Life lessons

Why is it so difficult to forgive?

I wonder how many people have zero unforgiveness in their hearts? Is it possible?

Or will we journey through life, forgiving someone but soon enough there’ll be someone else we’d place in our “unforgiveness’ queue?

Whatever it is, unforgiveness stinks. It makes a corner of our hearts dark.

For some people, boy, you know they harbour unforgiveness in them—it shows.

The more dangerous ones though are those who shove their unforgiveness away; there, stuffed in between the crevices of their heart—while they go on with their lives—cheerful face on.

Not knowing that somewhere in their hearts, the unforgiveness is like a termites infestation. Those destructive little critters eating away from the inside, unseen at first, yet will eventually bring destruction to the outside if left undetected and unresolved.

Have I frightened you yet? Because I have sure frightened myself.

Why is it so difficult to forgive?

Because some of us don’t really understand what forgiveness is. And how to forgive.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.

Let me begin with one of my pet peeves—when people say, forgive and forget. I don’t buy it. Unless one is unfortunately struck with amnesia or something similar, we’ll remember what others did to us. Forgiving others doesn’t mean we forget what happened. Oh, but how I wish that’d be the case. Then I won’t have to wince in pain when those memories trigger. Or feel like punching them in the face.

So I gotta choose—to allow those thoughts to torment me, or learn to say, “God, thank You for reminding me to forgive as You had forgiven me.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender mistreat you again and again.

What about repeated offences? It’s one thing to forgive someone for a one-off incident, it’s quite another to have to deal with repeated hurts. Let’s face it—some people are just mean-spirited. These people exist. They could even be in your family. Another type of person could be those who are plain unreliable or immature in his or her ways.

I know people say, walk away from friends or people who continuously hurt you. But what if the person is family?

In my case, I have no option of cutting those strings off. To cope while struggling to forgive, I had to keep a distance (sometimes physically). Just so I don’t be a martyr and place myself in front of those people and say, “go ahead and slaughter me with your words and actions; my God is big, and He’s with me.” Are you kidding me? Of course, my God is all-powerful, and He’ll heal my wounds—but He didn’t give me a brain to not think and not have the wisdom to keep being subjected to lack of respect and nasty treatments.

So, forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender mistreat you again and again. And it doesn’t say that you need to play the victim role and let the person walk all over you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there won’t be justice.

Another reason why it’s so difficult to forgive is we want to control. We might think that if we forgive, it means that we are ok with the offence. So we wanna control our “rights” to their “wrongs”. Gripping the offence tightly in our hearts gives us a false sense of justice.

Knowing that God is the final judge helps me to tame that resentment monster. I’m not saying I’m rubbing my palms with evil glee, waiting for God to punish the person. I’m practising letting go of taking things into my hands and releasing them to God instead. The former, bad for the heart; the latter, excellent for sanity.

Forgiveness doesn’t depend on them saying sorry.

Forgiveness is not about tit-for-tat either. Often I don’t wanna forgive because I want that person to know how wrong they are. But waiting for the person to change is giving the other person control over us and our sanity. So, forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but our choice.

Forgiveness is not a feeling.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ll no longer feel the pain, ever. Also, you don’t need to feel happy before you can forgive. (Or have to feel you have to like the person.)

Forgiveness is a process, not a one-time event.

My repeated prayer to God was, “Father, I know I need to forgive, but I can’t. Though I can’t, I still choose to forgive. But Father, please heal my broken heart. Help me.” That last line became the bridge on my journey to forgiveness. “Father, please, heal my broken heart.”

However, we wanna be careful and be real with our emotional struggles especially when the pain is fresh. When my heart was shattered into pieces and engulfed in the fire of pain; although I know the Bible has many scriptures on forgiveness, and Christ has demonstrated the greatest love and forgiveness to me—I still can’t forgive! I was an emotional wreck.

Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one who inflicted it. And yet, there’s no peace without forgiveness. 

Marianne Williamson

So, be kind to yourself as God knows your condition. Be careful not to merely cover your wounds and hinder the healing process. Forgiveness is a process, not a one-time event.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation.

Not every relationship will have reconciliation after forgiveness, though some do. Even if there’s no reconciliation, we still can choose to forgive someone. If you ask, “what’s the point of forgiveness if we can’t reconcile?” Just remember the termites in your heart, chew chew chew, bite bite bite.

Do I do all that I’ve shared?

Even though I’m convicted to the core of what I’ve written, sometimes there’s a stubborn side of me who prefers not to do any of the above. Preferring the safety of darkness; locking myself in as a willing prisoner.

That’s when I whipped up the greatest weapon ever—prayer.

Whether I feel like it or not, I’d choose (ok, sometimes I had to force myself) to pray for the people who’ve wronged me.

Sometimes I pray in my own words. Sometimes I use a guided prayer.

Often what started out as a reading of those printed words on the guided prayer turns into my prayer. It became real from within me. It became a cry to God. To change my heart. To heal where it’s needed. To feel compassion and love for the other person. To ask for forgiveness for myself and claim responsibility if I’ve played a part in the strained or broken relationship.

I find my heart slowly changing towards the person. For some, I even see changes in the person! Now…one might wonder; is it my heart who’s changed or is it them?

Whatever it is, this is the truth: 

One can’t sincerely pray for another person and remain angry at them.

Prayer to forgive others.

