Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Culture

Children of divorce, how will we win the fight?

by | 30 November 2017, 2:43 PM

“She’s okay what. Look at her. Does she not look okay?”

When my parents’ divorce was finalised and the relatives were informed, I was a topic of discussion at the lunch table.

Not fully knowing the weight I was trying to carry on my own, I smiled back in agreement with them – because I wanted to be okay too.

At that time, I don’t think anyone in the family was familiar enough with the rough terrain of divorce to help me navigate it.

It was easier for us to talk about my results, which secondary school I should go to – talk around the elephant in the room – instead of discussing how I should process my emotions or think about my new “broken” family.

I wanted to defend the decision made by my parents by proving that I was fine and that they shouldn’t be blamed. I was trying to be my own grown-up, but I was really just an anxious child trying to scare off the monsters by standing on shaky stilts, hiding in clothes too big for me.
So how bad is the effect of divorce on the children? Can young children still “turn out well” after their parents’ marriage ends? Do children of divorce fare worse academically or relationally?

For a long time I was interested in the answers to those questions too. I wanted to know if I’ll be “okay”. I can’t actually remember if my parents ever told me that I was gonna be okay. Maybe they didn’t, because they weren’t sure of it themselves too.

As a kid then, I was oddly “okay” with my parents’ divorce. And I saw it coming. I don’t recall asking them to stay together, since I was also of the view that that they shouldn’t – they weren’t happy together anyway. My young self believed wholeheartedly that it was “for the better”.

Then, I realised that all these questions and perspectives about divorce reveal a more concerning problem: Are we missing the mark on the significance of marriage? Can divorce really be “for the better” if we can be assured that the children will be fine?

The effects of divorce tend to show up in other areas – a weak sense of self, a broken view on love and divorce, an inability to trust fully.

What I didn’t know was that no matter how “okay” I was with it, the trauma will be no less significant. What I knew as home was disintegrating into fragments – the divide between my parents was a chasm opening inside of me, beyond my line of sight.

For children of divorce, the changes we experience are neither just situational nor superficial – they’re deeply real. And their effects may not show up all the time in our grades, a CT scan, or in our social functioning.

The divorce couldn’t change my biological-belonging to my parents, so I now had two separate realities that I didn’t want to have to deal with. But on the inside, I wanted a do-over – a restart, please – a different life altogether.

You see, the effects of divorce tend to show up in other areas – a weak sense of self, a broken view on love and divorce, an inability to trust fully …

At least, that was my experience.

As an only child, I wanted an older sister. It was almost purely so I wouldn’t have to go through my parents’ divorce alone, so that it didn’t feel like it was little me against the world.

I didn’t want to be defenceless; I felt attacked every time someone talked about either one of my parents – I felt lacking because I didn’t have a dad and mum who were referred to as a pair, a team – and that meant neither was I part of something whole.

I needed someone else I could turn to in the fallout of my nuclear family. I would’ve asked my older sister what was happening to us – and how do we make sense of it?

The divorce was an event set into motion by signatures on sheets of paper. But the breaking apart of something that was once joined will always entail a great shattering and pieces to be picked up.

In my own growing up by trial and error, in my fearful picking-up-of-pieces, I realised that I wanted a sibling because I was really looking for perspective, and for direction. With the permanent loss of my parents as one entity, it meant that I no longer had a safe place – and I was lost.

It was obvious what was happening on the outside – my parents no longer wanted to be together. But on the inside, there was an upheaval that couldn’t be resolved with a simple pair of signatures.

I didn’t feel the full force of my parents’ divorce in me until much later, when I went through my first major break-up.

“We are searching for a sense of home, a way to convince ourselves the lies in our abandonment and loneliness won’t have the last word.” (Paul Maxwell, To the sons and daughters of divorce)

The words of Paul Maxwell provided the language I needed to explain to myself what I’d been struggling with all these years; I was searching for a sense of home.

But my blooming identity crisis meant that I was in no position to see things clearly. I didn’t know who I was or what I even wanted.

I thought that maybe if I tried hard enough, if I looked for the “right” person, my new home – my new belonging as found in a person – would be indestructible, unlike the one I had.

But at the same time, I admittedly picked at my relationship like the big bad wolf who tried to blow the house down, because I needed to see if it would hold up.

