What Makes Life Beautiful?

Because of social media, people can now show off their lives for all the world to see and admire. But a life that is seen through the screen is just a small facet of the whole. The life lived behind it, hidden from the world’s hungry eyes, is what essentially matters. If we live our moments just so we can brag them to the world is not really living. The thing that I’m learning now is to live for my sake and the ones I love, and not for the sake of the world. That is not selfish at all if you will allow me to elucidate. Because of the pull of social media, we have learned to make little decisions that are based not on our own needs and their importance in our lives, but because we think that they will impress the world. 

beautiful life

We can easily see that when, instead of letting the hungry husband dive into the sumptuous dinner before us, for example, he’ll still have to wait because we are going to take pictures first (for IG perhaps!) before the nice arrangement is messed up. Instead of sitting quietly down to dinner, thank the Lord for the good food and ask Him to bless it, then share it with the ones we love gathered around, our thoughts and actions are centered on sharing it first to the world. We make these little decisions for the sake of the world and not for us.

Now, if we fail to show our moments to the world before they come to pass, we feel like there’s something lacking in our lives. But, this shouldn’t be the case. Our lives should be lived to satisfy us and not the world through its “likes and comments”.

Is life beautiful because a photo shared is scooping up “likes” by the hundreds or even thousands? Is that the gauge?

I’m learning, dear readers, I’m learning!

What makes life beautiful? Is it what people see on the outside? Or is it essentially the life on the inside, the one that cannot be seen? The one that is sturdily connected to its Creator and Sustainer and Savior? The one that is whole and full and complete enough in its God it doesn’t need glorying in “likes”? The one that doesn’t need to show off because it is happy and contented in itself?

I am learning hard, yes, on how to live this one life in contentment in God and not in the world. Sometimes, we think that striving to make our lives beautiful for others to admire and emulate is the way to happiness, but I believe that we need to create first a place in our inmost being that is authentically contented, happy, and grateful before it can even be called beautiful. Our lives should deeply satisfy us first before it can attempt to satisfy others. They should be loved, cherished, and made happy first before they can even be useful to others.

I used to think that adorning and surrounding my life with beautiful things – scented candles, pretty English teacups, flowers arranged in a crystal vase, lovely and comfortable bedroom with walls and covers in perfect harmony (you get the picture) – will somehow cover the want in other areas, such as the lack of health and the absence of travel because of it. These things could temporarily bring comfort and joy and even peace, but in no way can they reach that place in the heart and soul where true and enduring happiness and contentment reside, if in the very first place they aren’t there. The true state of the heart, mind, and soul will determine whether the life that they support is beautiful or wanting.

I have to ask this because it is my life right now: Is there beauty at all in suffering? All kinds of suffering for that matter? I believe there is if it brings us to a closer, more intimate walk with our Savior. If it drives us to pursue holiness that is not superficial. Suffering, if seen in the right perspective, is sanctifying. If our suffering ends in our sanctification, then suffering has served its purpose. Now, don’t go gawking at that word: holiness. The truth is, we are called to it. We are called to be saints (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). We are called to pursue holiness.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

A holy life is one that worships God in spirit and in truth, both in the most private place of our lives and in the congregation with other believers.

Shouldn’t a life be established in peace and joy and confidence first in the Lord Jesus Christ before it could even be called beautiful? Shouldn’t a beautiful life begin with a happy and satisfied heart in God first and a spirit that praises and thanks God with its all before it can even be seen and admired by others?

For what is a life if it wallows in its inability to be happy and content in its God who makes all things possible for it? What is a life if it endlessly whines for the lack and cannot see the blessings all around it and rejoice in them and thank God for every single one? What is a life if it cannot see the good?

First, a life must see God, both in the tangible and intangible. Both in the fruit (that we see) and in faith. In the gifts and rewards and in hopes and dreams. A life that sees God in suffering and in victory. In woe and in awe. In fear and in peace. In joy and sadness. A beautiful life is able to balance these and still flourish. And rejoices in the Lord.

A life is beautiful from the inside out when it is drenched in love on both sides: the Lord Jesus’ unfailing, faithful love and our steadfast, growing one. I believe the secret is being truly loving from the depths of our souls. Such love should be reflected in our relationships.

