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What I learnt from being bullied

by Tiffany Toh | 26 March 2018, 4:55 PM

What comes to mind when you think of betrayal? Bitterness, sadness, pain?

In my story of betrayal, I definitely experienced those feelings – but I found an eternal blessing in the end.

I was 11 when I met my first best friend. I thought she was someone who would grow old with me. But I had that hope shattered early on. She had nicknamed me “tomato” because of my size, and would say during meals, “I hate tomato. Tomato is so fat and ugly.”

It hurt. I grew up Christian, but going to God was never my first choice. I didn’t think He would care, because if He did … Why were my friends like that? We soon stopped being friends. I was alone for a period of time, but in time – I found a new friend in class, Jenny*.

But the joy didn’t last. I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw that a mean girl in class had tagged me in a picture of a plus-sized celebrity. She asked Jenny in the comments section, “Hey, look doesn’t that look like Tiffany?”

I waited for Jenny’s reply, thinking she would stand up for me. But she simply wrote, “Ya her butt is just as big.” I stared at those words for what felt like an eternity. Why was this happening again? I was angry but I had no one to turn to.

It didn’t get better when I started secondary school. We got posted to the same school and class. Things actually went well for the first few months until a misunderstanding.

My friend named Daniel* had left his wallet in class, so we decided to keep it for him. Jenny was with me the entire time. But the next day, he claimed $2 were missing from his wallet and blamed it on Jenny and I. He approached Jenny first, and then me.

He came to me saying, “How dare you steal my $2? Give it back to me now!” I was shocked, because I hadn’t taken his money. “Jenny said you were the one who took my money – so give it back you greedy fatty!” What he said had broken my heart.

I asked Jenny, “Why did you say that? You know I didn’t do it.” Her reply cut me in my heart, “I saw you take it. Don’t lie”.

As I didn’t have any other friends, all I could do was to stick to her. But things got worse – it was like reliving my primary school nightmare years all over again. The boys would shoot rubber bands at me and she would laugh.

They made chat groups and Facebook pages with names like, “ANTI-TIFFANY group” – and they would “accidentally” add me in.

I felt tortured. I was so angry with God and I felt like I had no one to turn to. This carried on until I finally blew up at Jenny one day, and went to sit with another group of girls in class.

To my surprise, though they rarely spoke to me or knew me – these girls stood up for me. They took me into their circle of friendship.

Secondary school quickly turned from a nightmare to a dream. I loved school again, and I could finally say that I loved my friends. You might think this is the happy ending. But things began to change again over time. I thought we were going to be forever friends, but we stopped being as close after a few years.

My heart became calloused with distrust and insecurity. I never believed people would love me for who I am. Never wanted to trust anyone.

Hannah was one of my friends from that group of girls in secondary school. I brought her to Church where she accepted Christ into her life.

We’ve been friends for almost a decade. I never knew she would mean so much to me. Hannah never once thought any less of me, especially not for being fat. Through Hannah, God showed me how to trust again.

I knew something was different about this friendship, but I didn’t know why back then. But I know now: We both grew to have the same foundation in our life: God.

I couldn’t have imagined that the God I blamed for the bullying was the same God who placed Hannah in my life. The God I was so angry with became the God I was so grateful to. There were many times I thought I had no one to turn to. But deep down I knew I could turn to God. But because of my pride, I didn’t let God into my troubles – only praising Him in the good.

God is long-suffering. When I think back to how my friends betrayed and threw me aside, though I was a true friend to them – I did the same thing to God. I threw Him aside even when He was a true friend to me. Yet in every season, He was my only constant.

He gave me the priceless blessing of His eternal friendship.


*Names have been changed for privacy.

This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.

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The pursuit of sexual purity

by Stella Lee | 25 September 2018, 2:01 PM

One of the struggles many dating Christians face is sexual intimacy.

Our first encounter with our sexuality is probably when we hit puberty. That’s when our hormones start to fluctuate – leading visibly to our bodily appearances changing. It’s normal to start experiencing sexual desires, even in early adulthood, which led me to ponder:

  • Why would God create humans to experience sexual desires in the teenage years, which may lead to premarital sex, yet He continues to say there should not be any sexual immorality amongst us (Ephesians 5:3-4)? 
  • Why does the Bible say no to premarital sex (Hebrews 13:4), when there is almost a 10 to 20 year gap from the initial sexual desire to actually being able to marry?