I was in constant confusion. My destructive thoughts, feelings and actions should have been a big warning sign to stop what I was doing – “DO NOT PROCEED” – but I was so close to finally having a sense of home that I couldn’t bear it.

Eventually, the house was blown down like one made of straw.

As I picked up the pieces of my own break-up, I could strangely see myself better. Maybe I was growing into the clothes once too big for me, maybe I was getting better at seeing things from a mature standpoint, with no more need for stilts.

In the familiar wake of heartbreak, I realised that the source of my struggles came mostly from my sense of self. It might sound funny but my deepest question over the years was ,”Who am I, really?”

As a prideful child who only knew how to speak the language of “I’m okay and I’ve got it all together”, I didn’t know how to ask for help. Perhaps at several important junctures of my life, I should’ve raise my hand, the way we were taught to at zebra crossings, so that someone could see me – and all my confusion – clearly.

But that wasn’t in any school syllabus – so it took me more than a decade before I got hold of some language to help me express and process my parents’ divorce.

We don’t have to live our whole lives crippled, even if our growth was somehow stunted in our childhood.

Psychologist Erik Erikson sees the development of a person in stages, and success at each stage helps the person better take on the challenges in the next. He believes that the basic conflict in adolescence (12-18 years old) lies between identity and role confusion. If a child is confused about his identity, it leads to a “weak sense of self”.

Since the development is cumulative, a weak development (e.g. sense of self, independence, or competence) in earlier stages may mean a reduced ability to do well in further stages, when one has to build intimacy for committed relationships.

But it doesn’t mean that it cannot be made up for.

It means that we don’t have to live our whole lives crippled, even if our growth was somehow stunted in our childhood. The pain of our parents’ divorce is real, and it’s not the kind of pain you can easily heal with a just-get-over-it band-aid.

But it’s possible.

One night this year, I took out my big old reel of painful memories and played it in my mind again. It was extensive. I wondered if there was anything I could do about it, but I didn’t see how it was possible unless there was a way to undo the past. How does one fix a marriage that was supposed to last a lifetime?

This was a routine I was well-accustomed to: Holding onto my pain, keeping it in a box and opening it once in a while to remind myself of why I am the way I am. It was an equal mix of self-loathing and self-pity – downright scary.

But that night, I was asked if I was going to keep doing this for the rest of my life.

And the one with the question was none other than God, again.

Even though I’d allowed Jesus into my life somewhere in my teenage years, I hadn’t let go of my past. I was still old on the inside, while trying to be new on the outside. No wonder I kept walking down old paths of pain.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Christ offers a new life to anyone who would believe in Him. A new life that is not weighed down by the consequences of choices – others or mine – made in the past.

How should I put it? It’s not self-help at all, it was help from God Himself, with all the power that only He brings, so that I could trade in my old life for a new one. It was Him who saw me clearly all this while, even when I didn’t know how to raise my hand.

Though I did try, there was nothing I could do to help myself other than gratefully placing my life into the safe hands of a God who loves me.

So that night, instead of telling Him all the reasons why I thought my life sucks and how it wasn’t possible that I could live any differently, I quietened down and listened to His love for me.

I still had one thing to resolve about divorce: My acceptance of it.

Many years ago, somewhere near Christmas time, a couple from the same Church as me shared their story of adultery, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Sitting in the audience, listening to their story, I thought that it was crazy. Their story did not end in divorce! And I remember thinking that I’d never be able to find enough strength in myself to forgive that way.

And it made me realise that all this while, I believed in divorce as a solution.

To me, marriage was nothing beautiful, at least not for long; marriage only meant that there was a chance for something precious to be taken away from me. So even though I searched for love, I was incredibly fearful of it.

“Why would people vow to love each other for the rest of their lives? Why would anyone think they could keep a promise like that?” 

These were just some of the questions I had towards marriage as an institution in our world. It befuddled me that despite the many failures of it, marriage is still popular, that people would still choose to enter into a contract with rising dissolution rates.

But I had to also ask myself which view of marriage I was subscribing to: Was it biblical or practical?

I had to orient myself with the biblical view of marriage – designed by God to reflect the way He loves us. 

