When God Closes A Door

Image courtesy of Pixteller.com

He proposed.

Not to me. But to her. The man I’ve been praying for for years is now someone else’s.

Can you relate? Is that a familiar song in your life? Perhaps you’ve been praying for someone you’d thought would make a good life partner. You thought the door was wide open, or even slightly ajar, only for it to be slammed shut. Or perhaps it’s a job or opportunity that you’ve been lifting up to God these past few months, or years.

We cannot twist God’s arm or bend Him to our will. But here are three lessons I’m learning from it.

1. It is God’s purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I don’t see what God is doing behind the scenes. He brought this man into my life for a purpose. I can kick and wrestle, reasoning that God wouldn’t bring Him in if not to be my future spouse. But there are a thousand and one reasons for God to do so. I can only see within a finite and limited frame, but God sees all things. He can see ten, fifteen, twenty years from now and know what’s best for me.

When I met this man, I wasn’t a follower yet. I wanted to take my walk with Jesus seriously because I was following his example. I thought, this is the kind of woman he would be looking for. Indeed, but it’s not me. Nevertheless, God gripped me with an unsatiable thirst for Him, with or without this man. God used him to bring me closer to Him. And that is ten thousand better a reason than any temporal earthly relationship.

2. It is God’s protection.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (Luke 11:11)

God hears my prayers. Or my rather lengthy list for a future spouse. This man, though on the outside is seemingly the perfect fit for me, may not be the best that God has in mind. God is the ultimate matchmaker. He’s not just thinking of what will give me joy now, but in the years to come as well. So much Kingdom time is lost on poorly made matches, says Gary Thomas in Sacred Search. In this case, God was sparing me.

The same is true for that dream job or perfect house or other closed doors. God knows us and our circumstances better than we know it. That glamorous job may be too stressful for you or it’s not really a good match of your skills and interests. Perhaps that rainbow-bright, white picket house may have a hidden leak or faulty foundation that years down the road would be a massive headache for you. We may not see how God is protecting us. But we can trust that He is.

3. It is God’s hope.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? (Romans 8:24)

We are counting down the last few good single Christian men. Or are we? On one hand, I could, fist-in-air cry out, Lord, another one out the window! On the other, I could take it in stride and see that there are still men like him around. They are out there. I just need to be patient and wait.

There is hope. If not this one, then surely God is brewing something or someone out of the corner of heaven. He is raising up someone. He will speak that job into existence. Let’s not believe the lie that God is incapable of doing something right this very moment. Because He is. God wants that person to be a part of our life more than we do. Or for us to walk into His plan more than we seek for it. God is still in the business of answering our prayers.

But behind all this, there is one door that will never close for us. And that is Jesus. Through Him we have already gained everything. Let us continue to look to Him as our only source of purpose, protection and lasting hope.

 

 

 

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How to Encourage Single Men in Church

Photo credits: www.intentionalworkplace.com
Photo credits: http://www.intentionalworkplace.com

As dinner wound to a close, I thanked the young man sitting across me for the evening – for fetching me, choosing a restaurant and paying for dinner. By any other definition, that would have constituted a “date”. But neither of us wanted to get ahead of the other.

These days, it takes courage as big as slaying a lion for Christian men to ask Christian women out on a “date”, namely for what it would imply (Are they dating? Courting? Has he prayed about it? Has he sought counsel from his pastor? Has he asked permission from her parents?) A simple coffee date can be blown out of proportion by well-meaning brothers and sisters in church. If he hasn’t analyzed this enough, then perhaps he isn’t ready to date.

The repercussion of which, we are seeing less and less single men taking that step in intentionally getting to know a girl. He waddles in between group activities because that is the only “safe space” to get to know someone. Meanwhile, Christian women are left wondering, “Where have all the single eligible men gone? Why aren’t they asking us out?”

 

The Problem of Single Men

It’s a crappy time to be a man. Expectations are off-the-roof – they are to lead, serve, provide, protect and pursue. These God-given responsibilities have not changed in an ever-changing world – absentee fathers, extended “adultoscence”, proliferation of pornography and other sexual outlets.

