When Family Conflicts Turned Us Into Enemies

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Four years ago, I was staying with my husband’s family. I was a new mom to a baby boy, and there were many things I had to learn.

My in-laws, naturally, kept a close watch on their grandson. They would often correct me on how to carry the baby or hold his milk bottle. As a perfectionist, I hated being corrected. But at the same time, I felt pressured to perform well, even when I was tired.

This pressure, combined with lack of sleep due to the baby needing milk in the middle of the night, really put a toll on me. I snapped easily and became very temperamental. Behind closed doors, I tried to share my problems with my husband, but he suggested that I should try to be less temperamental and just go along with his parents’ suggestions. I didn’t feel very loved at that point. I tried to put up with the circumstances, but things eventually went from bad to worse.

After some time, I started shouting at my in-laws for putting pressure on me. I didn’t just lose my temper once, but very often during that time. And so I was labelled as a rude daughter-in-law. I felt like everyone in the home was against me. I walled myself in and hated talking to people, because it seemed like any talk easily led to quarrels. My in-laws were supposed to be family to me, but instead became like enemies. Home was supposed to be a place of comfort and warmth, but it felt like a war zone.

Eventually, a relative heard about my plight and shared the gospel with me, which really helped me to process what I was going through. This relative became my spiritual mentor, and when we talked about my situation, she pointed me to prayer and God’s Word. She first reminded me that God was in control in the midst of this mess, and I was not to blame my in-laws, since God was the one who allowed this mess for a greater purpose. Although I did not see the purpose at that time, I believed that God was sovereign. The family situation was messy and destructive at the time, and I knew that the only way to redeem the situation was to go to Jesus, who promises abundant life (John 10:10).

As I read more of the Bible, I realized that I was commanded to show respect to my parents and my elders (Ephesians 6:1, 1 Peter 5:5). Letting go of my bitterness, however, was not easy for me—the prolonged battle in the family had already left me drained, wounded, broken, and especially bitter. I did not marry to be wounded, to be mistreated, or to be without a voice in the family. I wanted revenge. I wanted the family to suffer like I suffered, so that they would know how I felt and so make things right for me.

But then I came across 2 Corinthians 10:5, which urges us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. So I decided that each time I had bitter thoughts in my head, I would do exactly that. I made it a habit to do so as often as I needed.

I tried to apologize to my in-laws. But every time I apologized, I would soon lose my temper again. Because of how I used to treat my in-laws, they were often stern with me, and it was very stressful. I often became bitter again and would accidentally offend my in-laws with the wrong choice of words when speaking in haste, causing further misunderstanding. As hard as I tried, I was often quick to lose my temper. Each time I met my family, I had to pray for courage and strength.

But these experiences have shown me my human weakness and taught me to rely on the Lord, who promises that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made prefect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I reminded myself that my identity is in Christ alone, and not defined by my circumstances. God’s Word gave me strength.

Though I moved out of the house after the first year, the struggle continued for four years before I was reconciled with my husband and in-laws. The four years where God allowed our strife turned out to be my maturing years, and I experienced real spiritual growth.

When I first hear the term “spiritual battle,” it frightened me. But my experience has taught me that God’s love for us is unchanging. A spiritual battle is not necessarily about casting out demons, but a battle for our hearts and our souls. God had a great purpose in allowing me to go through those difficult four years, and I saw His purpose for me at the end of it.

Through my spiritual battle, God has taught me that victory is through Him. I was reminded that even though we may face many challenges in this life, God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). When we rely only on God—reading the Bible and seeking Him in prayer—He will bring about His will in our lives and sanctify us in the process so that we will grow more and more in Christ-likeness.

4 Tips For Reaching Out To The Homeless

“Excuse me, miss, do you have any spare change?”

The other day, I was asked for some money by a man sitting outside the local supermarket. He was wrapped up in a blanket, with his hoodie over his head and a torn paper cup in his hand.

