Showing posts with label Friendships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friendships. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Love of God and His Amazing Grace

Yesterday, I shared of how God brought to my remembrance the many precious friendships He has placed in my life. I love my friends not only for what they are, but also for what I am when I am with them.

I think true friends have a sanctifying influence on one another. Instead of seeing through one another, they see one another through all the changing scenes of life. True friends are those who knows all about me, my strength and weaknesses and still love and accept me despite the difference in my personality with them or how they may not see eye to eye with me in some things. True friends pray for one another and desire to see each other grow in the love of God and walk more closely with God, and serve Him more fervently. I think true friends are those who are able to admonish and correct one another whenever necessary though that can be painful at times. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Proverbs 27:6) True friends deal kindly and gently with one another instead of speaking harshly or with condemnations. True friends desire the good of one another, and his/her happiness and well being is more important to me.

True friends hope against hope that their friends will change for the better and God can do a deeper work in their souls. True friends do not give up on one another. I read somewhere that "True friends are those who come in when the whole world goes out." True friends do not forsake us even when the world and everybody else forsake us. And such a true Friend we have in Jesus !

.... he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

True friendships in Christ caused others to see rather clearly that we are the children of God, and we sincerely love our brethren like the way God loves us.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35

In true Christian friendships of brotherly love, we are willing to lay down our lives for our brethren or friends, if need be. Most of us will not be called to literally lay down our life for our Lord or our brethren. But daily we are called to take up our cross and follow the Lord. We are called to deny ourselves and esteem others better than ourselves. When we take up our cross and walk in the ways of self-denial, the road can be rough and difficult, sometimes painful too, but we will find the Lord walking with us and blessing us in our walk and friendship with others. In His love alone can we find the courage and grace to do what is right for us and for others. Such unconditional love is what the Lord Himself has set before us in His denying His own comfort and suffered and bled for us on the cross that we might be reconciled to God. In His love alone we are enabled to love our brethren as ourselves which is what God desires us to do.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

If friends are constantly putting one another down, constantly hurting one another or constantly drawing one another away from God and lead one another to undesirable thoughts and actions, these are friendships that will not last forever nor do the friendships benefit each other and others around them.

How hard it is to develop a friendship that really honours God and benefit our friends' souls and ours! We are fallen creatures filled with sins and remaining corruptions. We failed the Lord and one another in so many ways. Though I tried my best to love my friends with the same love that God has loved me, and I pray daily for grace to do so, I am sadly conscious of my many sins and failures towards God and my friends. I thank God that with Him there is forgiveness of sins and I thank God for friends who accept me, forgive me of my faults, accepts me and receive me readily into their fellowship. I know that this is possible because of God's love for us and the love He has placed in our heart for one another. I pray that God may shine forth His love to others through me. I know I am but an instrument in the hands of a mighty, sovereign, just and yet loving God Who loves His people and sends His Son to die for the sins of His redeemed ones.

In all the relationships in my life, God is the One who fills my heart with His love to love Him, His people, my family and others He places along the various paths of my life. The reminder of our Lord Jesus Christ’s great love for us by laying down His life for us is always a great encouragement to me. It never cease to amaze me of God’s love for sinners like us.

I am reminded once again of a hymn/poem I like very much, “The Love of God”. I like the way the love of God is being described as greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above, would drain the oceon dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky! How true! The immeasurable depths and heights of God’s love! It has to be experienced to know what it means and even then we cannot fathom the whole of it.

It is interesting to note that this 3rd stan­za, which I like very much, had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity (quoted from Cyber Hymnal website).

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

As I consider my own sins, failures and weaknesses, and how I often failed the Lord despite His consistent love and patience, I am greatly moved to seek more of His grace to walk with Him afresh, and to love Him and His people more and more. I know that I cannot do it of myself. I need the Lord’s grace and strength. I am reminded of another poem/hymn "Amazing Grace" and I thank God for His amazing grace in my life.

"Amazing Grace"

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John New­ton, Ol­ney Hymns (Lon­don: W. Ol­i­ver, 1779)

I thank God that I belong to Him and nothing shall ever separate me from His love. Though in this life, I have my many portions of trials, afflictions and sufferings, God is with me and graciously working all things for His glory and my good. My long and painful episodes of severe depression are God's ways of sanctifying me and drawing me nearer to know His Love and Grace. My manic episodes are periods of grace of God in which God enables me to testify of His Love and Faithfulness, and time He gives me opportunity to know Him and serve Him, to know His people and serve them.

I pray that God may continue to lead and guide me in His ways, and take me home to be with Himself when my duties here are done. Meanwhile, I continue to run the race that He has set before me, looking unto our Lord Jesus Christ who Alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are

This quote "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" is another of my favourite friendship quotes.