No one knows how to be a man anymore. Fathers are not present to teach, to guide, to exemplify manhood. If they are, they have received weak examples from their fathers before them – short temper, lack of communication, not treating women right. Hence, this is what they pass on to the younger generation.

Lacking that guidance growing up, young men are left to wander on their own and meander. And what better path to take than that one which allows them to play. Video games, endless hobbies, new toys and technologies. Boys will be boys. With that missing link of a strong father and strong vision of what’s on the other side, growth spurts into adulthood are delayed. What’s the rush? I’m happy where I am and I’ve got game night with the boys later.

But the biggest challenge for young men nowadays is that which attacks their purity. It’s everywhere! Pornography is anything which intends to cause sexual excitement. It has seeped into the fabric of what we consider “normal” and has invaded our daily routines. Videos shared on social media, magazine covers of scantily-clad women displayed on eye-level of kids in the supermarket, movies with sex scenes played on long-distance bus rides. It would take a gouging-out-of-eyes and cutting-off-of-hands to take stock of one’s thoughts and not spiral into that darker realm of sin. What once can only be viewed and enjoyed within the context of marriage is now mass-produced and sensationalized for easy public access. Why buy the cow when you can drink the milk for free, right?

 

Single Men, You Are Not Alone

While it takes a village to raise a child, it may equally be true for a village to raise up young men. With the overwhelming odds stacking up against them, it takes real community effort to surround them with godly values and solid examples of God’s design for each one of us.

1.Ladies, Act like Ladies

Then [older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2: 4-5)

While this verse speaks to young married women, we can glean out the traits set out for all young women alike – to be loving, kind, self-controlled, pure, busy and subject to God-given authority.

We show love and kindness to our brothers in Christ when we engage them in real friendship. No need to shy away in fear our actions may be misconstrued. But let us not overstep our boundaries either. Let us guard one another’s heart by being pure with our words and actions, and not mislead them or cause them to stumble. Ladies, this includes dressing modestly. We want men to lead so let’s give them the space to lead. Let’s restrain ourselves from wanting to do things our way because we think it’s better or they’re too slow. Compliment them and thank them when they step up, even in the little things. Gentlemen will rise up when they see the gap and recognize the need in an accepting and nurturing environment.

2. Older Men Teach the Younger Men

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned. (Titus 2:6-8a)

Young men need to see the example of older men. The wisdom of men is seasoned through years of experience, failures and triumphs. Ideally, this is passed on at home from father to son. But spiritual fathers can be sought out to counsel and mentor. While it is tempting for us women to be the ones to teach and lead, it may not be our place. They need to see other men do it. They need other men to speak truth into their life and hold them accountable.

This is what community is all about. We do what we can to help one another. We are not the ones to do things for them, rather we set the stage that would allow them to perform their God-given roles. Let us continue praying for our single young men to rise up and be the men God wants them to be.

How to Activate Your Faith

From "Altared", Claire & Eli
From “Altared”, Claire & Eli

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 (NIV)

It’s easy to fall into that category of not doing anything. Of spitting out that catchphrase “I’m waiting on God.” Or that category of doing something crazy and saying, “I’m not waiting on God anymore.”

Perhaps you’re in the midst of a major life circumstance. Simple ones are easy – daily routine tasks that require no more than five seconds for us to decide. But there are the big ones that leave you staring into space, baffled on your next steps. These usually concern our career (or lack of), or relationships (or lack of), or family, or health, or finances. We’re more careful with these life challenges (or we should be) as the consequences could have a lasting impact on our life.

So how do you strike that balance between waiting and doing something? Of moving along with God and not moving behind him or before him? How do you navigate your way around these circumstances, from inaction to action?

1. Wait on God and be still.

Yes, this would still be the first step. Let me clarify this as this seems like the opposite of moving into action. Waiting and being still often conjures up images of not doing anything at all. Of just sitting around and waiting for an outside force to drop something good on our lap. But we’re also reactive people with a mix of hazy emotions and easily malleable by all the noise of people, things and influences around us. All of these easily confuse us and pushes us to do things that on hindsight were already veering us on the wrong track.