If you have someone to forgive, and you wanna take a step forward in the forgiveness process, I’d invite you to think of them now. And pray along with this prayer:

Lord, I bring to mind (name)
I bring him/her before You

I feel hurt by them
Right now I confess any negative feelings I have about them
I forgive the wrongs they have done towards me
For any deliberate or unintentional things they have done
That have caused me pain
In the best way that I know how, I fully forgive them

I release them to You 

Now that I have forgiven (name)
I choose not to hold any grudges towards him/her
Thank you that as I am praying now
You are freeing my inner world to live again
Free from resentment, pain and bitterness
Filled with joy, freedom and love


(the above prayer for forgiving others is from

I sometimes use this prayer for forgiveness too. 

Dear heavenly Father,

I thank You for Your love and kindness toward me. It is Your kindness that has led me to repentance, turning from all my sinful ways and turning to You. I admit that I have not been kind, patient and loving to others when they have offended me. I have allowed bitterness and resentment to grow in me, separating me from others and You, Father.

At times, I have forgotten this unforgiveness in my heart. This unforgiveness festers deep within me, at times beyond my conscious reach. This affects every aspect of my life and gives the enemy a right to torment me as stated in Matthew 18. I confess that this unforgiveness and bitterness is affecting my life and relationships today. Because of these past hurts, I acknowledge the inability to love or trust others to any depth.

I understand that forgiveness is not an emotion but an act of my will. I now choose to exercise my will to forgive others as You, Father, have forgiven me. Father, I know that You are a searcher of the heart. I ask You to search my heart. Reveal to me any hidden and secret unforgiveness or bitterness toward others that have hurt or offended me.

I choose not to be ruled by a spirit of bitterness. I choose to forgive and have a spirit of peace and love in my heart. I repent, forgive and release these people right now. I ask You, Heavenly Father, to forgive me and restore me as I forgive those who have offended me. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring everything to our remembrance.

Dear Holy Spirit,

I am asking You to bring to my remembrance anyone I have to forgive and I will forgive them in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(I’ve lost the link to the original author/article. My apologies as I’m unable to give credit to the original author/article.)

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.”

–  Reinhold Neibuhr

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Life lessons

Will there be a day where all the doors in our heart are shut off to the world?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can really hurt me.

This old saying from the 1800s, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can’t hurt me” was meant to be used as a defence against verbal bullying. It was intended to help the bullied person develop resilience.

Will there be a day where all the doors in our heart are shut off to the world?

I wonder—what’s the full devastating effect in the person, years on. Saying it doesn’t hurt him or her when it does.

It’s silly to think our hearts are not delicate.

That it’ll be able to withstand verbal punches and kicks. Especially true for young kids. Kids absorb the words said about them, and it remains in their memory decades on. Often, without them being aware of it. And they carry it with them to adulthood.

As adults, we too are slapped with intentional, hurtful remarks. Or unintentional, careless words.
Sometimes it happens when we open up our heart to share something, and our vulnerability is met with unhelpful comments.
Sometimes, the mess of someone repeatedly hurt and disappoints us.

Do those things happen to you?

My defence is to close that door to the heart. I don’t want to do that. It’s a defence mechanism. But one door after another closes.

And I wonder, would all the doors in my heart, one day, be shut off to the world? Would you shut off your doors too?

But I’d say—don’t.

Keep one door open, always.
Keep one door open to the One who created you—just as you are.
Who loves you—just as you are.
Keep that door open to the One.
Because that’s your lifeline.

That’s your key to eventually reopen the other doors in your heart.
Keep the door open to God and let Him into your heart.

Keep one door open to the One. That's your key to reopen the other doors in your heart. Click To Tweet
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Life lessons

FOMO in the Bible?

Who would have known that God talked about fear of missing out, FOMO, in the Bible?

FOMO in the Bible? Matthew 6:30-34
This piece was inspired by my conversation with God, on what’s gripping my heart. It seems that God is saying to me, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to My giving“.

When I read this verse, “don’t worry about missing out” in the Bible, I can’t help but think of the FOMOs in my life.

Those things that occupied my mind, that kept me worrying. They even drove the way I live my life. Such a huge difference from the peace that God is offering to me. 

What is FOMO?

According to Wikipedia, FOMO is “the apprehension that one is either not in-the-know or is out of touch with social events, experiences, and interactions”.  And in Urban Dictionary, FOMO is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out”.

Oh, FOMO is also triggered by the consumption of social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. No surprises there. Ever felt some weird, lousy feeling after one too many scrolling of what’s happening in other people’s lives and why can’t I (fill-in-the-blank)? Even when the COVID19 pandemic has cancelled many things, the fear of missing out persists. 

I see FOMO from a wider perspective though. I see that because of the fear of missing out, the symptoms of FOMO lurks its head in many areas of our lives. 

Here is my take on the symptoms of FOMO:

Often feeling what you are doing at home, at work, never seems to be enough, to whoever’s standards, or your expectations.

Constantly driven to do more, more, more. (For what, actually?)

Nothing seems to be enough in life. If it’s enough, it lasts only but a while before you get up and chase the next shiny thing.

Difficulty in making decisions. Arghh!! I want it all!

Wanting. Just keep on wanting.

Difficulty to enjoy being in the moment.

For me, I suffer from thinking what I do is not enough. Who I am is not enough.

I fear that I’ll miss out on greater things. And that has gripped me in how I live my life.

I chased after what is not true. And unhealthily compare me with other artists’ work. That has marred the joy of creating. I’m tired. I’m done.

I wanna stop chasing now. God, help me.

What is gripping your heart, your life, and you?

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Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.

Life lessons

The last time I saw my father

The last time I saw my father, I was about thirty-five. I haven’t seen him in years. My parents separated when I was three. Heck, I could count with my one hand, the number of times I saw my father in person.

