A Letter to the Friend Who Feels Like Giving Up on God

Dear friend,

I was devastated when you told me that you’ve decided to “give up” on God.

But in some ways, your decision didn’t come as a complete surprise to me.

For a long time, you’ve been struggling with deep hurts, unresolved conflicts, and emotional baggage. You took your pains to be signs that God had abandoned you and left you alone in the wilderness.

I know it doesn’t feel this way right now, but I want you to know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see past what we’re going through, especially when the end seems to be nowhere in sight. And I know how hard you’ve tried to seek after God through the different trials you’ve faced over the past few years. I know how tightly you held on to Him even when you went through situations that you couldn’t understand. I know how desperately you tried to look for answers.

You sacrificed a huge part of your youth to serve Him. You traded lucrative job offers for the mission field—giving up material comforts, financial security, and even family relationships—to live among the poor and build His kingdom there. You were crushed when things didn’t quite go as you had hoped, and you were asked to leave after many heated disagreements with your co-workers. You came home broken, jaded, and disillusioned.

But still you did not let it deter you from continuing to live your life for Him. You wanted your life to count for Him, so you threw yourself into more ministry opportunities, signed up for theological studies, and spent more time with Him.

I remember the long conversations we had as we tried to process what you had been through—Why did God allow them to happen? Why didn’t He give you a way out? Why doesn’t He make it easier for us to see what He is doing behind the scenes?—and I wish I was able to help you find better answers, greater comfort, and more peace.

I still don’t have answers for you now.

But here’s what I’ve known to be true: Even at the lowest moments of my life, God has never abandoned me.

Do you remember the time when I felt like I was on the top of the world—I was in what I thought was my dream job then—and then everything came crashing down in a single day? That day, I didn’t just lose my job. I also lost my vision and zest for life, and all my well-laid plans crumbled into dust.

It took me a long time to recover from it, and to begin to believe again that God knew what He was doing with my life. But you were there with me when I decided to take a timeout and go into missions in India for six months, hoping that I’d have a clearer vision of what I should do next with my life at the end of it.

Do you remember those nine months I struggled to find a job right after I came back from India? As if it wasn’t exhausting enough to apply for job after job and hear nothing back, I was confronted with so many questions about why I was still unemployed (with the underlying suggestion that I wasn’t trying hard enough). You knew how difficult it was to push myself out of the house to meet more questions I couldn’t answer. And you celebrated with me when an offer finally fell into place.

You were there to listen to me when I was trapped in a toxic and suffocating work environment, questioning whether I had even heard God right in taking on that job. It was a huge struggle to get out of bed each day, and I’d reach home every night drained and depressed, wondering how I’d be able to summon enough energy to get to work the next day.

You saw me grow in despair as I watched the only friends I had at work moving on to other things. I envied how easily God gave them a way out—while I was still stuck there, left to fend for myself. I was bitter and angry with God, I couldn’t understand how it could possibly be good for me to stay in that place.

It would be more than a year before I finally found a way out myself.

Now, the different threads of pain and confusion from those past years are finally coming together. And I’m beginning to see the picture that God intended to weave all this while.

I don’t know if I can ever say that the pain of what I went through was worth it, but I know that it gave me a little taste of what it’s like to share in the fellowship of Jesus’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10)—and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

I’m sharing my story with you not to belittle or trivialize what you’re going through, or even to add salt to your wounds. I’m writing this simply to remind you of how much I valued those times when you sat with me in silence, mourned with me in my struggles, and rejoiced with me in my breakthroughs. And I want you to know that I’m here to do the same for you.

For many years, I’ve held Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 close to my heart, and I rejoice in the opportunity to walk with you, and comfort you with the comfort that I myself have received from God (v 4).

Today, one of your favorite songs snuck into my Spotify playlist, and it reminded me of the fire that you once had, your determination to see the goodness of God in your life and the lives of those around you (Psalm 27:13). Perhaps these words feel meaningless to you right now.

