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The Day My Heart Stopped

Written By Michelle Lai, Singapore

In the second half of 2015, I was appointed cell group leader in my university’s Christian Fellowship (CF). It was my first time serving as cell group leader, so I took on the role excitedly.

Shortly into my new role, however, I developed a crush on one of my cell group members; he was also a leader serving in the CF as well as in church.

It started off innocently, with me seeking his advice on cell group matters and spending time with him to learn how to plan Bible studies. It was my first time doing many things and I really appreciated his help.

But as the days went by, thoughts of him would creep into my mind as I planned cell group meetings. I realized it was distracting me from serving other group members. That’s when I knew I had to ask myself some tough questions. Was I spending a disproportionate amount of time with him at the expense of other members? Had I become too engrossed in looking out for and listening to him during meetings? Was I giving him priority over other members, like shifting our outings to another day just because he couldn’t make it?

I have heard of cell group leaders dating their members, but I knew that in my case, it was not the right time for me to consider a relationship as I was also balancing other commitments like work and school.

As I became more aware of my struggle, I became increasingly moody. What do cell group leaders do when they have a crush on their members? I decided to confide in one of my friends about this struggle. Unfortunately, due to some misunderstanding, we fell out when I felt that she was questioning my motive for serving and for doing things the way I did as a leader. It made me furious and upset.

For days, I wrestled with these emotions—till it reached a point when I felt numb. It was as if a plug was pulled from my heart; I felt emptiness. And as my heart “stopped”, my mind took over. Without the heart, the mind is a cold thing. I could do the things I needed to do, but I found that I had dark thoughts. I formed negative thoughts about others. I became calculative. Even though I continued to attend CF sessions and do my quiet time, I felt far from God.

But the deliberate and conscious decision to keep reading God’s Word, worshiping Him, and immersing myself in His community had an effect on me. During a CF worship event one day, the worship leader sang the song, “Divine Exchange” by Lara Martin. As I listened to the lyrics, I felt convicted in my heart and mind to leave all my burdens at the foot of the cross. I let go of all the tiredness and numbness I had been feeling, and at that moment, I was able to enjoy the presence of God. A sense of relief and peace entered my heart and slowly, my emotions came back.

Over time, I got over my crush on my cell group member. He stopped being a distraction and I no longer had to struggle between how I felt and what I needed to do at every meeting. I also cleared the air with the friend whom I confided in, and forgave her for hurting my feelings.

Through this episode, I learned the importance of obeying and worshiping God even when He seems to be far away or when I don’t feel like it. Worship and love for God is not merely a feeling—it is a deliberate and conscious choice we need to make on a daily basis. I am glad I learned to lay all my thoughts and feelings at His feet instead of struggling to fix them on my own.

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Why won’t God give me a boyfriend?

Written By Debra Wong, Malaysia

I have a confession to make: I turn 25 this year, and I have never been in a relationship. It’s not just because I haven’t met the right person; it’s also because no one has ever pursued me before.

While most girls were befriending guys in high school and college, I was socially awkward. To me then, guys were different; they were “aliens” whom I was too afraid to talk to.

Thankfully, I came around in my earlier 20s, and have since opened up and gotten to know several quality friends. However, it still stings that I’m late to the relationship party that all my peers seem to be a part of.

Every time a friend or family member starts dating, I cry on the inside and quickly become overcome with bitterness, self-hate, and ultimately, anger towards God because I’m not in  a relationship like everyone else.

What’s a bitter single girl to do?

Why, God?

One particular day, while I was upset over yet another friend becoming “Facebook official”, I sat down and talked to God. Clenching my fists, I muttered through gritted teeth: Why, God? Why can’t I achieve a relationship like everyone else my age? It’s bad enough that I don’t have many friends. Now you’re going to let me look like a loser that no guy ever wanted to date?

It was during that bitter rant that God opened my eyes to three truths that I realized I needed to deal with.

 

1. I wanted a relationship for the wrong reasons.

To me, life comprised a series of boxes that I needed to check off in order to feel like I had lived it well. Do well in school? Check. Get a good job? Check.

Get a relationship? Not checked.

By checking off boxes, I wanted to prove to everyone around me that I had “arrived”, that I was finally an adult. See, I can snag myself a boyfriend just like you! He thinks the world of me! Just look at my arm candy!

However, this is not God’s design for marriage, and by extension, the relationships that lead to it. In the Bible, husbands and wives are called to sacrificial love and respect, to put the needs of the other above their own (Ephesians 5:21-33).

