I’ve Arrived. Now What?

Written by Karen Pimpo, USA

It’s been a year since I graduated college, and so much has happened already! I’ve been blessed with a fun and challenging job in my field of study. I live at a wonderful house with two friends. My life is overflowing with healthy, exciting, good things—most people would say that I’ve “arrived”.

But some days, I’m ashamed to admit that I still struggle with discontentment. Despite all the good things that fill my life, there are moments when it’s just not enough and these thoughts fill my mind: Am I so greedy that all of these blessings can’t fulfill me? What’s missing from my life? And the worst question: Where am I going?

Without a clear goal to strive towards, my life now seems stagnant instead of stable. There are so many possible paths for my life, but now that I’ve finished college and chosen a career and a city to live in, I wonder if I’ve made the right choices. The trajectory of my life seems to be heading somewhere pretty mundane—a normal, middle-class existence in America. Anxiously, I wonder if I was meant to be doing something more extraordinary or important or. . . meaningful?

The writer of Ecclesiastes faced a similar situation. Even though he had wisdom, status, wealth, and influence, he still felt at times that “everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

So what should we do when, like me, we’ve “arrived”, and find ourselves feeling empty?

 

1. Go back to our first love

I saw a commercial recently that proclaimed, “Experiences are the true riches in life.” I love experiences. I enjoy travel, concerts, and new activities. But some of the most wise and godly people I know collect very few experiences—yet their lives are still rich. They have learned that the true riches of life are found in the person named Jesus.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you,” exclaims the psalmist. “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. . . I cling to you” (Psalm 63:3-6, emphasis added).

When I feel anxious, it always comforts me to read my Bible, especially the Psalms, where the authors cry out with raw joy and pain. Through scripture, God tells us a story of mankind’s fall and redemption that is so grand and beautiful that it puts all of our worldly experiences to shame.

Our experiences may be good, but in the end the dissatisfaction that we feel with these experiences points us to the best—the God who created them. It is He who gives meaning to all we do. And when we are grounded in His story, we do not need to fill our time chasing experiences.

 

2. Give up the driver’s seat

Part of my anxiety during this period of stability is due to thinking that maybe I should be moving on to something better instead of staying put. Most of my college friends are getting jobs in other cities and moving away. Some are going overseas to be missionaries, or starting families of their own. Perhaps I should be seeking a new job, house, or dream?

I am in control of my life, which means I can steer it in the wrong direction. What if I’m missing something by staying here?

But these anxious thoughts are easily quieted when I remember that I’m not actually in control. We all have the power to make decisions, but the Christian’s challenge is to release that control. Let God determine where you are going—He should be in the driver’s seat!

I need to surrender my life to God by confessing that I can’t do this on my own. I need to regularly choose to dwell on God’s promises instead of my fears. Surrendering to God does not make me feel powerless. Instead, it brings immense comfort. If God is in control—not me—then all I need to do is listen to His voice and follow His direction.

Psalm 37:23 reminds us that, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” If I’m supposed to move, or if I’m supposed to stay, God will let me know. That doesn’t mean He will always make it clear when I want Him to. I remember how long I agonized over the decision of where to attend college; I was angry with God for not being more clear. But at just the right time, God helped me see what made one school a better fit than the other, and I had such peace about the decision. He made my steps firm.

 

3. Relax and enjoy the view

There’s a scene in the movie The Shack (2017) where the main character Mack is walking with God through a gently rolling meadow dotted with trees. The sun is setting and the landscape is peaceful and beautiful.

Mack has been walking alongside God for a while, and it’s unclear if they’re nearing the final destination. He’s feeling a little anxious and a little uncertain. “Is someone going to tell me where we’re going?” Mack asks.

“Look around, Mack,” God says in answer, gesturing to the beautiful landscape. “Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”

Those are powerful words. It’s as if God was saying, Can you simply enjoy each step of the journey with Me? That is very difficult for me to do. I like control, knowledge, and preparation. I want a complete view of the map before we start the trip. But that’s not usually how God works. He asks us to trust Him for every step.

I’ve learned it’s easier to find joy in the beautiful things of this life when I trust God for the final destination. When I do so, the blessings that I mentioned earlier—a great job, a good home, kind friends—come fully alive. I feel free to cherish them for this season of life, instead of feeling anxious about what changes the next season might bring.

