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What’s the point of life? Everything is meaningless

by | 7 November 2017, 11:48 PM

Here’s an honest thought: There are times I wish I was dead. 

I’m not suicidal – I don’t want to kill myself – but I’m not averse to the idea of death: Wouldn’t it be nice to one day sleep and never wake up? It seems so peaceful, being detached from the pain and suffering on earth.

Life often seems like a cycle of repeated patterns: Sleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. There seems to be no end – no meaning to the things I’m doing. What’s the point of trudging through life? 

A friend once told me that his purpose for living is to make the world a better place for the generations to come. He wants to leave behind a legacy like Edison or Einstein did. He wants to impact the world so that no one would forget he existed.

It’s a noble cause, but it doesn’t resonate with me. We can certainly improve people’s lives, but in the grander scheme of things, will we ever change the world?

I’m not the first to think about the meaning of life. King Solomon dedicated the entire book of Ecclesiastes to this topic alone. After spending 12 chapters lamenting the futility of life, he concludes in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 that the only purpose behind it all is to know God and keep His commandments.

To know God and to keep His commandments.

Similar reasons for living are found in other parts of the Bible. To have a relationship with Him (1 John 3:1); to grow in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29), to usher others back to Him before it’s too late (Ephesians 3:8-12).

Increasingly, I’m seeing that our time on earth is simply a period of preparation for our future in eternity.

So as I seriously questioned the purpose for my existence earlier this year, I was convicted that there must be a reason why I’m alive. There must be a reason for my life. And I concluded that life – our time on earth and what we do – is only meaningful in light of eternity.

Recently I attended an event where numerous Singaporean missionaries gathered together. There, the missionaries shared personal stories of what they’d seen and experienced, travelling to some of the most dangerous parts of the world to share the Gospel. Think the Congo in Central Africa.

The weight of reality suddenly came crashing down on me as I listened to story after story of prisoners, prostitutes and broken people.

That night, I felt a bit of the Father’s heart for His suffering children. I realised how myopic I had been all this while. I was so caught up with myself I failed to recognise there were many other lives out there waiting to be touched – desperate for salvation. 

I’m not just talking about building houses for the impoverished or providing the starving with food. Those are important, but beyond meeting the physical needs of this life, what difference was I making to their eternity? Where would they go when they die?

life lived for oneself is short, but a life lived for God reaps eternal value.

I know many people who work hard for achievements. For a legacy. But I’m not one of them. I don’t see the value of that, especially when death can so easily take it all away.

Unlike my friend whose focus considers only this lifetime, I want to leave those around me with something even death cannot touch or snatch away. I want to show them the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Because in the end, there’s only one thing that has an eternal impact: The lives we help to save and the souls we point back to God.

Nothing else has lasting significance. life lived for oneself is short, but a life lived for God reaps eternal value (1 Corinthians 15:58). It’s counterintuitive, but I truly believe that within this manner of living lies the meaning of life.

/ siqi@thir.st

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

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FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 5:19 PM

“When God tells you to do something, He’s not asking you to figure out how to do it. It’s up to you to obey. It’s up to God to do it.”

Ben Fitzgerald, leader of Awakening Europe and GODfest Ministries, opened this year’s FOPx Conference – themed “Surrender” – with a simple question: Whose wisdom are we going to live by?

“As a Christian, you’re supposed to be filled with God and His wisdom. It may look irrational to you, but God is not irrational – He is trans-rational. His thoughts transcend your thoughts.

“We only have to surrender and say yes.”

Referring to John the Baptist, Pastor Ben, who used to serve at Bethel Church, Redding, exhorted the 300 young participants of the National Youth Conference to faithfully obey as God calls, to prepare the way of the Lord.

“If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

“John had nothing naturally in him that anyone should have listened to him, but he had a yes in his spirit. He had zero – zero resources, zero qualifications – but he was close to the One.

“He simply bent his knee and allowed the Son of God to step across into His destiny. And you and I have the same call on our lives.”

He reiterated his point on this importance of submitting our humanly wisdom to the wisdom of God with the example of King David, who continually turned to God to ask Him how He wanted things done.

And because he always consulted in God’s rationality above his own, King David was able to surrender himself wholly and walk in God’s way throughout his years of kingship.

If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

Pastor Ben ended his sermon with a personal testimony of putting God’s wisdom above his own. During a trip to France, where he was due to speak in a local Church, he encountered a woman in a wheelchair on his way to service.

