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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Linking up with Tell His StoryWise WomenCoffee for Your HeartFaith Filled Friday.

Better Than Life

Chapter 11 of my ebook The Wrestlings Along the Narrow Path discusses God’s love, how we are secure knowing that His love never fails and endures forever. Today, I want to talk about God’s love which is better than life.

(image from Google)

Have you tried pondering on the words of Psalm 63: 3?

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

How that God’s love is better than life itself?

We all love life. We do our best to hold onto it, spending thousands, even millions (for those who can afford), to find cure or treatment to diseases that threaten to destroy it. We find ways to live life to the full, working really hard to bring fulfilment to our dreams. We love life and all the pleasures it brings. But sometimes, it doesn’t stay that way. Sometimes, life brings us trials that are hard to endure.

And then there are people who, though they seem to have everything in life – health and wealth – still find themselves hauling an unexplained emptiness.

One morning, I woke up with a heavy heart. Something happened the night before that had wounded my heart, and though I had cried and prayed, when I woke up the next day, I still felt restless and — empty and quite lost. I prayed again, thinking about the good things that awaited me that day, things I would love to do. But the inspiration and joy that I had always trusted to come every morning weren’t there.

It dawned on me that no matter how exciting one’s plans are, if problems and sorrow try to embrace your being, life just seems to fade into the background. Like it’s not what you really want. What could be better than wanting life and choosing life and embracing life?

I had found it that day: God’s love. If you cannot experience God’s love, if it seems to you that, unless you catch it and take a good grasp of it, life is meaningless. Yes.

Though we know God’s love is constant, it doesn’t change, it doesn’t vary in intensity and magnitude – our experience of it does. Sometimes, we unconsciously go far from it. We immerse ourselves to temporary, fleeting pleasures that we had forgotten the love that never fails.

To experience God’s love we need to stay in its embrace 24/7. We need to be constantly entering into it by entering into God’s presence. It is only when we diligently seek God’s face and bask in His holy presence that we experience the uninterruptible flow of His divine love. And it is this that we carry through the day as we go about our business and chores.

It is God’s love that gives life to our lives. Yes, even when life itself might be fading away. The experiencing of God’s love takes away the misery in life.

This is what walking through the shadow of the valley of death does to a Christ-follower: it catapults him or her straight to His love. In late-2004, in one of those episodes where I was struggling between life and death, all I wanted to know and feel and trust was the Lord Jesus’ love. I prayed over and over in between hardships, “Dearest Lord Jesus, I just want to know You are here with me now. I just want to feel You, Your love, and that will suffice.” To know and feel His love that encompasses all – His mercy, salvation, healing, comfort – is the best thing that could ever happen to a human being.

I had found that, no matter how hard life on earth is, the love of God that’s in the Lord Jesus Christ makes everything bearable, lighter, comforting. It makes joy and peace to triumph. 

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

When You’re Torn Between Two Desires

Thursday night I came before God to sing praises and worship. My heart was hurting. No one could even have noticed it, it was just a silent throbbing of ache deep within, enough to make me sigh in unspoken sorrow. I was careful not to think too much about what was hurting me. I might not be able to handle it.

(image from Google)

I sang, my heart crying out for understanding. And for peace and comfort. My husband and the kids were going to the province to attend my father’s clan’s grand reunion. You know that I still can’t travel that far – a 5-hour car drive. My relatives from the states who came home for the event begged me to allow the kids to go. Hannah did, too. The last time we traveled to my hometown was when she was 1 or 2 years old. She can’t remember it. She’s now 12. The last time I saw the home I grew up in was a decade ago. My mother still lives there.

I sang, a tear sliding down the corner of an eye. Then another. It would have been wonderful to be able to go home with them, embracing those beloved folks, my aunts, who helped mold me. It would have been lovely giving the kids a tour of our little town, where I went to school, my friends’ houses. To show them a glimpse of my childhood.

But I couldn’t. And this song perfectly expressed what was going on in my heart.

Give me eyes to see more of who You are

May what I behold still my anxious heart

Take what I have known and break it all apart

For You, my God, are greater still.

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here…*

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here. My soul was silently begging God to make everything well in the places in me that hurt. Then He began to comfort me. I could feel it, so I started to sing One Thing I Desire. Tim heard it (he was with me in the room) and he sat beside me on the bed and sang with me. He sang fervently and seriously. He knows that song and loves it. I put my arm around him and we continued to sing together.

I’m fine now. I know that a victorious Christian must follow the way to triumph and not the way to despair and self-pity. The Lord makes me to stand and I will stand in His strength. Glory to Him!

Actually, I know deep within that a Christian who has given him or herself to the Lord will be fine even without the fulfilment of the dreams and pleasures he or she desires. He or she will be fine because the Lord is able to uphold him or her. The only problem is when we look at the world and gradually and unconsciously subscribe to its beliefs, norms, and practices.

Progress and development has changed the panorama of rest and recreation. Prosperity has brought families to different parts of the world to delight in amazing amusement parks and worlds of wonders. This isn’t bad at all. But there was an age when kids were happy to play without having to pay and going far. When climbing trees made them shriek in pure pleasure. When catching butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles was so much fun and it was free and it was only on the nearby hill, in the open field, or in the vacant lot! Happiness then was free and pure and near.

And who said that this has gone passé? If we can’t go to places and spend fabulous vacations abroad because of one reason or another – financial, health, duties and obligations, time constraints – it doesn’t mean our lives lack meaning or vibrancy or we are missing out so much. These things, for example, gallivanting in Universal Studios-Singapore  or frolicking in Hong Kong Disneyland – are not the norm in the kingdom of God. They are not the standard. So, if we can’t go, we’re not missing out. We’re not being deprived. The promises of God don’t specifically give us these entitlements. But He promises to give us peace, joy, love in abundance in the Holy Spirit.

We can be torn between two desires (God and the world) when we believe that, as others do, we must also. It’s alright if we have all the things we need to fulfil our dreams – health, finances, God’s approval. But if we don’t, it’s alright, too! We’re not being left behind. Are happiness and pleasure that elusive that if we can’t go we’re devoid of them? Whether we travel or not, everything is ours, for we are heirs of the kingdom!

21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader [or your friends or neighbours or the world]. For everything belongs to you—22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. (1 Cor. 3:21-23 NLT, bracketed annotations mine)

Um, friends, may I invite you to my new, very simple blog where I journal the daily ordinary and maybe by doing so, I might convert it into joy right where we are. Please click the link:

Thank you! See you over there :)!

*Greatness of Our God written by Reuben Morgan, Jason Ingram and Stuart Garrard.

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,