The Secret I Hid From My Sister That Could Tear Us Apart

Written By Jackie G, USA

On January 4, 2016, I genuinely thought my life was falling apart. I remember sitting on my couch, alone in my apartment.

Normally, I would have drowned out my feelings with an episode of Friends and a bowl of cereal, but that evening, I just sat there in cold silence. I had been crying for about a week straight, my eyes were puffy, and I could barely see the pages of the journal I was writing in.

I had craved a relationship with my older sister for years, but it wasn’t until a few months prior that the bond was starting to form. Like normal siblings, my sister and I went back and forth with liking each other one day and getting on each other’s nerves the next. Growing up, we had our fair share of conflicts, such as when I made friends with people that my sister didn’t exactly approve of. It didn’t help that we didn’t stay together for a few years when she moved to LA to do music.

But deep down, I never stopped wanting her approval. I think part of the reason I wanted her approval badly was because, in the public’s eye, it seemed like Alex was perfect. It seemed like she had it all together. She was great at school, great at sports, and once her YouTube music career took off, it seemed obvious that her life was going places.

So I was thrilled that after my move to Los Angeles, Alex and I were actually getting to know each other’s hearts for the first time. We were finally learning how to be vulnerable and authentic about our own journeys. It’s not that we didn’t want to share before; I think we just didn’t know what and how exactly to share.

There was not one piece of me that expected a good outcome from revealing my sin to my sister. I genuinely hated who I was for doing it, and I didn’t want to expose myself to her scrutiny. But I felt like the more time I took to tell her the truth, the more I was going to hurt both her and myself.

I didn’t want to wait for another “tomorrow”. I was done waiting. I was done avoiding. I was done hiding from my mistakes. It was time to come to terms with it.

So I got into my car the next morning, blasted “Oceans” by Hillsong to escape my guilt for the moment, and headed straight to my sister’s house. I was going to tell her the truth, but more than that—I was going to tell her goodbye.

I took one step into her house and stood there, barely able to articulate my apology and acknowledge how much she was about to hate me for getting romantically involved with her ex-boyfriend. Because I couldn’t get the words out, my sister started guessing. It probably took an hour but when she finally guessed it, I simply nodded.

If you’ve ever experienced grace before—not just knowing what it means, but being shown it firsthand—then you’ll understand how I felt the moment Alex responded to me. All she did was to tell me that she loved me and forgave me. That’s when I told her the whole story—the words that I was so scared of. The words that I thought defined my very being. The words that I was fully prepared to hide for the rest of my life.

Think about the worst thing you’ve ever done, carrying on with it for years, then being completely forgiven and having your slate wiped clean for no logical reason at all. Think about the one person you’re most scared of if he or she were to find out the truth, then having them find out and still love you anyway. Think of that person knowing how broken and shattered you are, and hugging you and loving you anyway. That’s the living definition of grace. That’s the heart of Jesus.

Going on this journey of healing, of reflecting on my past and bringing it to light for others to see, is the greatest experience I’ve ever had. I’m not saying that it’s a joy to feel guilt and make mistakes. But going through it has changed my life.

That said, confessing my mistakes to my sister is not the solution to being forgiven.

Up until the morning of January 5, 2016, I had been under the impression that my sister’s choice to forgive me would decide who I was. In other words, I was making my sister my god. My sister is pretty cool and everything, but in no way should she or any human being ever have that kind of authority over someone’s life. If I had given her the power to truly release me, what would have happened if she didn’t? What would have happened if we didn’t have a relationship afterwards? Would it have meant that I would not have been forgiven?

I fully understand that I have a responsibility to confess where I’m wrong when I’ve hurt someone. But the heart of the matter is that I never actually needed my sister’s forgiveness to be free. Yes, I know that telling her was the right decision, but I also realize that if I had told her and she chose not to forgive me, I would still be forgiven and free. I wouldn’t be condemned, I wouldn’t be trash, I wouldn’t be any of those shameful things that I thought I was.

My sister loving and forgiving me is a beautiful thing that I’m very grateful for. And I’m even more grateful for the grace of God. It blows my mind knowing that He gave me the opportunity to walk in freedom when I repented my sins before Him. Jesus has set me free from sin (John 8:36); shame has no power over me.