It was just 5 minutes till the service started and he had just enough time to walk to the Church, but something stirred in his spirit to stop and pray for the woman’s healing.

“I heard God tell me that He wanted to heal this woman, but I really didn’t want to be late for my speaking appointment – I almost wanted to tell Him to go ahead and do it Himself!” He said to a laughing crowd.

“But I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom to not be late, or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart. So I stopped and approached her.”

Although the woman spoke no English, her husband who was pushing her wheelchair did. His wife was suffering from a debilitating muscular disease and was no longer mobile. He allowed Pastor Ben to pray for her, but did not offer to translate.

I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart.

Pastor Ben went on to share that as he prayed, the woman began to writhe, but as he persisted in prayer, she suddenly went limp, as though something had left her body.

Speaking in rapid French to her husband, he explained that she was confounded by how the chronic pain in her back and legs had disappeared. She could move again! Overjoyed, she leapt up and embraced Pastor Ben.

That night, as the couple attended the service Pastor Ben was preaching at, they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. What’s more, the woman prayed for another lady in the congregation who was suffering from the same disease, and she too was healed on the spot.

“Imagine if I’d obeyed my watch instead of the watch of the Lord,” Pastor Ben said. “Your rationality should never get in the way of the wisdom of God.

“Whose wisdom are you going to live by?”


FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!

Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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I couldn’t move on after my break-up

by Arielle Ong | 14 November 2017, 4:19 PM

One month after the passing of my mother in April 2011, I ended a year-long relationship with my boyfriend.

The relationship had already been on the rocks for months. It was adding to the existing stress I had to deal with after my mum had a cancer relapse. I couldn’t cope.

That meant that within a span of two months, I had lost two persons I loved deeply.

I didn’t know how else to move on other than diving straight back into work. That year, I started travelling alone and embarking on short-term missions.

All this was fulfilling – yet I couldn’t deny how empty I felt, deep inside. For a good six months, I didn’t smile or talk much. I used to be known for my cheeriness, but I was in a terrible state.

Those in emotional distress are often labelled as “weak”, “thinking too much”, “emotional”. Such statements invalidate people’s feelings, and can add to their distress.

Things did eventually get better and I started to get my sunshine back. But what I didn’t know was just how much of an impact the break-up had had on me. I came to view relationships more like a burden than something beautiful to be embraced.

Whenever I met someone, and told my friends about him, they made me realise that I just kept talking about my ex. It was time to move on, they gently reminded me.

Though I had no more feelings for my ex, the memories from our relationship were still haunting me and hindering me from forging new and healthy relationships. I struggled to move on.

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

I couldn’t quite understand why, until I started to read up on the field of traumatology. The term has its roots in the Greek word “trauma” which means “injury or wound”. When we hear words like “trauma”, “injury” or “wound”, we often think of physical trauma.

Because physical wounds are obvious and visible to the eyes, they are more readily acknowledged and more appropriately treated, compared to emotional wounds. But research has shown how traumatic experiences during childhood or adulthood could cause emotional scarring and even changes in the brain, increasing your degree of vulnerability in the face of future stressors.

Trauma alters how one’s brain stores and remembers traumatic events. All this means that unless a traumatic event is properly processed, it can be very difficult to move on.

Those who have gone through traumatic experiences often continue to “live out” the memories in the present, instead of storing them away as mere historical information in the memory banks.

In the case of the ending of my relationship, I realised the whole process had been traumatic to me – enough for me to avoid being in one for years.

THE PAIN IS REAL

Many people label those who are in emotional distress as “weak”, “thinking too much”, “emotional”, etc. Usually there is no malice in these statements, and they are delivered with good intentions by loved ones in an attempt to comfort. Nonetheless, such statements invalidate people’s feelings, and can add to the distress.

Everybody is made different. We have different personalities and were raised in different circumstances, and as such possess different levels of tenacity in face of stress.

A common phrase we often hear in counselling is a client saying: “You are not me, you’ll never understand.” There is much truth in that phrase. What is a mere memory to one could be traumatic experience for another. Therefore, don’t discount the feelings of anyone articulating their emotional pain.

God knows our pain, sees every second we suffer. And He gives us what we need to move on. The strength, the support.