On that evening when I last saw him though, he was wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt, cancer-skinny, tall. 

The last piece of memory stored in my brain server was of me, nonchalantly giving him a casual hug. Like how you would hug an acquaintance when you part from a meeting. Nothing to be sentimental about. My father pulled in tighter to hug me back. I still can feel it.

I didn’t know it was his “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, “I want to be your father”, “It’s too late”, “I’m dying”, all rolled into one, don’t-let-go hug.

I didn’t know. Because nobody told me. He didn’t either. I didn’t know then, it meant goodbye for good. It wasn’t a get-together dinner but a goodbye dinner. My brain didn’t register that. My paternal family were there, was my mum there? I couldn’t recall.

The arrangement to meet up started with a phone call from my father’s sister in Penang. “Your father has cancer,” she said. “Can you come back?” she urged.

Did she inform me only when he hasn’t got long left to live? Or did she inform me the moment he received the diagnosis? Anyway, it doesn’t matter.

I went back to Penang. About ten of us met over dinner. It was at my aunt’s Nonya restaurant.

Vaguely, I remember seeing him sitting opposite of me, across the big, round dining table. As if we are strangers. Seated together in one table. Yet with enough space between us to observe each other in a cautious distance.

There were no moments, no talks, nothing to fill over twenty years of gap between a father and a daughter. Just—curry chicken, tao eu bak (dark soya sauce pork), and other Nonya delicacies.

I couldn’t recall any of the conversations at the table that night. It was as if, there’s this programming of me being able to automatically detach myself. I don’t know when I was given this superpower curse. I don’t even have to will it. I just detach.

My heart and my mind, what should be one faculty—disconnected—each giving inconsistent instructions to each other. There would be bleeding of pain and trauma within me, but you can’t see it from my facial expression. It’s like my heart saying to my mind, and vice versa, you are on your own now. Don’t give me the feels. Function, damn it, function!

Story of the last time I saw my father

I’ve never known him. It didn’t occur to me that I wanted to. Nobody told me much about my earlier life. Looking back, I could have been sheltered from history. My young brain might not have been able to understand anyway.

But the thing is, decades later, I still haven’t received the much-delayed white paper of my childhood years.

Where is it? Where’s “Melinda Yeoh’s Childhood White Paper”?

What I have is, if you can imagine, bits and pieces of scribbled information on Post-It notes of my earlier life. My father was a mystery; my growing up years was a mystery.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the chance to go on an archaeological hunt. To dig up unknown pieces of my life. Hell, if I could find one photo of how I look like as a baby, it’ll be good.

I didn’t ask anyone much. When I could have. I mean, hey adults, look at me, I’m an adult now. I can handle this. Tell me. But, I didn’t ask.

I took in whatever pieces of information given to me, stored it in my brain server. I didn’t process it. I just stored it.

For a person who questions many things and loves to question, I asked little information about my childhood apart from what I’ve been given. Received input. Stored. Done. Move on.

The next time I saw my father a few months later, it was seeing him in a coffin. He died from cancer.

My husband and I arrived at the funeral parlour around 8 pm, having driven four hours from Kuala Lumpur.

I remembered where we parked our car. About 500 metres away from where the parlour was. I got out of the car, the gravel ground felt unstable beneath my feet. It was dark. I squinted at the garish fluorescent light at a distance.

My brain wasn’t thinking. Guess what. Automated mode on.

I walked towards the funeral parlour, to my father’s side of the family, all I hardly knew. Greetings after greetings. Smiles. I peeked at my father in the coffin. More solemn greetings, smiles. And I took a seat at my aunts’ table.

My aunt asked me if I’d like a beer. Sure, of course, I would love a beer. Did I get the liking for beer from my father?

When I finished half the can of Carlsberg, I walked over to my father. Peered down at him, still don’t know much about this dude who’s supposed to be my father.

And of all the things I could have said, without thinking, I said this in my heart, “Well. Cheers to our first and last beer together.”

Then, my automated detachment mode failed.

That’s the instance when my heart and mind stopped going in the opposite direction. They connected; they were one.

I felt my heart’s cry and there’s nothing that my mind can do to act otherwise. My eyes went wet and warm. And I felt the pain. The pain I’ve never knew existed. A loss of something…someone…I’ve never had—a father.

Barely 2 minutes later, the automated mode was quickly repaired and engaged full-on. Stoicism won. I walked back to join my aunts. And finished the remaining half can of beer.

p.s. For those of you who need an ending to a story, or who need the moral of a story, there’s none I know yet for this story. It’s something I’ve allowed to surface from my soul, to allow God to deal with. And to share with you who’s reading this.

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Photo by Tom Bailey from Pexels

Life lessons

Depending on circumstances to be happy?

“Man, this has no end to it, doesn’t it?”.

My thoughts as I sat across someone who’s grieving the loss of a loved one. “This” referring to changing circumstances in life.

I looked back to my life, events that happened, circumstances that changed.

The rug was yanked under my feet in late 2016 and I went crashing down. For three years, life felt like a continuous season of one “bad” thing after another.

One thing after another. No, one thing plus another of difficult circumstances.


~ Major collapse of a family relationship. My world crashed. Let’s call this incident “10”. I will be referring to 10 later on.

The intense pain and loss pushed me into an almost depression. (One has to tick off several symptoms to be classified as depressed.)


~ Crumbled from the pain of 10. Requested to be exempted from going into the office and work from home. No more energy to keep smiling nor counting to 100 to stop me from sobbing in the office.

