Love Lifted Me
Lin Xin Chen—Singapore
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify.
I am a second-generation True Jesus Church believer, so I grew up in the church. Since young, I diligently attended church services and religious education (RE) classes. However, this faith was not personal as I was just blindly following my mother to church.
My faith gradually declined when I was in secondary school. I continued this mindless routine of going to church only on Sabbaths and leaving straight after attending RE class. There were times when I could not even remember the sermon title. As I grew older, I became more self-conscious at church—I felt lonely and afraid to mix with my peers. I worried about what people would think of me. I could not comprehend why it was so difficult to make friends in church when I had so many good friends outside. I eventually stopped attending RE classes for about three years and did not join church camps or Bible seminars. Over the years, many church brethren encouraged me to be more active in church, but to no avail. My heart was hardened, and I felt this faith was quite meaningless.
I picked up some bad habits from my non-church friends during this period. They were good people, but their behaviors were very worldly—they cracked dirty jokes without a second thought and listened to profanity-filled music. Under these influences, using vulgar words and hand gestures became habitual. As I grew increasingly attached to my friends, I grew increasingly distant from God.
At home, I neither read the Bible nor sang hymns. I only prayed once a day, and the prayer would last less than a minute. When I was too tired, I would utter one line, such as: "Dear God, please help me to sleep well. Amen." I was lost in my faith, just as the hymn Love Lifted Me describes:
I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more.
Although I attended Sabbath church services, I was constantly engaged with the world. I was physically in church, but my heart was not receptive to God’s word. I was aware that my actions were displeasing in God’s eyes, but I was under the bondage of sin and did not know how to change.
Unsurprisingly, I did not wish to attend the Students Theological Training Course (STTC), an annual three-week seminar for students aged fourteen to sixteen. I came up with various excuses not to join when I was fourteen and fifteen. In 2016, the church brethren were even more persistent and persuasive, but I did not relent. However, after being encouraged by a local church deaconess, my mum registered me for the course without my consent. Little did I know it would be a complete life-changer.
The Turning Point
My first year of STTC was the turning point of my faith. I was forced to attend, and I had to be there for twenty-one days, like it or not. So I thought that I should devote myself to God and start working on my faith. For the first few days, I felt out of place and uncomfortable. It was torturous because I had no friends and was not used to this “holy life.” However, as I returned to square one and started learning about God’s word again, it felt like I was beginning to know God for the first time in my sixteen years of life.
God was slowly working within me. I reflected on my behavior and started to pray for God’s forgiveness. I begged Him to have mercy on me, for I was ignorant and knew little about Him. I felt so ashamed that I had sinned so greatly, and I could no longer face Him. I began to re-examine my faith, realizing how terribly I had fared thus far. I knew that I needed to pray for the Holy Spirit, but this felt foreign to me because I had not done it for at least three years.
As I prayed, I asked God—the One I had been taught to worship since young—who He is. Through the Basic Bible Doctrine classes, I realized that I needed to be like God and have His attributes such as holiness, humility, and love (1 Pet 1:15–16; Jas 4:10; 1 Jn 4:7). I resolved to change for the better. I apologized to God for not keeping my faith and for falling into the temptation of sin and the worldly influence of my friends. I became aware of the weaknesses of the flesh that were beyond my control.
As the days passed, and the more I thought about my sins, the more my heart ached. I regretted taking God’s name in vain and crediting all glory to myself. For example, I was doing relatively well in my studies and felt gratified that my hard work paid off. I did not understand why I had to give God credit. I justified my mindset by pointing out that I still had to study for the test—if I had not worked hard, would I have done well? However, what a preacher said in class really struck me. Paraphrasing Psalm 127:1–2, he said, “If God doesn’t allow it to happen, it wouldn’t happen.” This is a simple concept, but my pride had blinded me. I realized that things might not have gone so smoothly if not for God’s will and guidance. God is displeased when man magnifies himself. So I begged for the Lord’s forgiveness. At that point, I felt a great urgency to receive the Holy Spirit as soon as possible.
I persistently told God that I really wanted to change for the better and abandon my old self in my prayers. However, I had no confidence in myself and was afraid that, after the STTC, I would return to my old ways and depart even further from church. Hence, I truly needed the Holy Spirit to live within me to help me change. I knew that I am but flesh and, thus, I had many faults that I felt powerless to overcome. I told Him that I was willing to lay down my pride and weaknesses before Him. I truly yearned for the Holy Spirit through fasting and prayer.
