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Love isn’t all about Happy Endings

Written by Samantha Chin, Singapore 

I absolutely adore animated movies—I grew up watching Disney movie after Disney movie, singing to catchy tunes and laughing along with the cute characters. Almost every plot involved a beautiful princess who found a brave prince willing to slay dragons and evil witches all in the name of love, and they lived happily ever after at the end of the movie. Even dogs and lions found their one true love!

Little did I know, these movies were leading me to believe in a picture of love and marriage that was unrealistic, but God corrected my thinking along the way.  

 

My Timing vs God’s Timing

 When I was 16, I dreamed of meeting someone special by 22, getting married to him at 25, and having children by 28. This year I turn 29, but wedding bells haven’t rung for me yet. Where was the fairytale ending I had been hoping for?

Unlike the movies where one can easily predict that the “happily ever after” will come at the end, it is never so predictable in real life. It takes some people much longer to find their marriage partner—if they do get married at all. Does it mean that all of us who are still single should give up hope? No, I believe not. Instead, I believe God is calling us to wait on His timing.

I have since come to understand that He knows best, and I need to trust Him. Knowing I need this constant reminder, I have Proverbs 16:9 pasted on my bedroom wall, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Tough as it is, I believe He is using this time of singleness to prune me so that I will be more prepared to enter into a covenant relationship with someone He has in store for me when (and if) the time comes. And I can certainly trust that the love story God, my divine matchmaker writes will be so much more glorious than I can ever plan or imagine.

 

My ideal partner vs God’s ideal partner

Other than the perfect timing, I also had a grand idea of how the man I would eventually marry would be like. He would be God-fearing, humorous, caring, loves dogs, able to lead, able to listen attentively yet also give good insight, as well as serve in full-time ministry, or at least consider it. Without realizing it, I was actually looking for someone who had it all together—just like the brave and handsome male lead in the countless movies I had watched.

When my best friend commented that I would simply reject any guy God might bring along who didn’t fulfill these ideals of mine, my first response was to defend my position and argue that these were good desires to have. After all, I wanted to serve God alongside my spouse. Wasn’t that godly thinking?

But the reality is that marriage brings together two sinners who are still works in progress. This means that the man I marry will have weaknesses I may not like and quirks that irritate me. It means that I too would have to confront and work on my own shortcomings. Love is not just about receiving—it is also about giving. It is giving even when I do not feel like it, when I’d rather be doing something else, and when I just can’t stand the sight of him. Love is a verb, not merely a feeling. I will experience romance and laughter, but I will also experience sacrifice, humility, and refinement.

Marriage is about two imperfect people helping each other become more like Christ. And maybe that is also what makes marriage so wonderful—having someone who knows you inside out, warts and all, and still loves you the same.

 

Finding fulfilment in a partner vs in Christ

Cinderella was always dreaming about meeting her prince, so was Rapunzel, and Snow White and, well, you get the idea. It was almost as if their life was incomplete till they found “the one”. When they did, it was bliss—a whole new world unlocked. Initially, I thought the same way. I was constantly searching for someone who would finally make me feel special and complete.

But another friend posed me this question: If one day you find the person you have been dreaming of all your life, and yet you don’t feel as fulfilled as you expected to be, what happens then?

That was a necessary reminder that I must first and foremost find my ultimate fulfillment in Christ, for only He can truly satisfy. These days, I am slowly becoming able to echo what the Psalmist says in Psalms 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

 

I still love animated movies, my friends can attest to that; but I now watch them knowing that love isn’t all about happy endings. That doesn’t make me desire marriage any less, and though I have much more to learn, having a realistic understanding of it reduces the likelihood I run in the other direction when facing difficulties with my future spouse.

 

©2017 Whole Life. All rights reserved.
This article was first published on Wholelife.sg and republished with permission.