But before we go any further, let’s begin by thinking why we should even seek to be pure in the first place. Firstly, the Bible says to “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 also tells us that “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God”.

In those verses, God calls us to live as people made alive in Christ — who live to please Him. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

Purity is about more than just giving the most treasured gifts to one’s partner, such as virginity — it is obedience to God’s Word.

Sex is not dirty: it is a gift by God to a man and woman united in holy matrimony.

And sex is not a selfish thing for fulfilling one’s own desires. Since everything in creation was pleasing to God (Genesis 1:31), there is moral and spiritual goodness to be found in sex that honours God.

In the context of a marriage, the sexual intimacy (Proverbs 5:19) God wants us to enjoy must come with servanthood and love. Because I love my partner, I want to fulfil his desires — and he wants to fulfil mine.

God gave us this amazing gift to enjoy together with our partner, because sex was never designed for the self.

The idolatry of sex and obsessive guilt over sex accomplish the same thing – they keep the focus on self, whether it is our of enjoyment or despair.

In his book, Sacred MarriageGary Thomas writes, “the idolatry of sex and obsessive guilt over sex accomplish the same thing – they keep the focus on self, whether it is our of enjoyment or despair. Gratitude, on the other hand, turns our hearts towards God.”

I’m not here to condemn anyone who’s struggling in the area of premarital sex, but to share on why I feel that sexual intimacy outside of marriage has its problems.

Many people find it hard to restore their state of mind, after breakups of relationships that were sexual in nature. Ask the scientist or psychologist, they can tell you that sex rewires your brain.

I won’t dive into this, but my point is that sex has immense effects on our mind and heart. There’s definitely a reason why God put the confines of marriage around it.

The pursuit of sexual purity - apple breaker

In the pursuit of sexual purity, we must set healthy boundaries.

Now is there a hard and fast rule for an acceptable level of intimacy in a relationship? Some find kissing to be acceptable outside of marriage while some don’t. I’m leaning to the latter view because I feel sexual intimacy does encompass kissing.

In Gary Thomas’ Sacred Search, kissing is part of sexual intimacy. To take something like kissing out for personal enjoyment is missing out on the “whole package” of sexual intimacy that God has gifted to us.

In setting such boundaries, we must consider the Gospel. It is written in Titus 2:12-13, “It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Our lives must be good testimonies in every area, seen or unseen.

Left to our fallen nature, we are not inclined to make decisions that honour God or align with His will.

And even as we do our best to be “perfect” Christians (Matthew 5:48), we can never truly be like God.

But there is hope in knowing that God is with us. He gave His word to guide us in our lives. And the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us (Romans 8:9) — there is help from on high!

Commit to walking in the Spirit every day (Galatians 5:25). We walk in the Spirit when the desires of the Spirit are stronger than the flesh, when we no longer seek to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Whatever mistakes we’ve made along the way, let it compel us to live in fear of the Lord. And while we acknowledge our sinfulness and utter need of God, we must also know that no sin is too great for Jesus to bear! God has forgiven us and only He can sanctify us each day.

“The believer who conducts his marriage as in the Lord will seek to make his marriage transcend mere sexuality by emphasising his fellowship with God.” (Otto Piper)

Strive to build a God-centred relationship. Spur each other on to walk in the Spirit and don’t lose hope! Build each other up in love and focus on your relationship with God. Lovers of God will grasp the beauty of His commandments, and that will bear spiritual fruit in the relationship.

And in time, you will also teach your children to seek purity and godly love.


This was originally posted on Stella’s blog, and has been republished with permission.

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The sting of rejection

by Kate Ng | 25 September 2018, 10:59 AM

“I’m so sorry, but I just don’t see you in that way…”

The camera cuts to a wide shot of two individuals at a 45º angle, then pans between one pensive face and another (devastated) one. An instrumental piece plays sorrowfully in the background. Rain is not necessary but creates good atmosphere.

Ah, to think that rejection can also be romanticised, especially by the Korean entertainment wave that has permeated our culture so deeply today. Truth be told, apologies are not always exchanged in real life, which only makes the experience of rejection even harder.

