New Topic Every Monday!
• Domestic Violence
• Decision Making and the Will Of God
• Victory over Death
• Love and Belonging
• Money and Money Crisis
• Church Involvement
• Communication in Marriage
• Family Time
• Marital & Family Love Styles
• Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold
• Empty Nest Syndrome
• Sibling Rivalry
• Stress and Demands
• Addiction & Substance Abuse
• Mental Disorders in the Family
• Overcoming Spiritual Doubt
• Culture & Media Influence
• Video Game & Cyber Addiction
• Career Decisions
Love and Belonging
[YKYK] Day 1 of 5: Love & Belonging–True Friendship
QT: 26/04/2021 (Monday)
Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections, to know we are loved and belong. Growing in a healthy relationship, learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and setting healthy boundaries will allow your relationships to thrive. However, it is going through tough times that you can see how deep the connection, love and belonging actually were. Have you ever walked through a rough period, days or months that felt especially dark? Maybe you’ve experienced the weight of discouragement, depression, or the stress of a new situation? What friends stood beside you during those difficulties?
Several years ago, I fell into a deep, dark pit. Anger and sadness coated my daily attitude and interactions with my family and friends, I struggled to concentrate, and hopelessness hit. Being one of the cell group leader in F3 was very hard as my words and my thoughts do not coincide in the church settings nor in the circular world. During that time, some friends from F3 came alongside me. They invited me to dinners, went out for drinks, arranged meet up last minute when I had toxic thoughts, constantly texted me to ask about my well-being and encouraged me with prayers. I thank God for their friendship, for their brotherly and sisterly love during that dark season. Through these tough times, I felt loved and sense of deep belonging from F3 and S-Word EFC.
Some friendships, the ones based upon what Scripture refers to as “brotherly love”, remain during good seasons and dark ones too. They refuse to waiver when life grows hard. In 1Samuel18:1-5, the text shows how friendships should be like. David, a man whom God had anointed to become king, and his friend, Jonathan. When Jonathan’s father, Saul, Israel’s first king, determined to kill David, Jonathan warned his friend. Brotherly love took action. In anger, Saul hurled a spear at his own son. But in the end, Jonathan’s love was trustworthy and protective of his friend David. This example prompts us to consider our friendships. Who stayed beside you during good times and bad? How do you offer Christ-centred love to others? Likewise, how do you approach your own friendships? Is there a friend drowning in a dark season right now, one you can reach out to and come alongside during their difficulty?
Think of a situation when you were facing tough time and help was rendered to you. Do you feel the love and deep belonging for that person? Likewise, do you now show love to your friend in need either in workplace, church or care group so that he/she would feel a deep sense of belonging to that community?
[KHBR] Day 2: Love & Belonging—Take time to build true friendships
QT: 27/04/2021 (Tuesday)
It was a "fateful" evening in December 2016, when Jianye suggested that we go for marriage counseling at his church. Tears 😢 immediately rolled down my cheeks (not tears of joy). It was a topic which I've tried to shirk for the whole time when I’m with Jianye, and one of my biggest fears, that of losing my church community, was approaching real soon. This fear grew even more when I heard stories from a close friend of mine who married into another church too.
All humans are relational. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs includes this aspect somewhat—apart from our basic physical needs of sustenance, love & belonging comes next. The need for interpersonal relationships motivates my behaviour. And the uncertainty that lied ahead was something I couldn't fathom—church community is a big part of my life.
The thought that friendships, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love throughout the past 20 years in my previous church was about disappear quickly was daunting. Just so many questions went through my head 🤯. Leaving the church and my own family to adapt to a whole new world.
It was tough, tougher still when marriage was so new to me. Problems after problems. But I’m so glad that I choose to open up and be vulnerable, in order to have accountability. Echoing what my husband said, it’s the going through tough times that I grew deeper with the sisters in F3.1. We stood together, stirred up one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24). We met together (Heb 10:25), chatted and build relationships; all the while encouraging one another (10:25).
Changing from inside out takes time. I'm glad I took that leap of faith held on to the hope that God would bring together all things good. Although it took me a long time, I can safely say that S-Word is a place that I can call 'home'.
Application: It takes time ⏲ to build true friendship, where love and belonging begins. Building our relationship with God similarly takes time and effort too. It takes time to invest in a deep relationship with one. Drop the things that are not important and prioritise your time for someone else who needs you.
[THHJ] Day 3 of 5: Love & Belonging—CG, a Safe Harbour
QT: 28/04/2021 (Wednesday)
Hebrews 10:25–27: Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (ESV)
From young, Heb 10:25 always reminded me that we should never stop gathering in the family of God. However, there was once I almost left our CG, the place we have been gathering since my youth.
Years back, a couple of major changes happened in our CG, some brothers/sisters we have known for more than 10 years either left church or split to another new CG. For those of us who stayed, there were lots of questions, emotions and misunderstandings. Some of us including myself started to absent ourselves from CG gathering using various reasons like family issue/commitment. Eventually those excuses for not joining CG seemed to be so reasonable.