Thus, we need the silence. We need to re-focus our sights on what’s important and what’s real. And it’s in the silence and calmness that we can reconnect with our Creator to know His purposes for us.

Waiting on God is not simply sitting around. It means we need to pick up our bibles and align our life with His word. The psalmist recorded, “Be still and know that I am God.” All around him were troubles, of the earth giving way, of oceans roaring and mountains trembling. That’s a pretty scary sight. I would be anxious inside too. So it starts by calming ourselves and acknowledging that we have a BIG God out there.

2. Let wisdom guide your action.

After relating to us the connection between Faith and Action, James continues in the next chapter to tell us about Two Kinds of Wisdom. Our actions will stem from our perspectives and understanding. The wrong kind of wisdom is from our natural human inclinations. It is selfish and earthly, and only makes us do crazy things that mess us up even further.

The right kind of wisdom comes from God. It is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”.

Ask yourself, will this new job or venture make me into a better person? Will it develop my skills and character? Will starting or continuing in this relationship be what’s best for the other person? Am I doing this to honor God, or only for myself or the money?

3. Just do something.

We may fall into the trap of not doing anything, paralyzed in fear that we may do the wrong thing. Or we may be faced with two good choices (good for you!) and we don’t know which one aligns with God. But we also need to know that God is sovereign and even at this very moment, He is leading us. So just go out and do something.

And while we may make the wrong choices (and we will make a few of them), know that He is a merciful and gracious God, who can redeem those circumstances and veer us on the right track. After all, it’s in making bad decisions that we learn how to make the right ones, don’t we?

So be still before God, seek His wisdom and just do something!

Remember, Faith always moves us into action.

“But someone may say, “You have faith, and I have actions.” Show me your faith without any actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (ISV)

When God wants to give you MORE

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It amazes me how God takes His time, beautifully crafting replies and reframing our perspective according to what He really means.

As I’ve been drowning out heaven with prayers for a mate FOR YEARS, I thought that what He meant with “immeasurably more” is with the partner He’ll give me. That if I’m praying for ten things I want in a future husband, then He’ll give me 15 more! Now that’s immeasurably more, right?

But I’ve come to realize that maybe that’s not what He meant. He wants me to have an abundant life (John 10:10). He doesn’t want me to just have a husband. He wants me to have a full life.

Remember the story of the woman at the well? She has had five husbands and yet she was still not satisfied with her life. She said to Jesus: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15, NIV) Five husbands and still thirsty!

So perhaps it’s not just one part of the equation that He wants to give us. He wants to give us so much more.

 

How to experience God’s “immeasurably more”

1. Let God define what is “more”. 

“Now to HIM who is able to do..” It starts with God. And He is the one who is able to do this. I could be wrong in what I want. But God knows me better than I know myself. So let go of what “more” looks like to you. For me, “more” is getting a better husband than what’s on my list. But God redefined that for me by giving me much more – a full life.

A husband would only be one of many relationships that I will have (albeit the most important if there is). But life covers a wide spectrum of needs – social, spiritual, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, environmental (Seven Dimensions of Wellness). So what about the rest? And this is where God wanted to meet me first. He wants me to experience wellness – establish healthy relationships with family and friends (social), be at peace with where He has me and experience joy no matter what (emotional), enjoy work and pursue passions (occupational and intellectual), learn how to take care of my skin and body (physical), live an organic and natural lifestyle (environmental), and most importantly, build my relationship with My Creator (spiritual).

Whatever “more” looks like to you, just let it go. Let God be the one to define it for you.

2. Know God as a Loving Father

Verse 20 is preceded with Verses 18 and 19: “(that you) may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

What is a loving father like? Fathers who care deeply about their children will not withhold good things from them. He will provide for all their needs and much more – toys, chocolates, birthday parties. He will not do this reluctantly but it would be his joy to give these things to his child.

