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 Doesn’t Take Away Your Anxiety

A question I’m often asked is, “How did you stop having anxiety?”

I haven’t.

Then comes the inevitable follow up: “You mean, you still feel anxious?”

Every now and then, yes.

“You mean, God hasn’t healed you from it?”

These questions are not uncommon to me and I imagine they’re not uncommon to others in the church.

The giant chasm which exists between faith and mental health would suggest that this will always be a difficult topic to discuss. Many Christians, including myself, do not understand how these two things, God and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), could possibly co-exist.

I’ve had numerous conversations with people who ask me about my faith and its role in regards to how I cope with anxiety. Where does God fit in?

They might expect me to give them cookie-cutter” answers like “Because I’m a Christian, I don’t struggle with my anxiety.” Or “trusting in God removes all anxiety.”

But as someone who has suffered from anxiety and is still affected by it at times, I can only tell you that there are no simple answers.

Instead, let me offer you five things to keep in mind if you’re a Christian struggling with anxiety.

 

1. God can heal us from anything, even anxiety.

As a Christian, I believe that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him (Luke 1:37). Does this include healing people from illnesses, including mental illness? Yes.

I know people who have personally experienced God’s healing from different neurological or psychological disorders.

Yet for me, and perhaps to others, the question remains: is there room for God amidst an anxiety disorder when He hasn’t taken it away? Where is God when the breakthrough hasn’t happened yet?

The answer is not so black and white.

 

2. Having anxiety is not a reflection of your lack of faith.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard well-meaning churchgoers tell me, “You just need to pray about it more; you really need to go before the Lord.”

Let me tell you about my going before the Lord.

As someone who dealt with panic attacks and anxiety disorder throughout college, I can say that I wasn’t only just going before the Lord, but I was face-down-lying-on-the-bathroom-floor going before Him.

If you have been there before, you will know what I mean. Our body meets the end of ourselves. All dignity is pushed aside, and we beg and plead, often on our knees. Or in my case, on my hands and my knees.

Take this from me, God. I cannot do this anymore. It’s just too much.

 

3. Healing comes in many forms.

The night that I lay face down on the bathroom floor of my apartment, God did not take away my anxiety disorder. He did not miraculously heal me from my anxiety in one instant act of extraordinary intervention. I didn’t automatically stop having panic attacks. I still had to catch my breath and count to 10 in the middle of a work meeting to avoid a potential breakdown.

My experience wasn’t one of immediate relief. It wasn’t a miraculous healing that some encounter in church pews. Instead, managing my anxiety was a long and drawn-out process.

It was the result of many months of intense counselling sessions and emotional energy. But in that process, I found relief. And I experienced some healing.

It all started by going to speak to a complete stranger about my fears. She taught me tools to help stop the onset of a panic attack. I slowly learned how to manage overpowering feelings of anxiety.

As I accepted the fact that I struggled with a disorder, I also began the frightening process of opening up to my family and friends. I took a step back and observed the bad habits I needed to break, and I even had to say goodbye to some unhealthy relationships. The process was anything but easy or formulaic, but it allowed me to slowly regain that peace of mind that Philippians talks about.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

So did God heal me? Did I achieve breakthrough?

Not in the way you would think. Not in one heavenly instant.

I have no shame in admitting to you that my prayers didn’t result in the end of my disorder. Healing takes place in many different ways. Sometimes, it’s the immediate relief from anxiety during a worship service, and sometimes it’s ongoing treatment from a doctor.

What I can attest to is that God gave me the peace and determination to manage those days where anxiety was too close for comfort. And through that, I found grace, and ultimately, freedom.

 

 4. We are not alone in our anxiety.

It’s important to recognize that God does not promise we will never experience hardship.

I would still feel a sense of nervousness from time to time, even after attending a counselling session. I still had the occasional random panic attack in the supermarket (bless the dear woman who consoled me in the freezer aisle). We will never live a life free of adversity.

But God does promise that He will be right there with us when we go through those difficult times.

How comforting it is to know that I am not alone in those moments of darkness! I have the companionship of one who has already overcome anxiety. He’s been there, done that.

In Matthew, it says that Jesus overcame the world. He knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed. To feel anxious. He knew pain and suffering. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge relief to know I am not isolated in this fight.

