Grace wasn’t her usual self. She wasn’t as talkative as she usually was at family mealtimes, and appeared to be increasingly uninterested in connecting with the rest of the family. She was also eating only salads and seemed to be skipping other meals. When asked what she had for meals at school, she would mumble that she was “too busy”.
Her mother, Fung Fong, wondered if her second child was struggling with something. But whatever it was, the junior college student was not telling her parents.
She and her husband Chris—both medical doctors—realised something was clearly wrong when they saw that Grace was losing weight quite drastically. When they sat her down, they found that their daughter had been struggling with body image issues.
This discovery allowed them to step in to help her with medical advice and give her the emotional support she needed, so that she could embark on a journey of healing and rediscovering her self-worth and identity.
This was just one of the many tests that Cheah Fung Fong has faced raising her three children, John, Grace, and Esther.
Trained as a doctor, active in the Methodist Church’s children’s ministry and heading a social service agency, Fung Fong has juggled many responsibilities and weathered a variety of challenges. But few experiences have taught her as much about God as being a mother.
She shares five things that she has learnt from motherhood.
1. A Mother Overcomes Fear With Faith
When John, the eldest child, was two years old, he ran a very high fever that got his parents really worried. Scans revealed that he had a huge liver and spleen.
As doctors, Fung Fong and her husband were acutely aware of the possibilities and implications of the findings.
“The cascading blessing down the generations starts with me. What a legacy to leave for the future generations for the glory of God!”
“The first thing that came to my mind was that he had leukaemia. That really shook me,” she says. “John was our precious firstborn son. To lose him was unthinkable.”
They took John for further checks, after which they faced one of the most difficult moments as young parents: waiting for the results.
That was the moment that Fung Fong realised that John’s life was not in her hands—his life belonged to God. Despite her being a doctor, she saw that she could not cure John herself. Neither could her worries for him. Her fears would only paralyse her.
That was when she found comfort and courage in God’s Word:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. —Psalm 34:4
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. —1 Peter 5:7
Over the years, Fung Fong has learnt to turn her fears into faith in God, praying regularly for her children, and submitting her concerns and worries over her kids to Him.
It turned out that John had been struck by a non-life threatening disease, not cancer.
“It was a huge relief,” she says. “The whole experience reminded us that God is with us in our moments of anxiety for our children. If we turn to Him in faith and in trust, He holds our hands during those times.”
2. A Mother Learns To Wait . . . And Learn From God
When Grace was going through her two-year struggle with body image and identity issues, it was a trying time for her parents, who were not sure what was the best thing to do.
This, notes Fung Fong, is probably a common experience for many parents especially when their children enter the teenage years.
“Parents have moments when we feel we have ‘lost’ our children emotionally,” she says. “When talking to them seems pointless, when choices they make keep us worrying for their welfare, when they turn sullen and silent, and we don’t know what has happened to sour the relationship or how to make it better.”
In such moments, she has learnt to turn her burdens to God and to trust in Him for His best plan for her children.
One passage that has become a key guiding principle is Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Says Fung Fong: “There comes a point when you reach the end of your earthly wisdom, and you need to turn to God—to trust Him completely and to commit your children to Him. That period of trusting and waiting for a resolution can take days, months, or even years, as it did in Grace’s journey.”
But this period of waiting, she notes, brought a harvest of personal character development in Fung Fong herself.
“Even when we don’t see things going our way, we trust that they’re certainly going God’s way.”
It nurtured her patience and empathy for Grace’s situation, so that when the opportune time came, she was ready to engage her daughter in what she calls “a transforming moment of connection”.
“You are beautiful inside and out,” she told her daughter. “You are created in God’s image and precious in His sight.”
Grace—now a medical doctor herself—is today confident about her identity in Christ and in God’s good plans for her.
She once told Fung Fong: “Mum, I still remember the words you said all those years ago, and I still carry them in my heart. Those words really helped me to climb out of the hole I had dug for myself. Thank you for being there for me.”
Says Fung Fong: “Trust God in the wait periods as He unfolds not just His plans for your children, but also teaches you the lessons He wants you to learn in your own journey of faith with Him.”
3. A Mother Loves For All Seasons
Genesis 25–35 contains many stories about Jacob, from how he schemed to get his brother’s birthright to how he wrestled with an angel of God and was renamed Israel.
“But when Joseph, his favourite son, came onto the scene, you don’t hear much about Jacob any more,” observes Fung Fong. “The spotlight moves to Joseph.”
“As we impart godly values to them, we need to also release them to walk with God themselves and to discover God’s plan for their lives.”
This observation reminds Fung Fong that her role as a mother changes over the seasons of life. When her kids were young, she was their protector and provider. When they were teenagers, she became their coach. And when they became adults, she played the role of an advisor to them.
“As they became young adults, I needed to release them to live their lives for God and for them to experience God firsthand,” she says. “I became someone they could turn to for support and advice, if they needed it.”
Parents, she says, need to give their children roots as well as wings.
“As we impart godly values to them, we need to also release them to walk with God themselves and to discover God’s plan for their lives,” she explains. “We play different roles in the lives of our children over the seasons of life. But we love them through all the seasons.”
4. A Mother Perseveres In Prayer
Ultimately, Fung Fong has found that motherhood boils down to one thing: praying for her kids through each and every stage of their lives.
This is the one constant role of motherhood that has remained unchanged for her.
When they were pre-schoolers, she prayed for their safety and health.
When they entered primary school, she prayed for them to adjust to new routines and to cope with exams and school life.
In their adolescent years, her prayers became prayers for God to establish their identity in Christ and to help them make godly choices in the face of peer pressure.
And when they became adults, she prayed for their careers and discovery of God’s purpose in their lives.
“God gave me the privilege of being a steward of the children He has given me,” she says. “My constant role is to pray for them. God will move in their lives in answer to prayer.”
“Trust God in the wait periods as He unfolds not just His plans for your children, but also teaches you the lessons He wants you to learn in your own journey of faith with Him.”
In making her motherhood journey revolve around prayer, Fung Fong has also showed her children that God answers prayer in His time—such as when their grandfather came to a saving faith in Christ after many years of prayer for him—and that they could trust God while waiting for His plans to unfold.
“Even when we don’t see things going our way, we trust that they’re certainly going God’s way,” she says. “This where our faith in God deepens.”
5. A Mother Has A Vision For Future Generations
When it comes to her own spiritual walk, Deuteronomy 7:9 has inspired Fung Fong to have a vision for her family beyond the next generation:
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. —Deuteronomy 7:9
What strikes Fung Fong is God’s promise of how the devotion of one generation to Him has a lasting impact not only on the next generation, but the generations after that.
“The cascading blessing down the generations starts with me,” she says in wonder. “What a legacy to leave for the future generations for the glory of God!”
This, she adds, is a stark reminder to guard and grow her own relationship with God.
“God is with us in our moments of anxiety for our children. If we turn to Him in faith and in trust, He holds our hands during those times.”
“We are called to be a child of God ourselves and to follow Jesus as a disciple, which means loving God and loving our neighbour,” she notes. “When I do that, I also role model for my children what it means to follow Jesus and to please God. My kids will have a front-row view of how I love God and live my life for Him. Hopefully, that will influence them in their own devotion to God.”