If Not for Her, My Life Would Have Fallen Apart

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Whenever I recall the good things Christ has done for me, I always think of Maureen Ong, a godly woman God used to bring me into His presence. Had it not been for her, I might still be in darkness. Today, I acknowledge her as Godma.

The year was 2013. I was in my second year of marriage and staying with my in-laws. Coming from a family where I had the freedom to make my own decisions, I had a hard time adjusting to my new environment. Unlike my parents, my in-laws were involved in every decision, regardless of how big or small. Though they tried their best to treat me as part of the family, I felt like an outsider and frequently wondered if my feelings mattered. It didn’t help that my husband didn’t see anything wrong and couldn’t understand where I was coming from.

Things took a turn for the worse when my son was born. All matters pertaining to the family were handled by my parents-in-law and every time I tried to express my own ideas, I would be deemed “disrespectful”. As a result, I got into frequent quarrels with my husband and my in-laws.

One day, while having a heated argument with my husband inside our room, I voiced out that we should seek marriage counselling. My father-in-law heard me and immediately arranged for his cousin, Maureen, and her husband, a pastor, to meet us. Though my husband was not keen to undergo counselling, Maureen reached out to me. She encouraged me to share my feelings with her and was willing to guide me. We began to meet to study the Bible and I felt her genuine concern for me.

Knowing how broken I was, she was sensitive to my feelings and never reproached me harshly. Instead, she corrected me gently while showing me the value of mercy and grace. However, this angered my in-laws, who thought that she was siding with me. They would not listen to what she had to say and blamed her because they felt she was sparing me from correction. Looking back, I can see that I was at fault as well. I did not respect my in-laws and often shouted at them whenever I did not agree with their ideas.

I did not expect things to turn out the way they did. Because of me, Maureen’s good relationship with my in-laws was shattered and I felt very sad about it. However, she took the burden of this broken relationship upon herself and did not blame me for causing it. She kept affirming me of God’s truth and assured me that everything would be fine.

Initially, the hurts I had accumulated over the period of my stay with my in-laws made it hard for me to forgive them. But with Maureen’s constant encouragement from the Scriptures, healing began to take place in my heart. She showed me love and counselled me with the Word of God.

Among the passages she quoted was Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” What had happened in my life was all part of God’s plan; he had allowed it to happen to bring me to himself so that I would be complete and lacking nothing.

The other passage that impacted me was Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” I realized that if God loved me so much that He did not spare His own Son, He would surely give me all the things that I needed to grow, and the faith to overcome all things.

Knowing that God was sovereign and in charge helped me to see things from His kingdom’s perspective. I no longer felt that my in-laws were at fault. It helped me to forgive them and move on, knowing that what had happened was part of God’s plan to set me free, and for me to know Him more and experience His presence with me.

I am glad Maureen had persisted in showing me concern and counselling me from the Word of God, which is the truth that gives life. Had I been counselled by someone who did not know God, I might not have been set free by the eternal Word of God.

Recently, in my quiet time, I came across Hebrews 10:32-36. The author wrote about how the saints had stood firm in their faith despite sufferings, insults, and persecution. They stood by the side of those who were persecuted, sympathized with those who were in chains, and joyfully accepted suffering knowing that their reward in heaven was greater.

I thought of Godma. She anchored her faith upon the Lord, did the will of God at the expense of her earthly relationship with her cousin, and allowed herself to be accused. She accepted the pain of a broken relationship without a word of complaint, having confidence in the better and more abiding relationship with God. Because she stood by me, I knew my soul was precious. Because she showed me such great confidence in God, I was assured that our heavenly Father was a greater possession than anything that we have on earth.  She assured me that God will make everything right in His time.

Today, because of Godma, I have a new perspective and identity in Christ. Now, I am less self-centered and focused on my own problems. My husband, who used to be uncaring to me, has also become more understanding. The love of God has changed the both of us. If not for God’s intervention and a mentor who walked me through the darkest moments of my life, we would have gotten a divorce. I believe, in due time, my in-laws will see the light of Jesus and reconcile with Godma.

Godma has lived up to the standards of the “older women” as described in Titus 2:3-5, and has trained me to be become a better woman at home.  She taught me how to love and respect my husband and his family.

