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When you work freelance, you either grow in fear or faith

by Melody Elizabeth Goh | 2 October 2017, 10:31 AM

Maybe the thought of working freelance appeals to some of you. No constraints, no fixed hours. Not me though – given a choice, I’d rather be tied down to full-time commitment. But my life hasn’t panned out that way.

I’ve been searching for a full-time job since I graduated from Bible school last April. I had been praying, sending out my resume and going for interviews. None worked out; I didn’t last more than 2 weeks in any position as I had to either quit because the job scopes were too overwhelming or because I had things that needed to be settled.

I was desperate, because I was 28. At this age, I thought I ought to already have a full-time job and a stable income, but here I was still depending on my parents for financial support. I felt like my world was crumbling on me, and I dove deeper into depression as self-condemnation sucked me into a bottomless pit of self-pity.

It was a tough season for me. I began to doubt the goodness of God.

In my desperation, I asked a friend who was always posting freelance jobs on Facebook if she had an opening. She got me a freelance position as an assistant media trainer in photography. This increased my exposure to photography and I learnt so much just from assisting the lead trainer.

I loved the job because I knew I wanted to work in the media industry. But the downside was that I was earning peanuts. My company was not doing very well and their projects were drying up as their last sales staff had left the company.

I was worried. For freelancers like me, who live from hand to mouth, regular projects are very important. Sure enough, my project ended and I had no more assignments.

It was another period of unemployment for me. I had no pending interviews and no openings at that time.

I went back to wrestling with God. Did He really want me to live with the vagaries and uncertainty of the freelance life?

One night I had a dream. In my dream, God spoke to me and told me to hang in there for another 2 weeks. I did not know what that meant but I trusted God.

Sure enough, 2 weeks later I was scheduled to have 4 interviews in a week, 3 of which were freelance jobs and 1 of which was a full-time job.

When I had reached the venue for the interview for the full-time position, the interviewer told me she’d forgotten about our interview and she had stepped out of the office. Very literally, a closed door.

I went back to wrestling with God. Did He really want me to live with the vagaries and uncertainty of the freelance life? But God gently reminded me that we are in this world not to be stable and comfortable, but to have faith and to learn to depend on Him.

This was driven home by a prayer someone prayed over me soon after. Part of the prayer went: “Thank you, God, for opening so many doors of opportunities for Melody, and thank you for the flexibility in timing that allows her to meet people and to reach out to the lost souls and play a role in revival.”

That prayer opened my eyes. That was the answer I was searching for. Working freelance gave me the flexibility I was looking for. God knew what was suitable for me even better than I thought I did.

I’ve seen and experienced how God assured me and how He’s made a way for me. I need to trust that He will keep doing so.

I’m still on the journey of trusting God to provide projects for me. I know it will be a constant journey of having the faith that God will provide every school term. For example, my work schedule is slowing down as it’s the examinations period, and it will be the school holidays soon, which could mean I may be out of work till the new academic year begins.

But even so, I have at least one class almost every weekday to help keep food on my table.

I’ve seen and experienced how God assured me and how He’s made a way for me. I need to trust that He will keep doing so.

Has it been easy? No. It’s been a season of trials and testing. But importantly, it’s been a season that has forced me to fix my eyes on God. He never fails and I know He has a perfect plan for me – even if my human mind cannot see how that might pan out.

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Weighing the cost of an iPhone X

by | 14 September 2017, 5:08 PM

I remember my first.

It didn’t resemble a brick. Instead, it was yellow and black, like a bumblebee; the first mobile phone I remember ever seeing was an Ericsson. This was in 1997.

My mum’s new gadget – it wasn’t smart, but by no means was it dumb – was all the rage in my family. Everyone wanted to try the flip cover and type on the number pad. So satisfyingly analogue.

I got my first mobile phone (I think it was a Nokia 6100) a few years later. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have anyone else other than my parents to send text messages to – I had my own phone and I could do this:

That was the era of dial-up internet access, GPRS and ASCII christmas trees (before emojis 🎄).

In 2007, Steve Jobs gave us the first iPhone – the original iPhone. I got my first iPhone the following year, but I didn’t have a 3G phone plan, so it was practically useless without a WiFi connection.

