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5 Ways To Keep A Healthy Relationship

Title: 5 Ways To Keep A Healthy Relationship
Artwork by: YMI X Clara Tan (@theperfectstatement)
Description: Snuggling on the couch watching Netflix, exchanging long phone calls and sweet text messages, going on romantic walks and Satur-dates. These are often the images that come to our mind when we think of being in a relationship.

Clara is a wedding photographer who has had the pleasure of listening to her clients’ love stories over the years. While Clara spends her time immortalizing her clients’ wedding day, she knows that making a relationship work takes more than the exchange of vows or a beautiful gown.

Join us as we walk with Clara and Nic through their relationship journey and share their ideas for building a solid and enduring relationship.

 

Our days demand a lot from us—rushing from one meeting to another, attending events, catching up with friends. But spending quality time with the person you’re dating is important, as it allows you to learn more about one another, and stay connected. Activities such as reading and discussing books you enjoy, or talking about topics close to your heart, helps you gain an insight into your date’s thought life, and is also an opportunity for the both of you to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17).

 

There is a time and a season for everything in a relationship (Ecclesiastes 3:4). There’s a time for dressing up to impress our date, a time to be honest with each other, a time to mourn and weep, and a time to let our guard down for a good laugh or joke with our boyfriend or girlfriend. Being able to honestly share these emotions with each other will strengthen our relationships.

 

In a relationship, arguments and disagreements are bound to happen. How do we respond to each other during such moments? 

If we hold grudges against the other person, and are unwilling to forgive them, it can give way to deeper relationship problems. Instead, let’s learn to pursue peace, to talk through any hurts and disappointments together, and work towards forgiveness and reconciliation (Colossians 3:13).

 

Being heads-over-heels in love with our boyfriend or girlfriend could sometimes cloud our better judgment. But Romans 12:1 reminds us that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. How can we ensure that our relationship is Christ-centered? We can seek out an older respected couple to journey with us during this time. They can pray for us, while pointing us in the right direction, with the aim of helping us honor Christ through the decisions we make in our dating relationship.

 

It might seem boring to read and talk about the Bible together during a date. However, we are called to spur each other on in our Christian faith (Hebrews 10:24-25), and these activities that might seem mundane are important in drawing us closer to God. It also helps us grow closer to our partner as we learn more about the other person’s values, and watch each other grow and mature in Christ.

 

When You’re Skeptical of God’s Plan

I consider myself a very thorough decision-maker. I try to think of all possible factors, potential outcomes, and I take a long time to do it (as if more time would result in a better decision). I certainly don’t have a problem with not thinking things through—my problem is that despite all my efforts, I’m actually not very well-equipped to make decisions. I’m not sure any of us are. After all, we can’t anticipate the impact of every decision we make. We can’t predict the future situations we’ll run into, or the best way to prepare for opportunities we don’t know we’ll have.

I faced this reality head on during my third year of university, when I found myself agonizing over a really difficult decision. My pursuit and study of comparative politics had led me to apply for an opportunity to spend a summer interning at my state representative’s office in Washington, D.C. After interviews, applications and essays, and only a few months before the semester ended, I received news that I had been accepted. Not only did my representative’s office offer me a position as a summer intern, but unlike the majority of D.C. internships, mine would be funded, as I had also been awarded a competitive scholarship.

Everything was quickly falling into place for this incredible resume-building and prestigious opportunity. But all the while, I couldn’t shake an unmistakable uneasiness that I felt about taking the internship. In response to the uneasiness, I turned to seriously praying about the decision before I committed to anything.

As I prayed, I found myself considering getting a job near my university and staying local for the summer, instead of spending it 700 miles away in Washington, D.C. But that didn’t make any sense to me. I made a list of pros and cons, and every train of logic concluded with it being an obvious decision to go to D.C. It was a rare chance to work for a state representative, I would gain a ton of experience in my field of study, and it would be a great opportunity to shine Jesus’ light in the political center of the country. I was even planning to move to D.C. after I completed my degree, and this would give me a chance to make valuable connections that might help me find a job after graduation!

Nevertheless, the more I prayed about the decision, the more I felt peace about the choice to stay local, and consequently, I felt increasingly uneasy about taking the internship. I knew what I had to do. So after wrestling with and praying through the decision for weeks, I finally informed the office and scholarship committee that I wouldn’t be taking them up on their offer.

Honestly, I was relieved. But I was still so frustrated that the only explanation I had to offer my inquiring friends and family was, “I prayed about it, and it just didn’t feel right.” Even though a few close Christian friends completely understood my prayerful decision, this seemingly trite response left most people curiously questioning my life decisions.

