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.
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Metamorphosing Into The New Season

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As you pass this mid year of 2017, are you still carrying the baggages of the rued past? All the ne’er-do-well that embittered you; all the might-have-been that frustrated you; all the all-over that unnerved you; all the why-me that crunched you; and the sins-in-the-flesh that checkmated you.

The pains. The tears. The dollars. The seconds. The misses.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1

Metemorphosing Into The Seasons

1. Basking in the heat of SUMMER

Lying supine in the meadow flanked by the flower-beds resplendent of flamboyant blooms, carpeted lusciously in green, enshroud by a warm symphony of suffused gold and pink rays, the butterflies flit flirtatiously from one flower to another; a morning avian serenading you; the beautiful nature beckons.

Dreams seem beautiful. Life seems wonderful. When will time freezes at this standstill?

2. Sojourning SPRINGtime

The vibrant kaleidoscope of colours mushrooming the landscape coupled by a dream-like and surreal aura from the relucent glaze of the sun sends you bedazzled, enchanting like a jewel box sparkled with shimmering satin and sequins.

The beauty is lingering. The future is promising. When will hope springs forth certainty?

3. Traversing AUTUMN terrains

The foliages rustling at your feet, the pebbles rattling, the onslaught of the autumn chill gnaws your spine relentlessly. Moonlight filtered through the naked branches and scattered dappled patches on the foliages-strewn ground. And the next minute passes like a slow-motion suspended trailer.

Everything mellows by time. Everything plunges into a comatose. When will it be a resuscitation of vitality?

4. Enveloped by the WINTER avalanche

The journey through the uncharted terrains gets rougher, encompassed by a thick bedding of snow. The incessant showers of snow pellets frosted your vision, greeted by life obscurities and enfolded by a hyperventilating miasma of tempest, the road ahead looks solemnly bleak.

All hopes come to blight. All efforts come to naught. When will dawn be glimmering?

But……

Be thankful for what you have instead of counting what you had missed;

Be thankful for what you went through instead of whining over the bumps;

Be appreciative of your-pain-in-the-neck for these often are the people whom God used to teach you something;

Instead of complaining about the thorns on a rose, be thankful for the roses amongst the thorns.

Behold 2017. A reborned person. A renewed mind. A reformed heart. A refreshed Spirit.

Even With Grey Hairs I Am With You 

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Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6A) I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4)

I was having a coffee break with 2 friends yesterday chatting about retirement plans when the uncertain future caught us a little apprehensive since we are single with age catching up. One of them shared that she does not look too far ahead to the future as we do not know what can happen tomorrow, therefore it is more important to live in the present, trusting God each step, day by day. Recalling God’s faithfulness in the past had helped her to deal with life’s challenges with renewed faith, strength and comfort. She shared a particular verse from Psalm 23:6 which she always anchored herself on- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me ALL THE DAYS of my life.” (Emphasis in caps). This verse appeared to be a life-giving bread for me, at the same time I “heard” a small still voice, “Even with grey hairs I will be with you”.

Most of us dread old age, especially when our bodies are subject to decay anytime.

Most of us dread loneliness, especially when we may be walking through life alone.

Most of us dread darkness, especially when we are in our pits.

Whether we are single or married, or whether we are in the high or low season, we all face different issues in each stage of our lives that can render us insecure and fearful about what is next. Although reality bites— our world may fall, and men fail—  the Lord our God is always constant, till the end of the earth, today and forever: God gave His Family (God’s community) who can uphold us, His closest Companion (Holy Spirit) who is always with us, HIs billet–doux (love letters from the bible) which remind us of His Faithful Love, His spiritual communication tool (prayers) which we can tap into the Source of Power, and His Songs (worship) which minister to our souls.

Look back, at His Faithfulness;

Look now, at His Loving-kindness;

Look ahead, at His Trustworthiness.

Habits – It Begins With You

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Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. – John 8:34

When we do something, good or bad, over and over again, we fall into a habitual pattern, which either discipline or enslave us. Humans are by nature, creatures of habits, and experts said that it takes 21 days (daily) to form a habit. Our daily living is made up of good and bad habits. We grow up picking up habits from someone or somewhere, over time.

If you are a habitually latecomer, it is because you have “cultivated” a habit for being late, opposed to someone who is always on time, because the latter cultivated a habit to be earlier. The difference is, when both are given the same amount of time, it is a matter of what you do, a matter of choice and an act of will. Such habit can be changed – I recalled that my bible school fined latecomers a dollar, even if a second late, and no excuse shall be entertained. The $1-fine-tin was heavy in the first few weeks until it got lighter and lighter over time. This proved that latecomers can be trained to be on time.

Even Olympics Athletes train (almost) daily, they “beat” their bodies to follow very strict disciplines (1 Cor 9:25)- and they have the strongest will because they aim for the gold medal. Similarly, you will reap what you sow, if you will yourself to do it- if you truly want to break a bad habit or a sin, replace it with a good habit or a virtue, cultivate this discipline and sustain it for 21 days (or perhaps longer) continually.