Though I prayed earnestly, I felt no improvements in my prayer. I was growing weary. I questioned God and started to doubt whether He was listening to my prayers. However, part of me knew that God was testing my faith, to see if I was strong enough to persist. I thought, If I can’t even persevere now, how is God going to give me the Holy Spirit? In every prayer after that, I anticipated that God would give me the Holy Spirit in that very prayer. I reminded myself not to doubt God but trust that He would give me the promised Holy Spirit.
Thank God that I was the first person in that STTC to receive the Holy Spirit. Upon confirmation by the preachers, I felt extreme joy in my heart. God had heard my pleading cries and answered my prayers. I could barely sleep that night, knowing that God had not given up on me, that He was willing to accept me once again.
After this experience, I could better understand Paul's message when he writes: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim 1:15b). I truly felt the joy and workings of God transforming my life.
Five years later, I am actively serving in church. When I tell others my story, they cannot believe how rebellious I was in secondary school. I am a completely different person now. In hindsight, if I had not attended the STTC, perhaps I would not be in God’s house today. Thank God for the brethren who stood by me and encouraged me repeatedly even though I turned them away time after time. Indeed, when nothing seemed to help, it was the love of God that touched and lifted me.
My encouragement is this: God has turned me, such a great sinner, back to Him. So, as long as we do not give up on ourselves, God will not give up on us. Is there anything within us holding us back from obeying God’s word, or preventing Him from entering our hearts? If we have received the Holy Spirit, have we allowed Him to transform us? Let us continue to hold on to God and His promise.
May all glory be given to God! Amen.
Be Rooted and Grow: Understanding God’s Plan
Jonathon Ho—Elgin, UK
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify. May all glory be unto His name, and may He be glorified through my testimony.
As a youth in today’s society, it is difficult to be submissive. Many in the wider world are disobeying authority, protesting, and becoming more vocal in their opinions. In the church, outside influences like these may stir us up and entice us to follow the same path of resistance.
But we have to remember: submission to God and authority keeps us rooted and allows us to grow in the way God expects us to. Submission to our parents is of utmost importance because God commands us to do so (Col 3:20). Submission to authorities ensures that we do not stray and corrupt ourselves morally (Rom 13:2).
God has blessed me through many stages of my life, but two episodes in my faith journey stand out as the most meaningful. They serve as a great reminder for me to remain submissive and rooted in God, to grow in faith.
EXAMPLE 1: MY FIRST JOB
Coming out of university, I searched religiously for a job. It was important to my parents and me that I find employment. Fortunately, within a year, I was blessed to find a job nearby in my field of study. I could stay at home to assist in the family business and the local church work.
All seemed well for the first few weeks as I settled in. Since the work was not difficult or time-consuming, I spent most of my time on the internet. I thought this would be fine, since I always completed my assigned tasks first. One day, I was called into the manager’s office where he proceeded to print out every single page of my internet history. I was shocked to realize that I was now involved in disciplinary proceedings because of my low productivity. A second meeting quickly followed when my attempts to improve were deemed unsatisfactory. The following day, I was still reeling from these events when the manager came into the office, ordered me to collect my belongings, and marched me out of the building. The walk back home was painfully hard and tearful. I had never felt so humiliated. It was like watching a scene straight from a movie—I could hardly believe this was happening to me. My mind was plagued with the feeling of failure and thoughts of how disappointed my parents would be.
Understanding My Mistake
After this event, I became resentful towards God. He had blessed me with the job I wanted, but then it was taken away abruptly, and in the most humiliating fashion. It was so easy to blame God and ask Him, “Why have You done this to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”
Upon reflection, it was clear where I went wrong. I was blessed beyond my comprehension but I forgot one thing: God. Complacency is a dangerous thing. It provides a false sense of security and opens us up to being easily misled. We overlook God’s blessings and forget to thank Him for His guidance—we even begin to think that everything we have achieved was through our own doing. I thank God that this mindset only lasted a short while. If I had been rooted firmly, then I would have remembered God’s providence and given Him the glory and praise that He deserved daily.
Admittedly, I was dismissed because I was at fault. I took my position for granted and expected an easy ride. This carefree and complacent attitude was not what God wanted me to have. It led to my managers becoming suspicious of me, creating a toxic work environment where people spoke about me and decided that I was taking advantage of them. Shamefully, by taking their generosity for granted, I lost their trust and confidence.