 

So when I’m feeling anxious or restless, I remind myself to stop, look around, and enjoy the journey. Even the author of Ecclesiastes recognized that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to move forward, and there is a time to remain right where we are. Let’s go back to our first love, give up the driver’s seat, and enjoy the view for however long it lasts.

Turning a Blind Eye to an Inconsiderate Person

Though we were standing right in front of him, the man remained seated and did not budge.

I cast a glance in my friend’s direction. “Excuse me, we’re sitting inside,” my friend said to him politely, pointing to the two seats next to his by the window of the airplane.

Still not making any eye contact, the man merely straightened his back and pushed back against his seat.

I felt a flash of annoyance.  “Are you kidding me? How inconsiderate and lazy can a person get?” I thought, but was too cowardly to voice my views.

My friend shrugged helplessly. Reluctantly, I tried my best to squeeze through the tiny space between the back of the seat in front of the man and his legs. My friend followed suit.

As we took our seats, my friend whispered to me, “If you can hold your bladder for the rest of the flight, that’ll save us the trouble.” I nodded grimly, as I thought about the seven hour-long journey ahead of us.

From the corner of my eye, I saw the man fidgeting in his seat, shaking his left hand every so often, and lifting his watch to his left ear. A flight attendant walked over and kneeled next to his seat, asking if everything was okay. Perhaps he was hard of hearing, I thought.

A couple of hours into the flight, I knew I had no choice but to visit the lavatory. I nudged my friend, who turned to the man to tell him that I needed to get out. Once again, the man straightened his back and remained seated.

Sighing silently, I lifted my left leg and tried to squeeze through the small space between the man’s legs and the front of his seat. I repeated the same when I returned to my seat, my frustration rising.

Mealtime was next. Another flight attendant walked over and kneeled by the man’s aisle seat to ask him what he wanted to eat. After helping him to open up his tray table, she placed a tray of food on it. Still kneeling, the flight attendant then gently placed her hand over his right wrist and lifted his hand. “This is hot, this is cold, this is where your drink is. . .” she said kindly, as she guided it over the different covered food items on his tray.

That’s when realization hit me: The man was visually impaired. Everything that happened earlier started to make sense and a wave of shame came over me. Self-reprimanding thoughts filled my mind: “I should have known better”, “Why didn’t I give him the benefit of doubt?”, “Why am I always so quick to jump to conclusions about others?”

As I watched my friend offer to help the man with anything he needed, I saw a smile emerge on his face. He looked relieved and thanked my friend. Shortly after that, he asked if my friend could help him open the lid of a disposable water cup, which my friend did willingly.

Clearly, I was the inconsiderate person that day, not the man.

But that was not all that God wanted to teach me. As I went about sharing this encounter with others, God laid it on my heart that “feeling bad” about my response that day wasn’t anything to shout about—anyone in my shoes would have felt bad. I felt bad because I had misjudged the man and the situation at hand. I felt bad because my “little inconvenience” paled in comparison to what the man had to go through; he was clearly in a position of need and deserved help. I felt bad because my response made me look bad.

The truth was, had the man been an able-bodied person, I would have found all kinds of reasons to justify my anger and response. If the man didn’t deserve my help, I would have railed against his behavior and made him out to be a lazy and inconsiderate person whenever I had the opportunity to retell the incident.

My response was contingent on who the other party was and my assessment of his “need”. Underneath it all, I was still selfish and proud.

But the Bible never places conditions on how we should go about treating one another. In fact, we are called to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). In all that we do, we should consider others first.

And we do so because we are called to imitate Jesus—our ultimate role model. In perfect humility, Jesus put aside his rights and status as God, and made himself nothing by coming to earth in the form of a human to serve us and ultimately die for us on the cross. (Philippians 2:5.8).

Jesus exemplified perfectly what it means to put the needs of others above our own. It was never about whether we “deserved” help. Had that been the case, none of us would have been saved. Jesus did not simply die for the “righteous” or “good”. It was while we were still sinners—unworthy of love and sympathy—that Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

So regardless of who the other party is, we ought to view them as more important and put his or her needs first—whether it’s that friend who always has something snarky or sarcastic to say, or that nosy aunty who can’t seem to stop giving you advice, or that inconsiderate stranger who shoves you aside so that he can get up the bus first. Showing love and helping another is independent of who the other party is.