Some examples:

  1. Need to get into the habit of doing Quiet Time (QT)?

Start picking up your bible (start with the easiest chapter say Proverbs or Psalms), make a commitment to spend say 15 mins to read 1 chapter, daily, every morning say 8am. Keep to 8am daily for 15 mins, over 21 days (or longer until it becomes a second nature to you).

  1. Need to get into the habit of praying?

Set aside a time where you would pray for 1 thing daily. Keep praying the same thing over and over at the same time until it becomes part of your praying routine.

  1. Need to break a bad addiction?

Whatever this addiction is, don’t SEE (including lust), don’t TOUCH, don’t HEAR (example gossip) and don’t BE there (example extravagant shopping) at all. Bible says “FLEE” from temptations. Turn to the bible instead since it is “live”, and keep to it, till you no longer feel “itchy” or tempted.

  1. Need to break the habit of ungratefulness / grumbling?

Write down 10 things you are thankful to God for the day, count each a blessing and show your gratefulness to God with verbalised prayers. Keep to it until you no longer feel the need to grumble.

  1. Need to break the bad habit of being late?

Find an accountability partner whom you would hold yourself liable to every time you are late- fine $10 or more (non-refundable), depending on the severity of this bad habit. Decide ahead to reach your destination say 10 minutes earlier (works better than being exact), buffer your travelling time an hour (or so) earlier, and work backwards. Commit to this over 21 days or longer until you form a new habit of always being early.

  1. Need to break the habit of wrong thinking?

Bible says replace our thoughts with thoughts that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, fixate about such thoughts (Phil 4:8). That is the power of focus- train our mind to think ONLY of thoughts that are good, say any truth from the bible that is most relevant to you, mediate upon it until your mind is renewed and transforms the way you think.

Basically it is to do something good to replace the bad, cultivate the good things and sustain it. It doesn’t matter how much time you need nor how best to go about it. The crux lies in your attitude- if you are willing to change, you will do it and change. Start small, little by little- patterns of bad habits can be broken by a new habit and transformation begins.

G.R.O.W.T.H

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It is pretty interesting to observe babies- when I helped to look after my baby niece. Such experiences have distilled many truths about growing up:

(a) Infants need food- they start with milk.

(b) Infants will grow up if they keep drinking milk. But when they reach a certain age, they can take solid foods, and grow into the next stage of life.

(c) Infants automatically cry for feed when hungry

(d) Because of regular feeding, infants grow bigger and stronger, and outwardly changed.

In the same context, God has much to say:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2); I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Spiritual babies eventually have to grow up. If their growth is stunted, it may be a result of not being hungry for spiritual foods. In order for growth to happen, we must first be thirsty and hungry in order to ingest any intake. The Bible tells us that God “satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:9). And spiritual growth has to be intentional; when one is truly hungry for the things of God.

How to be hungry for God and grow up? I was just inspired to “formulate” a growth strategy, which will lay the foundation for intentional growth.

G = GO to God for His Words and in prayers, daily (Jeremiah 33:3)

R = RELY on Holy Spirit always (Ephesians 3:20)

O = OBEY God moment to moment (Jeremiah 7:23)

W = WALK in the Spirit at all times (Galatians 5:25)

T = TRUST God day by day (John 14:1)

H = HUMBLE yourself in need of Him each and every day  (John 15:5)

Growing From faith to Faith and strength to Strength

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… as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to (1) follow Him. Let your (2) roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be (3) built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossian 2:6-7 NLT

(This verse reminds me of a Quiet Time devotion I was inspired to pen at the beginning of this year- DEEP ROOTS…)

I repeated reading the above verse and glean much treasures:

(1) FOLLOW

The moment we become a believer, we are called to follow Jesus, but in order to continue doing so, we must renounce self daily (Matthew 16:24 Weymouth NT). Those who follow Him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). True followers of Christ will talk (teaching and deposition) and walk (living it out with actions) like Him over time.

(2) ROOTED

Jesus is our true Vine, if we remain in Him, we can bear fruit (John 15:4). The vine is where the true Source is: God’s Presence, Power, Protection, Provision and Providence. How deep our roots in the vine, will determine how well we abide in Him and how strong we grow.

(3) BUILD

When our foundation is God, we will grow strong on solid ground and live secured in Him. – Matthew 7:24

As a result, “THEN”, which means “after we hv done so”, will our faith grow strong, and stronger each time we live the biblical truths in our lives. Only when we apply the truths, inner transformation will change our heart and attitude, that the outward fruit will b an overflowing thankfulness.

Ponder……

1. DISTRACTED?: Have we been following Jesus daily or we have been busy chasing the world?

2. MALNOURISHED?: We have not been growing or get stagnated because we have not grow our roots deep in the true Vine, nor water our roots well enough with the Water of the Living Word daily? Even plants need daily nutrients fm sun, water and gd soil.

3. UNSTABLE?: Is our foundation shaky? Anything build on this shaky foundation will not withstand the test of inevitabilities.

So, start right, plant deep, build well, remain strong, grow solid and go far.

So when adversities blow……

We can follow the Light even in the midst of darkness;

We can be strong when plugged to the true Power Source;

We can stand firm on the correct solid Foundation;

We can grow from strength to Strength in our faith when tested;

We can be thankful because gratefulness is the byproduct.