~ June: my husband got diagnosed with Stage Three cancer.
On the day of the diagnosis, our daughter was at the same hospital for surgery. The surgery happened to be the same time as the doctor’s appointment for the diagnosis.

I remember sprinting up and down the hospital floors, trying to make it and be present for both of them at the same time. I don’t know how I got through that.

~ July – August: two months of going from one test to another with my husband while grinding through the pain of 10.
Through the hospital run, we found out that my husband has a choice to delay the chemo treatment. So, yay!

~ July: there’s a reconciliation for 10.

~ September: my step-dad got diagnosed with Stage Four cancer.

~ Then two months later, chaos in my workplace which left me and my trust shaken to the core. The intense stress triggered the triad allergic reaction of fever, diarrhoea and an entire body eczema breakout. Till this day, my eczema hasn’t healed completely.


~ During this period, my stepdad’s health went slip-sliding down. Chemo further weakened him. Skin and bones left together with his only hope in Christ. I was travelling back and forth to hometown.

~ My father-in-law’s health went on a decline. Lost part of his mobility. Started to need a caregiver.

~ The situation of 10 improved.

~ Prolonged and delayed house renovation. Excitement mixed with cement dust and paint fumes.

~ Turned my pain from 10 to purpose. Redefined and redirected my website, and my newsletter, HopeMail.

~ Step-dad died and went home to the Lord.

~ During this period, hospital visits increased for father-in-law.

~ I was facing stressful struggles at work.

~ The situation of 10 improving slowly.


~ An ending and a beginning to a new phase of work life. And uncertainties. What’s next for me?

~ Started new ministry.

~ Father-in-law passed away.

~ Phases of grieving for family members.

~ Soul-searching.

~ Mother-in-law having more health problems. In and out of the hospital for tests.

~ All these while carrying the broken pieces of 10 and going through life. The undertone of sadness surfacing from time to time.

~ End of 2019, a new major upheaval in the family, carried through to 2020.


~ COVID19 pandemic

Two major lessons that I’ve learnt through difficult circumstances

Through these three years plus of intense shifting of circumstances, the reality of life hits home and hits hard. And I’ve learnt two major lessons:

There are way too many things I can’t control in life. Duh.

First: If I wait for and depend on good circumstances to be happy; the occurrence of things-not-going-well in my life will become the formula for constant misery. Or – + – = 🙁

Second: If I place my happiness on something that’s constantly shifting—life is gonna be tougher than it already is.

I wish that it was maturity that caused me to think this way. It wasn’t, not in the initial phase.

It was out of necessity. The need to survive through the pain and stress.

I intentionally looked for anything good and I nursed myself with that.

A gorgeous sunset.
A hand to hold.
A sight of a butterfly.
A meal on the table.

I hold those tiny moments and amplify them in my heart. And I see God’s hands through all those moments. Grateful for His kindness.

Knowing that circumstances in life will keep on changing, I resolved to find joy amid sorrow.

Even with my few years of “practice” with hardship, it’s still hard.

Honestly, I find it easier to be conquered by my moods. Easier to justify my misery. My secondary temperament being melancholic after all. But I don’t wanna live like that. Not constantly anyway.

Not depending on circumstances to be happy starts with a refusal to remain beaten down; when beaten down has outstayed its welcome. Click To Tweet

A resolve to be resilient. And doing whatever it takes to punch through the darkness so that light can come in.

Last bit of honesty. Did doing all these made me happier? 

Yes and no. 

Yes. Knowing that there’s a God who is unchanging in a world where change is constant, gave me hope. And I do what I can to rely on Him as my source of joy. 

No. I have an underlying sadness that I’m struggling with. The pain is still there. Healing is excruciatingly slow. 

But of late, light is peeking through.

For that, I’m grateful. And remain, ever hopeful on the One I can place my hope upon.

I think instead [of happiness] we should be working for contentment… an inner sense of fulfilment that's relatively independent of external circumstances. ― Andrew Weil Click To Tweet Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate. ― G.K. Chesterton Click To Tweet


I’ve summarised the headlines of an article from Forbes Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. You can click on the link if you want to read further. 

  1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves.
  2. Give Away Their Power.
  3. Shy Away from Change.
  4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control.
  5. Worry About Pleasing Others.
  6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks.
  7. Dwell on the Past.
  8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over.
  9. Resent Other People’s Success.
  10. Give Up After Failure.
  11. Fear Alone Time.
  12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything.
  13. Expect Immediate Results.
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Life lessons Poems

Maybe (poem)

A poem for me and you when we try to be who we are not.

A poem for me and you when we try to be who we are not. Be who God created you to be.

Be who God created you to be.

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Life lessons Poems

Take a break from COVID19 news and quieten down with these three poems

Since the start of the Movement Control Order (MCO) or lockdown across the world, I’m sure you would have heard many things related to COVID19, from news to sermons, and from many people from pastors to economists.

During this phase of social distancing, you would have come across an avalanche of articles with titles shouting “10 dinners you must cook at home”, “Top 10 Netflix movies to watch during lockdown”, “3 things you must do to look your best for video calls” to “5 ways to keep your children occupied while you work from home”.

Many things, many comments to sieve, many needs to meet, many, many, many.

Or am I the only one feeling it?

Truthfully, I was stuck for a month in April, not knowing what to write for my blog and newsletter. What kind of content that is right and needful. What should be said has been said, I think. And I felt like I’m walking on mental eggshells if I share my thoughts. Because it’s such a sensitive situation now. Different people react differently to this crisis.

And there’s so much noise.

So I thought I’ll share something for us to quieten down and gaze upon the Lord with adoration. Here are three poems I’ve written.

