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The #AgeChallenge: Will You Still Look Like You in 50 Years?

In the past few days, my social media feeds have been filled with pictures of my friends—except 40-50 years’ older—with the hashtag #AgeChallenge or #FaceAppChallenge.

The #AgeChallenge involves uploading a photo of yourself—or someone else, if you’d prefer—on the FaceApp, and using one of its filters to show you how you might look like in a few decades. (If that image is too daunting, there is also a filter that allows you to travel back in time and revel in how you used to look like decades ago.) Since the trend has caught on, the Internet has been filled with not just “aged” photos of ordinary people, but memes of celebrities reminding us all that beauty is fleeting—even for the rich and famous.

 

Photo of the Jonas Brothers without the FaceApp filter, taken from @jonasbrothers

Photo of the Jonas Brothers with the FaceApp filter, taken from @jonasbrothers

 

After casting a few bemused glances at my friends’ photos, I decided to take the plunge and see how I myself might look like in 50 years’ time.

To my horror, the FaceApp predicted that the ageing process would not go down very gracefully for me. In fact, if that projected image was anything to go by, not only would I have to contend with physical problems that I’m already dealing with—a back that’s aching even after a good eight hours of sleep, failing eyesight, and wobbly knees on the verge of crumbling if I overexert myself—but every crease and line on my face would be lengthened and magnified, and the evidence of all that fried chicken and ice cream I’ve been consuming would remain permanently lodged in my cheeks.

That made me wonder how any of my friends found the courage to share those photos of themselves—mine went straight into the trash bin but remained engraved in my mind’s eye.

A few other colleagues who also took on the challenge reeled at the sight of how they might look like in 50 years’, and we found ourselves sighing in relief, “Thank goodness we won’t look like this immediately!”

Our comments made me wonder: Why is it that when we think about ageing or growing older, all that fills our minds is negativity? We imagine how our bodies will sag, our energy levels will peter out, our heads filled with a white crown of hair (which we’re now diligently attempting to color out), and our faces marked with deepened lines and wrinkles—and fear and dread begin to creep into our hearts.

More importantly, why do we mostly associate ageing with our physical appearance? In fact, even without the aid of the #AgeChallenge, I’ve noticed that most of my conversations with my friends often revolve around how we can slow down the ageing process through facial masks, supplements, detox programs, laser treatments, the nine-step Korean skincare regime . . . and the list goes on.

We know that ageing is inevitable, and no amount of money we pour into beauty products will stop those dreaded lines and wrinkles from appearing on our faces eventually—so why not turn the #AgeChallenge into a challenge to age well?

When I think about the people in my life who have aged gracefully, I realize that what draws me to them has nothing to do with the way they look, but the wisdom that I can glean from their stories, the excitement in their voices as they recall God’s faithfulness in their lives, their undying passion and enthusiasm to serve God, and the grace with which they carry themselves. These are the people who make me think, “I hope I’ll still be as passionate for God as they are when I’m their age.”

That prompted me to think about ageing in a different way: instead of fretting about how I might look in the future, would I live a life that others could look up to, and which would point others to Christ?

What if someone invented an app that showed us what would be inside our hearts in 50 years’ time instead? What would we see? Traces of regrets, unforgiveness, bitterness, hardness of heart—or a heart at rest in Christ and joyously looking forward to an eternity with Him (where, thankfully, we are promised in Philippians 3:20-21 that our lowly bodies will one day become transformed so that they will be like His glorious body)?

This question has been weighing on my mind since a few days ago, when we were asked at cell group to draw a picture of where we see ourselves in 5-10 years’ time. That night, I was stumped and just stared blankly at my paper.

Perhaps it was due to the fact that over the course of the past five years, I’ve seen God derail my plans one by one . . . sometimes using the most humbling methods to set me on a detour so I would be on the right track with Him.

I have seen years of hard work crumble into dust in a day, lost my first job within nine months, gone through long periods of unemployment and closed doors right after months of serving God in the mission field, spent years being trapped in toxic environments and caught in the middle of conflicts I had no power to change.

In the midst of these crushing and confusing seasons in my life, I’ve often been tempted to turn away from God or blame Him for my circumstances, but one fact remained clear: even when God was leading me through what seemed like my absolute last choice or plans that I begrudgingly obeyed only because I had no other choice, He always led me to a better place.

That made me wonder if it was all that important how I looked like or what I achieved or did in not just 10, but 50 years’ time. The more I reflected on how God had brought me to where I am at this moment, I thought: If the next 5-10 years of my life looks anything like what the past 5-10 years has been, then perhaps the question to ask myself is, what would the posture of my heart be towards God?