This situation carried on for more than a year. Finally, our CG was facing a decision point—either to be dissolved or members to be re-assigned to other CGs. It was with a heavy heart that the CG leader gathered all of us for a 'last CG meeting'. In that gathering, I thanked God as He made us shared openly and truthfully. With tears, all of us made a promise to rebuild our CG. From then onward, we shared and we commit. I am thankful that our CG is still standing firm before God till now.
Sometimes we still experience misunderstandings/downturns or even disappointments in our CG life. However, we are not seeking "perfectionism" in CG. In fact, Jesus showed us how He humbled Himself—washing the disciples' feet so that we can learn from him—to serve and to accept CG members who are coming from different backgrounds, having different characters and unique life experiences. It is indeed this variety and different shades and character in the lives of brothers & sisters that make the CG so colourful and complete.
[1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.]
Let's continue to make our CG a safe harbour, a place where members feel safe to share, feel safe to show weakness and imperfectness. A place where we receive forgiveness and encouragement, feel loved and belonging.
1. Is your CG experiencing difficult times? Are you willing to hold on to God's advice not to stop gathering, no matter how reasonable the excuses seem to be?
2. Are you willing to learn from Jesus, not to be self-centred, but to serve and accept people He placed around us?
3. Whenever we feel hurt/misunderstood, can we take a step back, think about the many thankful moments we have experienced together? Learn to forgive, and to show care and love?
QT: 29/04/2021 (Thursday)
亲爱的 弟兄 啊，我们应当彼此相爱，因为爱是从 神来的。凡有爱心的，都是由 神而生，并且认识 神。
(约翰一书 4:7 CUNPSS-神 https://bible.com/bible/48/1jn.4.7.CUNPSS)
QT: 30/04/2021 (Friday)
2、腓立比书 2：2 “你们就要意念相同，爱心相同，有一样的心思，有一样的意念，使我的喜乐可以满足”。等到后来在圣经里读到这句话，我方理解团契为何有这样的吸引力和魅力，弟兄姐妹是在神的感召带领下，同心同意，做着讨神喜悦的事，我也在团契弟兄姐妹的感染下，慢慢把每周的教会崇拜当作生活的一部分，从陌生不熟悉，教会和团契逐渐让我们有了归属感，流浪的身心也找到了家，因于教会和团契给我们的爱和归属感，我们自然而然也立志委身于基督。
3、约翰福音13：34-35 我赐你们一项新命令，乃是叫你们彼此相爱；我怎么爱你们，你们也要怎么相爱。你们若有彼此相爱的心，众人因此就认出你们是我的门徒了。一个微笑，一个善举彰显神的爱。起初，家庭和工作是我们爱和归属感的来源，也就相当于我的左膀右臂，缺一不可。移居到新加坡后，语言障碍，职业屏障，没有勇气找工作并融入社会让我感受到前所未有的挫败感。随之而来的新冠病毒，让经济环境和我的家庭生活又加剧了挑战。也正是教会的线上崇拜、小组的在线聚会、教会兄弟姐妹们所彰显的耶稣基督的爱深刻地感染并影响着我，让我有了真盼望，真平安。耶和华始终如一丰盛的爱，让我感受到归属感。马可福音12:29-31 耶稣说：“你尽心、尽性、尽意、尽力爱主—你的神。其次就是要爱人如己”。因耶稣也是这样爱着我们，我们应当以基督的心为心，去爱所有人。通过一个微笑，一个善举彰显主的大爱，为主赢一。
How does it look like?
(1) Chasam struggles with accepting Moisam, a new member in the cell group. Moisam and her family have just moved to Chasam's neighbourhood. Even though Moisam claims to be a Christian, Chasam is highly suspicious of her and feels she is faking, just to get accepted. Chasam likes his cell group just the way it is and resents this foreigner (even though Moisam is currently a citizen already). He particularly dislikes Moisam, who eats different foods and talks with an accent.
(2) Samjani is a young adult who is serious about her career in Human Resources. She has risen to a position to where she is hiring personnel. Samjani struggles with prejudices she has against people of different races. Her boss tells here to recruit people based on "实力" (competence) for the benefit and value-add potential to the company, but she just simply cannot accept that people of certain races have any "实力" to start with that her company needs.
(3) Matasam grew up in a small town where there were "two kinds of people"—"our kind" and "one kind one". He was always taught that he was the correct kind. Last year, after his A-levels graduation, he became a Christian. After entering university, he encountered teammates on his sports team who were from the "one kind one". He struggles with this and how it fits with his newfound Christianity, who recently taught him that all have fall short (Romans 3:23), including himself.
Key Thoughts (Part 1 of 2)
Prejudice is an emotional response based on fear, mistrust, and ignorance. These responses frequently target racial, religious, national, financial or other cultural group differences.
Prejudice is also a superiority mindset that often is passed on from one generation to the next. Children frequently learn this from their parents. Like father like son, they say.
The prejudiced person will refuse involvement in situations and with groups of people simply because of who is involved. The fellowship that God intends for His children to share is therefore short-circuited.
Prejudice causes the whole body of Christ to suffer: "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).
Some argue that prejudice is a matter of personal opinion, and say, "I can't help the way I feel." However, Christians are instructed to exercise personal choices based on what they see in the character of God. (See Acts 10:9-48.)
