Rest

Rest is good. But for many of us including myself, we want to avoid it as much as possible and as long as we can hold out. That is, until we are burned out. Or until we hear the voice of the Lord calling, inviting us to His presence where we can find rest and peace for our souls. For the strong who move about in the world “spinning yarn into gold” day and night, they may find rest in their plush hotel rooms as exhaustion catches up with them. What they have is physical rest which their bodies so badly need.

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus'. It's a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( .

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. Although the name was inspired by one of my favorite praise songs,”Jesus at the Center”, I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus’. It’s a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( . Who or what is at the center of your life?

The owner of a large Japanese cosmetic ingredients manufacturer who is a supplier of our own company for the past two decades recently visited Manila. Before his trip here, he passed through China, his days dotted with business meetings. When Felix my husband met him, this ageing businessman looked so tired and haggard he was ready to drop. He recounted to Felix his many appointments before and after his visit to our country. He is so busy and always on-the-go that he got confused with which airlines he was flying in until Felix offered his assistance.

This man may squeeze in rest in-between his wildly busy schedule, but it will just be a physical rest, a few hours of sleep wherein his body ceases to do any activity. But at every waking moment, the mind zooms in automatically on the day’s agenda.

I believe that true rest is free of worries, fears, and anxieties. That the waking moments are sweet, to be relished and not to be dreaded.

True rest is finding a place where our bodies, minds, and hearts can settle in peace and comfort. I believe that it is in this kind of rest that our bodies produce and multiply healthy cells and we recover.

We know that, but often, we forget. I do.

Two weeks ago, about the time I was supposed to write for my weekly blogpost, I had already planned on a topic. But as I collected the thoughts in my mind, it felt like the cup wasn’t filling up. It remained empty. That was my cup. I was running on empty and the Lord wanted me to see that.

I cannot write about what I do not have. I cannot give away what myself is lacking and needing, because it isn’t even there.

Simply put, I cannot give what I haven’t received.

So, I decided to pass the week without a blogpost. I needed a writing holiday. It wasn’t about the writing per se, it was about being filled up so I have something to pour out.

I needed rest – my mind, my heart, and most of all, my body. I posted an unfinished strawberry painting project on IG and informed everyone that there wouldn’t be a new blogpost on that week.

It was very clear that the Lord was inviting me to rest. His rest. And I couldn’t deny anymore the fact that my weak and ailing body was crying out for it.

Rest is God’s gift to His children. Rest is His grace. Rest is His mercy. (For we could be so stubborn sometimes, ignoring the rhythms of our bodies and being cruel to them). To enter into His rest every now and then is an standing invitation. All we need to do is drop everything and enter in.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat. 11:28-30)

These words of the Lord Jesus Christ show how compassionate He is toward us – the weary, the burnt out, the suffering, the stooped-down.

Why do we keep on spinning until we succumb to exhaustion, endlessly doing and performing and achieving and reaching and striving? No matter how much we deny it, we keep on doing because we want to leave a mark. We want our lives to matter. And I believe that is not a bad thing. But I also believe that our performances matter less to God than our deep desire to commune with Him and revel in His presence.

And maybe, we also unintentionally offend God when we work so hard to show to the world a stellar work, claiming it’s for God’s glory, but in reality, our marks and fingerprints are all over the place. We may not realize it but He knows our hearts more than we do. Our work should bear His marks and fingerprints. 

So, I entered into God’s rest and did my best to keep still and be not distracted by the world. It’s easier to do that when there is physical suffering involved. But entering into His rest also requires our humbling down and heartfelt confessing and repenting, if we know there are reasons to, like when we have made a god of our work or something. It is only when peace descends upon us that we can settle in His rest. And even if there is suffering, His unfailing love, His peace and comfort, will steady our hearts.

This is the reason why my heart grieves for those people who have not really known, received, and loved the Lord Jesus Christ and yet, still refuse Him in their sickbeds. I don’t understand. They want to be healed but they do not want to receive the Healer. They do not want to enter into His kind of holy rest. Is it maybe because they do not believe in the first place? Or they think they have been good they don’t need saving? Or they do not have enough divine fear? Or maybe mostly because they haven’t known and understood and didn’t hear enough? Seek enough?

But how can a fragile human being whose life is just a vapour which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (see James 4:14) afford to refuse Him? How can a sick person find rest without the Lord Jesus’ presence, His love and peace? For all our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But this thing I learned: we shouldn’t give up in offering God’s rest – His salvation – over and over until we are heard and He is received. For in the Lord Jesus, there is rest from our labors, ailments, and sufferings.

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Faith Unfailing

On the eve of writing this blogpost, another one of those super unwanted, agonizingly hard suffering attacks gripped me. Actually, the second one on that day. These attacks, at their ugliest peak, would drive me reeling in a swirl of emotions: fear, angst, uncertainty, weariness, and even anger. Not to mention the sheer physical hardship my body is subjected to in the first place. It would try to snuff out my peace, joy, faith, and hope. Being at the heart of that hard place is like dangling over a deep canyon. It’s cruel; it’s punishing. It is superlatively rejected.

COUNTRY LANE on 9" x 12" wc paper.

COUNTRY LANE on 9″ x 12″ wc paper by yours truly.

This is the kind of test my faith puts up against. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. These past more than 13 years.

I need a faith that never fails. Only by the grace of God.

That is why, at the heart of every suffering, I have prepared a Word capsule and I do my best to recite it even just once during those moments when I feel like going through a needle’s eye. It is this:

I will live. I will not die. The Lord will satisfy me with long life. According to my faith, it will be done unto me. I will not fear but only believe.

The key words are: according to my faith. 

I know that there is a lot of suffering in the world: persecution, harassment, abuse, hunger, sickness. I am sure that mine is not unique or that, among the suffering, I got the worst. I do not believe so. That is why, the common enemy of faith is this question: What makes one think that one could be healed or delivered when so many in the world, including Christians, are suffering and dying without receiving healing or being delivered from their plight?

What makes me think that among the millions who are suffering – men, women, and children – I would receive healing from the Lord Jesus Christ and be delivered from all my suffering, and be sent to testify and proclaim the gospel? What, indeed?