By doing so, we give the people around us—both inside and outside of the church—a glimpse of the unconditional and sacrificial love of Christ, which will hopefully draw them a step closer to finding out who Jesus is and coming to believe in Him as their personal Lord and Savior.

Above and beyond my encounter with the man on the plane, I had to change the way I viewed and treated everyone around me. God certainly made it clear to me that it had to start at home in the most practical way—helping out in the household chores. And this means to take the initiative to help wash the dishes, hang the clothes, or fold the clothes without being told to, and without expecting a pat on the back.

And to be sure, it doesn’t stop there and it wouldn’t always be easy. But remembering Jesus, the ultimate example of selflessness, leaves me no room to find any excuses.

God Convicted Me of My Bad Work Attitude

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

Recently, I overheard a colleague asking her manager about another staff member. He had joined six months ago, but my colleague had not seen him around for a while.

The manager replied, “He has resigned. He was always upset when I tried to correct his mistakes.” I was surprised to hear this because this manager is one of the nicest I have ever met.

The manager’s remarks reminded me of my old attitude toward work. When I first entered the workforce, I was not humble enough to accept corrections. Whenever my manager corrected my mistakes—whether big or small—I became defensive and made all kinds of excuses to justify myself. I was afraid of being viewed as careless and incompetent. Instead of learning from my mistakes, I simply stewed over them.

Unsurprisingly, I never received good reviews and often changed jobs as a result. I was always hoping that a new job would treat me better, but I never changed my own stubborn attitude.

Things finally changed when I came to know God personally through a period of trials in my own life. By reading the Bible, I learned how I should behave as a Christian in the workplace.

I was especially impacted by Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

As I read the verses, I realized that I was always defensive and argumentative whenever my manager brought up my mistakes. How then could I be blameless and pure? How could I be a child of God without fault when my behavior did not glorify God at all? I became deeply ashamed of my attitude.

On another occasion, I came across Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I was reminded again that God values humility. Being defensive when I make mistakes is not an act of humility, and it does not please God. Rather, having a humble and teachable spirit is what pleases God. Because I am a child of God, I should be displaying these God-pleasing character traits at work.

Forgetting the Past, Looking to the Future

So I set out to change my work attitude. At first, I was easily discouraged and often felt inferior to others. My bad attitude had cost me 10 years of work. How many promotions or salary increments have I missed because of it?

But soon I realized that dwelling on my past mistakes did me no good. In order to perform better, I had to move on from the past. I cannot undo any of my mistakes, but I can choose to act positively, learn from them and work better.

I also found strength in the biblical accounts of God’s faithfulness to Israel. Though the Israelites had turned away from God again and again, God never gave up on them. Instead, God told them to forget the past and look to the future (Isaiah 43:18, Joel 2:25). Though I have misspent the past 10 years, I can commit my shameful attitude to God, knowing that God will receive me with mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:15-16).

As I dwelt on God’s goodness, I was reminded to serve in my role with all the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God can be praised through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11). I started doing this daily—asking God for strength to make use of every opportunity to honor and serve Him in my job.

After some time, my manager noticed the change in my attitude. She saw that I was keen to learn and be helpful, so she began to entrust me with new projects and more responsibilities. These became opportunities for me to prove myself. With each opportunity, my responsibilities became more challenging, but I committed my work to God each time.

Some days I felt worried about whether I could cope with the additional workload. I would ask God for help, and He became my source of strength and the reason that I could still smile even under immerse pressure.

At the end of the year, it came time for my appraisal. My manager gave me positive feedback about my work performance and mentioned that she was surprised at my change of attitude. It was the first time after working for almost 10 years that I had a good performance review and a reasonable salary increment.

I have learned to put on a kingdom mindset at work. As children of God, we are more than able to overcome our mistakes. Whenever our bosses point out our mistakes at work, let’s allow their feedback to help us grow so that we can become more competent in our roles, and glorify God through our work.

God Uses Our Brokenness For His Glory

Written by Deborah Fox, Australia

I was rummaging through a collection of papers and knick-knacks on my bedside dresser when I noticed a card from my sister. She had given it to me several months ago to encourage me to keep trusting in God throughout a difficult period in my life. These words stuck out to me in particular: “God uses everything in our lives for His glory. None of your trials are ever wasted.”