Would I be quicker to obey God and trust His plans for my life? Would I still be faithfully pursuing His purposes instead of my own agenda? Would I become better at considering it “pure joy” when trials come my way (James 1:2-4)?

These are questions that require deep thinking which may age us, but our responses to them will determine whether or not we age gracefully—and with God’s grace.

Having been brought to the lowest point of my life, I now know that the only vision for my life that I can rely on is that of a heart anchored in Christ and walking in step with Him. And perhaps that’s the only grand plan that matters. If my vision for my life is to live in pursuit of righteousness—a life of living rightly by God—then it doesn’t matter where He leads me to or even how I look like, I can be assured that He will order all my steps, and that I will “still bear fruit in old age” and “stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).

In fact, when I approach my life this way, I can look forward to what’s to come in 10, 20, 50 years’ time because I know while I may be wasting away on the outside, I am still being renewed on the inside from day to day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and there will be plenty of opportunities for me to grow in wisdom and to continue to experience His goodness in my life.

Memorizing Scripture Changed My Life

Written By Ruth Lawrence, UK

I’ve decided to memorize the whole of the book of Luke. I know—it sounds a bit insane. But let me tell you how I got to this point.

It started during the long, hot, sticky summers of my childhood, at an annual Bible club where I discovered I could quickly learn a verse just before it was my turn to recite it at the end of the week, and then claim a prize before forgetting all about the verse.

One time, I set about learning and then actually retaining the verse. And I had success. I was so pleased with my recall that months later, I asked my Dad if I could still recite the verse and get a prize. He affirmed my efforts, reached into his pocket, and gave me some change to buy sweets. Every so often I would ask again, and the result would always be the same.

For a few years, I was happy with my one verse (John 3:16, by the way). But when I was about 15, my Dad (probably fed up with being asked for prizes), set me a challenge. If I could memorize Matthew 5, 6 & 7, I would get £5 for each chapter that I learned. It turned out to be much harder than I thought. I earned £5 for chapter 5, but gave up after that. However, I did learn that I could effectively memorize scripture.

My secret is to repeat it 10 times—no really, it is! I use an app now to help me memorize, but when I had to do this screen-free, the answer was 10. I took a verse and broke it down down into parts. Then I took one part and repeated it until I could say it without looking. Next? I moved to the second part, and then each line individually, until I had the complete verse—repeating it to myself 10 times until it was memorized.

However, the real work is retaining the Scripture. I love this part the most. Each day, to keep the verse alive in my mind, I review it. Eventually I don’t need to do it 10 times anymore. Each day, it becomes easier to remember. And that’s when it grows in me as I mull it over and come to grips with what I’m reading.

 

Putting An Old Skill to New Use

For a while, all I memorized was the occasional Bible passage, or notes for my exams. But all of that changed a couple of years ago when I started to experience considerable worry and anxiety.

When I felt the worry sink in, I couldn’t pinpoint why I was worried. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that—where your mind just goes off on its own and there’s no reining it in, leaving you consumed with worry and you can’t quite tell why? It makes it difficult to concentrate, even on the stuff right in front of you.

This crippling worry led me to consider memorizing the Bible again. Soon I found myself memorizing two chapters that I already enjoyed reading: John 15 and Hebrews 12.

In my journey fighting consuming anxiety, memorizing scripture has been an immense source of comfort, and things have slowly started to change. But mostly? It’s teaching me to approach the Bible differently.

 

When Scripture Becomes More Real Than My Anxiety

This summer will be two years since I restarted actively learning parts of the Bible and although I’ve come a long way in my battle with anxiety, I’m still not completely free. However, I’ve found solace in the important difference between memorizing my lecture notes for exams and learning God’s Word—it’s that God’s Word is alive! Before I started this process, I had no idea what this meant. Filling my head with knowledge for an exam was helpful for studying, but it didn’t change how I thought or how I lived. God’s Word is different.

As I’ve listened to what Jesus is saying in Luke, I’ve been challenged about what I do and think—particularly when He teaches about trusting our Heavenly Father and not being anxious or troubled. I’ve found myself praying, “Lord what you’re saying is really hard, I don’t think I can achieve this on my own. Please help me to realign my thinking with Your truth.” It’s not even a conscious request. It’s like breathing—simply the result of soaking in His Word.

This method of learning the Bible is a slow process. It’s not a sprint or even a marathon. It’s a long, steady walk. But as I’ve been chewing on God’s Word, I’ve felt like I’ve actually been among the crowds, hanging off His words as He breaks the bread and feeds the five thousand. Or that I’ve been sitting at His feet with Mary as He tells Martha that Mary has made the better choice to sit and listen to Him.

