It seems another year is drawing to a close. It has been an interesting year, full of amazement, excitement and adventure. I am not only talking on a personal level but also on a global scale as well. So as 2016 quickly approaches us, let me reflect on some of the things I learnt and some of the revelations about some of the events that happened during 2015.
I think one of the major breakthroughs for me is finding a new church to call home. After some years of awkwardness in settling in churches, I have never felt so at home so quickly at Chatswood Presbyterian Church. The people there made me feel like I belonged and it felt like my passion had rekindled once again to do more in church. I think one big push was the church camp in September. Meeting new people had never been my strong point, but making me feel relaxed enough to open up, that was comforting. I have gone through a rough time with personal mental health issues but I felt like I had the support and prayers for me to pull through the dark. It has been and always will be a struggle for hope and joy, but God had shown me through others that he will never forsake me alone in the battle.
The other major change would have been my newfound motivation for a healthier lifestyle. Minor health problems have given me a real push to lose some weight, eat healthier and be more active. In four weeks, I lost about 4kgs and am trying to make more progress to lose more weight so I can get my BMI under the normal range bracket. It is not to say that I am a health-freak. Far from it, I think the change is really about making healthier choices because let face it, we need to be healthy to be able to do more for God. I am in no way turning vegetarian or getting off of sweets and sugars forever. I believe that it is more about eating less of the harmful substances and having a balanced diet. More importantly, being more active is key to being healthier.
There has been something that has been bugging me for months, and earlier this month, when the San Bernardino massacre happened, it took the count of mass shootings in the US, defined as incidents in which four or more people were shot, to 350. That is almost one mass shooting per day. I don’t want to judge the gun right laws in the US, but it is hard not to think about how many people died due to senseless gun violence. Sure, guns protect in the right hands, but there is also the other side to it, that guns kill in the wrong hands. If people think that the only thing that can protect their families is guns, then what does that actually say about the state of the society? Sure, people can say that it is not the gun that does the shooting, but the people pulling the trigger. But I think people have the misperception that humans can fully keep emotions under control and not go crazy. How can you be sure that under stressful or extreme circumstances, you won’t go crazy with a gun? I personally don’t believe in having a gun at all. Because it leaves people open with temptation, and humans are usually weak when it comes to temptation. Also, I just can’t bear the thought that in order to protect my life, I may have to kill someone else’s. It really leaves me with the question, then, do I value my life as more important than someone else’s?
The biggest event would still probably be the war against IS and the Syrian refugee crisis. Unfortunately, I don’t have any new revelations about that. I always believed that violence creates nothing but more hatred and war. And the people suffer as a consequence. My prayer is for peace in the region. My prayer is for God to comfort those who are suffering, displaced, lost loved ones and for God to give them strength and perseverance. My prayer is for people to open their doors to those in need and show compassion and mercy to those who need them the most.
So the US Supreme Court ruled gay marriage to be legalised across the nation. This has always been a grey area topic for me because mostly, I sit on the fence on this one. I totally understand the reasons the lobbyists are putting forward and all about equality and such. I don’t necessarily agree with them. I know, people are going to comment and snap at me for bringing up a controversial topic. I don’t care. I just need to air out my thoughts on the subject. I hate it when people accuse of those who don’t agree with their views “phobic”. We are all entitled to our beliefs and opinions. Just because we don’t agree with your view doesn’t mean that we are old-fashioned or not open-minded. Yes, we are called to love all people, to respect their decisions, but it doesn’t mean that we need to agree with everything they say. I don’t mind if your view is different, but I do mind it when people attack the other side for it.
This is actually related to a personal issue that I have been struggling with for the past ten years or so of my life. I know people are going to start calling me a hypocrite because I am one thing but does the opposite. But I don’t think that is true at all. All humans are vulnerable to emotions, thoughts and other mental issues. For example, I have had moments in my life where I wanted to commit suicide. We all have thoughts where we are not proud of or that are not right. However, that is not what defines us. I believe it is the action that we respond with is what defines who we are. If you have thoughts of stealing, and goes through with it, you become a thief or robber. However, if you are able to become aware of thought and deal with the thought before you start stealing things (in the right way), I believe that you are on the right track in keeping your thoughts and emotions in check. My struggle is that I know I have sinful thoughts and I struggle to deal with them everyday because I know that in my life, God is more important and I know that someday, I will be made new again without the sin in me.
