Stop, Look, Listen

Before I said my prayers one night, after a day full of hardships as was the usual flow of my life, I realized that God’s favor may not be upon me. That should be it, what else could be the reason why I am not getting fully well, I am not being freed from suffering, and my fervent prayers for healing are not answered? In the morning, I would pray fervently, full of faith, for a miraculously healing. But just after breakfast, I would be gasping for breath like a fish out of water. My prayers for healing are clearly not answered. But I haven’t been really facing that fact because I thought that if I did, it meant that I was losing faith in God. And I know that without faith, it is impossible to please Him.

"Pockets of Quiet Places"

“Pockets of Quiet Places”

But that night, I needed to face the glaring truth: God’s favor is not upon my life as far as my healing is concerned. I receive answers to my other prayers: healing of family members, their protection, their success, their special petitions. But when it comes to my own personal petition, there seems to be a standoff. A 14-year standoff. For years I’ve been imploring the Lord to bring fresh change to my life, but He isn’t budging an inch. In the meantime, years pass and my life goes on: daily sickness and suffering, unable to travel even short distances. I’m always left behind. I have to plod through all the difficulties and challenges of my situation in each and everyday.

That night, I wanted to stop what I am doing: crowding God with relentless, importunate prayers, affirmations, declarations of faith, and the endlessly looking for His gifts tucked in everyday (so that I will always have a  reason to be grateful for). These are all good things, but I thought that I needed to stop the striving, the wrestling (Jacob’s kind), the advancing, the pounding and bombarding, the relentless fighting, the always-positive-always-powerful-always-full-of-faith stance.

I just wanted to stop and be still and know that He is God.

I wanted to experience Him even without my striving.

When I suddenly decide to keep silent, would I be changing God’s plan? I mean, when I decide to be still for a day, no striving in prayer, no nothing (but a heightened looking and listening for God’s movement), would God’s plan for the day come crashing down?

I realized that maybe I have been drowning God’s voice and movement because of my incessant begging.

That night, I had the desire to lie low and let God do what He desires to do. I want to just be quiet where I am and wait for Him, if He’s coming and what He’s going to do. I want to observe closely in a day how He will move in my life and would I be able to perceive it? I want to stop prattling about His “blessings” on my life that I don’t really see or not that big or great but still thankful for because I should always be thankful. I should always be thanking, honoring, glorifying Him. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s kind of forced sometimes, especially when I don’t see change in my sick and suffering life.

What if I cease doing all that and wait for Him to move in my life? To see if He will, to prove that He is looking and listening all this time?

To stop, be still, look, and listen. It is like asking. “Are You there, God?”

The following day, I still prayed and read my Bible, but I didn’t pound on heaven’s door; I didn’t try to pry God’s arm from His bosom to do what I needed Him to do for me. What I did, I watched. And waited.

I watched for His coming. I watched if He would manifest Himself to me. How? In what ways? I didn’t know. But I hoped that I would know if it was Him.

This reminded me of the prophet Elijah when he ran to the wilderness to escape Jezebel’s wrath.

A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;

And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

(From 1 Kings 19)

Thankfully, nothing of this sort happened on that day or the day after just to show God’s presence. But a few days afterwards, when there should have been a good reason to be angry and deeply hurt and an important relationship taking on another blow to the point of breaking, a still small voice whispered:

“Let go of pride. When you let go of it, you won’t have any reason to harbor anger or hurt. You are not supposed to get hurt when life seems not fair or even harsh. You are a child of God, daughter of the King of kings, a citizen of heaven, an heir of eternal life. Though you live here, you don’t belong here. You belong to Me.

“When others hurt you, treats you unkindly or even cruel to you, you don’t have to contend. You don’t have to explain or defend yourself or reason out to prove that you’re right and the other wrong. I know and see everything and I will put things aright.”

I let go of pride (or any likeness of it). I let go of the need or even the right to prove I was right.

When pride is slain, love flows in unobstructed. Love flows in and suddenly, we see clearly. We see the things we cannot see while we are striving. We see the face of love, like the gates of the kingdom of heaven flung open. We see the light shining through, melts all coldness and hardness and hurts.

Love expands and grows within and we see only the face of the Savior, always there loving us, even when we can’t perceive it.

Love shone when I most needed it. God manifested Himself by slaying the pride in my heart so that I would only know love. He manifested Himself by setting me free, not from my sickness and suffering, but from holding on to the right to be proven right.

This meekness and lowliness, things the Lord Jesus wants us to learn from Him, beget more love. Love, a surprise gift from a most unlikely situation. Love begets more love. I received it in full.