Second Chronicles 19:7 states: "Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you ... for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality:" Romans 2:11 says that God does not show favoritism: "There is no partiality with God." God's unbiased disposition toward the world is the basis for John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"
How should you then live?
- GudanSam is a man of fifty who has just lost his wife of twenty years. They had no children and did most things together throughout their marriage. Even though he and his wife had common friends, he now felt alienated from all of them. He has been overcome by loneliness.
- Gekhunliao has been married for some time. She thought that getting married would end her loneliness. But it did not. She is searching for a medication or method that would end her loneliness.
- Yigeren can't stand going to all her friends' weddings. These are not happy occasions for her. It has been five years since she graduated from university and she longs to be married. However, she spends most evenings alone in her tiny apartment.
Definitions & Thoughts
Loneliness is a human response to being alone. Not surprisingly, this happens because God created humans and set him/her into a web of relationships to meet their need. It's the negative feeling of isolation, disconnection from others and alienation.
This happens when a person feels there is no one with whom to share joys and disappointments. Sadness and loss of hope results. From birth, humans seek attachment and connection. As humans were made in the image of God, it is no surprise that humans were made to reflect the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, where relationships exists from eternity among themselves. It was therefore "not good" for Adam to be alone (Gen 2:18).
Intimacy in both the vertical relationship (with God) and horizontal relationship with fellow human beings) are required for human happiness. But due to the Fall and sinful nature of humans today, intimacy itself was tainted. Alienation, disconnect and loneliness crept into lives:
(1) The use of clothing by Adam and Eve typified separation;
(2) Adam blamed Eve (Gen 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent (Gen 3:13).
(3) Instead of being good steward of God's creation, there was alienation and resistance from those who Adam and Eve were tasked to tend to on God's behalf—the ground, thorns and thistles, agricultural barrenness.
Through Christ, people can discover the path to genuine intimacy again. Nevertheless, due to our sinful nature, intimacy is still difficult to achieve. Therefore people often still experience loneliness.
See you for day 2 as we journey together with our friends on this study this week.
The man who lives by himself and for himself is apt to be corrupted by the company he keeps. -- Charles Henry Parkhurst
The world's greatest tragedy is unwantedness; the world's greatest disease is loneliness. --Mother Teresa
Hell is loneliness to the extreme—separation from The Creator. But before death, we ask if the various types of loneliness have already strangled us.
(1) Situational Loneliness
This type is a response to physical or emotional separation, e.g. through death, divorce, moving residence or having a handicap induced inability to move around to socialise. Here, the previous intimate relationships are forever cut or hindered. This might be brief or prolonged. While sufferer might know that help and care are not far away, continuing with life entails being alone (e.g. due to job requirements or long hours at school etc). When the separation is drastic (e.g. due to death), this type of loneliness is tough to manage.
(2) Emotional Loneliness
So near yet so far. Emotional separation (as opposed to physical separation) can also lead to loneliness. There are many people around, e.g. after a crowded church service. But a person might see them as have little or no intimate connection. The loneliest people are often in very crowded areas, bringing greater despair. There is an anxious desire to connect, but you get only superficial responses at best. If coupled with physical loneliness, this is virtually unbearable.
(3) Chronic Loneliness
Chronic loneliness can result from a history of feeling unbelonged or misunderstood. You see the shortfall of social skills of others, the severity of which had caused you to give up hope of ever connecting with them again. Personal isolation and despair very often end in suicide, bouts of anger display and cutting off the world totally.
A catalogue of question to assess the degree:
1. Do you feel alone even when you are in a room full of people?
2. Does the loneliness ever go away?
3. When it does, what are you doing?
4. What would a typical day be like for you?
5. Have you prayed about and poured out your loneliness to God?
6. Do you feel that God understands your loneliness?
7. Do you blame yourself for your loneliness?
8. Do you have a friend you can share these feelings with?
9. Talk about another period in your life when you were lonely.
10. Do you remember what you did or what got you out of the loneliness the previous time?
11. Do you think you could change your loneliness in a similar way now?
12. Tell me about any of your outside involvements.
13. Tell me about your interests and hobbies.
Work the about out and see you all for Day 3: Wise Counsel & Steps to take.
The one you are helping needs to understand the source of loneliness. Perhaps his or her loneliness is based on a perception of a situation that might be changeable for the better. Perceptions can be changed once the cause of that loneliness is perceived. Is the person feeling lonely because of a mistaken perception of the situation? Can the situation be changed? If yes, think and act according to that possibility.
A person's loneliness may be a healthy part of the grief process as he or she deals with a loss. This is natural and can pass if the person does not let the loneliness cause complete isolation from others. It sounds like a paradox, but there may be times God requires a person to be alone to move away from loneliness. Loneliness can cause people to draw closer to God and to others. Reach out to God and others! God will bring people into our lives at various times. A person might not always have the same trusted friend to confide in. People will come and go. But God is always there.
1. Recognize the Feeling
Help the person to say out his or her feelings for a start. If that is awkward, have his or her thoughts penned down in a journal-as a way to determine the source of the loneliness. It need not be passive. He or she can take the active steps of making social and spiritual changes to move out of loneliness (for example, become more involved in the community; devote time to communion with God every day).