It is this: According to my faith, it will be done unto me.  

It is the echo of the Lord’s own words.

And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Mat. 9:28-29, emphasis added)

 I believe that He is able to do it.

According to my faith, it will be to me.

I am not helpless. I have a choice. I can choose one thing and the Lord will honor it. 

I choose to believe and trust. I choose faith.

 You see, hope, for me, is looking forward toward a certain destination in the future, that there is a bright tomorrow that awaits even if now there is only dimness and hardship. Hope, certainly, is the anchor of my soul, sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). (I wrote about hope in early January). When, at some point, all else fails, hope clings on.

But faith is the fuel that drives every single day to move toward that destination.

Oftentimes for me, hope seems so far away, somewhere in the far horizon shrouded in a thick mist so that I can barely see it’s there.

But faith is ever-present. It is believing here, now, where we’re at.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

Faith is an action word. It takes action. It believes, trusts, makes the first step, and the next. It is at the heart of faith that the Lord Jesus moves. It is faith that pries His hand out of His bosom and stretches it to heal. Faith is His native language, His music. He dances to it.

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)

If we listen to other voices in our mind, those self-defeating thoughts, faith cannot work mightily on our behalf. Faith, to work, must be founded on a purely single-minded disposition that believes God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We need not believe that the fate of another will be our fate, too. But we can and will believe that the miracle of another can be ours, too. That is faith. That is the purpose of testimonies. To believe in testimonies is to believe in God and His Word.

The Lord Jesus did not perform many miracles in His own hometown because of their unbelief. Unbeliefs and doubts tie down His hands. 

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief… (Mark 6:5-6)

He can do no mighty work when we doubt or not believe Him! That is why He was adamant when He told Jairus, “Be not afraid, only believe.” (See Mark 5:21-43).

But look how He reacted to the Canaanite woman who begged Him to heal her daughter, even after being told, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” That hurts! But the distraught mother was unfazed. When she expressed her willingness to eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table, the Lord Jesus marvelled at her faith! He answered her:

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt!” (Mat. 15:28, exclamation point added for emphasis)

And her daughter was healed in that very same hour.

Many times, I had been that Canaanite mother in my desperation. It doesn’t matter if I was a dog licking the crumbs that fall from the table. I will do it to get well for the sake of my children.

Be it unto me even as I will or desire.

What do you desire the Lord Jesus to do for you? He is asking. He asked the blind man, the blind man did not hesitate to answer.

So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” (Mark 10:51)

My faith has received too many beatings than I can count. It bears the scars of years of unrelenting trials and tests, of battles fought and won, only by the great mercies of God. But I thank my Savior Jesus Christ that it is still standing, sure and steadfast, to this day. For it is founded upon the Rock.

Dear readers, I have a wonderful gift for you: I wrote about the amazing testimony of Brother Michael Garcia, a poor, blind man who was called by the Lord from the pit of darkness and despair. Please click here to read the entire testimony.

Do not fear. Only believe.

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The Way of Hope

On New Year’s Eve, I sat at my new, shiny marble-topped painting table (a Christmas gift from Felix), staring into my laptop screen. I flitted from Pinterest to Instagram to Photos Library and back again, looking for inspiration, a photo I would paint that would lift off the sadness and weariness I was feeling. I wanted to paint but I felt that both my body and spirit were tired. Minutes ticked by and I couldn’t decide. I planned to do a series of serious painting jobs, elaborate orchids and fruits, at the beginning of 2017, but that night, I just wanted to experience the joy of watercolor. But the moment didn’t come. I felt tired, undecided, uninspired. Like the old year that just passed. I ended up dabbling a parent bear and its cub, tightly snuggled together.

mommy bear and cub

The mommy bear and cub I doodled on NYE. Maybe my soul was wanting to be cherished by my Father in heaven and let Him soothe away all my aches, sickness, and suffering.

That morning, I wrote on my prayer journal feverishly. I remembered the year that was, all the times that I was left behind when Felix and the kids went away: out-of-town excursions last summer, and recently, the Christmas party of our company, Actichem, which culminated in a buffet lunch at Vikings. There were many others in-between – them going out, me staying behind. Like the other years before. In those times, I had felt desolate. But they, too, passed.

While I was writing on my prayer journal, I felt sad, bitter, resentful, and angry all at the same time. There was a lump in my throat as I thought about my life. I covered about two whole pages and although I wrote so many things (mainly about my soul’s bitter complaints), what I can remember clearly now is writing “alone, alone, alone!” Can you feel the angst? (Please forgive me for writing thus, but it will get better. Promise).

HOPE. I was inspired to paint this photo I found on IG, the tiny purple flowers shooting out of the crack of the stone wall, like hope shining over our lives even when darkness threatens.

HOPE. I was inspired to paint this photo I found on IG, the tiny purple flowers shooting out of the crack of the stone wall, like hope shining over our lives even when darkness threatens.

So I sat at my painting table, feeling the weight of my achy, inflamed back and my sorrowing spirit. I saw myself sitting on a rock in the middle of a circle where roads went in all directions with the labels: “patient waiting”, “perseverance”, “persistence”, “do not grow faint in prayer”, “quiet strength”, “steadfastness”, and many other blurry signs, but none that I would like to take at that moment. I just wanted to sit and do nothing.

But I remember begging God to “help me and tell me what to do because I don’t know what to do and where to go from here”. I had tried everything. I had walked each road in that multiple crossroads. Still, I am too sick and weak to walk and travel. And there are still times in the day that I wrestle for good breathing.

 A few hours before New Year, I stared at a framed artwork on the wall with a Bible verse:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

Hope. I still don’t leap in joy, both physically and spiritually. But hope carries me through the days. It carried me through the last hours of the old year to welcome the new year… still faithful to the Lord. When 12:00AM struck and fireworks boomed out of everywhere and lit up the sky without letup – purples, reds, oranges, greens, blues, gold, and silver sparks and lights – I felt the powerful presence of God. I raised my hands toward heaven and praised and worshiped Him with hallelujahs. Nothing can equal His power no matter how much noise we create. It is still His world and I am just a tiny speck in it. A speck He calls by name.