I brought my new gadget everywhere anyway – because that’s what you do when you had an iPhone.

It was as much a status symbol as it is today. And it has always been priced as a premium product – the 32GB version of the iPhone 4 saw the crossing of the thousand-dollar threshold in Singapore.

Fast forward a decade, and the most expensive iPhone ever was launched on Tuesday (September 13).

But consumers aren’t so sure about jumping straight in this time round, because the iPhone X – Apple’s top-of-the-line 10th-anniversary iPhone – sells upwards of S$1,648 (without a phone contract!) in Singapore.

William Jevons, an English economist, wrote in 1871 that the value of a product depends on how much a person desired it. Consumers create value, not the producer.

The iPhone is a premium product and its value was never intended to be a function of the cost of the product.

How much you pay is a measure of what you truly value.

MY PALACE VS HIS TEMPLE

Maybe you, like me, sometimes struggle when it comes to holding back on spending in this age of conspicuous consumption.

Think about our readiness to spend on good things for ourselves, and compare that to our desire to spend on God. Giving to build His church, sowing into His kingdom, tithing.

There’s an equivalent comparison in the Bible. King Solomon built a splendorous temple for God (1 Kings 6:2), according to the specifications that God had given Him. You’d think that would be a good thing, right?

But the very next chapter (1 Kings 7:1-2) details the palace he built for himself. It took 13 years to complete, almost double the 7 years it took to build the temple.

According to the dimensions stated, the temple was 36,000 cubic cubits large (a cubit was a measurement based on the length of a forearm). But Solomon’s own palace measured 150,000 cubic cubits – more than four times larger than the temple he had built for God.

What about you? Do you spend more time and money building your own palace than His temple? Would you be willing to build a temple unto God that is bigger than your own palace?

Or even if we don’t spend much money on ourselves, are we actually using our resources to do what God has called us to do? We could be avoiding doing all the “wrong” things like spending on big-ticket, luxury items, yet never actually invest in the things that matter to God – putting our money where our mouth is.

Do you spend more time and money building your own palace than His temple? Would you be willing to build a temple unto God that is bigger than your own palace?

King Solomon may have gotten carried away with the scale of his palace, but there was one thing he did right: He built God’s temple first. It’s the principle from Haggai 1:4, which asks of the people: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house (the Temple of God) remains a ruin?”

When we put God first in how we use our money, time and all our other resources, it reflects who the King of our heart is.

This isn’t a call to false, legalistic modesty. I’m not saying to hold off a purchase just so you can say you did. Depravation for depravation’s sake is meaningless. All I’m saying is, whether or not you’re getting one of the new iPhones – or any other big-ticket item – it’s good to use the occasion to check yourself: How willing and ready am I to spend that same amount of money for God’s purposes?

Our honest answer will show us the condition of our heart, and how much room it has for Him. When it comes to the things of God, just like with the iPhone X, you’re looking for more capacity –you want to be the 256GB heart, not the 64GB one.

 

/ 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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Unemployed, in debt – and learning how to trust Him

by Melody Elizabeth Goh | 1 August 2017, 4:38 PM

I grew up in a loving and pampered environment. That’s great while you’re a kid – but bad when you’re an adult.

I had to grow up, become a more mature me. But to do that, I needed to experience hardship.

After I graduated, I felt the Lord calling me to step out of the boat and walk on the water. I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t take me long enough to realise what it truly meant: I was about to enter into a desert season. I was about to learn what it means to have full reliance and focus on the Father.

I officially started looking for a job, armed with my Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Finance. I applied for position after position, went for multiple interviews but to no avail.

I had to grow up, become a more mature me. But to do that, I needed to experience hardship.

A friend encouraged me to become an Uber driver. It was tedious and I could not cover the rental of the car – I couldn’t work the long hours required to do so. I then decided to get relief drivers to help cover my costs, including a couple who took the car on weekdays. But that only made things worse; the couple did not use the car to work, and were unable to cover the rental cost, so the amount they owed me kept piling up.

My reserves were depleting quickly. It was getting harder for me, financially, physically, emotionally and mentally. My dad agreed to help ease my burdens a little, but I was still deeply troubled and distressed. I found myself crying every day.