But just as your friendship and prayers helped me fix my eyes on God when I was tempted to falter, I am determined to keep praying and believing with you that we will see the Lord’s goodness together. That one day, everything will make sense. And none of what you have been through would be wasted.

And the next time you sing the refrain “You are good” again, it will be with a different kind of fire. It will be with the hard-won confidence of the psalmist, who can now say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). It will be with the purity of one who has gone through God’s refining fire, and emerged as pure as gold (Job 23:10). It will be with the tenderness of one who has tasted and seen the goodness of a God who pursues us relentlessly, even when we’ve decided to let go of His hand.

Until then, I will keep praying with you, walking with you, waiting with you.

 

Love,

Your friend

5 Gift Ideas For A Meaningful Christmas

Written By Anna Chee, Singapore

It’s that time of the year again when we have to think of the perfect Christmas gift for our friends! If you’re thinking of giving your friends and loved ones more meaningful Christmas presents than those $1 notebooks that they might never use, look no further—here are five timeless gifts that will make Christmas infinitely more meaningful for you and your loved ones:

 

1. The Gift of Prayer

Our lives are filled with challenges—and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and our friends, is to pray. James wrote that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). So surely, prayer is the best gift to give a friend.

Personally, there are some prayer requests that I don’t always have the courage to vocalize, and some which I believe only God can answer. Like bringing my staunchly atheist uncle to Christ.

But God knows our heart’s deepest desires, even the ones that we don’t express to Him. When I come to Him in prayer, I am reminded that I can trust Him with every aspect of my life—and the lives of my friends. Spending time with our friends in prayer can also be a good way to strengthen our relationship and to share in each other’s burdens.

My church mates and I often share our prayer requests with each other. For instance, my friend, who’s going on an overseas school trip, asked us to pray for journey mercies and God’s protection. And they are in turn praying for me that God will equip me with the knowledge and wisdom needed to write this article.

Whether the challenge we’re facing is big or small, we can bring them all to God. This Christmas, let’s pray for our loved ones that they will know God intimately, and that God will grant the desires of their hearts in His divine way and by His divine power.

 

2. The Gift of Love

As Singaporeans, food holds a special place in our hearts. Our favorite past time is to eat, so in our church, we often show our love for each other through food. We would regularly buy snacks like barbecued chicken wings, barbecued pork buns, and cheese fries (*drools*) for new friends to show our love for them.

Recently, we even installed a few stoves and an oven in the kitchen of the church so we can cook more for each other. We are also planning to bake cookies on Christmas Eve to give out to the guests at our Gospel meeting on Christmas Day!

A good way to think about how you can give your loved ones the gift of love this Christmas is to think about what makes them feel loved. Try being generous with kind words and praise, or pick up your pen and write some encouraging messages for friends and family members. Remember, what makes the gift more meaningful is that personal touch!

 

3. The Gift of Time

To say that this year was a busy year would be an understatement. I had to sit for an important national examination at the end of the year, and the period leading up to the exams was extremely hectic. I was swept up in a maelstrom of work, work, and more work! This meant all my dates with my friends were postponed to the end of the year.

Because of this, I’m looking forward to catch up with my beloved friends and spend some #quality time with them! Spending time with our friends is a sincere way to tell them “I cherish you as a friend!”

The Christmas period may be a busy time for everyone, but if your friend’s love language is quality time, you can consider volunteering with them at non-profit organizations or starting a fund-raising project for causes you are passionate about. Not only will this give you time to bond with them through the activities, you can both give back to the larger community and spread the joy of the festivities.

A few years back, my friends and I spent our holidays at a non-profit organization that prepared free meals for low-income families and foreign workers. Afterwards, we reflected that the joy radiating from their smiles when they received the meals made the blood (when I accidentally cut my finger), sweat (due to the hot, stuffy kitchen), and tears (shed when chopping onions) all worth it!

