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.

Extrapolation. Inferences. Deception.

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He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; – Isaiah 11:3B

As a visual person, I have the propensity to observe and read things around me with my eyes; and as a creative person, I have a knack for piecing together bits and pieces into a whole new creation. As a result, I have inherited a predisposition to making extrapolation almost all the time.

To extrapolate is to draw an interference or a presumption about something with existing information that is not explicit.

In other word, that means, I can tip the scale to being judgemental since my eyes judge and my ears decide. And that is dangerous because:

(1) I can be led into deception easily;

(2) I can make illogical inferences that are not true;

(3) I can become irrational;

(4) and the worst of the lot is, I, as a mere human, is sitting on the judgement seat that is only reserved for God.

Judging, in its simplest definition, is forming an opinion or conclusion about something or someone. In other word, whenever I draw an inference, I have formed a judgement. Of course, God does us a spirit of sound mind and self-control, but the flip side is, what if, my inference is wrong, based on false impression or insufficient information, my judgement will then be impaired or impartial.

It took me years to restrain in utilising this inherent trait, until I read a verse from Luke 6:37, that if I judge, I will be judged; if I condemn, I will be condemned too. And I will also be treated the same as I treat others. The standard I use in judging will be the standard by which I will be judged (Matthew 7:2).

Isn’t that scary enough to hold us in check? For only the Lord knows the heart of men, after all, who are we, standing on the same ground as imperfect beings elevate ourselves on higher ground on moral or biblical standards? Let us not deceive ourselves, for “the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

God In The Details

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Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:9

A friend gave me a hassle-free nano aquarium with self-sustaining eco-system of mini wonder shrimps and water snails. I love to take a break in between work to peep at these pets as it is therapeutic to observe how carefree they are around the tank. What really amaze me is, they can find food within their environment- they literally feed on any microorganisms bred in the specially designed eco-system. All I need is to feed them supplements – though not necessary- every alternate days to keep the shrimps happy. The round-shaped squishy looking mossy Marimo (in other word, algal ball in Japanese) latched in between the twigs provided decorative filaments to the already pretty aquarium, other than their main function to provide oxygen, and absorb waste and debris. (And yes, Marimo is considered a pet too, according to Wikipedia, since they are living organism.)

This aquarium is a very good reminder as a physical parallel to how I as an owner, an imperfect human, care for these little pets, and make sure they are fed and living well, so how much more our Heavenly Father who is perfect so desired to feed and provide for our every needs?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… – Matthew 6:25-34A

I have also picked a leaf from these pets that they seem to have a quiet assurance that they will be cared and provided for so they can live worry-free and happy. How much more, we as Children of God, even more precious to Him who love us, care not how we are doing?

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:2) For now You number my steps (Job 14:16A). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) 

God is in the details. He cares for every little things in our lives. He knows what we are going through, and our every innermost thoughts. We can take heart that God takes great pleasure in giving us what we need, because He is our loving Father.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32), And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. (Proverbs 10:3A) 

Therefore, God knows what we need even before we ask of Him. And His provision always come on time, not too much lest we forget Him, nor too little that we dishonour Him. It is always just right and on time. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in men or even ourselves. (Psalm 118:8)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.

All You Need Is A Change Of Perspectives

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The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. – Matthew 6:22-23A

As a visual person, my eyes are trained to capture what I see with my eyes; and as a creative person, I can paint a picture with a thousand words. But the flip side of this talent is, I am often challenged in walking in faith since I see, read and visualise with my eyes.

But we are called to “live by faith and not by seeing (2 Corinthians 5:7). So whenever I face issues in life, my mind is always fixated on problems as they are right before me, that often I keep rehearsing fears, worries, anxieties, doubts and insecurities. That is the power of focus, but on the wrong things. It is hard to change my mindset unless I change perspective, and in order to change my perspective, I need to change my position.

One day, I received a prompting to have a walk in the park and to talk to God about my situation. As I was strolling leisurely, and praying at the same time, I kept fixing my gaze to the ground- all I could see was the texture of the asphalted track. When I adjusted my vision to my eye level, the view was vastly differently, somehow I sensed that God was in the details, and showing me that I could see things differently. As I walked around the park, certain angle offered different perspectives with different meaning behind the scenery. While I was tuning my ears to hear what God had to reveal to me, I aligned my Spirit to God through communing with Him in prayers. While admiring the different setting, I looked up to admire the vast skies- even the shape of the clouds are all different. At that instance, it dawned upon me that I had set my heart on things of the world without the correct biblical perspectives. And because my vision was clouded, so my body was in darkness. As Matthew 6:22 says, “If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”.

