When All You See Is Your Pain, Perhaps Then You Lose Sight Of God?

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I was watching “The Shack” film at https://solarmoviez.to/movie/the-shack-19835.html (Thank God for the subtitles!)- I can relate to how the main character of the movie, Mack, struggled with God when he was plunged to the abyss of pain. In the process, He had an encounter with God, where Mack confronted Him why He allowed bad things to happen and why He didn’t stop the tragedies. God knew exactly how Mack was feeling, thus He had planned for Mack to meet Him at the Shack- the place where his pain began when he lost his youngest daughter. God was showing Mack that healing can only began at the place of pain when he let go and let God- Mack was stunned when God responded to his barrage of questions, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.” God had walked through with Mack his journey of inner healing thereafter.

I love this movie (except some parts are a little controversial, but as a whole, the key messages are sound and edifying). I was actually stumped at the point where God told Mack, “When all you can see is your pain, perhaps you have lose sight of Me.”

Indeed, I lost sight of God two years ago when I went for a physical review. And the double whammy was when I was told I had a higher chance of getting dementia as a result of this deterioration. At that point, my world seemed to crash down and it was a very dark night. I could not help but sobbed convulsively almost involuntarily as fears seized me. I was an emotional wreck. In the deepest recesses of my heart, I bombarded God, “God, why is this happening? I thought You can heal?”, “God, are you there?”, “Is it not in your will to heal me?” and all the “Whys?”. I remember vividly, the first few weeks after my physical review, I could not worship at church service, and I could not even sing or utter prayers. I recall trying very hard to contain my pain, as if my heart was oozing blood profusely. Even well-meaning friends wasn’t able to offer the slightest comfort, and I found myself withdrawing from them instead. Over time, my heart gradually calloused, and I was in a spiritual spiral of decline when I wallowed in my own pit. That was not all, I was rendered dysfunctional and could not operate my business, I was incapacitated for almost six months.

I received no answers to all my whys, it was a vain tussle. This emotional and spiritual battle only I could fight, no one else can fight for me. I was well aware that the only way out of the pit was to climb out of it. I recalled how God had delivered from my financial crisis eons ago, He would not stop lifting me out of any deep waters (Psalm 18:16). And reality sank in when the last statement of accounts had jolted me that my savings had been dwindling, I realised then that I had been subsisting living without any income. The detachment from God had left a deep void in my heart and the spiritual deafness had made me yearned to hear from my Heavenly Father even more. I started to draw near to God, surrendering my pain and fears, and by His Grace, I received healing emotionally and spiritually. I will re-learn to trust Him for my physical healing.

Through this journey, I recognise that sometimes God allows “the pit experience” (pain) to happen in order for us to draw closer to Him, because it is human tendency that when life is going well, we may forget about Him. Isn’t it true that we pray the hardest in our most challenging moments? And we pray the least when we get too busy? (And yes, be warned that God does discipline us lovingly when we wander off..)

As the common adage that goes, “No pain, no gain.”- Pain is often a catalyst for necessary growth:

(1) that we emerge stronger with new level of faith, trust and refined character.

(2) as it changes us for good, if we allow God to deal with the issues in our lives.

(3) so that God’s strength be displayed in our weaknesses.

(4) to humble us to rely and depend on God instead of our own strength.

(5) in teaching us the value of being Christ-like in His suffering.

God always have a purpose in your pain, let Him walk you through your pain, only He can handle it far better than you do yourself. And your healing process will be shorter too.

“Consider it all joy, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5 NLT) His grace is all you need, for His power is greatest when you are weak.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a TEV) 

Courtesy photo (P1040440) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

Faith Even On Rainy Days

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. – Psalm 37:23

A cell mate shared this beautiful Chinese song with me which lyrics resonated with every fibre of my being- I can relate to those times when I felt downcasted. In translating this song to English (though not literal), I hope to share this song to minister to those who need to hear it…

Song title: 祷告 (Pray)

– By Streams Of Praise

(Listen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YbBwg5B9Uk&feature=youtu.be )

 

祷告,因为我渺小;

Pray, because I feel inconsequential;

祷告,因为我知道我需要明了,你心意对我重要。

Pray, because I know I need understanding, to your Will as it is important to me.

祷告,已假装不了;

Pray, I can no longer pretend;

祷告,因为你的爱我需要;

Pray, because I need Your Love;

你关怀,我走过的你都明白。

You care for me, and know every path I tread.