Knowing that God, the creator of the world, the all-perfect being who knows every mistake and thought we’ve ever had, loves us more deeply than our tiny human brains will ever be able to fully understand, is a pretty big deal. God doesn’t love a version of ourselves that we feel safe bringing to the table; He loves everything. He loves the cracks, the stains—all of it. That’s a pretty big deal.

My story is proof that we can be free.

I Almost Got a Divorce

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

When I was younger, I used to think that I could overcome anything as long as my husband loved me. But after getting married, my husband’s poor health, among other things, almost led me to give up on my marriage.

My husband has a history of epilepsy. He experiences seizures about two to three times a year and has been hospitalized on a number of occasions. Because of his poor health, he is only able to handle simple tasks and is unable to get a job with decent pay. So on top of having to care for him physically, I also have to support him financially.

One day at work a few months after we got married, I was informed by my husband’s colleague that my husband had experienced another seizure and was waiting for the ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Although I felt anxious about his condition, I was frustrated at the inconvenience his seizure had caused me. My mind even drifted to the idea of a divorce. Nevertheless, I decided that I would hide my unhappiness. I took urgent time off from work and rushed to the hospital to attend to him.

My frustration with my husband continued to grow as we entered our second year of marriage. Not only was he not providing for our increasing finances, he wasn’t helping out at home or meeting my needs. As his wife, he demanded total submission from me; I was very stressed about not being able to live up to his expectations. And while I wanted him to be involved in housework and caring for the baby, he felt that this was not the role of husbands.

Seeing the financial and emotional burden I had to bear, well-meaning relatives encouraged me to file for a divorce. I seriously contemplated this option. But in the midst of this, my Christian mentor pointed me to Jesus. Her words changed my perspective about marriage and taught me the following three lessons:

 

  1. His Word should transform my perspective of my marriage

Submission to my husband was difficult because I felt that he was never understanding towards me. But one of the key things my mentor reminded me of was that God is the head of my household (Colossians 2:10).

When I shifted my focus from pleasing my husband to pleasing God, I realized that submitting to my husband, was in itself, an act that pleased God (Ephesians 5:22). My mentor also reminded me to press on in marriage because God had brought the both of us together (Mark 10:9) and that divorce did not please God.

Instead, I was instructed to go to God whenever I was weary (Matthew 11:28). Whenever I felt like giving up, I would cry out to God and beg Him to either deliver me from the marriage or to strengthen me. God would always comfort me, reminding me that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

  1. Earthly marriage mirrors the ultimate marriage

Although there were moments I felt as though I had made a mistake in marrying my husband, God reminded me that He made no mistake when He allowed this marriage to take place.

In fact, God made earthly marriages to remind us of the upcoming eternal and perfect marriage supper of the Lamb, and to mimic His love for the church (Ephesians 5:21-30) and to be a display of God’s glory. When God designed man and woman to become one flesh in a marriage (Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9), He wanted to show how Christ and the church are one.

As I began to understand that, I started to see submission to my husband as a form of reverence for God. It became a form of worship to God. That’s when the burden of submitting to my husband became lighter. With the new perspective of how the Church—as the Bride—is to submit to God, I find it easier to submit to my earthly husband.

 

  1. God holds our future

I often feel helpless about my husband’s seizures. I’m always afraid that his condition might cause him to suffer serious permanent injury or even death. When that happens, I would have to raise my child singlehandedly.

After each attack, I would feel listless for a few days, worrying about the future. What if my husband became bedridden one day? What if his medical expenses escalated beyond our means? What if my son had to grow up without his dad by his side? What if I could not cope on my own as a single mum?

Sometimes, I wish I had married a healthy man and not him. But over time, I learned to surrender my fears to Him, allowing God to change me with His Word and for Him to take over our relationship. Through such trials, God has taught me to accept my husband for who he is—in sickness or in health—and trust that He is in charge of our welfare.

Today, we still struggle with the day to day challenges as a family and my husband still suffers from seizures occasionally. In fact, he had another attack again last month. However, the both of us have seen and experienced God’s grace in our marriage and my husband has also seen how God had changed my heart to be more yielding to him. Now, he has become more understanding towards me and no longer demands as much without sparing a thought for my feelings.

