Are you afraid to ask?

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I’ve come across Elisha’s encounter with the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37) in the Bible before, but after a closer look three weeks ago, something from the story intrigued me.

Elisha the prophet wanted to show his appreciation for a generous and hospitable woman from Shunem, and asked what he could do for her. She asked for nothing. “I have a home among my own people.” – an indirect reply implying that she had no need.

Elisha found out that her husband was old and she had no son. So Elisha told her, “About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.”

She objected to his promise. “No, my lord! “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

Here she was, knowing that Elisha’s a man of God, yet afraid to ask him to intercede for her to have a son. Given the cultural context, this must have been a prayer that she had presented to God fervently. Maybe she had accepted her lot in life and was contented. Now, she feared the false hopes that she had bore too many times, which birthed only disappointment and discouragement.

There’s a part of me that identifies with the Shunammite woman. Sometimes I don’t pray because I’m afraid that I’m asking out of my own selfish will. Some repeated prayers yielded no response and I didn’t want to disappoint myself again. And perhaps deep down inside, I fear that the gift might be taken away.

Which was what the Shunammite woman experienced. She did have a son as Elisha said. The boy died unexpectedly one day. His mother didn’t waste time wallowing in grief but sought out Elisha immediately. “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

She carried her anguish to her intercessor, yet strangely her loss conceived hope. ‘Cause, why else did she look for Elisha? She had experienced the life-giving power of God, and now she desperately pled for life. “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” And truly, Elisha interceded for her and resurrected her son.

What amazing profile of the living faith of the Shunammite woman: contented and trusting, tenacious and unwavering. This story has given me courage to pray with boldness, to ask with faith that when God withholds, gives, or takes, I can trust my living God.

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Do not worry about tomorrow

Today, as I came before God, pleading for Him to show me the way, beseeching that He show me the way to prosperity, I was confronted with the thought that He has not promised me prosperity, but He does promise me His Presence.

I remember the moment of solitude at the Cathedral early this year where I received a sense of assurance that He’ll be with me. There was a joy and freedom as I savoured that assurance. I know that He didn’t promise me success but He assured me that He’ll be with me. That’s what I need.

Hence, my plan from hence forth is to obtain a Masters in Counselling. I don’t know whether I should stay at ODB or return to corporate, but that’s not the priority now. My Heavenly Father will show me as I take each step with Him. This is the excitement: an unknown future but safe and secure in Him. He’ll be with me.

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Have I missed the lesson?

In my desperation to be rid of this anxiety, I sought out many counsellors and even a therapist. By the grace of God, they’ve all helped me to uncover a bit of myself that I’ve suppressed or was unaware of:

  • The inner child who’s lost, afraid and too tired to move ahead
  • The daughter who fears disappointing her earthly father
  • The individual who desires fulfillment but hangs onto money too tightly
  • The one who’s afraid of being poor
  • The self-critical believer who hates her weaknesses
  • The performer who feels that being average will render her invisible

There’s actually so much good that has come out of this. I’ve now seen some hope as options emerge. Yet, I worry that I’ve missed the lesson. What’s the origin of the critical self? What am I trying to hide?

As I asked a sister to pray that I would see the light, she answered, I’ll pray you’ll see Jesus, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

Have I seen more of Him?

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His power made perfect in my weakness

For the second day in a row, I woke up with the tremors of anxiety in my body.

The uncertainty of vocation loomed before me. As much as I tried to reassure myself that I have the skills to stay in my current career as well as the aptitude to forge a new one, I didn’t find immediate peace.

In desperation, I prayed for God to remove the anxiety. I started packing my room to take my mind off the recurring thoughts. I searched for articles on finding confidence.

Then I stumbled upon one which called out 2 Corinthians 12:9a

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness

I asked myself, do you remember when you had felt weak?

“Yes, I do.” Then my tears couldn’t stop flowing.

There was an episode many years back where, after a mistake at work, I had lost confidence in performing my job. I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the laptop in the morning; the ringing of the office phone would trigger uncertainty; every drafted email was read and re-read before I hit ‘send’. After an agonising sleepless night, I turned in my resignation letter to my boss to take responsibility for my error. In his kindness, he rejected it and explained that the mistake, while silly, wasn’t as serious as it seemed.

In those moments of weakness, His Presence was most real. At the end of each day, I thanked Him for the strength and grace granted each day; I grasped His promises and His word comforted me; when I shared vulnerably with my church mates on my struggles, they prayed with me. In my weakness, He revealed His Power as the God of my today and tomorrow.

I had told myself: as much as I treasure this experience with God, where He drew me so close to Him, I don’t want to be weak again.