What 5 Bible Couples Teach Us About Romance

Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese

I once thought that it was fine to start a romantic relationship as long as it felt right; I did not realize that I ought to take time to pray to God about it first. I once thought that it was time to break up when feelings faded; I did not realize that relationships needed to be nurtured. I once thought that I would be rational in romance; I did not realize that I would end up hating the other person badly and nursing my bitterness when the person left.

From puppy love in school to dating in college to being single after graduation, I have been through the whole roller coaster of emotions. It reached a point when I felt as though God no longer loved me. How come other people could start a relationship and watch it blossom and bear fruit, whereas I kept floundering? And why did I end up not only hurting myself, but hurting others as well even though I also dated with marriage in mind?

It was only later on, that I realized that I had been looking at relationships through my own lens. When things felt right, I would immediately launch into a relationship, assuming such feelings came from the “Holy Spirit”. Likewise, when problematic situations wore me out both physically and emotionally, I would assume that these were signs to break up, and as a result, let go of my relationships.

Movies, TV shows, online dating games, etc., all tell us to rely on our own feelings. We are told to chase after the romantic, the happy, and the epic. When these feelings are gone, dating and marriage should come to an end as well. But is that true? What view of romantic relationships does the Bible prescribe?

A thought came to my mind one day: Why not learn from godly marriages in the Bible to find out God’s thinking?

Let me share what I have learned from five couples in the Bible.

 

1. Isaac and Rebekah: Pray about marriage. Love is not only a feeling, but an important commitment.

Rebekah was from the same tribe as Abraham. She was selected by Abraham’s servant as a bride for Isaac (Abraham’s son) after the servant sought the Lord in prayer. Here I see a very important principle for relationships: choose a spouse from among God’s people. This choice is not random, nor should it be based on feelings—it should be the result of faithful prayer. If we get involved with unbelievers, we will have to deal with the differences in beliefs and values, or worse, we might follow the other person’s religious traditions and abandon God and His teaching.

The second thing I learned from their relationship is this: love is a decision. Although Isaac and Rebekah had not met each other before getting married, they were able to love each other their entire lives. In that time, it was not uncommon for men to have multiple wives, yet Isaac chose to spend his entire life with Rebekah alone. Their relationship shows us that when you decide to love a person and a holy covenant has been made, we can rely on God to keep us going and loving each other to the end even when difficulties arise in the marriage.

 

2. Boaz and Ruth: Listen to the advice of elders. No matter what your past is, trust that God accepts you.

Ruth was a foreigner as well as a widow. But she loved Naomi, her mother-in-law. She later followed Naomi’s advice and hinted her intentions to Boaz, and, as we all know, it was a happy ending for Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. From this story, I learned that God does not look down on anyone whatever their background may be. What He cares about is our hearts. Ruth chose to believe in God―the same God her mother-in-law believed. She was also obedient to this beloved elder, and so she was blessed in the end, and even named in Jesus’ genealogy.

I used to think that only those who married their first boyfriend/girlfriend had relationships blessed by God. But it is not so. God accepts us no matter what our pasts are. Interestingly, I also saw from Ruth and Boaz’s marriage that women do not have to wait for men to make the first move in a relationship. Sometimes, a woman can give timely and appropriate hints to “less observant” men. Of course, this is on the condition that any action taken is in accordance with God’s will. As for men, they should think things through and ask older Christians for advice before making a move.

 

3. Joseph and Mary: Love requires action. We can accomplish God’s work together by fearing and obeying Him.

When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, Joseph wanted to avoid divorcing her publicly so as to protect her name and her life. In that patriarchal era, the engaged man had the right to publicly divorce his fiancée, and the woman would be stoned to death for committing adultery. But Joseph did not do so because he loved Mary and feared God. Mary was also a God-fearing woman, and so willingly accepted the risks that came with her pregnancy.

Loving someone is proven by action. Joseph proved his love for Mary by respecting, protecting and marrying her. When evil men came after them to kill baby Jesus, they supported each other the entire way. This is one God-fearing couple who shared in both the good and bad times for the sake of God. To share the same faith as our spouse, and to be willing to commit to Christ and to each other, is a beautiful thing.

