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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2010

Testimony Of God’s Grace, Pardon And Restoration

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(A testimony given by Sis Cecilia Tan during t Call to Worship he recent Gospel Rally)

I am sure that it is God’s providence that helps me to stand here before you tonight to share with all of you how my God in His mercy and lovingkindness had dealt with me.

When I was in upper primary school, I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ through my teacher, Miss Gan. She would gather a few girls to teach us from the Bible. These Bible studies were held regularly after school in a nearby church building. After I had left the primary school, I attended church faithfully and convinced Pastor James Wong to baptize me by immersion.

When I was about 18, I became actively involved in the activities of a Christian organization called The Navigators. Together with a few other girls, I joined a Bible study taught by Beow Kheng. I also had a mentor, Chai Keow, whom I met for Bible study and prayer on a regular basis. We were all under the leadership of David Lee, a full-time worker with The Navigators. I even went on to form a small fellowship group of teenage girls in order to disciple them, with the help of Beow Kheng and Chai Keow.

Sadly, as I began my working life, I became disillusioned with the way some professed Christians lived. It took my focus away from God. One day, out of frustration I decided that I didn’t want to call myself a Christian anymore. Soon, I abandoned God and started to live my life without Him! I married a non-believer. I confess, it was definitely not a marriage made in Heaven!

Here is a notebook from my Navigators days. Herein, I recorded some of my thoughts from my quiet moments, meditating on God’s Word. Let me read one of those records. I wrote this after reading a passage from the book of Isaiah in the Bible. “In this passage, God assures me of His unchanging love towards me. It says, 'Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My Hands' (Isaiah 49:15-16). As I think of the analogy to a mother’s love, it truly thrills my heart to know of the immense depth of love that God has for me. He tells me that He has engraved me upon the palms of His Hands. I am not alone. The Lord has taken great interest in me and I am under the protective wings of the Lord.”

Now, in retrospect, I can testify that from that point in my life, God has been orchestrating everything to prove His promise that He would give me His continuing grace and love.

After some years when my first two daughters came along, I began to feel a lack of communication and togetherness with my husband, such that we were not able to see eye to eye on, practically every issue. I would be the one, most of the time, lashing out, screaming, crying, banging doors and throwing things - trying desperately to make him see how I feel while he just kept quiet.

My husband could not comprehend those feelings that I had. You see, I was trying so hard to get his attention but I only ended up driving him away. My life and my marriage went on a spiral descent with episodes of some happiness interspersed with periods of despair, despondency and bitterness! I felt so helpless with no one to turn to, and I cried often in the dark, in the night, all alone.

Over the years, I consulted marriage counsellors and sought aid from one social worker after another. I even called the Good Samaritans. In those days, I really wished to be dead, thinking that all these pains would end.

All this while, my husband worked very hard day and night, trying to make life comfortable for me and the children. He and my mother rationalized with me that I have a good life and should be very happy now! So they would ask “What’s your problem?” But all the material comforts I had could not satisfy the emptiness I felt deep within my soul. I was still not at peace within me.

In fact, it continues to get worse. In the recent few years, I began to fall deeper and deeper into despair and depression. A deep sense of hopelessness gripped me. I felt like I have fallen into a pit from which I could not extricate myself. Sometimes, I felt like I am in a tunnel, very long and dark, without any light in sight. My so-called mood swings became more intense; I cried inconsolably, screamed hysterically and violently hurt myself to the extent of wielding the kitchen knife to kill myself! That really scared my husband, who said to me that I was in such an emotional state that I could no longer think rationally. Yes, I was like a tormented soul and didn’t know what to do or how to find a solution to my problem!

My husband finally said I needed to see a psychiatrist – he thought that I was mad. He accompanied me to the psychiatrist but once again to no avail.

I became more and more depressed as I see myself in a hopeless situation and my marital relationship was also not getting any better. Thoughts of suicide often filled my mind. I also felt that it was futile to keep this marriage, resulting in a preoccupation with the idea of divorce.

So sometime in late November 2008, I calmly told my husband that it was best that we separate or divorce. He, I believed, at his wits’ end, angrily agreed. I returned to the social worker at Care & Counselling Centre, Christine, whom I consulted more than a year ago and poured out my heart to her. I told her I want a divorce. She tried to dissuade me but seeing how distraught I was, decided that she would see me again before Christmas despite her tight schedule and told me to think about how or what I would have to do to support myself when divorced.

I did not meet Christine in December. The Lord in His sovereignty and providence literally directed my footsteps to Gethsemane B-P Church; and I came alone on Sunday to the church.

From that Sunday onwards, the Lord God intervened during the most crucial and lowest point of my life and I began my healing journey with Him. He convicted my heart and opened my eyes to realize that all these pain and suffering were a result of my sin, disobedience and rebellion, striving to live my life away from Him. Crying buckets of tears, I confessed my sin in sorrowful repentance and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive my sinfulness. I sought His cleansing and prayed that He would make me whole again.

In His bountiful mercy He brought me back into union with Him. He never left me. The promise He gave me, when I was a teenage girl, He kept and I am now restored. He is my covenant God! I praise His name. Now I can confidently proclaim I am a child of God, by His grace!

I learned from God’s Word that He hates divorce and marital separation. It says in the Bible, “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife,… For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?” (1 Corinthians 7:13-14 & 16).

I asked my husband to forgive me for all the horrible things I had done through the years. I told him that according to the Bible, God does not want me to divorce him. So we try to pick up the pieces and move on with our lives.

In the Bible, God tells me that His thoughts towards me are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give me an expected end. I will trust Him and His promises. At last by His grace, I have made peace with my Creator!

I thank God for His peace that now fills my once empty heart. I remember His promise, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [my heart] and [mind] through Christ Jesus”.

I thank God that He has not permitted my folly to break up my family nor to adversely affect my children. I also thank Him that He has given me a second chance to fulfil my Christian mother’s role to share the Gospel of salvation, through Christ, with my youngest daughter, Clarissa, and to nurture her faith. She has believed Christ as her Saviour and is baptized in this church.

I still battle with my previous sins that beset me. My marriage is still not made in heaven – I still cry out, but now to God. I questioned God why I still face struggle in my marriage, even though I have turned to Him. My loving Heavenly Father helps me see that I must change my old habits and follow His will. I need to take up the cross, die to my old self and let my Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, live in and through me. Now I must live in surrender to Christ, and learn to dwell with my husband according to God’s wisdom.

In conclusion, I like to share the lyrics of this song which has encouraged me and is my fervent prayer:

How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me
Things so undeserved
Yet You give to prove Your Love for me?
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am or ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee

To God be the glory
For the things He has done.
With His blood He has saved me
With His power He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

Just let me live my life
Let it be pleasing, Lord, to Thee:
And should I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.

Pastoral Exhortation