This is not to say that individuals should go too far down the road of victimisation, expecting people to empathise all the time. If you’re in this position, understanding the nature of emotional pain should be for the sake of helping you and your loved ones to understand your struggles in order to help you heal. It’s not meant to let you indulge in self-pity.

From my own professional experience, people start to heal and move on when they feel their deepest emotional pains are being acknowledged.

OUR GOD IS REAL

Emotional wounds – though not visible to the naked eyes – are real, just like physical wounds. If we do not denigrate people who have physical wounds or ailments and label them as weak, why do we often do it to people with emotional wounds or mental health conditions, attaching all sorts of negative connotations to their condition?

When people are unwell, they need tender, loving, care and not judgement. After all, God’s ministry is one of love and not ostracism. In the words of Mother Teresa: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

I think about the experience of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Fresh from a comprehensive victory over the priests of Baal the chapter before, the prophet has no time to rest, because Queen Jezebel is out for his blood.

He ran for his life, coming to a stop under a bush in the wilderness, where he utters a cry of resignation that depressed people will find familiar.

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Enough, God. This is too much for me.

Elijah was facing some physical trauma – he was hungry and tired – but his deep trauma was to his emotionally exhausted soul.

God met him in both places. First He gave the poor prophet food and water – enough to travel 40 days and nights on. That was some meal.

The point of the meal: To bring Elijah to Horeb, the mountain of God. The meaning of Horeb? “Dry place”. God knew Elijah’s sagging spirit was at a dry place.

And He gave him help and encouragement. Jehu to fight for him, Elisha to succeed him, and 7,000 others who were in the fight with him, refusing to bow their knees to Baal. (1 Kings 19:17-18)

God knows our pain, sees every second we suffer. And He gives us what we need to move on. The strength, the support.

For me, I’m glad that my loved ones finally understand the extent of my struggles. I’m still fighting the feelings, but I look forward to the day where I will no longer be living out my past traumatic memories of my past relationship, so I can find myself in a healthy relationship in the present.

I’m gonna heal, so that I can heal others.

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How to cling to love in a world of hate

by | 8 November 2017, 6:58 PM

In this world, evil seems to be gaining ground, but something greater is also awakening in the collective human conscience. We read about terror, but we also read about kindness. There are those intent on destroying lives, but there are also those who are intent on restoring life.


Despite the unrest of the world, love is not absent. At the front lines of conflict in the Greek forests of Samothrace – hot on the heels of violence and injustice – compassion shows up and loves. My heart is moved at the words of the Albanian policeman to the refugee whom he saved: “Do not be ashamed. I have also lived through a war. You are now my family and this is your house too.”

There are people who will refuse others even just a drink of water in their time of desperate need, but there are also people who will gladly receive others into their home, clothe them, and feed them. They do so because a truth convicts them: Aren’t we all brothers?

As much as we have a capacity for evil, we also have a capacity for good. There is a verse in the Bible that says this about sincere love: It is to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).

We can only do good to others, to the degree that we are personally disturbed by injustice and resolve to do something.

There is always something we can do, right where we are.

As a child, I wondered why I was fortunate enough to be born in Singapore. Are some people inherently more deserving of a better life than the others?

And how do we measure a good life? Are the lives of the young children in Vietnam who work 12-hour days in the field for meagre (by our standards) amounts of money absolutely worse off than the white-collar worker in Singapore who toils late into the night – just so he can avoid his family at home? We cannot answer on their behalf.

War, poverty and oppression are the big names in the business of curtailing the potential of a fulfilling life. But loneliness, brokenness, guilt, and a lack of worth – things common to the human race – also plague and damage a society like Singapore’s.

Have you struggled with these feelings? Do you know someone who does?

Eudaimonia, a Greek term described in 4th century BC by Aristotle, can be translated into “human flourishing” or “fulfillment”. An earlier philosopher, Socrates, saw eudaimonia as the goal of human desires and actions.

It is not the absence of evil that we are most in need of – it is the presence of God. Only that can restore to us life of the fullest measure.

People want to lead fulfilling lives. But human flourishing is not possible when purpose is absent, when people don’t feel that they are worthy, when they feel that there is no way to escape their meaningless life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

In the Biblical book of John, we get a picture of what evil does: It steals, kills and destroys. But in God’s hand is the counter-offer of a full life.

Our desire for the more abundant life isn’t new – it transcends culture and time periods. But when evil seems to be winning, how do we still trust in God’s offer for meaning and purpose?