All I need is a change of perspective- Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. (Colossians 3:2) The things of this world, necessaries of life, pleasures, riches and achievements, can be sought after but not to the extent of coveting them and placing happiness in such possession which eventually turn into idolatry when our focus is not on the true Source and Provider of these things. The things of this world are temporal and can pass away, how then should we live? Live no longer with a carnal mind, but with kingdom perspectives- that God is in control and everything will work for good to those who loves Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28). Shouldn’t we be focusing on the goodness of God and that the Almighty promises that none of His Words will fail to be fulfilled?

Therefore it is a matter of how we see, and what we choose to focus on. A paradigm shift will require a change of lens in order to effectuate a renewal of mind and a transformation of heart. And yes, reading the bible will correct near-sightedness first. You will then find that God is actually not that far.

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

How Do You Run Your Race?

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” –1 Corinthians 9:24; Ecclesiastes 9:11

I am trying to shed some pounds, so I decided to head to my office’s gym. The thread mill is a challenge to me since I have a poor stamina, so every minute is a test of strength and endurance. Notwithstanding, I challenge myself for 30 minutes, and begin slowly with a paced speed. Halfway through, I really want to give up as I am panting profusely. But the motivation of shedding the pounds get me going. However, eventually I still cannot overcome my physical lethargy.

Meanwhile, a verse from Hebrews 12:1, dawned upon me, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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.” At that instant I receive a vision: Jesus waiting at the end of the red line, cheering me to persevere. There are many runners already run past me and ahead of me. At the back of my mind I am wondering, “Oh dear, will I be the last? Will the crowd jeer at me?”

Through this vision, I begin to ponder if I am running my own race for the applause of men or for the glory of self… Since I am already in the race, it will be a shame to give up. When I catch a glimpse of Jesus cheering me on at the end of the red line, I decided to fix my eyes on Him. (A song then played back in my head, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, by Micheal W. smith)

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full, in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace”

As I desire to run into the embrace of Jesus at the end of the line and to hear Him affirming me, “Well done!” follow by a pat on my shoulder, I reckon it is better to go slow and steady to complete the race than going fast and run out of breathe later. So I pray to the Lord to help me finish this race, no matter how daunting, I will not give up. Eventually, I manage to persevere and finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

I care not how fast I have completed the run, God cares more about my shape. Hang on, the word “shape”, refers not to my body, but my character. So is the word “race”, which denotes my journey and my destiny. To sum it up, God is not concerned about how well I have started, nor how fast and how far I can go, He is more concerned on how strong I can grow.

Some of us may be ahead (the runners running ahead in my vision); some of us are still behind; some of us are discouraged that the “crowd” (in my vision, it represents the people around you. It also corresponds with “a great cloud of witness” in Hebrews 12:1) do not appreciate your effort, or have condemned you thinking that you cannot make it; some of us really want to give up this long-drawn race since strength is sapped…

The crux is:

Do you run with your own strength and focus on the wrong things in life, and thrown off-track?

Or, will you run in partnership with the Spirit and set your heart on things above and not on earthly things, and stay on track?

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24

Critical Spirit. The Little Things. Relational Injuries.

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. – Romans 14:13

 

At times we don’t feel respected.

At times we don’t feel being cared for.

At times we stepped on the other person’s feelings.

At time we brushed each other the wrong way.

At times unkind words lashed out heedlessly hurtful and regretted later.

At times we get disappointed.

 

Crowded schedules. Money pressures. Communication problems. Midlife crises. Emotionally inaccessiblity. Insecurities. Fears.

And there’s never time to talk. Disconnected.

When you do talk, frustrations stirred instead.

Our own share of human frailties in one way or another irritate the other. All those little things sank your heart like the Titanic.

Difficulties in relationships arise out of unresolved relational hurts, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and when they are not dealt with, those little things become issues themselves. Eventually, they grow to become relational injuries.

 

The 7-key checklist of relational injuries:

1. Acceptance in love or expectation?

(a) What is your expectation of the other person whom you are relating to?

(b) Has your expectations get too much in the way?

(c) When he/ she failed to meet your expectations, do you withdraw?

 

All of us are made different, and grow differently as well, the first step is learning to discover “What do you want?” When you let your expectations get too much in the way, it may pave the way to idolatry in your heart. When you truly love someone, you accept the person as who he/she is, not what you think he/she has to be. Remember, no one is perfect, including yourself. Even God loves and accept the way you are but, He is not done with our flaws yet. Acceptance comes with true love.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT, second edition).

 

2. Responding in love or rejection?

(a) Have you been sensitive with your words and actions?

(b) How do you responded to someone even when you feel lousy?

(c) What is your language of love?