2015 had many challenges and obstacles to face, some are just a reminder that we live in a broken world that is awaiting for the day when Christ descends from heaven. However, I have learnt that sometimes, the best thing to do is to wait patiently for the Lord. All things will eventually fall into place, and when we put our trust in Him, we have sure hope that He is faithful to His promises. So I welcome and embrace 2016 with open arms. I foresee many more new adventures and new challenges, but I know that God is with us, and that He will never forsake us alone in the battle. So I will leave you with these words from Lamentations:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
Sometimes, I feel like we live in a society where we are expected to be emotionless, or at least to keep our emotions under the wraps. Other times, I think people expect us to feel a certain emotion all the time, and we end up putting pressure on ourselves to be happy all the time. We tell ourselves that only the emotion of happiness is worth feeling because only it can warm ourselves and shine on other people. So recently, I was watching the new Disney movie “Inside Out” and it really spoke to me about a few things that I think modern society had chose to forget about.
A minor spoiler alert for those who wish to watch the film first. In the film, the emotion known as Joy had repeatedly tried to take over the control of the main character, believing that only she can make Riley happy. Perhaps it is true. Perhaps only Joy can make a person happy. Joy had also repeatedly tried to stop Sadness from affecting the main character, Riley, by confining the emotion to a chalked circle. Yet, it only caused trouble to the point that they had shut down all of Riley’s personality islands. It meant that Riley was becoming more detached to her emotions, to a point of losing all that she once had.
Here is the thing. Joy thought that she was the solution. But along the way, Joy had learnt a very important lesson. Sometimes, the joy and happiness that we experience is actually the result of another emotion. Happiness and true peace doesn’t just come from joy, and sometimes joy is just a front to keep ourselves from getting hurt, but at times, because we have experienced sadness, anger, fear or disgust, we learn to cherish the things are most important for us. No one can be happy all the time, and we shouldn’t. If we conrinue to force Joy to take control all the time, then we deprive ourselves the opportunities to grow as a whole and to learn from our other emotions.
I thought this was appropriate time since our church is starting a series on the Book of Lamentations. Lamentation is the passionate expression of grief or sorrow. The whole is really a long epic poem, or poems, about the destruction of Jerusalem. One person mentioned how depressing it was going to be. I thought about this. Possibly, it may not be a joyful occasion. Yet, the journey to processing sadness is needed. And it can remind and teach us about what it means to be sad and how doing so is actually beneficial to us. One psychological expert concluded that sadness can actually reduce our judgmental bias, increase our perservance and promote generosity. Actually, we are sad, it means that we are doing so because we care about something or someone, and that is where the joy should come from as well, because of our deep connections. The two emotions are connected and intertwined.
But there is one warning label which I need to write about. That is not to let your emotions get out of control. While emotions are important, I believe they serve the primary function of letting us know what situations we are in and how we feel about it. For example, when something bad happens, we feel sad. But we must keep in mind not to let sadness get out of control. Doing so leads us down a track of depression, breakdowns and possibly something worse. The same goes for the other emotions. Excessive anger leads to hatred and violence, excessive fear leads to the inability to do anything, or possibly the other extreme of the inability to feeling fear anymore, excessive disgust leads to negative feelings of guilt and shame, which can also leads to depression. But even excessive joy is bad for us, as seen by the film “Inside Out”.
