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Finding God in the Midst of Unemployment

Written By Joy-Ann Wood, Barbados

Waiting on God is not easy. It’s not like waiting in line at the bank or a department store where you can see the length of the line and the end goal—the teller or the cashier. Even though you have to wait, you trust that your turn will come because you can see the end in sight.

Instead, waiting on God can sometimes feel like waiting in a traffic jam. When you’re stuck in traffic, you are only able to inch up minute by minute. You can’t see what’s ahead, or when the jam will end. It can cause impatience and frustration.

I personally experienced this when I struggled with unemployment for over six months last year. I had been working in a contractual capacity in PR/Marketing jobs, and had run out of contract work.

As time went on, I became more frustrated by my circumstances and started to lose sight of the One who is the author of my whole story—even this confusing chapter. However, during this time, I found assurance and hope in a story from Luke 8, where Jesus’ disciples were caught in a storm and had lost sight of who Jesus is.

In Luke’s account of this story, Jesus was asleep in a boat with His disciples when a big storm came (Luke 8:22-23). As the disciples saw the threatening waves sweeping over the boat, they became fearful. They went to Jesus as He was sleeping and said, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:24). They were bewildered by their circumstances and I could relate to how they felt.

You see, as my unemployment dragged on, I found that I had no money to deposit in the bank, because I was earning none to invest. I cried over this for many days and wondered if God truly saw my situation. Some weeks, I didn’t even want to get out of bed because I was sad, frustrated, and dispirited.  I kept crying out to God, “If you supply all our needs, why aren’t you supplying mine at this time by providing a job? Lord, don’t You see I need work?”

What made my circumstances especially difficult was that the new government in my country of Barbados had started a retrenchment program during the time I was unemployed. The country had entered into a time of economic crisis, which resulted in many people getting laid off from their jobs, and further diminished my hope of finding work.

Like the disciples, I started to fear the outcome of my daunting circumstance. Since I couldn’t see God working, I felt like He didn’t really care about my situation or that He had forgotten me.

In my despondency, I began to doubt that God would deliver me from what felt like a hopeless storm. But then I considered Jesus’ response to the disciples’ fear and doubt. He asked, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).

I asked myself the same question, and came to realize that my faith was lacking because I had been looking at the storm instead of the storm-stiller. By focusing on the storm and what was happening (or not happening) to me, I forgot to consider the work that God was doing behind the scenes. I lost sight of the fact that He works out all things according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28).  This realization moved me to designate days of prayer and fasting to try to focus my sights on God.

As I sought Him, the Holy Spirit encouraged me to keep declaring that God is my provider. The more I meditated on Scripture, the Holy Spirit brought specific verses of encouragement to my mind, such as Matthew 6:25-27, Philippians 4:6, and Psalm 37:25.

These verses helped shift my perspective, and opened my eyes to see that though I lacked tangible finances, the Lord was still providing for me through my family, encouragement from close friends, and also by giving me a safe place to live.  As I re-evaluated my situation, I repented of my anxiety and lack of faith and prayed for a renewed mind to view my situation in a more positive manner. I also decided to write these verses out on index cards to take with me and pray over myself throughout my day.  This helped me keep my focus on Jesus and His promise of providing for His children.

Eventually, God provided for me in His right time. I received an offer from one of the offices that I had called to enquire about available positions. After much prayer, I gladly accepted the offer.

In retrospect, I believe that when our lives are not going the way we expect, it’s easy for anxiety, fear, and doubts to enter into our minds and hearts. But, instead of giving in to these temptations, we need to remember that God is always working out His purpose in our lives. Through this experience, God taught me how to have a patient heart that is willing to wait on Him even during difficult, frustrating times (Psalm 27:14) that I may not be able to understand.