“Really sorry, I don’t have any on me,” I replied. “But can I buy something for you? What do you need?”

I squatted down beside him and looked him in the eyes, and I could tell it made him a bit nervous.

He appeared timid but I could tell was also eager to have a chat.

“My name is Rachel,” I said reaching out my hand. “What’s yours?”

***

As someone who works for a homelessness charity, I frequently get asked what one should do if approached by a homeless person on the streets.

What do I do if a homeless person asks me for money? Do I give them money? Should I just avoid them?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, homelessness is a crisis. The reasons are many and complex—family breakdown, community upheaval, poor mental health, or individual struggles with addiction. But whatever the reasons, no one should have to sleep rough on the streets—especially in the dead of winter—or be in search of a place to stay because they were kicked out of their home by a family member.

Because local governments are often unable to help the hundreds of people in need, I strongly believe that this is where we, the Church, come in.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus urges us to care for those living in poverty as an act of obedience to God: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

While I do not have all the answers to this complex problem, I do have a few thoughts that I hope you find helpful the next time you encounter someone on the streets.

 

1. Be compassionate

Embody compassion. Freely give to people you come across, especially those who find themselves on the margins of society. While we should not lightly cross personal boundaries or put ourselves at risk, we certainly don’t need to be a social worker to show compassion. Showing compassion can be anything from saying hello to someone on the street, to offering to buy them a hot drink on a cold night.

As Christians, kindness should come naturally to us. And when it does not, we need to ask God to show us how He sees and loves the people around us. Pray for our hearts to be broken by the things that break His heart.

 

2. Help out when you can and where you can

After all, you and I are mere individuals. We cannot possibly help everyone we come across who begs for money on the street.

However, if we want to help people living in poverty and experiencing episodes of homelessness, we can always start small and see where it takes us. After all, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is insignificant.

Instead of giving money to someone on the streets, I will often buy them a sandwich or a hot coffee. And sometimes, it is enough just to have a conversation with that person.

If you’re just starting out on this journey, something as simple as smiling and saying “Hello” is a positive step. Ultimately, we want to show dignity and respect to people who have been robbed of such.

Jesus Himself treated social outcasts and sinners with dignity and compassion. He even shared a meal with prostitutes! Maybe there’s something we could learn from His interactions with the poor and downtrodden.

 

3. Use common sense

On the one hand, we need to think about how to better serve our local communities and reach out to people who are homeless. But on the other hand, we also need to exercise common sense.

While some of us have no qualms about speaking to a homeless person outside of a supermarket, that is a personal choice and not necessarily right for everyone. There have been times where I have seen people on the streets act aggressive. If that happens, we need to decide on a safe course of action. Definitely not all homeless people are dangerous or addicts, but we need to exercise common sense when interacting with people on the street.

 

4. Get on board

There are many charities that support homeless people in local communities. These charities offer a variety of services and projects, such as overnight shelters, addiction recovery programs, or community development.

Supporting a charity is a great way of partnering with others to tackle the issue of homelessness. We can do so by giving to charities, donating food and clothing at local food banks, or participating in an outreach program through church.

 

It’s easy to think “I’m just one person. How can I possibly make a difference?”

While we may not be able to perform the miracles Jesus did—raising the dead, restoring sight, casting out demons—we can extend the same life-changing dignity that He offered during His time on earth. Jesus treated each and every person He came across with dignity, knowing that they are made in God’s own image. We can do so as well.

Brothers and sisters, if there is one thing to remember when encountering the homeless, it’s this: treat everyone you meet as Jesus did—men and women, homeless and homeowners, rich and poor.

Let’s go back to the story I started this article with. After I introduced myself, the man told me that his name was David. I sat down beside him on the busy city street, watching people make their way home in the post-work commute.

“People can be really kind,” he said. As he munched on his sandwich, David told me all about how several local people had taken an interest in him and would buy him meals on occasion. A couple of women even told him about Jesus and His love for him.

