Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Studies

Does my CAP define me?

by Esther Yeoh | 30 May 2018, 4:41 PM

I used to hate it when people said grades don’t define you.

I certainly felt defined by my CAP (cumulative average point). It’s a grading system that decides whether you’ll graduate and how well you’ll graduate. It decides your pay grade, the amount you can save in ten years, the house you can buy, whether or not you get a car, whether you can send your kids to university, whether you can provide for your parents …

“CAP doesn’t define you” sounded a lot like a platitude to me. Saying that does not make someone who just flunked something feel any better. In fact, it makes us feel like you don’t understand.

As a student, I entered university to learn and to have a good time. So I didn’t think CAP would be a problem. I was told that when I got to university I would enjoy what I did – I thought that meant I’d do good in it too.

When I was in Year 1 and the grades weren’t that bad at the end of the first year, I wasn’t too bummed. I still enjoyed learning at the end of the day. Year 2 ended and the grades had began to plunge: I enjoyed myself, but it started to weigh on me that my CAP was a bigger influence on my life than I had thought it would be.

It was Year 3 where my CAP had plunged to the point where anymore of a drop would prevent from moving on to Honours Year. Terrified, I wondered that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this after all – or maybe I didn’t trust God enough. Maybe I should have studied harder (though I honestly studied my head off).

To appreciate the still small voice, it has to be contrasted with the fire, earthquake and wind.

My brain kept beating itself up that I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even that I was a failure to my parents or society. To everyone who knew me, I was happy, enthusiastic and even somewhat of an achiever.

But I knew I had failed myself. I failed despite all my hours of hard work. I failed in living up to an upbringing that had taught me discipline and resilience.

I failed myself, and I couldn’t live with that.

Above all, I was questioning where God was in all of this? Isn’t Jesus supposed to define me?

Where was He then? Where was He when I honoured Him, put Him as my number one priority … And yet I felt like He failed me? Where was He at my weakest?

I thought of Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 19). All alone, he was running for his life. And Elijah asked God where He was in his time of need?

The Bible says that there was a great wind, then an earthquake, then a fire – but God wasn’t in any of them. God was in the still, small voice. He was there. He was always there.

To appreciate the still small voice, it has to be contrasted with the fire, earthquake and wind. If I never had any trials, I wouldn’t understand what it means to know God is there for me. He is my gentle whisper – my comfort through it all.

It’s true that your CAP will decide a lot of things in life. But Jesus defines me: I am a child of God.

Nothing can change the truth that the still small voice of God will be there in every wind and fire and earthquake that comes my way. So while CAP may play a role in deciding things like how much I earn, it is God who directs my destiny.

So, maybe don’t tell people it “doesn’t define them” in a way that makes it seem like you’re shrugging off the reality of their disappointment or pain. Tell them instead that it’s okay to grieve and feel pain – it’s normal to be sad and frustrated about failure.

Let them hear the still small voice of Jesus through you, telling them to go on. CAP, grades, accolades … These things are important, but they will fade away someday.

Only God’s gentle whispers – His Word – never will (Matthew 24:35).

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

I was the non-believer Christians are told not to be yoked with

by Ann Ng

Studies

I was so sure where the path would lead – and then the music faded

by Chantel Tay

Culture

Full-time under 30: From academia to the heart of Africa

by Jemima Ooi, Justice Rising

Studies

I was so sure where the path would lead – and then the music faded

by Chantel Tay | 5 June 2018, 3:45 PM

As a child, I was a dedicated musician. Academic schooling was mandatory, but music nonetheless took on a large part of my life – I spent hours practising, and weekends were dedicated to shuttling to and from music classes.

I became more certain of my music journey as I grew older. At 14, I left the dance club to join my school’s Piano Ensemble. This further exposed me to opportunities that enhanced my experience as a musician.

I performed in solos, duets, and even with my school’s string orchestra. Eventually, I was accepted into the Music Education Programme, where music took up an integral role in my schooling life.

By then, I was convinced music had to be my calling; it was evident in my eyes that this was the plan God had in store for me. Everything seemed to be going well, and I was ready to pursue a music degree once I was done with my academics. This was going to be the year.

When I was unexpectedly shortlisted to take part in a conservatory’s piano academy, comprising of international students across the globe, it was an answered prayer for a clear sign that music was the path for me. This is it! I remember thinking.

But everything came crashing down when I suddenly sustained a wrist injury. The doctor diagnosed it as tendonitis, and the recovery duration was uncertain.

