Those were about the last words my mentor gave me before our season ended, and one of the deepest lessons I am still learning in life.
I find that the more we move on in age, the more we seem to face the reality that people are not forever – change is the pinnacle of constancy for us as we all traverse through the dimension of time.
And as people change, usually the ones that hurt us are the ones that walk out of our lives, and I am certain there is almost no stranger to such a grief.
Often, this never happens in an instant, it usually is a gradual numbing, until one side of a relationship just becomes a ghost of who they used to be, a faint outline dotted with memories, the sort that one needs to struggle to ascertain if they were even real.
And before you realise it, someone whom you thought would be there for life, closes the door on you.
Hurt does things to people: We shut off our world to others, we build our walls higher, we dig motes around ourselves. Yeah, we still have friends, but now everyone is suspect.
Hurt jams the mind into overdrive: What did I do wrong? Am I not good enough? Do my friends love me for real, or is this just a huge sick joke being played on me? Who is next to hurt me?
I think it is perfectly natural to feel those things, no one has the right to fault you – the hurt is real. But I would dare contest to say that wouldn’t be the best way to live life from there on out, an emotional hermit crab.
No one has the right to fault you because, honestly, no one can force you to love – or not love – someone else. They don’t live in your skin.
Likewise for the person who hurt you – this is a choice they have made on their own, and nothing you do could’ve prevented that. The wound they left deserves time to be healed, but at no point in time was it because you were not good enough. Of course, make sure you did no wrong or harm to them either.
As for you, one person’s choice to stop loving you should not implicate your choice to love others.
That is being tender-hearted: To understand that the power to love lies in your hands, and hopefully you find it within you to see that people need love.
And being strong-hearted is this: To fully accept that people change, and should they walk out on us, we remember that love is their choice, and it is ours as well – being strong means having the fortitude to continue loving others well.
“One day it’s here and then it’s gone… how are you still holding on?”
(“One Day”, Kodaline)
It is so easy to be jaded with life and relationships, but I hope that never taints the way you see people.
Dedicated to some of my dear friends who are hurting – I know your hurt, but be tender-hearted, and be strong-hearted. To love others is your choice; make the most of it.❤️
This article was first published on Weiren’s blog and was republished with permission.
“A disciple is someone who is leaning back on Jesus, hearing his heartbeat, and from that perspective, looking out into the world.” —Dave Lomas
It all began with a message by Dave Lomas called “Lean back”. It was based on a passage in John (John 13:21-29), which describes how the disciple “whom Jesus loved” leaned back on Him as they reclined together at the table in fellowship, moments before Jesus was taken away.
According to Lomas, this was a perfect picture of how we can find rest in the Father’s love, the same way Jesus too rested on His Father’s bosom (John 1:18) in perfect submission and trust. And His call to us is the same: To lean in and listen to what He is saying, as well as to lean back and rest in His love.
Do you recognise my voice The beating of my heart Let it drown out all the noise That’s keeping us apart
The image stuck with me for some reason – I simply could not get it out of my mind. I asked myself candidly: Did I really believe that Jesus would love me in such a deep and intimate way? Or was there something about the love of God that I haven’t quite understood?
“Lean in, lean back. Rest on His chest, He’s okay with that.” I wrote down the words that had surfaced in my mind and left it sitting in my collection of other virtual notes.
A couple of weeks later, I was invited to a songwriting session with Awaken Generation, where we were asked to prepare song ideas to share. As the day drew closer, I revisited my notes and these same words came back to me.
In a moment of inspiration, a melody came to mind, and I quickly recorded it down as a voice memo whilst penning the lines.
Lean in, lean back Rest your head on my chest I’m okay with that Lean in, lean back My love is wider than the ocean Are you ready for that?
Still, even after writing it down, the words and language I used to express God’s love for us seemed so unconventional and alien – could I really believe this? Was I being too radical or worse, heretical with my thoughts about God?
I mean, who would imagine Jesus saying something like: “I’m ok with that?” or “Are you ready for that?” I wasn’t sure. But if nothing else, I would at least have something to share at the songwriting session, if I were asked.
Well somehow, I ended up sharing that little chorus and was encouraged to develop it further. But I was stuck – what else could I say? I could barely comprehend “how deep the Father’s love for us”. What exactly is God’s heart for His children and how would I express His desire to love us so intimately?