“They told me that even though I’m homeless that God loves me and I’m still valuable to Him.”

As I listened to David share his story, it struck me that one simple thing we can do to love people well and to treat them with dignity is to listen. Let us learn how to listen purely so that others have the privilege to share their story.

Next time you pass by someone on the streets, give them just a few minutes of your time. Even the simplest of acts like having a conversation with someone who is homeless isn’t just saying “I hear you”; it’s demonstrating “I see you because He loves you.”

Be a representative of His incomprehensible peace, undeserving grace and overwhelming love.

I Was Abused: My Journey Towards Forgiveness

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

For as long as I lived with my parents, they abused me physically and mentally. They decided where l went, what l did, and with whom l spoke to. Depending on their whims, they would either lavish me with generosity or violently beat me in the name of discipline. Any achievements l gained were accredited to them. My failures and weaknesses were scorned.

l learned at an early age to fear my parents. l felt helpless and unprotected at their harsh treatment of me, painfully aware that l didn’t have another adult or a sibling to turn to for comfort.

Even the neighbors, who must have been privy to the fighting and acts of violence, refused to intervene. I remember my father hitting me on one occasion, when l was about nine years old. I fled the house in panic and bolted across the road to the neighbor’s house, screaming all the while. As I desperately thumped on the neighbor’s front door, l saw the front curtain twitch, but no one opened the door.

It was another reminder that l was alone. Trapped in a mental and physical prison of despair, fear, and depression, I mentally retreated into myself for years, as a means of survival.

Despite their volatile inclinations, l still sought affection from my parents, hoping that deep inside they loved me. Sometimes I attempted to hug my mother, but she kept her arms to her side and held herself stiffly.

And when I made cards for my father on birthdays or Father’s Day, he would throw them away without even glancing at them. My heart plummeting to my feet, l would turn away from my father, vowing to myself that l wouldn’t allow him to disappoint me again.

I dated my first serious boyfriend when I was 17. We dated in secret, as my mother was against our relationship. With my friends’ help, Nathan and I went to the annual school dance together.

But my mother suspected something. She found me at the school dance and dragged me home. After that, she went to the homes of each of my friends and gave them a severe scolding. My parents even called up Nathan’s family—whom they had never met—and yelled at them with curses and profanities.

After this, school authorities requested to meet my parents, since Nathan’s family had contacted them out of concern for me. Although my parents refused to seek counseling, at least my father acknowledged that they had mistreated me.

Needless to say, Nathan and I broke up within a few months. My heart was broken. My friends forgave me, but there remained a division between us, and we ended up drifting apart.

l finished my final university exams just after turning 22, and informed my parents that l was leaving home. I wanted to start fresh in a place that was far away from my parents and the painful memories of my childhood. Since I spoke German fluently and was familiar with the country and its culture, l decided to move to Cologne, Germany.

My mother was offended by my decision to leave, so much so that she walked out of the house without bidding me farewell on my last evening in Australia. My father blamed himself and let me go. Since leaving Australia 19 years ago, l have not seen them in person again.

Though we were on opposite ends of the globe, tensions between my parents and me continued. I tried to phone them regularly. However, their resentment, anger, and open hostility left me emotionally depleted, and l dreaded having to contact them. After a particularly heated discussion, which concluded with my mother cursing me, the depths of my gaping emotional wounds were too evident to ignore any longer. l resolved to seek professional help with a psychotherapist.

With the help of therapy, l realized that l suffered from severe depression as a result of childhood trauma. Despite making progress in therapy, the situation with my parents escalated to such an extreme, that l broke off all contact with them for 10 years. It wasn’t the right thing to do, but l just couldn’t cope with them anymore.

I continued with my life: I became a teacher, moved into my first flat and acquired two cats, whom l loved dearly. However, l was constantly depressed and developed an eating disorder in a desperate attempt to exert some control over my life. l started taking anti-depressants, yet l remained unhappy: l was either too fat or too thin, too overworked and too poor. I formed unhealthy friendships out of an inferiority complex and an innate fear of rejection. I hated myself.