Even though this job was a blessing from God, it did not mean He would overlook my actions. I was reminded that God would address any adverse consequences of my behavior. The most important lesson for me was to accept His chastisement.
EXAMPLE 2: BEING INTRODUCED TO A SISTER
More recently, I was approached by a preacher who wanted to introduce me to a sister for marriage. I never actively went out to seek a sister, so I thanked God for His providence and for blessing me with this opportunity.
When I relayed the news to my parents, they were overjoyed. They are not the type to outwardly show their pleasure and approval much, but I knew they were pleased and joyful through their words and gentle demeanor. They always encouraged me to pray about this matter and shared what they expected of a potential spouse—that she would be a True Jesus Church member from the UK. These conditions were met.
Throughout the relationship, I constantly held on to the thought that God had provided me this opportunity, so I should do my best not to waste it. However, things did not go to plan, and within a year, we ended our relationship amicably, with no hard feelings.
I have never been a person to experience feelings of depression and down-heartedness—I have always tried to maintain a positive mindset and not allow negative feelings to show through. But this time I questioned God. Shamefully, I asked God in prayer: “Why have You allowed this to happen? I have followed Your way and always ensured I respected and cherished this opportunity You have given me. I have prayed for this to work out, so why has it come to this?” I was confused: since God had guided me throughout my life, why had He allowed this to happen?
What My Parents Instilled in Me
My parents are quiet in nature, and I am thankful they are always calm. They exhibit peace and gentleness in what they say, never chastising or humiliating me for what I have done. They always give me the same encouragement whenever I face setbacks: “God will guide you; keep praying to Him!”
It sounds generic, and they say it often, but that does not dilute the sentiment. It rings true on so many levels.
We often think we know what is best for us, and when our plans fall through, we become annoyed and even angry at God. It becomes harder to accept when we understand that these were blessings from God in the first place. It is tempting to conveniently blame God.
However, my parents have instilled this heart of faith in me: always remember that God has a plan for us—difficulties and disappointments included. They have shown concern for my faith through the family altar, frequent encouragements, and prayers. They have prayed often to God that I remain rooted in my faith.
Similar to my first experience, I became complacent in being matched with a sister. I took this relationship for granted, and it was wrong of me to think that everything before me was set. It takes prayers and submission to God for things to work out, and I lacked this mindset. Once again, I lacked humility and submission to God, possibly the deciding factor in the relationship ending.
The Challenge That Paul Faced
My struggles remind me of the thorn in Paul’s flesh (2 Cor 12:7). Even as a strong servant of God, Paul was still susceptible to weaknesses and challenges. He needed to plead for God’s help. Three times Paul prayed, but did God take this “messenger of Satan” away? No. Instead, God reminded him:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9a)
Paul realized that his strength and faith would be perfected in these moments of weakness. God could have granted Paul’s request to remove his thorn and allowed him to go on his journey pain-free. But enduring the pain and overcoming the obstacle was far more beneficial to Paul’s faith. Paul could have become dismayed and angry with God; he could have left the ministry to spite God. However, Paul remained resolute in his faith. He understood what these sufferings were for.
When we follow God, we may believe that we are strong in our faith. We may believe that we are firmly rooted and able to grow. However, when our faith is challenged or when we encounter struggles, that is when we can truly see how firm our faith is and where our weaknesses lie.
Paul’s mindset completely changed, from misunderstanding to a complete understanding of why he faced these challenges. Rather than criticizing God for not responding in the way that he expected, Paul understood that God’s response was the perfect way to remind him that God would strengthen him in those difficult times. They were to strengthen him even further.
APPLYING THIS TO MY LIFE
Reflecting on these two experiences, I understand why God put me through these situations. Complacency had seeped into my life and given me a false sense of security. My service and attitude were lacking, and God took a back seat while I went on with my life and took His blessings for granted. God has His particular way of reminding us about our faith and how we should constantly seek and please Him. He uses different methods to remind us if we stray or anger Him, whether it be a gentle reminder or a brutal wake-up call.
In those difficult times, blaming God is the easiest option. I have witnessed youths becoming angered, dismayed, or disillusioned with God because of what they have been through. They question God’s motives and plans, seeking an answer to their sufferings, but overlooking precisely the reason why they are going through such trials: God wants them to turn to Him for help and to warn them not to neglect His grace and mercy. He also wants them to submit to Him to find joy and understanding in the trials when difficulties arise. It is when we are weak that we are strengthened.