 

 5. The road to recovery can be slow and messy.

I’ll be honest with you: today, I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. I still have those moments of uncertainty. My faith does not remove the voice of negative self-talk.

But I do have confidence in one thing: God meets me where I am. He has been with me every step of the way, from diagnosis to recovery. And looking back, I can certainly attest that I am not the same person I was several years ago as I sat in the doctor’s office discussing different side effects of anti-depressants. I can confidently say that the worst is behind me.

When I hear that there is no room for God in the whole “mental health” debate, I want to remind those people of one of the key issues at the centre of this whole conversation: God loves people in their humanity and we are to do the same of one another. Despite our perceived “weakness” and our human tendency to fear and to feel insecure—God still uses us to inspire, to lead and to love others. He uses anxious people.

I am the most peaceful I probably have ever been on my journey, but every now and then, I still feel a little off. But it’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to be perfect.

I don’t have to feel perfectly. I can just be. And that’s perfectly okay.

How To Build Authentic Relationships

Written By Blake Wisz, USA

In the world of instant messaging, “emojis” and “likes”, it’s easy to have a lot of “friends” but never have honest or encouraging conversations with them.

Often, while listening to others while I sip my cup of coffee, I can’t help but think, “What do they really need to talk about?” We tend to dance around the conversation we really want to have, perhaps to preserve our relationships and avoid points of tension or conflict.

As an extrovert, I’ve always wanted deep-rooted relationships with my friends. I believe there needs to be a sense of openness in relationships, so that we can open the door to an honest conversation.

There have been times, however, when I’ve probably put too much pressure on others to share things they might not be ready or willing to share because of my candor. It can be hard to admit the shortcomings, anxieties, frustrations, and struggles in our lives to another person. But what I’ve learned is that overcoming these initial hurdles can build up endurance and authenticity in our relationships.

 

Be willing to open up

During this season of life, I’ve come to realize that I tend to share with others about God’s grace and love but do not allow those same truths to soak deep down in my own life. The feeling of needing to perform, to do things perfectly, and to never make a mistake are some pressures I can put on myself which I don’t often talk about.

It has also exposed the need to deal with my inner struggle against perfectionism and to be open with others about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my own journey. I’ve found that if I am truly honest with people about my struggles, authentic relationships can be built.

 

Be humble

One of the best ways to grow our relationships is to put others’ troubles, wants, and needs before our own. A letter by the Apostle Paul has challenged me to pursue authentic relationships from a place of encouragement and understanding of our unity in Christ.

While jailed in Rome for proclaiming the gospel, Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi (modern-day Greece), saying: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

For me, I’m learning to focus on actively listening, being present in the moment, and letting others have my total attention.

Be encouraging

Early this year, I wrote a mission statement on my bathroom mirror that read, “Encourage others”, because I knew I needed to change my approach. My sensitivity radar was out of whack and I realized that I had not done enough to help others “do their thing”, even though the latter has always been something that brings me the most joy.

I can also use what I’ve experienced in my life to encourage those in my sphere of influence—the guy sitting next to me at the coffee shop, a co-worker, family member, or that person in a social media bubble. And I have been learning that when I encourage others from a place of compassion and humility—by putting their needs before my own by actively listening or sharing a kind word—I am stepping into a love designed by God and by which the world will know Him. In that space, authentic relationships are rooted and can blossom in that space.

As I look at my own life, I see the value of authentic relationships. My friend Jamie is a passionate photographer, husband, and soon-to-be father. Our friendship started in a local coffee shop, where we talked shop about photography.

Since then, we have traveled to different parts of the world together with our wives. Our personalities are vastly different, but we share plenty in common. We graduated from Cornerstone University, married our college sweethearts, and lost our fathers suddenly. Jamie and I were fortunate that our common interests made it easy to start a conversation. We both knew we were working through some trials—the biggest of which was the loss of a loved one. We’ve been honest to one another, always transparent about what is going on in our lives.

In the Bible, one of the words used for friend in the original Greek translation is the word Adelphos, which has been interpreted as, “a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection”. Jamie and I share in Adelphos which drives us to bring out the best in one another and encourage one another. If we had never been honest or willing to wear our raw emotions on our sleeves, we would have missed out on the true support of a friend.