Landing in the Pig Pen Instead of My Dream Job

Written By Ellen Bargh, UK

As I walked into the farm yard in my pink-striped wellies and oversized farm gear, I was hopeful that this job would only be for a couple of weeks.

A friend and I had always joked about me going to work at his family farm in UK, my home country. It had always seemed ridiculous to me. I couldn’t work on a farm; I worked with people, not animals. I liked the comfort of being inside—not getting mucky and cold.

But here I was, working on a farm while waiting to fulfil my dream of living abroad. Over the past six years of studying in Canada, I had started to build my life there; I had friends and even my own apartment. When a job I had desired for a long time became vacant, it seemed like everything was coming together. The job involved working with students and doing administration. I loved the thrill of tasks and details as well as talking to people and helping them as they went through their years in college.

The week before I was due to fly back to the UK, I was interviewed for the position of Assistant to Dean of Students. All I needed was a visa to move to Canada to start my dream life.

But things didn’t work out as I wanted. Those couple of weeks on the farm turned into a couple of months, and my dream slowly slipped away. In the end, I did not qualify for the visa, and the job was filled by someone else.

Now, instead of my fun pink-striped wellies, I had proper green farm wellies. Reality had set in that I was going to be there for what seemed like the long haul. Instead of sitting in a nice lovely office, I was in a pig pen shovelling muck. Instead of listening to students talk excitedly about starting college, I was deafened by the squeals of piglets ringing constantly in my ears. This wasn’t what I dreamed my life would be after finishing my degree.

As I drove to work each day, often with tears streaming down my face, I would ask God why He had me working at a farm with pigs rather than with people who needed Jesus. What use was I in a pig pen? I wasn’t telling anyone about Jesus or working with children. How could this be what God wanted for me?

It was a daily battle to go to work and take my frustrations with the mundane to God. I wrestled with this for months. I was weary of what seemed like meaningless work. But the longer I stayed, the more honest I became with myself and God. God began to soften my heart and show me that He wanted me to talk to Him all day while I was working. He wanted me to love Him for Him—not because of what He does for me or because He could give me a better life.

I looked to the Bible for comfort, remembering that popular verse from Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I started reading Jeremiah to find out more. I was shocked by the verses that came before verse 11. Jeremiah 29:5-7 says: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

God had sent the Israelites into exile. And while they were there, they were to build a life and do good to the place they were in, even though they didn’t want to be there or thought they shouldn’t be there.

As I went over these verses in my mind, I began to see the good things God had put before me in the place I was in. I was working with a wonderful family, and I had an amazing church family where I was asked to be involved in youth and children’s work. Of course, my desire to work with people was still there. And though my desire to be in a different job didn’t fade, I gave what I had to where I was at.

Recently, I read an Our Daily Bread booklet on contentment where the writer Gary Inrig writes, “Contentment, then, is not about self-sufficiency but Christ-sufficiency. It is not resignation but satisfaction. It is not acceptance of the status quo or surrender of ambition but submission to Christ and His purposes. Godly contentment isn’t about complacency or passivity or an otherworldly detachment from life . . . It is a deep-seated satisfaction that is the gift of Christ.”

A good job was never going to give me the contentment I wanted. It was only by looking to Jesus that I could find contentment and peace. The more time I dug into the things God gave me in the place I was at, I realised it was Him that I needed, and not a job.

Here’s three things that helped me to be content:

 

1. Give thanks

Give thanks daily for specific things God has given us each day—not just in the good times but all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When we thank God, we focus on the good things, and soon envy and discontentment fade.

2. Give what you have in every situation

Even if we aren’t where we want to be, we can seek the good of the people or place we are in. Rather than tell ourselves we just need to get through this period of time till God takes us to the next thing, we can give ourselves fully to people or tasks during the time we are in “exile” (Jeremiah 29:5-6).

 

3. Seek godly characteristics rather than possessions or status

If we are always focusing on what is next—the next job, the next relationship or the next house—we aren’t focusing on becoming more like Christ. It doesn’t matter where we are, God’s will for us is to be like Jesus.

Love isn’t all about Happy Endings

Written by Samantha Chin, Singapore 

I absolutely adore animated movies—I grew up watching Disney movie after Disney movie, singing to catchy tunes and laughing along with the cute characters. Almost every plot involved a beautiful princess who found a brave prince willing to slay dragons and evil witches all in the name of love, and they lived happily ever after at the end of the movie. Even dogs and lions found their one true love!