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I Wish I Could Tell You

I balance my 9″ x 12″ Saunders Waterford watercolor paper block on my lap (I paint in bed now). I reach out for the masking tape, my eyes and back drooping, heavy from hurt, sadness, and the burden of sickness and suffering. My arms and hands are weak aggravated by the wounds of angry words and accusations. But I want to start to paint because it is an escape. It is a place where I may find acceptance, peace and joy. It is a gift from God and it is mine alone. My world. My friend.

A painting from last year. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

A painting from last year. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

I line the edges of the block with the masking tape, tears pooling in my eyes but don’t spill. It is the soul that weeps. I lift the pencil to draw on the white smooth surface of the paper and I feel it descending upon me, this old acquaintance: self-pity.

I have just recovered from physical difficulties, wrapping myself in my pink flannel blanket as my insides trembled. I am grateful that with the warmth of my blanket and the peace of God that passes understanding, my body recovered (once again as countless times before!) and the angry words inflicted upon my heart and soul were momentarily forgotten.

Earlier, I woke up with the thrilling anticipation of doing something (though not that adventurous) I knew would at least lift up my spirits. I was looking forward to the bright possibilities of the day. My body wasn’t that “good” (my kind of good), but I wanted to subject myself into the thrill. To the hungry soul, every bitter thing sweet.

But it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.

I wish I could tell you that only love and compassion surround a sick person. I wish I could tell you that in a Christian’s life, there is only fruitfulness in the Spirit, number one of which is love.

I wish I could tell you that only healing words are released towards a suffering one, a hand that blesses with its touch, a look that speaks of love, and thoughts of genuine care.

I wish I could tell you that there is only the kindness of four while they bear their sick friend in a cot to bring to the Healer, eager to scale up the wall, hauling the cot with the sick person in it to reach the roof so that from there, they could dangle their burden in front of the One who could make him well.

I wish I could tell you there is only fervent, sacrificial love among brethren.

I wish I could tell you there’s only this:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [uplifting], that it may impart grace [compassion, goodness, kindness, love] to the hearers.

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

(Selections from Ephesians 4).

But I can’t. For there is also the poor woman who had an issue of blood 12 years and who was alone in her suffering. How sad and silent her world had been! For with her kind of affliction, she was considered unclean. Understandably, she was shunned. She was so alone that no one would even care to walk with her to search for the Healer. She had no one to send to Him and say, “Lord, please come and heal my wife/daughter/sister/friend”. We know that there was no husband or mother or sibling or friend that was mentioned. She was alone. And in her sickness and weakness, she had to crawl and creep behind Him who could end all her miseries.

And you remember also the crippled man who had been in that situation 38 years? He had no one to bring him to the pool when the water was troubled. So he never had the chance to even dip his toes into the water, let alone swim there to be healed.

He had no one who cared. That is, until Jesus.

Do you think that it would be far better if the heart learned to not be hurt by any external stimuli? But how? Unless the heart becomes numb, which is a worse thing. Or maybe when the heart has grown and expanded so wide that it could swallow up any hurts, like scarlet paint spreading through water. But I believe that the heart was made to feel, whether joy or pain. It’s part of being human.

When we find ourselves heartbroken, a song finds its way to our hearts. And so this song finds its way to mine.

Praise His Name

When you’re up against a wall
And your mountain seems so tall
And you realize that life’s not always fair
You can run away and hide
Let the old man decide
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer

When everything falls apart
Praise His Name
And when you have a broken heart
Just raise your hands and say
Lord, you’re all I need
You’re everything to me
And you’ll take the pain away

When it seems you’re all alone
Praise His Name
When you feel you can’t go on
Just raise your hands and say
Greater is He that is within me
You can praise the hurt away
If you’ll just praise His Name

Ohhh,
You can overcome
By the blood of the lamb
And by the word of your testimony
You’ll see the darkness go
As your faith begins to grow
You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely

When we find ourselves bereft of compassion from others, there is One who is really compassionate to us. The One who gave His all on the cross.

I believe that it is from the sparseness of love that hurts sprout. All kinds of problems arise when there is lack of love. Faults look big when love is small, remember?

But we are never far from love, for if we belong to Christ, we belong to love. When we abide in Him, we abide in love.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine)

So abide. He will come to our Bethesdas. Or when He passes by, we could crawl up behind Him to touch even His garment. There is always healing at the end.

Amen and amen!

Here’s the song, the current theme song of my life :) .

