“As a teenager, I wasn’t sure how to find my identity as a person,” confessed Jolyn Ng, Singapore.
The search for love and acceptance saw her stumbling into many relationships that did not end well. As the cycle of heartbreaks repeated itself, Jolyn began internalising the lie that she was not good enough.
“I really felt worthless – having the desire to be loved and cared for – but searching for it in the wrong places.”
But these experiences paved the way for her to find a love that was different from anything she had ever known. At 15, Jolyn heard about Jesus for the first time and was struck by the reality of God.
“He is a God who knows and loves me. He would never pretend, lie, change or fail, unlike all the other places where I sought love from. How could I not give my life to Him?” she said.
The fight for her life
The rejection and brokenness from her younger years left Jolyn deeply affected by thoughtless remarks. Describing what battling depression feels like, “On really difficult days, I laid on the bed with tears running down my face, feeling vapid and lifeless. Not that I wanted to die; I just did not want to exist anymore, anywhere, anyhow. On better days, I wanted to be with Jesus, forever and away from the torment of being on this earth.”
Jolyn struggled on a daily basis until a loving friend advised her to seek treatment for her mental health. What helped was experiencing the care and concern of the people around her. Initially, Jolyn couldn’t understand why God would allow so much suffering when she was doing her best to follow Him. Slowly, she began to realise that even Christians are not exempted from troubles in life. After all, God Himself went through the worst pain anyone could imagine.
“If it’s not fair for me, then is it fair for Jesus to die on the cross for people who don’t even acknowledge that He is God?”
Reading the book of Job in the Bible helped her see things in a new light too.
“When we read the heart-stirring story of Job, we see that the whole purpose of Job’s test would only work if God withholds the ‘why’,” she explained. “Even after the test is over, God keeps Job walking by faith because the answers are still withheld. At the end, Job doesn’t say, ‘now I see it all’. He never sees it all. He sees God.”
As Jolyn would come to see for herself, God never wastes a single experience.
In 2015, she joined REACH (formerly Missions Discipleship Training) in South Africa. The nest six months of her life changed her life trajectory.
“The beautiful country really gives space to marvel at God’s creation. You just realise that you’re so small, and God is so big,” she described.
“I got to stay in the mountains in Lesotho for two weeks without clean water or electricity and visited the churches there. We prayed a lot for the persecuted church and heard intimate stories of those who suffered for their faith. All these experiences really started to change my perspective, my heart and my spirit.”
Living with 60 people from 15 nations, Jolyn experienced how other Christians lived and served. One friend never had the privilege to live in her birth country as her parents were missionaries. She also didn’t finish high school because she chose to be an outdoor training instructor. Such stories challenged Jolyn’s Singaporean definition of a successful life. “What does 'doing well' mean? The only person who can decide and define that is God Himself,” she said.
Jolyn’s experience in South Africa taught her that responding to God often requires obedience and faith.
“If your mum asks you to clean your room, your response requires obedience. But God requires one more thing in your response to Him, and that is faith,” Jolyn said. “You don’t really need faith to go clean your room, but when God calls you to respond, it always requires faith. Put your faith and your trust in who He is, and not what you can do.”
“I felt God’s prompting very clearly to go to South Africa, even if it meant sacrificing things which were important to me,” Jolyn explained, referring to a job promotion.
What she thought was a temporary pause in her career as a graphic designer was, in fact, a new direction God seemed to be pointing her towards: full-time ministry.
Recalling what she wrote in one of her journal entries when she was in South Africa, Jolyn shared: “I have to decide if I want to answer His call or not. To give up everything, to follow Him, to step into the unknown. I know that I could have a life that is predictable, safe, comfortable and familiar. It’s not wrong. I know I can definitely do good in where I already was. But for me, the biggest difficulty in choosing is not between good and bad, but between good and best…”
A tough choice
After returning to Singapore, Jolyn continued to pray about her path ahead, wrestling with many doubts. “But as Henry Blackaby puts it, ‘Planning is a valuable tool, but it can never become a substitute for God. Our relationship with God is far more important than any planning we can do. We cannot know the when, the where and the how of God’s plan until He tells us. God wants us to follow Him, not just some plan’.”
After seeking direction and wisdom from her church leaders and mentors, Jolyn decided to turn her sabbatical year into a permanent resignation. She took on a part-time job before enrolling in Singapore Bible College (SBC) to pursue theological training, which eventually led to her current role as a youth ministry staff at Wesley Methodist Church. God also opened a door for her to use her creative gifts to bring the message of hope to others.
The 30-year-old now runs her own stationery line, Actspressions, creating artwork and sharing words of truth that we have all been created for a life of meaning and purpose. Her platform impacts people outside her immediate circle of influence. One customer heard about her battle with mental health and sought her out to speak to the youths in her church.
“This is one way that God has shown me that He didn’t waste my (pain),” said Jolyn. Looking back at her experiences, Jolyn encourages those who are going through a difficult time to continue to trust in God and obey in faith.
“You may not see the reason immediately; you may not fully understand why it happened. But we don’t need to understand the why as long as we know the Who.”