Little did I know, these movies were leading me to believe in a picture of love and marriage that was unrealistic, but God corrected my thinking along the way.  

 

My Timing vs God’s Timing

 When I was 16, I dreamed of meeting someone special by 22, getting married to him at 25, and having children by 28. This year I turn 29, but wedding bells haven’t rung for me yet. Where was the fairytale ending I had been hoping for?

Unlike the movies where one can easily predict that the “happily ever after” will come at the end, it is never so predictable in real life. It takes some people much longer to find their marriage partner—if they do get married at all. Does it mean that all of us who are still single should give up hope? No, I believe not. Instead, I believe God is calling us to wait on His timing.

I have since come to understand that He knows best, and I need to trust Him. Knowing I need this constant reminder, I have Proverbs 16:9 pasted on my bedroom wall, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Tough as it is, I believe He is using this time of singleness to prune me so that I will be more prepared to enter into a covenant relationship with someone He has in store for me when (and if) the time comes. And I can certainly trust that the love story God, my divine matchmaker writes will be so much more glorious than I can ever plan or imagine.

 

My ideal partner vs God’s ideal partner

Other than the perfect timing, I also had a grand idea of how the man I would eventually marry would be like. He would be God-fearing, humorous, caring, loves dogs, able to lead, able to listen attentively yet also give good insight, as well as serve in full-time ministry, or at least consider it. Without realizing it, I was actually looking for someone who had it all together—just like the brave and handsome male lead in the countless movies I had watched.

When my best friend commented that I would simply reject any guy God might bring along who didn’t fulfill these ideals of mine, my first response was to defend my position and argue that these were good desires to have. After all, I wanted to serve God alongside my spouse. Wasn’t that godly thinking?

But the reality is that marriage brings together two sinners who are still works in progress. This means that the man I marry will have weaknesses I may not like and quirks that irritate me. It means that I too would have to confront and work on my own shortcomings. Love is not just about receiving—it is also about giving. It is giving even when I do not feel like it, when I’d rather be doing something else, and when I just can’t stand the sight of him. Love is a verb, not merely a feeling. I will experience romance and laughter, but I will also experience sacrifice, humility, and refinement.

Marriage is about two imperfect people helping each other become more like Christ. And maybe that is also what makes marriage so wonderful—having someone who knows you inside out, warts and all, and still loves you the same.

 

Finding fulfilment in a partner vs in Christ

Cinderella was always dreaming about meeting her prince, so was Rapunzel, and Snow White and, well, you get the idea. It was almost as if their life was incomplete till they found “the one”. When they did, it was bliss—a whole new world unlocked. Initially, I thought the same way. I was constantly searching for someone who would finally make me feel special and complete.

But another friend posed me this question: If one day you find the person you have been dreaming of all your life, and yet you don’t feel as fulfilled as you expected to be, what happens then?

That was a necessary reminder that I must first and foremost find my ultimate fulfillment in Christ, for only He can truly satisfy. These days, I am slowly becoming able to echo what the Psalmist says in Psalms 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

 

I still love animated movies, my friends can attest to that; but I now watch them knowing that love isn’t all about happy endings. That doesn’t make me desire marriage any less, and though I have much more to learn, having a realistic understanding of it reduces the likelihood I run in the other direction when facing difficulties with my future spouse.

 

©2017 Whole Life. All rights reserved.
This article was first published on Wholelife.sg and republished with permission.

What 5 Bible Couples Teach Us About Romance

Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

I once thought that it was fine to start a romantic relationship as long as it felt right; I did not realize that I ought to take time to pray to God about it first. I once thought that it was time to break up when feelings faded; I did not realize that relationships needed to be nurtured. I once thought that I would be rational in romance; I did not realize that I would end up hating the other person badly and nursing my bitterness when the person left.

From puppy love in school to dating in college to being single after graduation, I have been through the whole roller coaster of emotions. It reached a point when I felt as though God no longer loved me. How come other people could start a relationship and watch it blossom and bear fruit, whereas I kept floundering? And why did I end up not only hurting myself, but hurting others as well even though I also dated with marriage in mind?

It was only later on, that I realized that I had been looking at relationships through my own lens. When things felt right, I would immediately launch into a relationship, assuming such feelings came from the “Holy Spirit”. Likewise, when problematic situations wore me out both physically and emotionally, I would assume that these were signs to break up, and as a result, let go of my relationships.

Movies, TV shows, online dating games, etc., all tell us to rely on our own feelings. We are told to chase after the romantic, the happy, and the epic. When these feelings are gone, dating and marriage should come to an end as well. But is that true? What view of romantic relationships does the Bible prescribe?