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The Blessing of Ordinary Days

On a Sunday evening, I open my prayer journal in a sudden need of connecting amid the heaviness of my heart. All day long, suffering has been unrelenting, making me feel battered and spent. And at the end of the day when dusk settles in, darkness seems to settle in my soul as well. So I write. I write of the gloom and hopelessness that threaten to invade my heart and soul, that make one not to know what to do or how to go on. Or how to keep on living in the light. I end my prayer with:

Please help me. Only You can do something for me.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Sometimes, that is all that we can do. Cry for help.

I close my journal with a heavy sigh and turn towards my husband. I tell him about the state of my heart. The fear of losing hope, of losing joy, of losing the light in my eyes and soul and dwelling in darkness. Tears fall. Tim comes near, he hugs and kisses me. He wants to let me know I am loved and cherished and precious. Felix makes light of the situation but Tim rebukes him, “Dad! Don’t make a joke. This is nothing funny!”

The wisdom of a 10-year old boy!

Of course this is nothing funny. But father and son then team up to strengthen the mother. And this mother re-enters the light. I smile through my tears.

The following morning, Felix leaves for the airport. Cosmetics convention in Bangkok, Thailand. I would have loved him to be with us, it’s the kids’ term break anyway. But work.

I am a worrier. I hate that I am but I can’t help it. I have also other afflictions like nervousness and anxiety and panic attacks. These I acquired with my illness. But I fight them all with tons of prayers. I have prayed weeks before Felix would leave for Bangkok. And on the Monday that he leaves, I submerge myself in prayer. The demons of worry and panic attacks cannot get near.

The blessing of ordinary days (ordinary in that they are not days wrought with wonder or leisure or excitement) is to keep still and trust and rest in the Lord.

It is vacation and most people we know are away having a grand time. But the kids and I are holed up at home, barely exchanging a few words.

Melanie, a sister in Christ whose daughter we send to school, comes to assist us and cook our meals. She brings her 6-year old son. He and Tim play. Tim teaches him simple English words. He gives him his old toy.

The blessing of ordinary days is to see God’s care and love through other people.

In the afternoon, we cook pasta and prepare vegetable salad, then I invite the kids around our small mobile table stationed in our bedroom extension. While we divide portions, scoop sauce, and drizzle parmesan, I tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and His life of modesty and simplicity. Of how He wants us to learn of Him for He is meek and lowly. This in the atmosphere of our not being able to get away and have a marvellous vacation somewhere.

I tell them that maybe the Lord is teaching us (them, especially) to have humble and grateful hearts. I then ask each one what they know of this: to be humble and grateful. I let them see what we do have and be grateful for every one of them.

The blessing of ordinary days is to remember the Lord’s teachings and learn of Him, of tucking Him and His Word into our hearts so that we continue to grow and be fruitful.

The next day (after recovering from a nasty attack of my illness), I watch this short Christian film. It’s a story about a shepherd boy who is partially crippled. He lives alone with his mother. Though his right shoulder and leg hurt constantly, he needs to go to the hills to pasture the sheep that they don’t even own. One night, he encounters the Lord Jesus Himself but he doesn’t know it’s Him. It’s supposed to be “Christmas”, the night the Savior was born 30 years before. They are in the same hill country where the angel announced glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds working the cold night shift. The boy’s father was one of those shepherds.

They start to talk. The boy shares his water and dinner of bread wrapped in cloth, but not the special cake his mother baked for him. Later on when he realizes that the “stranger” is good and kind, he shares the cake also and apologizes for withholding it at first. The Lord touches the boy’s shoulder, takes his crutch (which the boy willingly gives), and walks into the night. Needless to say, the boy is made whole that same hour. He runs home to his mother.

All this time, tears fall down my cheeks. I am awash with fresh downpour of love.

Sometimes, the heart responds and learns more through love than through sermon. Stories of love based on truth. Stories of God’s amazing love to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. 

Herein is love. 

The blessing of ordinary days is to know and receive that love without doubt and questioning. And to love the Lord back just as purely. To love Him even in the hard, in the painful, in the excruciating, without any traces of selfishness or cold-heartedness or silent rage. To look Him in the eye and there’s only tender love and awe and adoration in us.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be able to receive epiphanies, to be able to hear God’s voice and be transformed by it. 

On a Wednesday evening, Felix texts me. Their plane has safely landed in NAIA. I feel so happy and light I could soar! I shout and shout my thanksgiving towards heaven although I’m sure no voice comes out from my lips. I kiss my Bible thinking I’m kissing my Lord and Savior.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be lifted up in this shared love.

Thursday late afternoon, we gather around our dining table. The kids set the table, more sparkling than usual. The side table carries food we ordered especially for this occasion: black seafood paella, lasagna drowning in thick layers of luscious cheese, and red-orange juice.

