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Finding Hope After A Bad Break-Up

Written By Lidia, Jakarta, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

I first started dating him in March, 2010. We met during some classes we shared in college. He grew up in a Christian family, so I thought that since we shared the same faith, we would surely be able to navigate the storms of life together.

Later that year, I found out that I had tumors in both my breasts. I was only 20 at that time, and the news really shook me. I told my boyfriend the news without sugar-coating it. He told me that he understood and would be supportive.

However, he called me a few days before I underwent surgery. He said his mom immediately asked him to break up with me after finding out that I had tumors. His mom worried that if I eventually married him, I might get cancer and squander her son’s money.

I cried when I heard that. I also became angry. How could his mother even think of that?

I didn’t argue with him about it. I kept it all sealed shut inside myself. I didn’t even tell my parents. My thoughts were a mess as I faced surgery.

God was gracious, and in spite of my confused emotional state, the surgery went well. When I regained consciousness afterwards, however, I cried bitterly. His mom’s words still hurt. He did come to the hospital to see me, but he called on the following day, saying that he couldn’t come anymore. His mother had forbidden him from seeing me.

 

Staying in an Uncertain Relationship

Although forbidden by his mother, my boyfriend and I still hung out a lot. I knew the relationship wasn’t a healthy one anymore. But at the time, I didn’t have a good idea of what a healthy relationship looked like. For three years, we kept our relationship a secret.

I knew that the future of our relationship was uncertain, but I was stuck in a dilemma. On the one hand, I was bitter and hurt by his mom’s words; but on the other, I didn’t want to lose him. I thought that if I broke up with him, there would be no one who would accept me with my breasts removed. I also didn’t want to tell anyone else about my condition—my friends already teased me for eating healthy. I was afraid that other people would say the same things my boyfriend’s mom did.

My boyfriend was indecisive as well. He didn’t agree with everything his mother said, and wanted to keep on dating me. But he didn’t want to disrespect his parents either.

In the end, I told my parents about our dilemma. They listened with empathy, but shared their view that my boyfriend’s mom wanted what was best for her son, and was not being entirely unreasonable. My parents then advised me to just break up with him.

My relationship with God also suffered as a result. I felt detached from Him and could not feel at peace. Although I still prayed, I didn’t feel His presence in my life. There was something inside me that urged me to make a decision about this relationship. But I was insistent that this uncertain relationship with my boyfriend must be preserved, no matter how many fights we had.

 

How God Healed My Broken Heart

One day, my boyfriend told me that he was seeing someone else. He and the other person were out of town at the time—only the two of them. And so our relationship ended.

I drowned myself in sorrow and tears. I felt worthless and felt like I was about to lose my mind. I reached out to my Christian friends, and for the first time, told them everything. That night, I cried before the Lord, and I truly requested His help.

As I brought everything before God, I was reminded of Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I felt like God was speaking to me through that verse, asking me, “My daughter, don’t you trust Me? I am the Lord Almighty, and I have authority over all things.”

To be honest, this was not the first time I sensed God speaking to me in that way. But before that, I was afraid of obeying Him and losing my boyfriend. Now I completely surrendered myself to God. I realized that in this world, anyone could leave us. There is only One we can trust in and rely on—the Lord Jesus.

The following week, however, I was still struggling to move on with my life. I felt broken, not only because of the break up, but also because I felt that I was worthless, that other men would be afraid of a woman like me. The words of my ex’s mom still haunted me. Sadness would still overwhelm me when I was alone at work, and I would cry in the middle of the day.

But God continued strengthening me. When I prayed to Him, I would feel peace. Perhaps He gave me strength to forgive all the hurtful words that I obsessed over. My feelings were less and less affected by the hurts I experienced. Day by day, God helped me let go of my sadness, forgive the people who had hurt me, and trust Him wholeheartedly.

Because of the peace and joy God granted me, I no longer worried over what other people might think about me. Instead, I choose to focus on what God might want me to do, and I am learning to ignore all destructive comments.

I have tasted how good God has been to me. This isn’t because everything in my life has gone smoothly, but because God has always been there for me. Through this experience, God has helped me grow as a person. He has taught me not to focus on gaining human love, but on loving Him. He has helped me forgive people around me by realizing that God has forgiven my sins. He has taught me to pray when things don’t go smoothly. Not only did God help me when I was struggling with my ex, but He also continues to help me in my daily life and the work that I do.

I have also learned that no matter how far I stray from God, He never leaves me nor forsakes me (Hebrews 13:5). He always accepts me whenever I come to Him and ask for forgiveness for the sins I have committed.

Only God can supply true joy—not just the temporary pleasure that comes today and leaves tomorrow. Whatever our struggles are, whatever hurts or rejection we have experienced in the past, we can come to Jesus and pray to Him. We can trust Him with our future. Even if things don’t turn out how we want them to, we can continue to place our hope in Him. When we dwell in Him, our lives lack nothing.