While a dating relationship is not yet a marriage relationship, I was certainly not looking to encourage and build up another person. Instead of seeing a boyfriend as God would see him―a child of the King, made in His image (Genesis 1:27), I simply wanted a boyfriend to validate my own worth. All in all, I was being selfish.

I am now learning to rest in the fact that God sees me. When time and again I long for someone to notice me, I remind myself that God does not just see me for who I am right now―He sees my future potential and will finish the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:6). If marriage is in God’s plan for me, at the right time He will open the eyes of the right guy to “see” me too.

 

2. God’s plans for me are good―whether or not they involve a spouse.

Doubting God’s goodness was the root of the very first sin recorded in the Bible. When Satan asked Eve, “Did God really say . . . ?” a seed of doubt was planted, and Eve believed that God was withholding something good from her. He wasn’t―but she fell for it anyway.

I needed to be careful that I wasn’t swinging from the statement, “God is good” to the question, “Is God good?” One change, big difference. Although my limited experience had caused me to doubt, it does not change the fact that God is sovereign and that His plans for my life are infinitely better than my own (Romans 8:28).

It can be hard to believe that God’s plans for my love life are good when no prospects lie on the horizon and when other girls seemingly have it easier. But when I doubt what the future holds, I meditate instead on how intimately God knows me, loves me, and holds me in His arms.

 

3. It is not good for me to be alone.

When God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals, He realized that none of them were suitable partners for Adam. So God took a rib out of Adam, fashioned a woman from it, and brought her to his side as a human partner (Genesis 2:22).

Though I have yet to find a suitable life partner, God has given me an extended family―His people. By serving and interacting with fellow believers, I get to give and experience relationship.

When I wallow in self-pity, God’s family invites me into their lives, to worship Him, and live out the Gospel together. When I invest my time in the lives of other people, I don’t spend as much time dwelling on my singleness.

Investing in other relationships helps me even when the lights go out and I’m alone in my room. That’s when the timely words of fellow brothers and sisters come to mind and build me up in the midst of my disappointments. Truly, no man is an island!

 

Do I still mope about my singleness? Sure, the temptation to doubt is strong. However, trusting God is a choice that I can make daily, and I rest in the knowledge that God has great plans for my life, with or without a boyfriend.

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When (Not) to Follow Your Feelings

Written By Debra Valley, USA

As Christians striving to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we will encounter instances that require us to battle our flesh. It could be moments where we have to deliberately choose to act against our emotions, such as choosing to forgive a person who has hurt us, being kind to someone who has been unkind to us, or refusing to let our anger lead us to violence.

More often than not, the struggle is tough. Though we know that our feelings are categorically wrong and acting on them may even lead us to take actions contrary to God’s will, we may find ourselves trying to justify our emotions.

A few years back, I found myself in such a situation. Yes, it was all about a boy. A boy I fell in love with, a boy that made me consider choosing this mister over the Master. I can almost see you shaking your head in disapproval. It seems as though there are far too many accounts of good Christian girls being “led astray” by their unbelieving boyfriends. But I am grateful for those stories, because they served as words of caution in my time of need.

I met him at work, and as they say, there was instant chemistry. I was attracted to him, not just to his looks, but to his character. He was funny, kind, thoughtful, hardworking, generous, and intelligent. Soon enough, I developed feelings for him. But there was one problem: he was an atheist and hated Christianity.

Every time he praised my work ethic or my generosity, I would tell him it wasn’t me—it was Christ in me. But he would have none of it; he called it “religious jargon”. He insisted that the good in me was because I was a decent person, not because of God. I tried to invite him to church but he would always reject the invitation, saying that religious people were “brainwashed and naïve”. He never gave the reason behind his dislike for God—or any religion for that matter. It was just one subject he would refuse to discuss, and soon enough I stopped asking. I just trusted (and still trust today) that God would reach his heart someday.

Though I knew fully well that the Bible instructs Christians not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14), my mind had all the “right” arguments. Like missionary dating, for instance. I thought that as long as I prayed for him and kept living out a good Christian witness, he would come to realize that it was Christ in me. My heart told me that I could change him. After all, how do we bring others to Christ if we don’t befriend them?

But my mind reminded me that it is only God who can change the heart, not man (Ezekiel 36:26). All I could do was to continue to bear witness through my life. Ultimately, it was his choice to make about whom he would serve.