What stood out to me from the story in Luke was that even though Jesus questioned the faith of His disciples, He still calmed the storm (Luke 8:24). Just as the disciples were amazed at how Jesus responded in spite of their lack of faith, I, too, am amazed at God’s power and provision for this time in my life. This experience helps me remember to walk by faith in God and not by sight. God knows our needs, and we can always trust Him with every aspect of our lives.

Rejection Drove Me in the Right Direction

Written By Joanna Tan, Singapore

As the youngest child, I’m often teased and called the little princess of the family. But the truth is that when I was growing up, it was often difficult for me to get my mother’s attention. I felt like my parents favored my siblings, who were both high performers in school and at church. By contrast, I was not as outstanding as them and my parents thought of me as the child who got into trouble more often than not.

Like all children, I desired to be loved, so my parents’ neglect really hurt me. I fought hard for my mother’s affections by trying to keep up with my siblings’ in school, and by doing all I could to become the “sensible child.” I made cards and gifts for my mother during special occasions and studied hard to get good grades in my studies. Yet no matter how hard I tried, my mother continued to compare me with my siblings, often telling me how I fell short. And even though I did well in school, my mother attempted to dissuade me from attending university simply because I did not match up to my siblings. No matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t enough.

I was crushed by the futility of my efforts. But these years of trying and failing to earn my parent’s affections helped me learn to seek refuge in God. In moments of rejection, I would pour out my sadness and loneliness to God, and He was there to comfort me in my hurts. Our heavenly Father made His great love clear to me whenever I drew near to Him.

 

Rejected by Man, Loved by God

A few years ago, I came across the story of Leah. Leah was not the one that her husband desired, and time and again, she hoped to gain her husband’s affections by bearing sons for him. Each time, she was disappointed by the futility of her actions:

When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. (Genesis 29:31-35)

 Through the names that Leah chose for her first three sons, she clearly expressed her desire to be loved by her husband. But when she gave birth to her fourth son, she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Instead of placing her hopes in gaining Jacob’s affections, Leah chose to surrender to God. She rested in God’s gift of a son, praising God for what He had done for her.

Like me, Leah tried hard and failed to earn another person’s affections. Through that process, she discovered the unconditional love of God—one that she did nothing to earn. This deeply comforted me, reminding me that in spite of how I was treated by my family, God always loves me. There is nothing I need to do to earn His love—I already have it!

Many years of disappointment and pain as a forgotten child drew me to our heavenly Father’s unceasing love—a love which was present even before the world (and I!) began. Unlike the love of man, God’s love is unconditional and unchanging—He loves me in spite of my flaws and failures.

Even at our worst, at those times when we can’t even love ourselves, God loves us fully. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Through Jesus Christ who has died for our sins, God has given us the privilege to be adopted as His children, and we can call him “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 3:23-4:7). Finding my identity in Christ has liberated me, because I know that He loves us regardless of who we are and what we have done.

 

Let Your Circumstances Drive You Towards Christ

There are indeed moments when I wish my circumstances could be different—that I could have a perfect family and perfect parents. But as I look back, I realize that my circumstances have helped me experience the depth of God’s lavish love for me. Because I did not receive the love and affection I desired growing up, I turned desperately to God’s love. It was only through the painful struggles for affection and an identity that I have found the greatest treasure in our Father’s love through Jesus Christ.

As I have grown up, I came to better understand my mother and have developed a closer relationship with her. I now love my parents not because I am trying to gain their favor, but because God loves me, and my security is in Him. In fact, because of my experiences, I have been able to encourage my sister in her struggles, reassuring her of God’s unconditional love for us!

Our heavenly Father does not give us all perfect families, jobs, health, and relationships—as can be seen in the experiences of many characters in the Bible. Yet many of these characters, as well as many Christians today, continue to love Jesus faithfully despite their imperfect circumstances, and choose to give up their all to follow Jesus. Sometimes it is through difficult and painful situations that we appreciate more deeply what Jesus has done for us, which prompts us to give all that we have unto Him.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

4 Ways to Know It’s Time to Move On to Marriage

Our relationship was unusual from the very start. I came from Mexico, and Brian lived in the United States, but we ended up meeting in Hong Kong (his native city) while working in ministry at the same church. Along with romantic interest in each other, our attraction sprung from a mutual pull towards missions.