Sometimes our conversations with Christian friends may veer towards superficial topics. However, we are called to build each other up in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:8, 11). Some fun ideas to do this are to keep each other grounded in our faith by having impromptu worship sessions, doing a Bible study together, or discussing current events from a biblical perspective. These encouragements are the perfect gift for our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

4. The Gift of Service

Other than blessing our friends with gifts of love, let us not forget the needy in our society who are often forgotten in the blur of our bustling lives. Jesus spent time with the poor and needy, healed their infirmities, and associated with the sinners, the despised and the outcasts. We should emulate His compassion and mercy. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Don’t know where to start? Do a quick Google search to find out whether there are any non-profit organizations with gift ideas for the poor and needy. A good example of that is World Vision’s Let Light Shine gift catalogue. Or you could donate to orphanages or a Salvation Army center near you.

While it’s important to serve the poor, let’s not forget that those closest to us could also benefit from our acts of service. For example, cooking a meal for your family, helping your dad wash his car, or running an errand for your siblings. There are many creative and practical ways we can remind our friends and family that they are important to us. Let’s be a conduit of Jesus’ sacrificial love this Christmas!

 

5. The Gift of the Gospel

Finally, I’ve saved the best present for last. There’s no doubt that the greatest gift we can ever receive is the knowledge that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to spread the Gospel.

Of course, this is not a call to scream “YOU NEED JESUS” in the faces of the people we meet or be a fiery, fanatical Bible-thumping evangelist at every opportunity, and (alas!) scare away those who have yet to know God’s love.

Last year, I attended a Bible conference and was honored to meet an elderly lady preacher. She shared that she would reach out to the different people she met in her daily life, whether it was a cab driver, cashier, or cleaner, by spending time talking to them and observing their heart’s needs. From there, she would slowly guide the conversation towards the Gospel and share about how Jesus can fill our heart’s desires.

I was greatly inspired by her fervor for sharing the Gospel and the gentleness with which she did it—and am challenged to do the same this year!

There are many opportunities for us to spread the Gospel through our everyday conversations. The most important thing is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and testify about the Good News with gentleness and respect for the other person.

 

Jesus gave us the greatest gift that we can ask for—salvation and a relationship with God. Let us respond by sharing His love with others and making this Christmas a meaningful one.

What It’s Like to Spend Christmas Alone

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

My earliest memories of Christmas were a mixture of joy and sadness. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where celebrating Christmas meant wearing bathing suits, eating barbecued shrimp and steak, spending the day around the backyard pool, and of course, the excitement of opening presents!

On the other hand, Christmas was also a time of the year that painfully exposed the brokenness of my family. Though the spirit of Christmas seemed present in the festively decorated shops and the wreath-bedecked streets, it somehow failed to permeate our cheerless home. At least my parents tried to tolerate each other, instead of resorting to their customary fighting.

l realized l was part of a family that couldn’t embrace the season of love and goodwill to turn our dismal situation around.

 

Family Feud

When l started university, every year l would volunteer to work a double shift on Christmas Day at the restaurant where l waitressed. That way I could avoid spending Christmas with my parents—who didn’t seem much bothered by the fact that I was avoiding them. They were occupied with their own marital problems.

After completing my university degree, l left home at 23 and moved to Cologne, Germany. My relationship with my parents worsened considerably over time, until communication between us completely broke down.

That left me alone in a foreign country, with no money, and no family to fall back on.

Instead of wallowing in despair, I dedicated the next 10 years to carving out a new life for myself in Germany without my family, which included creating new Christmas traditions.

 

Christmas For One

In Germany, I became a teacher and made new friends, the majority of them expatriates like myself. Every year at the beginning of the Christmas break, however, my friends traveled back to their home towns to spend the holidays with their families, and l was left alone.

Every year I told myself that l was used to being on my own, and I worked to make each approaching Christmas a memorable occasion for myself.