A thought came to my mind one day: Why not learn from godly marriages in the Bible to find out God’s thinking?

Let me share what I have learned from five couples in the Bible.

 

1. Isaac and Rebekah: Pray about marriage. Love is not only a feeling, but an important commitment.

Rebekah was from the same tribe as Abraham. She was selected by Abraham’s servant as a bride for Isaac (Abraham’s son) after the servant sought the Lord in prayer. Here I see a very important principle for relationships: choose a spouse from among God’s people. This choice is not random, nor should it be based on feelings—it should be the result of faithful prayer. If we get involved with unbelievers, we will have to deal with the differences in beliefs and values, or worse, we might follow the other person’s religious traditions and abandon God and His teaching.

The second thing I learned from their relationship is this: love is a decision. Although Isaac and Rebekah had not met each other before getting married, they were able to love each other their entire lives. In that time, it was not uncommon for men to have multiple wives, yet Isaac chose to spend his entire life with Rebekah alone. Their relationship shows us that when you decide to love a person and a holy covenant has been made, we can rely on God to keep us going and loving each other to the end even when difficulties arise in the marriage.

 

2. Boaz and Ruth: Listen to the advice of elders. No matter what your past is, trust that God accepts you.

Ruth was a foreigner as well as a widow. But she loved Naomi, her mother-in-law. She later followed Naomi’s advice and hinted her intentions to Boaz, and, as we all know, it was a happy ending for Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. From this story, I learned that God does not look down on anyone whatever their background may be. What He cares about is our hearts. Ruth chose to believe in God―the same God her mother-in-law believed. She was also obedient to this beloved elder, and so she was blessed in the end, and even named in Jesus’ genealogy.

I used to think that only those who married their first boyfriend/girlfriend had relationships blessed by God. But it is not so. God accepts us no matter what our pasts are. Interestingly, I also saw from Ruth and Boaz’s marriage that women do not have to wait for men to make the first move in a relationship. Sometimes, a woman can give timely and appropriate hints to “less observant” men. Of course, this is on the condition that any action taken is in accordance with God’s will. As for men, they should think things through and ask older Christians for advice before making a move.

 

3. Joseph and Mary: Love requires action. We can accomplish God’s work together by fearing and obeying Him.

When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, Joseph wanted to avoid divorcing her publicly so as to protect her name and her life. In that patriarchal era, the engaged man had the right to publicly divorce his fiancée, and the woman would be stoned to death for committing adultery. But Joseph did not do so because he loved Mary and feared God. Mary was also a God-fearing woman, and so willingly accepted the risks that came with her pregnancy.

Loving someone is proven by action. Joseph proved his love for Mary by respecting, protecting and marrying her. When evil men came after them to kill baby Jesus, they supported each other the entire way. This is one God-fearing couple who shared in both the good and bad times for the sake of God. To share the same faith as our spouse, and to be willing to commit to Christ and to each other, is a beautiful thing.

 

4. Aquila and Priscilla: Be a couple committed to Christ. Build up a home with Christ at its head, and give all for God’s kingdom.

Although this couple is not as well-known as the others we’ve looked at so far, I really admire their commitment to God in the New Testament. Though they were busy with work, they always warmly welcomed God’s servants Paul and Apollos (Acts 18). They opened up their home as a meeting place (1 Corinthians 16) and actively pursued any opportunity to add to God’s kingdom.

God not only wants families to be saved, but also to serve. Opening up one’s home not only incurs extra financial costs, but also a lot of time and energy. Here, we see an example of active ministry by lay people: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Also, two are better than one. In addition to sharing the ups and downs of life, a couple can pray for each other, serve God, and minister to people together. This is a beautiful picture. When I consider the families I know where one spouse is passionate about ministry but the other is not, I am all the more convinced of the importance of praying for a like-minded future spouse. Only when two people are of a similar maturity and mind, can they build a family with Christ at the head.

 

5. Zechariah and Elizabeth: Pray faithfully and wait patiently for God. Submit humbly to God’s will.

According to Luke 1, Zechariah and Elizabeth served the Lord faithfully despite their old age. I especially remember the part where Zechariah was serving as a priest when God’s messenger appeared to him, telling him that his prayer had been answered and that God would give him a son. This reminded me that God is always listening to our prayers, but whether or not those prayers are answered depends on God’s will.