With that in mind, the wild vows of marriage make sense to me now, because I know that God keeps those same vows toward me. In His eyes, it is not so much a contract as it is a covenant. And He keeps His covenant of love perfectly.

Sometime this year, God reminded me of that couple’s story and my response to it all those years ago.

The wild vows of marriage make sense to me now, because I know that God keeps those same vows toward me. In His eyes, it is not so much a contract as it is a covenant.

A sudden question confronted me that afternoon: Should I come face-to-face with adultery in my marriage one day, would I stay put in the marriage instead of choosing a divorce?

My response was equally sudden. My heart lunged out, almost surprising me, a yes in agreement with my mind.

Holding onto love as a covenant – the highest of all promises – that’s the kind of bewildering love that Christ first showed us and now calls us to:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13)

Impractical? Maybe. But definitely biblical. And the sort of love I’d want in on.

And that became the day the child who was “okay” with her parents’ divorce renounced divorce as an option or solution in her own life – come what may.

I knew that my answer was significant. Should I one day make a decision to attempt to love another person in marriage, I know that my future no longer rests in the history of relationships in my family.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether I’d eventually be married or not. The far more precious lesson I’ve learnt is that God’s love will never fail me. And that is my confidence.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious, deeply devoted to her dogs, and loves a good chat with strangers. She believes everyone needs to know that they are worthy of love – you are!

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Stay woke but keep dreaming, Singapore

by Joanne Kwok

Faith

A sound of sheer silence

by Amy Ong

Relationships

What is intimacy?

by Mark Lee

Culture

You don’t have to compare

by | 17 August 2018, 12:18 PM

Each of us has a lane to run in.

Whether you’re a parent, student or a team member, we have a unique lane to run in that belongs to us. You have a role that only you can perform!

Think of it in terms of driving: There will always be better drivers around, but if we’ve been given the keys to a car and have been licensed to drive – we need to get going. Or if you’re a guitarist and you’ve been asked to play, don’t let the fact that there are better guitarists out there paralyse you from playing your part.

There will always be someone better than us, but the show must go on. We need to guard ourselves against our need to compare ourselves with others.

“Ah, you’re looking at the car beside you again.” How did he know?

It’s silly now that I think of it, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I was a trainee driver, overwhelmed by all the things I needed to look at – that I was slowly veering out of my lane.

But isn’t that what happens when we compare ourselves with people around us? We get less satisfied with where we’re at, with what we have or who we are, and we move away from the centre of our lanes.

Comparison holds the danger of disqualification.

Mr Chan, my favourite driving instructor, was fond of repeating his mantra: “Always look further ahead. Don’t only look at the car in front of you or beside you.”

Look further ahead to who you could grow to become. Keep driving in your lane till you get where you need to be. We won’t win the race if we show up at the finish line in the wrong lane.

Comparison holds the danger of disqualification.

According to psychologist Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory, people compare themselves with others when objective standards don’t exist.

  • How am I doing as a 30-year-old?
  • Am I lagging behind my peers?
  • Am I successful enough?

Ever had thoughts like these? Comparison is one way for us to gather information about ourselves and our value when we don’t have an objective standard.

But it’s shaky when we determine our value by comparison, because our value isn’t in our capability or utility to others.

That kind of value is fragile compared to the inherent value in each of us. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you that there’s never going to be anyone just like you, but your inherent uniqueness tells you something about your value.

You’re not just any other person. You have a lane to run in and something to accomplish with your life. If you believe anything else, you are shortchanging yourself and being robbed of your destiny.

“So, what do you do?”

It’s hard to believe that a person’s “value” is raised or diminished just by their answer to this simple question. That’s the sad reality of the world we live in, and is what a lot of us do: We like arrange ourselves in a pecking order based on our job titles, salaries, or whatever else we can find to compare.

William Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, calls the comparing of ourselves with others a “social hierarchy game”.

The goal of that game is to provoke the most envy from others; the way out of social hierarchy is to quit comparing. Because when we refuse to play that game, we start seeing one another as people – not our rivals. Suddenly the value of life is no longer tied to the amount of “likes” we have or the kind of brands we can afford.

Comparing ourselves with others pits us against them and it becomes a competition.

