Choose Love Over Guilt

I know that there are Christ-followers like me who are too hard on themselves. For years of faithfully serving the Lord, I had put the burden of “feeling guilty” upon myself even for unfounded reasons. I had believed that God was always on the lookout for my faults, however little they were. That He’s just waiting for me to slip up, make the wrong move, word, or thought, and He was there ready to pounce. Well, I hadn’t exactly imagined it that way, but I had punished myself into feeling guilty even before I knew what He was going to do about my slip-ups, shortcomings, and failures. That hard feeling on myself drove me to believe that God was displeased, even angry at me, and maybe He didn’t want to have anything to do with me. And because I was believing and feeling that, there were times I hardly knew how to present myself to Him but to cower and beg for mercy.

But I found out that if we punish ourselves for every single failure, mistake, or shortcoming that we didn’t even do wilfully, but only that we’re sometimes weak – WE CAN NEVER FEEL JESUS’ LOVE. When we willingly receive Satan’s serving of guilt in a silver platter and believe that Jesus is probably fuming about what we’ve done this time – we can think, feel, and even believe anything just for us to avoid presenting ourselves before Him. And that’s exactly what the devil wants: to alienate us from our Lord and King. He will use just about anything just so we’ll not feel the healing and comforting love of Jesus. And guilt is one of his powerful weapons. But know this:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. (1 John 3:20-21)

Now, I’m slowly learning that the Lord Jesus Christ wants to draw us in love, not in fear. He wants to throw His net of love upon us and draw us to shore where His serving of grace awaits us. Now I’m really believing that Jesus’ love is far more powerful than any failure, mistake, or shortcoming I’ll ever commit. Or for those who are still needing salvation: His love is far greater than any sin they had ever committed. We’ve been in that place of abounding grace, too, when the Savior covered all our sins and washed us clean from every one of them. We should not forget that that grace, abundant and free-flowing, is always available to us whenever we seek Him, believing that He will always receive us in love.

I’m slowly believing that the Lord wants His children to flourish in His all-encompassing love, and not in crippling fear and all its products such as guilt, endless self-recrimination, self-hatred, etc. which, when we really examine them, are Satan’s weapons to draw us away from the Father’s love. So, let’s come before the Lord with our humble and contrite hearts believing that He’s always waiting for us with His love that never wanes.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Journey with Jesus,

Let Jesus

This Sunday morning, I was having a feeling of trepidation again as my husband and the kids prepared for church. That always happens though in varying intensities. And today, it was one of those times that it peaked again. I don’t know why but on Sundays, when my family goes to church leaving me only with the maid, my discomforts and suffering increase a few notches. I thought I should have asked my son Tim to stay behind to accompany me as I watched the live webcast of our worship service (I usually do that on Sundays that Cherubim’s Choir’s not singing), but I honestly thought he was going to sing today.

At one point, my anxiety, which triggered difficulty in breathing, peaked and I knew I had to trust in myself to relax and recover. There really is no outside help for me: no meds, no nurse, no doctors, no hospital. There’s only me and my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And THAT MUST WORK, otherwise, I would have been found “lifeless” many times over the years. But miraculously, that never happened. Obviously, my faith in Jesus is working for me. Hallelujah!

So, what was the life-giving, mind-strengthening inspiration that came to me as I was face to face with fear and suffering again today? It was this: that Jesus loves me and He has made my heart right with God, so no matter what happens, I’m going to be okay. That He is right there and that He knows me and calls me by my name and knows exactly where I am. That I AM ACTUALLY HELD RIGHT THERE IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND. That my life’s in the cleft of the Rock, and I am very, very safe.

Has the verse 1 John 4:18 been working for you? Or have you been wrestling with it, trying your very best to live it out, for it to be real in your life? So real you can taste and feel its power?

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

I have been through all the studying, wrestling, and striving just so this verse will become real and alive and powerful in my life. For it to become a place of rest. A place of healing. But I found out that it doesn’t come with our works, our own doings, but it’s purely the Lord’s doing. It’s His gift. This is the thing:

IF WE RECEIVE THE LOVE JESUS HAS FOR US – PURE, POWERFUL, LIFE-GIVING, UNFAILING – WE RECEIVE THIS PERFECT LOVE. It all happens in the receiving, people! If we are sick and weak and worried, if we are brokenhearted and weary and find no rest – WE CAN REST IN HIS LOVE! We don’t have to do anything but to just LET JESUS LOVE US! Let His grace cover our mistakes and failures. Let Him carry our burdens. Oh friend, that huge baggage you’ve been lugging on your shoulder, so heavy you’re already stooped – give it to Jesus! Let Him save us; let Him perform a miracle in our lives! Let Him do what we cannot do but have always insisted on doing. Let Him for He is able. He is strong and powerful and gracious and compassionate and plenteous in mercy and He is our God!