 

4. Aquila and Priscilla: Be a couple committed to Christ. Build up a home with Christ at its head, and give all for God’s kingdom.

Although this couple is not as well-known as the others we’ve looked at so far, I really admire their commitment to God in the New Testament. Though they were busy with work, they always warmly welcomed God’s servants Paul and Apollos (Acts 18). They opened up their home as a meeting place (1 Corinthians 16) and actively pursued any opportunity to add to God’s kingdom.

God not only wants families to be saved, but also to serve. Opening up one’s home not only incurs extra financial costs, but also a lot of time and energy. Here, we see an example of active ministry by lay people: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Also, two are better than one. In addition to sharing the ups and downs of life, a couple can pray for each other, serve God, and minister to people together. This is a beautiful picture. When I consider the families I know where one spouse is passionate about ministry but the other is not, I am all the more convinced of the importance of praying for a like-minded future spouse. Only when two people are of a similar maturity and mind, can they build a family with Christ at the head.

 

5. Zechariah and Elizabeth: Pray faithfully and wait patiently for God. Submit humbly to God’s will.

According to Luke 1, Zechariah and Elizabeth served the Lord faithfully despite their old age. I especially remember the part where Zechariah was serving as a priest when God’s messenger appeared to him, telling him that his prayer had been answered and that God would give him a son. This reminded me that God is always listening to our prayers, but whether or not those prayers are answered depends on God’s will.

Although we also see the weaknesses of Zechariah and Elizabeth―Zechariah was temporarily mute because of his lack of faith, and Elizabeth was initially afraid to tell people about her pregnancy―yet this did not hinder God from using them to accomplish His plans. When the child was born, they obeyed God and named him John. And after praying for so many years for their own child, Zechariah and Elizabeth were willing to give him up to God’s work, and to obey God in naming their child. Such surrender is something I need to learn. 

These five couples all have their own weaknesses, yet they share one thing in common: both partners feared and obeyed God. The example of Aquila and Priscilla especially reminded me that I must serve the Lord at any time in any place.

The Bible has many other examples that can teach us about relationships. The five couples above are only a handful, but these are the ones that have touched me deeply. Through studying them, I am better able to face the insecurities caused by my past relationships. These couples also inspire me to build a proper, God-pleasing view of relationship, and help me re-focus on God Himself. I hope that all I have learned about relationships can also help bring light to you in your own relationships.

I Kissed Dating a Non-Christian Goodbye

Written By Audrey A, Malaysia

“I don’t understand why we can break up over something that I cannot understand . . . I cannot believe you chose your God over me!” Those were his final words to me. God had finally given me the courage to end my relationship with *Duncan, a non-believer.

I was born to a Christian father and a Taoist mother. When I was little, my mother would bring me to the temple without my father’s knowledge. I did not know what I was doing at the time—I simply followed my mother and held joss sticks to pray.

Thankfully, my grandmother showed me the way. Every night without fail, she would teach me how to pray to Jesus. I knew that she had been praying for my mother’s salvation too.

My mother eventually converted to Christianity when I was nine and I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior when I was 16. I have always been amazed at my dad’s boldness in marrying a non-believer, and his patience and trust in God to make the flower bloom as he planted the seed of God’s love in my mother’s heart.

Naively, I thought I could do the same.

Duncan and I were colleagues and we worked on many projects together. Day by day, we became closer and we started hanging out exclusively. I shared my troubles at work with him and I enjoyed his company as he listened to me. I knew that Duncan was not a believer but I couldn’t care less.

I knew 2 Corinthians 6:14 well: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” However, my affection for him continued to grow.

Despite knowing what God had said through Paul in the Bible, my stubborn heart chose its own way. I was determined to make my relationship with Duncan work. I was convinced that after I shared the Gospel with Duncan, he would believe in Christ and our yokes would then be equal. How overconfident and optimistic I was.