Have you ever met someone and got so hung up over the fact that they can do something way better than you can?

And it may not even be something that you like or want to do! Well, I have. I’m familiar with the feeling of making everything a competition and it’s tiring. It’s why I found a lot of comfort and wisdom in the saying, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”

That frame of mind makes the world a much better place. We can start with encouragement. If we see someone doing well in their field, running well in their lanes – give them a compliment. Call someone out for doing a good job, instead of wondering why we’re not as good as them.

If we compared less and built relationships more, we would reach the finish line in a better shape and more fulfilled at the end.

We all have our own lanes to run in. Each one of us are threads in a grand tapestry being woven together.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious, deeply devoted to her dogs, and loves a good chat with strangers. She believes everyone needs to know that they are worthy of love – you are!

Conversations

We Recommend

Work

How to be an excellent worker

by Tay Yong Thai

Culture

I broke all the rules I said I never would

by Amedee Goh

video

Hooked on drugs and paralysed, I should have died

by Nicole Chan

Culture

Hooked on drugs and paralysed, I should have died

by | posted 15 August 2018, 4:37 PM

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

The psalm of my broken heart

by Lizzy Lee

Gabriel Ong

Culture

Should I believe in ghosts?

by Gabriel Ong

Faith

A confession: I was not the prophet I claimed I was

by Judah Koh

Culture

Porn is killing me

by Mark Lee | 14 August 2018, 11:48 AM

I am locked in a battle for sexual purity and I am dying in it.

Time and time again, I watch pornography.

Time and time again, I diminish a female – reducing her to just her body and nothing more. Time and time again, I let my gaze linger on women. And the whole time, there’s always this quiet voice inside me that I try to silence in the moment. There are many things this quiet little voice says to me, but the one word I hear the most is “fight”.

I will not mince my words. Every encounter with porn has sliced sinews of my soul off. In this battle for sexual purity, I have become a maimed soldier.

Whenever I am tempted, this scene plays in my mind: I’m in that quiet room in my soul where I host God, and I find that Satan is leaning on the doorway, waiting. He was chatting with God, but now he turns to me.

“Oh, is this the one you were talking about?” Satan gestures lazily at me. “Yes,” comes God’s reply.

“You know, he looks really familiar. Ah!” Satan snaps his fingers as an evil glint enters his eyes. “He most definitely came to pay me and my friends a visit last night. Or was it this morning? Or 5 minutes ago? Hard to keep track really …”

“I know what he’s done,” replies God calmly.

Satan scoffs. “And still You call this one Your son..? A precious child of Yours?”

“Go now,” commands God.

Satan pushes himself off the doorframe lazily, making to move away. But before he does, he turns and smiles at God: “You’ve an even softer spot for losers than I thought!”

Then he walks, striding towards me lazily. He wraps an arm around my shoulder, pulling my ear close to his mouth: “Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.” And then the old snake is gone.

“Mark, what Satan said about what you did is true. But what he said about who you are is not.”

Now I stumble across the doorway, my knees suddenly weak and my breath ragged.

The weight of my sins and all the wrong I’ve done have turned my soul to lead. I trip and fall face-first on to the ground, and when I pick myself up, it’s through tear-blurred eyes that I see God in front of me – His arms extended to me.

“My son,” He says, “come here.”

I shuffle closer, and then His arms encircle me. Now I cannot help but cry and cry as the weight of a thousand and one sins is lifted as God holds me close. Lead turns to gold … to light. It is a torrent now of tears and thoughts, and wails where words simply fail.

“Why?” I eventually manage, choking and sputtering the word out. “Send me away, God. I don’t deserve this love. I’m not even sure I want this love. Even if I say I do, nothing in my actions reflects that I actually do. Everything Satan said was true … I’m sorry … but he’s right.”

I hang my head. I really am pathetic.

There is sadness on God’s face for a moment, but then He smiles. “Mark, what Satan said about what you did is true. But what he said about who you are is not.”

I lift my head a little. God rests His hands on my shoulders: “You are not pathetic. You are precious to me.” As the words enter my ears and sink into my soul, deep calls to deep, and something stirs within.

That was truth. Even after all I did? And all I might still do against You? You’d still call me Your own, Your precious son?