Now, I pray that God will prepare, train, and equip me to walk with another distressed younger woman whom I might meet one day. I pray that I will endure whatever it takes, just like Godma, so that another precious soul can be saved and transformed to see the light of Jesus.

My Antidote to Panic Attacks: Worship

Written By Rachel Moreland, USA

I’ll never forget the first time I had a panic attack. It was in my second year of university and I was doing what any normal 19-year-old American girl would do on a Thursday evening—buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the local supermarket.

It hit me as I was scanning the freezers. As a surge of adrenaline rushed throughout my body, I had to stop and catch my breath. My fingertips began to tingle. My palms and feet started to go numb. The room started to turn. “What’s happening to me?”

My heart started to beat a thousand times a minute. My legs began to feel weak, and I felt as though I would collapse at any moment. Gasping for air, I leant against a freezer door. “Deep breaths, Rachel. Breathe in and out. In and out. Just breathe.”

Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor of aisle 9 with my back against the freezer doors, framed by tubs of Haagen Daz ice-cream and berry-red popsicles. Hysterical, curled into a ball, and with tears streaming down my face, I must have looked a pitiful sight.

“What’s happening to me?” I cried. My knees were pushed into my chest, my head was bowed, and my shoulders rose and fell with every sob. “What is going on?”

With every second that ticked by, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, shooting up and down my arms like an electric shock. Like waves on a seashore, the first wave swept through, then drew back for a moment—giving a sheer second of relief—only to be swallowed up by another pounding wave of dread.

At that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Are you okay, dear?” The voice of an older woman broke into my whirlwind of chaos. With bloodshot eyes and mascara running down my cheeks, I looked back at a woman in her mid-50s. Holding a box of Cheerios in one hand and a bottle of Windex cleaner in the other, she was looking at me with a concerned expression on her face.  “Are you okay, dear? Can I help you?” she asked again. “No, I’m not okay.” I replied with a muffled voice, “I don’t think I’m okay.”

What I said next was one of the most important declarations I had ever made. It was the turning point. “But I haven’t told anyone that yet. I need to tell someone. I think something’s wrong. Really wrong.”

Since the age of 19, I have suffered from anxiety. I’m one of the millions of people who struggle with this mental health disorder. In college, while other 20-somethings were busy worrying about what to wear out on a Friday night, I would retreat to my dorm room googling my latest symptoms and thinking that I had some form of cancer (stage III, most likely). Otherwise, I would be frantically checking my phone every two seconds to see if my friend had replied to my message. “Of course she won’t. She’s seen the real me. And she’s decided I’m not worth it.”

Now, at 26 years old, I want so badly to declare that I have conquered all this stuff, that I have overcome all the complexities of this disorder. I wish I could say that my anxiety is a thing of the past, that it is no longer knocking on my door to wake me up in the morning or leaning over my bed to watch as I toss and turn at night. But I haven’t conquered it, and it’s not a thing of the past.

Perhaps the most discouraging thing about anxiety is dealing with it as a Christian. In many parts of evangelical America, admitting you have anxiety is kind of like admitting you have a problem with alcohol. Or drugs. Or one-night stands. Or eating a Big Mac in your dorm room at 2.a.m. It’s a sinful “habit” and it will sweep you to the margins, out of sight and out of mind of middle-class American churchgoers.

Or at least, this is how some churches have often made me feel. A deep and all-consuming guilt was all packaged, gift wrapped and hand-delivered to me each and every morning I stepped inside a church building. And while I don’t believe for a second that the church will ever be perfect, I had expected a more loving and accepting response than the ones that I had received.

Since that humiliating incident in the supermarket, I have been navigating my identity as a Christian with anxiety. I have had to embark on the painfully slow process of finding that “thing” that brings me rest and respite from the isolation and exhaustion that comes from anxiety.

Worship, I have discovered, is that special space where I open up to the Father and receive His peace—the kind of supernatural peace that Paul talks about in Philippians 4. Here’s why worship has become my antidote to moments of anxiety.

1. Worship is a peaceful state of mind

Worship is a state of mind, not just a supernatural high on Sunday mornings. Initially, I saw Sunday worship sessions as the only time I could receive God’s peace. However, I realized that worship isn’t just meant for large gatherings or small group settings. Worshipping the Father is a constant state of mind, an ever-present mindfulness of His goodness and grace in my life. Practicing a heart of worship—whether praying during my work commute or listening to a Bethel music playlist as I clean my apartment—has been an integral part of my healing journey from anxiety.

