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God Isn’t Done With Your Story Yet

Growing up, I lived in great fear of my abusive father. I was neglected, beaten, and abused. His treatment convinced me that I was unwanted—a burden hardly worth being tolerated.

By age 15, this led me to become very embittered and depressed. I felt rejected, and covered up my incredible loneliness and pain with an angry protective mask.

Void of love and acceptance, I often questioned why I was alive, and whether my life even mattered. Somewhere deep inside, there was a part of me that longed to know that there was more to life than the hard, angry world that surrounded me.

As long as these questions about purpose remained unanswered, the emptiness I experienced persisted in a deep way. But when I found the answer to why I existed, there came a change so radical, things haven’t been the same since.

 

The dead, lonely end the world led me to 

As I grasped for purpose, my natural inclination was to turn towards what the world offered. So I sought my identity through sports and girls. I chased fulfillment through alcohol and drugs, and found temporary escape through music. I looked to bottles of vodka for peace, and another high from drugs to give me relief from my pain.

Of course, the relief never lasted long. I kept trying to convince myself that these worldly pursuits would help me, when in fact, they left me feeling more confused about my purpose in life—endlessly caught in a dangerous cycle of addiction that only left me empty.

 

At the end of myself, I finally looked to God

Through years of building up anger and bitterness against God and everyone, I had ignored the efforts of those who tried to share the Good News with me. But I eventually found myself desperate for something—anything—that could help me make sense of my life. And that desperation led me to reconsider the gospel I had distanced myself from. I had tried nearly everything else, and knew how deeply these things had failed to give me meaning. Perhaps it was time to give Christianity a chance.

From a point of despair, I was drawn to the rich promise Jesus makes, of a life of fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Him. I longed to experience that in my own life—to have a taste of the water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:12-14).

Finally, at age 16, I received Christ into my life and began a life-long process of learning how Jesus is the source of life and the answer to my quest for purpose.

 

A new creation in the same circumstances

However, once I accepted Jesus, my circumstances remained the same. Drugs and alcohol still beckoned me. My father was still abusive, and offered nothing resembling love or acceptance. Yet, while my circumstances remained unchanged, things couldn’t have been more different on the inside.

The difference lay in the reality that I no longer felt imprisoned by the situation I was in. Since Jesus had saved me from the confines of sin, He welcomed me as an adopted child, offering the unconditional love and acceptance that I had been so desperate for (1 John 3:1). Through redemption, He gave me hope for a life outside the traps of fear and cycles of addiction.

Though accepting Christ wasn’t a quick fix for all of my problems, it cut to the core of many of the deep struggles I had about identity and purpose. God taught me how to overcome the lures of the things of the world, and instead, to look to His Word to understand that I was made for Him (Colossians 1:16), and His purposes!

How God is still helping me understand my purpose

As I continue my journey as a Christian, God is constantly exposing ways that I rely on things apart from Him to understand my place in this world. Recently, I’ve had to work through the temptation to look to the applause of men for affirmation of the work I do in church. Instead of looking to others, I remind myself that in trying to make sense of who I am, or what I do, I must look to Christ. Because Christ is the reason I am. He is the one who sacrificed His own life—to offer us a way to come back into relationship with the very One who created us.

When we get caught up in the busyness of life, there are a thousand ways to lose sight of this. In order to carefully re-center my thoughts when I find myself straying, I’ve started a practice of pausing and praying. I ask God to silence the loud noise of my surroundings, which only offers loud, false hope. I ask Him to help me listen to His still, small voice that calls me to Him. In these moments, I’m reminded that God is all I have ever needed or longed for. Even if briefly, I can be still and rest in knowing that He is God (Psalm 16:10).

And this helps me remember one of the freedoms we have in Christ—freedom from the pursuit of seeking satisfaction from the things of this earth, from being failed by jobs and relationships, or whatever else we are tempted to define ourselves by. I have found peace in knowing that true eternal satisfaction is found in praising and worshiping God.

It’s my hope that I can encourage others to find hope in the freedom Christ offers—freedom which allows us to turn from self-indulgent pursuits, and to worship God freely with grateful hearts and satisfied souls.

Depressed—At the Height of My Success

Written By Ong Sook Yee, Malaysia

I’ve always been on the quest for love. I was born in a non-Christian family and didn’t know about God, so I turned to the media to define love for me.

I grew up believing that love is found in being in a relationship and attaining those #relationshipgoals that dominate my social media feeds. I believed that I would be loved by those around me if I did well in school and carved out a successful career for myself.