God smiles even more fully now and nods. “Remember, even while you were still a sinner, I sent Jesus to die for you. You are loved, my dear son. And you are fully forgiven.”

Then God holds out a closed hand, clasping a scroll. “I have a mission for you today, Mark. Will you accept it?” I peer at the scroll, but I can’t see what’s written on it. Then I look to God – and I see it.

Hope.

God hopes. He believes in the good that may yet come out of me.

In spite of all the pornography, objectification, lust, lies and failures … there is hope. My hand is shaking, but I put it forward – palm up.

“Yes, God. I’ll do it. I’ll accept this mission.” He smiles and lays the scroll in my hand.

I open it up and read the words there, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

I stare at the words, and they stare back at me.

In spite of all the pornography, objectification, lust, lies and failures … there is hope.

“Mark, will you die as Jesus did, and will you believe that I can raise you from the dead?”

There is a painful lump in my throat as I try and speak, and an even greater one in my soul. Something is telling me to run – that only pain and trials await me on this path. A voice within screams at the stupid, un-fun and unnecessary decision I’m thinking of making!

The shrill voice seems to be making more and more sense. But hadn’t I just said I would accept God’s mission a few moments ago? Somehow those words of certainty seemed far far away now.

“I’m not strong enough – I want all of it!”

I manage to look God dead in the eye for a moment before it is too much, and my gaze drops back to the floor. But still my yelling continues, “What this world has, the pleasures that others so joyfully experience … I want it all. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry … I’m not strong enough.”

And then I’m running, tripping over myself, rushing to get out of that room.

Mark.

My foot was just about to cross the doorway. I turn around and God is there, holding an open hand out to me. I know.

In a firm voice, God tells me: “I know that you’re not strong enough. And I know what it is that you want.”  Then his voice drops to a gentle whisper, “But I am strong enough. Stronger than the world. And I know what it is that you truly need, my son.”

And there I stand, at the doorway of my soul, with a choice to let heaven in or to run away to hell.

I whisper my apologies pathetically as I close the door on God. The hypocrisy splashing onto my soul is acrid, bitter. I call Jesus, Lord – and yet I run from Him and deny Him? The sadness in God’s eyes when I closed that door on Him bores into me.

But before I can examine the damage to my soul, I find that I am now surrounded by the pleasures of the flesh – soothing and sedating.

There is no problem. There is no problem. There is no problem.

Or is there?

I think what Satan would want me to think is that there really isn’t a problem. But if there really isn’t a problem, then why would I write this? If I truly believed that I would never experience God’s victory in the area of sexual purity then why would I bother writing this?

I know (or at least I think I know) the risks of writing something like this, but what really is at risk? I am dying, after all.

Clarity has come upon me as to the courses of action I can take. I can live the remaining life I have left enjoying all the worldly pleasure I want. Perhaps with enough pleasure of the flesh or whatever else Satan brings my way, I will indeed find my soul inoculated from the pestering cry of that still small voice.

Fight. Suffer. Die. And after it all, be reborn in My Name.

Some bloody and bruised soldier I am, with badges upon badges of failure. Yet, God so help me: I’m choosing to stand up again.

I want to say no to the pleasures of pornography and the worldly pleasures of the flesh.

I believe they do not and cannot ever satisfy the soul. God alone is not only capable but willing to fully and truly satisfy my soul. Life and life abundantly as Jesus promised is something that can be realised.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve realised that you are dying too. Maybe you also know that God has won and will win in your fight for sexual purity. Maybe those are just words to you now, and not a lived experience. That’s where I am now, at least.

Some bloody and bruised soldier I am, with badges upon badges of failure. Yet, God so help me: I’m choosing to stand up again. And I will fight for Him in this battlefield of sexual purity. I’m not a saint, I’m not even a soldier at times.

But I am a son. A son of the Most High God who hasn’t given up on us yet – and never will. So far be it from us to give up on Him.

I haven’t tasted God’s victory over sexual purity yet, but I know my failures take nothing away from a God who is all-victorious – even over death itself. So yes, I’m dying. But I’m dying to self, and to a God who’s already beaten death and calls me His own!

So I have hope when I look to the times where I can really choose and trust Him to bring me into real living.