 

2. Worship is a safe space

Getting a handle on my anxiety has meant that I’ve needed to get real with God. And that means getting up close and personal, divulging all of my doubts and secrets to Him like you would to your bestie over a cup of coffee. Creating a safe space where I can speak to the Father has been an instrumental part of my road to recovery—particularly picking up my guitar and singing Scriptures over myself and my family. I believe that there is power in declaring words of life to change the mess in our lives. Worship is a powerful weapon against worry.

 

3. Worship paves a direct path to God

I love the quote by American author John Paul Jackson: “Peace is the potting soil of revelation.” I find that it is often in those moments of fear, that the channel of communication between me and God is most fuzzy. But I also know that it’s in those moments when I feel at my weakest, that worship ought to be the next bullet-point on my to-do list. Setting aside space for God to speak to us in the midst of fear is a powerful step to leaving our anxiety at the door. It is in those “thin places” where we hear from and speak to God, that faith takes authority over fear.

 

I want to be careful here, as I don’t want for a second to portray to you that I have this all figured out. Navigating anxiety can at times feel nearly impossible. More often than not, it feels like treading water in the deep end of the pool—when you have never taken a single swimming lesson in your life. And there is no one around to throw you a life jacket the minute you start to go under.

God has so much more in store for us than a daily battle with fear. I pray that as we cultivate a lifestyle of worship, we may find ourselves free from the chains of anxiety that have kept us from stepping into the thing that God has called us to do.

God’s Unexpected Plan in My Failed Job-Hunt

Written By Aryanto Wijaya, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

I have dreamed of becoming a journalist since entering college. My love for writing and travelling were my primary reasons for choosing the journalism course.

But as graduation drew near, I was torn between two choices: passion or salary? It was a tough decision, especially since the salary of a journalist in the city of Yogyakarta was average. After some thought, I chose the latter. To get a job with a high salary, I would have to work at a big company, I thought to myself.

In the first week after my thesis defence, I went to a job fair in the nearby city of Surakarta. Loaded with 30 copies of my resume, I rode my motorcycle from Yogyakarta in high spirits. But my optimism faded when I realized that none of the jobs offered interested me. Most of the companies at the job fair only offered marketing positions.

I wasn’t going to give up yet. I joined a LINE chat group that consisted of hundreds of job-seekers; we got updates of job offers and job fairs every single day. Still, nothing piqued my interest.  A week after the first job fair, I went to another one. There were two national-scale companies that interested me this time. I sent my resume to both companies, hoping to pass the initial rounds of selection.

The first one was a cigarette company. Even though it was a large company, I was hesitant about working there because I did not smoke. But I went ahead to try for the job. Though I passed the initial administrative phase, I failed the next day during the personality test. Among 300 candidates, only 75 passed the personality test.

Still, I was not discouraged. I prepared myself for another personality test with the second company. But again, I failed. As some of my friends who had come along with me also failed, I was not overly disappointed.

When the job fairs didn’t work out, I also tried applying for jobs online. Though I applied to five different companies, none of them got back to me.

 

Reconsidering my reason and purpose

Truth be told, these failures did not really disappoint me. Instead, they got me thinking hard about my reason and purpose for working. Do I just work for money? Is it pride that makes me look for big companies? Don’t I want to develop all the journalism skills and knowledge that I acquired in college in my work?

Some weeks later, I saw a job posting for an editor of a website managed by a non-profit organization in Jakarta. I was interested because even though the position offered was not my dream job, it was still closely related to journalism. But I was a little hesitant because I was still hoping I could work in a big company that would give me a high salary. So, I applied to another famous company—even though the position that I applied for was not related to journalism. At the back of my mind, I really hoped that I would be accepted to work there.

But the thought of applying to the non-profit organization lingered in my mind. So I decided to take some time off to order my thoughts and visit a friend who lived a bit further out. I prayed, asking God to give me a clue about what should I do. Every time I prayed, my heart pushed me to apply for the position of editor in that non-profit organization. I asked my friend, and he told me to do it, since I had nothing to lose anyway.

Eventually, I applied to the non-profit organization and went through the recruitment process. A week later, I received two e-mails on the same day. To my surprise, both the famous company and the non-profit organization wanted me to go to Jakarta the next day for a follow-up interview.