 

Red Flags

One year into our relationship, I began to hear God speaking to me. I started to have unusual dreams. I had dreams of Duncan and I constantly fighting, of Duncan with another girl, and of me being in church with a guy who was not Duncan. While I struggled to make sense of these dreams, I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me that the relationship was wrong.

Even as I spent more time with Duncan, the Holy Spirit would tell me time and again that I deserved someone who knows God personally and intimately. Deep down, I knew what I needed was a man who could pray and worship God together with me.

The Holy Spirit’s tugging at my heart never went away and the cracks in our relationship started to show when Duncan and I frequently argued over the smallest things. We had different perspectives on the world and had opposing views on many issues.

We disagreed on issues such as homosexuality—Duncan believed that some people are born to be gay and should be given the free will to love. Duncan also did not want kids—he saw them as a burden, while I saw them as a gift from God. It also troubled me that Duncan was finding it especially difficult to forgive people who had wronged him.

These arguments left me frustrated. I would get so exhausted that I gave up trying to change his mind. I would give in, not wanting to continue our fights. It became clear to me that our yokes were vastly different. God was not the center of our relationship. Being with him was akin to having one person pulling in one direction and the other one pushing in another.

Despite the red flags from concerned family members and friends, I pressed on because I did not want to start over. He was my first serious boyfriend and I was afraid that no one would love me again. After being with Duncan for two years, I did not want to leave the familiarity of our relationship.

Following my father’s example, I brought Duncan to church and shared God’s love with him in the hopes that he would change to become more caring and loving. I also continued to pray for God to soften his heart so that he could know Jesus.

He was physically present in church, but was not present emotionally and spiritually. He struggled to understand the faith and his disbelief led him to constantly challenge the existence and sovereignty of God. His heart was hardened against God.

The breaking point came for me when Duncan declared that I should learn to accept him for who he is: a non-believer. Adding that it was pointless for me to share God’s word with him anymore, he stressed that there was nothing I could say that would change his mind.

I was heartbroken. I cried, pleading with him to reconsider his choice.

Ultimately, he refused to change his mind. That was when I knew what I had to do: I had to let this relationship go. Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. . . Anyone does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). I broke up with him that evening.

Even though my heart is still aching from the breakup, I know that I must run to God and let Him heal me. I also asked God for forgiveness, knowing too well that I had been disobedient. I had ignored His promptings and His Word throughout my relationship with Duncan, which lasted two years.

I cannot be certain that I will eventually be married in the future. However, there is one thing I know for sure—Christ is indeed enough for me. I have since learned to place my heart completely in God’s hands. I trust that—if it is in His grand plan—He will place a godly man in my life.

If you are going through a similar journey, I hope this will encourage you to place your hope and trust in God’s promise in your life. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).

 

*Not his real name

My Quest for Love Nearly Destroyed Me

Written By Aphesis, Singapore 

I come from a family of six. I have an elder sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother. My parents were hawkers. To give my siblings and I a comfortable life, they worked long hours and would not rest unless they fell sick.

As a result, my siblings and I rarely spent time together with our parents. My mother would squeeze some time out, at least once a week, to bring us out for a swim or a meal. But my father became a stranger to me.

It was at the age of 10 when I became aware that my parents’ relationship was strained. Family reunions were hardly a cause for celebration because of their constant bickering. Whenever that happened, I would not know what to do. Helpless, I would camp outside their room and desperately beg them to stop quarrelling.

As my mother spent more time with me, I sided her more as she fed me her side of the story. Caught in the crossfire of words and violence, I didn’t know how to make sense of it. My father would hurt my mother verbally and emotionally. This would result in heated arguments between the both of them, usually ending with my mother giving my father the cold shoulder. Without a father figure to guide me through my teenage years, I started looking for love and affirmation through relationships. At the age of 17, I had my first boyfriend. However, my young puppy love didn’t last and in my quest to seek “perfect” love, I moved from guy to guy. But with every guy I dated, the pain of break-up got deeper and deeper. It was also during that time that I started mixing with bad company and picked up smoking and partying.