So, I let hope carry me through my quotidian life, especially through the wearying days. The Bible says that hope doesn’t disappoint, although I feel terribly disappointed at times. Still, hope is there in the background of my life, as the mountains surround Jerusalem. It hovers over my head, a sturdy assurance as the heavens above. It is settled and deeply rooted in the soil of my heart forever.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

It is hope that feeds peace and joy. Hope that exhales out fears, doubts, and uncertainties, and inhales in invigorating air to sustain and continue life.

I saw myself standing up from that rock where I sat not knowing what to do or think or pray for, and chose the way of hope. I have no huge plans for now. Still waiting for divine inspiration perhaps. Not even words to encourage you, or an overflow of joy to infect you, or a shining light to brighten up your day. But you and I – we have hope. For the coming days and weeks and months.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… (Portion of Heb. 6:19).

This is what we’re going to do (see Rom 12: 12):

 Rejoice in hope (though sometimes we don’t feel like rejoicing).

Be patient in tribulation (though sometimes we think we have completely run out of stock; God will replenish our supply).

Continue steadfastly in prayer (though sometimes we can’t seem to find the words to move His hand).

 The Word of God has an answer to our every need. An encouragement. A hope.

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Stirrings in My Soul

I was reading through the Gospel of Mark just a few weeks ago in my new KJV journaling Bible and when I came to that part wherein a father besought the Lord to heal his son who had a dumb spirit and the Lord answered him and said –

“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

– it seemed like the Lord was shouting those words to me. Or maybe, it seemed to me that the words became louder and bigger and bolder. Like it was telling me, “Pay attention! Read me and believe.”

My watercolor painting of hills in the mist. (Reference photo from tournesol50.tumblr.com).

My watercolor painting of hills in the mist. (Reference photo from tournesol50.tumblr.com).

It’s not as if it was the first time that I have read it. I have read it countless times before and have even memorized it. But this time, it gripped me afresh. It kind of rained hope on me once again. To believe beyond doubts and fears. To believe beyond my present capacity to believe. For, as I have written previously, faith’s facets and strengths change with the seasons of life, with the trials and triumphs we go through.

How do I begin to tell the story of my faith? For the last 13 years saw my faith tested and strengthened and waxed weary and grown faint, then persevered again. It was steadfast for I never let go of it. But its quality has not been unchangeable.

In the early months and years after I received Jesus and His salvation, my faith was defiant. Audacious. So much so that I scorned the cardiologist’s warnings that I didn’t have much time to live if I wasn’t treated. But I couldn’t believe in him, the whole lot of them. I could only trust my Savior and Healer. I was obstinate with my newly-found faith.

For years it was like that. I was resolutely believing and trusting and keeping still, awaiting the great miracle of healing from the Lord: the likes of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3), the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5), the man with the palsy borne by four who was let through the roof (Mark 2), and many, many more.

But it didn’t happen that way. Little miracles littered the years, miracles of increment healing. Moments of healing here and there. And though they were not of the same caliber as the ones in the Bible (or even with the ones in our Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry), they were born out of desperation, out of the shadow of death, and are therefore, very, very much appreciated and will never be forgotten.

Healing came in different forms. I wasn’t suddenly touched by the miraculous and then leaping and bounding and shouting. But it came with the length of time.

But unhealings came, too. Times when I was back to taking to my bed. For months. But my faith held me fast. And my faith would bring me back again to partial healing. On and on it went. Sure, I counted the years that passed, the years that I expected complete healing to come. Before the eighth year rolled in, I found light and hope with the story of Aeneas, paralyzed and bedridden for eight long years, but was healed through the prayer of Apostle Peter (Acts 9).

When Aeneas’ story of healing didn’t become mine, there was still the woman with the issue of blood 12 years. And on it went until today. Exactly to the day as I write this, October 15th. Thirteen years later.

I have written about my treasure chest of small miracles of healings and deliverances (small because they weren’t entire, but still much-needed-and-prayed-for miracles). I hold them close to my bosom. Very, very precious. But if you’ll ask me how my faith looks like now, what will I answer you?

My faith has taken great batterings in the past 13 years. It has stood, fought wildly, defied all odds, stumbled, been crippled, crawled, nursed back to life. It was filled and grown and expanded to bursting at the seams. It was painfully pruned. It was whittled away, bit by bit, until it succumbed to sad reality, the new normal. There is probably no forthcoming glorious miracle. It probably may not come that way. The defiant, audacious faith became subdued and pliant, accepting its fate.

The face of faith became the face of gratitude, running deep and steady, like the greenest, quiet river. For life that’s still holding me tight. For it had come to the point where the dream of walking and traveling again seemed so out of reach and even my mind could not conceive it, no matter how active and vibrant my imagination has always been.

There were always three stages: busy begging for life and for suffering to ease out, busy thanking God for deliverance from death and the subsequent partial healing, then the deep desire to be fully well. By this time, the desire increases and looks on the possibility, tentatively testing out faith once again, first in the mind and heart, then the first few steps. If at all.

For it seems like land has become a vast ocean to me where my feet may fail. The life I used to know eons ago – how do I re-enter it? So I whisper a prayer, morning and evening, “Dearest Lord Jesus, help me embrace the healed and victorious life and not fear and shun it.”

Throughout these 13 years, I look at two situations in life: the sick and the terminally-ill (or even those who had died before their time) and the perfectly and completely healthy. The former I can derive scant cups of hope and strength to inspire me through my own trudgings and stir me to pour out praises and thanksgiving to God for life that’s still holding me tight. The latter I gape at in miserable envy.

But at this time in my life, I’m weary of looking at both. I want to look out beyond, beyond all these misery and envyings, even beyond my cluttered desk of watercolors where my world is vibrant and happy despite of, to that place where my Shepherd can (and will!) bring me. A place where healing and victory dwell. A place where all things are possible!

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

Today, I read Numbers Chapter 13, Spies Sent Out to Canaan. At the end of the chapter, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and I wrote it down on the margin of my journaling Bible.

