Written by Glen Wong, Singapore
Growing up, I had always wanted to be an actor—acting was an outlet for me to express myself creatively in a fulfilling way. However, I did not have a lot of opportunities to nurture my acting skills, and ended up only landing supporting roles.
Whenever I asked my parents, “Why can’t I find success in acting?” or “Why did I not have more opportunities in this area?”, they would always respond with: “(God) answers prayer in three ways: He says ‘yes’ and gives you what you want, He says ‘no’ and gives you something better, and He says ‘wait’ to give you the best.”
I didn’t like that explanation, because I could never fathom that God could have “something better” for my life than this hobby which brought me so much joy.
How It All Changed
After the end of my military service in 2017, I took a five month break to “find myself,” and took the opportunity to join an acting course. The theater community was friendly and supportive—they helped me hone my craft and learn more about the art of acting.
This experience stirred within me the desire to do more—so even though I was due to be enrolled in university in May, I simultaneously applied for drama school. That’s when I experienced a real tension between following my heart or my head. My head would remind me of the impracticalities of being an actor in Singapore, and that choosing to go to university would be a more secure option. However, my heart longed to heed the advice of my newfound theater community, who encouraged me to follow my dreams.
At the same time, my church community would caution me about how “the heart was deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9) and to take time to consider whether this dream could be a “selfish ambition.” They advised me to allow the Lord to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9)—even if it meant going to university.
So, I asked God for three signs to determine which way He wanted me to go. But secretly, I was also pleading with Him that He would make going to drama school His will.
God answered my prayer the very next day—and through a series of events that unfolded over the next few weeks, it became clear that God wanted me to go into university. Along the way, I questioned whether my desire to go to drama school would glorify God or myself, and I knew that I had “leaned on my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) by attempting to open a new door to drama school, when God had already provided a way for me to go to university.
I finally let go of my acting ambition, and surrendered it to God.
Understanding the “Why” Behind God’s “No”
Three years later, I still have no idea why God said “no.” However, in the midst of the uncertainties and questions, God revealed three points that gave me a sense of closure:
1. Acting had become an idol in my life
In Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, he defines modern day idols as “anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God.” Acting was the source of fulfillment that drew me further away from God—creative expression became a way for me to earn validation instead of finding joy in my identity as a child of God.
Looking back, God saying “no” to my desire to pursue acting was a form of divine intervention—to redirect me towards Him. Understanding God’s love in that light challenged me to continuously seek His presence by reading the Word, praying, and channeling my creative expressions through music and writing.
2. God was guarding my path
There were many times I wondered what my life would have looked like if I had gone to acting school. Through Proverbs 2:8, God reminded me that the Lord “guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.” So through His “no”, I began to recognize that He was protecting me from a path that may have led me to become entangled in sin or unnecessarily striving for success, or both.
I was reminded of Psalm 23:3, which show us how God guides us down the path of righteousness for His sake. My current season finds me sitting at the feet of Jesus, and realigning my heart to His. It may not look like much, but this path has allowed me to experience God’s glory by fully trusting in Him regardless of my circumstances—and to learn to glorify Him by giving my best in my studies and time in university.
3. Jesus is my ultimate reward
One day, a thought struck a chord in me—what if that sense of fulfillment that I was looking for could be found in Jesus? After all, He proclaimed that He is the bread of life, and whoever comes to Him will never go hungry (John 6:25). If I believe His Word is true, then I cannot turn to acting as a source of fulfillment and satisfaction, but should find all I need in Him.
Since Christ has given Himself for me, I am confident that my reward not only looks like being in right relationship with the Father, but also being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints (Colossians 1:12). Knowing who I am and what I have in Christ compels me to not return to anything lesser, but to keep pursuing the Lord more wholeheartedly.
Learning to Trust God’s Leading
Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It’s not something that we can take hold of by striving in our own strength, but by making a daily decision to let go and let God. Learning to do so hasn’t been a smooth journey—I’ve been met with a mixture of triumphs and trials, but as I walked in the Lord’s ways, I began to notice a change of character and a growth in my faith, and am now more convinced that God works all things for my good, because He is good (Romans 8:28).
Though I still feel uncertain about what’s ahead in my future, my heart is at rest—knowing that He is a faithful, promise-keeping God (Hebrews 10:23). I don’t need to act as if I’ve got my life together, because He is the one who holds my life together.