Realising that the friend who rejected me through mutual friends would not even bother to apologise cut deeper. Even if we could not be together, surely our many years of friendship would warrant a face-to-face apology – or explanation – at the very least.

Rejection, in all its forms, often stings in the deepest and darkest areas of our life that we often strive to keep hidden – our insecurities. Am I really not good enough for that person/school/job? Will I, then, ever find the right person/place/career?

It will take a while for me to recover. It is, after all, my first rejection after having guarded and protected my heart for much of my youth, for the man that I know the Lord has kept for me.

And in the midst of my recovery, I am thankfully, reminded of the greatest rejection of all, one that is described in heart-wrenching detail in the Gospel of Luke, even before Jesus was nailed onto the Cross.

When Pilate the Roman governor was examining Jesus, he found no wrong in Him (Luke 23: 14). Yet while Jesus was blameless, Pilate still announced that he would punish Him before releasing Him to appease the people who were accusing Him (His own people, the Jews).

Biblical commentaries inform us that the punishment dealt out to criminals by the Romans included whipping. David Guzik tells us that the whip the Romans used was gruesome;

“The victim of a Roman scourging was tied against a post, and struck with a whip that had bits of glass, sharp rock, and metal tied to the end of leather cords. The whip would be struck at the top and dragged down the back, until the victim’s entire back was a bloody, open wound. Many people died just from this scourging.”

A bloody, open wound. And I can only imagine the deafening mob of Jews mocking Jesus as He was scourged – these could have been the same people who shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12: 13)

I would like to believe that the physical hurt Jesus endured from the whipping, one that should have already killed Him, paled in comparison to the hurt He felt from being rejected by the very group of people He had been come down to rescue.

Not to mention, being outrightly denied by those whom He had loved, healed and taught throughout His years of ministry (Luke 22: 61).

And we all know what came after – this rejection was superseded by abandonment from His own Father when He hung on the Cross.

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” (Matthew 27:45-46)

And unlike me, Jesus didn’t expect an apology from them, even till today. The sting of my rejection is no match for the stripes on His back and the holes in His hands, feet and side. (John 20: 27)

Understanding the intensity of the rejection that Jesus experienced altered my perspective on how to face my rejection. It also reminded me of how I must be after I step out of this season of recovery, even in receiving that very brother who rejected me.

The Lord’s reconciliation with His people despite the heartbreaking rejection, including reinstating Peter (John 21: 19) and each of us every day as His children, also challenges me to look towards the path of reconciliation now.

First, a reconciliation between myself and the Lord. Although the Lord isn’t responsible for my rejection, He allowed it, just as He allowed His Son to be rejected that night.

As disappointed as I am, Jesus already modelled the perfect response for me, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22: 42)

And it is in submitting to His will this season that I will relearn how to surrender my insecurities surrounding romantic relationships. This includes what it means to guard my heart so that no one can take His position at the centre of it all. After all, my heart is the safest in the hands of it’s Maker.

If the Lord could restore Peter, I will take His response as a benchmark for my own response.

Second, a reconciliation between my brother in Christ and I. I know that this will be tougher – not because of the hurt – but because of the disappointment I feel towards his careless actions and words.

Yet, if the Lord could restore Peter, I will take His response as a benchmark for my own response. Even if our friendship may never be the same, I choose to respond to this man with grace and gentleness.

Rejection will always sting. But by the stripes He got from our rejection of Him, we can hold fast to the promise that our wounds will always heal.

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My love affair with pornography

by Mark Yeow | 18 September 2018, 2:39 PM

I am intimately familiar with sin.

I was around 12 when I had my first experience of pornography, one which started a love affair that lasted more than a decade. Porn seemed to satisfy this deep and dissolute hunger within me. I craved seeing women naked, doing things that aroused me.

Yet, each time after I was spent, I felt this cloak of shame fall around my head and heart. Heavy thoughts would weigh on me: You are worthless … You are pathetic.

Even after I gave over my life to Christ, I continued to watch porn.

I would try to resist the temptation, succeed for weeks or even months, then slip back into the embrace of my favourite performers – often just after a relationship breakdown, or an unexpected malady, or some other happening that laid me low.