Perhaps, by His grace and mercy, this very day, this very hour, in this very internet window … I might say that indeed I die, but because of who God is, I truly live.


This article was first published on Mark’s blog, and is republished with permission.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Cloudy with a chance of breakthrough

by Fiona Teh

Faith

How does discipleship work?

by Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong, Awaken Generation

Studies

Are you a 5% student?

by Samantha Loh

Culture

Should I believe in ghosts?

by | 10 August 2018, 5:19 PM

Do ghosts exist?

That was the question in the Thir.st office the other day. An intern had shared about his experiences of waking up with inexplicable scratches on his back for almost a whole year. We ruled out a number of logical explanations for the scratches and wondered if these disturbances could be spiritual in nature.

(Final answer: No, it was just faulty bedsprings.)

That got us talking about things like deliverance and spiritual open doorways. As more of us began sharing about our own experiences with the supernatural, it became clear that these encounters weren’t as rare as they seemed.

One often felt a heavy presence in a certain spot of the house at night, while another owned pets that had gone crazy and died on the same night.

Even our editor shared that the alarms would trip with the security feeds showing a dark figure passing through, upon which someone then suggested it could’ve been the ghost of a fallen Japanese soldier from WWII.

Could that really be true? Can the soul of a dead person hang around on Earth to haunt the living?

I’d wager the vast majority of us have had such experiences. I’ve personally heard rows of padlocks whirring in my army bunk at night before, and I’ve seen a ghostly white woman approach me as I rested in an abandoned room at an Air Force base.

Are experiences like these really the products of ghosts – that is, dead people?

It’s something we don’t have to avoid talking about, because the last thing we want to do in our lives is cede ground to fear, especially unfounded fears. Ideally, we want a life lived in the perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

So just to spare you the suspense and state it upfront: From our reading of Scripture, dead people do not come back to haunt the living. It’s a commonly-held belief, but it’s a myth that needs to be debunked.

What is real, however, is the presence of evil spirits in this world.

The best question to always start with: What does the Bible say about this?

A helpful starting point to our discussion is, “What happens to our soul when we die?” Some people believe the soul sleeps, pointing to examples like Lazarus (John 11:11), or the dead girl who Jesus raised to life (Mark 5:35). They were all “asleep” before being resurrected.

While that view of the afterlife may make for a compelling initial reading, I don’t buy it. Instead, I agree with John Piper that sleep as mentioned in the Bible is “simply a description of death by a softer picture of what it actually looks like“.

Piper picked two Scriptures that seal the deal for me. The first comes from Paul’s famous words in Philippians 1:21-23, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

“Be with Christ.” That to me, connotes a sense of being present — of being fully conscious of where one is and with whom. Piper himself writes that Paul “calls it ‘gain’, not because he is going to go unconscious and have zero experience for another thousand years, but because he goes into the presence of Christ”.

The departed, be they kindly or evil in life, do not come and go as they please in death.

The second example Piper offers is also the story I had been thinking about: Lazarus (different from the one in the Gospel of John) and the rich man. Both men died, and were transported to their separate lots in the afterlife — fully conscious, fully present.

What really stands out to me are the great spiritual boundaries in effect. We read of “a great chasm … set in place” (Luke 16:26) which at least suggests to me that a soul’s freedom of movement is not something that happens across the afterlife to earth, or vice versa.

What I am saying is that the departed, be they kindly or evil in life, do not come and go as they please in death.

The Word says that “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12), which leads me to believe that upon death, we have an infinitely more important and pressing thing to do than to hang around and guilt-trip relatives or haunt army camps.

Trauma, injustice or pain are not strong enough to keep one’s soul lingering on earth after death.

So that’s strike one against the notion of lingering souls.

As I chatted with our editor about this, just for discussion’s sake, he brought up the example of Saul and the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). TL;DR: Saul was in trouble, desperate and got a witch to summon the spirit of Samuel.

For some, there may be a troubling implication here in that, if folks from heaven can be summoned up, who’s to say folks from hell can’t? Was the spirit of Samuel a demon or the prophet’s ghost himself?

