Our Generation’s Biggest Struggle: Stillness

Written By Callie Opper, USA

For most of my life, I struggled with being still. Being an extrovert made it hard to say no to people. I would push myself to do anything and everything for others, and failed to make time to simply be silent. In college, I surrounded myself with the busyness of life and let it get in the way of my silence before the Lord and a deep intimacy with a Savior that heals, restores and makes everything new.

But God has this painful yet beautiful way of stopping me dead in my tracks when I least expect it, and that’s what He has been doing in my heart over the past six months. Towards the end of my time in college, I hit a wall. I couldn’t give to others as well anymore as my energy was spent. Everything around me seemed to become a hurdle to jump over—ministry, school, and work. I had lost touch with who I was and who God made me to be. When I realized how emotionally and physically drained I had become, God started revealing to me that that it’s not selfish to say no. And that when I don’t give myself breathing room to just sit in His presence, I lose sight of what matters.

I think stillness is a foreign word for many in my generation. We are consumed with being busy—we try to push ourselves past our limits because we fear missing out, or we are immersed in our phones, social media, and everyday distractions. We so often let the chaos of life surround us that we fail to see the value of resting in God’s presence by spending time in prayer and gaining strength and wisdom through His Word.

Sometimes I think we get comfortable in that noise because we’re scared of what God can do through the silence. It’s precisely in the places of stillness that God remakes us, leads us to do things we might not want to do, rewires our hearts and passions, and ultimately changes us. Sometimes that process is painful, so we avoid it all together. But it’s often in those places that we find God.

When I prioritize spending time in His Word, I deepen my understanding of how to live. He reveals Himself to me through the wisdom, encouragement, and strength found in His truth. Through quiet time, He shows me how to live well, love others the way He loves them, and become a true servant. The more time I spend in prayer and saturate myself in His Word, the more the distractions of everyday life seem to fade.

God wants to be the loudest voice we hear. He longs to be with us and for us to meet with Him in the places where we experience Him most fully. He wants us to find contentment in sitting in His presence alone. God longs to comfort and restore the broken pieces of our lives as we rest in Him. God longs for us to depend on Him. God desires His children to listen to Him, to soak up His endless love for them, to rest in His peace, and to seek His radiant glory.

That’s when we can marvel at His glory surrounding us—His strong but gentle Spirit demonstrated in the wind, His beauty and power radically revealed in all of creation, His grace and faithfulness seen through the abundance of His blessings, and His creativity displayed in the canvas of the colors He paints in the sky. When I first started to truly marvel at who God is and His creation, I was reminded that the Creator of the Universe knows my name, sees me, and pursues me intimately. If the God of all of Creation chooses to see and know the most inward parts of my being, then He deserves nothing less than my time and affection.

So, find your place—find where you encounter God most fully. Create that space, savor those silent moments, and regularly meet Him in that place. I found my space of silence in the wilderness. Protect it, schedule that time, and don’t compromise it for anything or anyone. Prioritize those moments so that He can fill you. Let Him show up. Let Him change you.

Every day, God is teaching me that there is beauty in silence—when we let go of the chaos in this world and create the space for Him to show up and fill our hearts with His Spirit. He is not finished with us, He never stops remaking us, He never stops developing our passions, never stops directing us where to go, and will never stop making everything new.

The more I have sat in His presence, studied His Word and sought Him out in prayer, the more He has changed the direction of my life—by taking things from me that I wouldn’t let go of and allowing tragedy and hardships into my world. But the more I wrestled with Him through those things and in those storms, the more I realized that He was rearranging my heart to see Him even more clearly and to teach me that beauty can be birthed out of anything ugly. Through my stillness with God, He continues to define what my purpose is.

The more we depend and rest in the stillness of His presence, the more we see Him and the more we hear from Him.

Be silent, for He will show up.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

What if God Made Me Pretty?

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

I am short, stocky, and average-looking. When I was growing up, people used to comment about how flat my nose was. A friend even told me that my nose looked like it had been hit by something.

I was introduced to Barbie dolls as a kid; they were so pretty, tall, and slim. Lead actresses of my favorite television series were similarly attractive, and I wished I looked like them. Though I knew it was more important to be healthy than pretty, it was difficult to accept that God gave me such ordinary looks compared to other females around me.

Around the age of 18, I decided that I wanted to change my appearance. Instead of my usual t-shirts and jeans, I started dressing more fashionably, wearing accessories, hats, and jackets.  I also started wearing make-up whenever I went out. However, make-up could only cover my flaws, not change them. I could not change my height. And despite exercise and sweat, I could not change my body shape either; all I wanted was a bit more curve. I wanted to be pretty and popular, like the models and actresses I admired.