My Promised Land is the land of my healing and victory, a land that flows with perfect health and strength and peace and joy. I must not be afraid to enter my Promised Land and conquer it. I must pluck out the fruits of it – grapes, figs, and pomegranates – until juices run down my chin. Like Caleb and Joshua, I must be courageous and trust God will bring me to it.

Amen and Amen!

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Journey with Jesus,

Remembering the Wormwood

Remember the wormwood. Like a soft whisper to my soul, these words had snaked in and out of my mind some weeks ago, a reminder that is both welcome and necessary. For it is easy to become lax and complacent amid all the triumphs and joys, as if the fiery and bitter tests had not actually taken place but are only a part of a distant past. But I have learned, as I know others have also, that forgetting them and the great mercies of God that delivered us through them, is not the way of the Lord.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9" x 12" 100% cotton wc paper. Leterings were done using metallic ruby.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9″ x 12″ 100% cotton wc paper. Letterings were done using metallic ruby.

Lamentations 3, though full of anguish and sorrow, has always been beautiful to me as it was a powerful source of hope. Like the Book of Job, a story of trial of all trials, which had been my companion in my own bitter trials, Lamentations 3 was like a lamp in the dark forest, a hope in the soul that, though small and flickering, cannot be quenched.

Maybe the Lord doesn’t want me to be so engrossed with His gifts that delight my soul enormously. Like watercolor painting, for one. That I might forget how I arrived into this place of joy and unending inspiration. That the gifts would become more important and capture more of me than what I give to the Lord – my love, my joy, my time, my energy. For God is a jealous God.

Maybe that and the news about my aunt who is now suffering a similar sickness like one of the many that I had suffered: gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD. Twice in the past 13 years of illness, I had not been able to eat solid food for months, even more than half of the year. I lived by water, clear soups, and runny porridge. It was as if my stomach had lost recognition of food.

But I lived through it. And now I’m eating well again. Every now and then, like when I bite into a luscious fruit, I remember this.

Remembering the mercies of God stirs up praise and worship from the depths of our soul. Not only that. It also makes us remember to fear God and keep a humble posture before Him and reignites our desire to walk uprightly.

And so, amid the swirls and splashes of watercolors, the lights and shadows that are created by the stroke of a red sable brush on a rag paper, in between the image that is slowly emerging out of it and the exultant heart, is the whisper: Remember the wormwood.

“Yes, Father, I do remember,” my soul whispers back.

The author of the Book of Lamentations (he sounds like the Prophet Jeremiah to me and he might very well be the one who penned it) recalls the heart-rending, soul-wrenching times that he had seen, lived, and suffered through. The scope of the first half of chapter 3 is a very familiar terrain to me, like the well-worn path that leads to home. You know the position of every stone and tree and the shadows that dance against the sunlight peeking through. So familiar you could almost assign a scent to it, redolent of the hard days when God’s hand was heavy upon one’s soul. These words, they are that to me.

am the [woman] who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He has led me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely He has turned His hand against me
Time and time again throughout the day.

He has besieged me
And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry and shout,
He shuts out my prayer.

He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drink wormwood.

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

(Selections from Lamentations 3)

Wormwood is a plant that has a bitter taste, the main ingredient in making absinthe. Today, it is considered as a natural therapeutic herb and used as an alternative medicine, especially in cleansing harmful microorganisms in humans and animals. “Wormwood is known to help the body produce an environment that is toxic to harmful organisms.”*

God concocts a drink made up of wormwood and makes us drink of it, the whole cup of it. His tests are bitter and grievous and brings us a lot of anguish and sorrow. But not without purpose. God, being the Creator of every plant that grows in the earth, knows each of their nature. He used wormwood in the Old Testament to symbolize the bitter trials and also the cleansing process – refining and sanctification – His people must go through which is His main purpose.

These trials and chastisements – they all emanate from His heart of love and mercy. 

As our Father, He knows there are things we need to learn. The process, like the words of Lamentations, is excruciating, but the end of it is a pure product.

when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

These I remember. Oh yes, Father, these I remember and have not forgotten! They come to mind when I sing praises and worship, like fragmented scenes in a good movie. Remembering them colors my praises with more vibrant, deeper hues and makes my worship a soulfelt experience. They are the tangible proofs of the Savior’s love for me.

Only last night at dinner, I recalled again how I lived through the valley of the shadow of death in early-2015 (that place where the shadow of death literally covers you and wraps you all around). When all day long everyday, I fought to be able to breathe and live. How I would wait for Tim to arrive home from school, when he would nap beside me in the bed straightaway, and I would snuggle close to him and try to pick up the easy rhythm of his healthy breathing. As I held him, I breathed with him, hoping to ease up my own, calm my body, and live with him, too. For days and months, Tim unknowingly comforted me. While he was sleeping. (Choking back tears now).

I whispered to my husband as Tim left the dining table, “That boy is so precious to me.”

Remembering the wormwood is not to taste again the bitterness, but to affirm the truth that God is just and merciful. That even in that place of affliction, wormwood and gall – there is hope!

To remember the wormwood is to position and reposition ourselves again on the higher ground, not giving in to temptations as the good, blessed days roll by.

To remember the wormwood is to let ourselves be cleansed and sanctified by Christ again and again. To become like the white and fragrant flowers (the white Magnolia is a good example), whose sweet-smelling scent wafts to all the people around us wherever we go and which reaches the throne of God in heaven.

Let your gentleness [and holiness] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil. 4:5, annotation mine)

*Global Healing Center

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Encouragement for the Journey

On January 2, 18 years ago, I stood at one of the windows of Cainta Municipal Hall registering my chemical trading business. The whole place was deserted (maybe I was the only over eager person to be processing her business permit a day after New Year’s Day), but I was so full of hopes and big dreams it was hard to wipe the grin off my face or extinguish the brightness of my eyes.

encouragement for the journey

Eighteen years have come and gone since that day, I couldn’t have known then how much stuff could be squeezed into that entire length of time.

On New Year’s Day 2005, while being cooped up inside our Church’s fasting house in Pampanga (not fasting but desperately waiting for healing), depressed and uncertain of the future, the Lord spoke to me, “Go home, my child. Wherever you go, I am there with you.” This was not your ordinary “sensing” the voice of God, but it was the kind which pierced through my darkness, jolted me out of my pity party and sent us packing without delay. Within the same hour, we were leaving the sanctuary of the fasting house headed for home. Between that time and New Year’s Eve 2014, I recovered enough to be able to travel to crusades, give birth to my son Tim, start my blog, then fall ill again.