2. Seek God
Lonely times can draw one closer to God. God wants His children to be dependent on Him for everything. While social relationships are still lacking, for the time being, enjoy your relationship with God. He is the closest friend you will ever have. He will never leave and never disappoint you (see Heb. 13:5). Be positive and cherish the fact that God has a will for each day and each stage of life. Journey with God.
3. Get Involved
Join a church caregroup of fellowship. Sign up for a Bible study, community outreach, support group, sports team, or hobby club. Volunteer! Volunteering for some community agency is a great way to help others and at the same time engage in meaningful relationships. Do more than just attend church. Ask the leaders how you can contribute and build God's community, contribute to the mission. When at a social event, identify the person who looks loneliest and start there.
4. Be Confident
Loneliness will be overcome in time. Remember that no one is truly alone if he or she has God.
See you all for Day 4: Bible passages.
I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mothers children. (Psalm 69:8)
Loneliness is tough to handle because we might possibly feel alone even when surrounded by others. But David found that God was near, even when his siblings or kindred became his enemies, or were simply not around (especially when he was fugitive for years in the wilderness). With God's presence, he was in fact not alone at all.
Our own strength and courage fail at times, when others that were supposed to be with us and support us withdrew that support, or simply disappears. Take comfort in the knowledge that God is always with us. When we know Him, we are never alone.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
God reminds His people that in their loneliness and inadequacy they need not fear or be dismayed. Why? Because He is their God and because He is with them, holding them in His "righteous right hand". We suffer from bouts of loneliness at times, and the fearfulness follows. Then fear can disastrously draw the lonely person's attention away from God.
But feelings of loneliness can be helped. Lonely people can attend church (Heb 10:25), be a friend to someone else (Prov. 18:24), listen to Christian music, and pray for God to work in and through them to take away the lonely feelings. Take up a fun ministry in church.
The soul hardly ever realizes it, but whether he is a believer or not, his loneliness is really a homesickness for God. --Hubert Van Zeller
See you all for Day 5 for more Bible passages.
Verse 3: Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD. Jeremiah 20:1-2
The verse reveals the life of an intensely lonely man, even a prophet of God. On the scrolls of Jeremiah, we anger, resentment, and self-loathing jostle with praise and confidence. But the fact that he continued to communicate with God meant that he knew he wasn't completely alone. He did not give up on God.
His feelings are real. So is God's presence. He struggled greatly to make sense of what's going on with God's people, and God's promises. Nevertheless, still found comfort in having Someone to whom he could blah.
When we think that we are alone facing the greatest challenges of our lives, the Spirit of God within us will continue to shape us and draw us out to live for God. Let God do that.
Verse 4: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "1 will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
When people feel lonely, they feel "I don't belong", "no one cares", "this person doesn't care", "that person doesn't care", "I am unloved and unwanted". When believers feel lonely, they need to remember God's great promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". No matter how painful or difficult our situations are, no matter how alone we feel, God is there. We can look to Him for deliverance, commit the situation to His care, and take comfort in His presence. God is always with us.
We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves. --C. S. Lewis
Sample Closing Prayer: Your child has come today with a burden, Lord. He [She] is facing what You called "not good" from the very moment of creation-people should not be alone. He [She] knows he [she] has You, dear Lord, and I pray that during this lonely time, Your presence and friendship will be all the more real to him [her]. Then I pray that You will show him [her] places he [she] can serve, people he [she] can help, things he [she] can do to break out of this pattern ...
Victory over Death
How do you deal with sudden death which hits so harshly? An accident or a disease that you don’t see it coming. First of all, help the person who is hurt to start talking. We have to get the reality into our mind.
I’m glad that during my father’s 4 nights of wakes, although it was tiring, I get to repeatedly inform my relatives and friends of what happened on the day of my father’s sudden death. Every time I talked about it during the wake, it slowly moved me from shock to reality. And in reality, when my mind is clear, I can hear so much more of God’s words of peace, forgiveness and mercy unto me.
Reflecting on Job 1:21, God wants us to move our perspective, from loss to thankfulness to what we have. I was thankful that my father had a colourful life of 74 years, took care of me for 40 years and accepted Christ as Saviour 20 years ago.
He brought us to many countries (USA, Israel, Turkey, China, Hongkong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia etc…) and created so much nice memories. I also get to spend much more time with him in Singapore while working from home during this pandemic.
Most importantly, I know I will get to see him one day in heaven again. If God was to speak to me 20 years ago after accepting Christ that my father will have lot of joy and blessing before he died, will I say no? I thank God for those blessings and the gift of time to spend with my father.
Yes, we are here on this earth with a given time. God give the greatest gifts. The gift of Christ and the gift of forgiveness. For all who believe Him and trust Him, the sudden death bring life in heaven, a reunion with God. Thank God for the change in perspective, the blessing of time that He gave and the blessing of heaven for my father.
Application: Do you usually talk or will you shut down when you face death in your family? Will the change in perspective that knowing God gives so much mercy and blessings to you, helps you to cope better with a sudden death in your family?