We need to know that kind of love – how wide and long and high and deep, and which surpasses knowledge. That is how much He loves us. To see Him as a stingy, reluctant, unloving Father would limit who He is and what He can do in our lives.

Your earthly father may be different. Don’t confuse the two.

3. Start living the full life

“..According to his power that is at work within us.” As children of God, His very Spirit is at work within us. That full life began the moment we received Christ into our lives. So what does a full life look like to you? Don’t just look at it from one angle. Remember the Seven Dimensions of Wellness. Consider your relationships, work, spiritual life. All these factor in how well you live your life. You have a role to play. That immeasurably more is within your grasp as you recognize that power at work within you.

I don’t just sit around waiting for God to drop a husband on my lap. I live my life the best way I know how. I work on my relationships, I meet new people, I try out new things. I continue to seek God, know more of His Love for me and tell other people about it. I enjoy life and this is immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.

Had He given me a husband first then I may not be able to appreciate this gift – a gnawing feeling may seethe deep within me as other aspects of my life are not satisfied. But He wants to answer that prayer, even ones that I have not uttered to Him. And so He is making sure that I am whole and complete first, not lacking in anything – and that is the fullness of life.

I don’t know what you’re praying for. But when we dictate too much what we want, we limit God. He wants to give us more than what we ask for, but first, we have to let Him. Let go of any expectations you may have on how God will answer you. Only then will you be able to recognize how God is already giving you that immeasurably more in this life. Let Him.

 

 

When God heals

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I’ve been on the down-low lately as I focused on this area of my life. I’m not terminally ill. But I’ve been plagued with a disease (yes, it’s a disease) that has rocked me several times throughout my life. Through each episode, I thought I had overcome it. Until it comes back with a vengeance.

This is Acne. 

It shames me to talk about it as women my age (I’m already 30) flaunt beautifully clear skin. Sometimes I just sit there and stare at how smooth and flawless my friend’s face is (sorry ladies!). This is me when it hurts to even touch my face.

You’d think that acne is only skin deep (I once thought, too). But as primal beings, instinct tells us that there’s something wrong deep within. It’s the same instinct that attracts men to women with long, luscious locks or to women with wide, child-bearing hips. And so we also veer towards people with clear skin. Acne equates to poor health.

This year, my struggles began anew. New acne has been popping out beginning late last year but I’ve been able to hide it with make-up. But by February, it can no longer be ignored. My whole chin, jawline, neck and temples were covered with big, red, cystic acne. My upper lip would grow big pustules at a time.

It was painful. But the real pain comes from societal judgment that there is something wrong with me.

This was my struggle. Daily I would pray for healing and wisdom on how to deal with this. I’ve been making lifestyle changes and there would be seemingly victorious highs, only to be followed by plateaus.

I felt stuck. 

I searched my heart to know if this was only vanity. Was beauty a god I was running after? I justified that this was health. This is MY health on the line. But a book I came across asked, Would you still worship God in the midst of poor physical health?

My thoughts raced to bed-ridden patients who, in pain, would still maintain a cheerful posture and praise God. And here I was, still able to walk around and meet with people, yet sullen in quiet moments, doubting the goodness of God because of a few spots and nodules on my face.

Yet God has been so gracious to me. My prayers changed and focused on His future grace. Someday, everything will be perfect. No ills, pains or sorrows. We will come back in perfect and glorified bodies. He may have His purposes for not healing now. I can only trust in His greater plan and goodness in my life.

God is my healer and true healing can only come from God, whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual illness. Anything outside of God is only temporal.

It’s been four months since this season began. And I’m happy to say that I’m already 90% cleared! There are still a few pesky ones that won’t go away and most are just blemishes. Battle scars if you will. And this time I feel like I’ve gained true wisdom and understanding of my skin and body. That this clearness is true and will stay for good – God’s healing hands.

When God heals, it is true. Acne has plagued me for more than a decade. In bouts and cycles, through different medications, it clears and heals, and then it comes back again. But hopefully this time, it won’t. By God’s grace and help. He is my sun and shield.