Some months back, when I was very manic, I wrote very long emails to share with my friends in church about God's goodness and mercies to me. I also developed my website and put up my emails there for others to read. As I developed my blog, I dedicated one section to the experiences that I had with my counsellor, Sarah, at the Counselling and Care Centre, Singapore. In that section, I shared of my correspondences with Sarah. Sarah was a trainee at the Centre and she helped and counseled me from Jan 2007 to Apr 2007. Sarah was trained to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is a form of therapy that helps us to identify our unhelpful or unrealistic thinking patterns and to change them to more appropriate or realistic ones.

After my last session with Sarah, I was very moved by God's goodness and mercies to me in answering my prayers and provided such a gentle, kind, compassionate and godly counselor in Sarah. The nine sessions I spent with Sarah were life changing experiences for me. Through my time with her, I was led to embark on a new journey. It was a journey of self-discovery, of knowing God, others and myself better.

What I benefitted most from my sessions with Sarah was the way she helps me to understand God's love and that I am precious in His sight. This phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you" best describe my short acquaintance with Sarah and the tremendous and blessed effect her friendship and kindness has on my life.

Sarah helps me to realize once again that God loves me despite my failures and weaknesses. She helps me to appreciate the wonderful truth that God is with me through all the changing scenes of life and He is working all things for my good and His glory. When I looked back on my life, many times I felt sad and regretted the many wrong decisions I have made in my life, or the things I wished I had done. My life is filled with regret and I could not appreciate any good that I have done in the past.

But my sessions with Sarah changed my life. I have had some 10 severe depression episodes over the last 20 years, each episode lasting between 3 to 6 months, sometimes more. During some depressive episodes, there were times when some friends told me that I am very emotional, and that I was not putting my faith and trust in God. If I could stop doing so, perhaps I will get well. And I believed them. So I hated myself in the past for being so emotional and for being unable to put my faith and trust in God, and unable to get well. But no matter how hard I tried, I do not get well. It is usually about 3 to 6 months later, or sometimes longer, that I began to get better and more functional.

During one counseling session, Sarah took out a very big piece of paper and markers of different colours. She asked me to chart the major events in my life in a graph. For major event in my life, I was to use a black marker to chart the time/year it happened. For every happy and wonderful event, I was to use a green marker to chart the time/year it happened. I was then to use a red marker to mark out those periods of time when I went through severe depression. As I use these different markers to chart the different event over the last 20 years, there are often some overlappings.

Before I met Sarah, I used to look at my life as a total failure (this is one of the faulty or unhelpful thinking pattern Sarah helped me to recognize and try to change). Sarah helped me to see that in my life there were not just the black timeline, there were the green ones as well though also intertwined with the red ones. And by the mercies of God, I began to see that the green timelines scattered throughout my life, and they were not few. I began to see God's goodness and mercies in my life in a different way! Sarah helps me to see that in life we do experience up and down throughout different periods of time. Sometimes we cry, sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we are well, sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we failed. But none of these experiences represent us as a person. They are just events in our life, and everyone go through it. My past and present failures does not make me a failure. I can seek God's forgiveness and help to learn from my mistakes and to do better the next time, by His grace. I can become a better person and grow through each experiences, though they are painful and difficult.

I wrote a tribute to Sarah after my last meeting with her, which expresses my deep heart-felt thankfulness to God for using her to be such a blessing to me. It was through my sessions with her that I am able to embark on a new journey that is changing my life in many wonderful ways, a journey that I am still pressing on now, by God's grace. In my tribute to Sarah, I also expressed my sincere appreciation to Sarah for her kindness, her friendship, her counsels and her willingness to walk that difficult journey with her. She has made such a difference in my life and I wanted her to know it, though I know she may never get to read that tribute as professionally she cannot keep in contact with me after my last session with her.

One of my church friends who read my tribute to Sarah told me that she thinks I am a very emotional person and that I value friendship a lot, and that is why I can be disappointed easily when others let me down or do not reciprocate my friendship.

I think my church friend is right. I am someone who feels very deeply. And when I loved, I loved completely. I do not know how to withhold myself. I give of myself whole heartedly. But with such love, I often suffered tremendously. I went through much rejections and pains over the years when friends let me down. Some got married and could never be my close friend anymore as now their spouses are their closest friend on earth, and they have to attend to their family needs which are more important than my friendship.

But why after suffering so much pain and disappointments in human friendship that I still do not learn from my mistakes? Why do I keep loving and keep being hurt, and yet continue to love. I thank God that He sets the best example of love for me and He is the one enabling me to love others with His love. When I was deeply hurt, I found consolation in God's love which is enduring and unchanging. It never fails to amazed me that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for us and redeemed us from eternal condemnation, reconciled us to Himself so that we can enjoy eternal life in Him one day. No matter how I failed Him, after I became a Christian, God's love remains unchanging for me. He still showers His goodness and mercies upon me each day. His love far surpasses that of any human love I have ever experienced. In Him, I found that I can cast myself wholely upon, love Him with all my heart and will never be rejected or let down.