The Bible do teach us to learn to manage and control our emotions. The Bible teach us that trusting in God, giving Him all of our life’s worries, help us to manage our own emotions. Our emotions have also been influenced by the fall of humanity and sin, so sometimes, our emotions are not grounded in truth and can potentially blind us from our relationship with God. Allowing our emotions direct our lives will only end in disaster. But denying our emotions will also lead us down a terrible path. We need to learn to recognise our emotions but submitting them to God and allow Him to direct our lives. Only by learning to balance our emotions and bringing them before God can we find true happiness and peace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
We live in a broken world. Because of sin, the world we live in is not right. Because of sin, there is hatred, violence, poverty, discrimination and every other brokenness in our lives. I often talk about how no one sin is worse than another, and no one sin is better yhan another, but I believe some sins stay longer with us than others. I call them desires nd temptations. I mean, desire itself is not a sin, but if the desire that we are having can potentially allow us to sin against God, that is where the danger is.
So I have been pondering what does having desires mean, and how to struggle to block the temptations that come our way so we can continue to obey and glorify God. I mean, take for example a drug addict. The desire for “drug-taking” may still be there, but this shouldn’t stop us from following Christ. However, if we struggle but give in to our temptations, I believe that’s when I see the brokenness of the world come into light. Perhaps, this is the cross that we followers must take up daily. It is not about the normal daily lives as people, but each has their own burden, own temptations, own struggles to carry in this life.
I was at a wedding recently. It sort of got me thinking. For some of us, marriage may not be an option, not just because we can’t find the right soulmate or such. For some of us, this means to struggle with temptations that may haunt us for the rest of our worldly lives. Perhaps the only way we see fit in following God is to remain celibate. I am saying this not because I disapprove of marriage or weddings. I believe they are God’s gift. I am merely saying this because truthfully, sometimes, I lay awake at night feeling that loneliness, but also struggling with my own temptations and desires along the way. Humans are made in God’s image, and it means that we are people who need relationships, and mostly have an urge to feel like we belong. Some struggles with this, like I do, and at times, I feel like I don’t belong.
But at the end of the day, there is one hope that I am sure of. That my struggles in this life is not in vain. Maybe other people cannot see them, or not even understand, but God is watching and He knows the struggles and the fears that I have. Hebrews 12:5-6 talks about how God does not take lightly of our self-disclipine, that He disclipines those He loves, to become more like Him. Others may forsake and forget us, but God will not. Sometimes, we need to endure the struggles and to wait patiently for the Lord.
Recently, our church has been talking about 1 Corinthians, in particular about the resurrection. I can take comfort in that when Christ comes again, we will be resurrected into a wholesome body with brokenness or sin. On that day, we can then rejoice for all that we have endured, taken up the cross, will not be vain for we can then glorify God with a new body. Until then, we may have to settle with contempt that God knows the temptations that we face, the struggles we wrestle with, and the faith that He has given us. We may not see it, but God is hanging onto us, embracing us and even carrying us through our struggles.
The journey ahead will be long, narrow and possibly full of obstacles. But keeping our eyes fixed on God, no matter how much pain it may cause in this lifetime, at the end, we can rejoice in glory, and pain and hurt will be wiped away forever. I believe that some things will be our cross that we must carry for the rest of our worldly lives, but if we take it one day at a time, surrender our crosses to God and let His grace overflow us daily, it will be easier to bear and walk. And with our brothers and sisters at our side, supporting, encouraging and loving us, it will not be so painful anymore.
So I will leave you with these words: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
With a newfound viewpoint, I had a few more revelations. While I may not be ready to share this most inner struggle with the world yet, I believe I have come to realise things that benefits all struggles of life, not just one.
No one sin is more important or more sinful than another. We also have sinned, even if we think otherwise. I have thought in the past that some sins are not as bad because we cna be healed in this life. As I mature and experience more, I realise that it is not always the case. Take for example depression. Sometimes, no matter how much you wanted it to be healed and never to come back, it still does come back to haunt us. Some sins that we bear are struggles that may have to continue throughout our whole life (this curent life). It is not to say that God doesn’t heal, because He does. But sometimes, it is not according to our timeframe. Sometimes, we will need to wait for the hope that is coming.