In my early 20s, I met with an aesthetic doctor to talk about possible procedures to enhance my facial features. But after considering the risks and regular Botox injections required, I shelved the idea. Aside from changing my looks, I also wanted to change my body shape, but the doctor could not suggest any procedure that I was comfortable with. Height lengthening procedure is extremely risky as it involves major leg surgery, and the success is not guaranteed. After considering these risks, costs, and non-guaranteed outcomes, it did not take me long to put away the idea of cosmetic surgery.

On top of wishing that I were more attractive, I secretly wished to have a boyfriend. Many of the girls in school who had boyfriends were pretty, and I assumed that I did not have one because I was not good-looking. I was also shy and thought that pretty girls were confident, sociable, and popular because of their looks. I envied them. I hated God and felt that He was not fair. He made so many girls pretty but not me. I disliked my pretty friends. I did not like mixing with them because being around them made me feel ugly and uncomfortable. So I tended to ignore them and their feelings.

I simply could not understand Psalm 139:14, which says that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I felt that it did not relate to me. I was upset and told God, “You must be kidding me. If I am really carefully and wonderfully made, I would have been a pretty sweet young lady.”

It was not until I came across Proverbs 31:30 one day during my quiet time that I realized how God was speaking to me. It says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Another verse which impacted me was 1 Peter 3:3, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

God is not looking for someone charming or beautiful, but for someone who fears Him. He does not look at our exterior beauty, but at our hearts. These verses humbled me and made me realize how superficial I had been by focusing only on temporal beauty instead of Him. God had never condemned me; I was the one who condemned myself because I felt ugly. In fact, God praises women who fear Him. So if I wanted to be praised by Him, I had to fear him. I had to honor Him by placing Him before myself.

Though I still do not know why God made some girls pretty and not others, I know we are safe when we run to Him with our feelings. His word speaks truth to satisfy the void in us. Bible says in Isaiah 55:9 that God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts. Surely I can trust God that He has made me perfect in His own ways, as it says in Psalm 139:14. He made each of us exactly the way He meant us to be, in order to fulfill our unique individual calling and purpose in the highest manner.

As I progress in the knowledge of His word, I feel called to serve Him in writing. I feel God’s truth seeping into every area of my life and speaking to me. I also gain fresh insights when I read the writings of fellow Christians who share their thoughts about how God has worked in their lives. It encourages me. And I feel the burden to do the same, to share with others my own experiences and thoughts so that others can be encouraged as well in times of need. To write, I need not be pretty on the outside. What I need is a pure undivided heart that desires God above all else, and to make Him my sole desire.

Looking back, if I had been pretty, I might have my earlier dreams of being a model fulfilled. The nature of the job may not allow me to dress modestly, and I may also be too proud of my body. I may not treat my body with respect or remember that it is the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). God has made me the way I need to be to focus on Him and to embrace my calling in Him.

Now, although I am still tempted to wish for physical beauty whenever I see someone pretty, I remind myself that the world’s definition of beauty is not God’s definition of beauty. I fully understand that I do not need to be pretty to be confident. My confidence is in God who praises those who fear Him and speaks to us in our calling. I am now assured in Psalm 139:14 that I am perfectly made. He gives me confidence that I am handmade by Him personally and that my identity is in Him.

What If I’m Not Sure What to Do With My Life?

Written By Sam Ly, Singapore

“What is your advice to people who do not know what they want to do with their lives yet?”

I was recently asked this question by a polytechnic student at my alma mater when I was there to share about getting into law school and studying law. My reply in short was this: It’s okay if you’re still not sure, don’t be afraid of uncertainty.

Let me explain.

In Singapore, one has to make the decision about what course to study either at the age of 17 (for those applying to polytechnic or the Institute of Technical Education) or 19, for those going to university. At this stage of our lives, most of us may not be entirely sure about what we like to do, or want to work as in the future. While we may pray and ask the Lord to tell us clearly what we ought to do with our lives, God doesn’t always give us a clear “calling”.

Was I crystal clear that it was God’s will for me to pursue a diploma in law? Certainly not at the beginning. Law was recommended to me on the simple basis that I was always a strong advocate of right and wrong. As I continued to grow in my relationship with the Lord and through my studies, God showed me—through conversations with other believers and my internship experiences—that I was suited for this area of work, and that my knowledge of the law could indeed be used for His kingdom. That’s when I continued to pursue a degree in law as well.

Am I now crystal clear that it is God’s will for me to become a lawyer? Certainly not either. While I know that I want to serve in the field of law, and have been working hard to ensure that my understanding of the law will be useful for His Kingdom work, I do not have full assurance that God wants me to become a lawyer for the rest of my working life. There are many things beyond my foresight and control which may lead me to reconsider the very question I started this article with: what am I to do with my life?

So, what am I actually clear about? Did I bring you around in circles just to tell you that we can never have clarity about how to live our lives?