New Year’s Eve 2014 found me on the throes of death. When I knew for certain that I wouldn’t recover after hours of gasping for breath, I positioned myself in such a way that death may come not too harshly. But after turning, anticipating death to come in a matter of minutes, the struggle slackened. The powerful flow of air entered my system unobstructed. The breath of life flowed in and out of my nostrils, flooding my whole body with great relief. I didn’t know what to make of it: Was it deliverance? Was I out of danger? Has death given up on me? While confusion reigned during those few moments, a frantic voice was shouting in my mind, “Breathe! Breathe the air I freely give you!” I gave all my concentration in inhaling and exhaling. When I could finally turn over and speak, it was about half-hour to 2015.

It has been a year since that scary and glorious night, but I’m still here being held by God.

What do these things tell? Proverbs 19:21 may partly answer this question (for we can never completely unravel the mysterious workings of God):

There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. 

God’s purposes and plans, they will ultimately stand. We may never understand His ways and thoughts. That is not our part. Our part is to believe and trust. When we have finally grasped it, we would have embraced wisdom. That kind of wisdom that cannot be compared with all the things we may desire; it is in fact a tree of life (see Proverbs 3).

The path of a Christ-follower is never easy. It is strewn with trials of all kinds. After all, it is the narrow path and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (part of Acts 14:22). But the marvelous thing is, there is enduring peace and joy even in the midst of life’s storms. That is what walking after the Spirit and in wisdom brings. We are somewhat healed of our deep longings and we carry on day after day after day. That is why the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper in all our travails. Without Him, life is like a desolate land.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)

How thoughtful and caring our Savior is that He wouldn’t leave us alone in this world that is full of troubles and toils! He had it all planned before the foundation of the world. He had it all covered. All we need to do is trust and obey. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us enables us, even empowers us to carry out God’s purposes and plans, even though sometimes we don’t understand. Yes, even through pain. Through Him we are constantly loved and held and kept.

David was a man who was acquainted with troubles. But he knew whom to trust and cling to. In all his tribulations (and there had been many!), he never grew weary of God. Yes, he had questions directed towards Him, strings of them. He walked so intimately with God that he knew He could very well handle them. Through deliverance or desperation, his sight was always heavenward. His praises and prayers became the psalms. Psalm 63 exquisitely expresses his dependence and awe of God:

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. (vv. 3-5)

In the midst of David’s stark difficulties, he learned that God’s lovingkindness is better than life. Life could be cruel. But beyond all this, there is hope that never dies. It is the life in Christ in the here and now that transcends all pain and hopelessness. It is this life in Him, in His enduring lovingkindness, that life on earth becomes bearable, a little piece of heaven. It is Christ in [us], the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

But some of us are more like Asaph (I am one occasionally :D). In Psalm 73, Asaph had been downright honest of what he’d been through. He was envious of other men, the ungodly, so much so that he admitted he almost stumbled in his own faith walk. He went on to enumerate the ungodly’s perceived “blessedness”:

They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.

…They have more than heart could wish.

…[they] are always at ease… (vv. 5,7,12)

Then he looked into his own life and saw the huge difference. He saw how he had humbly subjected himself to God’s continual correction and for what? And as he tried to assimilate it all, it pained him too much. Until he went into the sanctuary and God gave him deeper understanding. He realized his error and his heart was grieved, so much so that he goaned, “was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (v. 22).

God made him see that he was the one who was truly blessed, not the ones he was envious of. He then wrote these beautiful words:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (vv. 23-26)

Oh, what truth! What great encouragement!

In our own faith journey, we were like Asaph one time or another. Isn’t it so wonderful that we have these treasures of wisdom now for our own counsel and edification? Oh, praise God for continuing to speak to us powerfully through His Word!

Like Asaph and all the other heroes of faith and early Christians that had journeyed before us, our journey of faith is peppered with lessons both painful and sweet. We have to embrace each one with humble hearts then echo Asaph’s praise (vv. 23-26).

I invite you to read and meditate on Psalm 73.

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Life in Trickles

Life flowing in trickles. That would be mine. When inspiration to write about this bathed me, the vision of stalactites came to mind and adhered. I plumbed my brain as to why the thought of stalactites would attach itself to the essay forming in my mind. I gathered some interesting facts. But first, this: In Baguio City where I went to college (some two decades ago!), there are numerous mines and caves, that’s why one of the many course offerings of Saint Louis University is Mining Engineering. I also had roommates in the dorm whose fathers worked in the mines. There was a popular question that circulated among the Mining Engineering students: “What is the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?” I deduced the answer on my own by attributing stalagmite to a mite, an inhabitant of the earth. Therefore, stalactites are the ones found protruding from the roof of caves and mines, while stalagmites are the deposits that form at the bottom floor. And I was right :).

According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica:

Stalactites are elongated forms of various minerals deposited from solution by slowly dripping water. They hang like icicles from the ceiling or sides of a cavern.

The dominant mineral in such deposits is calcite (calcium carbonate), and the largest displays are formed in caves of limestone and dolomite. Other minerals that may be deposited include other carbonates, opal, chalcedony, limonite, and some sulfides.

Conditions that favour the deposition are: (1) a source rock above the cavern; (2) downward percolation of water supplied from rain; (3) tight but continuous passageways for this water, which determine a very slow drip; and (4) adequate air space in the void to allow either evaporation or the escape of carbon dioxide from the water, which thus loses some of its solvent ability.

Wow. As I read and reread that last part, it dawned on me how the Holy Spirit had led me into writing this with the vision of the stalactites. As the words above arranged themselves, forming a beautiful analogy to my life now, I realized that it was, indeed, the Holy Spirit who had been speaking into my heart and guiding me. That amazes me more than anything else. To know that the Lord would take time to shower us with inspiration to break through our daily monotony (and our doubts!), to participate in our humble undertakings and let us know and feel that He delights in us! —- that, to me, is a most awesome blessing, a huge encouragement, especially considering my bedridden state.

