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.

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.

Guilt. The Blues. Deception.

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

Recent news about my friends’ parents committing suicide weighed heavily in my heart. Their deaths left behind mark that we cannot find any answers to. At the same time, I noticed that my blogsite registered the highest traffic on the topic of “When Forgiveness Is Hard…”. It seems like many of us have had a hard time either in releasing forgiveness or in the need of forgiveness, even to one self. National statistics had also shown that a rising number has suffered from depression, and it is a worrying trend.

We all have seasons in the doldrums and have entertained negative thoughts from time to time, but what is that furtive silent killer that gnaw incessantly inside us and tip us off balance? It is not uncommon that many in the world today wrestle with the vicissitudes of life to battle the blues, guilt and even deception. How then can we emancipate ourselves from the limitations that life has dealt us?

It is well-known that our mind is the Devil’s playground, therefore I would like to share 7 life-giving Truths that will bring Light to this world of darkness:

  1. Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive yourself

Guilt is one of the key hot buttons that Satan love to press. But we have to recognise that when we genuinely confessed our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). (And yes, we have to be truly repentant.) Forgive, just as God has forgiven you.

  1. Accept the fact you are God’s creation and dearly loved

I had been there- spending time and money to look good on the outside that it became an obsession, and in the end only to discover that I could not be what I hoped to be like someone else. It was depressive. The crux was, I could not accept and love myself. It took me years to learn that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) that there is no one else as unique as me. And the bonus is, I am dearly loved. (John 15:9, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.”)

  1. Look at yourself through God’s eye

Sometimes Satan insinuate us with thoughts of failure, but we have to stand firm secured in our identity as the beloved Child of God, to resist such temptation. After all, we all have failed in one way or another. Remember that we are work-in-progress and remind yourself that God isn’t finished with you yet (Philippians 1:6).

Look at yourself as how God sees you: You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. (Isaiah 62:2-4)

  1. Decide to be positive at all times

Anxiety can creep in like an armed bandit, binding us to worry over things which we cannot control, and which dominates and controls our mind and trouble our heart, filling both with doubt, fear, and dread. Anxiety cannot be removed; it must be replaced- Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things (Philippians 4:8). We remove our anxiety by handing over our concerns and worries to the Lord, trusting him to care for us- Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

God’s power is working in you and through you even when you don’t see or feel it- For you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

  1. Anticipate the abundant life God has in store for you and trust Him

God has a beautiful plan for you. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for us. (Romans 8:28)

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:17 NASB) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Take heart that God will make everything beautiful in His Time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

  1. Always choose to be thankful

Change your garment of mourning to a new garment of thanksgiving- give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19). Just as light and darkness cannot co-exist, similarly, thankfulness and ingratitude cannot occupy the same room in your heart. Count your blessings, each and every day, even for the little things. Sometimes in our busyness and constant pressures from life demands that we can be sidetracked or blinded. By giving thanks, you will begin to see how blessed you are for what you have instead of what you do not have (which many others may not have what you have too!)

  1. Surrender your life to God and start serving others

I discovered that when I let go and let God takes over, it takes my mind off myself. (James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”)

And when I consider how others who are less fortunate than me who need help, I realised life isn’t that harsh on me after all. As I serve others, I am less inclined to wallow in my own self-pity parties (Proverbs 11:25 says “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”). Matthew 6:33 NLT says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” God promises to provide for our needs- so if we run after things, we will never have enough. Seek God first and we will have everything.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome all evils, because the One who is in you is greater than the one (Prince of Darkness) who is in the world. (1 John 4:4). Therefore, you are more than conquerors through Christ who loves you. (Romans 8:37) For every child of God defeats this evil world, and you achieve this victory through faith. (1 John 5:4)

 

Something To Mull Over: A Matter Of Perspective

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And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? – Mark 8:36

Ever heard of the adage that goes, “Many build their wealth at the risk of their health, only to lose their wealth in order to rebuild their health”? Let me offer another angle too- “Many pursue the things of this world at the risk of losing their soul, only to regain their soul by letting go of things of the world.”

People always assert that money can always be earned back, but not health when it is at risk. That explained why many have fallen to sicknesses as a result of high stress and mental illness as a result of depression.

I have been mulling over why I have been obsessing with finances, ever since I embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship, where cashflow is not insured from time to time. I sensed I may be “losing myself”. To begin with, I have been living with a faulty belief system that I need to have more in order to enjoy more, and when I finally got there, somehow I wasn’t happy in achieving the goal. Life somehow seems meaningless- is there all to it – Do our existence contingent on our possessions?

Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Luke 12:15

In other word, greed is a bottomless pit, the constant pursuit of wanting more or having something better, which is never ending can be meaningless.

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. I realised that I need a paradigm shift to see things from another perspective.

 

Which Is Truly Important?

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I may not have earned a lot,

but I am thankful that I am not that poor to worry about my next meal;

I may not own a house,

but I am thankful that I still have roof over my head and a place to sleep;

I do not own a car,

but I am thankful that I do not impose upon myself such a liability;

I may not have amassed much wealth,

but I am thankful I still have good health;

I may not be a game changer,

but I am thankful that I can do what I am best at and called to do;

I may not have achieve success as the world pursues,

but I am thankful I can get up each day to do what I love to do;

I may not have a lot of material things that money can buy,

but I am thankful for the simple things that bring joy which money cannot buy nor time can redeem.

At least I enjoy true peace and a good night rest each day,

for many it costs them too high a price to pay.

At the end of the day, what can you bring to Heaven?