Have you visited anyone seriously sick in hospital or in their home, living their last moments in life, knowing that they are going to meet the Lord soon? Or your loved ones, drawing close to end of their life, that they will always say something that will hurt you such as they are tired and sick of the nurses poking countless of injection needles into their veins, putting tubes into their mouth to the lungs, using machines to prolong their life of suffering etc… that they have enough of this and wanted to die? They know that their bodies are “done and expiring” soon. They just want to rest and in faith to be with Jesus. It is not about giving up or being suicidal. It is that they are showing their faith and trust in God, celebrating that joy give us encouragement. Apostle Paul wrote in v21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Likewise in v23, “I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” When your loved ones desire to rest in the LORD, they are choosing the better (a "gain" as Paul would put it).
If the sick is not a believer yet, the invitation for him or her to come to Christ is even more precious. Our lives are in God's hands, and we submit to His will regarding the length of time we have on earth. We are comforted by the knowledge that God is sovereign over all and those who seek to please Him need not be afraid of anything.
(1) Have you been through in a situation where your loved ones go through a long period of suffering from their illnesses, wanting to die and ending it to be with the Lord? How will you respond to him/her before this QT session? After reading Apostle Paul's verses above, how will you response to it now?
(2) Are you actively bringing your loved ones (or anyone) closer to the LORD, especially when you know that the inevitable and inescapable reality of death might just be around the corner somewhere?
After my father died for a month, I’m still in a state of shock, emotionally distraught and in self-denial at times. I realised that I haven’t really properly mourn for my father. As a son of my mother, a husband of my wife, I need to be present and be strong for them. I suppress my emotions these days and not release them. I’m in a constant state of hurt, pain and loss. I know that I need a renew relationship with God. I need to be in God’s words. I need to be in worship services, in bible studies, in F3.1 cell group, surrounded by my Christian community that can support, uphold and help me.
I need to let my emotions and tears to come out. God built us to have tears come out. Jesus wept too! Jesus was going to raise Lazarus and yet He wept (John 11:35), because His emotion came out when He felt the sadness of the mourners and the reality of death.
If you are still hurting with great pain after your loved ones died years ago, you need a renew relationship with God, go next level in the study of God’s words. It is ok to have those frequent tears. But God promises you, He gives you peace. Matthew 11:28 has “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (ESV). If you are emotionally distraught and suppressing those emotions, you would probably not have experienced rest but Jesus said that if you come to Him, as you desire for His presence so much, you will have real rest.
Only when we rest in God, there is peace and trust—God will change our perspective. God will change us and we will thank Him for the blessings that He gave to our loved ones. We will thank God for His mercy and forgiveness. There is a new way, "Take my yoke upon you" as Jesus challenged those listening to His invitation (11:29). His yoke is easy (11:30), unlike other yokes that you might be carrying by yourselves alone. Take His yoke, and God will change us. God will change us from the feeling of loss into a feeling of thankfulness for what God gave.
Are you still in a state of shock, emotional distraught or self-denial after your love ones had pass away long ago? Have you properly mourned and cried for your loved ones to release that emotions to grief over death? Are you willing to renew your relationship with God to the next level in His words, and coping with the death of your loved ones from God's perspective?
Decision Making and the Will of God
Welcome and stay tuned for all the 5 days, for a fuller picture.
Sam-Yan is trying to sell off his business. COVID-19 had cause irreversible changes to his industry. But he felt that if God had so clearly led him to start this business, he should not lightly let it go. How ah?
Ching Kiang has always been a bright student. But she hasn't figured out if God's will for her was a particular university or a group of possible universities. Now she has had a number of universities that accept her application for enrolment. For the first time in her life, she feels as though she doesn't have the answer. Which institution would God want her to attend?
Part-ar has been dating Charbor for more than two years. He is thinking of proposing to her, but with a lifelong decision such as this, he wants to make sure that this is what God would have him do. Not everyone in his immediate family supports his choice. His peers also gave mixed indications. Which "voices" carry more weight? His own voice?
At forty-five, Huan-Gong is not sure if he can handle another career change. A great opportunity has just surfaced, but he is wondering if his family is up for the challenge. He wishes he knew if this was God's plan.
LiHoon wants to get a divorce. She has met another man and wants a counsellor to tell her that it's okay for her to make that decision; she thinks the grass is much greener on the other side of the fence.
Do not tell the person what he or she should do, even if it seems obvious to you. The person is seeking God's will, not yours.
Encourage the seeker to wait on God's answer. He will reveal His will to those who earnestly seek Him. And remember that God is much more patient than we are.
Do not allow superstitions to enter into the decision-making process (such as blindly pointing to a passage in the Bible or merely following some dream or coincidence).
God uses His Word, not luck or superstition. God is most interested in a relationship in which we lean on Him daily for our strength and guidance. He will not show a person his or her entire life's journey. He wants us to rely on Him throughout our lives. If a person knew in advance ALL the accidents that would happen, he might not be able to bear that knowledge and remain sane.
Decision making can be fearful for some people. They speak of past decisions that ended disastrously. Of course this doesn't mean that God wasn't in those earlier decisions.
Be careful not to put too much reliance in a person's feelings. Emotions can be misleading and may cause a person to sin. Often people will quote Psalm 37:4 and say that God wants to give them the desires of their heart. This is true only after the first half of that verse is fulfilled, which is that they should be delighting themselves in the Lord.
How does it look like?
