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I am Loved, Really?

Written By Jacelyn C, Singapore

“Useless.” “Stupid.” “Good-for-nothing.” These are words and phrases some of us may identify with. Even though I know that I am a child of God, there are times I still label myself with these words.

I’ve always struggled with viewing myself as someone who is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. When I look at myself, I am reminded that I can never be like my friends. Compared to my fashionably dressed peers, I dress and look like a prepubescent child. And with my sub-par grades, it never fails to amaze me how I managed to scrape through Singapore’s grueling education system.

As I began university, my fears were amplified. Will I be able to make friends? Will anyone accept me for who I am? Will I be able to cope with the academic rigor of university? I shared with one of my close friends that I was fearful and anxious about starting university, and we had a meaningful talk.

But instead of being thankful for the friendship we shared, I found myself doubting if my friend really cared about me as I lay on my bed that night. I am so stupid and ugly. I do not deserve her love and attention.

I regretted being honest and vulnerable with her. What if she didn’t really want to meet me in the first place but was just too polite to turn me down? I was so afraid that she would reject me, thinking that I’m a loser. What if she makes better friends in university and decides that she no longer wants to be my friend?

I struggle to see why others would befriend and want to hang out with me. It’s not like I have a good fashion sense and can provide tips in that aspect. My grades are not stellar, so I am not a useful friend to seek academic advice from. Such insecure thoughts filled my mind that night.

I tossed and turned, struggling to fall asleep. Eventually, I gave up; I needed to occupy my mind with something. My Bible study homework seemed like a pretty good idea since I was lagging behind.

The passage that day was Ephesians 3:14-21, and it spoke of God’s love—that Christ did not come just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. His love was for all, whether Jew or Gentile.

When I read it, it immediately struck me: I am loved. It’s not that I didn’t know that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. However, this reminder from God to me—a broken, insecure and crying young adult—was so timely and encouraging.

Here are three fundamental but important truths about God’s love that I was reminded of:

1. His love for me is immeasurable

In Ephesians 3:18-19, Paul describes God’s love as one that surpasses knowledge and is wide, long, high, and deep. It shows how great His love for us is, and that it is difficult to quantify. In fact, God’s love for us is immeasurable.

Even as I struggle with loving myself and believing that I am enough, reading about God’s immeasurable love for me reminds me that He still loves me as I am.

 

2. He loves me enough to send His Son to die for me

In fact, God loves us so much that He didn’t want us to perish eternally. He gave up His Son to endure and resist temptations and, ultimately, suffer painful crucifixion just to restore our relationship with Him (John 3:16).

To think of how the Creator of everything still yearns and cares for us! I do not know a greater love than this.

 

3. I can now love others with His love

As we understand how the Lord loves each and every one of us, we’re called to reflect the same love to those around us.

1 John 4:7-8 reminds us that God is love, and tells us that only those who love others are born of God and know God.

Being in fellowship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ further helps us to experience God’s love, and gives us opportunities to practice loving others, even when it is tough.

It dawned on me that friendships are perfect opportunities for us to reflect the unconditional love Christ has shown us, and to be recipients of unconditional love from people around us.

 

I was very encouraged by these truths and they helped me to see His love for me even in my weakness. Although my fragile self-esteem might be seen as a weakness, I know for certain that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God will help me to see that in His eyes, I am enough.

I do not need to be perfect; I don’t need to be like someone else. Even before I was born with all my flaws, God had already loved and accepted me for all that I am. My only response is to be thankful and to live out a life that pleases Him.

POEM: This Grace (Disgraced)

This-grace-(disgraced)

Written By Jacelyn Chia, Singapore
Edited By Reuben Teo

When sermons start to sound like soothing lullabies,
When my mind starts to slip away under distraction’s cries,
When the world outside drowns out your loving chastise
My heart from the true God flies.

When the exams, the friends, the paper chase
Blind me from the running of Your race,
Now I’m growing, changing, turning into
Something I was never, ever, meant to come to.

