one day. And in the meantime, I’ll keep on reading, trusting God to use every last letter of it to “[equip me] for every good work.”


How Do We Recognize God’s Voice?

It was night. The boy was in bed, his eyes heavy with drowsiness. His grandfather was sound asleep in another room.

Suddenly, the boy heard someone call his name. His eyes sprang wide open. It was such a clear voice, as though the person was standing beside him. Looking around but seeing no one, the boy thought it must be his grandfather who called him. So he went to his grandfather’s room.

“Grandpa, you called me?”

Grandpa woke up, startled. “No, I didn’t. Go back to bed.”

The boy climbed back into bed. Shortly after that, he heard his name again. He went back to Grandpa, and again, Grandpa said it wasn’t him. It happened again, and once again, the boy was at Grandpa’s side.

Finally, Grandpa realized what was happening. He told the boy, “Go back to bed. If God calls your name again, say to Him, ‘Yes Lord, I’m listening to You.’”

So the boy went back to bed, and sure enough, he heard the voice call his name again.

This time, he said, “Yes, I’m listening to You.”

And God began to tell the boy what He wanted to say.


Remember this story? It’s found in the Bible, except that the boy was Samuel and the grandfather was the priest Eli. That was the night when God first called Samuel (1 Samuel 3).

Many of us wish we could hear God speak to us the way He spoke to Samuel. But while most—if not all—of us won’t get to hear God’s voice in such a clear way, there are a few things we can glean from this account on how to recognize God’s voice.


1. Realize that you can hear the voice of God

“[T]he Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’” — 1 Samuel 3:4

I used to struggle with not being able to hear God. But He led me to realize that just as Samuel can hear God’s voice, we as Christians can hear the voice of Christ. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said His sheep hear His voice (John 10:27, ESV).

That’s when I began to take the Shepherd at His word. When I stopped doubting, I began to hear Him more clearly.


2. Recognize God’s voice through His Word

“Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” — 1 Samuel 3:7

Samuel heard a voice call his name, but he did not know it was God who was speaking. He had to be told by Eli that it was the Lord (1 Samuel 3:9). In the same way, although God may be speaking to us, we may not know that it’s His voice. So we need to learn how to recognize His voice. We can’t do that if we don’t know how He speaks. And how would we know how God speaks unless we know who He is and what He’s like?

The passage says that Samuel didn’t know the Lord then because the word of the Lord wasn’t revealed to him yet. That tells us that knowing God’s Word is crucial to knowing God Himself.

The Bible says, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us in writing, His primary means of showing Himself and His ways to us. So if we want to understand and know Him well (Jeremiah 9:24, ESV), we have to understand and know Scripture well.

The more I get into God’s Word, the more it helps me to know God better—what His character and His ways are like. I get a more complete picture of who He is, and that allows me to recognize His voice more clearly.

So if I hear a voice that prompts me to indulge in lust or envy or pride or selfishness or hatred, I know it’s definitely not Him speaking, because the Lord exercises and delights in kindness, justice and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:24). It cannot be God’s voice because it would be contrary to His character, which is compassionate, gracious, patient, loving, faithful, forgiving, and just (Exodus 34:5-7).

When I hear a voice that tells me to obey the Father’s commands and reveal His heart to others (John 15:10, Matthew 5:16), to love the Son and walk as He did (John 14:15, 1 John 1:7), to grow in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10), then I recognize that it’s clearly God speaking to me because it’s consistent with who He says He is in His Word. The Bible is our plumb line to discern how He speaks.

God can also speak in a variety of other ways. For example, He can speak to us in an audible voice; in His still, small voice, like a gentle whisper in our heart (1 Kings 19:11-13); through the people around us (Acts 21:11); in dreams (Genesis 40); through nature (Romans 1:20); in visions (Acts 9:10-18); in prophecies (Acts 11:27-28); through circumstances (Acts 16:6-7); and through miraculous events, among many others.

However, unless we are grounded in our understanding of what God and His ways are like through reading the Bible, we would not be able to accurately interpret these other forms in which He might speak to us. Just like how we would tend to misinterpret what a person does or says when we don’t truly understand his or her character, we’d be more likely to misinterpret God’s voice and actions if we don’t know what He’s really like.

Jesus said, “My sheep know Me” (John 10:14). We have to know the Shepherd so that we know what His voice sounds like. And to know Jesus, the Word of God (Revelation 19:13), we need to know the Bible, God’s Word.


3. Seek the counsel of those who can recognize the voice of God

“[I]f [the Lord] calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” — 1 Samuel 3:9

As a priest, Eli would have known Scripture very well. He would have meditated on God’s commandments and ministered to other people from God’s laws. This is why it didn’t take long before he “realized that the Lord was calling the boy” (1 Samuel 3:8). It was his knowledge of God’s Word that helped him to discern that it was God who spoke to Samuel.

As we are learning to recognize God’s voice, we can also seek counsel from godly people who are more mature in their faith and more experienced in hearing from God. They can help us to learn how to discern His voice better.


Now that you’ve recognized His voice, obey!

“Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” — 1 Samuel 3:10

When Samuel said he was listening to God, he also meant that he was ready to obey Him. The Hebrew word for “listening” is shama, which carries the meaning of “to obey”.

It’s not enough to just hear what God says. More than just recognizing God’s voice, we must also be willing to obey Him when He speaks. Jesus said, “Blessed . . . are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28; emphasis added). And when we do, we are delighting our Father’s heart with our obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).

If we find that God has stopped speaking to us regarding a certain issue, one of the possible reasons could be that He’s waiting for us to first obey Him on what He has already told us on the matter, before He tells us what the next step is. If we do not desire to obey God when He does speak, why would He keep speaking to us when we keep ignoring Him?

In Jeremiah 7:23, it doesn’t say, “Distinguish My voice, and I will be your God.” The devil can clearly distinguish God’s voice, but he doesn’t desire to obey or submit to Him as his God. Rather, the verse says, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (emphasis added).

As the sheep of our Good Shepherd, we are called to follow Him by listening to His voice (John 10:27). To do that, we need to know Him through His Word so that we can learn how to recognize His voice. And when we experience the joy of recognizing His voice, our joy will be complete when we obey and follow Him in the way He calls us to walk.