I trained my eyes on the paragraph Conditions that Favor the Deposition (you may go back up and read it again :) ) and this was the analogy I saw with my life right now: 1) There’s a source Rock above (the Lord Jesus Christ); 2) There’s a downward supply of water from heaven (the Living Water); 3) There’s a very slow drip because of tight but continuous passageways (the tests and refining); 4) There’s an adequate air supply (life).

Isn’t it amazing? I can see those “conditions” being met in my life and yes, I am like those stalactites. If your life flows in slow drip, too – that is, fulfilment of dreams and plans and actual accomplishments come in trickles – then, be inspired by these analogies just as I am! 

As mentioned above, stalactites are basically made up of calcium salts. You may remember the Lord’s words: You are the salt of the earth. I’d like to see it this way: As the stalactites are natural deposits of salts, so are we in the world. But there are other minerals that form stalactitic deposits such as opal and chalcedony. Chalcedony is the third foundation of the new city, the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21. The polished blue chalcedony is like the sky, ethereal and endless. And it is said of opal: All of Nature’s splendour seems to be reflected in the manifold opulence of fine Opalsfire and lightnings, all the colours of the rainbow and the soft shine of far seas.*

Years ago while I was reading through Isaiah in bed, with the same ailing and suffering self as I am today, the 54th chapter captured my heart. I felt like it was spoken to me personally, a love letter from God. I pressed the Bible to my chest as I savored the words. (I did not post the whole chapter here):

“For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

11 “O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones. (Is. 54:10-12)

The Lord will build my house (my life) with colorful gems and precious stones! For indeed He has promised to make all things beautiful in His time! Like the beauty and grandeur of the stalactites made up of opal and chalcedony! This is a metaphor of God’s beautiful work in our lives.

The lives of other Christians are like streams of water, gushing and flowing forth in copious amounts, like a swarm of soldiers charging to battle. But I am seeing it now with new eyes: whether a life flows plentifully or in  trickles, God is able to use both for His kingdom and glory. In the Body of Christ, not only the physically strong and able are given honor, but look what the apostle Paul says:

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty. (1 Cor. 12:22-23 ESV)

Prior to the verses above, Apostle Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body (he was speaking metaphorically of the Church, the Body of Christ). The feet, which can be considered as powerful members of the body since they enable it to go anywhere it pleases, cannot boast to the hand. So even if we can’t use our feet (permanent or temporary disability) to go and share the Gospel to every creature, God uses our other members, such as the hand, to carry out His purposes. In the Body of Christ, no one is really worthless.

My life, being bed-bound, may be hard. But the inspiration and beauty that God pours into it evoke praise and thanksgiving. This ability to face life’s painful tests and challenges with a positive outlook comes from God Himself and not from my own strivings. I call it God-breathed strength and inspiration. My life is held by these. Hallelujah!

When your life flows in trickles (when it seems like you’re not accomplishing anything of great meaning or magnitude but only little things that seem inconsequential), bathe it with gratitude. When you want to walk but can’t make a single step; when you want to sing praise but there’s just not enough strength; when your fondest dreams remain locked up in your heart — focus your eyes on the small miracles, the little gifts of inspiration scattered all around you. Then let your thanksgiving to God flow.

To compare my life with the splendid stalactites is uplifting, but my everyday is defined more appropriately by the following verse:

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb;
but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. (Prov. 27:7)

When I shared this verse with my husband, tears spurted from my eyes. These, too, nourish the hungry soul.

*Quoted from the International Colored Gemstone Association.

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Life in the Slow Lane

Michele Cushatt, Christian author and blogger whom I follow on Instagram, posted a beautiful, soul-refreshing photo of verdant, rolling hills near her home with the caption: “Beautiful morning for a 3-mile walk. I’m happy to report I no longer walk like a 90-year-old woman. I now walk like an 80-year-old one.” The place where she walks is like nothing I’ve ever seen or been before in my part of the globe. I even commented one time: “If this is what’s outside of our home, though I’m bed-bound, I’d crawl out.” A runner before she was diagnosed with cancer, I can empathize with her frustration now walking like an 80-year old. After multiple throat surgeries and chemo, her old energy took a back seat and it took some time before she could get back on her feet and walk, not run, like a 90-year old as she has said. She says she doesn’t compare her progress with her running days, but the days that she was homebound fighting cancer.

slowlane

At least you’re walking however slow. Me, I’m bed-bound! That was my reflexive reaction but I immediately checked my heart. I chose to rejoice with her with the progress she was gaining. I’m sincerely happy for her that she’s now walking along that beautiful meadow outside her home.

Being a brisk walker 12 years ago when health and strength were mine in abundance, for years it frustrated me that I could hardly walk more than a few steps when illness took over my body. And now, I’m bed-bound and haven’t been able to ride my wheelchair (except to go to the comfort room) or use my walker for brief exercises in the mornings for months. However hard it is, the Lord never fails to give me my portion of comfort. He inspires me and renews my hope so that I’m able to experience some measure of joy in my days and still dream for a better, brighter future.

He inspires me to plan improvements around our home and garden. Although my life is lived in little increments that progress can hardly be observed, He lifts up my spirit in ways the world can’t understand. That is my life with my Savior. But there are times when I see a glimpse of the outside world, how people, both from our Church and outside, are living in the fullness of blessings — health, strength, career, travels. In those times, I can’t help my spirit to sag.

But being in this place for a long time now, I have learned not to dwell in those negative emotions when they come. I’m not always that strong, but I have found a way to turn around a negative feeling into something that I can offer to the Lord. Sorrow, for instance. On a Sunday as I watched the live webcast of our whole-day worship service, I finally let out the swelling stream of sorrow that had been building up inside as suffering battered my body for most of the day. When the Jesus Finest Generation Choir sang their last song, No More Night, the tears found their way out. I was slumped against my pillows as I let every single tear that fell tell of my sorrow, my pain, my longing, and the other myriad things I couldn’t put into words.