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. (Jer 29:11)
This verse serves as a good reminder that God is not playing around with us when challenges arise or things do not go our way. He does not find pleasure in our downfall; rather, He is pleased when we realize our wrongs and turn to Him for strength and guidance.
For myself, God is reminding me that when I am lost or feel challenged, this is the time to turn to Him. Rather than becoming disgruntled, we should, like Paul, find strength in our weakness, submit to God, and stir up our zeal to draw closer to Him. That way, we become further rooted in God and can appreciate His blessings. We will want to do more for Him when He is constantly by our side.
We may not always understand why something is happening, but we must accept God’s plan instead of grumbling. I truly thank God that He has rooted me firmly to understand His will and why He sometimes puts me through challenging times. He has blessed me beyond my expectations.
Refinement Is Key for Us as Youths
Because we must undergo this refining process (1 Pet 1:6–7), we know that we will face difficulties at various points in our lives. Although this seems daunting, we can come to this understanding: God will guide us if we turn to Him (Mk 11:22–23). When we turn to Him for help, we realize just how vulnerable we are. We realize we are so weak without Him.
A preacher once said: “In times of suffering, turn your head to God.” We must constantly remember that God does not seek to make our lives difficult. We bring difficulties on ourselves through our disobedience and willfulness, when we go against God. I have learned the hard way that being firmly rooted in God is imperative for youths. Strive to root ourselves in the truth firmly, and He will surely allow us to flourish (1 Pet 2:2). Become always submissive to Him, and our fervor in God will never wane.
May all glory be unto His name. Amen!
Put God Above Our Goals
Eve Chin—London, UK
In 2014, I came to the United Kingdom from Malaysia to pursue higher education. I felt immense pressure to excel and make my family proud. Like many Asian parents, my father invested a lot of money in my education so I could obtain good qualifications. Naturally, I felt the need to do my absolute best, but this sense of duty to please my parents caused excessive stress along the way and hindered my relationship with God. Over time, however, I learned that academic and physical achievements should not be my main focus. No matter how hard I try, it is God who gives success (Ps 127:1). He has the power to give and to take away. And just as Jesus promised, when I learned to seek first the kingdom of God, He took care of all my physical needs (Mt 6:33).
BUILDING MY FAITH IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
I decided to study at the University of Reading, which is within traveling distance of the True Jesus Church in Central London, since studying in London itself was too expensive. I studied hard and tried my best to keep the Sabbath in my first year. To me, this meant attending at least one church service on Saturday. Even though I was born into the True Jesus Church, there was a considerable gap between my biblical knowledge and how I lived out God’s word in practical terms. Although they did not state it directly, the church youth tried to help me keep the full Sabbath by persistently inviting me to sleep over at church on Friday and Saturday nights. It is apt that my welcome gift from the London youths was a framed photo with the Bible verse:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Mt 6:33)
Jesus said we need not worry about what we will eat or what we will wear; we should not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has its own worries. Today’s worth of trouble is enough (Mt 6:31, 34). The anxieties of life are never-ending. Indeed, we can plan, but if God is not willing, things will not go as we intended (Jas 4:13–15). So rather than worrying endlessly about the future, we should seek first the things above. Seek God’s word, righteousness, and kingdom; then He will take care of our needs.
Therefore, during my university years, I learned to let go of my worries, put God first in my life, and trust in Him.
STRUGGLES BETWEEN ACADEMIC PURSUIT AND GOD
Thank God, my foundation year and the first year of my Bachelor’s degree went smoothly. I studied diligently but gradually started putting God first and observing the full Sabbath day. However, the second year was more difficult. The amount of coursework and exams doubled, and so did my stress levels. What if I could only manage a pass? How could I let my father spend so much money for such a disappointing result? What if I end up with a low-paying job and cannot earn enough to repay my father? Furthermore, paying for weekly train tickets down to London added to my financial worries.
Sometimes, I would find peace through prayer; at other times, I could not handle the pressure. In those moments, I felt suffocated and found no relief. For the sake of studying, I spent less time in church. There were a few occasions when I did not attend Sabbath services. I preferred using my time to study or do coursework with my peers. Spending more time with my university friends seemed to make perfect sense because we had the same goal to do well academically. However, strangely, my grades dropped that year. If my university had not reviewed our course and adjusted the pass rate, I would have failed one of my modules.
Why did my results not reflect my effort? I was frustrated, and I felt the world was unfair. What more could I do? That was when I started to reflect deeply on my Christian life.