God Changed What I Wanted In A Life Partner

Written By Philip, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

When I was in my second year of university, our youth group went through a half-year course on romantic relationships. During that time, I longed to meet the partner I believe God had prepared for me.

However, when I looked at the world around me, I wavered. I told myself that I just needed to find a girl I liked—even if she didn’t believe in Christ. I assured myself that it didn’t matter much if she wasn’t a Christian, since I could always bring her to church someday.

At one point I ended up dating an unbeliever. Though I had hoped that she might become a Christian, it didn’t happen. Instead, because of our different approaches to life, we really had trouble communicating. Eventually we broke up.

When I decided to go into full-time ministry, I took my desires for a partner before God. By this point I had realized that it was best for Christians to marry other Christians, and I needed to trust God about it—“Dear God, I pray for a partner who would love You more than she loves me. I pray that when I meet her, I’ll love and pursue her.”

Though mature Christians in church introduced me to a couple of potential individuals, I hoped that I would be able to meet her as I went about my daily life. When a few years had gone by—and I still had not met her—I brought my desires before God once again. “Dear God, may You lead me and help me to serve You faithfully. As for marriage, let it be as You will.”

Unexpectedly, I met her while I was working as a research student after I finished university.

Our first meeting occurred by chance. I was at a training conference when a girl came up to me hurriedly to borrow keys for the apartments we stayed in, since she was helping to look after someone. She had only eaten a few mouthfuls of yogurt from her buffet meal before borrowing the keys from me.

At that time, I didn’t think much about it. I was merely amused that she had only yogurt from the wide spread offered at the buffet. I didn’t think we would meet again.

Some time later, I learned that a new intern was arriving at church. When I found out that a church elder was going to pick her up at 6:00 a.m., I offered to go instead. After all, I was young and could save the elder the hassle of waking up early. And I did not want to pass up this opportunity for service.

That morning, I woke up early and rushed down to the train station. When I saw her, I realized that she was the one who had borrowed my keys during the training course. We started chatting and learned more about each other as we made our way to church. “What is your direction in ministry?” she asked me.

I was stumped by her question. I had always thought that a ready heart was all I needed. Someday, when God called me, I hoped to respond, “Here I am!” While I continue to trust that God will use a willing heart, I have also begun to think about and pray for direction in my ministry since that particular conversation.

Eventually I attended seminary in preparation for ministry, and we were able to interact more often. Through our interactions, I realized how intimate a relationship she shared with God.

Then one night, I found myself unusually keen to attend fellowship—because I kept thinking about her.

“Is she the one?” I asked God.

I proceeded to kneel in prayer and tears before God. “Stop me from being reckless if she is not the one for me! I am willing to submit to Your will. Please guard my heart!”

I began paying more attention to her. Her love for God and His people speaks through her words and actions: she serves actively in ministry; she is always warm and hospitable when interacting with newcomers. Her heart of service was particularly evident in her readiness to help wash everyone’s cutlery after meals. From her sharing, I could also tell that God’s Word was very close to her heart.

Over time, I continued to commit my marriage to God in prayer. Through my prayers, I realized that my affections for her were growing stronger. I admired her aspirations, her passion, and her mission. I began to pray for an appropriate time to express my feelings to her.

On the day that I had decided to tell her how I felt, she fell sick. I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and confess to her as I had planned to, but a friend encouraged me to be unafraid and express what I truly felt.

So I prayed that I would still get a chance to see her that day. We managed to meet, and I took the opportunity to share my feelings with her.

I like you! I like your love for God, your passion and your sincerity. I admire your will and mission. I know that I’m not worthy of you, but I believe that God has allowed us to meet at the right time. I know that love is not based on feelings. It is not reckless, but a conscious decision. Love requires acceptance. As I have been praying about this, I realized that I like you more and more. . .

Thankfully, she felt the same way. And so, we embarked on the road to marriage. Thinking back, she looked very different from the partner I had always envisioned for myself. At first, I was merely looking for someone who believed in Christ, had decent looks, and whom I liked. However, I soon realized that the most important criteria for my life partner is not just that she claims to believe in Christ, but that she truly loves God.

And so I found her, and she has fallen for me too.

3 Ways Missions Changed The Way I Relate To Others

Written By Ashley Ashcraft, USA

It was the summer after 9/11. Looking back, I can’t quite believe that we went. Everything and anything to do with airports and security was tense, and everyone was on high alert. So much was going on in the world, and yet our church still commissioned and sent out five different groups of teenagers to five different countries.

I was part of a team that embarked on a 10-day journey to China, a country I knew nothing about. I had no idea that I would fall in love with this people and place, or that God would bring me back another three times. I also had no idea how God would use these trips as formative moments in my life.

