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“I Know How You Feel” & Other Things Not To Say

Title: “I Know How You Feel” & Other Things Not To Say
Artwork by: YMI
Description: How do we respond to a friend who has confided in us their suicidal thoughts? Often, we struggle to find the right words to say–especially when our words often leave a lot unsaid and may fail to bring across our good intentions. How then can we ensure our words are seasoned with love and grace?

Come alongside us as we explore how we can use our words to support and encourage our friends, and remind them that they are not alone in this battle.

*Professional help is available, so if you or anyone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your local crisis line.

#SuicidePreventionDay

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Do Christ-centered Friendship

Title: 5 Ways To Do Christ-Centered Friendship
Artwork by: YMI X Barbs Jenjaroentham (@barbsiegraphy)
Description: 
We are made for friendships. True friends are with us in the midst of our difficulties, intercede for us when we are too worn down to pray for ourselves, and gently point us in the correct direction when we end up straying too far from the path. Building intentional friendships, especially one that is modeled after Christ, requires the sacrifice and investment of time, and can sometimes seem a little inconvenient. But despite its costs, it is worth sowing into friendships that will last the mile. How deep does your friendship go? Follow us as we look at what makes for a Christ-centered friendship.

 

Let us try initiating deeper conversations that matter with our friends. We could go beyond the generic, “How are you?”, and instead ask our friends about how their spiritual lives or their quiet time with God is going. Sincere questions like these can bring about a deeper bond as we encourage each other in our spiritual lives. Scripture says we are not to look out after our own interest, but also the interests of each other (Philippians 2:4), and conversations like these allow us to do just that.

 

Be a friend who is willing to offer practical help. Too often it is easier to text a sick friend, “Get well soon. Rest up”, but wouldn’t it be lovelier if we showed up with a food parcel for our friends to see them through the week?  It isn’t always easy to find the time in our busy schedules to add in an hour or two to visit a sick friend, or to sacrifice our weekend to help a friend move house. But actions speak louder than words, and nothing says we care more than putting in some elbow grease to help a friend out. Scripture says two are better than one, because if one of them falls down, the other can help them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

 

We are constantly encouraged to “follow our hearts” in whatever we choose to pursue. But what happens if the direction chosen is leading us, or our friends, down a destructive path? In times like these, would we be brave enough to gently steer our friends back on the right path with the gospel? Similarly, would we be open to taking advice from friends who are concerned about our welfare, even though it may be uncomfortable? Scripture says the wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6). Receiving and giving advice may not always be comfortable, but true friends will always have each other’s best interest at heart.

 

Friendship requires honesty, but too often we have found ways to skirt around issues that are troubling us. It is also easier to pretend things are going 100% well when in truth it isn’t. Perhaps the fear of being seen as “less-than” have compelled us to hold back from telling the whole truth in the presence of our friends, or perhaps we are afraid our stories will get repeated elsewhere. However, friendships that are genuine, honest, and open allow us to share our vulnerabilities without worries. Let us actively work on cultivating friendships like these, where we can come together with our shortcomings, hold each other accountable, and remember each other in prayer (James 5:16).

 

Sometimes it can feel like we don’t quite know how to respond to our friends’ situation. Maybe we haven’t gone through what they are experiencing, or we do not want to say the wrong thing that would further hurt them. Words may fail us, but we can pray alongside our friend, who might be too worn out to pray on their own. Ultimately, we know that none of us can solve each other’s problems, and prayer acknowledges we have a God who is able to do far more than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

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

When I Befriended the Friendless

Written By Pearle Chua, Singapore

I met John when I was working at a library in Singapore. He had a routine he performed every morning when the library opened. First, he would greet everyone loudly and shake hands with the library staff present. Next, he would head to the counter to scan his expired identity card as he half-mumbled and half-declared to everyone that he has paid his bills to the government. Then, he would show the library staff his documents and again declare that he has paid his bills, before finally heading to the multimedia station.

Everyone working in the library knew John, and he was known as our “regular patron.” It was obvious that John had a mental illness, but no one knew what type of mental illness it was. Sometimes, he would get into quarrels with the other patrons at the library. There was even one time when the library staff had to call the Institute of Mental Health hospital to settle his case. Whenever we spoke of John, it was always with raised eyebrows.

At first, I would just shake hands with John in the mornings and mind my own business. But then I recalled the second most important commandment in the Bible, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). I tried to practice this command in my daily life, at school, at work, and with family. But what if my neighbor was someone who lives on the margin of society?