I felt as though everything I’d held so closely onto had been taken away from me.

Due to my inability to play even after a month, I eventually withdrew from the academy. At that point, my head was clouded in thoughts. Why, Lord? Wasn’t this Your clear plan for me?

What am I going to do now?

There were a lot of tears, a lot of frustration. I felt as though a goal that I had chased for years had amounted to nothing. If music was taken away from me, I had no idea where my calling lay. It definitely didn’t help that my friends were all busily sourcing for internships with a much clearer idea of what they wanted to do.

My injury continues to act up once in a while, and I am currently no longer pursuing music. Instead, I will be pursuing a Communication Studies degree – somewhere I never expected myself to be doing.

I’ve been thinking about the fleeting nature of earthly possessions set against the unwavering nature of God. When everything was going haywire, I realised that the one thing constant that I could seek and lean upon was God.

God is good even when there is nothing good happening in front of us. He doesn’t stop being good when things in our life look bad. In my heartbreak and confusion, I learnt what it means that His faithfulness is what remains unchanging in an ever changing world.

I was also reminded of the story of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-27, how he was so sorrowful when Jesus asked him to leave everything he owned in order to follow Him. If music was everything to me, then I was probably in this young man’s position.

But all the more, through this season, I’ve never been more convicted that I want to develop a faith that says yes to whatever Jesus asks of me, even if it means letting go of the dearest things in my heart out of trust that He only has good plans for me.

There will always be unending questions in my head about why this all happened. But I’m choosing to believe that God will make things right and beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). After all, I exist so that He will be glorified through my life.

When God chooses to close some doors and open others, He doesn’t call us to fathom His plans. He merely calls us to be faithful and follow Him. And this is what I hope to do.

The crucial thing about faith, I’ve come to learn, is not about its capacity, but how enduring it is.

“And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)

I believe the intention of using a mustard seed – something seemingly small, incapable of achieving much, is to emphasise that faith is the basis for growth in the Lord.

Sometimes we fall behind when our plans don’t work out, perhaps simply because God already has a better plan in mind for us – but how often do we find ourselves lamenting to Him: Do You not love me?

But before you bury yourself in emotional distress, feelings of unworthiness and doubt, I want you to remember that God loves each and every one of you.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

If God has crafted each and every one of us based on His desires, how could we doubt His love for us?

I know how challenging it is to keep the faith when everything that was going well suddenly takes a turn for the worse. But I’d like to believe that adversity is an opportunity for us to run towards our Heavenly Father instead of away from Him.

So run to Him. He will prove faithful.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

The most important thing in the Church: Unity

by Gabriel Ong

video

#THIRSTACOUSTIC – Remind Me

by Nicole Chan

Faith

This wasn’t the life I’d planned (and it’s much better this way)

by Paige Lee

Studies

Are your holidays restful or restless?

by | 22 May 2018, 5:28 PM

The school holidays are back!

Nothing like a good, long break. Growing up, semester breaks were the one and only thing I looked forward to. And the best part? No need for alarms! I always looked forward to the grand plans of the holidays. But the excitement would never last beyond the first few weeks of holidays.

And now that I’m working, vacation days are even more valuable: Endless days spent lazing around, playing games and catching up on shows.

But … Is it just me, or does too much rest lead to restlessness?

I think we can agree that most people don’t actually like to study or work. Some would go as far as to term it as a necessary evil – something you have to do even when you don’t like it. Since labour feels like a curse, we see rest as the solution.

But did you know that work is actually a blessing?

Work was God’s idea right from the beginning, even before sin came into the picture. Work was part of the paradise that Adam and Eve lived in. But the Fall changed everything.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17b-19)

Let’s be clear, what was cursed wasn’t work – but productivity. Work was meant for our fulfilment. Sin is what makes work awful to get through.

Passion without purpose is sprinting ahead without a destination in mind or worse – to the wrong destination.

Consider marriage: Adam and Eve’s relationship was also affected after the Fall, and we are still suffering the consequences even now – marriage is hard work. But does that mean marriage is no longer enjoyable and we should avoid it? By no means!

Marriage has its tough moments, but it is still a gift from God. When guided by His principles, it is fulfilling and fruitful.

The same goes for work and our studies. God loves to see diligence in his people (2 Timothy 2:6, Proverbs 12:24). So if work is a blessing, then perhaps an extended period of rest isn’t quite the answer to cure the drudgery we feel.

In fact, too much rest produces restlessness. Yes, rest is important. But we were never wired to do nothing (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

So how do we enjoy work? I think it starts by knowing our purpose in life. People often say we should find our passion, and then let that passion guide what we do in life.