It is hard to fathom this love of God, that our Lord Jesus Christ loved me enough to lay down His life for me. Who will lay down his life for a friend? Maybe some might. But what is that compared to the Son of God laying down His life for sinful and ungrateful creatures of dust like us? Yet God demonstrated His love for us through such a sacrifice.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

To be honest, if we have experienced such rich and enduring love of God, it is quite hard to keep this love to ourselves :-) I found my heart overflowing with God's love which I cannot contain in my heart! I have to give it away :-)

So I began once again to love, but this time with God's love. I prayed for my friends and I seek with God's grace to love them like the way He loved me. No doubt, I still experienced rejection and disappointments from time to time, and it still hurts. But I am no longer in bondage to love. The Lord enables me after a period of hurting (it is normal and healthy to go through the healing process), to let go, and move on with my life and to continue to seek out others who can benefit from God's love through me. I thank God for the many wonderful friends He places along the various paths of my life. I thank God for their love and kindness, which are tokens of God's love for me. I thank God too for enabling me to love them with His love which endures forever.

So my dear friends, I may not say this very often, but this phrase "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you", is for you too, for the difference you have made in my life and the way your friendship is helping me to change and grow in many wonderful ways. "I LOVE YOU, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you"

Monday, February 25, 2008

We do not remember days, we remember moments

This is one of my favourite quotes on friendship. I think it does not only apply to the relationship between a man and a woman or a husband and a wife.

I thank God for the many friends He has provided throughout my life.

I am thinking of my good friend, Anushea, since I was in primary school. She has been a very dear friend for many years, loving and accepting me all the time.

I am thinking of my friend, Siew Lee, who was my Manager in a Trustee company. She gave of her substance very sacrificially to support me and my family through my 4 years of Bible College training. Her friendship and kindness has been a tremendous blessing in my life.

I am thinking of my Pastors and my friends in my previous Church and in my current church. Many of them are praying for me, writing to me, talk to me on the Lord's day when I go to church, go to beach with me or other outings. Some gave love gifts anonymously, while others gave omega-3 fish oil and most recently, a dear sister-in-Christ is starting to pay for my renewal of membership with an all ladies gym so that I can resume regular exercise as it is helpful in my management of manic depressive illness or bipolar disorder.

I am thinking of my church friends, sis Grace Yong, bro Arthur and bro Hwee Kwan, who kindly remind me when they think I over-straining myself during a manic episode. I am thankful for Aunty Ruth who prays for me daily whenever I have a relapse of severe depression and who takes me to the beach whenever I am better as she knows I love to go to the beach.

I am thinking of Theresa and Wee Chin whose fellowship and kindness has been a tremendous encouragement to me. I am also thinking of Esther Chew in Canada who writes very encouraging email to encourage me and to share of God's goodness to her in her missionary works and labour for our Lord.

I am thinking of Ming Shu, Louise and Shirley whom I worked with for 4 years. For their friendships, kindness and forebearance. I am also thinking of the kind friendships of Tong and Sue who own a stationery shop near my old office. They are praying for me and encouraging me on various alternative ways to get well. They are also helping to sell some of my bookmarks at their stationery shop :-) so that I can share my passion for photography and handiworks with others. Thank God for them.

I am thinking of George and Siew Geok in Brunei, who send very encouraging emails with very lovely attachments of pictures and powerpoint slides. Thank God for their faithfulness in sending these lovely mails to me.

I am thinking also of bro Johnson See and Pastor Chris Coleborn who is a minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, who shares my passion to help children with special needs. My meeting with Pastor Christ Coleborn together with my good friend, Dr Chin Ming Shu, to pray and deliberate on the possibility of starting a support group for Christian parents of children with special needs, left a very deep impression in my heart even upto now. Though we did not managed to start a support group together here in Singapore, the workshop Pastor Chris Coleborn conducted while he was in Singapore was most encouraging and helpful to many parents of children with special needs, and for me and others who come into contact with these children and their parents. These children will always have a special place in my heart.

I am thinking of my newfound friends through blogging ie. Marja, Michelle, Anne, Merelyme, Dreamwriter, Susan, Amanda and Desiree. Thank God for these friends through whom I am able to learn and share with. I am also starting to get to know Jim who is a Christian and he writes very well. Thank God that through them I am also able to enjoy the benefit of an online support group! This is something I have never thought of :-)

I am thinking of my 3 newfound penpals who emailed me after they read my posts on this blog ie. Juliet, Jackie and Michelle. How encouraging to read their mails and to know of their willingness to write and share with me on a more personal basis. Thank God for them.

Thank God for all the friends He has given to me. I may not remember the days and exact time I spent with them, but I remember some of the special moments we shared.

So this quote "We do not remember days, we remember moments" are for all of you who are my dear friends. Thank God for all of you!