In my desperation, I made a decision I would truly regret, with a heavy price to pay. I fell victim to a scam that promised me a sum of money per telephone line that I signed up for. But I got played out, leaving me with to pay the monthly subscriptions and termination fees. It was a substantial cost, especially when I was still unemployed.

Soon enough, I caved in and fell into depression.

Throughout all this, I kept asking: Where was God?

Where was the God who called me out? Surely, He would not abandon me?

No, I learnt, He wouldn’t – and He didn’t. It was in this season that God was drawing me closer to Him.

God humbled my heart and gave me a revelation – that I really am nothing without Him. Everything I can boast of, I only have by the grace and empowerment of God, and therefore He alone deserves all the glory.

So rather than be crushed by the circumstances, my faith in Him was deeply strengthened. I learnt to trust and obey, for there is no other way – not if I wanted to get out of this desert season. It was hard for me but I had to. I had to crucify my flesh.

I learnt to praise God in all circumstances. It was more of Him and less of me.

This desert season was not what I wanted, but it was what I needed – to go through a process of refining through the fire of trial, and redefining my perspective of the Father. Where He used to be a God who seemed so distant, He became to me a Father who is so loving, and who desires to walk me through every storm. I learnt what it means when He said that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

I learnt to praise God in all circumstances. It was more of Him and less of me.

What I was going through – it wasn’t because God didn’t love me, but because God does love me – enough to work on me, to refine me, to purify my heart.

The process of being refined is painful, but it is needful. It draws us closer to God, and allows Him to show His everlasting love. Adversity pushes us to rely on God, rather than our own strength.

“So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

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Do worldly successes define you?

by Daniel Lee | 25 July 2017, 10:56 PM

How would you feel if you were one — or all — of the following: A medical student, Employee of the Year, and/or a millionaire? Would being any of these things change the way you feel about yourself?

Often we dream of having these successful titles to define us; successes give us something to feel good about. But if what we succeed in determines who we are, does it mean we are a failure when we fail to achieve something?

Think about it: If we base our lives on what can be changed, then the foundation of our lives is not stable. Once the foundation shifts, our lives would also be shaken.

If our identity is decided by our successes, then it is also determined by our failures.

If our identity is decided by our successes, then it is also determined by our failures. Hence, the solution is to not find our self-worth in either.

This isn’t about ignoring what we have or have not accomplished. Rather, it’s about placing our value as a person on what is eternal.

God is the one who created us, and the One in whom we find the deepest measure of fulfilment and pleasure. When we base our self-worth and self-esteem on the unchangeable Word of God — when we believe who God says we are — then the foundation of our lives would be securely grounded on the Rock that is higher (Psalm 61:2).

WHO WE ARE IN GOD

And what does God say about us? He says that as Christians, our truest identity is in His Son, Jesus. We are children of God (John 1:12Ephesians 1:5) who are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

And because we are hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3), we are free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2) and can never be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35).

Not only that, we are now called to be Spirit-filled witnesses of Jesus because each of us is a temple in which the Holy Spirit lives (1 Corinthians 3:16).

God calls us His co-workers in His kingdom (Mark 16:202 Corinthians 6:1) and we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6).

WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD

In light of our new identity in Jesus, we can see our achievements in the proper perspective. Yes, achievements are part of us, but they are not us.

In God’s kingdom, success is being able to boast that we understand and know the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24) and becoming more and more conformed to the image of His Son. We do this by worshipping and beholding Him daily (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Yes, achievements are part of us, but they are not us.

However, if we choose to worship and behold something other than God, we will also be transformed in its image. The Bible tells us that those who worship idols will become like them (Psalm 115:4-8Psalm 135:15-18).

Therefore, what we worship decides our identity. Ask yourself what the most important thing in your life is, and you will know what you truly worship. If there is something that you cherish more than God, then that thing has become an idol to you.

FOCUS ON BEING, NOT DOING

Also, what we do will constantly change, but who we are never will. When we understand that it is who we are, and not what we do, that ultimately matters, we can learn how to rest in God’s presence.

We should lose ourselves not in doing, but in being in Him and becoming like Him.

GIVE YOURSELF UP

Ultimately, resting in Jesus means surrendering all we have to Him.