Sam-ta has worked two jobs most of his adult life just to make ends meet. He has three children and a wife who works in the home and has a part-time job outside the home. Recently he lost the higher paying of his two jobs. If that weren't enough, their older son was suspended from school the same week, having drugs in his possession. Sam-ta blames himself for not being at home enough.
Sam-ua is a young woman who has been out of college and in the workforce for almost five years. All her college friends are married, and she longs for a husband and family. This is all she has ever dreamed of. She had a relationship for almost 5 years. She blames herself for the breakup, and wonders, What if? She sits at home most nights alone in her tiny apartment. A married friend is worried sick about her and doesn't know how to help her.
Discouragement is a feeling of despair, sadness, or lack of confidence. A discouraged person is disheartened. Three underlying causes contribute to discouragement:
- lack of confidence in ourselves
- lack of confidence in God
- lack of hope for the future
Because discouragement is a feeling or emotion, it can play games with our minds. We must learn how to control our minds, and thus our discouragement, and lean on God for strength.
Joshua was challenged with discouragement as he led the people of Israel into the Promised Land. God told Joshua, "Be strong and of good courage" (Josh. 1:6).
God also reminded Joshua that the key to overcoming discouragement was a personal relationship with Him. The Lord told Joshua: "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Josh.1:8).
Discouraged people often blame themselves or God and ask, What if . .. ? This is Satan's trap, his way of trying to have us think, I blew it or God isn't capable.
God has a much bigger picture for our lives than we could ever imagine. Challenges along the way are Gods way of refining us, preparing us for the bigger and better picture-the first prize.
If not dealt with, discouragement can lead to depression, which can stop people in their tracks. People must be taught how to deal with discouragement before it becomes depression.
Discouragement reveals an unwillingness to trust God. It can be dealt a deathblow when people consistently cast all their cares on God.
Discouragement can be caused by many different circumstances and feelings:
- shouldering one's own worries, cares, and fears; then collapsing under the weight
- out of control events
- circumstances that were within one's control but were handled poorly
- failure-either occurring in the present, in the past, or a perceived potential for failure in the future.
See you for day 2 - questions to ask seeking to know more about the discouraged person.
Some Interactive Questions To Choose From:
1. What are some things or events that make you discouraged?
2. Do you have control over these things or are they out of your control?
3. Describe yourself using three adjectives.
4. Describe what you think someone else would say about you (a friend, a parent, a coach).
(Note to questions 3 and 4: Sometimes there is an underlying problem of lack of self-confidence that leads to discouragement. If you suspect such a problem, it needs to be addressed.)
5. When you feel discouraged, what do you do?
6. Do you have a direction or plan for your life?
7. What do you see yourself doing three years from now, five years from now?
8. Is failure an option for you? What does God think about failure?
9. Envision yourself failing at something. How does that make you feel?
10. Envision yourself succeeding at something. How does that make you feel?
Redirecting the mind:
Discouragement ought to be the first indication that it is time to pray. People may become discouraged as they become overwhelmed and begin to neglect prayer (ironically this is when they need to be relying on God more).
Help the person understand that God uses our trials to shape our personal and spiritual lives for the better, and for His glory. Paul tells us, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Many times what leads to discouragement are events that are out of control. This is where faith in God comes in. Realizing that God sees the events in our lives before we do should help us not feel so overwhelmed.
There are times when discouragement is a result of something your friend could have controlled (such as flunking college or being late to work). These events should be seen your God has as wake-up calls and opportunities to improve, not hopeless or disastrous events.
Often the discouraged will need someone to be accountable to if this has been a before you; go lifelong struggle.
The person needs to be helped to see discouragement as an opportunity to grow in Christ and rediscover the person God designed in His image. Help your friend to see discouragement as a time to step back and look at life and perhaps change some goals or behaviors (consider whether the unachieved goals are in keeping with God's plan for the person's life).
Help the person understand that feelings of discouragement will likely creep into his or her life from time to time; this is normal because of our human nature. Share with the person that even when one has confidence in the abilities and greatness of God and has a better grip on handling challenges, it doesn't mean discouragement will never come again.
Grief & Loss
(1) Sam-Ma didn't know what was the matter. It had already been more than 2 years since his wife died. Even though it felt that these 2 years passed slower than his friends', he felt that nothing had changed. He still can't believe that she was gone, really.
The church and his friends rallied around him, his CG had brought him meals, his pastor had prayed for him, but nothing seemed really effective nor helpful in alleviating his grief.
(2) Sam-Na couldn't stop crying. She is now angry with her husband about their "upgrading" to better housing that was far away. This move resulted in their relocation hundreds of kilometres from their family, friends she had grown up with, church. All this in the name of greener finance pastures.
The frequent 回娘家 flights cost them greatly. Phone bills to keep in touch piled up. She didn't want to be here, and didn't want to make new friends. She didn't care about "upgrading life" anymore. She just wanted to go home now.
(3) Sam-La couldn't drive past that road that connected with the hospital without being choked and spoiling his day. He had spent many hours both day and night watching his mother struggle with cancer. His intense focus was on making sure that he did everything that he could, to make sure that his mother would make it through the cancer treatment. But now his mother was gone. He now blamed the doctor for not picking up the tumour early during a scan 4 years before the death.