Let Him be true to His promises. For He will perform them when we give Him the chance.

So, be not afraid. Let Jesus. His perfect love casts out all fears.

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I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Coffee for Your Heart.

Journey with Jesus,

When You’re All Alone in Your Pain

Meditating on Psalm 142.

Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul. (v. 4)

We have David weeping and crying out to the Lord again. Alone in the cave he resorted to, fleeing his enemies, he lamented his predicament. He felt so all alone, deserted, bereft of someone, anyone, who could comfort his soul. Except the Lord. When David found himself in the isolated island of loneliness, fear, and uncertainty, he cried out to God. He knew that in Him, he was never really alone.

I cried out to You, O Lord:
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living. (v. 5)

Have you been in that place? A dark, damp, musty cave where there was no escaping? The jagged walls are hostile, cold, and wet. Creepy creatures seem to lurk in the dark nooks waiting to make their attack. Well, you may not find yourself in a real cave like that, but still, you feel alone and scared and the world around you seems not to care, or cold and hostile even.

I have been in that horrifying place. When sin and guilt morphed into a full-blown monster and attacked my mind, I was like a trembling leaf petrified to the core. I went out but the demons of fear followed me. They were in the restaurant where I ate, or in the mall, or in the corridors of the hospital where I walked with shaky legs, or in the doctors’ clinics that smelled of antiseptic. Or in the dimly-lit room of the psychiatrist (now, that was like a cave minus the stalactites and stalagmites). The people around me and in the other tables talked and laughed like I wasn’t unraveling and crumbling inside. To be sitting there, feeling like a whirlwind is swallowing you up into the depths, and yet, they don’t know – is a pure chilling feeling. That is what it feels to be isolated, deserted.

The people who try to help cannot really do it. They cannot reach that far or that deep. No doctors, no therapists, no friends, no family – yes, just like David – can reach out to save the drowning. Only Jesus. I have been in that place and have found out that only Jesus can reach out that far and deep and dangerous. Only He has the unequalled power and the intensity of unconditional love to save and deliver. He gained it from His death on the cross – our redemption and salvation, our healing, our deliverance from the dark cave, the whirlwind, the dimly-lit psychiatrist’s office, and the demons. All the things that ever imprisoned us.

There is nothing that His grace cannot reach and His love cannot cover. He fills all things and He’s in all things.

 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Eph. 4:9-10 NIV

When you think you’re all alone in your fear and pain, you’re never really alone. Run to Jesus. He is our refuge, our portion in the land of the living. He will deal bountifully with us.

Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me. (v. 7)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Coffee for Your Heart.

Journey with Jesus,

A Movable Peace

I know how painfully hard it is to live with an unquiet mind. When my illness set in in late-2003, it came with a great fearfulness. I call it borderline nervous breakdown. It ran on and off for years and it was utterly insidious. We would go to the riverside park near our home where Hannah and her Dad would be running or playing in the open space, the green grass underneath their feet and the blue vastness over them were testimonies of a beautiful world. But I was crippled by a different reality: my mind was gripped by an unexplained fear and it had taken over my whole being. It followed me wherever. It was very present. Peace of mind was my most sought-after thing, but it proved to be the most elusive. It was nonexistent.

But that’s taking it to the extreme. I had long been totally healed by the Lord from that crippling affliction. What I want to talk about is how to grasp peace and bask in it in our daily lives, being mentally and emotionally sound as we are. My natural tendency is to talk a lot: explain a lot, tell stories a lot, or express my opinions a lot. Sometimes, give a lengthy sermon to my tween daughter or to the maids. But I myself is deafened by my own words and by the din of my own voice. At times, wearied by them.

I have begun a practice that is helping me to relish peace wherever I am and whatever the situation is. It’s rather easy. I practice to be silent. I choose to be silent no matter how difficult the circumstances are. And in my silence, I luxuriate in the peace I have within.