That can sound like a frightening thing because it means we have to release control over who we are. But Jesus is not really the Lord of our lives if He isn’t the Lord over every single part of our lives, including our identity.

And so we stand firm on our identity in Him, safely let go and let Him take over. Because He is a good and trustworthy God who will never fail us.


©2016 Whole Life. All rights reserved.
Did you find the read helpful? If you would like to receive regular news and encouragement for your faith + family, click here to subscribe. This article was first published on Wholelife.sg and republished with permission.

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I don’t have everything, but I have more than enough

by Sophia Ng | 21 July 2017, 1:44 PM

Years ago when starting out, I was a hungry, ambitious fresh graduate seeking to make a name for herself. I also had a scant portfolio and no experience. So it wasn’t at all surprising that while trying to fulfil my ambition, I came up against a stone wall.

Disheartened and after being rejected by my preferred employer, I was finally hired on a three-month contract at another publishing company. Then the 2008 financial crisis arrived and hiring was frozen. My contract was extended, but I was paid out of petty cash.

I know that makes it sound like they paid me out of a tin piggy bank of loose change, but that’s not far from how it made me feel. I didn’t expect that, as a graduate, I would have to be paid from loose change.

The aches from the struggle of my earlier years are still raw enough for me to remember. I worked past midnight daily as part of shift work, so that it took a toll on my health and in my mid-20s I had high cholesterol. I was highly stressed, I dreaded work and I wanted out.

A few years later, with more polished interview skills, I landed a job which hired me with a 30% pay rise. While I was thankful for the added money, the work was dry and weary, and within months that nagging feeling came back again.

That thirst for more, that I deserved something better. That I needed to be out there doing big stuff and chasing big dreams.

So I went job hunting again and landed myself an offer, which I turned down because it required an extreme 24-hour shift work and I was reluctant to put my body through that kind of stress again.

That nagging feeling came back. That thirst for more, that I deserved something better. That I needed to be out there doing big stuff and chasing big dreams.

Little did I know, God had a plan for me at my second job, the job I’m still at today. Within a year from that low point, I had been promoted.

But the story didn’t end there. I got pregnant. Suddenly, all those ambitions didn’t matter anymore. The thirst for success and recognition at work morphed into meeting the thirst of my young baby.

During maternity leave, in one of my quiet moments, I heard a still small voice whispering the words: Redeem the time. I searched for the full verse, and found it in Ephesians 5:15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.”

It was a clear sign to me then that I had to cut back at work, so I put in a request. It is God’s grace and favour upon my life that my bosses gave me the green light and I still have a job today, working part-time from home after the birth of my second born.

Ask any Singaporean mother and you will know that such a work arrangement is a sheer impossibility.

God saved me from that endless thirst of work and seeking to make a name for myself. Instead, he gave me more than I could ever ask for. 

I recently crossed a birthday milestone, which made me start to ponder my life and what I have done. In the eyes of the world, what have I accomplished?

I don’t have a high paying job, but I have a job that gives me flexibility and a decent wage.

I am not famous, yet I am well known to close friends.

I live in a four-room HDB flat, but many have been fed and loved in this home.

We are not in want, but we live in abundance.

My husband and I don’t own a car, but we have use of a family car.

We are not in want, but we live in abundance.

Material things aside, I have the love of family and friends, a loving husband and two crazy kids.

He has humbled me to the point that I know, everything I have has been given by him, so I must freely give of my time, talents and money unto others too.

I am content. For how can I not be? He has done exceedingly, abundantly, more than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

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by Ynex Lee | 14 July 2017, 2:55 PM

In five months of job-hunting, I have gone for a grand total of three interviews.

I’m ashamed to admit it. I’ve spent hours polishing up my resume, scouring job portals, crafting personalised cover letters to each company. I prayed over each application, asking God to open the right door in His time. I’ve knocked on all sorts of doors, but walked through none of them.

Meanwhile, the people around me have been cramming multiple interviews into one day, some even having the luxury of multiple job offers to choose from.

What have I been doing wrong? Has God forgotten about me?

WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?

Growing up, the world taught me how my life would work: Study hard, get a good job, settle down. So I went into the job search confident that I’d “get a good job”. I’d done my part as a good student; the next step should be easy, right?

