Posts

When Things Don’t Make Sense

Written By Michelle Chun, Malaysia

“Seriously, God?” I was lying down face up on the floor at home, looking at the spinning blades of the ceiling fan. It was January 2014, and I was at a career crossroads in life. Young, inexperienced and struggling to obey His voiceI had just finished a three-month Bible school in New Zealand, and upon my return to Malaysia, was learning what being jobless felt like. It had only been a few weeks, but I was going crazy. 

You see, I’m a planner. I enjoy being in control of my life, and my future. I like selecting tasks, having goals, and working to achieve them. After all, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail, right? So there I was, confidently waiting for the Ultimate Planner to hand me a perfect plan. But then I felt God prompt me. “Take this time to rest. Don’t do anything, don’t plan anything, don’t even look for a job.” 

After that? Silence. 

I couldn’t believe it. I needed the cash, relatives were gossiping, and there would be a gaping hole in my resume if I didn’t find a job, fast. At that point, His plans for me to take a season of rest made no sense at all.

But God and I have a funny relationship. He often upsets my plans, or even better, dishes out plans that leave me stumped. So what do you do when it feels like God’s gone crazy? 

Well, after ranting and many tears, I quieted my heart and went back to His Word. In Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock. I found helpful handles in this passage—encouragement that could guide me during this season

 

Ask and it shall be given unto you.

Some of us were taught never to question God, or our faith; I humbly beg to differ. God made us thinkers with an ability to reason. Asking the Lord for clarity and faith to understand what our earthly minds cannot fathom is biblical (Psalm 44:23-24, Psalm 74:9-11).

If we’re questioning because we want God’s plan to fit into our plans, lifestyles, or choices, it’s no longer healthy asking but selfish doubt. However, if we have sincere, searching hearts, He will answer. It may not be the answer we want at that moment, but His peace will silence the chaos within. I especially found peace in worship (It’s not beyond God to control our Spotify playlists when we hit shuffle!) and the Word; it calmed my troubled heart hour by hour.

 

Seek and you shall find.

Seeking wise counsel is an often overlooked gem in our Christian journey. Proverbs reminds us that wisdom is the principal thing! If you’re struggling to surrender to God’s plans for you, seek godly wisdom from leaders and friends. 

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days (Proverbs 19:20). When God’s plans don’t make sense, godly advice can be a lamp shining in the dark, pointing you back to faith in His goodness. My parents and sister, close friends, and spiritual mentors were a huge source of encouragement in that season of hopelessness, reminding me that following Christ’s purpose sometimes isn’t what the world wants, or accepts. Their wisdom gave me the courage to silence the worldly voices, and rest in obedience.

 

Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

Finally, knock at the door of your own heart and ask God to reveal what’s stopping you from trusting His plans. Sometimes, it’s because we’re more confident in our rational minds than in a Sovereign God. I was definitely guilty of that, because I thought no one could know me, my deepest thoughts and desires, better than myself. How wrong I was.

After all, we’re human. Our plans are oftenif not alwayssmall-minded and short-sighted. We can’t see the future, so how can we truly plan for it? Perhaps we have less control over our lives than we think we do; our choices (although entirely our own) often cannot guarantee the outcomes we hope for.  

In Jeremiah 29:11-14, we find a promise of God’s purposes for us, a plan that gives us a hope and a future. His plans aren’t tarnished by sin or selfishness; they’re plans of a loving Father for His beloved children. He always has our best at heart, which is ultimately knowing our Creator in a deep and personal way, and understanding our purpose as His creation. As we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. That is His promise.

 

In 2014, I learned firsthand that His plans will always trump mine. I obeyed and didn’t look for a job. Instead, I spent time with Him, binge-watched Top Chef, stared at the ceiling fan, and wallowed in self-pity (yes, still a sinner) as I struggled to trust His crazy plan. Looking back, those were precious moments in my Christian journey, for it was there in my deep pit that God became more real than ever to me. No longer did I feel like a puppet at the mercy of a grand puppeteer. Instead I found out more about His character: He’s a good Father, and He loves me. 

True to His nature, God never let me down. A little over two months later, I found a position at a Christian humanitarian organization. Actually, after one initial inquiry led to a handful of offers, it felt more like the job found me, for God’s plans are never half-baked. He’s also a long-term planner because a year later, while deployed on the job for an emergency response, I met a great guy who had volunteered. We’re celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary this month.  

So yes, God’s plans may not make sense at the time, at least not to our limited minds. Trusting Him is not always easy, especially when it seems like nothing’s working in your favor. At times, God’s plan may not look pretty, or maybe the breakthrough you’ve been praying for hasn’t come. You may feel lost and alone, but know that if God’s brought you to this path, He will bring you through it. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, I know that for a fact (Hebrews 13:5). Stay the course, and He will steer you safely into harbor.

If you’re trying to make sense of God’s direction for your life in this season, I encourage you to be unafraid in asking Him for faith and clarity. Seek wise counsel from those with spiritual authority in your life. Knock on the door of your heart, asking the Lord to help you trust Him wholeheartedly. 

Finally, I pray you will find rest in the blessed assurance that your future is in the good, steady hands of the Ultimate Planner. 

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Seeking God in Decision-Making. Read the other articles in the series, “When You’re Skeptical of God’s Plan” here, and “When You Don’t Hear From God” here.