When we came to declare Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, we are washed of our old life, the life chained and bound in sin. We are made into a new creation. However, we are still living in a world broken because of sin and our body in its present state is not perfect. So we struggle with our sinfulness against our desire to live a godly life. Sometimes, our problems will be solved during this lifetime, but others may not be seen in this life, but waiting for the day when we are resurrected in God’s kingdom without sin, pain or hurt. But the struggles in this life for the result of that hope is important and should not be taken lightly.
Sometimes, the church can be seen as an unwelcoming place. Even I sometimes tend to fear speaking openly about my life and my struggles. People have a perception that some of the struggles they face are shameful or wrong because no one else seems to be having that problem. I sometimes unintentionally see others as better than me because their prayers have been answered and their life seems to be moving with the norm. I know that when prayer is answered, we should be joyful and praise God for His goodness. But when I see my personal struggles and still fighting inner demons that I believe will not fade until the day that I am at the face of God’s kingdom, I sometimes cannot help wonder where my support comes from. While people are busy celebrating, I am still here struggling. So I understand why some have turned away from the church. Yet, I believe like others, I sometimes just want to get rid of my responsibilities as a follower of Christ and live a seldish life where I can do whatever I pleases. No one said that this journey was going to be on a wide easy road.
We need support, prayers and love from the church, from our brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what struggle it is, we can all get lonely at times, and for those of us who may not have the privilege of having family or a significant other, the church family I believe becomes more vital in coming alongside those who are struggling and walking the journey with them. We need not say anything, just listen. Listen and pray for God to continue to uphold them in His embrace, to help them find His amazing grace and for them to continue fighting, even if it will take a lifetime, for the hope of God’s promise of wholeness in the new kingdom.
This isn’t really a blog post. I just wanted to let people know that I am really appreciative of the people who God had put in my life. Especially during the times when I feel like I can’t move on myself, God places brothers and sisters in Christ into my life to remind me that God had not given up on me.
During the last two days, I had a few minor revelations. There were things where I did not like the decisions that I have made in the past few weeks, and I know that I have not been fair to some of my friends. I think I have been more selfish for my own purposes than other people’s needs. One of the things I realised that I need to see beyond what my emotions are allowing me to see. I have been letting loose my emotions and not seeing the end result, which was always God has won the victory for us. My pain will not even compare when joy comes in the morning. I have let my emotions control my thoughts and in the end, I would only hurt those who care about me.
I just wanted to say to myself, there will be days and periods where I will feel depressed and that I may not see my faith, but never give up on God because our faith is secure in Him. We struggle but we need to keep fighting, because the cause is worth fighting for.
I just wanted to tell my friends, I love you and I deeply thank you all for your love, support and prayers over the last month. If I have hurt or offended you, I am truly sorry and hope that you will give me another chance at friendship. I hope that I can be a friend who is loyal, helpful, a listener and a friend who is always there for you, especially in your times of need.
I just want to say to those who are going through hardships. Don’t give up. I will praying for you. God loves you no matter where in life you are. You are not alone and we are behind you.
May God continue to watch over you, guiding your each step, and giving you the strength and perservence to keep fighting for the light.
Down on my knees
Feel like losing myself
Broken from a life in the dark
Falling from the cliffs of chaos
Giving it all up now
Holding my hands up high
Like a blank page I give my life
Waiting for God to change my life
God, let Your will fill my life
Let Your desires ignite my heart
I want to chase after Your heart
I want to seek Your face
Lord, break away these chains
Let Your love flow through me
I surrender my life for Your will
Now and forever all of my days
Like a child, waiting for superman
To save the world from chaos
For someone to stand up
To save us from despair and fear
Yet that dream was shattered
For no superman came to the rescue
Like a child, with a cape and mask
We learn to trust only ourselves
There may be no superman,
But God gave us something better
Christ came to rescue us
He gave His life to save us
Don’t wait for superman, seek God
He is the hero who stood up for us
The salvation that saved the world
The love of God gave us His grace
No hope is lost because God is here
No tears lost, no pain prevails
The poor and weak can celebrate
For their superman has arrived