So I began striving in those areas of my life, turning them into my idols. I was like a circus act, constantly going above and beyond for the people around me in hopes that they would take delight in me.

I moved from one toxic relationship to another. I thought it was only normal to experience the hurt and abuse that I did in those relationships. No matter how much I did to prove myself worthy of my partner’s love, all that came back to me was more pain and confusion.

There came a time when everything in my life finally came together. At the age of 23, I was headhunted into a company that paid me extremely well. I was driving a new car. I was in a stable relationship, and my family and friends loved me. After the endless striving and hurt, I was finally living the perfect life that I had always envisioned.

But that was when everything began to fall apart. Rather than feeling satisfied with all that I had achieved, I felt extremely depressed and empty within. The peak wasn’t the peak after all. I began asking myself, “Why am I here? Do I deserve to be loved?”

I spent many days crying in the car park of my workplace. I did not attempt to reach out for help. Instead, I tried hard to mask my condition from those around me because I was afraid that they would not understand me. Wasn’t I living the dream life everyone wanted? I grew increasingly frustrated with myself because I couldn’t reconcile my achievements with how I was feeling on the inside. And my condition worsened because I was in denial about what I was going through.

One morning, I decided to end my life as I lay in bed. At this very moment, I felt God speak these words to me:

Without God, life has no purpose.

At that time, a friend had brought me to church, so I had already started attending church and was serving there occasionally. I had even said the Sinner’s Prayer. But nothing in my life changed because I had not truly known God for myself.

But on that day, God called me out of my brokenness and confusion with those six words. He gave me the sense of hope and love that I have been seeking for my whole life. So I gave my life to Christ, and He healed me from my depression.

Soon after, God led me to approach a friend who became my spiritual mentor. She emphasized the importance of being rooted in the Bible, so we began to read the Bible and work through my questions and doubts together.

As I began to know more about God and surrendered my life to Him, He has been continually breaking my old ways and reshaping me to live the new life He has called me to. He revealed my past hurts in order to completely heal me of my brokenness. He also gave me strength and wisdom to stand by my faith when my family opposed my decision to become a Christian. With God’s help, I am learning day by day what it means to walk with Him and trust Him with my whole life.

After some time, I began toying with the idea of selling Christian enamel pins—calling it Prince of Pins. I wanted to use these small but powerful enamel pins to share with people about the loving God who had healed me of my depression. I envisioned these pins being used to share the gospel.

At that time, I was still working in my previous company, but my hunger and conviction to make this venture a reality grew stronger by the day. But I knew I needed the support of my family—especially my father—to make it happen.

My father is a businessman himself and I have always wanted to follow in his footsteps as his daughter. Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of starting a business to help others but I didn’t know how to go about it. Every time I had an idea for a business, I would present it to my father but he always rejected them.

However, when it came to Prince of Pins, he was very supportive of the idea despite being a non-believer. He even offered to support the business financially. This then became my biggest confirmation to go ahead with it. I quit my job and pursued the venture full-time.

When I first started Prince of Pins, I would look through Pinterest to find verses that spoke to people or from my own Bible study, and work on sketches that our designer would turn into the pins. However, our second series of pins, the Triumphant series, was one that was born out my lowest moment when I almost gave up on the business.

I was filled with enthusiasm and childlike faith when we first started out, but I was soon tired of the financial instability and challenges that came up with helming a start-up venture, so I took up a full-time job. However, it became clear that I couldn’t manage both, and had to choose either one. In the end, I decided to go back into doing Prince of Pins full-time, and God has been faithful in sustaining us. The Triumphant series for me was a reminder to declare God’s victory and promises over our lives even when we don’t see it.

 

A selection of pins from Prince of Pins.

Through Prince of Pins, our team has had the opportunity to minister to people and reach places that we could have never imagined. We pray through every decision from the choice of designers to manufacturers, and it has been an encouraging journey as we have witnessed how our pins have encouraged and comforted our recipients.

For example, we like to engage our followers on Instagram. Once, we put up a poll on InstaStory asking our followers whether they were doing ok, and then we reached out personally to those who answered “no”. Through that exercise, we got to pray with a guy who was struggling with pornography and had moved away from God, and another who was battling with suicide and feeling lost. Even non-believers would open up about their struggles through that platform, and it was an opportunity for us to show them the love of Christ.

Another story that is close to my heart is a testimony that was shared by someone who purchased our pins to bless some young girls she was journeying with. She gave out the pins randomly, but one of the girls came back to her and said that the message on the pin—“I am a child of God”—was the word that she needed for that season in her life. God had been revealing to her that she had a fear of abandonment due to her past, and the pin was a reminder to her of the work that God wanted to do in her life.