As I thought about the commandment, I began to see John in a different light. I tried putting myself in his shoes, and thought that if I were John, I would have liked to be accepted by people around me. Finally, one day, I plucked up my courage to talk to him, as a way to show Christ’s love to him. I casually chatted with him as he shook my hand, and from then on, we would often talk in the mornings.

My colleagues were surprised by what I was doing. Some started to refer to him as my best friend. While I was not afraid of John, I was worried that he might disturb me at work. Would he demand to see me when he got into trouble at the library? However, I decided to release my fears to God, and sure enough, that did not happen. Instead, John got along better with others as I became his friend, and that gave me the assurance that God was at work supporting me as I reached out to John.

I showered John with my friendship, giving him presents for Christmas and birthdays, and eventually invited him to my wedding. That’s when the breakthrough came. Although John could not make it to the wedding, he asked me to bring him to church. I don’t recall telling him that I was a Christian, but maybe he guessed from the fact that I was going to have a church wedding.

Through our conversations, I learned that John and his family were from India, but he came by himself to Singapore on a scholarship when he was much younger, and has stayed here since. John is very smart and has a master’s degree.

However, John was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago, when he was 55. People suffering from schizophrenia often hear voices and imagine that they are being persecuted or controlled. This can damage their relationships with others, and in severe cases, can make one lose the ability to function in everyday life.

Though John now takes medicine to keep his schizophrenia under control, it has robbed him of the ability to work. His life was turned upside down, and he now lives in a one-room rental apartment in the poorer part of Singapore, relying on government subsidies.

 

The Turning Point

Going to church was a big step for John. Anxious to return to society, he spruced up his appearance by buying new clothes and getting a haircut. At church, he approached people to introduce himself. He smiled and shook hands.

Unfortunately, these efforts were not enough for John to become accepted. People noticed John’s social awkwardness immediately. John would be too anxious about introducing himself that he would insist on shaking hands with someone who was in conversation with another person. During the introduction, he held on to people’s hand longer than usual, which made some of the girls feel a little uncomfortable. He also did not hesitate to tell others that he has schizophrenia.

When he joined a cell group, John was so excited to attend that he arrived at the host’s house two hours earlier. Taking down his cell group members’ numbers, he often called them because he was lonely. Unfortunately, everyone would be busy at work.

To help John cope with his loneliness, I taught John how to use WhatsApp and Facebook. My intention was to get him to use WhatsApp to strike a conversation with his cell group members via text message instead of calling them. However, John did not use WhatsApp and Facebook the way I expected him to. Instead, he would enthusiastically send meaningless photos or posts to everyone he knew. He would also take photos of his cell members without them knowing and post them on Facebook or send them to others without their permission. This was too much for some people and they started blocking him.

The tipping point came when he used my Facebook account to start conversations with my friends, and even called them using the Messenger app, which caused some confusion for my friends. I quickly stopped John and did my best to explain how he should conduct himself according to social norms. While John was a little disappointed when I corrected him, he took it in good stride.

John was also getting on the nerves of the people in church. However, they tried their best to show love towards him. Eventually, some members of John’s cell group started reaching out to help him. Two men in church felt prompted by God to guide John. They stepped up as male role models for him. One of them would meet up with John for a meal every Friday to talk to him, find out more about him, and give him feedback on his behavior. John was receptive to their feedback and started attending church regularly.

Additionally, John’s cell group made the effort to include him in cell outings and lunches after church. Whenever they were not available or had no outings, I would invite John to join my cell group or join my husband and I for outings.

Without us noticing, John learned to get along better with others. At the library, John no longer scans his identity card at the counter or show his documents. He is friendly to everyone, and sometimes helps out at the library. No one avoids him anymore, and some even comment on how John has changed. When John went back for a visit to India, his family was surprised and shocked to see how much he has improved.

At church, John no longer holds on to a person’s hand for too long during an introduction and the women at church now feel at ease with him. He is also able to maintain some conversation with others, something that he struggled to do at the start. John has now become a part of the church congregation, such that whenever he is not at church, people would ask about him.

By God’s grace, after attending church for a year, John confessed his sins and accepted Christ as his savior. God’s amazing grace also softened his family’s insistence that John should stay a Hindu, and now they accept that he is a Christian.

My friendship with John has shown me how powerful God’s love is, and how His love, through us, can change lives for the better.