Sometimes there’s no use for words. But we can trust that God sees and we offer to Him what we’ve got: those tears and deep feelings we don’t have words for. There must be something good out of them when offered to the One with whom all things are possible. What did David say in Psalm 38? O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

So, it’s okay to not try to express the inexpressible. It’s okay to not open our lips to speak but to let the quiet flow of tears say it all. Let the Holy Spirit intercede for us. The solemn silence makes the communion with God more sacred.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Rom. 8:26)

In the slow lane, the smallest gift is a reason for thanksgiving. The senses are heightened: you observe more closely; you see the minutest detail. You think deeper and are always aware of God’s hovering presence. Yes, there’s a deeper awareness of His omnipresence: that He sees all and hears all. Lessons stick more securely. The minutes and hours move (that is, the situation shifts) in dependence on God’s mercies not on one’s own strength. This could be utterly frustrating. That’s why one needs to totally surrender to God to walk the slow lane with peace and enthusiasm.

The Israelites of old walked the same lane to the Promised Land. God wanted to be in their midst, a hands-on God. They didn’t move without His instructions. He wanted them to know Him, to be their God. But many of the people didn’t believe Him and rebelled against Him. This was the reason why it took them 40 years what should have taken them 40 days to travel.

The same way that God has a reason now for the slow, arduous journey toward our own Promised Land (that place at the other side of this trial). Like healing, for instance. We may not be stiff-necked or rebellious like ancient Israel, but there must be a reason for the prolonged testing. It’s either that or He’s not walking with us. But if we know that we are walking according to the Spirit by whom we were sealed for the day of redemption, then we can rest in God’s faithfulness.

We know that God is the God who heals (Ex. 15:26). It is His will to heal. The Lord Jesus Christ revealed this when he walked on earth (John 6:38), healing all the sick that came to Him. He healed then, He still heals today, for He stays the same (Heb. 13:8). And by His stripes, we are healed (Is. 53:5). All these we can affirm in faith over and over without letting up. But let us be continuously obedient to Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Is trying to conform to the world clouding our discernment of what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God? Does our will clash with God’s as we try to compare our peculiar lives with the world’s? The people of God complained of their life in the wilderness. Everyday, the Lord supplied them with manna for food, but they lusted for meat. They longed for flavors like garlic, onions, and leeks, and wanted to sink their teeth into melons and cucumbers, while their souls starved, for they resisted the will of God for them. And what was the will of God?

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3, emphasis mine)

We may not fully understand the testings, but we can continue to live by God’s Word. That is the whole truth we can lean upon as we wait and walk the slow lane.

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Yes and Amen!

A few weeks after I received salvation back in 2003 and began reading God’s Word, I had an important conversation with my staff-turned-sister in Christ (she was the one who brought me to the Savior) on one of her frequent visits. In my early readings, I came upon John 12:40 and I believed it held the key to my healing. Based on testimonies I’d heard in Church about instant healings, I expected the same thing to happen to me. But when weeks passed and nothing changed in my body, I began to bemoan God’s Word. I think that’s where the wrestling with God and His Word all began.

This is what John 12:40 says:

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”

I reasoned with my staff, a seasoned Christian, “Why hasn’t the Lord healed me yet? When He took me out of the miry clay, I didn’t hide myself, I didn’t harden my heart, but I presented myself to Him willingly. I gave Him my hand to lead me and said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ I believe in Him. He’s my only hope, my Healer. Why hasn’t He healed me as I had believed?” These were the questions that I wrenched out of my heart as I struggled with both my illness and newfound faith. My friend and sister in Christ listened in silence, a faint smile touching her lips.

The wrestlings with God and His promises would continue for more than a decade. It is as if God wraps Himself in thick mystery that no human can break through or even begin to comprehend. His miraculous healings of incurable and terminal diseases, whether instantly or gradually, are as mysterious as they are marvellous, because not everyone, at least in the present age, receives such a tremendous blessing. Yes, even those who walk in faith as steadfastly as all the rest in the Church. His healing or not healing has become a deep mystery to me, although the Word is very clear about it that it’s His will to heal. That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus revealed when He walked on earth.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Mat. 9:35)

Whatever contradictions I see and experience, I still firmly believe in this: God is not partial in His healing. I cannot believe that a just and merciful God would say something like, “I will heal her, but sorry, not you.” The Lord Jesus never said that to anyone who came to Him seeking healing. The Bible says He healed them all. Yes, even the Canaanite woman’s daughter after the mother argued in her desperation, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Mat. 15:27). The Lord had marvelled at her tenacious faith and healed her daughter instantly. And I, coming from the same place of need and desperation as that Canaanite mother, am more than willing to go down on my knees under the table and pick up the crumbs, if only in that way I could receive my healing. But I’m not a Canaanite woman. I’m a modern Israelite who has been adopted into God’s family through the Lord Jesus Christ. If healing is the bread of the children of the kingdom, then assuredly, healing is for me, too.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If he healed then, he still heals today. Nothing’s changed in His character, His will, His Word. He said He is the God who heals us (Exo. 15:26) and heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away (Mat. 24:35). God’s healing through faith, for me, is sacred ground, and I will never trade it for anything less than. God heals and I will hold onto this truth until forever comes. This is not the subject of this article, but rather, how to continue to live in faith while we wait for it.

The danger of God’s silence or continued unresponsiveness to our desperate pleas for healing, as I had experienced, is that, we may spiral into the abyss of doubts and unbelief which could spawn more pervasive problems such as bitterness, numbness, cynicism, and rebellion. These are the hardest things to wrestle against. There’s a saying that when God answers our prayers, He’s increasing and strengthening our faith. With His non-answer then, what is being developed? It may be our patience and steadfastness. But the long years of drought, of praying and reading His Word with healing remaining in the far horizon, may produce “calluses” in the heart. Not exactly a hardening where there’s no hope of redeeming, but a constant struggle that becomes ingrained in one’s system.

What is this exactly? It is the difference between responding to God’s Word with joy and rejoicing and responding to it with strong internal struggles. It is responding with “But, Lord…” instead of “Amen, Lord!”

It is thinking in the deepest reach of the soul, “I know that the Lord heals and He heals others, but well, He chooses not to heal me.”