Let’s worship.

This is my latest poem written during a silent retreat. Just a few weeks before the lockdown.

Beckoning (poem): This is my latest poem written during a silent retreat. Just a few weeks before the lockdown.

I was inspired by this verse when I wrote this poem: “And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—and live what I sing every day.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭61:8‬ ‭MSG

My God & I (poem): I was inspired by this verse when I wrote this poem: "And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—and live what I sing every day.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭61:8‬ ‭MSG

This one was penned in 2019 when I was hitting against the wall (still am) in my walk with the Lord. This is still my favourite poem which I’ve sealed in my heart.

In Its Place (poem): I was inspired by this verse when I wrote this poem: "And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—and live what I sing every day.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭61:8‬ ‭MSG
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Life lessons

3-part series: 2/3 How To Support A Grieving Or Hurting Person

When I planned this 3-part series, I have no idea it’d be such a challenge to write this article. I scolded myself, “You idiot, you could have chosen something else to write.”

To begin with, I don’t even wanna attempt to tell you that “I got this”. That because of my personal experience with grief and intense pain, I know what to do to support someone in anguish.

Secondly, to write about it, I had to relive my own pain which has never really gone away, yet. And this is how complex and multi-layered a person’s grief and pain can be.

So, I’m gonna write from this approach—what I wished I could have experienced from others when I was in my darkest pain.

Before we begin to offer support to a grieving or hurting person, firstly, please be mindful of what not to say to them.

If you haven’t read the previous article, you can dive into the 2 minutes read here: 3-part series 1/3: What not to say to a grieving or hurting person

Let’s begin by understanding a few things:

It is difficult and highly uncomfortable to bear the anguish of others.

As mentioned in last week’s article, we are wired to want order, control, comfort, and when things are out of whack, we want to fix it.

We want the person who’s in anguish to feel better. But offering opinions, advice, cliched phrases will make the person feel even worse.

The flipside to this—because we don’t know what to say or what to do, we might end up ignoring the grieving person, pretending that nothing happened, or we stay silent.

Can I offer us some relief through this fact? —Nothing we can do will take the pain away from a grieving or hurting person.

We can’t put the broken pieces together. We can’t fix it. The pain must be borne by the person. But he or she doesn’t have to be bear it alone.

The question to ask ourselves: Are we willing to do it? Are we willing to be brave in love? Do we dare to be vulnerable? To stand beside our friend or family, knowing that while we can’t help to fix the pain, we can offer empathy and step into their suffering.

If we are willing to be brave, here’s the key to supporting a grieving or hurting person:

We must learn to bear the uneasiness of our inability and helplessness to fix the situation.

The most important thing we can do to support a grieving or hurting person:

Offer presence and patience. No one should have to go through pain alone.

Pain is like a mega vacuum, sucking everything you’ve got from deep within…

your dreams

your hopes

your faith

your footing

your plans

your future

your memories

everything that has colour and life, forcefully extracted from you, leaving this cave of darkness and nothingness in you.

It’s excruciatingly isolating as the world and people around you became aliens.

I still can see the memory of myself in the room where my colleagues gathered on Tuesdays for church staff devotion.

I can see the back of myself, all dressed in black, (don’t ask me why; I just couldn’t bear any colours then) standing within a circle of people who were singing worship songs to the Lord.

I tried to break from the circle by standing a few steps behind; the proximity with others made my pain more challenging because I had to fight harder to not be overcome by my emotions. My head hung low as the singing continued, though I can control myself from sobbing, I can’t control the tears and snots that were dripping down too fast to be wiped away.

In a room with 50 people, I was alone.

The same with my church’s new small group. Week after week, as we sang worship songs, my head hung low in nothingness, tears dripped onto my shirt, alone in my pain among a new group of people I have yet to build trust in.

Through the dark times, I had a handful of people who knew what happened, and who had exchanged text messages of comfort and support. For that, I’m so thankful.

But I wonder if physical presence or even phone calls would offer more solace?

Ways to be present

Be patient

If we wanna support someone who’s grieving, we must be consciously patient, with ourselves, our good intentions and the other person. Bear with the uneasiness of listening to their anguish without offering advice.

We may have to be with the person, as long as it takes, through tears, through when they express their anger, disappointment, hopelessness and confusion. The process is not linear. There’s no fixed timeline for when anyone should get out of grieving.

It changes sometimes from day-to-day. We must be patient to the friend who seemed ok yesterday but has slumped to a low today. Sometimes, we have to offer a listening ear or even just being present in silence.

Be open

If a person can be raw and grief without shame or trying to hold themselves together for the sake of being a comfort to you (see how ironic this is?), he or she might have higher chances of healing better and faster. It’s those who suppressed their pain who had to wear the chain for a much longer time.

Be yourself

Sometimes, our friend wants some normalcy in his or her’s mayhem and we have to be the same, usual person who your friend hangs out with over a meal or drink.

Be available

Give the person space yet let them know you will be around. It’s normal for us to not know what to do and in what measure; when should we ask, when we should we not?

We can be open and say, “I’m here if you wanna talk about it. And I’m ok if you don’t and wanna talk about something else for now.”

Be specific

Offer help but be specific. “Let me know if you need help” is not making it easier for the person.

Offer specific help like, “I can bring dinner over on weekdays, but I don’t want to interfere. Please let me know whether you want me to do this or you want to do this yourself. I’m happy to help.”

I hope these guidelines will give us the courage to be present in love with someone going through grief and pain.

