When I was 27, I left everything I had and knew in Singapore to pursue God’s calling for me as a missionary in Japan.
On the morning of my 28th birthday, I sat in a cafe in Tokyo, and wrote in my journal that I would shoot myself if I were still single when I turned 30.
A FORLORN HEART
Loneliness was something I’d always grappled with. I would long for the day of my marriage, wishing that God would grant me a husband. When God called me to be a missionary, I gave up my job, my friends, my family and even my then-boyfriend to pursue His calling in a foreign land. I fiercely believed that He would grant me my deepest desire in exchange for my service unto Him.
Leaving behind all that was familiar was not easy. I had to battle with the constant struggle of being away from my loved ones. At the same time, I was handicapped by the cultural and language barriers – I was so lonely. There were times I coped by numbing myself with TV and YouTube. Other times, I binged on food or work. I would even try to find someone in need to help, because there is nothing like focusing on others’ problems so I do not have to look at my own pain.
And in my deepest and darkest pits, I would indulge in sexual and romantic fantasies.
I knew it was wrong, but it distracted me from the reality of feeling lonely. And although those fantasies always made me feel more empty inside, they were all I had.
In my second year in Japan, the pastor at my church there suddenly left one Sunday, after confessing to a sexual fall. My future in ministry immediately became uncertain. I felt lost, confused, fearful and betrayed. I became increasingly angry with God – I thought I had done all the right things and made many sacrifices for Him, yet one year on, I was a failure in terms of ministry, and still very single, lonely and sad.
Was there any point in my coming to Japan? Why was this happening?
It was then I offered God my ultimatum – either He ends my singlehood …
Or I end my life.
A TRANSFORMED HEART
Soon after, I moved to Vancouver for seminary studies at Regent College. I came to realise that I was always trying to run away from the present moment because the present is lonely. I decided to be honest before God. I came clean about my pain and resentment towards Him for the things I wanted but did not receive.
As I brought all that was ugly and sad in me and laid it in front of Him, I began to experience His love for me in a way I had never before experienced. God did not reject me even when I was grumbling and blaming Him for everything I hated about myself and my life. His comfort and His consistent love were no longer just abstract concepts. They became real in my heart too.
As I brought all that was ugly and sad in me and laid it in front of Him, I began to experience His love for me in a way I had never before experienced.
This expanded my focus beyond my loneliness and my obsession to get out of singlehood. I started to see and appreciate the good things that God has placed in my life as a single.
He nourished my spirit with solid theological education; He presented me with amazing spiritual friendships with sisters and brothers; He reignited my passion for dance that I was unable to cultivate previously because of my fixation on marriage. The more I danced, the more I got to experience God’s joy and love. He also used me, through my dancing, to bring the same joy and love to others.
A YIELDED HEART
All of us face temptation. All of us have areas in our lives where we find it hard to submit to God. But we are not alone. And we can ask God draw us away from our sin patterns, so that we can draw closer to Him. We do not need to let our struggles define our response to Him.
I realised I struggle with loneliness most intensely when I am tired, stressed and when I have not been connecting with people I love. I began to confess my sins and addictions to my mentors, spiritual friends and God. The more I’ve opened up about my life, the more I’ve seen how God has blessed me with the church community as I’ve dealt with my loneliness. Their guidance and love greatly encouraged me.
I am still single. I still wrestle with loneliness. On some days I still want to get married. However, in Psalm 27:13 it says, “I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Through this process, God helped me to understand that even if He does not give me what I want – even if I were to stay single all my life – I am already receiving the goodness of the LORD right now.
It may be difficult but I am not alone. I have my fellow brothers and sisters, my friends and my church.
Above all, I have Him. I can cling on to His love, which satisfies me through the different seasons of my life.
So far, he’s given me neither. And I’m learning to be satisfied no matter what.