These thoughts continued to permeate my mind as I drove home from the songwriting session. But by then, I was simply looking forward to being home to see my wife and little one, Zoey, who was barely a month-old then.
I arrived home to a sleeping wife and baby, and quietly carried little Zoey out from the cot, wanting to wind down from the day together. I enjoyed just being with her. As I sat down on the sofa to adjust myself, Zoey squirmed a little and I propped her up, resting her head on my chest. She snuggled up and quickly fell back to sleep.
And then, it clicked. The moment could not have been more divinely orchestrated – I was receiving a picture from God Himself. He delighted in me resting on His chest. In the same way I was enjoying Zoey even though she was doing nothing but resting, He truly desired and loved to carry me tenderly. Where else did I get such fathering instincts from?
Immediately, like a download from Heaven, words and images started to surface in my mind and I understood fully what the Father had been trying to show me all along.
Is it hard for you to speak? Is it hard to lift your head? I am gentle with the weak Let me carry you instead
He wants us close to His chest because that is where we will hear Him the clearest – it is where we will hear what is on His heart and begin to recognise with greater familiarity the sweet cadence of His voice resonating throughout every part of us.
And we must learn to trust Him enough, that when we rely and rest on Him so unreservedly and fully, He does not reject us. Just like Zoey and me. If I, a human, broken, sinful father can love my daughter in such a way, how much more my heavenly Father, from whom all fatherly-intuition comes from?
Listen, seek Breathe in, deep
I began to think about how I would want my children to grow up knowing me – I would want to them to know their father’s voice. I would want them grow in trust of my goodness and love towards them, truly believing that whatever the situation, they can be confident that I speak into their lives only from a place of deep love.
While this process begins with recognising my voice (literally), it matures into an ability to recognise the heart behind that voice, to the point where it has the ability to “drown out” all the noise, discouragements and lies of the world.
Isn’t that what our Lord desires for us too? (John 10:27-28)
As I began to gently lift up Zoey’s head and adjust her to make her rest more comfortable, I cradled her little head gently, remembering how fragile it was and how dependent she was on me to care for her, to respond to her cries for attention.
My love is more than enough, child More than enough for you
Is this how the Father sees me, too? How vulnerable and broken we must seem to be Father! That in our moments of weakness and desperation, God tells us that all we need to do is cry out for Him in “wordless groans” (Romans 8:26-27), and that the Spirit of God intercedes for us – He hears, He knows, and He understands our deepest yearnings and needs.
And as those revelations came, I penned down every thought and allowed the Father to take me on a journey of recovering the language of love between a Heavenly Father and His children, a language that has become foreign to so many of us.
Lay down your burdens And I’ll give you rest Lay down your weapons Lay down your weapons
Perhaps this image of deep intimacy is something that many of us dare not even imagine. Could we really imagine ourselves reclining next to Jesus at the dinner table, lying on his chest? Some of us don’t even do that with our friends or loved ones.
Lean back on Jesus’ chest? Are you sure? Aren’t we supposed to bow down before Him?
It is something we must hold in tension – God is the Almighty One, the One who shielded Moses and hid him so that Moses would not be consumed by His glory; and yet also expressed perfectly in our Lord Jesus – the very representation of God, dwelling amongst us in human form.
He is a God who reclines with us at the table and invites us to rest on His bosom in an act of crazy, radical intimacy. Who dwells within us in Spirit, one with us in our suffering, that we may share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
This is exactly what Jesus did during His time on earth. This was how He lived out His relationship with His Abba. With His ears always close to His Father’s heart, He was only ever interested in doing what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19).
Jesus understood what God truly cared about. He knew who He was, that He was loved, and that His Father delighted fully in Him (Matthew 3:17). And He invites us all to do the same – to lean in, lean back, and trust that the Father is always okay with that.
It was student exchange season and my boyfriend Reuben and I had applied and been accepted to universities in the United States. I, however, could feel God prompting me to stay in Singapore, despite my deep longing and desire to go.
Frustration and anger towards God arose in me.
“Don’t you see my desires, Lord?” “What about me?” “What about the things that I want to do, don’t you see them?”
It was a difficult season of wrestling with God and processing if we should go. If Reuben went without me, we wouldn’t see each other for a whole year. One day, as we were praying together over our decisions, he heard a word from God: “A tree in winter does not die easily”.