Oh ya. Presence and present are sometimes a beautiful match. Bringing a gift of chocolate, a bottle of wine (exercise some discernment though), or the griever’s favourite food can help to increase the physical comfort for him or her.

Read the other articles in this series:

3-part series 1/3: What not to say to a grieving or hurting person

3-part series 3/3: Don’t go through (and don’t let someone go through) pain alone.

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Life lessons

3-part series 1/3: What not to say to a grieving or hurting person

“You know, you shouldn’t be so sad. Your mum is with Jesus now.” said someone with a righteous tone, when I shared about grieving over my mum.

My brain felt like shouting angrily at her. I told her sternly with matching, burning eye contact, “Don’t you dare tell me how to feel or not to feel.” I think the saving grace was she didn’t quote Bible verses to make her points valid.

The pain and experience of a grieving or hurting person are not for anyone to attempt to understand—but rather to empathize.  Click To Tweet

My mum went from a robust frame to a shrivelled skin and bones shell due to a 14-month of cancer and chemo hell. I lost her when she was 57 years old. Said my last goodbye with a gentle kiss on her eyelid as I saw her breathed her last breath. We’ll meet again in Heaven, I told her. 

I must say through the years of grieving, there’s yet anyone who had been able to offer much comfort or help to me. Yes, I could have sought help from a grief counsellor, if I can find one. 

So, I wrote this series on supporting those who are grieving.

The intention of this three-part series is to hopefully help us to better walk alongside those who are hurting.

I’m certainly still on a learning process as there are no one-size-fits-all set of rules. But I hope this series can help us to be more aware and careful when dealing with these delicate situations.

One golden reminder, at different points in our own lives, the situation will reverse to us being the grieving or hurting person.

So, please have this in mind and really, just asking ourselves, how would we like to be at the receiving end of someone’s good intentions?

Why do our good intention of comforting a grieving or hurting person turned out bad?

It’s safe to say most people have good intentions when faced with a grieving or hurting friend. But, why do some of us ended up alienating the person we wanted to offer comfort and help?

Perhaps it’s to do with our own discomfort with discomfort. We instinctively want order, control, comfort and thus, felt uneasy when things are out of whack. And we subconsciously want to help the grieving or hurting person to “feel better”…although prematurely.

We also don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t really put ourselves in the other person’s shoes simply because we are not them. Yes, we can’t imagine what they are going through, not 100% anyway. So, stop trying to.

We try to logically understand why a grieving or hurting person is saying certain things: “I hate so and so!” “I’m so angry at God!” and we tried to correct them (again, with good intentions).

Or they might be asking questions like “What does God want?! Why is He doing this?!”. Please discern whether are they expressing their raw emotions or are they seeking an answer?

From my personal experiences both with grieve and hurts, here’s a guide of what not to say to a grieving or hurting person:

  1. You are a strong man/woman.
  2. Be strong.
  3. Be strong for your children.
  4. Chin up.
  5. He/she is in a better place.
  6. There’s no more suffering

What does this mean? They don’t need to have to be strong at this moment. By saying that, we have closed the door for them to heal by forcing them to suppress their feelings. I think these statements should be made illegal.

  1. God has better plans for you.
  2. God has a purpose for you.
  3. Maybe it’s God’s will.

We are not God.

  1. Bible verses, motivational quotes at the wrong time.

Unless we are so intimately guided by the Holy Spirit to release these words to the hurting, let the person have the space to come to terms with the situation.

  1. I know how you feel.
  2. I know how you feel. When I (insert your own story)

No, we don’t.

  1. It’s not as bad as it seems.
  2. Look at it this way.
  3. Don’t be so sad.
  4. Why are you so affected by it?

Don’t belittle their feelings and don’t compare the levels of pain.

The grey areas of what not to say to a grieving or hurting person:

  1. How are you?

At the right time, this gives permission for the person to express their feelings. At the wrong time, it’ll feel intrusive. The person might be so down that he or she has no energy to even talk about it. At the worst time, it’ll feel offensive. “My mum died, and you are asking me, how am I?!”

  1. Bible verses, comforting quotes.

At the right time, especially if guided by the Holy Spirit, it’ll lend blankets of comfort to the person. At the wrong time, well.

Sigh. I know it’s not easy. We really just want to express our love for the person. However, saying the wrong things with the right intention may risk making a person feel isolated in their pain.  

Sometimes all a person need is an acknowledgement of their feelings. Click To Tweet
Read the other articles in this series:

3-part series 2/3: How To Support A Grieving Or Hurting Person?

3-part series 3/3: Don’t go through (and don’t let someone go through) pain alone. 

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Life lessons Poems

Before it’s too late…(poem)

I never thought I’d see the day
when I can hear my husband say
“I wanna spend more time with my dad
and see him every day.”

He then gently sang out the verses
from the song The Living Years
As the lyrics pierced my heart
My eyes were wet as I melted in tears

Half a decade of heartaches
from a father who always has his way
Never a tender word
Never a “son, you’ve made my day.”

Neither any affirmation
try as he might
All he gets from his dad is
You never get things right

But now lies his dad
as my husband sits beside his bed
plucking up all courage
to tell his dad all the things that need to be said

We don’t have a good relationship, dad
But I’m thankful for what I have
You’ve given me a good education, dad
You’ve given me all that you can

And so the conversations have started
for the first time in their lives
sitting beside the bed
where his weak and ill dad lies

Where Love is allowed to go
into the deepest hurts of your soul
It is there you’ll find healing
Wherever forgiveness flows

As Christ hung high up on the cross
Looking at the people below
Forgive them, Father, he said
For they do not know

And now that you know
where would you allow Love to go?
Would you let Love into your heart
Where forgiveness needs to flow?