Although I was baptized at the age of 14, I fell away from the faith for more than 10 years. Ironically, I was brought back to church by my most recent ex-boyfriend, a believer. He would take me to church every week, and I would obediently follow. I’d listen to the sermons, but never take them to heart.

Back then, I believed I was fine just the way I was and I didn’t have to change. In any case, the thought of being a religious Christian did not sound cool. The only reason I attended church was to spend time with my boyfriend—not God. As long as my boyfriend loved me, I was happy. If attending church was the best way to gain his affection, I figured, it was a reasonable sacrifice on my part.

But whenever I felt that he wasn’t showing me enough attention, I’d throw tantrums. I also manipulated him emotionally by guilt-tripping him over very minor issues, knowing full well that he would eventually soften. But over time, his patience wore thin. After being together for two years, he ended the relationship.

I was devastated. I felt like I had been abandoned. Worn down by all my negative thoughts and feelings, I slipped into depression.

Visiting the psychiatrist and taking medicine didn’t help. I blamed myself for the break-up. I blamed myself for allowing my insecurities to lead me to suspect and accuse him. I blamed myself for wrecking yet another relationship. Thinking I was shallow and useless, I believed the lies I weaved and drowned myself in self-pity.

One day, two peers from church asked me out for dinner. They knew about my love for reading and shared with me Joshua Harris’ book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. As I flipped through the pages, I learned, for the first time, that lust and love were completely different things. Among other things, Harris wrote that love is about expressing self-control and is not manipulative. I realized that in all my past relationships, what I had experienced was lust, and not love.

I thought I knew what love was. In fact, I thought I was skilled in the game of love. I had read about love in 1 Corinthians 13 but, in reality, love was a foreign concept to me. All along, I had been pursuing the wrong idea of love. I broke my partners’ hearts, and in that process, I broke my own too.

Reading the book that night, I experienced a wave of emotions and instantly knew that it was God working in me. He opened my eyes to recognize real love. Overwhelmed with regret, I wept. I could feel Jesus’ presence and sense Him telling me, “My child, it’s okay, I’m here. Don’t be afraid, just come to Me.”

For the first time in my life, I felt true love. Jesus’ heart had been broken for me. I felt so unworthy—that a holy God could be right beside me, an unholy being. I went down on my knees, thanking Him. I was still crying, but it was tears of joy, because I finally understood a very simple fact: I needed Jesus and His love. In fact, that’s all I need and will ever need—a relationship with Him.

With God’s love in my heart, I turned over a new leaf. By God’s strength, I quit smoking. I threw away my revealing clothes, stopped partying, and started serving in church.

I became a better daughter to my parents and a better sister to my siblings. My younger sister—whom I used to bully the most—was the first person to witness the change in me. She started attending church with me, and got baptized after a few months. Today, both of us serve in the worship team together.

Looking back, I’m grateful for the many lessons I’ve learned. We can experience real joy and real peace only when our lives and hearts revolve around Christ. Nothing other than the love of Christ can fill the cavity in our hearts; Jesus is irreplaceable. Of course, there have been times when I still felt lousy about myself. However, in these times, I have learned to praise and thank Him. By God’s grace, the relationship between my parents has improved tremendously and they are very loving now. My dad has also become a very caring father and would even say grace before our meals together as a family.

Although my past relationships brought me a lot of pain, I’m thankful that God allowed me to go through the same issues that many young teenagers and adults face today. With my personal experience, I can help others who are still lost and searching for the answer.

Being single for the past four years has given me more time to spend with my friends and to care for other brothers and sisters who might be in need. I have more time to go the extra mile for them.

Over the past years, one of the verses that encouraged me tremendously was Proverbs 4:23. I pray that God will continue to guard my heart, so that I will never go astray again.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).