有些事我只想要对你说,因你比任何人都爱我;

There are things I can only share with You, because You love me more than any one else could;

痛苦从眼中流下,我知道你为我擦。

Tears shed from pain, I know You will wipe my tears away.

在早晨我也要来对你说,主耶稣今天我为你活;

Come morning I pray, Lord Jesus I live for You today;

所需要的力量你天天赐给我,你恩典够我用。

I need Your Strength each day, for Your Grace is sufficient for me.

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18) You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. (Psalm 139:2)

Even on rainy days, the Lord is near; Even in the pit, the Lord is there. He knows every details of our lives. He searches our heart and know our thoughts even before we could find the words to say. (Psalm 139:23)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8A) The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8 NASB)

Keep faith. Keep going. Keep praying. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

The Wilderness: A Call To Trust

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19) “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is in the midst of us; we shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:1,5) “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27) And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

An emotional season in the pit in the late 2015 to early 2016 had derailed me from the track of faith and incapacitated in my regular routines- I neglected my business while cowering under self-pity blankets. I thought I’d left Egypt eon ago, instead of being whisked into a promised land of milk and honey, all I could see was mountains and snakes at every turn. I had trod into an unfamiliar territory- another wilderness! When I finally jostled from my “deep slumber”, reality hit that the economy was taking a downturn, I began to feel the heat when the company registered negative cashflow for almost a year. Insecurity set in when the uncertain future loom in and fears seized me. Alas I was standing at a verge, with the army of Egyptians hot on my heels, facing me was the Red Sea, with no other way of escape.

At that crucial moment, I cried out as hard, as much, as long, to the Almighty to save me and deliver me from my helplessness. By a bat of an eyelid, I found myself on a Rock, my enemies no longer pursued me. God finally broke the long chill of the silent nights, “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.” (John 14:1) reinforced with Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He’ll make your paths straight.” His voice resonated with the word “Trust”.

In the silent mire of abyss, my impatience got the better of me, I doubted God had heard my prayers. But I ended up with a megaphone blasting my ears, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?!” (My hairs really on stand…) By this, God had shown me that even a mustard seed of faith could move mountains and they shall be moved! Thence, my faith skyrocketed to a new level.

Much as “snakes” tempted me into discouragement, God had in the same breath faithfully sustained me with His one-step-at-a-time blessings and His day-to-day-double-portion of Strength. By His Grace, He gave me a gift of an encouraging Spirit that I could be optimistic; He gave me a vision in conquering the “Goliath(s)” in my life; He spoke to me His Life-giving Promises that I could profess victory; He had shown me that He is a God of Multiplication when He impressed me with a scenario where Jesus multiplied 5 barley loaves of bread and 2 fishes to feed the 5000 people full; He inspired me to compose a poem that Jesus can still a nasty storm (“Anchor Deep”); and He led me to pray with prayers I had never prayed before.

God is still teaching me something about “Trust”; and no doubt that He is bringing me closer to Him so that I can hear Him better; He is disciplining me through His refining fire to keep me going from strength to Strength and from faith to Faith; So that I can rest unto God’s Peace, “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) and His Faithfulness, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7).

I am thankful that God had been there, and even the present. I counted my blessings for the people who has eased my burdens in some ways. I marvelled at how God had provided despite the impossibilities. There is always a miracle every day- big or small, it is how you see them.

God is not hard of hearing- Our tears are precious to Him for He is especially close to those crushed in spirit. Just be still and let God be God. He will walk on the water and grabbed you before you could sink just as Jesus rescued Peter from drowning when His faith failed him.

“The more secured you are in Christ, the stronger you stand even if your whole world came crushing down. Your security is not found in transient things but in Him alone.”

P.S. And one thing for sure- Every time I pray, the Supernatural always happen in the spiritual realm- that we cannot see now but will happen later. So keep praying- P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).

The Tunnel. Hope.

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Delayed hope makes the heart sick… (Proverbs 13:12 HCSB) Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid… (Job 11:18-19A)

The front cabin of the new Downtown Line train has a glass window which allow passengers to peep through the underground tunnel. The tunnel is fairly dim and it takes considerable effort to observe what lies ahead. As the train approaches a destination, the tunnel is aglow with light, brighter and brighter. While half drowsy from the sleep-inducing passage underground, a small still voice jolt me, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Do not lose hope.”

God really has a way in distilling life lessons through things around us- the tunnel is a great reminder that no matter how long the tunnel is, no matter how long it takes to catch a glimmer of light, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The only way out is to keep walking, for the longer I sojourn in the tunnel, the more overwhelming darkness seem to enshroud me. But having hope is stronger than entertaining fear.