Stories like these help me see God’s purpose for Prince of Pinsour mission is not just to create pins, but more importantly, to pin God’s love on the hearts of people. The impact of what we’ve been able to do through this little project has made the entire journey so worth it, and is a humbling reminder of what God can do when we trust Him.

Even though there have been many occasions where I had wanted to give up when our circumstances were tough and uncertain, these struggles have deepened my walk with God. Each time we were faced with challenges, God has been faithful to show us His love, and we’ve learned that these are opportunities for Him to prune away our unfruitful thoughts or behavior, so that we may grow in christlikeness and dependence on Him.

Just like Prince of Pins, I am also a work in progress. The road ahead will be tough but I know that God is my refuge, strength and ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). I believe that His Word will continue to be my anchor, giving me the comfort and strength I need to face my struggles.

If you’re struggling to find your purpose and passion in life, I want to encourage you to keep being faithful in the small things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Keep seeking God and He will reveal His plans for you in His perfect timing.

 

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, we encourage you to reach out to someone or look up your local suicide helpline to seek professional help. 

When Reality Doesn’t Match Up With Your Dreams

Written By Sean Tong, England

“MORE!!!”

Through the tiny slit of the curtain, the baying fans coalesced into one voice commanding that we come back on stage. It was a frenzy. The floor began to thump with the incessant pounding of feet declaring their need for more. I held back a few moments to bask in my success. Then I calmly walked on stage, grabbed my Fender Mustang guitar, and enjoyed the overflowing joy of the crowd as I struck the first staccato chords of the encore.

I wish.

Since I first caught the primal energy of the band Nirvana, I had wanted, nay, longed to be on a stage with a guitar whipping a crowd into a stage-diving, beer-flinging, arm-waving sea of joy.

Instead, I find myself in a normal nine-to-five job. In a normal town. In a normal life. Is there any purpose to this? What is life for if I can’t spend my days rocking it out at the world’s greatest rock festivals? This wasn’t the life I had hoped for. But the need for a stable job, lack of a drummer (why are drummers so hard to find?), and a growing desire to stay in my local church precluded that from ever happening.

Perhaps you feel a sense of unfulfillment too. Life may not be all that you were expecting. That dream career with a big fat salary and excellent pension fund never materialized. That exceptionally beautiful/handsome spouse never showed up. You are just waiting for life to. . . happen.

So, what is the point? What are we to do?

One of the Pharisees once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus’ reply?

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. And also we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is our purpose. That is what we are to do. These two things do not sound particularly appealing or exciting, but they are better, more beautiful, and longer lasting than any life as a rock star, award-winning actor, or sports personality. Indeed, James Bond author Ian Fleming was once asked what it was like to be successful. “Ashes, dear boy, ashes,” came his despondent reply.

It’s been a journey in learning to lay down my dreams and obey God’s commands, but God has worked wonderfully in my life so that I am currently content. He has given me a wonderful (though at times frustrating and annoying) church family to love and enjoy. I am fulfilled despite the lack of loving adoration from a rock concert crowd. Spending time with others in my church is where I get my contentment—from serving them as I serve Him. Getting to share the joys and disappointments of everyday life with my church family is what I enjoy and long for now.

Loving our neighbor doesn’t have to show itself in extraordinary ways. This purpose in our lives doesn’t have to (though it definitely might) involve something dramatic and outlandish. We don’t have to be a famous preacher with book sales through the roof. We don’t have to start organizations that will feed half the world’s poor. We don’t have to be the best at everything at church.

So, what does this love look like?

It looks like a humble life that seeks to serve God and others. This will likely be in a variety of ways, but it can be as simple as helping others at church. Offering lifts to the elderly, sharing your home with others, reading the Bible and praying with others, cooking meals for those who are ill, or just sitting down with someone over a cup of tea.

We don’t have to despair with our lot—we do have a purpose. And even work hours (that nine-to-five spent not performing rock songs) provides opportunities for me to obey this command. The joy in helping others in their work and sharing life with them is truly more meaningful than any response from a killer distorted power chord.

 

Capturing Purpose

Title: Capturing Purpose
Description: We asked a bunch of creative Christian photographers to capture a photo that defines their purpose. We were intrigued to find out what their views and perspectives were. Each of us has a different purpose in life, and use our skills, gifts, and interests to express it in different ways. However, at the heart of it all, there is one thing that ties our purpose together—our desire to glorify God’s name.

What is your purpose? How would you capture it?