Grief is intense emotional suffering caused by a loss. It is like a sense of entering the "valley of shadow of death". Grief is real, prevalent and is not fun. It is painful, a lingering process of hard work. Nevertheless, it is a healing journey that can last between 1 to 3 years, and for some of us, a lifetime. Some people never get through the process of grieving.
A sudden death can be more difficult to grieve because there is no warning and no chance to say the good-byes properly so as to begin to prepare for the loss.
Do note that grief is not always about death. It can also result from the disintegration of family, friendship, business; transitions in life, disaster or misfortune.
Grief is a complex set of emotions experienced by virtually all. These are normal. However, people who are grieving may experience their loss (1) psychologically through feelings, thoughts, and attitudes; (2) socially as they interact with others; and (3) physically as grief starts to affect their health.
Often friends don't know how to help. Trying to "cheer him up" or "get her mind off her loss" might in fact add to the burden. This is because the grieving person might have to avoid friends or fake a "I am ok, cool" look rather than to share his or her true feelings.
Sometimes loss is cumulative and awakens the grief of earlier losses that were not dealt with.
The sufferer of grief might experience intense feelings of guilt for aspects of the relationship with the person who has died, even asking if this was some kind of punishment.
Anger and sadness might even be turned towards God, blaming God as distant and uncaring.
However, grief recognised and expressed are good starts to gaining victory of grief and loss. See you for day 2.
We are healed of grief only when we express it to the full. --Charles R. Swindoll
Welcome to day 4. We look at some suggested steps to take in dealing with grief and loss, experienced by ourselves or those whom we are helping.
1. Be Patient:
Give yourself the time it takes to heal emotionally. An accidental cut in a finger might take a few days, bones might take months. Managing grief and loss, especially when the loss is of something very precious, might take even longer. Keep a routine, get lots of rest, and try not to attempt too much but direct your energies toward healing.
2. Maintain Friendships:
Let others comfort you and share in your journey toward healing. Do not become isolated from people but rather seek meaningful connection with others. Make a list of friends to call. Locate a grief support group. Stay connected with your CG. Return to CG and church, stay even closer with them. Many of the things that you need to be reminded about God's Word, or what God wants you to learn or know, might somehow be prompted or recalled when you interact with CG or others in the church body.
3. Feel the Pain:
The intensity of your pain is normal and eventually will begin to subside. The pain probably might never disappear completely, but it will become bearable. Trying to avoid the "terrible pain" only prolongs the grief. Trying to hide the feelings of pain will only cause problems in other areas-emotionally, spiritually, or physically later on. Dealing with loss in a healthy manner can be a major avenue to growth and life-transforming change. You must move forward by experiencing the grief, while at the same time rejoining the living through acts of giving and receiving.
4. Realise Grief Is Normal:
Grief encompasses a number of changes. It appears differently at various times, and it comes and goes in people's lives. It is a normal, predictable, expected, and healthy reaction to a loss. Grief is each individual's personal journey, and his or her manner of dealing with any kind of loss - no matter how minor or severe it may appear to others - must be respected. It should be gently challenged only when prolonged in a manner that is detrimental to the person and his or her relationships.
Help the grieving person process any guilt and anger he or she is feeling. Help him or her redirect energy from excessive "if onlys" and wishing that things could be different to a focus on healing.
Proverbs 12:25 - Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (ESV)
Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (ESV)
Family history could be a link to depression, however it does not mean that you will have it. It only means that you are at a greater risk of developing depressive symptoms. I frequently felt that my inherited genes gave rise to my depression.
In the past, whenever I encountered challenges in life, no matter how great or small, it trigger a negative feeling of anxiety and sadness in me. Negative pictures would appear in my mind. I felt helpless in controlling the situation even though my mind clearly understood how the situation was to be handled.
Could it be depression? Virtually everyone goes through periods of deep sadness and grief. These feelings usually fade away within a few days or weeks, depending on the circumstances. But profound sadness that lasts more than two weeks and affects your ability to function may or may not be a sign of depression.
Several factors that contribute to depression:
(1) Stress due to a death, job loss, abuse, sudden change in finances or other life-changing event.
(2) A history of depression running in the family.
(3) Drugs or alcohol, which can affect the brain’s hormonal and chemical balance
(4) Medicines given might cause depression as a side effect. Seek doctors' advice on the possibilities.
(5) Physical illness, especially prolonged or severe illness that can cause changes in your brain that lead to depression.
(6) Hormonal changes (especially abrupt ones), can trigger depression. Women might experience this just before a period, after giving birth or during menopause.
Application : (a) Even though depressed feelings might cause someone to turn away from God, we should counter that thought with thankfulness towards God for His goodness and for his faithfulness. Whenever I encounter problems, God’s Word reminds me of how faithful He is. Whenever I looked back, I am always grateful for the incidents that turned out to be a good learning point for me.
(b) Depressed people must learn to trust what they cannot see or feel. They must understand that happiness only comes from communion with God, not anything on the earth.
Recently, I have picked up jogging, and from my experience of it so far, I feel that this exercise had helped me to keep my mind at peace. Do not give up on life and do remember that no problem is too big for our God.