In mid-2004, just a few months after my husband and I received salvation, we were traveling to the nearby province to attend a wedding (I could travel short distances then). A sister in Christ and an elder was traveling with us. She and my husband were gaily talking about people in church. At times they would burst out laughing. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was silent in my seat as I thought about apostle Paul’s admonitions. Foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Eph. 5:3-4, rearranged).

I looked out the window of the car and took pleasure in gazing at the verdant fields. Peace abode within me and it was like a piece of heaven. It traveled with me. I had a movable peace.

Even in the face of great excitement, something inside of me, like a still small voice, pulls me inward and stops me from losing myself in the frenzy. When I do succeed to keep silent amid the ruckus, inner peace strengthens and gladdens me. Mary on the barn floor always comes to mind.

After an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field in the cold of night, they hasted to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. So, they gathered around the manger and saw with their own eyes and they went about telling everyone about the child Jesus. And all those who heard marvelled. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (See Luke 2).

In the midst of the flurry of the birth of the Savior, Mary remained quiet and kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. She had a quiet spirit. And underneath that quiet facade was an inner strength that wasn’t easily shaken. Yes, even when the angel Gabriel appeared before her to bring her the news that she would conceive and give birth to a son, while she was still a virgin and betrothed to Joseph.

Maintaining a gentle and quiet spirit in any circumstances brings a sturdy inner calm. This is bred by keeping our spirit in an uninterrupted communion with the Spirit of God. The verse below was my very powerful weapon during those days of utter fear and restlessness. It has become my practice ever since.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. (Is. 26:3)

Sometimes, we cannot find peace even if we are in a quiet place because we carry a restless mind. By cultivating a quiet spirit, peace will find its seat inside of us so that wherever we go, it moves with us.

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(Photo courtesy of my good friend Perla Frisberg of Malmo, Sweden, and edited at picmonkey.com).

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

Exceedingly Great Reward

I was sitting in our astrovan parked just beside the side door of the chapel while the midweek service rolled on. Felix, Hannah, and Maricris (my then caregiver) were inside the chapel. The gnawing fear that had enveloped me ever since I became ill in 2003 continued its insidious work in me, its grip tightening ever more that afternoon. When an ex-convict who had become a convert testified in the pulpit, the demons of fear who had been congregating around me intensified their work. This time, I was so afraid of the testimony I just heard. I felt like my life was in danger.

(image from Google)

I couldn’t shake it off. I fretted, I obsessed, I worried no end as the Church worshiped. I felt like God wasn’t on my side but on the side of the people who planned to harm me (though such people were nonexistent; it was only in my mind). I was thinking that He wouldn’t be there to help me when evil people come to get me, that He was not that powerful to deliver me. I knew all these things to be outright lies, vain imaginings, but I couldn’t help being helpless against the demons of fear.

Fear was like my shadow. It was with me everywhere. It made me heave a thousand sighs all day. It was wearying. Debilitating. It saw no reason. It was like the demons of fear had taken over my once brilliant brain and I was powerless over them even though I was already serving the living God for over two years. This was the beginning of summer of 2006.

I looked at the preachers’ booth and I saw the back of the head of a preacher I hadn’t seen before. Maybe he came from another outreach. During praise and worship, I saw him clapping and waving his hands in abandon. I marvelled at his fervor. Maybe he’s an anointed preacher, too. I can’t wait to hear his message. 

We were in Pampanga Fasting House chapel en route to a crusade in the province.

The visiting preacher began his sermon. I was still trying to quiet the demons.

Then with a powerful voice, he cried,

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Gen. 15:1, emphasis added)

I was literally jolted out of my stupor! I felt like I was doused with a drum of cold water and it hit me, splintering the shroud of fear that had been gripping me.

My shield! My exceeding great reward! It was not simply great (though great IS great!), it was exceedingly great!

The God of Abraham who is also my God is my exceedingly great reward! Fear not, fear not, fear not! 

This was my enlightenment – my gateway to true freedom and powerful Christian life!

That night at the hotel, I prayed to God with copious weeping, like a dam had burst inside me and I was relinquishing all fears and begging God to walk with me every step of the way, while holding on tightly to Genesis 15:1.

Never give up on God, however hard the journey becomes at times.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6)

I can’t remember the exact day when God finally turned my captivity and wiped away all my fears. One day, I just realized that they were gone and in their place were peace, joy, wisdom, and a well of inspiration.

God had turned my mourning into dancing! He has, indeed, become my exceedingly great reward!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,