With this realization, I knew that getting myself involved with someone who had fundamentally different standards and beliefs from me would only lead to heartache in the future. Through praying for him and praying for God’s will to be done in my life, I began to seriously consider some pertinent questions: What did I want from the relationship? He had already told me he didn’t believe in waiting till marriage for sex, so would I compromise my faith for him? Could I continue to withstand the pressure? Did I want to get married? Would our children be nurtured in a Christian background? Would we tithe? Would we be engaged in our local church? Would we base our values on God’s word? Would Christ be a part of our home? Would we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God?

The answer was obvious. It was a clear no.

So I prayed for grace to control my feelings. It was difficult avoiding him at work, but God gave me the grace to gradually steer my thoughts to only that of friendship. I did this by focusing more on the work itself, and developing closer ties with the other ladies at work. I took the opportunity to move to the opposite end of the office from him and restricted our conversations to strictly professional matters.

Was the decision to part with someone I fancied but didn’t share my faith difficult? Yes. Did I regret doing it? Absolutely not. I do not regret my decision because I knew all things work for good to those that love God (Romans 8:28). I also knew that God wanted to protect me from a relationship that could lead to harm in the future.

So while reining in my feelings hurt during that period, I believe that the experience strengthened my faith. Now, I am less prone to let my feelings wander beyond control, such as at times when I feel angry or resentful, or when I’m tempted to misplace my love and loyalty. Though it is not easy overcoming my own emotions, I know that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). I have learned to wait on God and to guard my heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). I have also learned to fully trust God and wait on His leading before making any decision in life (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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Will You Ship Others?

Photo taken by Blake Wisz

The week before Valentine’s Day, my students taught me a new word, “ship”. According to them, to “ship” means to support or be in favor of two people getting together. For example, “I ship Mr. A and Ms. B together” would mean, “I hope Mr. A and Ms. B would be in a relationship”.

Curious, I probed further and asked them what “shippers” did. They proceeded to show me through Instagram how shippers would create “ship names”, usually a combination of the names of both parties, as well as edit “ship photos”, capturing the couples in matching outfits, gestures, etc.

They also showed me a photo of Korean popstar Rain and his wife Kim Tae Hee, a popular Korean actress, leaving for their honeymoon. Some of the students went on to say that married couples didn’t need to be “shipped”, while others argued that one could ship whoever he or she liked, regardless of marital status.

In my own journey with my husband—first as friends, then as a couple, and eventually as spouses—I cannot help but disagree with the former view.

When we were teenagers, we led a cell group together. At first, our friends teased us and cajoled us to get together. As we grew older, we realized how similar we were—from the way we counselled our cell members to the way we led Bible study. Needless to say, we ended up getting together.

Throughout our relationship, our friends were constantly there; they witnessed our quarrels and cheered us on. On our wedding day, they lovingly decorated the church, filling the place with a joy and simplicity so aligned to both our personalities. Today, we’ve also become their “shippers” as they involve us in their own journey towards marriage or their struggles as singles; we rejoice with those getting married, mourn alongside those who are walking out of broken relationships, and lend a listening ear as well as reach out to those who are single.

The “shippers” we’ve come to value the most are those who journeyed with us and gave us counsel. Whether single or married themselves, they spent hours with us during pre-marital counselling, were vulnerable, and shared their lives honesty and openly. Hearing how they resolved their differences, or even how they could serve God together in spite of challenges, encouraged and inspired us to do the same when we had our own doubts and challenges.

They brought us out to coffee and prayed for us—as individuals then, and as one entity now. They were always a phone call away when we got into intense arguments; they cried with us, listened to us, and most importantly, shared godly counsel with us. These precious ones constantly pointed us back to the creator of marriage, the God of love. And they reminded us that the sole purpose of marriage—in fact of any Christian—was to reflect His glory.

More than any other point in the relationship timeline, marriage would require “shippers” the most. I say this not in pride, but in utter humility and out of sheer need. Because I know how hard it is to be married and more so, to stay married. Sure, there are many wonderful things about being married, but the reality doesn’t reflect this truth so well. We are confronted with broken relationships on all sides. A friend just filed for divorce last month and another has been living separately from her husband and son for two years now. I myself come from a broken family and will always remember the confusion, hurt and betrayal my brother and I felt as children when our parents got divorced.

The wedding lasts but a day, but marriage is for a lifetime. I think a large part of the latter can only be possible if married couples have support from their community—from like-minded Christian individuals, couples, parents, and others who will be a part of their lives and come into their homes. At every stage of our relationship, we have been blessed and encouraged by the “shippers” that came alongside and today, continue to journey with us.

Will you “ship” others?