This is how we understood it: When faced with the harsh elements of winter, tree roots are forced to grow deeper to forage for water and nutrients as water is hard to be found. This is a tree’s coping mechanism for survival, and in doing so, it would be sturdier and even more rooted than before.
The next day, I was doing my quiet time with God when I felt Him impress upon a word upon my heart: “Seasons”. I was confused as to what He was telling me, but jotted it down in my journal anyway.
That word would remain in my journal for another two weeks, untouched and unexplained.
“Hey Ronice! You’ll be involved in vocals for the live recording of the song, ‘Seasons’!”
I took a second look at the text message, barely believing my eyes. Could it be, Lord?
Then I opened the lyric file that had come with it.
You don’t leave us in the hurting Seasons are for tree to grow You will meet us in our mourning And turn our sorrows into joy
Tears streamed down my face. Trees? Seasons? I knew that God was speaking directly to me. Contrary to what I’d thought of Him, He had seen all my desires, longings and always known what’s best for me – I only had to trust Him.
Though this song, God made sense of the words Reuben and I had received, and in His own funny way, allowed me to sing the very words He had prophesied over us.
It has been 2 months since Reuben left for the States and the journey has been difficult for the both of us. But I know that we are exactly where God has called us to be, and I thank Him for giving us this season to grow, deepen our roots and lean into Him.
I have also since found out that the school I was allocated to for exchange in the United States, Virginia, was badly hit by Hurricane Florence and that all students were forced to evacuate from the school premises. What would have happened if I were there?
In moments like these, I can’t help but recognise how big our God truly is. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. He meets us in our mourning, and turns our sorrows into joy.
I sat down with Charissa Cho, who has previously held HR positions at Ernst and Young and Singapore Tourism Board, to talk about what it’s like being single at 30.
Right off the bat, Charissa said she had always wanted to get married, but past relationships didn’t work the way she thought they would. She gave me an example: “There was one specific guy where we went for three dates within a month and then it was just radio silence. “My best friend would tell me things like, ‘He’s just an idiot. Don’t waste your time and energy on him’. But in my heart, I always thought that there must be something wrong with me, what else would explain this trend across my entire life where people drop me off like that?”
I could hear the hurt behind Charissa’s voice. I think it’s natural to want to blame yourself, especially when you are the common factor in the equations. Charissa said that not being chosen ate at her identity for a long time, but she eventually realised that she had actually been waiting for a guy to complete her – and that was a mistaken view of how relationships work.
“I cannot constantly be on a lookout for my potential partner, you know? It’s draining and I’m not able to accomplish anything – I’ll forever be in this ‘half-empty’ position.
“Anyway, if I cannot find that fulfilment in God, I will not be able to find it even when I’m married!”
Charissa told me that in one of her life’s lowest moments, God showed her He had given her opportunities to serve Him in ways that would have been impossible were she attached.
Charissa’s mission work in Cambodia is one example. She has been an active missionary to Cambodia’s rural areas and has had the opportunity to witness the growth of the church firsthand.
“I’m really learning how to count my blessings. Being at the precipice of a revival about to break out in Cambodia? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
In Cambodia, Charissa was learning what 1 Corinthians 7 really meant, where Paul described singlehood as better than marriage – a notion she didn’t agree with previously.
“If God says that singlehood is the most effective and best place for me, then I will obey Him – even when I don’t fully understand. Is it difficult? Yes, because marriage is still on my heart and I desire to have my own family.
“But I have also learnt that God is never late. And He really knows what’s best for me. So that’s where I am right now.”
Charissa explained that while she’s trusting in God, there are still times when friends and family inadvertently make her journey a little difficult to walk.
Charissa shared that those around her are well-meaning in trying to find her a partner, but small things like emphasising the relationship status of an acquaintance she just met can be pressuring: “What if the guy in front of me thinks I’m some desperate person and that my entire mission in life is to get married? I have an entire clan trying to set me up!”
Charissa was smiling but there was tension behind her words. “When relatives and friends try to matchmake me to any breathing human who isn’t married or attached, I have to remind myself that I am loved by God and that this is the season I am in – singlehood is right where God wants me to be!”
God is never late. And He really knows what’s best for me.
When asked whether she thought singles in the church are being equipped to face singlehood well, Charissa’s answer was a straight no.