What makes a life beautiful even with all its trials and struggles and suffering? It is that radiance that’s a reflection of God’s glory. It is never easy, I know. For often our lives reflect the suffering or the want. But we need to ask this: Is it about us? Isn’t it about Him working in and through us for His joy, renown, honor and glory? For His kingdom? And yet, it’s also about us as far as He is concerned: the ones He’s known and loved and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:4), the blessed recipients of His mercy and grace. For didn’t He give His life to give us ours?

And the life that He gave – it is beautiful.

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A Need to Refocus on Jesus

Sighing. Sadness. Heaviness. Grey clouds hovering. Maybe a trace of discontent, dismay even. That’s because we’ve been training our eyes on the world, more specifically, on our FB newsfeeds, rather than on the face of Jesus and on the pages of His eternal Word. There’s a need to refocus.

From the time I retired to bed last night to the moment I opened my eyes to another new day, the heaviness accompanied me, as well as the beckoning of the Beatitudes. I was looking for comfort from the Lord and He was directing me to the Beatitudes. As I waited for sleep to come, He was training my eyes toward His list of the truly blessed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:3-10)

No matter how we read the Beatitudes, backwards or upwards, the theme is the same: it’s the godly poor and needy who are truly blessed. There is not a line that says, “Blessed are those who live in luxury and pleasure…” On the other hand, the Lord speaks of them in Matthew 6, “They have their reward.”

In all of the 33 years that Jesus lived on earth, there was not a time that He lived in luxury and pleasure. (Except perhaps when He slept in the boat with a pillow, or when He was invited to dinner and was served food and wine while His feet were washed with tears and anointed with spikenard. But even then, He’s been working, teaching the people and healing the sick that were brought to Him). From the night He was born in a manger to the day He was nailed to the cross, He modelled nothing but a life of humility and simplicity, love and mercy.

To my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ: If we only take our eyes off of the world and refocus them on Jesus, our hearts will be cleansed, our minds renewed, and we’ll live again in the glory of being the true children of God.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:16-17 NIV)

What comfort do these words bring to our sighing and hungering souls! But Apostle Peter is not done yet. He has this other reminder to us. It is of utmost importance that he begs us to obey:

 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. (1 Pet. 2:11)

Ah! If we only let our whole beings be soaked in these powerful words of life again, there’d be no weary wrestlings but only peace and joy unspeakable and full of glory!

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Fruits or Briers?

Lately, I’ve been plagued by a desire to undo the ugliness of the past by wishing it had been different. It came to a point where I talked to my husband about it in all seriousness and sincerity. He said solemnly that, if he had been a true Christian then, the choices would have been different. He, too, would have wanted a pure relationship. If only he had known the Lord Jesus Christ then. But I need to start from where it all began.

When I entered college many years ago, I was like a breath of fresh air, idealistic and innocent. Just like the pure, fresh scent of the evergreens surrounding the ladies dorm and university, my life blossomed. I honestly believed it would stay that way through career, courting, and marriage. But during the career and courting stage where I was exposed to the world and its temptations, everything changed. My pure plans were ruined and my ideals came crashing down with them. Me and my ideals were a lot weaker against the works of the enemy.

I don’t know why, but lately as I have been reading stories about Christian courtships and marriages, how beautiful and wonderful they are in their pureness in Christ – I have been desiring to redo my past and make the memories beautiful and something to be proud of. But how can you undo the past? It’s over and done with and that’s that. So, I wrestled. I wanted to remake the memories so I could look back with fondness. But that can never happen.

We all have different pasts. Some regret, but still others reminisce with fondness. The choices we made in the past were the ones which created those memories. We cannot redo them; we can only begin making beautiful ones today. We can again uphold those ideals we embraced growing up because we follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I believe that by living a new life in Him and nurturing our relationships in the beauty of His love and teachings – whether in courtship, marriage, or family – the ugly memories of the past will be covered by the beauty of the present moments. That can happen because — the truth has been written ages ago:

He has made everything beautiful in its time… (Ecc. 3:11)

There was a time in our lives (our past) that we were lost and didn’t know how to live righteously, in holiness, and in all the Lord’s beauty. But now is the call to make our lives beautiful and bright – all for His glory! There is a whole new possibility for that because He Himself gives us the power and resources to be able to do so.