I am deeply grateful for the day that Jesus pulled me out of the darkness and gave me new life. I was born again as a new creation, where l discovered the mercy and loving kindness of God, as well as His grace and peace which transcends all understanding. l began to believe that l was worthy, because God said l was. The aching wounds in my mind and my spirit began to heal.

When l became engaged to my husband four years ago, l knew l had to try and reconcile with my parents. Colossians 3:13 spoke to me: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” l wanted to enter my marriage in right standing with God by forgiving my parents for their transgressions, as God had forgiven me for mine. It wasn’t easy talking to my parents after many years of silence, but l knew l had made the right decision in calling them.

I would like to say that since resuming communications, my parents and l have sorted out our differences. The truth is, things are just as bad as ever.

The last time we spoke was in September last year. My parents, who are not believers, had sought the advice of a psychic to predict my future, and had shared their misinformation with my husband and l during a Skype call. Since the Bible warns against seeking the advice of mediums (such as in Leviticus 19:31), my husband and l conveyed our discomfort to my parents.

My father reacted aggressively, and suddenly announced that he didn’t want to talk to me ever again: l should leave him and my mother alone. Then he hung up the phone.

I have not known how to move forward since then. There are times when l am sorely tempted to just let the entire matter with my parents rest. And yet, l find myself in a dichotomy between the woman who strives to honor God, by forgiving and putting the past behind her, and the daughter who struggles to lay aside the grievances she has towards her childhood abusers.

My love for my Savior wins. As a result, I try to practice forgiveness and acceptance. I pray for peace in my family and hope that one day, my parents will come to a knowledge of Christ.

Despite my efforts, l arrive all too soon at the boundary of my capabilities. My inability to let go of memories of my parents’ abuse leaves my emotional equilibrium imbalanced. Instead of putting up with their weaknesses, I condemn myself for my impatience at my parent’s pride. Rather than being peaceful, l speak to my mother and father in anger.

I can’t forgive my parents with my own strength.

Maybe confronting this impasse is exactly what l need to do. For it is only when l experience the outer limits of myself, that l can best encounter God.

When my strength wanes, His power surges me forward.

When l lose my patience, His peace revives me.

When my heart is afflicted, His Truth sets me free.

Whereas in the past, l believed that I was unable to make peace in my family, now l have come to realize that when l am weak, God is strong. l confess my limitations to God and give the situation over into His hands.

Hebrews 4:15-16 has provided me with great comfort in the knowledge that we have a High Priest in Jesus, who empathizes with our frailties and understands our temptations. It reassures me that l have the right to confidently approach the throne and receive Jesus’ mercy and grace during this family crisis.

Though I have never experienced unconditional love and delight from my parents, that’s okay. I have a great Dad, who adopted me as His own when my parents rejected me (Psalm 27:10). My husband is my greatest supporter and his family have embraced me with open arms into their fold. I have loyal friends and a counsellor with whom l can talk to about the gritty stuff. I am truly blessed.

Still, my hope is that my parents and l will one day heal, and that our relationship will evolve at least into one of mutual understanding and respect. I know for my part, that l will keep on trying to make that a reality by continuing to trust God.

And when, during my journey towards forgiveness, l reach the brink of my own abilities, l know that my Father will be there at the edge, ready to catch me.

I Was Told I Would Be A Failure

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

“You’ll never make it in marketing; you’re too shy and quiet,” my professor told me, “I think you should change your major.”

I have since replayed this memory many times. I had gone to my professor one evening for help with an assignment, and I can still tell you exactly where I stood outside the business building when my teacher dropped the bomb.

