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3 Ways To Live A Joy-Filled Life

Written By Anna Chee, Singapore

For three years, I joined netball as an extra-curricular activity in school. Looking back, that season in life was overshadowed by a deep sense of joylessness. I had joined netball with a childish hope that I would somehow “glow up” to become like one of those typical netball players—pretty with a tall and willowy frame, but also strong, agile, and fast.

However, each training session only served to aggravate my insecurities. I became resentful about my non-netball-player-like frame and my sub-par performance on court when I compared myself to my fellow teammates. This worsened when I sought validation from my coach, as she often ignored the weaker players altogether.

Every training session left me on a downspiral: I was fatigued, disappointed, and joyless. Frustrated, I eventually decided to turn to God, asking Him how I could find joy and strength to be a light for Him in this situation. Here are three keys I learned that helped me in my journey towards a joy-filled life:

 

1. Don’t compare yourself with others

Comparison is the thief of our joy. It is normal to compare ourselves with others, but it becomes unhealthy when we go about it obsessively, and put ourselves down for not measuring up to them.

For some of us, we might be guilty of comparing in the areas of our financial status, popularity, academic results, or talents. In my case, comparing my figure and athletic skills with others caused me to lose the joy I used to have in playing netball.

These days, it has become even easier to feel discontented with our own lives when images of influencers’ perfect lives pop up all over our social media platforms, but I have since learned to be content with my lot, because everything I have is from God, and He knows what’s best for me.

If you’re struggling in this area, don’t be afraid to weed out the profiles on social media that drive your discontentment—and click that unfollow button! It also helps to remind ourselves that each person is uniquely formed by God. We do not need to be as skilled, talented, or popular than someone else to be loved or valued—we are already loved and valued by God. Let Christ—and not the standards of the world—define our value.

It can be difficult to fight the battle of comparison alone, and I’ve found it helpful to surround myself with friends I can share my struggles with, and who will commit to pray with me about my struggles and keep me accountable in this area.

 

2. Firmly place your trust in God

One sure way to kill our joy is to complain about the difficulties we are facing or allow ourselves to worry too much about the future. When I was too focused on my shortcomings, it was more difficult to motivate myself to go for training sessions.

But I was convicted about my attitude when I read a passage from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional: “Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and [this] shall end your distresses. There is One who cares for you. His eye is fixed on you, … and his hand omnipotent shall bring you the needed help.”

This passage prompted me to ask myself: If God has promised me that He will help me through my troubles, am I mocking Him when I wear a brow of worry or moan to my friends all the time?

Spurgeon’s words also reminded that I can cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and I can rest secure in God’s arms because He will give me all the help I need to face the challenges before me. That is the knowledge that leads to true joy.

Having a firm trust in God’s will also meant coming to terms with the fact that He has placed me in the netball team for a purpose. Eventually, God helped me see that my other teammates were also feeling demoralized, and I could be a light in this situation by being a source of encouragement and spreading God’s joy during the training sessions.

Here’s a journal entry I wrote from one training session: “[The reminder to bloom where I am planted] really encouraged me to do my best and spread the fragrance of Christ’s love to the team—and it worked! It turned out to be a really joyful training [session] with everyone.”

Remembering how I endured through tough times and persevered filled me with joy. Through this experience, God taught me what it looks like to “bloom where you are planted”— it means not looking for an escape from every tough situation, but living for Christ wherever we are.

 

3. Cultivate a thankful heart

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that it is God’s will for us to “give thanks in all circumstances”. It’s easy to type this, but incredibly difficult to live it out. This is why we need to continuously depend on Christ to help us keep our eyes on God and cultivate a thankful heart.

Despite the strenuous netball training sessions, I found that giving thanks for small things, like having friends on the same team or the cool weather helped me see God’s hand working for my good, and granted me joy!

It’s far easier to gravitate towards negativity, but when we count our blessings (literally), we can see how much God has blessed us with, and our hearts will naturally well up in thankfulness.

 

Although my time with the netball team was a tough one, I’ve learned that our experiences can make or break us, but if we give them to God, He will weave them into something beautiful.

Despite not “glowing up” physically as I had hoped to at first, God graciously let me “glow up” mentally and spiritually. As a result of persevering through those few years, I’ve found a stronger will to press on when going through difficulties and have grown deeper in my faith.

I also find it easier to empathize with the struggles that my friends are facing, and can now point them towards Christ—the true joy-giver. If you’re also struggling to find joy in your life, I pray that you will find these three principles helpful, and find the same joy that sustained me.

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.