And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all. (Eccl 12:12–13)
The Preacher says there is no end to wisdom and studying can weary the flesh. God tells us that, instead of pursuing endless knowledge, we should focus on fearing Him and keeping His commandments.
Thank God that He gave me a summer internship in London that year despite my shortcomings. I was away from university, my university peers, and friends for two months. I could attend Wednesday youth fellowships and had no excuse for missing the Sabbath or Sunday church activities. Day in, day out, I spent my time wisely for God.
RECEIVING THE HOLY SPIRIT
Before my summer internship ended, we had a fellowship with brothers and sisters who had just returned from the Youth Theological Training Course. One brother shared how he had received the Holy Spirit during the three weeks. Initially, when the preacher confirmed that he had received the Holy Spirit, the brother would not accept it because he did not feel anything in his prayer and did not feel his tongue roll. Based on testimonies he had heard, he was expecting an extraordinary experience, like fire or a bright light shining from heaven. The preacher later approached him twice to confirm that he had received the Holy Spirit, yet the brother did not believe. The preacher rebuked him and encouraged the brother to pray with him to ask God’s forgiveness for his unbelief. He felt his tongue roll in that prayer and was finally convinced that he had received the Holy Spirit.
I was ashamed when I heard this testimony. I had been praying for the Holy Spirit for so long. Perhaps, deep down, I, too, was unbelieving.
Before the youths parted ways, we prayed in the chapel. I kept the testimony in my heart and cried out to God to forgive my unbelieving heart. I sincerely apologized to God and told Him that I did not know what else to do apart from crying out to Him. I asked Him to forgive me, teach me, and guide me. Suddenly, I felt my tongue rolling. I knew that God had given me His Holy Spirit. I could not stop crying; I was overjoyed. Everything made sense to me, and I understood that God is the Almighty God. He is omniscient and everlasting. It was then that I realized, without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it is impossible to understand the things of God (Jn 16:13; 1 Cor 2:11). That Sabbath, the preacher confirmed that I had received the Holy Spirit. Praise God!
GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE WHEN YOU SEEK HIM FIRST
In the final year of my course, I tried to adjust my life to live out my faith. This time around, I had the help of the Holy Spirit. Thank God, the academic stress was a lot easier to bear. I was more willing to travel to the church in London to spend time with God and partake in Sunday prayer sessions, church activities, and youth fellowships. Through continual prayers and encouragement from the brethren, I could focus on the things above rather than my worldly goals.
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Prov 13:20)
If we spend more time with our brethren—be it in fellowship, conversation over tea, or even shopping trips—we give God more opportunities to work among us. We have more chances to engage in godly conversations.
In the eyes of my university friends, I may have seemed foolish because I no longer spent as much time studying or networking. While our education and career are important, I realized that these matters should not come before our faith.
[A]s newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. (1 Pet 2:2)
Rather than yearning for the things of the world, we should yearn for the word of God as newborns long for pure milk because God’s word gives life and leads to salvation.
Praise the Almighty God that, of the three years of my degree, I achieved my highest grade in the final year. Even though I did not graduate with a first-class distinction—as was my ambition—I was completely at peace.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way. (Ps 119:37)
Often, we do not know that the things stored in our hearts are worthless. We need to open up to God to ask Him to guide us and show us what displeases Him. When He does, we should submit to Him. If we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, bit by bit, He will surely revive us in His way. He is faithful to those who are faithful to Him (Deut 7:9).
May all glory be unto God’s name. Amen.
Journey of Faith
Rachel Lin—Calgary, Canada
RAISED IN THE FAITH
As a fourth-generation True Jesus Church believer, I was baptized as a baby and inherited the faith from my parents. My family showed me how important God is to them through their words and their service to God. From their testimonies of how they turned to the Almighty God and how He guided them in their lives, I gained conviction in my faith. And I, too, developed a personal relationship with God.
Our relationship with God is not only based on whether or not we believe. As we face different challenges and circumstances in life, our faith grows with us. For example, Jacob grew up hearing about the works of God and inherited the same faith and promises as his forefathers (Heb 11:9). However, only through his trials did Jacob establish his relationship with God. God used the adversities Jacob faced to show him that He is the one true God. These experiences strengthened Jacob’s faith and transformed him from a self-centered young man to a humble servant who understood his place before the Lord. Likewise, today, the difficulties we face in our lives can deepen our faith.
Here, I share two periods of my life where I, too, felt God guiding me into a fuller understanding of my faith.