Five years down the road now, I can see how spending the summer locally allowed me to develop a friendship that later turned into marriage with my best friend. I can also see that, as I continued to submit my plans for comparative politics to God, He totally redirected my aspirations and career. He laid job opportunities in my path that I could not have anticipated or prepared for, and that definitely did not involve politics or moving to Washington, D.C.

We can’t always find explanations or reasons for why God leads us a certain direction. Sometimes it takes half our lifetime before we can understand—sometimes we may never know. But, this rare experience allows me to look back and think, “Ahhhh. I see what You were doing there. I’m glad we went with Your plan and not mine!” I hold tightly to this. I let it remind me that our all-knowing, wonderful, mighty God is not constrained by human logic, and certainly works outside of our understanding.

These moments of clarity help me to avoid leaning on my own understanding and pursuing what the world tells me is a good opportunity, and instead to submit my ways to a God whose thoughts and plans are so much higher than my own (see Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 55:8-9).

I’m so thankful I didn’t end up in D.C. that summer, because it would have taken me several steps further down the wrong path, away from the beautiful future God had planned both for my marriage, and my career. It’s comforting for me to know that God is worthy of my trust, even when He steers me in an unexpected or confusing direction.

He is the perfect author (Hebrews 12:2), and that means He knows every plot twist, every challenge to come, and every mistake I will make. I can always turn to Him for guidance, trusting Him before myself and before worldly wisdom, to direct and author my life story.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our series on Seeking God in Decision-Making. Read the other articles in the series, “When Things Don’t Make Sense” here and “When You Don’t Hear From God” here!

A Path Carved By God

Title: A Path Carved By God
Artwork by: Patsy Shaw (@shawmuchart)
Description: 
We often find ourselves looking for peace and security in the wrong areas. We believe that if we could just get the right job, earn the right income, or find the right spouse, then all will go well with our lives.  We are drawn to these desires because we think they will satisfy us, but it is only when we yield our desires to God, and allow Him to etch out His path for our lives, that we can truly enjoy a life of lasting satisfaction. 

I chose to express my journey through linoleum block printing because it’s the perfect medium to convey what a life of following Jesus looks like. Once I carve out the linoleum block, the piece takes on a new form and is forever transformed. In the same way, once God calls us to Himself, His gospel changes not just one small aspect of our lives, but every area of our lives. We might not know exactly what the final image looks like, but He knows what image He has in mind, and with every carve that He makes in our lives, we can trust that it will lead to something beautiful that displays His glory.

 

We make decisions on a daily basissome bigger than others. When my time at Penn State University drew to an end, I found myself at a forked road. I had a one-way ticket to the Philippines, where I grew up. There, a luxurious life of medical school, weekend shopping sprees, unlimited TV shows, and every material comfort my heart wanted awaited me. Or I could stay in the US without knowing what my next step would be.

Even though it seemed logical for me to head home, in my heart, I sensed God had something very different for me.

 

All my life, I thought I wanted to become a doctor just like my parents, but deep down I knew there were other reasons behind my ambition: I wanted to prove to other people that I could do it, and I wanted to earn as much as I could so I could accumulate even more luxuries.

However, all this changed when I was in college. It was here that I experienced what it was like to be part of a church community that loved God and people well, and I was drawn to them. They taught me all about God’s grace—God’s unmerited love for us even though we have done nothing to deserve it, and were instrumental in teaching me and building my faith. Now that I had discovered a community that is so rich in love and grace, my old life at the other end of the Pacific began to pale in comparison.

 

As I considered the options before me, I was faced with a lot of uncertainty. While I had a set path carved out for me back home, I had no idea where I would work or live if I remained where I was. I was afraid of these uncertainties, but I was even more afraid of losing God and the richness I had found within the church community here. 

Dealing with these uncertainties meant that I had to depend on God every step of the way. And He proved Himself faithful by providing me with a job in Philadelphia, a church, and great roommates. I may live in a small house, and my heart aches for my family occasionally, but I can say that God has made my life far richer than I could have ever imagined.

 

I was searching for peace and security in my old life. But along the way, I found a treasure that far outweighs my earthly desiresthe joy of belonging to His Kingdom. Matthew 13:44 says, “The Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field”. Like the man who has found the hidden treasure, I “sold” my old life so I could buy the fieldcontinuing to live life with my church community. 

 

 

The Journey

Title: The Journey
Materials: Watercolour
Description: Life is a journey all of us are on. Along the way, we may get lost or experience loss. In these moments, we can’t help but ask: What do we do? Which way do we go? How do we navigate life’s maze? Finding the way starts with knowing who can show us the way. We hope God’s truth will encourage you today.