Christians should not have depression in the first place. If Christian understands and knows his relationship with God correctly, a believer should not be mastered by depression. But this happens in reality in this complex and, at times, mysterious fallen world. But do not lose hope.
While we might not be able to eliminate depression completely, sharing problems and difficulties with believers are Christian norms to cope with it. This practice is highly capable of conveying us to the future one day at a time (过日子). In addition, one can also present his or her problems and difficulties to God.
Some common causes of depression includes: No True Love. No Proper Communiction. No Valued Identity.
In Christianity, believers know that God is Love. For he or she who understands and experiences the love of God, having depression is practically impossible. God’s creation is one of the ways that He expresses His love for us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food provided.
Having the “right” communication with brothers and sisters, sharing the problems and difficulties faced are known ways of de-stressing. With support from others, we go through depressed situations with strength, receiving comfort along the way. Not only do we find solace in human to human communications, we also have the privilege to communicate with God. Peace can be given and obtained, sins forgiven, rest found in Him.
Upon accepting Christ as our personal Savior, we are called “Children of God” by God himself. We do not need man to tell you who you are; mankind does not create nor determine our identities and values—mankind does not have that right to do so. If we take on God's valuation of us and accept Jesus' payment on the cross with His blood for our sins, we would find the strength to move on.
His Word gives us the strength and wisdom to overcome problems and difficulties in life. Believers are able to overcome depression if they truly understand and experience the Word of God, because the true values of Christianity are the antidotes to depression.
Thank you Lord, for giving us identities of children of God. The world does not determine our worth, but our Heavenly Father you do. There is no greater love than your love—the love you have for me. Help us trust you, count your blessings, and use our past experiences (good or bad) to guide others.
What does the Bible say about handling depression?
(1) Jesus acknowledged the weight of our troubles, both physical and emotional ones.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
As for the question of whether or not to use medication for depression, the Bible does not address that specifically. But Jesus, in His life and ministry, made it clear that healing—and seeking healing—is a good thing. He also acknowledged that the sick need a doctor (Matthew 9:12).
As with all the problems that people face, there is one thing we are supposed to do with them: bring them to God! "Hope in God", as the psalmist wrote (Psa 42:11). But it is important to understand that just because we put our hope and faith in God does not mean our problem will go away. Like cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, sometimes we'll have to deal with it or manage it for the rest of our earthly lives.
(2) What about the conventional way of treating depression?
Medication alone and brief psychotherapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy) alone can partially relieve depressive symptoms. However, clinical evidence suggests that pharmacotherapy by itself is insufficient treatment for children and adolescents. Information gathered from patients do suggest that the combination of medication and psychotherapy generally provides a quicker and more sustained response.
(3) Personal Reflection
Based on the clinical diagnosis on depression, we should not belong to population of depressed people. However, most of us have experienced the dark periods in our life, when we thought we might get depression. We tried hard to struggle with life and work, and all those unfavourable unsatisfactory outcomes have been considered as negative by ourselves.
Recently, I was confronted with a similar situation where I felt anxious and frustrated that I could take good care of both job and children simultaneously. I am thankful to God that this feeling was transient (not always with me). It was good that can share my negative thoughts with God. It was a blessing that I shared with caregroup friends and family. Just by speaking out to fellow pilgrims in Christ who understood me with eyes of sympathy made me calm and greatly relieved.
God usually responds to us in this way—when we understand that life is not always cheerful nor ever positive, when we start to accept the unfavourable results at times, when we get to know that the challenges and difficulties could be preempted with correct and good purposes in mind, then we know God is always there with us.
As mentioned above, putting hope and faith in God does not mean problems will go away absolutely, but we get to know how to confront and deal with problems better.
"Which bible character struggled with depression?" Job came to my mind immediately. A couple of years ago, I came across a book which was helpful for dealing with depression.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job 1:1 ESV
Job was a simple man of humble means because it’s a rare person whose heart is fixed on God and also has everything this life has to offer. Job was not only righteous, but also wealthy.
He had 10 children, many servants, and his livestock numbered in the thousands. V3 “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” We can surmise that every need Job had was met and every desire was fulfilled.
We also know Job was a man greatly tested by God and even more greatly blessed by God. God told Satan "all that he has is in your hand" (Job 1:12). Job’s faith and faithfulness are tested.
Job suffered in many ways... he lost cattle (Job 1:14-15), servants (Job 1:16,17), even children (Job 1:18-19). He also suffered bodily (Job 2:7).
But how he overcome it, teaches us a lot about real faith. The famous passage of scripture: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21) reminds us that we are nothing without the Lord. His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. His friends assumed that he sinned and thus suffered.
Ultimately, Job gets his conversation with God. Job’s response to the character of God is: “I know that you can do all things,and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:1-3). After Job was blessed by the reminder of God’s character, he was further blessed as “the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). And the list of blessings continues in chap 42.
Application: God don’t owe us an explanation. At times, we ask why and he doesn’t answer. He already know what is going to happen in our life. The good, bad and ugly. Job was blameless and he lost everything. Job’s life is a testimony for encouragement for the depressed.
1. Suffering is a way for God to display His power and glory.
2. The depressed and those undergoing suffering can always look to the mighty God who love his people for relief and strength in tough times.