On my own, I embraced the traditions of a German Christmas: I visited the Christmas markets; l went sing-a-long caroling amidst a winter wonderland; I ate roast goose and baked apples. It was completely opposite to the Christmas traditions l grew up with in the southern hemisphere, yet l enjoyed discovering these aspects of German culture. While l hadn’t given my life to Christ at that point of my life, l would still go to Christmas services at the local church.

Though self-pity and loneliness insisted on making their presence known, l pushed those feelings deep down and doubled my efforts to absorb the Christmas spirit.

I listened to the mellow crooning’s of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” while decorating my pine Christmas tree, and almost managed to convince myself that l was happy being by myself for the holidays.

But then Christmas day arrived. The shops were closed and the city was quiet. And it hit me that once again l was spending Christmas alone.

I began to despair of ever knowing a family that wanted me—not only at Christmas, but every day of the year. Though l wasn’t a Christian at this time, l got on my knees and cried out to God in prayer for Him to give me a loving family, so that l could experience the happiness that others enjoyed at Christmas with their loved ones.

 

A New Family Through Jesus

God heard my pleading and my prayers. Within a couple of years after arriving in Germany, l gave my life to Him and found the family l was yearning for. I gained a heavenly Father, and l became His child (John 1:12-13). I would never be alone again.

Through the salvation and mercy of Jesus Christ, l laid the painful past of my childhood to rest and reached out to my parents a few years ago in order to try and mend our differences. We resumed communications for a while. Last year, however, my parents cut off all contact with me.

In spite of this disappointment, I still feel the love of a spiritual family. For although my parents rejected me, God took me in and adopted me as His own. I joined a church and found new brothers and sisters in Christ.

God has also blessed me with a new earthly family. He has provided me with a kind and compassionate husband, as well as very dear friends whom l love like the siblings l never had.

Together, we have made our own family memories. We have celebrated numerous Christmases and birthdays together. We have laughed during the high points of our lives and supported each other during the low points. I am truly grateful to God for bringing these beautiful people into my life.

This coming Christmas, my husband and l are hosting my best friends, who are visiting us from Berlin. This year has been particularly challenging for all of us due to health and other issues, and l look forward to taking this time to share with my friends the love and victory that Christ has given me.

I will also write to my parents and wish them a Merry Christmas. So far, they haven’t responded to my attempts at communication, but l will continue to pray for them and believe that we can reconcile in the future. Until then, l entrust them to God’s hands.

If you are entering this holiday season without the comfort of your loved ones, know that God is with you. Your story isn’t finished yet. Hold on to that, and hold on to God.

And in the mean time, my thoughts and prayers are with you this Christmas.

How I Found A Community While Going to College Abroad

Written By Yang Ming, Singapore

Before I set off to Swansea, Wales to further my studies, I had researched a number of churches to attend. While I knew about Singapore communities in popular destinations like Sydney or London, I didn’t know of any Singaporean Christians in Swansea. I asked around for recommendations, but didn’t receive any. So my search continued on Google.

I was anxious to find a church. I knew friends who had found God through church communities when they were studying overseas. I also had Christian friends who experienced God in a supernatural way and whose spiritual life grew while abroad. Both groups shared compelling personal testimonies, and I always felt encouraged by their faith-charged stories and was eager to have the same experience. Although I made a list of churches I found online, I was still fearful that I might not find a suitable church to settle in.

But as I was spending time with God one day, I was reassured by a verse in Joshua 1:9, where God tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” If God was with Joshua when he entered a foreign land, surely God would be with me as well.

My first month in school was a challenging one. I had to acquaint myself with my new flatmates and classmates. I had to learn a new culture, and adjust to a different way of living, food, transport, and even communication. On top of that, I had to re-adjust to student life after having worked for five years. It was awkward not even knowing the agenda for my class!