 

Something Better Than Healing

No, memorizing scripture hasn’t magically rid me of my struggles, but it has given me so much to ponder and turn over, that sometimes, I can get lost in Jesus’ company as I read the stories about Him. God’s Word is full of treasures, and I’ve been able to replace some of my thoughts and worries with these rich words that come from God Himself. This process has helped me fall in love with God’s Word again. I started out hoping to fix a problem and have peace of mind, but I’ve found so much more.

I recently convinced a friend of mine to give scripture memorization a try, and I hope I can convince you to try it, too. I find it helpful to start somewhere small, like a psalm. Remember this isn’t about memorizing a whole book, or even a whole chapter—it’s a conversation between you and God as you read His Word and let it live in your heart and mind. If you’re open, God will change you through it.

No longer are the stories that I grew up reading dull and boring because I’ve heard them a thousand times already . . . Nor do I need a prize to get me motivated—my prize is the immeasurable riches that I am finding as I walk with God through His Word.

 

Truths I Wish to Share with My 20-Year-Old Self

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

In my early twenties, I hated being single. I thought it meant that I was unattractive and unwanted.

I had a secret crush on someone in university. When I was studying with my best friend between classes, he would often walk up to greet us and would offer help whenever we needed. I thought he was a friendly and helpful guy, and started to secretly admire him. Then one day, I realized he was doing all this to woo my best friend, and my world crumbled.

Am I not attractive enough? Why don’t I have a guy who is willing to do so much for me? Why doesn’t he woo me?

It affected my self-confidence and left me broken.

Growing up with eczema, I always felt inferior. I was short and had ordinary looks, and it didn’t help that my figure was just a rectangle. I hated my looks, and felt embarrassed at never having dated when most of my friends had boyfriends. I thought having dated meant that a woman was attractive. Many older people also told me it was very important for girls to be married, because being unmarried by a certain age meant that I would be out of the norm, incomplete, and left on the shelf.

Now that I’ve survived that painful period, I can see how wrong I was to think those thoughts. If I ever had a chance to talk to my 20-year-old self, I would refute the lies that I had been telling myself: that I am not attractive and that I am abnormal if I am single.

I would tell myself that my attractiveness does not come from the fleeting beauty of physical appearance—but from a heart that is at rest in Christ.

Our height, body shape or size, what jewels we wear, how expensive our clothes are or how fashionably we do our hair—none of these matters. Unfading beauty comes from a quiet and gentle spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:3-4), and one who fears the Lord is praiseworthy regardless of how she looks (Proverbs 31:30). Our confidence should therefore come not from our physical appearance, but rather from God—who knew us even before we were born.

Instead of focusing on my appearance, I would tell myself to take captive my thoughts and focus on the One who created me, knows me and loves me, and who willingly redeemed me with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Now when I find myself stressing over my outward appearance, I constantly remind myself of the truth in God’s Word. The unchanging Word comforts me and gives me confidence when I am with people whom I find more beautiful than myself. Because I know that God looks at our hearts rather than our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

I also realized that if we place our confidence in our physical beauty, we become easily upset with any blemish and wrinkle or any extra pound gained—because we would be chasing after fading beauty. We can never find contentment with our looks until we place our confidence in God’s standard of beauty. Knowing that God knows us and loves us, we can find an unshakable confidence in our God-given identities, even when our physical beauty fades.

I would tell myself that not being married by a certain age does NOT mean I am unwanted—but that I can trust God’s perfect plan for my life.

We are never left unwanted, because our heavenly Father already loves us. We are precious to Him.

As God’s beloved, we must not conform to the patterns of this world, but rather we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds in God that we may discern His good and perfect will for us (Romans 12:2). Committing ourselves to the ways of God and obeying His will for us is more important than finding a boyfriend or husband. God’s plan for each of us is different.

Paul tells us that a single life is God’s gift to some, and a married life His gift to others (2 Corinthians 7:7). We know that earthly marriage mimics and reminds us of the heavenly marriage that is to come (Luke 20:34-36), while a single life allows us more time and energy to serve God. Whatever the case, we know that His plans for us are always good.

God created us for His glory, and so we do not live our lives for ourselves. If God’s plans for us is to be married, let us glorify Him in our marriage. If His plans are for us to be single, let us glorify Him in our singleness.