Who do you need to forgive
What do you want to say?
Why don’t you let Love win
And say it before it’s too late

The Living Years
Mike & The Mechanics
Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
I know that I'm a prisoner to all my father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage, to all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got
You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts
So don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up, and don't give in
You may just be OK
I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
*Lyrics from

Mike Rutherford and BA Robertson wrote The Living Years about a year after Mike’s dad died. He shared in an interview, “As a teenager in the late 1960s, the last thing I wanted was to be like my father.” Read more

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Life lessons

To the broken-hearted

We walk and live amongst happy-face people, yet we sometimes don’t know how many broken hearts lie beneath those smiles. We could be one of them, couldn’t we?

Not everyone is hiding or putting on a brave front, but some people do.
And ironically, some of us are joyful—yet there’s this underlying sadness that remains in our hearts. Perhaps of an ongoing hurt, loss or a relationship hanging on its last thread.

In that way, you are not alone. We are not alone. We are all wired to love, to look for love, to be loved. And in the same way, we hurt, we’ve been hurt, and we’ll be hurt again.

If we close our hearts to hurts, we’ll close our hearts to love.

To live a stone-hearted life is akin to living life barely breathing.

Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.

If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life, well hang on.

Full lyrics of Everybody Hurts by R.E.M

He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. (Psalm 147:3 The Message)

In a world that sometimes can be so harsh, be someone who brings hope—be kind to others, be kind to ourselves.


Let Your love be the glue that mends the broken-hearted.
We overcome not with our strength
But with the saturation of Your healing love into our deepest wounds. Amen.

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Life lessons

Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die

I’m introspecting on this massive irony of why we want to go to Heaven, knowing that all pain and suffering will end…yet, we don’t want to die.

We want to preserve our lives on earth. Preserve it for…?

If I think back to my late parents, they suffered and died of cancer—I would think it’s a relief that they no longer have to suffer from their illness.

More importantly, they no longer have to go through suffering on earth, and because of what Christ had done on the cross—there’s reconciliation with God.

Why did Jesus sacrifice and die on the Cross?

At the resurrection, we’ll have bodies that won’t decay.
No more sin.
No more physical and emotional pain.
No more physical and emotional suffering.
But a loving, eternal and perfect relationship with God.

So, I’m joyful that my father and mother are in a better place. ‘Better’ is such an understatement in this case.

Yet, I miss my mum terribly. I wish she’s alive here. More years on earth…

…for what?

In a few years, she would need to be the caregiver to her husband. She would witness her husband who she adores— wither and die of cancer, leaving her alone.
More years on earth. More pain.

I vividly remember her suffering from cancer. The agonising pain. How her robust body shrunk to nothingness. Her skin hangs from her skeletal frame. Unable to eat nor do anything. I remember seeing the patients in the cancer ward—bald, pale, skinny, frail.

My heart bled. My head spun. I don’t understand this.

Why Lord? Why can’t their sufferings be shorter?

Why don’t we want to die, when Heaven is a much better place?

Is it because we carnally cling to what’s earthly?

Is it because while we are spiritual beings, we are still in an earthly body? Hence our instinct is to protect our flesh?

Is it because we have so many things we want to do, dreams yet to be fulfilled—we want more time to tick them off our list?

Is it because we don’t understand the concept of time from God’s perspective?

Is it because we can’t grasp the fact that our days on earth are numbered?

Is it because we have loved ones, and we don’t want to be separated from them? Alas! The day would definitely come. The question is, would we meet again and where?

We pray and plead for God to heal our loved ones. But one day, they too will die.

Death is unavoidable. So, why do we want to prolong what is inevitable?

If Heaven is a much better place—where there’s no more pain and suffering, why wouldn’t we want that something better to happen sooner?

For death to come later would mean going through heartaches and pain. Why on earth, would we logically want that in their lives?

Would our reasons be…selfish?

Or, is it because of the instinct of love ingrained in us by our Creator God—that we don’t want to be separated in a loving relationship?

Our original programming is of wanting to be together with God. And never be separated from His love.

God is love. He knows love is awesome.

(The word ‘awesome’ used here is not the casual way of how we use it nowadays. Fried chicken is awesome, the holiday is awesome. No. Its meaning is pure. Awe. Majestic. Godly.)

He created us to have a loving (eternal) relationship with Him. We weren’t meant to be separated from Him.

But when sin entered man, we were separated from the eternal relationship with God.

What’s left is a void, an emptiness of human beings. Not knowing in us, we’ll always yearn for connections and relationships.

And so instinctively, we don’t want to be separated from the person we love.

So, would that mean that while we are mortals on earth—we’ll always have this paradox of wanting Heaven for us and our loved ones, but not wanting to die?

Heaven and Earth were once fully united

Excerpt from the video:
The union of Heaven and Earth is what the story of the Bible is all about, how they were once fully united, and then driven apart, and about how God is bringing them back together again.

Perhaps that makes some sense to me. Of wanting my husband to be with me till we are old and grey, even though there may be suffering ahead in life. Let’s get crinkly together, my love!

Perhaps I can make peace with that. To accept because of how we were created by God, we will always have the instinct of love, and the pain of separation.

While I’ll persist and pray for the healing of his cancer, I’ll claim my peace in having the most significant promise—when it’s our time to go, Heaven is waiting with a place for us.

Thus, the need to learn to trust God knows what is best, and when the time comes—pray for the peace to let go.

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Life lessons

Empathy: the missing link between pain and hope

We usually celebrate those who rise above the storm. Winners who thrive in terrible situations in their lives. I do too. I love champions like that.