God taught me a lot during these short-term mission trips. The lessons I learned still affect me today; they inform how I live, how I relate to people, and what I put my hope in:

 

1. Seek to Understand Others

Right off the bat on my first visit to China, I learned the importance of knowing and studying cultural differences. Whether it has to do with manners, food, or dress, there is great value in knowing about the people we will meet.

Before our first trip, we were required to read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. Taylor was an early Protestant missionary to China, and he did something that seemed revolutionary at the time. He dressed like the Chinese. This was because he wanted people to feel comfortable with him—and it worked.

If the goal of our mission trip is to know people and build relationships so that we can share Jesus, we need to be respectful of our cultural differences. If we go on a mission trip and either impose our cultural niceties, or worse, dismiss theirs by not taking the time to learn them, we will have no foundation for Jesus-sharing. I had to learn the hard way that in China I shouldn’t eat every single bite off my plate because it implied that I hadn’t had my fill. I learned that chopsticks are for eating, and shouldn’t be used for drumming on the table, as it implied I wasn’t happy with the chef.

In everything that we do, we should seek to break down barriers between people, not build them higher. If we want to build stronger relationships with people, we need to take time to understand their customs and learn with humility. This also applies beyond mission trips. Wherever we are, there are people around us who are different from us. Instead of assuming that we know better than them or that their behavior should conform to ours, we need to walk in humility, understand their perspectives, and affirm their worth and value as persons made in the image of God.

In a world and time where there is much civil unrest because of differences—cultural or otherwise—among people, we would do well to exercise humility and seek understanding in our own homes, schools, and communities.

 

2. Always Check Our Motivations

I’ll forever remember this moment: One of my group members was holding an orphan child in her lap, and for some reason he needed to leave. Instead of letting him go when he needed to, the group member kept him there, crying, while she insisted on getting a picture just so she could post it on Facebook when she got home.

Something about this just struck me as wrong. This was supposed to be about the kids, their needs, and how we could help them. Instead, it very quickly became about getting the perfect picture to show the world. I think that we need to seriously check ourselves when it comes to short-term missions. Why are we going: what is our heart and motivation? What good are we hoping to accomplish? Will our being there benefit them or is it more about us? What if we went and worked, but with zero recognition or evidence?

A lot of us struggle with what I would call “mock humility.” While mission trips are certainly not the only place this happens, it seems to be a breeding ground for it. We want to serve, but we want the picture to prove it.

Jesus was well aware of our temptation and desire for recognition. He addressed it in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). Later in the same sermon, Jesus reminds us that we should be seeking His kingdom. This is about His name and renown—not our own.

Again, this temptation isn’t only present on mission trips. This is true of our everyday life. I’ve struggled with this at work, feeling as though other teachers receive acclaim and praise for something they did, while I don’t get recognized for the things I’ve done because I tend to be more quiet and behind the scenes. I especially feel this as a mother. Moms do so many things that are behind the scenes, and that no one will ever know about.

To combat this need for recognition, we need to remind ourselves that we are not after the approval of man. This must be a daily, moment by moment surrender. This is a discipline we’ll have to practice, and we’ll have to be intentional about it. God is the one we aim to please; He is the one who sees our work, even the work we do in secret.

 

3. Help Others Develop Kingdom Vision

During my time in China, we had the opportunity to worship at a local church. And the picture of kingdom-life came alive for me.

When we entered the church, they seated us so that we could mingle with others in the congregation instead of sticking to our own team members. I sat next to this lady who sang her heart out during the hymns. Most of the hymns I didn’t recognize, but one I did. It was the hymn, “Just As I Am.” We stood next to each other; she was singing in Mandarin, and I was singing in English, but we were singing the same song, the same message, to the same God. I remember thinking that this is what heaven must be like.

Psalm 86:9 says, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” That day, I got to see a glimpse of a day when people from every tribe, every tongue and every nation will gather and bow and sing to the One who is worthy. This moment ignited in me a longing, a yearning for the day of Jesus’ return, when He will make good on His promises.

Those promises became very real for me in my years in China. That first trip, when I sat in church with that sweet woman, cemented in me an interest in the nations, in encouraging people to get out of their bubbles and comfort zones to experience God’s world and people, and to look forward to the coming kingdom. It’s what brought me back to China another three times. It’s why we support my dear friend who has committed to living in Papua New Guinea and sharing the gospel there.  It’s what led me to do the work I do today—for the last seven years, every spring I’ve taught about 100 teenagers a year about the five major world religions. This is all rooted in the conviction that it is important to know the people around us so that we can introduce Jesus and the kingdom to them in a way that they can understand.