But I believe passion without purpose is sprinting ahead without a destination in mind or worse – to the wrong destination.

Before his conversion, Paul spent a life trying to be the perfect Pharisee. He was zealous about persecuting and imprisoning Christians.

So while Paul was a passionate man, he was passionate about the wrong things. After his conversion at Damascus, he finally found his purpose. And it produced profound change: From a man who only knew how to take lives, he became a man who gave his life to the Church and Christ.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)

Being passionate is great, but it is your purpose that will determine your destination. So what is your purpose in life? You need to find it and pursue it passionately.

Don’t spend your holidays solely on a Netflix binge. The best thing you can do this June is to reflect on what your life counts for. What exactly are you living for? What do you hope to achieve at the end of your life?

If you seek God about it with all your heart, He will answer you.

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

Does my dad deserve a Father’s Day?

by Jenni Ho-Huan

Faith

I felt like the worst mentor in the world

by Christina Wong

Faith

My parents don’t talk any more

by Christina Wong

Studies

Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

by Woo Jia Qian | 17 May 2018, 4:42 PM

When I was in school, I consistently topped the class in maths and sciences.

I was a straight-A student except for the consistent B’s I got for languages and humanities. I went to top schools and I was always referred to as “the smart one” among friends – the go-to person when my friends needed help with their homework.

I represented my school at Science Olympiads and even got a “Merit” award for the Chemistry Olympiad. I took H3 subjects in the sciences at A-Level, so my friends and family were certain that A-Level H2 subjects were going to be sure A’s for me.

But when I took the A-Level Chemistry examination, there was one paper that I felt was difficult. Deep inside, I kept my fingers crossed I would still get an A.

I got an A for the Chemistry Preliminary Examination, and I thought: “No one actually goes on to do worse in the A-Levels right?” I always believed that the A-Levels was the part where people suddenly got their As despite having never got one before. 

On the day they released the A-Level results, I had lunch with my friends. All of us knew that the top students would get called up and congratulated by the school early in the morning. So my friends asked me: “Jia Qian, did you get the phone call this morning?”

I didn’t. Now imagine my shock and sadness when I finally saw my result slip – B for H2 Chemistry.

My parents were just as shocked and I’ll always remember their response: “What? I’ve always expected you to get an A since day one. You’ve always aced chemistry and topped your class – your school even chose you to go for the Chemistry Olympiad!”

Our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

I encountered more setbacks in the months following the released results. I faced countless rejections from all the scholarships and top overseas universities I had applied for.

Eventually I accepted an offer to study physics at NUS, though it was definitely not my first choice. My dream was to study physics at Imperial College London with an A*STAR scholarship. 

So throughout university, I would always feel a tinge of sadness when friends asked about what scholarship I was on. “Parents’ Scholarship” was the answer I usually gave, but deep down, I had become uncertain about the future. I envied my friends who were scholarship holders – assured of jobs after graduation.

That was 7 years ago, and since then, I have been on an adventure. I experienced different industrial attachments during school, entered the semiconductor industry, went back to school, and now I’m in my second career learning the ropes as a software engineer in a local bank.

It’s been a long journey, and I’ve learnt some very important lessons along the way.

Our identity and security doesn’t come from grades or jobs. They come knowing that we are children loved by our Father. 

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17)

As a professional in the finance industry, there are days I’m tempted to think that I’ve made it. It’s much wiser to pray against idolising my job and attaching my identity to my profession. After all, our job and profession are temporal, but our relationship with God is eternal. 

There is no need to compare salaries across different professions or feel envious if someone earns more than you. While we should all be good stewards of money and save regularly, there is no need to be doubtful about provision.

God is our Provider. This facet of His character is seen countless times in both the Old and New Testaments. You need only to read classic verses like, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”(Psalm 23:1) to know this. Other good ones include Genesis 22, where Abraham places his faith in God as provider and Matthew 6:25 -33. 

If we identify ourselves first as God’s children – how then should we respond? 

One practical way is to skip the “What do you do for a living?” question when meeting newcomers in a Church setting. Because our professions really don’t define us. God places us in different fields according to His will, and we are all His beloved children.

A Biblical example of how profession does not matter can be seen in how Jesus called his twelve disciples (John 1:35-51). His disciples had different jobs: Some were tax collectors, others were fishermen or even zealots. Commentaries describe that while fishing was highly regarded at that time, tax collectors and zealots were not as well regarded – even despised. Tax collectors were deemed as extorters of money, while zealots were people who wanted political revolution. 