 

Follow me as I share my journey through God’s healing grace to clear skin.

 

xx,

Jen

 

 

Celebrating Your Singleness

seasons

Dear Sister-in-Waiting,

I know.

I know it’s hard. I know the days can drag on. I know about all those lonely nights.

I’ve been there.

And I wish it wouldn’t be this hard. But there are days when your heart literally hurts, especially after meeting a promising young man, only for it to turn sour and find out he’s not the one for you.

I know.

And I know you’re tired of people telling you,

“It’s going to happen soon.”

“He’s coming for you.”

“Just be patient and wait.”

So I’m not going to tell you those. Because honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know if it is going to happen soon.

I don’t know where he is.

And I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait.

So maybe you pray even harder. Read even more. And they tell you,

“Wait on God.”

“Jesus is your Husband.”

“Prepare for your marriage.”

All good advice. But it’s been a year. Or two. Or five. And hope is not what it used to be. It’s dwindling a little.

But I will tell you this:

This season too shall pass.

That I know.

I have been where you are. I read. I prayed. I met new friends. Potentials even. I was expectant. I had high hopes.

I guarded my heart. Took captive of my thoughts. Tried to think only of what was pure, noble and right. But I couldn’t. I thought of marriage. A lot. I thought of potential husbands. A lot.

But, nothing.

And then it hurt. And hurt some more.

But you wake up one day, and you’re ok. Literally, ok.

No longer panicky, no longer anxious. I had peace.

I trusted Jesus. I trusted God. If it is His will, it will happen. He wants this to happen more than I do.

So yes, it will pass. And you will enjoy your singleness like never before. You will see with new eyes, feel with a new heart. You will crave for God just as when you met Him as your First Love. You will want to know Him more, serve Him as He has called you to.

This season is a gift from God. No husband to care for. No kids to run after. Your time is your own. You can focus on your passion for singing. Take up painting. Watch your favorite episode of Friends. Go on road trips.

This is your life. It doesn’t start after marriage. Marriage does not define you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

And it’s great to be alive.

So it’s ok. Just hang on to God. With every bit of your might.

Because, my dear Sister-in-Waiting, this too shall pass. And what’s around the corner is worth waiting for.

On Death. Or Brevity of Life.

You can’t help but think of it when you hear someone you know pass away. Especially if that someone was still young. And full of potential.

I hardly know him. I only met him a few times. But the outpouring of love for him is enormous. His reputation precedes him. He’s really a great guy. “Too beautiful for this earth,” someone said.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. It’s usually asked: If you only had one month or one year to live, would you do anything differently? 

I pondered on that question for a moment. Would I? Honestly, I feel it’s a “no”. Now, before you think I’m leading a perfect life, let me expound on that a bit.

If I were free to dream here, that desire I want is to be married and have kids. But with only a month or a year, that’s not possible. Get married, maybe. But if I were to pass away after that, I wouldn’t want to leave behind a husband and/or a child. If I were to pass away early, I’d want to be single.

For some people, it’s to love more. For some, it’s to travel the world. Those are great. Do that. Pursue those.

As for me, I’ve realized that walking with God actually confronts me with the reality of “death” on a daily basis. You hear it in the Gospel. Christ died for me. It’s in His word – die to yourselves daily and pick up His cross. As a follower of Christ, there must be a readiness to stand up for the truth, even unto death. As a child of God, there is a readiness and eagerness to be called home any time..

I’m not meaning to be morbid. Some people would be quick to say here, “Don’t speak of such things.” But only in the face of darkness can you see the light. Or in loss can you appreciate what you have.

So this is my life. Sometimes I do feel I’m ready to leave any time.. At times, I struggle to be content, that there must be more this world can offer. And yet I know that this life can’t satisfy it: I’m longing for that sweet, tender taste of heaven. To be content yet discontent in this world. To be a stranger in a foreign land.

So let me leave you with Psalm 90:12

NIV: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

NLT: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

May we all grow in wisdom as we learn to live the life God has graciously given us.