But fearing for what I might find, I try to run and hide.
Still, nothing holds Your grace from me
Nothing stops Your love
I want to run, yet I know you’d give chase
So I kneel before You in disgrace.

But though I broke Your heart a million times,
Though I scorned Your love in the bitter nights,
You lifted me, You raised me high,
Then You embraced me, oh so tight.

I came before Your throne disgraced,
But you told me to keep on running the race.
So now, in Your name I pray,
Help me never to forget Your grace.

Click on the image or click here to download.

Disgrace poem YMI (1)

Church: A Gathering of Sinners or Saints?

Written By Jacelyn Chia, Singapore

Each week when I step into church, at least one person will ask, “How are you?” or “How have you been?” My response is often short, and almost always accompanied with a smile, “I’m good, how about you?”

On some days, that’s exactly how I feel. Other times, nothing could be further from the truth. And I know I’m not alone.

We feel the need to pretend we have got everything together, because we don’t want to be judged. We feel that these greetings are simply cordial exchanges, and that no one really bothers about what is going on in our lives. For instance, when we share a prayer request with our cell group’s WhatsApp chat, all we receive is blue ticks. We feel that sharing our problems may be burdening others.

We are uncomfortable about acknowledging or sharing about the struggles, problems, pain and negative feelings we experience. We fear the awkward pause that ensues after we bare our hearts to someone.

I admit that I too, don a mask to church, one portraying a cheerful and exuberant disposition. Everyone appears to be coping well with the demands of life and I do not want to stick out like a sore thumb. On days I cannot muster enough energy to put on that façade, I skip church. It’s usually when the past week at school has been both physically and emotionally draining.

I remember that a speaker once described the church as a “hospital for sinners”. I did not get it. Why would a church be called a hospital if most people don’t seem to be struggling with real issues? Most of the time, I feel like the church is a gathering of successful people, people who appear unaffected by the brunt of life.

But gradually, a few daring church members changed my perspective. My church practises open worship, where individuals who feel led by the Spirit can share a verse or pick a song for worship. I often feel encouraged when I hear a church member share about his or her personal struggle, and how God has personally helped him or her through that tumultuous time.

I admire their courage to be so vulnerable to the congregation, to be able to come to terms with the fact that they need God and the prayer of the congregation to get through difficult times. What I’ve observed after that was just as encouraging: individuals approach them after service to offer a listening ear or spend time with them in private prayer.

In my own life, I’ve experienced such concern. Once, my Sunday school teacher observed that I had appeared distracted in class, and had taken the time to speak to me afterwards. Seeing how she was willing to take time off to listen to me and acknowledge my struggles deeply encouraged me.

Slowly, I decided to take small steps to be more authentic, as well as to extend care and concern to others, just as I had received.

The thought of listening to someone else’s struggles and sorrows may sound like a daunting task. But perhaps that’s because we think we need to be able to solve their problems. And that paralyzes us from even offering a listening ear.

I’ve found these to be helpful ways we can respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ when they share:

  1. Acknowledge what is being said. Using words that acknowledge we have been listening assures the other person who is sharing that he or she has been heard.
  1. Rephrase what has been said. This helps us check if we have accurately understood what has been said. We can use words like, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m hearing . . .” I appreciate listeners who do this as I am not an eloquent speaker and sometimes may not have accurately conveyed what I intended in my sharing.
  1. Don’t interrupt. Even if you didn’t catch what was just said, do not interrupt. Allow the person to finish what he or she is saying or interject at appropriate pauses to ask him or her to repeat. The worst thing that can happen is if the other person loses his or her train of thought because we keep interrupting at wrong junctures.
  1. Thank them. It’s not easy to reveal our weaknesses and vulnerabilities to others. Let’s show our appreciation for their confidence and trust in us. Whenever I confide in someone, I feel valued and appreciated when they express gratitude for my honest and open sharing with them.

I learned through first-hand experience that when we’re willing to be vulnerable with others, others will respond the same way. Let’s work towards being honest, open, and specific about our own prayer requests as well as more concerned and intentional about caring for others. After all, isn’t that what a community of believers is all about?