What she said wrecked me. I left that office defeated and questioning myself. Back in my dorm, I bawled my eyes out. I was upset for days. But I knew I wasn’t going to change what I was doing. I was in my third year of school already. There was no way I could let all the hard work and effort I’d put into my degree go down the drain because of one little comment.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been hard on myself. My parents never pressured my siblings and I to get good grades, but 95 per cent of the time, I found myself striving to get the highest grade possible. Each time I turned in an assignment or took an exam, I faced an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety. Even when I knew that I had done my best, I continued pressuring myself to go above and beyond.

Even though my professor’s words crushed me, I was determined to try even harder. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but I couldn’t let her be right, so I just worked harder and kept going.

It wasn’t until my final year in school that, for the first time, I completely entrusted my life and the plans for my life to the Lord. My brother’s girlfriend (now wife) moved in with me during my senior year, and her faith was something I admired. Every morning, we would get up for coffee and devotional time, and talk about Jesus. This was the first time that I had a consistent routine of quiet time with the Lord. And as I did so, I kept wanting to know Him more and more.

As I grew to understand God’s love for me and learned that His plans for us are good, I felt complete peace—instead of anxiety—about what was to come. This was a peace I hadn’t experienced before, and I knew that whatever God had in store for me was going to work out, even if I really wanted Him to work it out as soon as possible.

You see, graduation was approaching, but I was still jobless. I had turned down an earlier job offer because I felt that it wasn’t where the Lord wanted me. Though the job would bring me security and comfort, prayers for discernment and clarity led me to feel increasingly certain that this wasn’t the plan for me. Though my classmates all had their next steps planned out, I still had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be.

About a week before graduation, I finally received an email with a job offer. It was with a company who organized events raising funds for their clients. And guess what field it would be? If you guessed marketing, you’re right.

I knew that through this job, I would be accomplishing good—by raising funds to support team USA for the 2016 Olympics Games. But the job was on the American East Coast and out of my comfort zone. As I prayed about this, I felt that the Lord’s plan was going to be just that—something new in which I’d have to trust Him, even if I was afraid to be so far from home and everything familiar.

It has now been three years since graduation, and my career path has looked very different from many people my age. I haven’t had the standard “full-time job with benefits” or the kind of financial security my friends have, but each opportunity has helped me discover more of my passions.

In all this time, God has proved faithful over and over again—sometimes at the very last second. Even when I thought I knew better, it always turns out that God’s plans are so much better than anything I could have dreamed up. Through prayer, seeking counsel from close friends, and staying grounded in God’s Word, I continue to grow in clarity and confidence in following God’s plan.

That’s not to say that I don’t have moments of doubt. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not reaching my full potential in a given task, and I begin comparing my job with those of my friends. I remember how my professor told me I wouldn’t make it, and a small voice in the back of my mind would creep in: “You’re a failure. Look what you’re doing right now while everyone else is leaps and bounds ahead of you.”

This is not the voice of the Father, but of the enemy that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. The Bible says that I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26). I am right where I am for a reason. I am valuable. I am capable.

Every time this voice tries to make me feel worthless, I repeat Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

It’s not a paycheck I’m working for, but God. I am a vessel for Jesus exactly where He wants me; I am not a failure.

The more I lean into God’s Word, the more aware I become of my identity in Him, and the less I need the approval of others. Because I already know who holds the future, I no longer need to worry about what comes next. As I grow in God, I learn that His Word provides direction, peace, discernment, as well as truth about myself and His plans for me. And so, I rely less on others and more on Him.

When you know who you are—a beloved child of God—the painful remarks of others can no longer cause you to question yourself and your path. People might look at your grades or your career choice and tell you that you will be a failure, but guess what? You’re not.

Though we fail at times (and learn from each experience), we know that God loves us more than we could ever imagine, and that He makes firm the steps of those who delight in Him (Psalm 37:23). He is beside us in each and every instance and will never leave our sides. The truth is that, whatever people say, we are beloved, valuable children of God, and if we allow Him to, He will guide us every step of the way into His plans and purposes for our lives.