God’s offer was not without recognition of the troubles we may face. So it is not the absence of evil that we are most in need of – it is the presence of God. Only that can restore to us life of the fullest measure.

“Our stories are all stories of searching. We search for a good self to be and for good work to do. We search to become human in a world that tempts us always to be less than human or looks to us to be more. We search to love and to be loved.” (Frederick Buechner)

Could it be that the ache of our hearts is to be useful – to be good, to do meaningful work, and to do good to others?

But somewhere in the middle of that journey, bad things can happen.

We experience hurt, we fall into disillusionment. Life can feel so unfair. The gap between our reality and our innate dreams feel so big. And in response, we may scale back our capacity for loving others to protect ourselves from getting hurt.

If there’s been a sense of hollowness in our heart, a feeling that there is something more that cannot be simply fulfilled by just wealth or achievements – would we consider believing that God is bigger than we know and closer than we think?

And in a world where it is often hard to believe in much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life-transcending that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live. And in that process, God uses that person – the Christian – to help others find healing and flourishing too.” (Frederick Buechner)

Our flourishing cannot be achieved in isolation. God first calls us to Himself, and then to others whom He also loves. (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Closer to home, where compassion looks a lot different from rebuilding houses and homes torn apart by war and strife, we are not without suffering in our midst. There is rebuilding work of a different kind.

So how we view the child who is outcasted and bullied in school matters; what we think of the teenager who puts on a strong front to hide his fear matters; how we respond to the adult who has lived her entire life being told she will never make it in life … All that matters.

If there’s been a sense of hollowness in our heart, a feeling that there is something more that cannot be simply fulfilled by just wealth or achievements – would we consider believing that God is bigger than we know and closer than we think?

There is healing and a human flourishing which God makes available to us. And He also makes it available to others through us as vessels.

If we recognise our privilege of having been given what we have, we can find joy in offering kindness to another.

We want to love, and be loved. And there is risk in that. But take the risk to believe that God loves you and that you can love others. We have this hope in overcoming our natural self-centeredness.

Our hope is kept safe in the fact that we are profoundly loved by God, and that He has the ability to restore fullness of life to what was stolen, broken, and destroyed.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

It’s a lesson that may take a while – and a little faith – but cling to God’s love and we will overcome in His love.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious. One of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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You might not believe it, but people are worth it

by | 8 November 2017, 12:57 AM

Are we as a Church taking care of people?

After all, loving another as yourself is the second most important commandment we were given (Mark 12:28-31). Whatever ministry we are a part of, we are all commanded to reach out to the people around us both inside and outside of the Church walls.

What would life look like if we understood the importance of investing in the lives of the people sent our way?

People are a worthy investment of our time. People should even take precedence over ensuring that a high quality and seamless service is executed. At times, people are even more important than productivity in the workplace.

Jesus asked us to be radical by loving even those who have nothing to offer us in return. By obeying His commandment to love each other, we will become more Christlike.

We need friends who will lift up our chins and direct our eyes towards a God who is faithful to bring His promises to pass.

From Isaiah 61:11 and Luke 4:18, we’ve been called to share the good news of Jesus to the poor and those who have no way of hearing the Gospel. We are called to comfort the brokenhearted, speak freedom into the lives of those who are captives of sin and show the light of Jesus to those who are depressed and facing darkness in their lives.

The fact is every single person you meet – regardless of how “put together” they appear to be – is probably struggling with some sort measure of hurt in their lives.

Loneliness flourishes in suffering. How many times have we ached for companionship and solidarity when everything seems to be falling apart? We need friends who will lift up our chins and direct our eyes towards a God who is faithful to bring His promises to pass.

Here are some handles to reach out to the people around us:

  • Take risks — dare to strike up a conversation with the sister/brother in church you’ve noticed sitting by herself/himself every week
  • Be curious and seek to serve — ask questions, find out what they’re struggling with and how you can pray for them
  • Pray for a word — ask for a God-inspired word for someone who is struggling (Proverbs 15:23)
  • Be consistent and intentional — set your mind to reaching out to one or two people who you will be committed to journeying alongside with
  • Seek strength and wisdom from God — to know how to care for people wisely (James 1:5)

True friends bring the unconditional love of God into the lives of others, which has the power to break the chains of oppression, lift the clouds of depression and bring rain to dry and parched hearts.

