Interview with Dr Voon Choon Khing
Hi Dr Voon! Your book talks about Discerning God in Our Life. I am a busy career person with three children. It is difficult to find time to reflect with God. And when things are going well, there seems little need to reflect…
Do you think it is important for me to have regular times of reflection before the Lord?
VCK: The answer depends on how much you value your relationship with God. If busyness dictates your days, naturally reflection before God will feel like an unproductive waste of time. However, after experiencing God’s personal love for you, and tasting God’s goodness, you would wish to spend time with Him, not to ask for things, but just to be with Him like Jesus.
Even for those who believe it is important to have regular times with the Lord, it still requires self-discipline and regular practice to form holy habits. When you manage to find time to reflect, you may still struggle to relax and catch up with your own soul! Like an object that has been in motion, any sudden pause interrupts the momentum and you require time to become composed and still.
That might be the moment when distractions like buzzing flies and your restlessness frustrates you, and agitates you to quit. But if you persevere and wait for that moment to pass, you will discover that, actually, God is waiting for you! He wishes to tend to your soul. How our Father longs to embrace you with His love to shield you from the harshness of living, and how your Burden-Bearer waits to trade your weariness with His Sabbath rest! Have time out with God to be refreshed, restored and renewed. Then, not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the living God, you would live life to glorify your Creator and Redeemer with a deep sense of dignity as a human being, not human doings, and fulfill your eternal destiny with Christ.
I have scheduled this Saturday to spend time with God. But what can I do? After I say my prayers and read my daily devotions, which takes less than half an hour, what do I do with the rest of the time?
Prayer is not a monologue but a dialogue, because prayer is relationship with God, with self and with others. Time with God is not in a vacuum, but always in the context of where you are in life. The idea is not the length of time but what is realistic and manageable in your current circumstances, especially as a busy career mother with three children. So, ask God how He wants you to spend time with Him.
When a couple is in love, they enjoy being together. The focus is not on what we do or don’t do, but about nurturing our relationship in the mutuality of love. Prayer, devotional reading and all spiritual disciplines are means to the end of knowing God, and in the process, we discover aspects of our old nature that still await God’s redemption or conversion.
Unfortunately, we often turn the means into the end, resulting in maintaining the form of religion without the reality of encountering the living God. No wonder we get bored, feel futile and, over time, become apathetic and drift away. Therefore, when you spend time with God, be mindful to relate with Him. The Holy Spirit in you will enable you to discern God’s Presence and actions in the nuances of your life.
When you experience God daily, you not only enjoy Him in your prayer time, but also become familiar with His communication in the midst of daily activities without the dichotomy of putting God in a box. You will learn to practise the Presence of God daily over and above special appointment times to be alone with Him. Through your daily encounters with Him, you become familiar with His ‘voice’ and grow in discerning Him in your life.
What can I expect from a time of listening to God? Will he really speak to me? Can you share about an occasion when you heard from the Lord during a reflection time?
I remember how I used to think of God as a fearsome autocratic deity and I could only resign myself to obey Him. It took years for the Holy Spirit to show me my pattern of resigning to do God’s will. God was waiting for an opportune time for me to become aware of my pathology in a faith crisis. Was Jesus’ submission to his Father’s will in Gethsemane a true choice? I went to bed with the question and woke up with the answer, “Choon Khing, Gethsemane choice is a choice of love. Stop resigning to do My will. I no longer call you servant, but a friend. Serve Me joyfully as a friend.” It was more of an inner impression than an audible voice.
Our Lord promises that His sheep hear His voice, and they know Him to follow Him. God will speak to you because He loves you. It is common for us to expect to hear God’s audible voice, and be disappointed when we fail to hear Him. God speaks to us in various ways (Hebrews 1:1-2). He speaks in the language of love that each of us can understand, given our unique personality types. Our God is a God of order, which means that He is predictable and not capricious. But our God is also a God of surprises, which means we can’t always predict what or how He would speak or act in relating with us personally. There is an element of mystery or ineffable nature about our God who is almighty sovereign above all, yet compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).
Therefore, during a time of listening to God—stay open, attentive and rest in His love to receive His communication, however it comes. You can only come to God as you are. Like any relationship, you just need to be real in relating with God, getting to know Him with deepening Joy as He reveals his Godself to you.
To understand more about seeking God’s guidance and discerning Him in our lives, please read Dr Voon Choon Khing’s book “Discerning God in Our Life-The Dance of Two Wills“.
Dr Voon Choon Khing serves on the Malaysian CARE Board as a spiritual director for senior staff, and facilitates CARE staff silent retreats. She is also a member of the PADERI Working Committee.
Choon Khing garnered her Masters in Library and Information Studies at London University, Masters in Theology (ThM) at Duke Divinity School, North Carolina, and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Spiritual Direction with Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana, and she trained as staff nurse and midwife. After her Diploma in Theology at London Bible College, she served in Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (1977–79), and returned to Malaysia to pioneer a residential home with Malaysian CARE in 1980 for mentally sick women.
Choon Khing was with Seminari Theoloji Malaysia for 28 years as librarian, student counsellor and lecturer in Pastoral Counselling and Christian Spirituality until she retired in 2014. Now she teaches Theological Education by Extension (TEE) courses and helps with spiritual formation and counselling of seminarians. Choon Khing is passionate about spiritual formation and spiritual direction training among seminarians, pastors and church leaders. She and her husband, Dr Chow Heap Yeong, live in Seremban, Malaysia.