The both of us have also learned to appreciate things that are eternal and not to focus on those that are temporal. By the grace of God, my imperfect marriage has drawn us nearer to our perfect God who blesses us with unshakable hope and joy to weather through difficulties.

The Day I Believed in Jesus and Broke My Dad’s Heart

Written By Chen Pei Fen, Singapore

“Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian! You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.”

My mother was upset. Her distress was obvious as she attempted to persuade me to forsake my newfound faith. My father, meanwhile, was quietly heartbroken. He hadn’t slept well for several days, because his daughter had chosen to abandon family tradition and follow a “foreign” God.

I was 15 and had just accepted Jesus Christ into my life. I had made this decision with great joy, knowing I had done something significant. But now, I found myself in a storm. It pained me to see my parents so sad and disappointed.

As my mother pressured me to change my mind, I felt like I had to choose between Jesus and my parents. If I wanted to obey my parents and avoid hurting them, then I would have to abandon my newfound faith. But could I not follow Him and still love my parents?

 

 Believing in the promise

I was born into a traditional Singaporean Chinese family. My parents are of Hakka descent, one of the main Chinese dialect groups. Like most Chinese families, we were brought up to worship Chinese deities. We also burned incense and offerings to our ancestors to provide for their needs in the afterlife.

When a person brought up in such traditions decides to become a Christian, he is seen not only as abandoning his traditional faith, but also betraying his heritage. He brings shame on his family and community by following a foreign religion and putting his loyalty in a foreign god.

But none of this seemed to matter when I was making up my mind to follow Christ. At that time, the only thing that concerned me was whether it made sense to believe in Jesus. I had been asking questions such as, “Who am I? What is my purpose in this world? Why is the world so messy, and is there a solution? What happens after I die?” Christianity seemed to have all the answers.

It all started when a Christian friend, Veronica, explained the Good News to me. She shared with me what she learnt in the Bible, invited me along to evangelistic events, and showed me verses like John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Although I had been asking questions about life, my own was going pretty well at the time. I had a loving family, was popular with my peers, and was doing well in both sports and studies. I didn’t feel that I needed God. While the answers that Christianity gave to my questions seemed reasonable, I didn’t see a need to make a personal commitment to follow Jesus.

But one evening, as I was lying on my bed, I just felt really empty. So I prayed, “God, if you are really God, can you please show me who you are?”

Soon after, on a Saturday afternoon, I was walking towards an ice cream store when a stranger stopped me. She asked if she could share the Good News with me. Trying to be polite, I agreed. By then, I had heard it so many times that I could even recite the verses. But something happened that day. When the woman shared John 3:16 with me, the verse cut straight to my heart.

At that moment, I believe, the Holy Spirit touched me, and the truth of John 3:16 went from my head to my heart. All of a sudden, I truly understood what the verse really meant. I saw that “the world” that God “so loved” included me. I felt the weight of sin and recognized how terrible a sinner I was, and how much I needed Jesus. I finally understood why He had to die on the cross for me and appreciated just how much God loved me.

As the truth hit me, I couldn’t stop crying. For the first time, I realized that I was a sinner. At the same time, I felt grateful for God’s offer of forgiveness. That day, I confessed my sins to Jesus and received Him as my personal Savior and Lord.

The joy I felt, however, soon gave way to a sense of trepidation. I thought about the implications of my decision, and immediately realized how my parents would feel and react. “What have I done?” I thought. “What will my parents say when they find out?”

But the woman assured me that being the first in my family to become a Christian was a significant spiritual event. She reminded me of how Paul and Silas, after being freed from prison by a miracle, reached out to the jailer (Acts 16:30–31). When he asked them, “What must I do to be saved?” they told him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

Of course, Paul and Silas did not mean that the jailer’s family would be saved simply because he himself believed in God. Salvation comes through a personal, individual response to God; it cannot be “passed on” or inherited. However, the gospel can gain a foothold in the lives of a family through the first person to turn to Christ. It opens the door for the rest of the family to hear and see the gospel in action.

These verses gave me hope that one day my parents and siblings would also come to know God. I had the opportunity to become the first messenger, the first witness of the gospel to my family.

 But first, I had to face their objections.