We shouldn’t allow indifference or fear to hinder us from being a vessel of God’s relentless love. We don’t need to worry about not knowing what to say, because as we simply obey, God promises to give us the words to sustain the weary (Isaiah 50:4).

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.

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The men who build our country: Loving our migrant workers

by | 8 November 2017, 12:33 AM

“Uhm, hello – my name’s Eudora! What’s yours?”

It was a Sunday in June when I found myself greeting a young man leaning against a wall in the mid-afternoon heat. As part of my youth group’s mission month, we were in Little India, hoping to befriend the migrant workers in our midst. As someone who was neither a youth nor a leader, I felt slightly out of place. Like a gatecrasher, I’d mused to my friends.

A couple of weeks before, my cell group member, also a leader in the youth ministry, shared with us about this befriending event.

“We’re gonna get the youths to talk to these migrant workers in our midst. Please pray for the event and help us think of suitable questions!”

This was reminiscent of the Janitors’ Appreciation Project I had helped out with several years ago – a collaboration between the Christian Fellowship and Rotaract Society, aimed at appreciating school and hall janitors for their work. Yet, it was different because these were complete strangers, compared to knowing the janitors by face, at least.

My spontaneous decision to “gatecrash” the event caught my friends by surprise, and met with responses such as:

“So glad you can join us! But just curious, why you want to come ah?”
“This is so not even my kind of thing – you wanted to come for this?”

Yes, I wanted to do this. Like my friend, I don’t think it is, or will ever be, my kind of thing, my comfort zone. So what was my motivation for being there?

Actually, I’d recently heard about the importance of being inclusive to the migrant workers in our midst. How they’d left their hometowns for a job where they help to provide for us what they do not have – a spacious and comfortable apartment, with clean streets all around.

I’m also familiar with organizations such as HealthServe, which seek to provide for the needs of migrant workers and bridge the gaps between them and the local community. In addition, I know people who have made individual efforts to seek to understand the migrant workers in our midst, and who have shown practical support for them.

Yet, I felt that the only way I could seek to understand this group of people was to interact with them first-hand – it seemed hypocritical to acknowledge the importance of inclusion when I had never reached out to a migrant worker myself.

In the midst of our conversation, I found out this young man worked as a general cleaner at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), opposite from where our conversation took place. Hailing from Johor, across the causeway, he shared that he’d been in Singapore for four years.

For all the complaints my friends and I tend to make about our frequent train breakdowns, crowded buses and traffic jams on the expressway – perhaps we do have more to be thankful for than we realise.

Compared to his hometown, a job here offered a better salary, hence he worked here, rather than back home. He shared with us that he preferred local food back home, but was thankful Singapore had been a secure, clean country to work.

I was intrigued to hear these sentiments, which made me wonder if I have been, by nature, too cynical – for all the complaints my friends and I tend to make about our frequent train breakdowns, crowded buses and traffic jams on the expressway – perhaps we do have more to be thankful for than we realise.

At the end of our conversation, we gave the young man an NTUC voucher to bless him.

During the post-event debrief, one of my group members wondered out loud if migrant workers were too polite, or afraid, to talk about the faults of the country that had provided them with a livelihood. I did not disagree – as much as I’m thankful for the increasing awareness and empathy towards the welfare of the migrant workers in our midst, I believe migrant worker discrimination still very much exists.

Cynics may point out that reaching out to migrant workers is but a feel-good gesture for locals. Well, it may start that way, but it is also a commandment God has given to His people. Deuteronomy 10:18-19 tells us that God had taught the Israelites to love and respect the sojourners – people of another country living and working in Israel – because they too had been sojourners to Egypt.

This is echoed in the New Testament by the author of Hebrews, who encouraged the early Christians not to neglect showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2) – a virtue valued at a time where travel was difficult and foreign lands could be dangerous.

While my experience befriending migrant workers was worthwhile, I believe reaching out to them does not need to take place only through formal organised events. Although these events make a good start, we can bloom wherever we are planted.

This looks different for everyone – maybe it’s greeting the janitor who clears the waste paper basket every day, or exchanging morning greetings with the person who sweeps your block as you make your way to work. When we’re willing to start small, you’ll realise inclusivity isn’t exclusive to the big gestures at all.

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Article list

What’s the point of life? Everything is meaningless

FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

I couldn’t move on after my break-up

How to cling to love in a world of hate

You might not believe it, but people are worth it

The men who build our country: Loving our migrant workers