It is feeling a painful wrenching somewhere inside, of feeling dismayed or disappointed that somehow, His promises had failed us.

It is unconsciously murmuring, “Yeah, these are all powerful promises but… (a heavy sigh), they remain in the pages of the Bible. They happened long time ago. (Another sigh and a slow shaking of the head with a blank stare) I don’t know…

It is that “But, Lord” that sucks the joy and hope and power and life out of the Word, rendering it futile. It’s the doubts, the drooping of the shoulders, the disheartening, that erode the power of the Word. If those are the effects the Word has on us now, how can it do its work? So, the wait has been too painfully long, maybe unnecessarily long, but if we continue to bemoan God’s promises, how they are not being fulfilled in our lives as they should, where do we go from here?

Peter was confronted with the same question, but he faced it squarely and answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

My counsel is to start anew, to read God’s Word with fresh eyes and an open heart, the calluses buffed and smoothed out. Do not fall to the trap of unbelief and doubts, making Isaiah’s words a reality in our lives:

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37-38)

Read and hear and affirm God’s Word and His testimonies sans doubts and negative feelings, not a Yes and No like a game of tug-of-war. (Saint James says that a double-minded man will not receive anything from the Lord). But receive it with renewed hope and joy and with a resounding “Yes and Amen!”

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us…was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:19-20)

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Journey with Jesus,

 

The Number of Our Days

It happened one Sunday that our only housekeeper would leave for a day and a night off and Felix and the kids would attend church the whole day and we didn’t have any other choice but to let Angie, the “little” sister-in-law of our laundry lady, to assist me. I felt a bit apprehensive since Angie, a wisp of a young woman (her size the half of Hannah), had not been trained to assist me. And we would be left on our own for the whole day! Although she had proven herself trustworthy and industrious when it came to housecleaning, I was wary when it came to her assisting me.

My apprehensions were not unfounded as the first mishap happened in the morning when I sent her to the store and she locked herself out! I couldn’t open the gate for her so I instructed her to hitch up her long skirt, climb the fence, and jump inside. She did it but she came back to me panting hard like a dog. Still, she apologized profusely.

Around early afternoon on my next meal, I rang the bell for her. I did it many times but she didn’t come. I listened to my surroundings trying to track her where she could be in the whole house. I heard the faucet outside near the kitchen in full stream. She was washing something and singing at the same time. She couldn’t hear the doorbell which was in the dining area. After sometime, she turned off the faucet and heard the persistent ringing. When she came to me at last, tears were already streaming down my face.

Again, she apologized profusely. I couldn’t get myself to be angry at her, both because of her humility and youth. I was already eating but tears continued to flow. I felt that all the grief, heaviness, frustration, misery, and all other pent-up emotions were converging, melding and mixing into a steaming brew that couldn’t be stopped.

“Don’t cry anymore, Ate,” Angie offered helplessly.

“I’m crying because my life is hard,” I answered in the bitterness of my soul.

“At least, Ate, you’re still here, with your family. You’re alive. Just thank the Lord that He continues to give you life,” she insisted gently. I know those words so well. Angie was speaking from a heart that loved and adored the Lord Jesus. She is a sister-in-Christ.

“Yes, I know that. But I’ve been sick and suffering for almost 12 years now. It’s hard and I know this is not supposed to be the life of a child of God. It is His will to heal,” I replied as more tears flowed.

Angle’s simple words of encouragement, though I had known them all along, brought a renewed strength and inspiration to me. Even long before that day, I had been thanking God everyday that I was still here with my family. But when I heard the words from her, innocently but sincerely spoken, I could believe again that God has a purpose for my life.

Other sufferers, both Christ followers and otherwise, would desire to be emancipated through death. Those who do not have Christ in their lives would rather leave this world and all its pain and suffering and embrace the numbness, the darkness and finality of death and the grave. While those in Christ would rather greatly desire to enter into glory, to be with their Lord where sickness and suffering and weeping would be no more.

But I’m like Apostle Paul who uttered, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

When I think about my children, now 14 and 7, I cannot get myself to desire to end my suffering through death. That is selfish. By God’s grace, I can and will endure sickness and suffering as long as I can still be with my family, especially my children who need a mother to nurture them in the love and admonition of the Lord. This is my number one desire and ardent prayer: to be delivered of all this sickness and suffering and walk in divine health, even though the waiting is excruciatingly hard.

What’s more, I have this innate desire and need to always choose life, hold onto it. I live in the Vine, my Savior’s life flows to me. That is the truth that holds me together.

There was a time in my physical suffering that even a hardly-noticed verse had encouraged me when all others seemed to fail. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecc. 9:4, emphasis mine). I could see there was a precious wisdom in it. Though ailing and suffering, figuratively a dog, I still have something to be thankful for: the breath of life in me and the hope that comes with it.

I don’t have to go too far, I only need to scroll down my FB newsfeed and see that people die even before reaching a ripe old age, including those in the family of God. What makes me think that I can lay claim to life like I’m entitled to reach a good old age, full of days just like David had? But truth is, by God’s promises, I can. And you can, too! The Lord Himself promised:

So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. (Exo. 23:25-26, emphasis mine)

There is a promise, a blessing from God, that He will fulfil the number of our days. As long as He has pronounced it, we can lay claim on it. It is ours. Close your fist tightly around it and never let it go. He honors our faith.

But what is the number of days that He has purposed for us? Psalm 90:10 gives us an answer:

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years…

He will fulfil the number of our days which in His Book is 70-80 years (or even more as long as He’s not returning yet!). That’s a ripe old age considering the times. It’s what we’ve got and we have a choice to lay claim on it by faith. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 31:15) and oh, how I find a whole universe of freedom in that! Sometimes, news of somebody we know or a member of our Church family passing away may perturb us, but we only have to remember that our times, each one of us, are in God’s hand and there’s no reason to fret. He says that “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). We will live then looking to His enduring mercy and compassion! We will rest in the truth that whatever things we ask when we pray, believe that we receive them, and we will have them (Mark 11:24), especially when He has promised it.

And indeed He has and even repeated it:

With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation. (Ps. 91:16, emphasis mine)

Amen and Amen!

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