Before we lift up forks, we lift up our hands and thanksgiving to God. We don’t need special occasion to order food, set the table, and gather around it. When we celebrate God, we can do it any day. Even in ordinary days.

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Faithfulness and Persistence

To the sick and suffering who have been in the same difficult situation for so long a time, these, faith and persistence, could become so shabby, lackluster, that one needs to wipe the dusty surface to have a glimpse of them once again. This could happen when, for years one prays for miraculous healing and it doesn’t come, and instead, there could be more suffering. This doesn’t mean that faithfulness in God is gone for good. No. It’s just that, one’s fervency for that petition so sought for could diminish. Maybe one would still continue praying for it but the “faith that could move mountains” has waned. Importunity (persistence) is also gone.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

That is, until one finds oneself in a harder place where there is no other thing to do but find one’s way back to them – faith and persistence – dust them up, polish and let them shine once more. Let them do their work once more.

For you see, even hope could grow faint and wax weak. One could lose one’s tight grip on it and when that happens, one finds oneself despairing once again. To lose hope and courage – it’s scary. But if we revive our faithfulness to God and our persistence in seeking Him and presenting our supplications to Him, there could still be a remnant of strength left in one’s spirit. And with that, hope. For these, faithfulness and hope, they fortify each other. And prayer in faith is the fuel upon which persistence operates.

As I have said, they could become lackluster, especially when, after a very long time of holding onto them, one still has not received answer to a very important prayer. One is still sick and suffering terribly perhaps. But if the going gets tougher and tougher, one knows that these – faith in God and persistence (importunity) – are the only things one can hold onto, that can bring one from this day to the next. That can rekindle hope.

And so, instead of entertaining the budding feelings of discouragement, self-pity, and despair inside (or the temptation to sulk against God), I am brushing up my strong faith in Him and pursuing Him with persistent determination once again.

I am praying this:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:10-11)

I confess, feelings of hopelessness and despair sometimes creep into my heart, but I never – NEVER – let them flourish. However hard sickness and suffering is, I can’t afford to do that. I am a mother. I guess that says it all.

By God’s persistent grace, He revives us every now and then. This is more significant when one finds oneself in the lions’ den or in the fiery furnace heated up seven times than usual.

Do we still have Daniels and Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos abiding deep within us?

Do we still have that faith to face the hungry lions once again and believe – BELIEVE and TRUST – that God will send His angel once again to stop their mouths from devouring us?

Do we still have that faith that the Lord Jesus Christ will walk with us in the midst of the fire and we will walk out of the furnace without being burned?

Why are lions’s dens and fiery furnaces not shut down for good, like closed down factories which churn out obsolete products?

But we know that they will always be around until kingdom come. But the Word of God will remain. THE. WORD. OF. GOD. WILL. REMAIN!

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Lord Jesus said,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Mat. 24:35)

And what does His Word say? It is only this:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Is. 43:1-3)

These are so beautiful promises, but again, I confess: In the thick of sickness and suffering, one may feel like drowning in the deep waters instead of walking on them. One may feel like being melted through the fire.

It is during these times that our faith must not fail. Even for this, we need to ask the Lord Jesus’ help and intercession, remembering His assurance to Apostle Peter as also His assurance to us: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (see Luke 22:32).

In Luke 11 (KJV Bible), the Lord Jesus tells of a story between two friends and how importunity of the one got him what he wanted from the other. The story was a preface to what the Lord really wanted to say: for us to ask, seek, knock.

To be importunate is to be “overly persistent in request or demand”¹. In the story of the two friends, the one being asked didn’t want to be bothered for he and his family were already abed, but because he was his friend and because of his importunity, he rose and gave what his friend needed.

The Lord Jesus is saying that it is the same with our relationship with Him: we are His friends and He encourages us to importune Him, to ask and beg Him urgently, persistently, even troublesomely.

Sometimes we grow weary, yes, but the Holy Spirit leads us back to God’s Word over and over again and to believe and trust in its mighty power to do that which He intended it for.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11, emphasis added)

He will send His word and heal (Ps. 107:20). Amen.

¹ Merriam-Webster

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The Joy of God’s Calling

My husband showed me videos from his Facebook newsfeed of beloved workers in church who wrangle the rough-flowing rivers with their motorcycles going to a people on the mountains to preach the Gospel. These volunteers are not full-time workers but fathers who also hold day jobs: ambulance driver, security guard, fireman, etc. During their off days and weekends, they gather like a small army with their motorcycles and Bibles after which they will then make their long and arduous trek to the mountains of Sta. Inez to hold a Bible Study amongst the communities there.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that's been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that’s been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

To be able to reach the place, they would have to cross seven rivers. When they have reached the top, they are rewarded with the cool mountain breeze, an invigorating welcome after their gruelling journey. Clouds hang low and wrap themselves around the mountain peaks, the mist hover in front of them and seem to whisper its approval and blow a kiss. As if that wasn’t reward enough, the anticipation of families – men, women, child, and the elderly – lining up in the gathering place, beaming with joy and thanksgiving, eager for the banquet that awaits them, a feast on the Word of God.