 

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” – Luke 16:10A

Happiness is not something to arrive at or the need to acquire it. True joy can be attained in the moments, even when you have little. Life is best lived simple, if we learn to see things from another perspective.

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 Green-Eyed Monster

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A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30) It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else. (Ecclesiastes 6:9b GNT)

Many years ago, I used to love this perfume, Envy, by Gucci. I simply love its scent, and the green colour was soothing to the eyes too. It was the only perfume as a self-confessed brand loyalist, that I would stick to for years. The second generation after the popular Envy series was, Envy Me. I was contemplating then to try it out, until a remark from a close friend in the church,, “Are you sure it is a good idea to fall head over heel in love with Envy? Are you not aware that Envy is a green-eyed monster?” (My friend was trying to raise her concern without malicious intent on the product, for she knew I struggled with envy……)

Envy reared its ugly head in the early stage of my life because of my own imperfections that I seek perfection elsewhere in order to compensate for the gap: Where I should be in my career; What I should possess in life; And how I should appear to others. I was always on the pursuit of “bigger and better things”, failing which, I was green with envy whenever someone had what I could not have. I once held a conviction that I needed to have certain things to be happy, and envy bred a competitive spirit in me, “Look what they are getting? Why did they deserve it? I deserve what they have! So I am going to get more and have it better!” to a point that I secretly wished they would fail, because it made me feel better that they could not have what I could not have.

Envy was eating into me every time I compared myself to others- it didn’t make me feel superior but rather painfully lousy. And my heart could not be at peace because I was obsessed with covetousness. And contentment was never found in my dictionary.

It took me years to learn that making comparison is the root of all envy. And the very key to overcoming envy is to stop comparing yourself to others. I have to recognise that the Bible says, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need.” (1 Corinthians 4:7-8 The Message) For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)

Instead of focusing so much on the-never-haves and the-never-happens, I should be grateful for what I do have, since life itself is a blessing, and what I have been given not others can have. There isn’t anybody like me, for God made me to do which others can’t. So there isn’t really any basis for comparison. When I knew the truth, the truth sets me free indeed.

The Bible also tells us that we already have more than we need and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God. We can pick a leaf from the Apostle Paul who said, “I have learned to be content.” So being content is a learning process that we have to exercise continually- when we are content, there is no room for envy.

God’s Masterpiece

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At some point in time, I struggled with my own identity, often questioning my existence in God’s Plan and Purpose for my life. Until I literally heard a Voice relating a story and my Spirit singing away (at the end of the story):

A Master potter was at work with his clay to prepare for his art show. After years of refining his skills, his effort paid off; He painstakingly arranged all his potteries in the gallery space. And finally the art show opened its doors to the public. Everybody admired the beautiful pieces as they were perfectly made. Until they came to a showcase where it displayed all chipped, broken and unpolished potteries. One member of the audience, out of curiosity, popped the question, “Why do you display such ugly works on this showcase, Master? They are not worth even to look at.” The Master potter replied with a smile, “I am sure everybody looks at those beautifully crafted potteries displayed on the open pedestals. They appear to look grand and perfect. But to me, they are common pieces which anyone can made. If you take a closer look at them with a magnifying glass, you will see they have chips too. Would you then see them as ugly? So nothing is perfect nor without flaws. But these potteries which you have called ugly, useless, worthless and ignoble, are my greatest masterpieces. I am proud of them so that is why I have separated them on this showcase. Yes, they have cracks or chips not because I made them that way but in the processes when they are made, they are refined by the elements. Don’t you think, each and every pieces are unique? So unique that they are beautiful in itself. Not only do they bear my handprints, they have also withstand the test of time. Each cracks and chips on them has a story behind, and that is what made them more beautiful. And I am most proud of these masterpieces. Although I value all my work the same, but I chose these broken potteries as my signature works because they have noble purposes. And I see them uniquely beautiful. How else will others know they are made by me?” The audience was stunned silenced.

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this? ”Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? – Romans 9:20-21

Do you see yourself as a pot that is lousy with no purposes or value? The world may see the intelligent, smartest, pretty, multi-talented “pots” as perfect and beautiful, but the fact is, they all have cracks and chips we do not see. If you have felt inferior, take heart, because you are truly God’s masterpiece for a noble purpose. It is just that, perhaps, it takes time for you to be fully polished that you can shine like a hidden diamond out of soot. The Master Potter who had made you had put His Heart, Love and designed talents / purpose in you- you are one and only in this world, which only you can do.

(You Are God’s) Masterpiece
(Modified lyrics from the original secular “Masterpiece” song by Atlantic Starr)

A simple touch of His Hand,
And everything is right.
The loving way He looks at you,
Each and every day.
He’d given you the Freedom no other love has known
And now be thankful girl, thankful girl

The countless ways He’ve touched your heart
Is more than you can count
The beauty that He have shown to you
shows that hope’s not lost
A picture perfect painting, that’s what His Love is
And yes you need to know, He loves you so

Chorus:
Ooooh
God’ve made a masterpiece in you
a work of art it’s true
And He treasures you His Love
Ooooh
God’ve made a masterpiece in you
a work of art it’s true
And He treasures you

When times you wonder what you’ll be
Have He not hold you
A lost and dejected soul this world
could show you nothing new

But now your life’s a canvas
painted with His Love
And it will always be
And do you see

God walks with you together
Through time will never part
The Divine Cross He’d shared
is close inside your heart
It will be forever
never let it go
this promise He still make
Heaven is yours to take

Repeat Chorus

When you’re lost and insecure
He builds you up and make you sure
that everything will be alright
My love

Repeat Chorus

(The Divine Cross He’s sharing
is close inside your heart
It will be forever
never let it go)