 

Purpose Through Stillness

Photographed by: Cheryl (@cherrrrrz)

 

I often wonder what is God’s purpose in my life. Are my goals and decisions in line with His purpose?

When I witnessed the calm flow of the ocean, I was once again reminded of stillness. Being still before God’s presence has taught me that He is faithful and He has complete sovereignty over my life. I don’t have to worry about what lies ahead!  

I believe that God will guide the waves of our life by providing people and opportunities at every juncture. We only need to be still, have faith in Him and follow His leading to where we need to be.

 

 

The God-given Task

Photographed by: James (@ohsnapjames)

 

All of us strive to find purpose in our lives. We deem our lives meaningful when we find purpose in what we do, from our vocations to our families. In contrast, life can feel meaningless when we fail to fulfill a satisfying purpose.

When God created man in His image, He commanded them to work and care for His creation. He told them to procreate that His glory, as reflected in man, will fill the whole earth.

But it doesn’t stop there. For us who have received God’s grace through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, we have a greater purpose in our lives. Jesus commands us as His followers to go and make disciples of all nations. While God is glorified through the physical multiplication of man, He is also glorified through the spiritual multiplication of men who come to know, believe, and worship Him.

What is the purpose of my life then? It is to be a good steward of His creation, and play a part in the Great Commission to lead others to glorify Him and delight in Him too.

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

 

 

Courage

Photographed by: Clara (@theperfectstatement)

 

At the beginning of the year, I contemplated whether I should pursue my dream of being a full-time photographer. But I was hesitant to share this with my family and friends for many reasons. I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough. I was fearful of criticism and failure.

One morning, I was running at MacRitchie Reservoir when I was greeted by a beautiful ray of sunlight. It seemed like a reflection of God’s love to me, reminding me that I can be courageous because He is with me. So I took this jump of faith to pursue my dream.

In this season of my life, I firmly believe that my purpose lies in wedding photography. I hope to connect hearts and capture the genuine emotions of my clients in my photographs. When times are tough, I hope that they will serve as a reminder to the couples of their commitment to each other.

It has been tough taking this step of faith as I do not enjoy a stable income like my friends who draw a monthly corporate salary. But God has been bringing in clients faithfully every month and providing for my needs–reminding me that I have nothing to worry about when I walk in step with Him.

 

 

 

 

Conversations

Photographed by: Joseph (@2eternity)

 

I captured this photo as I was witnessing an intense discussion between the three men. What I saw led me to question myself: Why don’t I engage people in such a manner more often? Am I afraid of offending people when I evangelise or speak the truth? Do I shun such conversations out of fear of rejection or strained relationships?

As a child of God, I am called to share Christ with others and to be a peacemaker. This knowledge gives me courage. By God’s strength and wisdom, I desire to speak of His love with grace in every season.

 

 

In Humble Awe

Photographed by: Joshua Ong (@joshieeeeee)

 

Does the grandeur of the mountains make you feel small but valued at the same time?

God created the universe meticulously. Likewise, He created us with the same meticulous care.

Shouldn’t this knowledge make us rejoice with every fibre of our being? Let us use each moment to bring glory and praise to the Creator who loves and cares for us.

 

 

Standing on this mountain top

Photographed by: Vania

 

Climbing a mountain is not my usual type of holiday activity. But I went ahead with it, wanting to feel a sense of achievement. I was determined to reach the top and prayed that God would help me in the climb.

I struggled on the way up but the view didn’t disappoint. As I stood on the mountain top, I felt like I was catching a glimpse of God and basking in His presence.

I’ve always known that God’s creation is beautiful, but it was my first time experiencing God so intimately in His creation.
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, ESV).

Like everyone else, my purpose for the climb was to reach the top and enjoy a great view. But I believe that God intended it for His purpose, that He may declare His existence and affirm me again as I strive to live a life of worship onto Him.

 

Fresh perspective

Photographed by Joash (@joashxleephoto)

 

Since I work as a photographer, my photography is limited to what I shoot for my clients as I rarely have time to take photos outside of work. It can be mundane at times and I constantly struggle to stay ahead in terms of creativity.

Going on a recent family trip to Japan gave me the time and space to explore new photography techniques and see things from different perspectives. More importantly, I was reminded that God is the original Creator and I can always look to Him for inspiration. These fresh viewpoints renewed my purpose in photography.

I used to put just enough effort into my shoots to deliver decently nice shots but now, I am motivated to deliver my best for my clients. When we enter a state of monotony, I believe that it is important to step back, take a break from the routine, and rediscover our purpose.

God will always be my source of creativity and I hope to continue glorifying Him through my photography.