For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Heb. 6:7-8)

God rains down on us so we could drink and grow and flourish. He rains down on us in whatever way – blessings or trials – so we could bear abundant fruits by them. Every single morning He ushers in with His new mercies, He is giving us a chance to grow and bear fruit and live in beauty, a beautiful life in Christ Jesus. But how have we been soaking up God’s rain? Have we been bearing fruits or briers?

I love that at any point in life, we can stop living in ugliness and darkness and start living in beauty just because there is a faithful and powerful Savior who can turn our lives around. So, let’s welcome each morning with the renewed enthusiasm to create beautiful memories that will last forever!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Ps. 30:11-12)

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Christian Discipline: When We Make Our Possessions Our Gods

No, this is not a heavy-handed sermon on idolatry (although I know that there a lot of people out there who have shifted their affections from the living God to things that give them pleasure). The Bible says that when we obsessively covet something, that is idolatry.

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5, emphasis mine)

This is about my daughter Hannah. And I’m not writing this to put her down or embarrass her. I’m sharing this so we can all learn the lesson.

Before Hannah learned to use a cellphone, she had a beautiful, exciting life. When she was 5 or 6, she loved art. She still does today but she rarely has time. When I went to the hospital to give birth to Tim, she shoved a shoebox and a big brown envelop towards me filled with her arts and crafts she especially prepared for my stay in the hospital. “To remember me by, Mom” were her parting words.

She used to love to play, swinging in the park high up in the air or biking around the neighborhood, her long hair flying with the wind. She had an appreciation of nature – examining bugs and insects and flowers even the tiniest ones. And she never missed to bring me flowers from her forays around our village. If she didn’t see fresh ones from the stalks, she picked up fallen frangipanis from the ground. But she grew up and learned other things, things that are not necessarily beneficial.

She has a natural computer acumen, almost instinctive. Are children of this age born with it? Hannah coaches me in photo editing and in designing my upcoming book! Needless to say, she knows a lot that I didn’t know about. But her academic performance took a downturn when she wrapped her life around her gadgets. Being strictly disciplined by us in using the laptop (only school work), she maximized the use of her Android cellphone. I gave it to her last Christmas so she could call us when she was away.

But as I’ve said, she wrapped her whole life around it, neglecting other things. I believe this is the reason why she didn’t receive a medal in academic excellence this year, only gold and silver certificates. This summer, her obsession of her cellphone got worse. Of course, she still does the chores she’s assigned, but her consciousness is with her gadgets. She received a big case of art materials from her aunt and uncle from the states but she has not opened it yet. She has many unread  books in the library but they remain unread. After her successful piano recital 2 weeks ago, she has not sat down in front of the piano to play some tunes. I told her to research some praise music pieces to learn so we can give glory to God with them, but she chooses to hole up in the guest room tinkering with her cellphone.

My patience maxed out yesterday morning. I called her in the room and gave her a dressing down. I explained to her what was happening with her life because of her obsession with gadgets. Her cellphone was the first thing she reached for in the morning and the last thing she laid aside at night. I reminded her that she has been neglecting to pray and praise before bedtime. I told her how she has traded life with her cellphone which is impotent. Yes, I told her how she has made her cell phone her god. It hurt I know, but Proverbs 27:5 says, “A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed” (MSG).

Everything that takes us away from the worship of the living God and steals our love for Him is from the devil. That is his main goal: to create gods out of our possessions.

I opened my Bible and brought her to Revelation 2:2-4:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Emphasis mine).

I reminded her that the Lord Jesus Christ is our first love, our joy, our life! That He died on the cross to give us life, for we were dead in our sins. But He came to give us life and that life is abundant! Abundant in love and joy and excitement with our fellowship with Him, with the people in our lives and the gifts He gave us, like music, art, play, talents, etc.

With tears in my eyes and the hairs of my arms standing up, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as I implored her to renew her love for the Lord and enjoy the life He has given.

There’s more. When I told her gently but firmly that I needed to take back the cellphone , she was displeased. I told her that it was the enemy who has taken a foothold on her that was resisting. If it was the Holy Spirit, she should have humbled down and willingly surrendered her cellphone. I explained to her that. In the end, I knew my words found their way to her heart, by the grace of God.

 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

We must redeem our children from the gods of this world.

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,