4 Facts About Making A Friendship Work

Written By Michelle Chun, Malaysia

Anna* and I have been close friends since I was 10. If you knew us, you’d probably wonder why we’re friends. At times, I do, too. Sure, we share fond childhood memories, but we’re no longer the little girls we used to be. We don’t have common interests, nor do we move in the same circles. We don’t exactly “click”—carrying a conversation can be an effort at times, and lengthy silences are a norm when we hang out.

Yet she’s one of the most important people in my life.

Many friendships these days are easy come, easy go. Media and the digital age make it so easy to make friends. We have many different social circles (work, school, church, sports, etc.) to hop in and out of, and endless possibilities when it comes to things to do and places to go. On the way, we make friends, adding to the ones we already have. We also lose friends.

Once we reach our 20s, we may discover that while we have many friends, only a handful are the ones we’d call if we can’t sleep or need prayer, counsel, or emergency compliments. They’re also the ones we know would call us if they ever needed quiet company—or just a lame joke.

Anna’s that kind of friend. It would have been easy to let this friendship fade away, as she’s been living on the other side of the world for the past six years. Choosing to work at its, however, is one of the best decisions I’ve made. And I’ve learnt a few things along the way:

1. Friendship is hard work. No matter what the next big social app tells us, let’s not be fooled. Friendship is more than accepting a “Friend Request” or “following” a friend. It requires commitment, patience, and sacrifice. It can mean having to brave the traffic jam for a half-hour catch-up session instead of watching our favorite television series, or resisting the urge to say “I told you so” when a friend regrets making a decision we’d advised him or her against. It means making time for Skype calls even when time zones just seem to work against us. Friendship is hard work.

2. Friendship is about growing together. Proverbs 17:17 is a popular verse when it comes to talking about the value of friendships. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Isn’t the Bible full of wisdom? I’m always in awe at how timeless God’s word is, and how applicable it is no matter the century or culture. Friendship is about growing together, about choosing to love (and be loved) at all times; our friends shouldn’t be projects we’re trying to fix. It’s about being a tangible expression of God’s love to each other, and about challenging each other to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Iron sharpens iron!

3. Friendship isn’t about being everyone’s friend. Being a good friend is not about being a people pleaser. I’ve come across a number of people over the years who have given in and given up so much to be “cool” or to fit in, but wake up one day to realize they’ve completely lost every sense of who they are. The truth is, not everyone will want to be our friend, and we won’t want to be everyone’s friend too. And that’s perfectly okay. We have the best example of a true friend in Jesus, so let’s walk in His footsteps and let Him shine through us! He’ll strengthen us to be the best kind of friend we can be to those around us.

4. Friendship is priceless. You can’t buy a true friend. In a culture where friendship is so loosely defined, and commitment and loyalty are not always prized, finding someone who truly loves us, wants the best for us, and is willing to walk and grow with us, is rare. They are there, though! When we do find them, we should keep them close to our hearts. For me, Anna’s a priceless pearl.

Remember, too, that if we want to have good friends, we must first be friendly ourselves. What an example we have in Jesus! He loves us as we are, and guides and leads us along the way so we can live out the wonderful purpose our Father has for us.

With Christ in us, we can be a great friend to others.

*Name changed

 

Click here to view “Editor’s Picks: Top 3 Articles | Life Hacks

Chopping Boards, Tablets, and Being Thankful

Sometime last month, an Argentinian boy on the other side of the world made me cry. I don’t even know his name. But big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched the three-minute video clip—a beautiful capture of a thankful heart.

You may have come across it—a young boy clad in red and white pyjamas, excitedly opening a gift from his parents . . . only to find a wooden chopping board. I can only imagine how he was feeling; he’d known what he wanted, and that wasn’t it.

But this child has a quality many of us may take years to learn. Not only did he bravely swallow the bitter pill of disappointment, he thanked his parents sincerely, giving his mother a hug and a kiss as he jokingly talked about how he would be chopping meat on it soon.

Then his real gift came. A rectangular box covered in bright, shiny blue wrapping paper. He peeled it off in anticipation, unveiling a shoe box. But the moment of realization only hit when he lifted the shoe box’s lid, landing his sight on the packaging of a tablet computer; he knew instantly that was the real deal. And yet this amazing boy didn’t continue opening the gift (and you can see how much he wanted it!). Instead, he went straight to his parents, eyes welling up with tears. Overwhelmed, he kept saying, “Gracias. Gracias. Gracias.”

We all have our own fair share of receiving “chopping boards”—experiences scarred by disappointment, dashed hopes, and the frustration of not knowing “why.” It can be really difficult to find it in our hearts to be thankful for them, no matter how hard we try.

In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I find these words so encouraging! God, who loves us dearly and knows our hearts, strengthens us so we can truly be content in all our circumstances. I’ve found that the more I focus on Him, the easier it is to find things to be thankful for. It is relishing the gentle pink sunrise instead of complaining about the morning traffic, or whispering a “Thank you, God” when Spotify shuffles my playlist and plays a song my heart really needs to hear right then.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, let’s find a quiet moment to sit still and remember with grateful hearts God’s unfailing love for us. It was His love that sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the ultimate price for our sins, and it is this love that shares our joy and comforts us in our troubles.

So when it seems that all we’re getting are life’s “chopping boards”, we can look to God and know that the best is always yet to come when He leads the way. He is shaping us every day, for our good and for His glory. And if we know that in our hearts, there will always be something (and more importantly, someone) we can always be thankful for.

Written By Michelle Chun for YMI