“The church doesn’t celebrate singleness. For example, it’s common for churches to release a blessing and pray for all the singles to get married. And even when there are young adults events, it’s always revolved around some matchmaking thing.”
Charissa said the church has good intentions, but the underlying message it may send to the congregation is that it’s better to be married than to be single. According to Charissa, there isn’t enough conversation in the church that also celebrates singlehood – singles need affirmation too!
Instead of always praying that singles would find someone soon, Charissa said that unmarried believers also need affirmation and acceptance from the church about their life stage.
“Growing up, I remember single Christians, especially ladies, who talked about their singlehood and how God is using them … but then they would always look very sad.
Charissa said such testimonies seemed to lack excitement and a real internalisation of 1 Corinthians 7: “A lot of these testimonies have to come from people who, like myself, are still walking the journey.
“Like, I’ll tell you every opportunity I get, that you are amazing the way you are and if God brings someone along then great.
“But if He doesn’t that’s great also.”
Charissa said she is thankful to be walking through singlehood, because now when she ministers to people facing the same issue, they know she isn’t just speaking holy fluff: “From the way I live my life, to the conscious choices that I make – I can encourage them and God can use me to show them that life can be equally exciting!”
Instead of always praying that singles would find someone soon, Charissa said that unmarried believers also need affirmation and acceptance from the church about their life stage.
Charissa shared a few things she learnt in her journey with singlehood. First, she emphasised the importance of vulnerability.
Charissa once felt struggling with singlehood was trivial as compared to real problems like millions dying from starvation.
“But God has been reminding me that I need to share so that my friends can help carry the burden with me. My best friend has been making an effort to remind me of who I am, and sometimes in the midst of that subtle struggle, when you read a word of encouragement, it just snaps you back to reality that I’ve got people who believe in me and see me the way God sees me,” she said.
Of course, Charissa also had to receive the affirmation. In the past, she would just brush it off as just nice words. But when she really took the words to heart, God used them to bring life and hope to her.
And finally, in the face of frustration, Charissa shared that worship is the solution.
“A lot of the times when I start to sink, it always stems from feeling inferior. I have to intentionally remove myself from that position and just start worshipping.
“There have been times when I’m half an hour into worshipping, still feeling like the worst human being on earth. But I remember the Bible’s call to unconditional praise and thanksgiving, and do just that – then the whole atmosphere lifts immediately.
Charissa found it beneficial to take time to just sit with God and ask Him why He made her life in such a way, for such a season: “It really solidified my understanding and conviction that I really am in the best place I can be for this season. It was a great investment because it completely shifted the way I saw my life.”
She concluded: “No one else is able to give you that kind of revelation except God. So take time out to ask Him why you’re in this season, and everything else will fall into place.”
I’m someone who would probably be deemed “evergreen” by society as I have zero experience with dating.
I received Christ when I was secondary one, and since then, I grew up in an environment which somewhat discouraged boy-girl relationships.
It’s funny because when I was new to the church, a guy approached me and asked if I was keen to make a covenant together. The deal was that both of us wouldn’t get into relationships until we graduated from secondary school. Impulsive as I was, I easily agreed.
It was only years later that I found out he was from a boys’ school.
And as I grew older, a combination of not having ever met the right person, or meeting people at the wrong time ruined any chance of romance for me.
I used to get asked a lot by peers why I wasn’t eager to get attached.
Let me try and explain my logic: Assuming that I have 80 years left before I meet the Lord – and get attached when I’m around 20 – there are some 60 years of dating and married life yet.
I believe guys really only begin to mature past adolescence, which is around 19. Growth can happen really quickly from then on. Even now, I find myself rapidly maturing from how I was years or even months ago.
Being single in this time gave me the motivation to focus and work on my own character as well as my walk with God before even thinking about getting into a relationship.
I want my spouse to have the best possible version of myself, because she deserves God’s best and God deserves our best.
So if I got into a relationship early on, my time would be divided. I’d wrongly be invested in a relationship during a time that should be a period of self-discovery and maturing.
So I am dating to marry.
It would be great if my first girlfriend would be my eventual wife, but of course, I also recognise the possibility that might not be the case.
Many of my peers would say that dating at a younger age helps with figuring out what you want in your spouse, in terms of appearance, personality, character, calling and also spiritual maturity.
But you could learn those things in a group setting as well. And the odds of succumbing to sexual temptation is much higher when one has a long runway to marriage.