But some find it difficult to accept that there are people who love God dearly, who don’t blame God for their terrible situations in life, would still be sad, or even depressed.

One thing I felt uncomfortable and confused with the messages I received from certain Christian articles, some sermon messages, and well-meaning Christians, etc. is—the quick downplay of one’s emotions, situations (whatever it is), and the emphasis on perspective, God’s hope, faith…The keywords here are: quick downplay.

I know that He is in control. I know about changing our perspectives. I know about choosing our responses. I know all that. And we do need to have that and live it out.

But it doesn’t take away the emotions and pain, certainly not the situation. It’s hard to choose a good response to not cry when you are bleeding.

For me at my low point of life, being ‘preached’ that we should focus on God (while this is true), makes me struggle even worse. It makes me feel—less than a Christian.

For me at my low point of life, being ‘preached’ that we should focus on God (while this is true), makes me struggle even worse. It makes me struggle with my struggles. That the sadness must be taken away because, you know, God is hope. It makes me feel guilty that I’m feeling sad when I have so many things to be joyful for. It makes me feel—less than a Christian.

In our zealousness to guide people back on track—have we moved too fast to point people to the bigger picture—unconsciously downplayed the complexity of emotions, and therefore desensitized pain?

Is it any wonder that people are lonely in their pain in a world of fixer-uppers?

When we acknowledge people's pain in their weakest moment, we give them strength and hope because—someone understands. Click To Tweet

Do that often enough, chances are the person will have enough strength to rise, one step at a time.

I cried at this scene. I can relate to me, and to the many others who are struggling. It’s one of the reasons why I never say ‘chin up!’ to people.

I have the tremendous blessings of a handful of people who were coal bearers during the winter season in life. These are the precious people who literally and figuratively sat beside me when I have no more words and no more tears to shed. God gave me His strength through them.

Receiving comfort on my bleeding wound, I can then better hear the message of hope.

God is giving us the opportunity to be His vessel. Can we learn to be empathetic to a hurting person in need?

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Life lessons

3-part series 3/3: Don’t go through (and don’t let someone go through) pain alone.

I remember the feeling when I plunged into something like depression, and I didn’t know who to turn to.

It felt like I’m drowning in this dark void of awful loneliness. So alone.

Like everything inside of me, my soul, just sinking into this pool of black ink. Everywhere I look, pitch-black—a potent cocktail of desperation and violent rage.

I’ve been wrongly taught by the world that emotions and feelings are not to be trusted. So, I’ve learnt to box them up.

Unknowingly, I became an expert in compartmentalising my pain. I didn’t do it on purpose, somewhere along my life, I just learnt how to function normally.

I went to work normally, I led my team normally, I went to church normally, I laughed normally.

However, I was everything but normal. I was crumbling, and my days just became harder and harder.

I didn’t know how to open up. Who to turn to that won’t:


or worse, ask me to justify my feelings.

I tried to rationalise it away. My problems are small compared to the world.

I tried to pray it away. But the sadness stayed.

I tried to coat it with Words from the Bible. Nothing sticks.

I tried to escape it with Frasier. The laughter lasted only as long as the sitcom.

I felt guilty and weak for feeling this way. I asked myself mockingly, “are you being melodramatic?”

Chin up! The world says.

In fact, someone brutally commented on my blog, “try not to be too dramatic!” I felt at once ashamed that I may be emotional. But angry too, for being judged.

Herein lies the problem.

Some of us are just too quick to pass comments based on our views.

Some of us, too busy to pause and listen.

We have talkers, speakers, self-help, no-help, preachers, teachers. But we need more listeners. People to listen without passing judgement. Because pain is lonely. Click To Tweet

The shortest verse in the Bible is—Jesus wept.

He is not dispassionate. He is empathetic in our weakness. He does not tell us to be less dramatic nor fault us for feeling sad. It is ok not to be ok. We can draw comfort from knowing that.

Don’t apologise for mourning, grieving or weeping. God comes into our pain and feels with us. He will also bring along the right people to walk alongside us through this wall. Please reach out.

And if you know someone who is going through a tough time in life, please reach out to them.

We don’t need to be a counsellor, but we can be a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on.

We can be the one to give an encouraging smile, send an encouraging note, deliver a bouquet of flowers or chocolates maybe, or just offer help.

We may not be able to offer solutions to people’s situation, but we can be a comforting presence in their pain.

Read the other articles in this series:

3-part series 1/3: What not to say to a grieving or hurting person

3-part series 2/3: How To Support A Grieving Or Hurting Person?

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Life lessons

I thought my mum would be healed from cancer

Three months after I joyfully accepted Christ into my life, I received the shocking news that my mum was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

But I was confident that she would somehow be miraculously healed by God. On top of that, just three days after her cancer diagnosis, my mum accepted Christ in her hospital bed. So I thought that God has a plan to use my mum’s life powerfully once He has healed her!

That didn’t happen.

After a draining 14 months of fighting the disease, my mum left me, just a month before Christmas. What used to be a robust, chubby and full-of-life body became a frail, underweight and lifeless shell.

I don’t understand why God didn’t let my mum live longer than her 57 years on earth.

Four years after she is gone, I still wish that my mum & I would have the chance for a great mother-daughter relationship, now that, through Christ’s love, I know how to love her better.

But, in my pain, I seek comfort from knowing that with her salvation through Christ, she now has eternity with God. No more tears and suffering. Thank you, Lord.

Every sickness, every weakness, every fear, and doubt and shame; every burden, every hurt is overcome in Jesus name.

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