Three months after our first meeting, we prayerfully entered into a relationship. The next nine months were full of falling in love, facing hardships that come with an interracial and cross-cultural relationships, as well as experiencing immense spiritual growth. We prayed about our love for each other and our hearts for mission, and realized we were ready for the next step in our relationship. So it came as no surprise when he asked me to marry him. And I replied with a joyous “Yes!”

As wonderful and exciting as it was when Brian proposed, there was a lot to process and consider before we committed to marriage and a life together. How did we know when it was time for us to take our relationship to the “next level”? We had to really press in to hear God’s voice, and ask Him to help us understand the purpose of marriage, the grounds for it, and whether we should pursue it together.

These are several tips that helped us confirm our decision to get married:

 

1. Seek the Lord in Scripture

It may be easy to set the Bible aside and make our own decisions since the Bible doesn’t seem to say anything about engagement. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible talks heaps about marriage (Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:25-33), family (Joshua 24:15), sacrificial love (1 Peter 4:8), and our future (Proverbs 3:5-6).

As Brian and I studied these and other passages, we were reminded that marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ the Groom and His Bride the Church. Christ’s sacrificial love unites us to Him and gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 5:25-33). As we contemplated marriage, we had to ask if we were ready to love each other sacrificially. Were we willing to take on the privilege of pointing and spurring each other on towards God as a couple?

It is well worth taking time to study what Scripture has to say about love, family, and marriage. By studying these things and allowing the Lord to show us whether or not we were ready to embrace these responsibilities, Brian and I were able to make an informed commitment to each other, with an understanding of how significant marriage truly is.

 

2. Seek the Lord through prayer and fasting

Throughout Scripture we see fasting as way of drawing near to God. When we fast, we let go of physical comforts in order to depend entirely on God. Traditionally, this has been done by forgoing food for a period of time, but can also be done by temporarily giving up social media, entertainment (e.g., movies, video games, shopping), or anything that might take up our time, so that we can focus instead on prayer and listening to the Lord.

While we were dating, Brian and I made time to fast and pray both together, and on our own. It is a discipline that gave us space to listen to God without earthly pulls distracting us from being near to Him and seeking Him specifically about the marriage we wanted to have together.

 

3. Seek the right counsel

When we first started dating, we had friends who committed to supporting us as we navigated our new relationship. It was important for us to listen to these people who were a part of our lives—people whom we knew loved us, who had provided godly guidance in the past, and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.

For Brian and I, the Lord used our parents to help us grow by considering their perspectives on marriage from our varied cultures and traditions. It proved very helpful and necessary for us to seek our parents’ counsel about the future of our relationship, and to do so with a willing heart, free of pride and full of humility.

Of course, there have been those who have tried to be discouraging and even demeaning of our relationship (one of the reasons being that Brian and I come from extremely different cultures). But through this, we really learned to recognize who God had placed in our lives that knew us and truly cared to invest in us. All this was key to our growth as a couple.

We found that in seeking advice, it was important for us to go to people who loved Christ, and had produced fruit that showed it. These people were well-equipped to offer us Kingdom-focused advice instead of getting caught up with worldly concerns.

 

4. Make sure it’s a relationship that drives you TO Christ

At the end of all this, we had to take a step back and ask ourselves, has our relationships drawn us closer to the Lord? Have we matured in our faith during our time together? Will we be able to work well for the Kingdom together? Our answers to those questions helped us move forward into engagement together with great anticipation.

If the answer to any of these questions is, “not really”, this might be a signal to slow down and revisit the guidance we can get from Scripture, prayer, fasting, and fellow believers. It would be worthwhile to ask God to guide the relationship and give wisdom for the decisions that need to be made in the relationship.