Although we also see the weaknesses of Zechariah and Elizabeth―Zechariah was temporarily mute because of his lack of faith, and Elizabeth was initially afraid to tell people about her pregnancy―yet this did not hinder God from using them to accomplish His plans. When the child was born, they obeyed God and named him John. And after praying for so many years for their own child, Zechariah and Elizabeth were willing to give him up to God’s work, and to obey God in naming their child. Such surrender is something I need to learn. 

These five couples all have their own weaknesses, yet they share one thing in common: both partners feared and obeyed God. The example of Aquila and Priscilla especially reminded me that I must serve the Lord at any time in any place.

The Bible has many other examples that can teach us about relationships. The five couples above are only a handful, but these are the ones that have touched me deeply. Through studying them, I am better able to face the insecurities caused by my past relationships. These couples also inspire me to build a proper, God-pleasing view of relationship, and help me re-focus on God Himself. I hope that all I have learned about relationships can also help bring light to you in your own relationships.

Making Friends in College: 3 Misconceptions

Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA

In a culture obsessed with romantic relationships, the value of genuine friendship often goes unrecognized. However, God created us not just for romantic relationships, but also to have fulfilling friendships. There are many examples in the Bible of great friendships—such as between Jonathan and David, and Jesus and the disciples—that show friendship is important to our Creator.

Yet as we grow older, friendships don’t seem to come as easy as they did when we were children. Making new friends can be a daunting task, especially when entering a new situation, such as a college or working environment. For example, last summer, as my freshman year of college was approaching, I began to feel increasingly anxious about making new friends.

At the small, public high school I attended, my core group of friends were non-believers. Please don’t get me wrong, they are great people, and I love them dearly. Throughout our years together, they taught me much about what it means to love people who think and act differently from myself, and to this day I am thankful for my continued friendships with some of them. As college approached, however, it was my desire to find friends who could encourage me spiritually and walk alongside me in Christ.

Transitioning to college was probably the hardest thing I had done so far in my 19 years of life. Moving to a different state where I didn’t know anyone and would be hours away from my family was a frightening thought—making my desire to find good friendships even stronger. It was definitely challenging at the beginning; there were many days filled with loneliness, and several moments of tears and anguish.

I started a new job to fill some of the empty hours, and I tried to avoid being alone as much as possible. Those moments of feeling alone and missing my family also drove me to be intentional about meeting people and making new friends. I realized that I couldn’t let the difficulties of the transition to college overwhelm me, and that I needed to actively pursue those friendships that I so desired.

However, the friendships I ended up with turned out to be much different than I expected. Sure, God did provide me with good friendships. But looking back on my freshman year, I realize that I had gone to school with several misconceptions about what making friends in college would be like.

 

Misconception #1: I won’t make any friends in college.

This was my biggest worry as I prepared to leave for college, and probably the worry most frequently discussed at freshman orientation. Like many of my fellow freshmen, I was fearful of either not making friends, or of not finding like-minded friends that I could share my struggles with.

I am here to say, however, that you will make friends in college. The process will take time, and some friends may come and go, but ultimately you will find friends who will walk alongside you during this phase of your life. Some may even become lifelong companions.

 

Misconception #2: l will only make friends with people who have the same interests as me.

In my first semester of college, I chose to take a science class revolving around dune research to satisfy a core science requirement. Through this class, I met three of my closest college friends. Ironically, none of us were geography or geology majors, but through trekking up and down the dunes each week, we formed a close friendship. I also met another of my closest college friends in a Latin class that I took as an elective. Though we all shared the same faith, we all had different majors, and even different interests. But God in his infinite wisdom brought us together using circumstances we wouldn’t have thought would lead to friendship.

Of course, I did make friends within my major and areas of interest, but what I learned through these experiences is that friendship can come from any situation. The key is being willing to join new communities and try new things.

Misconception #3: My college friendships will look exactly as I imagine them.

Your college friendships probably will not look exactly as you imagined they would. You might not be best friends with your roommate, or you might find friendship in unexpected places, such as a dune research class.

You might not even find your closest friendships in the college setting. While in college, your close friends might come from an off-campus job, or a local church in your area. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that there is no cookie-cutter for the college experience.

 

The college phase of life is a time of self-discovery and possibility. Instead of being a source of anxiety, making new friends can be a great opportunity. When I reflect on my first year of college, the friends I made and the adventures we had together are the sweetest and most treasured of all my memories. Though transitioning to college was difficult, in the end, it was a rewarding experience precisely because of what I was initially so worried about—making friends.