Over the years, I have suffered from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Since I was a teenager, I had been taking antidepressants to help me cope with unwanted thoughts and resist the overwhelming compulsion to clean. The medication I was on helped me remain calm and optimistic.

But last year, my immune system was weakened during some health struggles and showed no signs of improving. My haematologist (blood doctor) suspected that my antidepressants were suppressing my already depleted platelet levels and suggested I slowly wean myself off them.

Talk about a shock to the system. I realized I had been basically numb to the pain for most of my adult life. Now, it seemed that all my feelings were magnified a thousand times over.

I thought I was managing alright. It was difficult in the beginning but I was getting through each day without my thoughts getting in the way of my daily routine too much. Then I was faced with the sudden deaths of two friends within the space of just a few months.

The shock and grief sparked a massive peak in my anxiety levels. My OCD also became much worse. My lengthier shower routines meant often being late for work, missing meetings, having to cancel plans with friends and ultimately feeling like I was letting people down all the time. I found it difficult to cope without any medication to help block out the intrusive thoughts. Panic attacks were more commonplace. While my friends and family seemed to have it all together, I wondered whether I would ever make it out the front door, let alone be used by God.

 

God Chooses the Imperfect

Those concerns have lessened over time but it’s been a tough journey. My battles are ongoing, but my sister’s words still ring true—God uses our brokenness for His glory. We often think about the things we need to fix in order to be used by Him. But He uses the meek, the mild, the weak, the young, the broken, the shamed and the hurting. He chooses to use what the world deems as inferior for His superior purposes.

Consider the type of people called by God in the Bible. Moses had a terrible stutter, yet he was used by God to approach the mighty Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Rahab was a prostitute, yet she was used to save God’s people and was even recognized in the lineage of Jesus. King David was chosen as the one who would rule Israel even though he was the youngest among a poor sheep herding family.

I used to feel ashamed of my weaknesses. I thought my anxiety and OCD were things Christians shouldn’t experience, so therefore I should never speak of them. We’re often taught that we need to surrender every anxious thought to God—so why was it so hard for me?

My anxious thoughts have prevented me from speaking on a number of occasions. They have also stopped me from putting my hand up to be a mentor to young girls because I thought I wasn’t a good enough example for them to follow. There have been overseas mission trips I’ve desperately wanted to attend but have had to decline, knowing how bad my mental health would be in unhygienic situations.

I thought that I was somehow unworthy of serving God because I wasn’t the “perfect Christian”, one who never doubted, never worried, never messed up. But the reality is that none of us are perfect. The Church is made up of fallible human beings. We need to resist the urge to present ourselves as perfect to the outside world, because it’s a false representation of who we are.

 

God Shines Through The Cracks of Our Lives

We are in the process of being made whole, but we are still a long way from perfect. Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). We need to show other broken people that freedom and acceptance can be found in the One who made them and loves them just as they are. We don’t need to have it all together. We just need to place our trust in the One who does. I can try my best but I will still fall. But even in my moments of weakness, I know God is still with me. He is there to wipe away my tears and give me strength.

I was recently able to share my testimony with a friend, which included my struggles with mental illness. I didn’t share the sanitized version of “my life was a mess. . . then I heard the gospel. . . now my life is perfect.” Instead, I shared that I still battle my demons, but that God is able to give me peace amid trials and hope when I feel hopeless. This helped her to open up about the recent difficulties she had been facing.

For some reason my friend had always thought that Christians were perfect people and that she would never be “good enough” for God. However, God used my struggles to show her that none of us are perfect, but we have a perfect God who loves us anyway. I was able to share the gospel with her and it opened up opportunities I never thought possible.

God doesn’t use me despite my weaknesses, He uses me through them. I was able to share the gospel with my friend because of my struggles. My weaknesses have also helped me gain a greater empathy for others who are suffering. My illness has enabled me to depend on God more than ever before. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We all have our own unique struggles. But God can turn the ugliness of our pain and weakness into the beauty of His victory. A Japanese friend once shared with me the art of “Kintsugi.” This is when gold is used to repair breaks in earthenware. The breaks are appreciated as part of the history of the object, rather than thought of as something to hide or disguise. And through the repairs, a common piece of pottery becomes an exquisite piece of art. How much more can God repair and shine through the cracks in our lives!

What battles are you facing? God can turn them around for His glory. He is sovereign and He is able to bring change in any situation. Praise God that He can create gold from our brokenness!