Just a few months earlier, I had been worried that I would not get a job. Suddenly, I had two interviews and I was confused because I was going to have to pick one out of the two choices. Afraid of making a wrong decision, I prayed again and again, and also asked my friends for advice. Eventually, I decided that I would pick whoever accepted me first—as long as the salary was high enough to cover my necessary expenses.

I went to Jakarta the next morning. After the interview, the non-profit organization offered me the position of web editor and I accepted the job offer—just as I had decided on the previous day. I then sent an e-mail to the other company to cancel the interview and apologize.

 

Rejoicing in my role as an editor

After I accepted the job offer as an editor, I stopped looking for other jobs. I also left the LINE group chat. As the reality of starting work set in, I began to feel afraid. Would I be able to adjust to my new environment? Would I be able to do well in my job? But I remembered the verse, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). I prayed that day after day, I would grow in my obedience to God.

The first month of working as an editor was challenging. Besides adapting to a new environment, I also needed to learn from scratch all that I knew about editing. The knowledge that I had acquired from college was not enough to help me fulfil all the aspects of my job which comprised editing, writing and networking with contributors.

As an editor, I receive articles by contributors from various parts of Indonesia every day. Each article is unique. Some are about the writer’s opinions, and others are about their life experiences. Among the many writers, a few stood out. There was one who went through many accidents in life, but never gave up and was still able to say that God was good. There was another who shared the heart-breaking story of how her relationship ended without any clear reason. There was even a 71-year-old woman who shared her testimony about her physical condition and blurred vision.

Reading these articles brought me a lot of joy and motivation and convinced me that God is the one who prepared this job for me. It has been seven months since I first started my job and I really enjoy the experience so far.

I used to think that an ideal job was a job that paid well. I thought that a high salary could give me happiness because I could then buy anything I wanted and travel to new places that I haven’t visited. But my current job as an editor has changed my perspective.

With my current salary, I can meet my daily needs, support my parents’ life, and travel around Java Island. I am also able to save some of my money. But more than just working to earn money, I work so that I can glorify God, just as Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3: 23).

As a recent graduate, I still have hopes to continue my studies one day, but I believe that my current task is to give my all for God through this job. When I place God above all else in my life, I believe that He will provide for all my needs. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

Are you struggling to find a job? Don’t give up and keep praying. Surrender all your worries to God and let Him work in your life so that one day, looking back on your life experiences, you can see His wonderful plan for your life.

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42: 2).

2 Tips to Date in A Loving Way

Does he like me? Did he just flirt with me? Does his reply mean something more?

Should I ask her? What does her silence mean? Should I confess to her?

When it comes to interacting with members of the opposite sex, it’s likely that such questions would’ve crossed our minds before. After all, a friendship blossoming into a tentative relationship is bound to generate a measure of uncertainty in our hearts: Is he the one? Is she into me? What should I do?

And with most of our conversations taking place through a screen—what with instant messaging and social media—we can miss out on subtle social cues that usually guide face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, this means that misinterpretations and miscommunication are more likely to happen, creating even more anxiety over what our crush may have said (or not said).

These days, an entire vocabulary has been formed to document the amorphous nature of not-quite relationships and patterns of interactions.

There isn’t just ghosting—the act of completely disappearing from someone’s life after losing interest in them. There’s also benching, where you become a plan B for someone who wants to keep their options open; and cushioning, where you’re still in contact with potential suitors even after having exclusively committed to someone else. Not to mention other dating terms such as slow fading, breadcrumbing . . . and you get the point.

But what does God think about these situationships—where it’s more than a friendship but not quite an exclusive relationship? While the Bible doesn’t explicitly lay down laws for dating, it does give us commandments that can be applied to dating.

In fact, we need to look no further than what Jesus says are the greatest commandments in the Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

American pastor Richard Phillips and his wife Sharon write in their book about dating, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts:

“In dating, this requires us to honor God first. Many Christians approach dating mainly in terms of pursuing romance and meeting their emotional needs. Far too few think of it as an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace.

“What about loving our neighbor? This commandment requires us to put our dating partner’s holiness ahead of our happiness. If you are dating someone and the relationship does not grow into marriage, the least you can do as a Christian is to ensure that dating you was a spiritually beneficial experience.”

