Real Lives – Andrew and Ivy

Andrew and I grew up in families which were not Christian in Hong Kong. In fact, tagging along with our parents to temples, chanting prayers and burning incense to various deities, became somewhat customary on specific festivities when we were growing up. Undeterred by all these, God had made His emphatic presence known to us throughout our childhoods and young adult lives. From reciting the Lord’s Prayer, singing hymns at school’s assembly to youth fellowship camp and mundane Sunday services, these were just some of the ways that God had used to call our attention to Him. Like any high-spirited, headstrong 20-somethings, our lives were preoccupied with ambitious work commitments and thriving social engagements. There was no room in our lives for God.

So, was that the last we heard from God? Did He give up on us – the alleged lost sheep? Quite the contrary. God had aptly placed Andrew in my life just so that He, too, could gain access to it! I started going with Andrew to his regular fellowship meetings in Woking a few months into our relationship. (Through fellowship and prayer groups, Andrew was slowly recovering from the torturous aftermath of a failed relationship.) Was I more receptive and reciprocal to God this time round? Witnessing the mental and spiritual transformations in Andrew had urged me to open my eyes to see the work that God was doing in me. The consequent response was unequivocal: Andrew and I left behind our old, sinful selves and openly acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour on the 10th of December 2011, a month after our wedding. This long, thorny journey of accepting Christ into my life has taught me one thing: when God wants to do something in our life, he will follow through with it and nothing can stop him!

When God wants to do something in our life, he will follow through with it and nothing can stop him!

Having been baptised and living a renewed, (almost) guilt-free life doesn’t always guarantee that our hearts and minds won’t wander away from God. We slowly found ourselves reverting to our old, self-focused lifestyle. The daily grind of being a full-time mother and the endless distractions around us had made God’s presence a blur. The busyness made us feel accomplished and important. Everything in our lives was well in our hands (so we thought!) – raising 2 healthy children, satisfying all secular needs, and business expanding and flourishing with increased financial securities. We were being pulled away from what actually mattered to us. We had lost sight of God because of our own complacency. This time, we had completely shut Him out of our lives.

Deservedly, God should have abandoned us by now. But NO – God lives out His unfailing promise to us: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 5 years ago, our lives were turned upside-down. Andrew’s business suffered a harrowing blow after the Brexit referendum and from then on, it was downhill all the way. We were hit with unforeseen financial crisis and our marriage was on the brink of an salvageable breakdown. Everything that we thought we had a tight grasp of was slowly slipping away. The “perfect” life that we had built for us, for our family, was disintegrating in front of our eyes. The control that we so proudly had was finally taken out of our hands. We went into a downward spiral of fear, panic, extreme sadness, and a feeling of absolute despair. There were many sleepless nights, worrying about how we could provide for our children and blaming ourselves for ruining what bright futures they might have if we didn’t have these struggles. It was heartbreaking to see Andrew going through such turmoil and yet still managing a forced smile on his face as he continued to be the loving and giving husband and father that he’s always been!

Deservedly, God should have abandoned us by now. But NO – God lives out His unfailing promise to us: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

The mounting emotions and ongoing challenges seemed too much to bear. Life before then was relatively easy and problems seemed fixable. But at that point, I faced a situation that was beyond my abilities. I knew I had to give this situation to the Lord, or I would simply fall apart with the burden of it all. My desperation took me to a new place of dependence – I needed the Lord like I’d never needed Him before. Didn’t we once fervently believed that Jesus could take away all our burdens if we let Him? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

With deep remorse, I reached out to the Lord and asked for His forgiveness. Prayer wasn’t our last resort during trials, but rather our very first point of action. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need…” (Phil. 4:6) After spilling out my burdens on Him, I was, for a very long time, able to feel peace and certainty. A huge part of that peace came when the Lord showed me that I’d done all that He’d wanted me to, and He would take care of the rest. Soon we were praying together as a couple and God didn’t fail to bring us the same comfort and reassurance that we once had with Him. It didn’t matter whether the problems we faced were big or small or whether the consequences seemed impossible to bear. We just wanted to lay out our worries and fears to Him because God is our only source of true security. He is the one who can change any situation around for our own good, no matter how dire the situation gets. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Looking back, we realised the only way for God to get our attention was by hindering us and disrupting our plans. All along we were living a life without God. He intercepted what we were doing so that He could stop us from going astray, even though we had convinced ourselves that we were doing the right thing. We now understand that God wasn’t being mean to us or trying to punish us when he interfered and threw off our plans. In reality, He was forcing us to slow down and to focus on Him.

We have refocused our lives on God and let the overwhelming responsibilities and pressures of this world fade away. Once more, we have found inexhaustible joy and peace in His presence. We were longing to be at church, to listen to God’s Word, to be reminded of His promise and to be surrounded by the fellowship of our brothers and sisters. With God’s strength and guidance, Andrew began to look for ways to restructure his business to keep it viable. It was a lengthy, tiresome process and we were met with numerous setbacks and disappointments. But instead of trying to change the situation in our own strength, we continued to look earnestly to God and waited on Him to do his work. We waited for Him to show us the answers, to show us our next move. When we felt discouraged or fed up with waiting, we sought Him and clung onto Him even more. And before long, we were inundated with answers to each of our problems and the “missing” pieces to our lives just fell effortlessly into place.

To this day, we have experienced the power of God in so many ways.

To this day, we have experienced the power of God in so many ways. We learned that God will show up when you need Him most. Sometimes we don’t experience God, because we simply don’t need Him (or so we think!). When life is firmly under our control, we operate in our own strength. But when life is falling apart, our desperate need opens our eyes. In our darkest times, we see God’s power, feel His presence and experience His peace like never before. That’s what happened to us.

When our circumstances are telling us to be wary and sceptical about God’s promises, we must embrace ourselves in Jesus’ words, “Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24) God cares for us over all things, and like us, you might even have the privilege to experience it in your life. Christians suffer just like everyone else, but we can do it with the peace and strength that God gives us knowing that He is always watching over us.

So, could we encourage you to start looking out for God’s goodness in your life, no matter what your circumstances may be? If your burdens today feel too much to bear, just remember there is hope. Pour out your heart in prayer to our Heavenly Father – hold nothing back. And when you feel your burden lightens even the slightest bit, thank Him for His faithfulness. He’s been there all the time, just waiting to help.
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.” Psalms 118:6

Your response?

If you want to think more about what Christmas should mean, and how to trust in Jesus, we have two resources that might help.  The first is a ‘help yourself’ resource called The Four Points.  On this website you can listen to four short videos which tell you more about how to come to know Jesus as your saviour.  The second is a course you can join – Hope Explored.