 

It’s been eight years since I’ve been to China. I think about the people there often, and I very much hope to return one day. I would love to show my husband and daughter this place that impacted me so much. But until I can return, I don’t have to put these lessons on hold. God didn’t just work in my life and change my perspective when I was on the mission trips, He is still actively speaking into my life where He has placed me. And so today, I’ll look to my mission field as a teacher, a wife, and a mother. I’ll seek to encourage others by affirming their worth and value, to check my motivations and serve for the One, and to always keep the kingdom at the front of everything I do.

When I Traded God for My Boyfriend

It didn’t happen immediately, but so gradually and subtly that we were completely oblivious to it. We became so blinded in our love for each other that we didn’t see it coming.

It didn’t start out this way, of course. Even before we started dating, we intentionally sought the Lord’s will on whether we were right for each other. We prayed earnestly as we grew closer, as friends first and then later, tentatively, as partners. We encouraged one another with God’s Word, and prayed together regularly.

But over time, things changed. We became more emotionally intimate as we shared our innermost thoughts and secrets, our hopes and dreams, our fears and memories. We began meeting more often, and for longer stretches—from a weekly Sunday afternoon to the entire Sunday. The importance of the day slowly shifted away from Sabbath rest in our Savior, to outings and meals with our significant other.

And we started trying to find every possible opportunity to spend more time together, such as by staying out later and later on Sundays—which was the only time we could meet for a full day due to my irregular work hours. We couldn’t bear to be apart from each other; and when we separated, we’d long for the time in which we could next see the other.

This led us to spend more time with each other, and less time with the Lord and other loved ones. Our once-quiet evenings spent in prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word, were replaced by nights talking with, texting, or video calling each other. Dates together even began to take precedence over meet-ups with friends and meals with family. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, our love for each other had started to eclipse that for the Lord and those around us.

The most frightening part of it all was that we weren’t even aware of it happening. We were doing all the “right” things: we prayed together, sent each other Bible verses and prayer requests, attended church service together, and even had an older accountability couple to mentor us. Yet our hearts were not right with the Lord.

We really didn’t think we were spending all that much time together—after all, there were couples who met each other daily. Yet it wasn’t so much the amount of time we spent with each other, but the level of priority we had begun placing on each other.

While we often spoke of putting God first, our affections and actions showed otherwise. We no longer loved the Lord with all our heart and all our soul and all our might (Deuteronomy 6:4-15). We started to stray away from Him, instead choosing to turn to one another for love, joy and comfort. We began placing ourselves in precarious situations that presented overwhelming temptations to sin.

Though we had intended for God to be the centerpiece and cornerstone of our relationship, our actions pushed Him to the very corner. We had fallen deeper and deeper in love with each other, leaving God out of the picture. Our hearts were so deceitful—we were barely aware of how we slowly but surely drifted away from the Lord and towards idolatry, innocently clothed in relational love.

Yet God isn’t a footnote in our love story. He’s the Author and the Perfecter of our friendship, courtship and ultimately, if He wills, marriage. Through a series of incidents, God revealed how we had strayed away from Him.

This included one particularly painful episode, after which my boyfriend and I spent a month apart to repent and reflect before God, under the guidance and counsel of our accountability couple.

Even though it was painful to be separated, our time apart forced us to remember who we were before there was a “we”. It gave us a breathing space to hear God’s voice again—to remember that our first and foremost identity was not merely a girlfriend or boyfriend, but a redeemed child of our Heavenly Father, saved by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

As I sought the Lord, I realized I had come to love God’s gift more than the Giver Himself. I learned to ask myself:

  • Who do I yearn to spend time with?
  • Where do my thoughts wander to when I have nothing to do?
  • To whom do I turn to for love, satisfaction and pleasure?
  • And if the Lord were to take my boyfriend away one day, how would I respond to Him?

In short, I was confronted with the question: If all of life is meant to worship God, who was I worshipping in my relationship: God or my partner?

God showed me that I had traded Him for him, and that I was seeking and deriving love, joy and fulfilment from my boyfriend. I quickly learned that these are gifts only our Maker can give in all His fullness, and which no man can give in all his limitations.

When my boyfriend failed to live up to my expectations, I saw how I had placed him on a pedestal above the King of kings. When he inadvertently hurt me, I realized how much hope I had placed in him, rather than in the Shepherd of my soul. And when we came apart—physically, emotionally and spiritually—I realized how much I had come to adore and even worship him, instead of the one and only true God.

After the month was up, my boyfriend and I came together to reconcile and pray with one another. Since then, God has been teaching us, through every victory and struggle, to turn our gaze on Him. We’re still learning how to love God first before each other, and to gently point one another back to the Lord when tempted to idolatry.

Although our story is far from over, I know that our Author is writing every word, every letter lined with grace upon grace. And this gives me a peace and assurance that He is ever-present even—and especially–in the midst of our struggles and sinfulness. More importantly, God has promised us that just as He has saved us, He too will sanctify us completely in His faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).