But just as God promised, He was with me as I entered this new country. A chance encounter led me to meet Molly, who together with her husband Charles, are missionaries from Singapore serving the local community in Swansea, Wales. Molly set up the English Corner at my campus some years ago as a place where international students can come together to learn English and the local culture from native students.

Molly followed up with me to make sure that I was settling well. She also invited me to her church. When I finally had all the administrative work settled, I decided to pay a visit to Molly’s church.

I casually invited two of my flatmates—one from Italy and the other from Brazil—to the Sunday service as well, and surprisingly, they agreed to come. Later I learned that both had attended churches in their respective homes and were also looking for a church to settle in.

Molly was very welcoming to us when we turned up for service. Her church was Presbyterian, whereas back home, I worshipped in a Charismatic church. We sang different songs during worship and the services were conducted differently. Despite these differences, I felt at peace during the service. The guest speaker’s message that day spoke to me. It made me realize that what mattered wasn’t so much the worship style or how the service was conducted, but that the church was focused on God’s Word and His heart for the people.

After service, everyone in the congregation was invited to stay for a scrumptious homecooked lunch, courtesy of Molly and her husband Charles.

As time went by, Molly invited me and other international students to her place for Bible study. Since I was a newcomer, everyone tried their best to make me feel welcome in the group. Molly always cooked a hearty dinner before the Bible study, and I was moved to see students from all over the world coming together to have a meal.

Knowing we were all students, Molly always made sure there would be an abundance of food for us to pack home afterwards. Her love for the students reminded me of the verse in Romans 12:13, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Recently, I missed a Bible study session because of an important assignment I was working on. But the group remembered me and gave me a packet of homecooked food, just to make sure that I was eating well. It really gave me a sense of belonging and love.

As I made an effort to share my own life and ask about their lives, I got to know these people from different parts of the world better. They also helped me during moments when I struggled with the way things worked here. My friends helped me understand some of the idiosyncrasies of the local culture, what the four seasons were like, and also how to combat the wet and cold weather in Wales.

During the Bible study, facilitators who led each session reminded us of the importance of God’s Word. Even as Christians, it is sometimes easier to get caught up with so many things—assignments, readings, spending time with friends—that we neglect God’s word. But every time I read the Bible in depth after a long day of studying and working on assignments, I would feel so refreshed.

The time spent studying God’s Word with these people has challenged me in my thinking and in the way I understand the Bible. As we studied God’s Word together, we learned to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17).

This is one of the things that I am thankful for—a community where we can grow and serve the Lord together. It has helped me see what an important role church leaders and fellow Christians can play in helping newcomers and foreign students settle into a new environment by lending a listening ear, meeting their needs, and making them feel welcome in the community.

Apart from reaching out to foreigners who are fellow Christians, churches that are strategically located near colleges also have the opportunity to treat non-believers or people of other faiths well. Living in a different country is always a frightening experience. By inviting newcomers over for a meal and showing them around, we can help them settle in well. Offer community, and people will feel welcomed and loved.

This is something Molly and her family have done throughout their years living in Wales—loving people and making them feel welcomed and loved despite differences in faith and nationality. Their example has inspired me to initiate conversations over coffee and reach out to other international students who are living on campus.

As I continue my studies abroad, I increasingly see the importance of having a church community. When I go through difficult times, such as when I’m struggling with my studies, I have support from God’s family. Being part of a church community also helps us watch out for one another in time of troubles, and more importantly, pray together as a family.

One of the wonderful things about the Christian faith is that no matter we go, we are never completely alone—but are all connected to a big Christian family worldwide. My Italian flatmate now attends church regularly with me, and remarked that she felt at home in church. As Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

Through this journey, God has opened my mind and showed me what He’s doing in other nations. He has also given me a heart to pray for this nation. I hope that in the coming days, I will be able to share my testimony to the congregation during service, help to serve lunch after service, or perhaps, lead a session during the Bible study.