And porn isn’t the only lust affair I’ve had – just the longest. I lost my virginity in the last years of high school and the sex that followed – however great it was – smashed my soul into little pieces which took years to put back together.

I went after women for how their physical beauty and sensuality made me feel, and when two of them broke my heart, I broke three more in return.

… only God’s redeeming touch was able to pull me out of this pit of lust some four months ago.

The toll of my lust has been enormous.

Constant fatigue, clinginess to female friends, shouting matches with my parents – not to mention the countless hours of masturbation both physical and emotional.

I think I might’ve written a novel, or even a trilogy, with that time alone. And “time alone” is apt, because the only word I can summarise all those years with is “lonely”.

Walking in the wilderness, only God’s redeeming touch was able to pull me out of this pit of lust some four months ago.

But the battle is by no means over.

Writing about this dark part of my past, I still feel a strange mix of shame and desire. On this side of eternity, there will always be a treacherous part of my heart that seeks earthly pleasure and rebels against the word of God.

But as a child of God, it’s my duty to whack that part as hard as I can until it runs squealing back to the cell it escaped from.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Don’t lose hope: the battle against pornography and for purity can be won. We overcome solely by the Spirit, in the community of the saints.

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In grief and hatred, I wanted to change my surname

by Jennifer Tan | 17 September 2018, 2:23 PM

I hit rock-bottom when I was 17.

That was when I stood in front of my father’s niche, silently ranting at him for not being around to protect me and my mother in the legal mess his extended family had gotten us into. I didn’t even know the man: He passed away when I was only 18 months old, but I knew right at that moment, in that dreadful season of my life which I felt no agency over, I hated him.

I hated the fact that he was absent. I hated the life I had to lead for the last 17 years because of his absence. I hated the blood that ran through my veins. Most of all, I hated the reality of living the rest of my life as a fatherless child with no family support whatsoever.

In that moment, a rash thought popped into my head as I stood in front of the niche. Why don’t I change my surname?

I thought that if I could just drop this one syllable that was causing me so much pain and tears, life would be easier.

Ultimately, I didn’t follow through on the rash impulse to change my surname. Instead, when I cried out to my earthly father that day – it was my Heavenly Father who responded.

We are all probably familiar with the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 17-year-old me had mistakenly thought that I had meandered my way through all the stages and was finally at the stage of numb acceptance.

But as I stood in front of my father’s niche, the Lord opened my eyes to see that I had simply been floundering within the pool of denial and anger. Wanting to change my surname only reflected my desire to escape. I was still grieving immensely for my father, and I was on the verge of dishonouring him in my grief.

Thus began a long and painful season of understanding and accepting God’s claim of daughtership over me (2 Corinthians 6: 18). It was a season of vulnerability, one that left me no choice but to confront the open and deep wounds of my past.

Most importantly, it was time to let my Father heal them.

That season was painful but necessary, and I emerged from it convicted that the Lord is my Father and Provider.

Yet that didn’t mean I was no longer grieving. In fact, the grieving intensified because I was now struggling to reconcile the truth and reality of my life. The truth was that I could always turn to my Heavenly Father for the fatherly love I desired, the reality was that the circumstances of my life still reflected the consequences of fatherlessness.

While I no longer had the desire to change my surname, I still faced a lot of family issues. The lies and schemes my extended family surrounded me with could rival that of a Hong Kong drama – but I still needed to waddle through all of it justly, lovingly, mercifully and humbly (Micah 6:8).

The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel still seemed as far away.

Things with my extended family were eventually settled about a year ago.

I’m not proud of how I reacted towards them in many situations, but I’m certain that the Lord had enabled me to do my best. I know He was at work making my paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Lord also guided me through all 5 stages of grief in the last few years gently. And lately, I have been sensing Him impressing a new stage upon my heart – reconciliation. I also feel these words upon my heart: “Jen, this chapter of your life has not ended.”

That leaves me quaking in my shoes for a lot of reasons, the largest one being that I am unwilling. After all, why would I willingly turn back towards the people who hurt me so deeply – when my scars still feel so raw?

But every time I think like this, the image of His nail-pierced hands enter my mind immediately – Jesus died for us to be reconciled to God even while we hated Him.

So while I don’t yet understand why I was chosen to bear this surname, because I know God’s Name, I can trust Him in all that He’s leading me to.