But given that everything the spirit of Samuel told Saul (1 Sam 28:16-19) actually came to pass, there is little reason to think the familiar was in fact a disguised demon. Here is the Benson commentary on verse 19:

“Now as no evil spirit or impostor of any kind could possibly know these particulars, which were all exactly accomplished next day, nor even Samuel himself, unless he had been divinely inspired with the knowledge of them, it is surprising that any person should imagine that this appearance of Samuel was either a human or diabolical imposture; for it is evident it could only proceed from the omniscient God.”

I believe that this episode was a one-off sanctioned by the Most High God, and had little or nothing to do with the witch’s powers. I believe only God has the ability, if He so wishes, to transport souls from the afterlife to the earth.

The example I’m thinking of here is Moses and Elijah – one long dead, the other many centuries after he’d been taken up into the heavens – appearing momentarily before Jesus to Peter, James and John before vanishing again (Matthew 17:3, 8).

As I read this chapter I wasn’t scared. Instead imagining what this holy manifestation must have been like produced a good kind of fear in me — reverential awe at an awesome God.

“As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.” (Job 7:9-10)

Ghosts do not exist, but evil spirits do.

The Adversary is out to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10); his fellow fallen angels have the same agenda. So I wouldn’t put it past demonic spirits to ride on ghost stories, myths or spooky traditions in order to perpetuate a culture of fear.

Nor would I discount them from impersonating people, even loved ones to wreak havoc and bring maximum fear to the lives of people. Remember, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, the good news is that we are not at the mercy of the demonic forces — not when we have Jesus on our side. If you believe in Jesus, you are not a helpless protagonist in a horror film. Instead we are adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God (Galatians 3:26).

We are priests and kings (Revelations 1:6)! That means we can appropriate the Blood of Jesus and cast out that which defiles and disturbs, in the name of Jesus.

God through His Son Jesus, has given us the “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). What a relief to know we have this powerful promise that nothing will harm us — one guaranteed by the Undefeated King.

Continue to exercise your authority as a king from the Kingdom in your home, in Jesus’ Name. A house that is often tidied and cleaned up is a clean house.

If you have a lot of fear in your life, it’s likely because you’ve been feeding it.

Here are some ways we feed fear: Ungodly beliefs, like being afraid of the ghosts of loved ones. Open doorways, like a passion for horror and gore films. Things like charms you’ve kept around for “good luck”. Persistent defilement through religious artefacts within your home.

These “little things” slowly widen the holes for dirty water to leak through, so that before you know it, you’re swimming in a pool of snakes.

The answer is that we need to guard what we let in through the doors of our minds and houses, and we need to strive to abide in Jesus. You fill your house with bad things, you get a bad house. You fill your house with good things, you get a good one.

Continue to exercise your authority as a king from the Kingdom in your home, in Jesus’ Name. A house that is often tidied and cleaned up, is a clean house.

The next time you ever feel fear, remember that you are a child of God – Your Father runs the universe.

Remember Paul’s counsel: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

The God of peace with us. That’s a pretty awesome promise to think about! So the next time you ever feel fear – maybe the next time you encounter some of the eerie experiences we started this story with – remember that you are a child of God. Your Father runs the universe.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:15)

You can trust in the unfailing protection and love of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit within you will never lose to anything (1 John 4:4).

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

How to love without burning out

by Mark Lee

Work

Full-time under 30: I begged God not to call me to suffer

by Joey Lam

Culture

There is a generation gap, and we need to deal with it

by Joey Lam

Culture

Stay woke but keep dreaming, Singapore

by | 9 August 2018, 3:36 PM

I have a dream for Singapore. Which is funny because I live in a generation that’s so steeped in sociopolitical correctness, it’s better not to declare dreams for your nation in case some part of it comes out unwittingly offensive. Because so many things are – or have become – offensive nowadays.

I’m no expert in the arena of our world’s sociopolitical climate, but I take heart knowing that most of us actually aren’t either. Earlier this year, maverick artiste Childish Gambino released his super #woke song “This is America” that to this day has garnered 36.3 million YouTube views (I contributed about 10).

Being “woke” is a thing, I learnt a while back. This is a Singaporean’s way of understanding it: You were asleep and in the dark when it came to certain social issues such as racism and sexism, but now you’re aware of what’s really going on; you’re awake to them.