When hope is delayed at any length of time, the mind gets uneasy and the heart will sink, ultimately it fails till our inner man gets dispirited and ready to be dejected, giving up all hope.

There is this quote that goes, “We can live about 40 days without food; about 3 days without water, and about 8 minutes without air, but not a second without hope.” And another, “Hope is the last thing to lose.”

The bible warns that heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop (Proverbs 12:25A), and a crushed spirit saps a person’s strength (Proverbs 17:22). And when strength is dried up like a potsherd, the tongue will cleave to the jaws; as if we are laid in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15). The antidote to a sick heart is, to have joy, for a cheerful heart is good medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22). And having hope engenders joy.

We may be fallen on bad times, but as we set our eyes and heart on the God of all Hope, He promises His encompassing Presence (Jeremiah 23:23-24). We can take comfort because as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Never lose hope, because tough season won’t last but tough people do. And we have hope in God who never fails.

P.S: Do take the train through the tunnel, and observe the passage.

Flickering Candle

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I was encouraging a friend who was depressed from being jobless for a prolonged period. And it happened at the same time that I was talking to another friend why I like candles- because of one particular verse that had been an anchor for my soul when I was in crises eons ago-

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; – Isaiah 42:3a

A room may be in complete darkness. But the moment you light up a candle, darkness has to flee. No matter how weak the candle wick is, or how flicker the flame is, nor how small the candle is, even the faintest of light can still light up the room. No matter how big the room in the dark is, darkness has to flee the moment there is light.

Watching the candle burning is a stark reminder that Jesus is the Light, whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of life (John 8:12). The question is what do we see in our room of darkness?

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! – Matthew 6:22-23

Even if our physical eyes are (momentarily / temporarily) veiled by darkness, do our spiritual eyes light up in the faith under fire- seeing God even in our moments of darkness?

I encouraged her to really light up a candle to observe, study it and meditate upon these life-giving truths. It is also a great reminder to myself in trying times, with another parallel to Isaiah 42:3a “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

We are called to be warriors of light to the world in darkness; and we are called to be the lamp of light to the soul (can be yourself too) in darkness.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

When You Do Not Feel God’s Presence In Your Life

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“When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I will make sure you won’t be disappointed.” – Jeremiah 29:13 MSG

This new year, I have been greeted with many bad news of friends who contracted stomach cancer, a dad in critical condition in the ICU, and another whose father just passed away… It was enough to cause me to pause- “These are your children, where are you God in all these?”

It was not a new year to begin with, but I prayed that their trials will not derail them from the faith. We all have from time to time, in our lament under trials and testings, could not feel God’s Presence too. And the irony is, God promises that He is always there, in good times and bad times. Why is that we could not feel Him?

There are 3 keys found in the preceding verse: (1) Denial of self; (2) Drawing near; (2) Desperation

1. Denial of self = ver 13a “when you get SERIOUS”

We can only have room for God if we deny ourselves: our rights (rights to get angry etc.) and our treasures (any possessions, relationships etc). God did knock on our hearts, we may have opened the door, but the crux is, did we allow him to enter and take a VVIP room in our hearts? Some of us probably did not realize we only allow him a common room or a temporary stay in the suite. How to know? Simple, when our lives get successful or rather sufficient, we will get our true answers.

2. Drawing near = ver 13a “FINDING me”

I am sure all of us prayed the hardest during hard times. Have you felt like God was a million miles away or like there was this veil between you and God? Our sins have separated us from God. But if you feel far from God, guess who have moved? Us. Because God is always there. We can pray all we want, but God beckoning us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8). Drawing near means being still in God’s Presence, seeking Him with cleansed hands and purified heart (James 4:9).

3. Desperation = ver 13a “want it MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE”

Why God let us get to our pits? Because He knows what we are made of so He let us try if we can figure out anything. He knows we will only surrender when we get tired, frustrated, helpless or hopeless. The only way out or up fm our pits, is to call for help- help from a more sovereign power. This is the only way, He gets the attention of those who are deaf to His whispers that He needs to shout to rouse us.

Then, God ends with “I WIll MAKE SURE YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED”.

Therefore, be desperate, even in good times, and you will never be disappointed.

Remember, God says, “I am the WAY (narrow pathway), the TRUTH (never failing promises in the Word) and the LIFE (salvation and abundance).”