PERIOD 1: MOVING AWAY TO STUDY
In 2012, I moved to London for three years of university. It was my first time living away from home and attending services at the two churches in London. Nevertheless, the warmth I received from the London brethren made me feel very much at home. During my first year, I stayed at student accommodation. Due to my shy and reserved nature, I struggled to form meaningful friendships with my classmates. As a result, I spent the year with minimal peer interaction. If it were not for the midweek youth fellowships, Friday night services, and weekly Sabbath sleepovers at church, I would have lived a very isolated existence and would not be as happy as I am today.
Living alone taught me that our relationship with God depends on the efforts we invest in it. Back at home, routines had been long established, and I did not have to work to keep my faith. However, I had to take responsibility for my own faith at university. Preserving my faith became a matter of self-discipline. Although it would have been easy to justify my absence from church, I did not allow myself to make excuses for any laziness, poor time management, or lack of motivation. I made sure to attend all the fellowships and services.
Despite my efforts, I still felt distant from God. The life I led did not reflect that of a child of God. My attitude towards the Most High God was not of reverence and fear. My days were spent in a self-centered and imprudent manner. While we caution ourselves against committing obvious sins such as fornication, stealing, and murder, we tend to overlook the supposedly less severe forms of sin, sometimes to the point that we deem them to be normal. For example, social media and gaming addictions are forms of idol worship in today’s context. If we are not alert and discerning, these sins will lead to the hardening of our hearts and, ultimately, spiritual death. Anything that does not follow the word of God will draw us away from Him.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:12–13)
Towards the end of my first year, I reflected on the state of my faith and knew I had to improve. I did not want my faith to be simply habitual. I realized that to sustain a meaningful relationship with God, I had to be more sincere and zealous in my worship. In the following university years, I strove to live a God-centered life. When we genuinely seek God, He reveals Himself through His word and the Holy Spirit. I learned many spiritual teachings and developed a close relationship with God in this period.
PERIOD 2: RETURNING HOME
During my three years in London, I adapted well to the fast-paced city lifestyle and started actively serving God. Upon graduation, I returned home to a quiet town on the edge of the equally quiet city of Sunderland. Once again, it was a struggle to adjust to the change in environment. I found myself suddenly without a timetable or direction in life. Although I found great comfort in being reunited with family and having fellowship with church members, I felt empty and confused.
Logically, the next step for me was to find a job, but I did not know where to start. Entering the working world was a daunting prospect. I found myself among thousands of applicants vying for limited vacancies in the aftermath of the global recession of the late-2000s. During my search, I was offered a position that required me to work one Sabbath a month. In my state of desperation, I considered accepting the offer. I spent a long time rationalizing the decision. However, reflecting upon God’s teachings on the Sabbath, I understood that I must not compromise my faith, and I turned down the job. From then on, I firmly refused work that challenged or jeopardized my faithfulness to God’s will, no matter how tempting. After a year and a half of unsuccessful job-hunting, I was discouraged and dejected. I wondered why God was not giving me a chance. I felt like a failure to God and those around me.
Nevertheless, God’s blessings remain upon us even in times of despair. In retrospect, I realize the two-year break God gave me between graduation and starting work was a precious time of rest and self-reflection. While I was preoccupied with job-hunting, I ended up taking the blessing of quietude and the opportunity to serve for granted. Now that I am working, I long to return to that period of tranquility. Without work commitments, I attended many church events, served in various church seminars, and even volunteered on a one-month missionary trip to Africa. These opportunities were God’s gift to me. I also spent much quiet time with God, praising Him in word and through hymns. As I drew nearer to Him, I recognized that although I have little to offer, I am still saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8–9). All the world’s riches, fame, and glory are unprofitable if one does not know God.
Thus says the LORD:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD. (Jer 9:23–24)
To lead a meaningful life, one must live for God. Whatever our earthly pursuits, our purpose and decisions in life should be centered around God.
To stay rooted in Christ, we need to prioritize God in our lives. We must know what we believe in and trust in His promises with all our heart. Jacob came to acknowledge the Lord as His God and Master as he overcame various troubles in his life. To a lesser extent, I also witnessed the power of God and felt His guiding hand working in my life as I faced problems. Through both my university time and job-hunting journey, God never failed to guide and bless me with many opportunities. In any new life experience, whether great or small, Jesus can teach us a lot about our relationship with Him if we allow ourselves to be sensitive to His guidance. The lesson I learned is that we must be God-fearing children, always trusting and following Him throughout our life journey.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Prov 3:5–7)
 By James Rowe (1912).