 

Marriage Is A Lifetime of Faith Together

I am encouraged to know that God’s grace and forgiveness—which Brian and I have placed our faith in—is evidenced in the continued transformation in our hearts. We don’t walk into marriage blindly, but we walk by faith with boldness, expecting God will do great things in our lives together.

We remember the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and that our lives are defined by that work because we are saved, we are loved, and we are called to share that good news with all nations. The idea of getting to share this kind of life with another like-minded, passionate worshipper of God is unspeakably beautiful.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a two-part series on dating and marriage. If you’re considering entering into a dating relationship or are currently in one, you can read the first article here.

3 Challenges to Worshipping God in a World of Choices

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

I love worshipping God and spending time with Him.

Every morning, I try my best to set aside time to worship God through prayer, music, Bible study, and journaling. During this dedicated time, I give thanks to God and meditate on His Word. In turn, God’s presence—His answer to prayers, the mercy and comfort He shows me—fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. When l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love.

That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him isn’t easy. The world offers distractions and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes off God. Hence, l am constantly challenged to choose between spending time with God in worship and what the world offers.

Over time, I have come to recognize the things that are most likely to distract me from God. This helps me work on re-focusing my attention back to God.

Here are three of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices. Perhaps you might be able to relate to them as well:

 

1. Caught Between Two Masters: Technology or God

I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late 90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the Internet. Teaching myself makeup application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as a makeup and special-effects artist (makeup application using prosthetics, face paint and casts).

However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and social media feeds. I began relying more and more on the Internet for information, as well as the endless possibilities for entertainment.

It is scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds, or when we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’ve become too addicted to technology. Too often, we look to Google for answers to our problems instead of coming to our Father who created Heaven and earth—the God who says that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7).

When it got to the point where l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew technology was becoming more attractive than being in God’s presence. It was time to cut the digital umbilical cord.

These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24). During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts. Knowing my phone won’t vibrate or light up during church helps avoid distraction and keeps my focus on worshipping God.

 

2. FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out

Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God.

However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day, such as my plans to exercise or meet up with friends. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my dedicated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors.

Today’s fast-paced society is a result of an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience causes us to run from pillar to post. We’re suffering from FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out.

When I notice myself getting anxious from an abundance of choices and too little time to choose them all, l remind myself to go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 encourages us to seek God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need. l am learning to fear missing out on my daily encounter with God more than the pursuits of the world.

 

3. The Allure of the Things of this World

One of my favorite recreational pursuits is going to the gym. Although l work out to live a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l wonder whether I should be working toward these goals instead of being content with the body God has given me.

We all chase after different goals—whether it’s a perfect body, the latest iPhone, or exotic holidays. But too often, these “goals” can easily turn into objects of worship, drawing our attention away from God.

Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When l find myself choosing to go down rabbit holes of superficial pursuits instead of spending time with God in His Word, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. Meditating on the Word keeps my eyes fixed on the unchanging nature of God in a fad-induced society. It reminds me that God’s opinion matters in my life, not the world’s.

Knowing that I am easily tempted by these goals, I have learned to prioritize my relationship with God. When I spend time regularly worshipping God, I can work out for the sake of being healthy, without worrying that it would eat into my time with God.

 

We are only temporary residents in this world, but our relationship with God is one that crosses into eternity. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross to purchase our freedom, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to pale in comparison.

If you find your worship of God challenged by the choices and expectations of the world, l get it. Choosing to put my worship time ahead of my pursuits of this world is something l’m still working on every day.

This doesn’t mean we need to change our entire lifestyle, but can begin by taking small steps at a time. Perhaps we can get up earlier and dedicate that time to God, or maybe we can put aside 15 minutes a day to read the Bible. These small steps add up, daily drawing us closer to God. As we seek Him, He will also give us the desire and will to worship Him.