If I could go back and talk to 20-year-old me, I would urge her to find joy by surrendering her singleness to Christ and seeing her worth in Him alone. There is value in surrendering this season of our lives to Him because in our singleness, God can show us that we are not alone. He is with us. As we give Him our insecurities and fears, He can turn our ashes into beauty. As we spend our quiet moments with Him, He can help us use His gifts in unique and beautiful ways.

When we anchor ourselves in Christ, we can be secure in Him. The more we see ourselves as living servants of Christ, the more we are freed from the need to conform to the standards of the world.

To my 20-year-old self: know that you are fully accepted and loved in Christ.

That is the unchanging truth that liberates us. May we be content with what God has given us, and in any situation—single or married—focus instead on becoming the person Christ is shaping us to become.

When Depression Drove Me Away From God

Written By Ruth, Singapore

I have been struggling with depression all my life, but recently, I hit a breaking point. I was furious at the Lord, questioning why He had not taken this illness away.

In an attempt to spite God for leaving me with the burden of depression, I chose to intentionally sin against Him. I went on dates with men I met online and spent a lot of time with them instead of my church mates, friends, and family. I also began to indulge in alcohol, which seemed like a good form of distraction from thinking about God or my actions. I would often drink till my heart’s content, letting myself be filled with feelings of indifference and “bliss”.

I was seeking temporary relief and anything that could numb the stinging feeling of misery in my heart. But despite my attempts, every single morning when I woke up, I would find that the pain did not go away and my heart was still as empty.

Throughout this season, I still attended church, albeit with a cold heart. I also continued meeting some Christian friends. Looking back now, I know that all these were actually part of His plans to reveal Himself to me in small and clear ways.

 

God’s persistent pursuit of me

What left a huge impact on me during this period was how my Christian friends responded to my actions. Instead of putting on a “holier than thou” front and demanding that I stop sinning, they stood by me and showed me God’s love and grace. They gave me time to think about things, and space to wrestle with God.

One friend in particular prayed for me daily. Every single day, she texted me to ask about my progress and how I was feeling. She also took time to understand me and was available whenever I needed her. Above all, she prayed and trusted in the Lord. Till today, she is stil­l praying for me.

Even in my rebellion, I knew that the love, faithfulness, and immense patience I experienced through my friends was from God. I could sense that He was pursuing me, even when I tried to distance myself from Him and others around me.

Eventually, I could not deny His presence or ignore His pursuit of me anymore. I had learned that the life I was running to was unfulfilling. It would never bring me the freedom I longed for. Nothing, apart from Him, could bring me freedom or joy. I decided that even if I still struggled with depression and other sins, even if I’d probably fail Him time and time again, God will never forsake me, and He is worthy of my trust.

 

The problem with coming back to Christ

However, even after I made up my mind to turn back to Him, it still took months before I gained the courage to call upon the name of Jesus again.

The turning point came when I heard a sermon on the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The message got me thinking: Was I actually afraid to turn back to God because I thought that He may not receive me with open arms anymore? I reasoned that God knows my sin against Him on an even deeper level than my friends, family, or anyone I could hide things from. How could He really want me?

When I considered the depth and weight of my sin, it was so excruciating that I found it difficult to even lift my head in front of our Holy God. But this story in Luke reminded me of God’s willingness to receive me. I’m now slowly starting to grasp the truth that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is enough to cover my sin, and I stopped doubting God’s forgiveness and the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the Cross.

 

What my journey means for me now

Today, I know that nothing—even depression—can take me away from God’s love and forgiveness (Romans 8:38-39). Turning back to God gave me a sense of peace and hope that both alcohol and men could not provide.

Although sometimes I feel like I am still at the bottom of a dark well, I hold fast to the promises of God. Just as God promised Joshua, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)”, I know that the Lord is with me even in this deep well.

He brings light into my darkness, and this light allows me to see who God truly is—love. I am also assured that because of Christ, I am no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). Although I may still succumb to the weakness of my flesh, I am no longer turning my back on God, but asking Him for an obedient heart to do what pleases Him.

If you’ve been running from God or struggling like I was (and still am sometimes), I pray that you can find strength to turn to the Maker and Comforter of your soul! If you feel lost or distant from God, remember this: God loves you. God chose you. God died and bled for you so that you could be forgiven and His grace for you is sufficient! Hear this verse as a personal call to you:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, ESV).

If you have a friend who has left the body of Christ, I want to assure you that what your friend needs is all of the love, grace, support, and time he or she can get. Your friend may need months, or even years, before they come back to the faith. Keep showing them God’s love in the meantime, and be faithful in prayer, remembering that everything will work out—not in our timing, not in your friend’s, but in God’s perfect timing.