A troubled youth comes back into the light
By Joshua TanMy parents loved me, taught me to pray, read the Bible since young. When I became a teenager, I was beset with a lot of adolescent psychological problems. I had social anxiety, inferiority complex, trust issues and fears that my peers would not accept me. I alienated myself, did not trust anyone to talk to and kept all my problems to myself. It got so bad until I couldn’t even lift my head up or look at people… I had fears, worries, doubts, extreme anxiety, depression, insecurities, paranoia, hatred, anger, worthlessness, hopelessness, self-loathing etc. Eventually I became self-destructive. I had no reason or will to live. I felt like a failure because I could not function like a normal person. My parents tried to get help for me, but I did not trust teachers, counsellors or friends. I completely shut-off, becoming anti-social to the point that I rarely even talked with my family.
I completely backslided around 19 years old because I felt God wasn’t real to me, that I didn’t really know God. I went to church because my parents forced me to; I read the Bible as a chore, but I didn’t really know God. I had unforgiveness, hatred and many other negative thoughts deep inside. I ran away from God. I had a prophecy before I was born that I’ll be a strong oak tree. I interpreted this negatively that I would have many long years of suffering in order to become a strong oak tree. I felt I was weak, suffering mentally and emotionally. So, I locked myself in my room and kept playing computer games, just trying to have fun. I turned cold and apathetic, unable to really feel any emotions. I didn’t care about anyone or anything anymore, not even my own life. I actually planned to die at 30+ because I didn’t think I could carry on like this.
When my family went to visit my grandma in Penang I didn’t want to go. While alone in Melaka, my aunty would visit me and pass me some food. She also wrote notes of encouragement with prayers and Bible verses passed under my door since I locked my room and didn’t want to talk. “Why would anyone even bother to care for someone like me?” I wondered. But her unconditional love touched my heart and it was one of the main reasons I decided to come out of my self-destructive lifestyle and really seek God. I didn’t want to waste my life, but I didn’t have anything to live for, not even for myself. Then I remembered that God has a purpose for my life. I can live for God. It meant I had to come out of my comfort zone and face my fears and difficulties and maybe suffer, I’m now willing to do it, with God’s help.
So, I decided to find my purpose and destiny in life from God because He knows why He created me. I don’t want to just survive. Neither do I want to earn money, have fun, make myself happy, etc. Not that those aren’t good purposes to live for, but it all just feels so pointless without fulfilling what I am destined for. Without an ultimate purpose in my life, it all seems so meaningless. I felt that life needs to be more than chasing after these things. Having felt so empty, I know that void in my heart can only be filled with God. “Seek God first” and everything else will fall into place. That has been my motto from then till now.
One day in December 2015, I decided to open up to my mother. I told her about my problems and struggles, my fears, worries, weaknesses. I longed for someone to understand me. Thank God, she just listened without “lecturing” me and I felt relieved. Then I told my mother that I wanted to know God’s purpose for my life. She told me that I need to know God by reading the Bible and praying. I didn’t feel like reading the bible, as I had already finished reading the whole Bible twice when I was a teenager. However, as I struggled to read again with God’s help, I began to have a better understanding of the Word of God.
My parents encouraged me to talk more with them, even share my problems, forgive one another and pray with them. Then we started to have family devotions together. My parents have been praying fervently for me with tears for many years. God answered their prayers. One day I just decided to come out of my shell and reconcile with them and with God. I began reading His Word and praying; talking and opening up to them, spending time with them through family devotions.
His persistent grace chased after the reluctant me trying to run away. I realized that I need to trust God with my life, take courage and overcome my problems instead of running away. I also appreciate my two sisters and my childhood friend who have been a great encouragement and support. The book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is also really life-motivating as it helps me understand my true purpose in life and how to live it practically.
RETURNING TO CHURCH
Then I decided that I need to go back to church. After a couple of months, my pastor asked if I wanted to help in church for three months. Although I had a hard time adjusting I endured and tried my best. Through this God moulded and changed me. My mom’s boss in AgapeCARE introduced me to work with refugee children in Solid Rock Learning Centre. My manager (who was also my parents’ counsellor) then encouraged me to help in an event organized by Malaysia Youth for Christ (MYFC). Through this event, I got to know about MYFC ministry. For the past two months, I have been helping them part time. I know that MYFC is a great platform for me to grow and share the love of Christ, using my experience to help others especially youths who are troubled. I know God is calling me and has a plan for me. My prayer is that I will always be positive, joyful, hopeful, courageous, humble, obedient, empathetic and enthusiastic in life so that I’ll be able to shine for Christ and guide young people to know the good God that I know, inspiring them to love God and people. I thank God for transforming me and giving me a second chance in life.
Joshua is 29 years old, working in MYCF four days a week and Solid Rock with refugee children one day a week.