 

Facing the challenge

For the first few months, I kept silent about my newfound faith. I didn’t dare tell my parents for fear of what could happen. I also didn’t dare go to church, but was sustained spiritually through constant prayer, reading the Bible, and regular meetings with Christian friends who taught me about God after school. Every morning, I spent time praying to God and reading the Bible, but hid it after I finished so that I would not be found out. The secret, however, didn’t last long.

One day, I forgot to put the Bible away and left it on the table. My father spotted it and recognized it. Being a traditional Chinese father, however, he did not confront me directly, but asked my mum to question me about it. Soon after, she sat me down and went straight to the point: “Why is there a Bible on your table?”

There was little else I could do but admit that I had become a Christian. My mum didn’t know what to say and could only shake her head in dismay. For the next few days, nothing happened. Both she and my dad kept quiet about the matter, but I felt the tension in the air. I knew that there would be more to come.

Days later, my father personally handed me a handwritten letter and left for work without saying a word. In it, he wrote of his disappointment and sadness at me becoming a Christian. He spoke of his failure as a father to keep the family together, and of the possible consequences of my actions. “How can we have two different gods in the same household?” he pointed out.

Having pledged our loyalty to one set of deities, my family believed that we would have peace, harmony, and security—everything that my parents desired for us. But now, by turning my back on what we worshiped and choosing to follow Jesus, I would anger the deities and put my family’s well-being at risk.

That same afternoon, my mother sat me down and followed up on the letter. This time she was visibly agitated. “Your father hasn’t been sleeping well,” she told me, her voice rising. “He’s very disturbed. He feels like a failure. Look at what you’ve done! You’ve not been a filial daughter—after all that we’ve done for you, is this how you repay us?”

I didn’t try to defend myself or argue with her, but just listened in silence. Perhaps mum was hoping to change my mind there and then, but since I didn’t respond, she gave up after a while. I went back to my room to think about what she said—and to seek God’s help.

“Heavenly Father,” I prayed with a heavy heart. “I’m so sad because of how this has affected my family, but please help me to stay strong in the faith. I know you are real, but I need strength to endure. What should I do?”

I faced a dilemma. I felt as if I was being asked to choose between God and my parents, yet both were important to me. My parents wanted me to give up this “foreign” God, yet I knew I couldn’t. At the same time, I didn’t want my parents to feel as if I was deserting them.

Jesus spoke about this challenge in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus wasn’t asking His disciples to hate their families in the literal sense. He was challenging them to weigh the cost of discipleship and ask themselves if they were ready to make Him the Lord of their lives. What Jesus was really asking was this: How far are you willing to go to follow me? Are you ready to put me before your family? Are you prepared to give up everything that you hold dear, including your life?

I now faced this challenge. How far was I willing to go to follow Jesus? Was I willing to face my parents’ displeasure for making Him Lord of my life? And how was I supposed to reconcile and “balance” my love for both Jesus and my parents?

 

Trusting in assurances

I was hoping to get specific instructions on how to answer my mum and dad and what to tell them. Instead, I received a simple directive from God: Be His witness.

The answer gave me great comfort. It was as if God was telling me that I had done the right thing in choosing to follow Him, and my mission now was to share my discovery with my family. I wasn’t being asked to choose between Jesus and my parents; I was being tasked to share Jesus’s love with them.

Luke 6:39 emphasizes the importance of us recognizing and understanding the truth ourselves before we seek to share it with others. Jesus said, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” We cannot lead others in the right direction unless we are sure that the path we are taking is the correct one.

This verse gave me great encouragement. Now that I had found the truth—that only Jesus can save us—I could lead my family to this wonderful discovery. And the best way to do this was by loving and honoring my parents. Through my words and actions, I could show them Christ, the Lord and Savior of the world.

 

This is an excerpt from Discovery Series, Keeping the Faith: The Cost of Following Christ. Read the rest of Pei Fen’s story here.

When God Turned My Sorrow to Joy

Written By Callie Opper, USA

In every person’s life, I believe that there is a defining moment when we suddenly come to realize how small we are compared with God, and how small we are compared with the problems that can overwhelm us. For me, that moment happened on my 14th birthday.

That was when my family received news that my mom had been diagnosed with leukemia. Almost exactly a month later, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. As a 14-year-old, I didn’t know how to process the news. It rocked my world. And because the seemingly perfect world that I had known was now crumbling around me, I did the only thing I could at the time—I pretended to be strong, even though I was crumbling inwardly. I truly believed that I needed to be strong to make it through something like this, and for God to heal my parents.

