Learning to Live the Life We’ve Been Given

I believe that following the Lord Jesus Christ almost always involves a major detour in life. We hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, through the Word, in our prayers, and in worship. And until we surrender to His will, there is a strain that is hard to bear.

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Years ago, although I was still waiting for healing, I didn’t want to completely give up my work in the company that I had established. I was looking forward to the day that I would fully recover and go back to the work I so loved doing. But I could feel the strain my resistance was causing. I wasn’t winning in that regard. Eventually, I relinquished all control of my life and future to God and vowed not to return to my work even when He has healed me. The Lord gave all leadership and management of our cosmetic ingredients company to my mechanical engineer husband. Even he experienced a “culture shock” with the change of his occupation: from engineering and maintenance management of a large food manufacturing company to the Cosmetics Industry. But he willingly and gladly obeyed God’s call. This was the detour of our life.

Since then, we have been learning to live this life the Lord has given us. But more so for me.

In previous posts, I wrote about being healed of all negative, unprofitable emotions (mostly and subconsciously directed towards God) I now call the “horrible bundle”. But it turned out that there are still remnants of them in my heart, this time, the ones that are directed towards others.

I needed to go to the IG page of a “celebrity mom” to get her source of seedlings for our kitchen garden. Back when I still visited her IG regularly, she usually posted photos of them planting and harvesting from their backyard garden. I was hesitant to go back and have a look again since the main reason I stopped visiting was that, my feelings of envy were the more kindled every time I see their photos depicting the full, perfect life.

But I wanted to get their source of seedlings and other gardening materials, so off I went. And again, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful life this family is living: both the parents have exciting, fulfilling careers that bring them to beautiful places from time to time; they run marathons (hence, perfect health and fit bodies); they eat homegrown vegetables; they grow their own vegetables and some fruits; they laugh. They live and flourish. And yes, they are a Christian family.

I marvel each time at how different our lives are.

So, I got my source of seedlings but I also went away pondering deeply. Again. I was careful not to slide back to the “horrible bundle”, but the things I saw made me pause and think: Shall I question God again? No, I don’t even want to go there.

In addition to this, I remembered what Felix told me: a wealthy family from church is going to the spiritual, revival crusade in San Jose, California – everyone down to the grandchildren. We would have loved to go also, but we can’t because I am sick. Has been for the last more than 13 years.

I spent the rest of the day seeking wisdom. If only I were wise enough (a sage perhaps) to live the life I have, maybe I wouldn’t feel like this – was somewhat the theme of my thoughts and feelings through the afternoon. How do you live a life that has an important aspect of it which you hate but can’t do anything about?

How do you live it without trying to compare and not feel envious, dissatisfied, dismayed, discontented? Those latter emotions are brought about by the practice of comparing. Why do I compare? Why can’t I help it? Maybe because I grew up competitive. If you love competition (not athletics for me), comparison is its companion and envy is their begotten child. I hate the whole bunch of them. But I found out that afternoon that I am still their prisoner.

In the evening, I found myself writing feverishly on my prayer journal begging God to liberate me from them. To say that I need His help is an understatement. If I feel vulnerable every time and my peace and contentment are easily shaken and so fragile that they easily dissolve with the things I see, then there is a need for me to learn to live this life God has given me. To learn to live it gladly, contentedly, gratefully, without feeling envious or jealous of others. It would be the biggest challenge in my faith life yet. I desperately want to do that, for to live otherwise is not really living at all. A life that is steeped in envious feelings is a life of misery.

The days that followed saw me studying life and faith and the kingdom of God and how they must be lived in a way that they would bring purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in spite of illness and suffering. This is what I was able to grasp:

This is the life we’re given now. We may dream and hope and pray for a better, brighter future, but our present lives must be lived here, now. And when it is lived, it must not be lived half-heartedly, but with everything we’ve got. We cannot postpone life. We cannot postpone joy to sometime in the future when healing (or answer to fervent prayer) and joy could be had.

For me, that still means deep longings along the journey. Longings to travel with family – to see the beach, to enjoy outdoors life together without sickness. Longings. They are often painful, but I believe that to try to expunge them would be impossible in the first place, so why even try? I am trading the “horrible bundle” with envy, comparison, and competition thrown in, but I am keeping the longings. The longings are what makes me human, alive, with a beating heart. Longings are what brings me to my knees and makes me utter prayers only the Spirit understands.

So, to tackle the gritty part: How do I learn to not compare? Honestly, I do not know yet. But I’ll keep on praying.

After Joni Eareckson Tada had her diving accident which left her a quad, she wrote that to compare her life to others would be an emotional suicide. Perfectly said. So, she learned not to look and compare but to fully depend on Jesus. Easier said than done. I know even for her who has grown to be wise, Christ-wise.

But this is what I will do: To make other people’s beautiful lives inspire and encourage me to do the best I can with what I’ve been given, instead of letting them drive me to envy and self-pity. To remember that a life is most meaningful when lived for God. Faithfully. Everyday.

Let’s then fill our lives and days with things that impact eternity and not the world.

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Hope for Undeserved Grace

Meditating on Psalm 143.

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous. (vv. 1-2)

If you asked me what my most favorite psalms were, I would readily answer, “Psalms 91 and 23”. But you know what? I found out that meditating on each of the psalms brings us different blessings, each unique and beautiful and powerful in its own right. Such is Psalm 143. Each of the stanzas seems to speak of different themes, but all in all, they are prayers of a man who knew his God intimately, had an intimate relationship with Him, and knew his own frailty and need for grace. Psalm 143 is a collection of short prayers of a man who hoped and clung on the grace and mercy of God. And I know that in times of my great weakness and need, I had prayed them, too, in varying words and purposes, but the intensity was pretty much the same.

Psalm 143 is a plea for underserved grace. For it is always really that: the grace bestowed on us every waking moment by the Father is undeserved. For how can we receive healing for our broken hearts and bodies if He demands first our perfection? No. Our wholeness always comes from Jesus’ perfect love not ours. “…By His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53;5); “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). If He entered into judgment with us, what would become of us? What would we receive from Him as answer to our most earnest prayers? But God, in His unfailing love and faithfulness, receives our prayers and answers them, when we come before Him in humble acknowledgement of our weaknesses and imperfections. It’s all His grace.

I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

7 Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. (vv. 6-7)

Have you longed for Jesus’ like that? Yearned for Him and needed Him so much you actually reached out your hand before you, not seeing Him, yet believing that He’s always near, near enough to feel His comforting presence. Near enough to expect Him to take your proffered hand. I have. And I believe that we should always have that fervent love for Him.

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You. (v. 8)

Psalm 143 is a reminder to not go ahead of God’s plan for us and pursue our own plans without acknowledging Him first or knowing His will. But it’s wisdom to seek His face and lovingkindness in the morning and surrender ourselves to His leading. Always to His leading. For that is the only way to life eternal.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Perla Frisberg).

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Journey with Jesus,