As a picture says a thousand words, so do your words and actions painted that as much. It is often contradictory why you can be patient, gentle, kind and understanding to the people who are not close or dear to your heart, but you often the “ugly split-personality” when you are with your loved ones- you are not so patient, you get angry and upset, you often lashed out unkind words, you get frustrated easily and you feel unappreciative towards them and they often get your cold shoulders. Have you ever paused for a moment the emotional injuries you have done? Consider why your dear ones have been a “punching sandbag” than a “hugging pillow” to you, it makes a whole world of difference when you spend time to share what is bothering you than to throw them around like cold turkeys. Just as you thought the other person is disconnected, chances are you, yourself probably haven’t been emotionally accessible either!

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

 

3. Finger-pointing to edify or tear down?

(a) Do you always point out the other person’s faults more than you readily label your own?

(b) Have you first seek to understand the whole situation and put yourself in the other person’s shoes?

(c) Do you demand changes from the other person?

The attitude of “That’s your problem, not mine!” is deceptive- don’t you have a part to play too? Put yourself in a scenario in a court room where you stand in as a prosecution witness in a difficult case. During cross-examinations by the Defence Attorney (DA), he will try all ways and means to pull you down by finger-arrowing your credibility and character flaws, the more you tried to defend yourself, the heavier the onslaught of verbal abuses. And you left wounded by his hurtful insinuations and unjustified judgement. Are you one who is such a Defensive Accuser (DA)?

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

4. Giving up your rights or demanding your rights?

(a) “Why should I?”

(b) “I expect you to be… …”

(c) “I have the final say!”

If you struggle with this area, you may have problems with pride. When one is full of himself or herself, he/ she always think himself/ herself is better than the other, thus it is hard to relinquish his/ her own rights. They usually struggled in accepting people who give them problems and who are weaker than them spiritually and emotionally. This category of people are very protective of their rights cos they always think they are right. Their expectations fall in line to what they think it should be and how he/ she should be, they are never understanding nor apathetic to consider how the other person feels or where he/ she is coming from. In any relationships, we are taught to be humble and submit to one another in reverence.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:!0) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

 

5. Shallow understanding or mutual understanding?

(a) Have you been communicating?

(b) How understanding have you been?

(c) Do you understand how a person’s background has some way influenced the way how he/ she think, feel and act?

How well do you understand yourself and the other person? Understanding is a crucial fundamental in all relationships to work, and it is paramount to foster better understanding through daily communication. In times of silence, there is tacit understanding too. Understanding the background of the person whom you are relating to, can give you a better and clearer picture how certain thoughts, feelings and actions can be triggered. For him/ her to understand you better, be honest about how you feel and what you think, instead of trying to do something to get his/ her attention. All of us think and feel differently, be open to share so that in each other you will learn something and know each other better to deal with the differences. All you need is a heart to listen.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

 

6. Pain and gain or close and strain?

(a) What is God teaching you through the other person?

(b) Did you apply what you have learn that God is teaching you?

(c) Are you avoiding the issues?

What is your approach- do you avoid pain or confront and gain? When you close in to a relationship, you strain it even more, the wounds may fester. And anytime when the same situations happen, it will playback the old scores. Unfortunately, the way to learn is often through unpleasantries. Pain is God’s Refining Fire.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

 

7. Praying with an open heart or clenched fists?

(a) Have you been praying for a breakthrough?

(b) Have you pray for God’s ultimate control and His way in your relationships?

(c) Have you try praying together?

Prayers open door to miracles, for our God is a God of Transformation. Go to Him with all your emotions, surrender your rights and expectations at the feet of His throne. Look to Him first as He will lift you up in due time. He always leave the door open for those who are weary and wounded. He has a special place for them. He is always there in assurance. And He hears you and trust that He will do something. His love never fails.

Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. – Philippians 4:6-7 CEV

 

All relationships goes a long way, but take heart, all is not lost yet. Give each other space, take time to do your own reflections, pray about the issues, be honest with yourself, take time to share your thoughts and your feelings openly to the other person, confessed to each other your vulnerability and mistakes, discuss with each other how to overcome barriers so as to solve those nagging issues, last but not least, be committed to making healthy changes and mean it. It takes time and courage.

There may be someone in your midst who is hurting. It is always worthwhile to confront it than to take a passive stand, even though you have prayed and trust God would do something about it, but that does not mean we should be doing nothing! How can you reap the fruit when you never bother to sow the seed? God moves as you move, you never know till you try however difficult it can be but God will supply His Strength, Grace and Mercy to keep you through.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Keep at it, those little things CAN and WILL GO AWAY. Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift too. Don’t give up.