As a child growing up in a Christian environment, I had heard time and time again that when life gets hard, we’re supposed to trust God, and when tragedy hits, we should feel unshaken because He’s on our side. But when the storm hit me, I didn’t feel this automatic trust in God’s plan, and I started to believe that He was giving up on me because of my doubts. I had accepted Christ at the age of nine and prayed a prayer whose meaning I knew, but I didn’t understand what it really meant to follow Jesus.

Because of this trial, I found myself feeling alone, even though I was surrounded by so many people who loved me. I let this feeling of abandonment take root and became insecure about myself; I began to doubt if God was present in my world because He didn’t heal my mom. And because I craved attention and belonging, I let the world define who I was. Inwardly, I was running away from the one person who promises to never abandon us; I blocked my heart and mind from letting Him heal the hurt in me.

Over a year after my mom was diagnosed, she passed away. I had to get used to a new normal—a life without her. I kept up an external image that seemed to show a deep trust in God, but inwardly I was confused and lost. I kept asking why, and I became bitter as I watched my dad fall in love again and we moved out of my childhood home.

I believe that God does not forsake us. He pursues us and over time, slowly breaks down the walls of our hearts.

Shortly after my mother’s passing, I signed up for a mission trip to China. But it was for a selfish reason—I wanted to leave the country to escape my world and to get away from the tragedy that surrounded me and my family.

My plans, however, were drastically changed; God had plans to reveal the selfishness of my heart and to truly heal it. One day, on a mountain in China, He used a place of isolation to make me face the weight of the pain I had been feeling and my rebellion against Him, and He revealed to me the condition of my heart. For the first time in my life, I found myself vulnerable before Him. He broke me down using one verse: “In all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds” (2 Cor 7:4). While I had gone to China to escape, God brought me to a place of quiet retreat, to sit in His presence and to experience His life transformation.

I didn’t know what true joy was, but in that one moment, I knew I wanted it. I started pleading with the Lord for joy, to confidently trust in His plans, His ways, and the story He had started writing for me. And it was from that one single moment that God started to break down my walls, to refine me, and to teach me what joy means.

Over the next few years, God chiseled away at my heart to reveal emotions I had not wanted to face, grief that was unresolved, and lies that I had believed about God and myself.

He showed me that joy looks a lot like vulnerability. Joy is not a temporal happiness, but a deep-rooted contentment in God’s plan, which we know is for our good and His purposes. Joy does not mean I will wake up with a smile on my face every day; it does not mean that I will always be rejoicing in my sorrows and in the storms. Rather, it is choosing to see God’s higher purposes when everything is crumbling. Joy is a daily choice. It’s laughing and embracing the tears when they come.

God taught me that being weak is so much greater than being strong. Our weakness proclaims our need to depend on the Lord utterly. He has taught me that it’s okay to not be okay. He welcomes our doubting and invites us to wrestle with Him when we don’t understand what He is doing.

The beautiful thing that I learned about God is that He never gives up on us. He will never stop pursuing our hearts even when we try to run. He will go into the deep and dark places of our hearts to pull us out and to prove that He is good.

I have seen God turn my brokenness into beauty. He has removed the bitterness I held on to tightly for years, by giving me people to walk with me. He used the brokenness of my mom’s death to show me the reality of how short life is, to teach me what it means to value others, and to show me that every second matters. He has showed me the importance of loving and living well, and how much people and relationships matter.

God has been faithful to me in this journey. He has given me so many glimpses of His purposes for my mom’s death. He has given me complete joy and has taught me to embrace weakness, to cling to Him, and to live vulnerably. He has taught me to accept grief. He has shown me that hiding and running from the storms that He allows is useless.

I believe that God weaves unique stories for everyone. He creates masterpieces out of our lives and weaves the deepest pain into something far more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Life is a gift, and the story of our lives, no matter what it looks like, paints a radiant picture of the gospel. Our stories are all about Him and His glory alone.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music, on my stringed instruments.”—Habakkuk 3

Last year I got a tattoo in my mother’s hand writing to remind me of the faithfulness of God, to keep me grounded in Him, and in the meaning of joy.