He will never forsake those who seek Him (Psalm 9:10).


The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality. 

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When you’re single but not by choice

by | 12 September 2018, 5:17 PM

“How are you, being single?”

My friend was telling me about a friend who was approaching her thirties soon and struggling with singleness. We agreed that age might have played a large role in delivering a more painful punch.

Neither of us was on the brink of turning thirty, and my friend was already happily engaged. But that’s when the conversation turned to me.

“You’re asking how am I doing as a single?”

I was slightly surprised by the question, because no one ever asked me that. People usually ask me “why are you single?” or “are you looking for someone?” or “do you need help getting un-single?”.

I wouldn’t say that I’m dying to be un-single. Yes, admittedly there are times when I look at others who are in a relationship and I wonder if I would ever be in one. A relationship sounds great, and I recognise the good things that come with it.

A life of singleness has its fair share of goodness as well. We all know the freedom that comes with it. But as I let my friend’s question sink in, I realised my internal struggle has never really been about the absence of a life partner. It was something else.

It was being single … But not by choice.

This would be ideal: Being able to confidently say that my singleness is a choice. That – power to me! – I want to be single. But I can’t. To put it bluntly, I have to admit that I remain single because no one has stepped forward. I don’t exactly have any other choice. I’m pretty much single by circumstance.

Undeniably, there is a special and unique kind of being wanted, loved and cared for in the context of a covenantal relationship or marriage. The Bible tells us so (Ephesians 5:28-29).

Where then, does this leave the singles?

In the words of Marshall Segal, singleness became an unwanted and unneeded judge and roommate in my life.

My problem didn’t lie with my singleness. It was with what my singleness implied.

Am I single because I am not wanted?

Am I single because I am not cherishable?

Am I single because I am not loveable?

I know that these questions are far from the truth, but my fear is that these questions have already silently taken up residence in the deepest recesses of my heart, and in many others’ too.

I am also learning that not being wanted as a spouse is not the same as being unwanted.

But I am also learning that not being wanted as a spouse is not the same as being unwanted. Just like how you can be qualified and competent, but not employed. Or how you can be musically gifted, but not be a successful musician. Poor, but not given extra cash. Hungry, but not fed.  The list goes on.

Basically, while there are definitely highly attractive traits about you, as there are in everyone, it doesn’t mean that someone will necessarily respond to those traits. And there’s nothing much you can do to change the situation. It’s not exactly your fault.

Isn’t it unfair, then?

While God remains silent on some of these questions, I find great comfort in the life of Paul the Apostle. Paul remained unmarried while doing God’s work across the nations. His life was also far from being smooth and comfortable.

But yet as he lived without the unique love, care and cherishing that a relationship with the opposite gender gives, Paul speaks confidently of the surpassing preciousness of knowing Christ over all these things.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:8)

There is a unique kind of loving and cherishing from God for every unique individual. It is so unique that is truly between God and myself, that no one else can ever know or experience on my behalf.

The prize isn’t human companionship, a diamond ring, or a BTO flat – the prize is Jesus and His promised fullness of life.

This special kind of intimacy is only experienced when we allow ourselves to draw closer to Him – that might also mean taking our eyes and minds off our family circumstance, our relationship status, our financial situation and everything else, and keeping our eyes on the prize (Philippians 3:14).

And no, the prize isn’t human companionship, a diamond ring, or a BTO flat. These things are good, but life has got to be way more than that. The prize is Jesus and His promised fullness of life.

So back to the burning questions.

Am I single because I am not wanted?

Am I single because I am not cherishable?

Am I single because I am not loveable?

No.

I have always loved you

Even if you feel that you are not wanted, God says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you feel that you are not cherished, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25)

And if you feel that you are not loved, “I have always loved you,” says the Lord (Malachi 1:2).


Singles! Send us your thoughts and stories on your journeys with God through this season. Drop us an email here.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer who memorises Pantone swatches. Her standard bubble tea order – oolong milk tea with 25% sugar, less bubbles and no ice. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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Article list

What I learnt from being bullied

The pursuit of sexual purity

The sting of rejection

My love affair with pornography

In grief and hatred, I wanted to change my surname

When you’re single but not by choice