In the light of modern dating, this means asking ourselves: What would the most loving action be towards him or her?

Here’s two points to consider when it comes to making sense of your feelings:

 

1. If you like (or don’t like) someone, make it clear.

Don’t leave someone hanging. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get to know someone better before expressing your interest in him or her. But be careful about what kind of impression you’re making on the other person, and consider how he or she might be feeling in the meantime.

Conversely, if you don’t like someone, make it clear. Don’t flirt with them for the fun of it, especially if you know that this might create unnecessary ambivalence. Song of Solomon 2:7 tells us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires”.

For example, if you know that someone is likely to feel terribly hurt if you openly reject them, a more loving option might be to drop more subtle hints. This might mean politely turning down offers to meet or waiting longer periods before replying their messages.

Similarly, you might want to consider gently and lovingly telling them that you’re not interested in a relationship, if the situation calls for it.

While you might feel uncomfortable, presumptuous, or afraid of hurting them, remember that it is our duty to honor them as a fellow believer, brother- or sister-in-Christ, and child of God. If that means causing some hurt now, it’s better than causing him or her even more hurt by revealing it only much later on.

Ask yourself: Am I relating to the other person in a way that honors God and him or her? Are my responses clear when I express how I feel towards this person? Or are my responses leading them to draw the wrong conclusion?

On the other hand, if someone you like is sending you mixed signals—ignoring you one moment while flirting with you openly the next—you might want to consider two options. Either frankly ask how he or she feels about you, or step away from the relationship if you feel that the other person may not have honorable intentions.

Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Just as you don’t want to be left hanging—or ghosted, breadcrumbed, or cushioned—don’t do to them what you wouldn’t want to be done to yourself.

 

2. If you’re unsure about how you feel, commit it to God.

There may be occasions where the relationship isn’t always so clear-cut. You might be ambivalent about how you feel towards someone, especially where his gestures or her words might possibly indicate something more. Do you really like him or her, or is it something else that’s fueling these feelings—infatuation, desire, respect, loneliness, idealism?

I’ve felt this way countless times over the years, thanks to the adolescent longings and raging hormones of a teenage girl. How I pined, cried, and moaned for the affection of one boy or another!

It was only when I became a Christian that I found that there was a better way: casting my cares and worries at the feet of Jesus, who loves us with a love no boyfriend or girlfriend can offer us.

Before entering into a relationship or even entertaining the thoughts of entering into one, it’s important to seek the Lord for discernment and wisdom on how we ought to relate to the other person.

I wrote this in my journal a few years ago when I developed a strong crush on a classmate I had just gotten to know:

“I find it so difficult to see a trace of that spark or non-spark; in that I cannot tell whether or not he feels the same way. Surely if he did, I could tell? Yet no, I see nothing (and therefore continue to believe everything) that might come to be. And this is the worst part: not knowing yet believing it to be so. Since he has shown neither interest nor dis-interest, I continue to hold on to this hope, which is a potentially devastating thing to do. Already I catch whiffs of him everywhere I go, and he is continually brought up again and again in my mind, reinforcing the infatuation I feel.

Alas, what I feel for him has neither been encouraged nor discouraged. And so what I am left with is this budding of love, one that is continuously being fertilized by his frequent presence, watered by all that we have in common; and thus it grows just as our friendship grows.

Where this friendship will lead me, I do not know. But I pray with all sincerity that God will keep and guide me, that ultimately He will give me His stamp of approval or rejection; and in the meantime will reveal to me more about him, that I may decide for myself whether or not this can develop any further.”

God eventually did reveal something to me: this person was a non-believer who already had a girlfriend, which I only found out a few months later. Yet the process of committing this situationship to God daily—by choosing to commit my anxieties and uncertainties to Him, seeking His wisdom and will, and praying for Him to guard my heart—helped me to overcome the hurt and disappointment upon finding out.

It may be tempting to brood over whether the person you like feels the same way by overanalyzing every little thing they say or not say.

But don’t take things into your own hands. If it is meant to be, God will reveal it to you, and the other person (if he or she is a believer). If it’s not meant to be, God will reveal it too. I find that this is such a simple but deeply comforting truth, as someone who’s personally prone to overthinking and worrying.

So trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will answer whatever desires, worries, and questions you have, in His perfect timing and according to His perfect plans.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones.

— Proverbs 3:5-8