My parents decided to move from Singapore to China to work shortly after getting married in 1985. Hence, when I was just 7 weeks old, they brought me to Shanghai and I grew up in Shanghai and Guangzhou for the next 13 years. Having been born into a Christian family, I attended a Christian school in Guangzhou from 4-8 years old. As a child, I knew about Jesus and other bible stories but I did not like attending Sunday school. My family did not attend church weekly and whenever they attempted to, I would always find excuses to not go.
Thankfully, God brought me back to Singapore in July 2004, and my relationship with Him began and grew. I later came to know that my mum had been praying for me to truly know the Lord. Though it was not an easy decision, I believe that they were led by the Holy Spirit to send me back to Singapore alone for my studies when I was 14. From then on, I attended church regularly and served in the worship team. My journey started in a valley as I had hardly any friends in the all-girls’ school I attended. However, gradually, God drew me out of my shell and gave me confidence that came with knowing that He accepts me as I am because I am His daughter.
In the next 6 years, God fulfilled His two promises in bringing me into the Junior College and University that He had showed me in advance and confirmed through prayer. There, He blessed me with more true friends than I could ever have imagined and restored me manifold. In that period, He stretched my faith and showed me that His love never fails and His grace is always sufficient, even though the place He calls us to may not necessarily be easy. There will be joy, peace and He always makes a way.
Upon graduating from university, I was blessed with the opportunity to start work at a well-reputed multi-national company in Shanghai. God had again delivered on His promise in providing the right job. I was one of the last among my friends to get a job offer but the first to start work.
However, things did not turn out the way I expected them to. I envisioned excellence, being the best-performing hire of my batch and bringing glory to God by being a good testimony. Then, I would be in a good position to share the gospel with my colleagues and be of influence in the work place. But in my time there, I was so absorbed with trying my best to get through each day that I barely had the time or energy to share the gospel. Sometimes, I even felt ashamed and did not dare to let people know that I was a Christian. I thought that I was supposed to be victorious in all things if God was for me, but I only felt drained and defeated at the end of each day.
When I decided to move from Singapore to Shanghai, I had known that I would be entering into something challenging. However, I had no idea that I would be in a job where I was constantly doubting my ability and selfworth. At that point in time, I was often discouraged and perplexed, constantly grumbling and questioning: Why would a good God allow me to go through so much hardship? Did He not love and care for me? Why wouldn’t He deliver me from this situation? Why wouldn’t He shower me with blessings instead?
I wanted God to change my circumstances, but I did not want to be changed.
If I had attended TLBS earlier, I would have known in my heart instead of merely in my head that I needed to draw near to God, that waiting on Him would renew my strength (Isaiah 40:31). But I was rebelling silently in my heart, refusing to put in any effort into my walk with Him. Neither did I see the need for any spiritual discipline on my part because I was upset and frustrated at my circumstances. I was blinded and deceived into believing that nothing would change even if I did read the Bible daily. Perhaps it is true that nothing on the surface would have changed – not my job nor my boss. But that consistency in reading the Word and that faithfulness on my part would have built up my faith to believe in His supernatural almighty works. We should “fix our eyes on God, glance at our problems”, not “glance at God and fix our eyes on our problems.”
Now in retrospect, I realise that God was teaching me important spiritual lessons such as submitting to authority, perseverance and humility that would have been difficult to learn otherwise. My pride was utterly crushed and I was very broken. But God does not test us beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Like a piece of fine pottery, the clay must first be moulded – pinched, twisted, pressed but also watered to be fashioned into what the Maker desires. To solidify the work, the clay must go through the furnace before it can be a vessel that can be used by the Maker to fulfill its purpose.
My current season in TLBS can be likened to the cooling-down process that the piece of pottery experiences after being extracted from the flames. Though I came in with burdens of the past – hurts, rejections, disappointments, God in His graciousness and lovingkindness addressed them one by one over time. Beginning every morning encountering His presence powerfully and tangibly in worship is one of the best ways to fix our gaze on Him and to “forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead. To press on towards the goal to win the prize for which Christ has called me heavenward.” (Philippians 3:13-14).
One of the greatest leaders in the Bible once took matters into his own hands and was ready to deliver Israel out of bondage. But God saw that it was not time yet – or perhaps he was not ready. It was only after 40 years that God called Moses – once the Prince of Egypt, then a shepherd in a foreign land, to be the reluctant leader to lead Israel out of slavery at 80 years of age.
My time in TLBS has helped me to reflect on the past and make sense of it all by connecting the dots. This revelation shared by one of the pastors was so powerful, because I realised that God brings us to a place of humility and dependency upon Him. Such that if He places us in a position of influence or leadership someday, we will remember that we have no right to be prideful nor think that we achieved it by our own merit. It is God who exalts us into that place. May we, like Moses, be willing to let God humble us out of our self-reliance and wait expectantly for Him to call us to arise and step out in faith into the calling that He has given us.