I’ve seen couples get together and end up leaving the church and even God for good. And I’ve seen couples cross boundaries and get hurt. I’ve also seen younger couples argue about things that simply don’t matter.
To me, these problems boil down to an adolescent’s lack of emotional and spiritual maturity, which is still developing in those early years.
My journey with singlehood is not a sad thing: It has brought me great delight as I walk with God and perceive myself more and more as His child.
I used to compare myself to my peers who are attached. Loneliness, comparison and a fear of missing out crept in from time to time.
But 22 years into my life, I can safely say that I’m grateful for the gift of singlehood thus far, as God has given me time to discover myself.
He has made me secure in my identity as His child – whether single or attached.
Some time ago, I heard a church friend say that girls are dating guys outside of church because there simply aren’t enough Christian guys to go around.
Missionary dating is apparently what it’s called: Where a Christian dates a non-Christian in hopes to convert to him/her even though the Bible warns us not to be unequally yoked.
“Why do I penalise him just because he’s not a Christian?” my friend once asked me. “He is even more regular in attending services and cell groups than some of my cell group members.”
She made a good point. Calling yourself a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean you’re serious about the faith. But even then, is getting together with a lukewarm Christian really better than getting together with an enthusiastic pre-believer?
I know some people who converted because it was easier to give in to following their partner’s religion than to give up on the relationship. That’s a cause of concern to me, when a person comes into the faith because of their partner, and not because of God.
So for believers, is the unequally yoked problem automatically solved if the other party becomes a Christian? Or can a relationship be unequally yoked even if both parties share the same faith?
In Matthew 22:30, Jesus explicitly said that there won’t be marriage in heaven.
For the longest time, I have been asking myself why. If God instituted marital relationship before the Fall, then why remove it in the life to come?
But I recently discovered that the answer lies in the verses preceding the creation of Eve.
Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it. And the LORD God commanded him, “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” The LORD God also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make for him a suitable helper.” (Genesis 2:15-18)
If we read Genesis 2:18 in isolation, we will simply assume that God created Eve for companionship. But when we understand the context of the verse, we’ll realise that Eve was created to help Adam obey God’s commandments.
God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone after giving him specific instructions. So God decided to make Adam a suitable helper.
Eve was created to help Adam obey God’s commandments.
So this is why there isn’t a need for spouses and marriage in the afterlife: Each believer will be made perfect (Philippians 1:6) in a perfect place (Revelations 21:4).
Of course, Eve also had other functions to fulfill – companionship and procreation for example. But the initial reason for her being was to help Adam obey God.
Understanding this has a huge impact on who we choose to get attached or married to. We see clearly why we shouldn’t get together with a non-believer: How would he fulfill the biblical purpose of marriage when he isn’t even a believer in the first place?
Keeping a biblical perspective of marriage also raises the bar for us: Will this person be a suitable helper for me? Will I be a suitable helper for him? Will he push me towards Christlikeness?
Some of us might want to counter-argue: If we are to help each other in our spiritual journey, then why can’t we help our partner – who is weaker in their faith – through the relationship?
And I think that was the mindset my friend had when she tried to justify her relationship with a pre-believer: It’s not like he isn’t trying.So why should I penalise him?
But she eventually broke up with the guy some time later, after she came to see why the relationship would never work out.
In retrospect, she shared an analogy with me: “There was this preacher who once got a volunteer on stage while he himself stepped down the stage. Then he asked the volunteer to hold his hand and pull him up. The volunteer tried but couldn’t. Then the preacher yanked the volunteer and pulled the volunteer down in one try.”
“When you’re unyoked, it’s easier for the person to pull you down than for you to pull the person up,” she concluded.
What she said made perfect sense. But, unfortunately, not many people want to face up to being unequally yoked until reality hits them.
By then it’s too late. They end up believing they have to stay on in the relationship – they cannot leave without any scars.
Understanding that human marriages don’t exist in heaven puts everything into perspective.
Isn’t it funny how many of us spend so much time and effort pining after something which won’t even exist in the life to come? Wouldn’t it be sad if we chased and attained our relationship goals at the expense of our eternity?
But while marriage doesn’t have a place in eternity, it does have eternal significance.
The question is: Will we make our choices based on this life, or with eternity as our perspective?
If you are to pick someone, choose one who can take care of you in this present age – but also prepare you for the age to come.