Get woke, stay woke. I couldn’t entirely follow what Childish Gambino was singing about, but I could tell that it was so politically incorrect yet sociopolitically correct, the people of today were going to love it. It was the American Dream and American “wokeness” all in one music video.

We had a dream, we know it’s a bit of a broken dream IRL now, but in pointing it out we’re really still dreaming, hoping for a better day.

And as the old order of things drips away with another National Day, it’s never been more pressing that the generation that’s rising forth gets woke, stays woke but keeps dreaming and hoping.

“What can we hand the next generation?” Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church asked the 9,000 strong crowd at Day of His Power that took place yesterday, August 8. “Not a method, not a great rally – because that may not be the method of their generation – but a dream.

“A dream that Singapore can be one for Jesus Christ. That Singapore will be saved.”

This dream had been heart-wrenchingly broken 17 years ago, Pastor Khong shared. “In 2001, we were believing for a great harvest, people quit their jobs to become pastors, we believed that God was going to move in a way we’d never seen before … But it never happened.

“The unity we talked about was not as ‘united’ as I thought it was.”

And what about our generation of young Christians today? I couldn’t help but think. We live in the age of rampant individualism, self-absorption empowered by the Internet in our hands. Some days it’s hard to believe we’re dreaming of anything more than that next holiday or bonus, pursuing more than that next like or promotion.

Are we churchgoers or disciples of Jesus Christ? Is our service out of love or obligation? Has our evangelism gotten convenient and uncreative for the time and space we live in?

Does any of us even know what is that “method of our generation” Pastor Khong alluded to – or are we like a languishing youngest child, who knows nothing of pioneering and everything of privilege – bought for us on the backs of our church fathers?

Sometimes it gets so #woke in millennial full-time ministry, I just want to go back to sleep.

But this is also the young Singapore I’ve seen, especially in the work I do: People who aren’t afraid to collaborate and work together, regardless race, language or denomination.

People who are restless for revival, global citizens who aren’t afraid to go anywhere, anytime, to do anything for the God they love and serve. Their passion is raw, but their compassion is real.

And when Pastor Khong called for those under 30 to stand on a massive projection of the Singapore map that stretched across the floor of the National Indoor Stadium, in a prophetic act of standing up for Jesus in our neighbourhoods and the entire nation – hundreds made their way forth in seconds.

In that moment I could see why God had reinstated the broken dream in Pastor Khong’s heart all these years later. It wasn’t just Singapore’s second chance, as he put it. We, the generation that now grasps the baton of revival, are Singapore’s second chance.

And with that, this is my dream for Singapore, loosely based on a powerful manifesto written by Pete Grieg called The Vision.

I dream of an army of young people. You see sheep, strawberries and sleeping, dejected disciples? I see an army. And they are free from the 5Cs of this country.

There’s only one “C” in their mind’s eye: The Cross. They’re not afraid to die every day so they might live for a greater cause. They live simply and love richly.

They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations. They are free yet they are slaves of the broken and the poor. What is the vision? The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes. Jesus is the heartbeat. Love is the battlecry.

And this army is disciplined. Young people who beat their bodies into submission (1 Corinthians 9:27). Every soldier is surrendered, a life laid down. No sacrifice can be higher than dying for all humanity.

And the generation prays. They pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them.

Whatever it takes they will give. Laughing at labels, fasting essentials. The advertisers cannot mould them. Hollywood cannot hold them. They don’t just fall in line with the crowd or blindly echo the sentiments of society.

Don’t you hear them coming? Here come the fallible but faithful with fire in their eyes. They wear the burning heart of God on their sleeves and on their newsfeeds.

And this vision will be; it will come to pass. How do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself: That the sons and daughters of God will be revealed (Romans 8:19). This is the very dream of God.

He is why we have hope. Because this is His Singapore.

“The people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” (Daniel 11:32).

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

I hear, I obey

by Pastor Kevin Koh, Cornerstone Community Church

Relationships

Don’t give your heart away too quickly

by Sarah Lim

Culture

The burn is real

by Samantha Loh

Article list

Children of divorce, how will we win the fight?

You don’t have to compare

Hooked on drugs and paralysed, I should have died

Porn is killing me

Should I believe in ghosts?

Stay woke but keep dreaming, Singapore