No, certainly not. There is one thing I am crystal clear about and it’s this: my life ought to be spent in full seeking God’s kingdom first and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). While I may not be so sure about my “what”, I am sure about my “why”.

The world operates on a system that convinces us that our identity rests in what we do as a lawyer, an athlete, a pastor, etc. But I believe the true answer can be found if we are clear about who Jesus is and who we are. When Christ forms the core of our identity, we have the greatest reassurance of who we are and why we walk this earth. Our identity lies in being God’s children, and not in what we do.

To clarify, I am not advocating a nonchalant and lazy approach of merely waiting for opportunities and “signs” to drop from heaven. To a large extent, we still have to seek opportunities and put ourselves in places where we can understand more about ourselves. What I’m saying is this: the fear of not knowing what to do with our lives need not cripple us. In fact, our scramble to have everything in complete order may come from a heart that is seeking to wrestle with God for absolute control over our lives. That mad dash for grades, internships and other things in our “to-do” list may suggest that our actions are motivated by fears and desires instead of whole-hearted trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I may not be crystal clear about what I will do or how I will do it, but I am crystal clear about why I will do whatever God calls me to do. As long as I’m seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, I know that all these things shall be given to me (Matthew 6:33). So, fellow believers, may I encourage you not to fear seasons of uncertainty, for we surrender our lives (and our future) into the safe and trustworthy hands of God.

God Answered My Prayers with 2 Potatoes

Illustration by Lara Sim
Written by Diana Yemima, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

Prayer can be answered in many small ways. For me, it came in the form of two precious potatoes.

I come from a relatively poor family. With my father’s meagre salary as an administrative staff, we struggled to feed ourselves after paying the utility bills. To help with the finances, my mother sold snacks—plain sugar “doughnuts” made out of potatoes—around our neighborhood.

Because of my mother’s weak constitution, she could not work every day. So, for three days each week, she would sell her doughnuts by the roadside. On the other days, she would do the household chores and visit the market to buy the ingredients for the doughnuts. Selling doughnuts only three days a week, my mother said, was her “strategy” to keep the demand high.

The Lord blessed my mother’s business. Her customers would buy plenty—some more than five doughnuts at a time. The doughnuts would always be sold out by the end of the day, providing us enough money to buy food for the family.

On one occasion, however, we didn’t have enough money to pay the electricity bill as my father had used some of his income to pay off some debts. Desperate, my father tried to take a loan, but he didn’t succeed. To help, I decided to draw out all my savings. I was reminded of Luke 3:14, where John instructed the soldiers to be content with their pay. This verse reassured me that God would provide for all of our needs.

I remember holding the money in my palm and praying: “Oh Father, you know that this is all the money we have left and this money will be used to pay the electricity bill. I leave this money in Your almighty hands. With this money, we shall be able to afford all our needs until the end of the month. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

With my savings and the money meant to buy the ingredients for my mother’s doughnuts, we just had enough money to pay the electricity bill.

Then came Monday, the day my mother was supposed to make doughnuts for sale the next day. Knowing that we had used up the money to pay off the electricity bills, I asked my mum, “Are there no ingredients left in the kitchen?” There were two potatoes, she replied, but she needed two more to make the doughnuts. Not believing her, I rushed to the dimly-lit kitchen to check. She was right—there were only two potatoes left.

I knew that if my mother didn’t sell any doughnuts the next day, we would not have enough money to buy food for the family. So I went to my room and prayed: “God, thank You for blessing us so that we could eventually pay the electricity bill without borrowing any money. But, God, my mother has run out of potatoes to make doughnuts, even though we need the money to buy our meals for tomorrow. Father, I believe that You will never neglect Your children or let them starve. You will have a solution to our problems. We leave everything in Your almighty hands. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

After I had prayed, I left my room and saw my mother approaching me with a big smile on her face. My father had found two more potatoes hidden underneath the stairs! At first, my mother was worried that those potatoes had rotted since they were left over from last week, but surprisingly, they were still in good condition.

I was moved to tears when I saw God’s provision. I knew that the potatoes were from God. God had answered my prayer with two potatoes. I realized that God’s help is never too early or too late—it is always on time.

When we face a difficult situation and it seems like there is no way out, God has the best solution for His children. My experience with God was proof that He will always provide.

Since then, God’s promise in Luke 12:22-24 has always assured me greatly. He promises to care for us, His children, and to provide for our needs. The Lord Jesus told us that the ravens do not sow or reap and still, God cares for them. So if God cares for even the ravens, what more us, His children?

God will never renege on His promises, but we also need to do our part. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). No matter how big our problems are, the Lord Jesus is always walking alongside us, and He will even carry us when we feel weak. It is only when we admit our weaknesses and humble ourselves in front of Him, that we will feel His presence in our life.

No matter how unsolvable our problems might seem, do not give in to the situation—give in to God.