Nope. Five long months of waiting, complete with exactly three brief glimpses into windows of what could have been. The last rejection, for a job I really hoped to secure, left me utterly broken. I fell away from God, into a dark hole of doubt and self-pity.

I should mention here that during these five months, I wasn’t completely jobless. In between applying for full-time jobs, I received freelance opportunities from friends of friends. I hadn’t asked for any of these; they really just fell into my lap. Some were only for a day or two, but others stretched over weeks and months.

I realised how bitter and discontent I was with what I had. I’d been acting just like the grumbling Israelites, who asked for more and more, without seeing how God was already meeting their needs.

But I failed to see them as blessings – I mean, how long can a freelance job last? The pay is inconsistent, there’s no CPF, it’s not sustainable. When I told others that I was freelancing, the usual response was that it was okay as an interim measure, but I should find a full-time job instead.

So my usual line to others was, “I’m working, but it’s not a real job. I’m still looking.”

I’VE HAD MY EYES OPENED

I only became aware of how blinded I had been over a conversation with a good friend. He recounted Exodus 16, the story of God’s provision to the Israelites in the desert. Despite their ungratefulness, God still provided for the Israelites. However, He only gave them exactly what they needed. No more, no less.

God gave the Israelites manna and instructed them to gather just enough for themselves for each day. Yet the Israelites ignored His command and hoarded much more – only to have it rot the very next day. They didn’t even know what it was at first, just as I did not recognise blessings from God!

Reflecting on this story made me realise how bitter and discontent I was with what I had. I’d been acting just like the grumbling Israelites, who asked for more and more, without seeing how God was already meeting their needs. They did not trust that what He had given them was enough.

In focusing on my own insufficiency according to the expectations of the world, I failed to see that God and His provision were absolutely enough for me.

For a long time, I struggled with feeling inadequate about my lack of a full-time job. During this difficult period of uncertainty, God has well and truly challenged my faith and trust in Him. Till today, I live in limbo, not knowing when the next job (freelance or full-time) will come along.

But these past few months of freelancing have truly revealed God’s faithfulness in His provision. As a freelancer, my workdays and pay are not as consistent as what I would have had with a full-time job. Yet by His grace, I earn enough to get by.

I DO NOT GIVE TO YOU AS THE WORLD GIVES

I have learnt to be thankful and treasure what I have.

In the last few months, I have been able to celebrate my Dad’s birthday with my family, attend a four-day church retreat, and spend valuable time with friends – mostly on weekdays, without worrying about having to take leave.

And in terms of job experience, freelancing has taught me so much. Being exposed to different work environment and working styles teaches you how to adapt fast!

Freelancing is definitely not the conventional 9-to-6 life the world demands I live. But this doesn’t mean that it’s an experience that is inferior to any other.

I look back on my calendar and it’s crazy how each opportunity has fallen so perfectly into place. There is no way that I could have done this on my own. Day by day, I know that it is God who is taking care of me.

For a long time, I struggled with feeling inadequate about my lack of a full-time job. But these past few months of freelancing have truly revealed God’s faithfulness in His provision.

When we’re in the midst of the sandstorm, it’s near impossible to see how God is providing for us in that very moment. Our limited human vision restricts us from seeing what happens in the future. Living by faith can be scary.

And sometimes that fear can cause us to forget that He has already provided all of us with the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ.

In His unfailing love and grace, God has redeemed us for eternity. Surely we can trust in Him who has given up His very own Son in order to save us sinners (Romans 8:32)! The world can only give us temporary material satisfaction. But the love of God through Jesus Christ is the same forever.

And not just forever – He loves me today.

I wish this was a success story, and that I could tell you I’ve finally made peace with God and found a full-time job. But it isn’t.

I still don’t know when the door to a full-time job will be opened. But till then, I know that I can cling onto His provision, for He knows exactly how much I need in each moment. He who promised is faithful indeed.

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When you work freelance, you either grow in fear or faith

Weighing the cost of an iPhone X

Unemployed, in debt – and learning how to trust Him

Do worldly successes define you?

I don’t have everything, but I have more than enough

Looking for a job, learning how to trust