Posts

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.

When I Let Fear Rule Me

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Everyone has their own irrational fears. Sometimes, they affect us so much that we are imprisoned by them. For me, it escalated from a common cold.

I woke up one day with a sore throat, which turned into a cough. I eventually went to the doctor’s. His diagnosis? A common cold. I was given two days of medical leave to rest at home.

Just when I thought I was getting better, my cough worsened. In fact, I coughed so much that I felt nauseous. I lost all my appetite and could hardly eat anything—I had to force myself to eat just so that I could take my medicine. I was drowsy the entire day and sometimes feverish. I spent most of my days sleeping, but could not sleep well since coughing often woke me up.

To make matters worse, I was worried about the work waiting to be done in the office. My boss was away and there was no else trained to liaise with our vendor.

I remember the day I decided to return to office to complete some of my work. As I took the train to work, I started to cough. The people around me on the train started distancing themselves from me.

I hated that moment—I wish I wasn’t sick. I wish I could hide from the other commuters. People were shunning me as if I had some strange and serious infectious disease. It was so embarrassing.

How could a common cold cause so much discomfort to me? When would I recover? It had been five days. Surely it wasn’t just a common cold? The doctor must have got the diagnosis wrong!

What if I had lung cancer? What if I was suffering from tuberculosis? I knew someone who had tuberculosis and her recovery period was very agonizing, full of needles, different medications, hospitalization and multiple doctor visits. It all escalated from common cold symptoms too.

I tried to distract myself from the irrational thoughts within me by turning my attention to songs. I came across a song by Casting Crowns titled Oh My Soul. The songwriter Mark Hall sang: “There is a place where fear has to face the God you know,” and hearing that liberated me.

God was telling me not to be afraid. He was using the song to assure me to lay my fears before Him because He knows our fears as much as we do. When we bring our fears before God, He shoulders them for us and frees us.

When I researched about the song, I learned that the songwriter had written the song at his lowest point—on the night that he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his kidney.

I was inspired by the songwriter’s faith. Indeed, I worship a God who has stayed by my side throughout all seasons and has never left me. Why didn’t I lay my fears down? I was so caught up with my fears that I had forgotten that I could actually give them to God.

In fact, my overthinking felt rather silly since all my fears were probably unfounded. The more I focused on my fears, the more afraid I was. Instead, I told myself to focus on God. Soon, I found peace knowing that I can surrender all my fears to the God that I know.

I said a silent prayer of repentance. I had allowed my preoccupation with my own fears to rob my peace away when I should have entrusted my fears to Him. That night, I worshiped, prayed and slept.

In the middle of the night, I woke up coughing again. But strangely, I started weeping, I felt touched as I felt the presence of God surrounding me when I needed comfort most. At that moment, I sensed a divine peace in my heart. I remembered John 14:27, where Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This flooded my mind and I was comforted by God’s Word. The verse reminded me that He gives us His peace even when we are facing trouble. We need not be afraid because He is present with us.

Within minutes, I felt something lifted off my throat and I was miraculously healed. My throat no longer felt as itchy and dry as before, and my cough became more manageable from that instant onwards. The cough was completely gone by the end of the week.

It was God’s way of reminding me that there is a place we can surrender our fears, a place we can feel safe. After all, He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). Hence, with God by my side, I need not be afraid of losing my health and comfort. Even when I’m not in control of what happens to me, God is.

Should Christians be Afraid of Spirits?

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

As someone who is relatively timid, I tend to get jittery and fearful whenever the seventh-month comes around.

Some people believe that on the first day of the month, spirits of the dead are released from hell to come back to earth to visit their loved ones. During this period, commonly known around Asia as the Hungry Ghost Festival, some families burn paper money, effigies, candles, and joss sticks along the streets and at void decks to appease the returning ghosts.  Food offerings would also be left for the wandering ghosts who are hungry. Temples would also organize stage performances, with the rows in front left empty for the spirits.

When I was growing up, my parents would burn offerings to my late grandparents. As a kid, I helped with the burning too. My mother, a non-believer at the time, would tell me to avoid walking at void decks where a funeral had just been held in case the spirit of the deceased has not left. I was also warned to avoid kicking or stepping on the offerings in case the spirits got offended.

Frightened that the spirits would follow or harm me, I obeyed my mother’s instructions religiously. Although I never had any encounter with spirits, the fears that I had since childhood stayed with me even after I became a Christian.

During the Hungry Ghost Festival a few years ago, I remember walking home alone past midnight one day and having to take a 10-minute walk through a dimly-lit park. There were burnt offerings on the ground and the sight reminded me of the supposed spirits of the deceased lurking nearby. My thoughts immediately ran wild and I felt the furious thumping of my fearful heart. Even the slightest noise of a rat scurrying into a drain startled me.

I picked up my pace, making it home in just six minutes. As I lay on my bed that night, my mind was filled with my earlier fears. Why was I so afraid?

That’s when Psalm 27:1-2 came to mind. The psalmist, who described the Lord as the stronghold of his life, wrote: “He is our light and salvation, whom shall I fear?” David had absolute confidence in God and knew that his enemies and foes would stumble and fall. I was immediately comforted by the verse. Indeed, He can be my refuge and there is nothing to fear.

As I continued to read, I came across Hebrews 9:27, which confirmed that people die once and after death, face God’s judgement. Since the Bible made it clear that the dead do not return to earth, my fears started to seem illogical in light of the gospel truth. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit within us is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4). God is living in us, is always with us, and is greater than any other spirits.

As I write this piece, the Hungry Ghost Festival season has come around again. However, I no longer subscribe to the superstitions surrounding the festival or feel the fear that used to keep me captive. Instead, this annual event now reminds me of how my mind has been continually transformed and renewed by the Word of God.

Today, I can walk through the same park at night without fear. Instead of fearing spirits of the dead, the only fear I have is for the One who holds the power of eternal life and death (Matthew 10:28).

If Not for Her, My Life Would Have Fallen Apart

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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