It wasn’t just excessive spending, it was more.

Written By Jacelyn Chia, Singapore

Ask any good Christian where their comfort comes from and their answer would be Christ. My source of comfort starts with C too, but I’m afraid it’s something else: Clothes.

It started when my peers started buying clothes online, and I was curious to try it out. I soon got hooked. Whenever I felt bored or stressed, I would scroll through websites like Zalora, Lazada, Ezbuy etc. almost instinctively, send images of what looked good to my friends for approval, then click on the “Add to cart” button.

When I was particularly stressed or frustrated, I would purchase items that caught my eye. I was just 16 years old then. Not being rich nor having my parents fund my shopping sprees, I would skimp on my meals in order to save enough money to go shopping. I also stopped tithing so that I could use the money for online shopping. Soon, I stopped going to church altogether, as I felt like a hypocrite—although my lips praised God, my heart was far away from Him.

I didn’t think that my spending habits were reflecting deeper underlying issues in me, and believed that it was common for teenagers to be obsessed with online shopping. It was only when some of the friends whom I sent screenshots of my purchases to started making comments like, “Eh, don’t shop so much lah”, that I started to evaluate my spending habits.

That’s when I noticed how guilty I would feel about my purchases: I would cut off the price tags to remove any evidence that they had just been bought. I kept my purchases in my bag before entering my house so that my parents would not question me about them. And I was aghast to realize that I did not even wear some of the new clothes I bought.

One day, I decided to start adding up my expenses. I got to just three items before I started cringing. Ashamed, I now realized that I had a real problem with excessive spending. And I knew I had to do something about it. I googled for tips on how to curb my spending habit, surrendered my credit and debit cards to my mother, and started to go out of the house without bringing any money. The first time I left the house penniless, I felt most anxious. I found myself evaluating the clothes of people I saw and thinking about whether or not to buy them.

I confided in a friend, who told me to think about the root causes of my habit of impulsive and excessive shopping. That’s when I came up with this list:

  1. I seek acceptance and approval from others through my possessions.
  2. The thrill of shopping removes negative feelings I experience, albeit temporarily.
  3. The ability to buy makes me feel powerful as I am able to make a decision or choice (to be in control).
  4. I believe that my purchases will make me happy.
  5. I believe that clothes make me look good.

With this list in mind, I then decided to try to find replacement behaviours that would meet the needs I had listed above (advice found on Google). I decided to paint, draw, sleep, and finally—start attending church again.

I went back to church the following Sunday. My Sunday school class was studying Romans 7, and Romans 7:4-8 struck me, as it mentioned the freedom Christians have from sin. I had been feeling like I was stuck and could never quit this shopping habit, but the verses reminded me that with God’s help, I could be set free from sin—in this case, excessive shopping, which hindered me from things like quiet time with God and fellowship with believers.

Slowly, I started to realize that all the needs that I was trying to meet through shopping could only be fully met by God. I decided that I wanted to change, as I did not want to be stuck in the vicious cycle of spending.

The Bible provided the solutions to all the needs I had; this time, I did not have to Google for solutions to my problem.

1. I seek acceptance and approval from others through my possessions. 
God accepts us as we are because Jesus died for us. (Colossians 1:21-22)

2. The thrill of shopping removes negative feelings I experience, albeit temporarily.
God grants us the peace that the world can never give. (John 14:27)

3. The ability to buy makes me feel powerful as I am able to make a decision or choice to (be in control).
No matter how much I try to be in control of things, God’s plan will always prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)

4. I believe that my purchases will make me happy.
Remembering God’s faithfulness to me can bring me greater joy. (Psalm 92:4-5)

5. I believe that clothes make me look good
I am a child of God, and that is independent of my appearance. (John 1:12)

Please pray for me as I am just beginning my journey of quitting my shopping addiction. Let’s be careful not to use any hobby or activity to meet our emotional and spiritual needs, as they will definitely fail. Only God can fulfill our greatest needs.