I don’t want to contend again with the sense of a lack of control.

I don’t want to live with this unnerving uncertainty.

But here I am again.

As I recall this period in my life, I shed tears of gratefulness. I’ve no doubt that God will sustain me and carry me through this new testing.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

Here I am, boasting in my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. I can’t say now that I delight in my weakness but I know that He promises His grace, power and strength.

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I was lost… and now am still lost

Just earlier, I googled “what to do when I feel lost”.

I feel slightly embarrassed that I find myself in this state. I’m in my late 30s, have a reasonably well-paying job, and friend and family who love me for who I am. I’m by many counts blessed and privileged.

Fact is, I now need to make my stop at a crossroad before this career car careens down to Unhappy-and-Unappreciated-Ville where it’s even more difficult to change course. I do not have a map. Perhaps I don’t even know where to go.

Oh great, an existential crisis.

OK, it’s not entirely an existential crisis because I still know who I am. I’m a beloved child of God. I’m made to, and want to grow in the likeness of Christ. How God will do that is unknown to me. What I do know is that I can trust His heart.

Looking back, God has been good to me. Through my career, He has given me specific sets of skills that I would have never thought that I would acquire. It’s either that I use them now to serve Him, or gain new ones for His glory.

My Heavenly Father has reassured me that He will be with me even as I make a career switch. Recently, He calmed my fretting soul with His Word, reminding me of heavenly priorities.

Oh Abba Father, help me to remember that the world’s priorities in power, control and wealth are not Yours. Help me to desire what you desire. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Reflections on Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I remember waking up, startled by a dream that I can no longer recall. With an unsettled heart, I tried to return to sleep but in vain. Perhaps I should meditate on a verse, I thought. Psalm 23:4 came to mind. I visualised walking on a path so dark, I knew not where I was going. Yet the darkness did not paralyse. Someone was with me. I could not see His face, but I could hear His staff tapping the soft, mossy path underfoot, as I trailed along. Our steps were slow but sure. There was great comfort knowing His Presence.

The road ahead was leading to an unknown, hinting a premature end. But I realised it is but a shadow of death, dared to terrorise, but impotent to kill. It cannot touch me; nor would He allow it. 

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Reflections (2014)

I suppose I’ve reached an age where the mind simply retains memories of triumphs and gratification and forgets the negative experiences and setbacks. Still, truly, this is a year where I felt a rise in gratitude and joy. It wasn’t all smooth sailing but I saw that the challenges were there for a purpose.

After two arduous years, I finally completed my part-time studies. Yes, it demanded much of me. I’ve heard of mothers complaining that their pregnancies robbed them of their memory. My part-time studies did the same to me. Although it was a struggle trying to focus and direct my energy and time towards my various commitments, I saw how much I could be stretched and the stretching produced grit in me. I am stronger than I thought I was.

Even so, I was more convicted that as a limited and definite creature, there’s only so much to which I could commit. A thought that stayed with me since a church camp is that I should invest my life and resources in things of eternal value. With that outlook, some of my present commitments seem unimportant and I thought of backing out. Yet, because of the sense of duty and obligation to people, I have chosen to stay with these commitments. Such choices in life only heightens the daily tension of living as a pilgrim on this earth, which I hope I’ll have more wisdom to handle as I age.

While finding purpose in my work had been a long-time struggle, my change in job scope in July brought with it new perspectives in the meaning behind what I do. I was very apprehensive of the changes but God used it for good by invigorating me with a sense of purpose. God also gave me a new dream as I considered the financial choices to be made when I turn 35 in 2 years’ time. I’d like to have a place of my own, to practise hospitality, hosting friends and providing a place for fellowship. With this desire, an old dream waned; the idea of home has changed. A home is functional, but more than that, the meaning of home is much more, emotional and social. I’m blessed that even now, I have a home to which I can look forward to returning.

If there’s any palpable sadness this year, it’s the growing awareness that my mum’s health is deteriorating. Her dementia condition has worsened and she’s more prone to bouts of forgetfulness and outbursts. The sense of loss of control in her life and my life as a result of her behavioural change triggered a feeling of helplessness. In a way, that helped me to learn to live one day at a time. I reckoned this contributed to the greater gratitude for daily grace and strength.

A song that helped to realign my thoughts when I was unhappy with what I don’t have was Matt Redman’s Ten Thousand Reasons. As the second stanza reminded me of God’s goodness and love, I hope that my focus in 2015 will be on Him and His character.

Chorus:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
[Chorus]

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
[Chorus]

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
[Chorus x2]

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