Jesus called them all. 

The next time you miss out on your dream job or scholarship, remember that your identity in Christ is constant – God is still your Provider. The hierarchy is this: You are a Christian who happens to be a policeman. Or you’re a Christian who happens to sell street food.

You are first and foremost a child of God – ready to do His will.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

Learning to let go

by Helene Tian

Faith

The secret is in the secret place

by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts

Relationships

Waiting for the lights to change: My unrequited love

by Anthea Lee

Studies

What’s after graduation?

by Amanda Teo | 9 May 2018, 11:45 AM

The month of April is an important time for every Polytechnic graduate.

It marks the end of three years of endless deadlines and project meetings. Standing at the finish line, one question weighs upon everyone’s heart: “Should I continue studying or start working?”

I found myself in this exact situation six years ago. In the last two months of Year 3, everyone was busy planning out the next step ahead. The question being asked continuously was: “What’s next? Are you going to university?”

Most of my classmates decided to continue their studies (some had even received scholarships), while a handful of them were getting jobs.

But I found myself in limbo. I didn’t want to jump into another few years of poring over books, and I also couldn’t see myself taking up a full-time job — I felt that the Lord was leading me to take a gap year.

“Why take a break? Why waste time?” It was unanimous among the adults in my life that this was a bad decision. Moreover, when I shared my thoughts with my peers about taking a gap year, many stared at me in amazement while some were critical of my seeming aimlessness.

Honestly, I wasn’t even personally convinced that taking a gap year would be the wisest decision. I didn’t know anyone else around me who had done the same, and it seemed rash.

What am I to do in this one year? Would I fall behind my peers? Is this really from God? My heart was filled with more questions than answers.

On 21 February 2012, I made my usual way to Singapore Polytechnic.

During my daily commute from Pasir Ris to Dover, it was a habit for me to tune into God’s voice. As I closed my eyes and started speaking to God, I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”

As a series of visions and verses flashed across my mind, I found my heart burning with fresh devotion to God. The conviction was so strong that I bought a ring and had it engraved with an inscription: “To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain. 210212.”

I’ve been wearing that ring as a daily reminder ever since. It sealed my decision to take a year’s break from the pursuit of earthly things and to seek first the Kingdom of God. I wanted to learn and understand what it meant to live in close partnership with the Holy Spirit.

I let go of my personal dreams and ambitions, and abided in God.

I didn’t just want my parents to approve this radical decision to “pause life” — I also wanted their support and encouragement.

To my surprise, my prayers were answered. Despite the huge question mark that hung over my future, my parents blessed me and journeyed with me through the most transformative season of my life.

So having begun my gap year, a door opened for me to work as a Teacher’s Aide in a Normal Technical Secondary 2 class. Through this experience, the students began to confide in me as their mentor and friend.

I recently met one of my students at Changi Village. I was getting a drink when a young man called me from behind, “Miss Teo! You remember me? It took me by surprise because I did not immediately recognise who he was, but learning of his progress in life and latest academic pursuits brought great joy to my heart. It reminded me of how precious every child is to God.

I had become filled with compassion for the broken and ostracised, having tasted the tenderness of God’s heart for His Children.

After mentoring these students for a few months, the Lord led me to join an overseas missions school with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), where I spent two months in Cusco, Peru.

In the seven months I spent away from home, everything in my life was emptied and laid before the Lord. From my deepest and darkest parts, to my questioning of the faith, God began to surface and deal with every sin and brokenness within me.

Even though I had been a Christian and leader in Church since I was 12 years old, it was in YWAM when I first encountered the reality and power of Jesus’ love and sacrifice on the cross. It was where I fell into first love with Him and had my entire life changed. Attending missions school was the most pivotal season in my gap year — perhaps my entire life!

I came back to Singapore with a renewed vision of Christianity, and decided to work in Church for six months. Then I began an internship at a luxury hotel for three months, before landing a full-time job as a Marketing Executive while studying for a part-time degree course.

I felt Him speaking straight to my heart: “Amanda, you are on a faith-filled adventure, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. Would you choose to live for Me?”

The most important thing I learnt in the gap year is this: God knows best and this life is not my own. I didn’t understand why He would lead me on this detour, and I had no intentions on going to missions school, but what seemed to be simple steps of obedience turned out to be such a transformative experience.

In this time I spent away from school and full-time work, I learnt I don’t own my life. Whether it’s career or marriage — I no longer live for myself. I understand better the importance of obeying God and seeking His heart. I am finally on a faith-filled adventure with God — trusting that He knows best.

If you’re at a similar life transition today, I urge you to avoid going through the motions, and be intentional with your decisions. Take time to pause and pray. Inquire of the Lord just as David did, allow His peace, wisdom, and Word to guide your every step.

Be willing to consider that a detour might be in God’s plan for you. Wherever He’s leading you, follow bravely — whether it’s a gap year, a course that is outside of your comfort zone, or a step of faith into the working world.

God knows best — He’ll never leave nor forsake you.


This article was first published on Selah.sg, and is republished with permission.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

For many years, I thought my dad didn’t love me

by Pauline Wong

Faith

Love makes space

by Dev Menon

Culture

The most important thing in the Church: Unity

by Gabriel Ong

Culture

What if I’m not interested in anything?

by | 30 April 2018, 12:17 PM

For the first 16 years of my life, I lived with little fulfilment and purpose.

Life was simply a long list of to-do’s. Friends were simply there to fill up free time. Extra-curricular activities were for the accomplishments. My parents were strict educators, so excelling academically was something that was expected of my life. I had been raised to do everything to ensure I got my A’s.

If anyone were to ask me what I was passionate about, I’d struggle to answer. Life was about duty – not enjoyment. My free time was spent on doing things that were important, not wasted on trivial things like entertainment.

So I didn’t actually know what I liked. Yet like most young Singaporeans, I was expected to know what I wanted to do with my life. I was enrolled in career guidance classes which emphasised the importance of figuring out your passions to start planning your education route.

They only reminded me of how uncertain and lost I felt: If I didn’t have any particular interest in anything, what was the point of the future anyway?

To cut a long story short, I lived in this haze of boredom until I accepted Christ in my life. For the first time, I found genuine fulfilment in the things I was doing – activities actually had a semblance of purpose now.

Forging friendships became more meaningful in the context of living to love God and those around us. Doing well in school wasn’t just a chore – but a way to honour my parents and develop a spirit of excellence for God’s glory.

Good things. But the passion question still remained.

I eventually reached a point in my life where I needed to make a concrete decision about the future. Upon graduation, I’d hang out with my friends, hearing about their grand plans like which university and job they were applying for.

I didn’t begrudge the excitement for their passions and plans. I just wanted the same for myself: To be passionate about the future.

Passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

But here’s the thing, while I was anxiously trying to figure out my passions, I failed to realise that God already has a call for us.

Most of us have heard of Jeremiah 29:11 – but I hadn’t yet trusted that He had a plan for me. I knew in my heart everyone is called to do something, but I hadn’t internalised the truth that God’s plans leave no one out – even those without passion just like me.

“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)

That’s one of my favourite verses. But it doesn’t end at the first part – which is the bit people usually quote only. In all things God works for our good – we who have been called according to his purpose.

We have been called according to His purpose. The calling is already there! So really, I was missing out on asking a more important question: “God, what is Your purpose for me?”

I realised I had a warped understanding of what passion was. Common knowledges dictates that life is about landing that dream job: Good pay, friendly colleagues … Great workplace culture. And if my job doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a push factor to move on.

Perhaps this mindset is a reason is why Singaporeans are more prone to job-hopping. Survey reports show that 34% of Singapore professionals do not intend on staying in their current job for more than a year – the global average is 26%.

But passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

God, what is Your purpose for me?

It’s not a popular choice, but the most purposeful life you can ever lead is one that’s totally sold out for God’s plans. It’s about finding joy in the work you do for Him – passionately serving Him regardless of what and where.

God intends for His people to have joy and purpose as they serve. If you do not yet see where your passions lie, rest in the fact that you have been called according to His purpose.

Only don’t waste your life: If you spend it as God’s friend, you will become passionate for His purposes.

/ helene@thir.st

After surviving the chaos of Poly life fighting the evils of sleep deprivation and academic stress, Helene now spends most of her free time repaying her three years accumulated debt of not doing household chores.

Conversations

We Recommend

Relationships

My dad loved me in his own language, even when I couldn’t understand it

by Debra Wong

Culture

I lost my virginity but not my faith

by Grace Lim

Faith

Hold on to the rope

by Lim Junheng

Article list

Does my CAP define me?

I was so sure where the path would lead – and then the music faded

Are your holidays restful or restless?

Your identity isn’t tied to what you do

What’s after graduation?

What if I’m not interested in anything?