The joy of God’s calling! It lifts off the burden of life’s travails; it wipes away other desires that may serve oneself and not the living God. It is the antidote to all self-serving dreams and appetites. To find one’s way on this path is the beginning of the fulfilment of one’s purpose on earth. To be able to yield and place oneself snugly into God’s divine purpose without any trace of fear (and even if there is fear, to face it with courage and boldness that only comes from God), uncertainty, and resistance is to find one’s happy and satisfying place, which no other place could offer, like a key finding the lock made for it.

Many Christians (me included) struggle to live a fully satisfying, fulfilling life, looking here and there, to the left and to the right, for that life where you don’t get to envy or covet others’ lives. When we haven’t fully embraced God’s calling and purpose for us, we tend to look at how others live their lives and we then  compare. In fact, it is this practice of comparing that makes us to not fully see and grasp God’s plan for us. We dream dreams and desire things, mostly influenced by what we see around us and in the world at large. We set out and chase them purposefully. But we continue looking and comparing and coveting, never coming to that place of deep satisfaction and gratitude.

Until we seek and find and embrace God’s plan for our lives, we will continue to grope. We will continue to struggle to live a fruitful life, one that shines and reflects the glory and beauty of God.

I myself have been in and out of those kinds of struggles. But after my husband showed me the videos of the brothers fording the rivers of Sta. Inez, I found the answer to my wandering, groping heart and mind.

The Apostle Paul had found it and lived it until the day he died. And many Christians after him lived it, too, desiring a better, that is, a heavenly country, waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

And what is this life?

It is to live is Christ.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

This is all we need to know to be able to settle in life and live everyday.

To live is Christ.

To live following the life the Lord Jesus Christ lived. To walk as He walked. To think as He thought (“We have the mind of Christ”). To minister as He ministered. To love as He loved. To obey the Father as He obeyed. To live according to the Father’s plan and purpose for us as He lived His life according to God’s plan and purpose for Him.

To be meek and lowly. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mat. 11:29). The meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1). Thesaurus lists down synonyms of meek and lowly and I picked a few:

submissive, serene, gentle, unassuming, forbearing, humble, long-suffering, modest, patient, peaceful, unpretentious, yielding

To live with power and authority as a child of God. That is, power over all the power of the enemy.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

To live single-mindedly, doing the work of God.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)

This is not an impossible task, for the Lord promised power and victory in faith.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

Our hearts and minds are divided because we straddle the kingdom of God and the world, one foot on each, and in the deed, we feel discontented, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

…the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)

Though we bear fruit here and there, it’s not abundant. In fact, more often than not, there is a lack. Or worse, a barrenness.

“To live is Christ” doesn’t mean it’s all a blissful life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s living contrary to the world’s teachings and practices. It’s a narrow road. There are trials and tribulations. But it would be a fruitful life. Fruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when we live under the roof of all these, the reign of the Holy Spirit, there is no more lack, nor envy, nor coveting. Only a fulfilling life, knowing that we are at the very heart of God’s will and purpose for us.

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To Be God’s Own

Even as I cling to this, that to be wholly God’s is the whole meaning and purpose of life, I still intentionally pursue it with a single-minded determination through the moments of everyday. I mean, it could easily wriggle out of one’s grasp like a slippery fish. And there are moments still that it’s hard for me to connect it to my hardships and draw true contentment from it. But this is what it gradually does: it eases off the feelings of discontent and misery, believing that if I am God’s own, and that He is in me and I in Him, then, I must exactly be where He wants me to be, doing the things He’s leading me to do. That if I am His, the life I’m living now is orchestrated by Him and He speaks to me and I listen to His voice. I mean, there is no reason to bemoan my current situation perhaps, because He should be the One leading, planning and unfolding His purposes for me one day at a time.

I painted this solo strawberry with this thing in mind: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of my life.

I painted this solo strawberry with this thing in mind: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of my life.

There is a need to understand that the thoughts and plans of the Lord for His people are different from ours and the world’s. So, if we are truly in it together, then we must willingly yield our lives into His skilful and caring hands and not fret.

Again we ask, just to refresh our minds on the heart of the matter: What is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we even here? It is God who created us and put us here and there is no way that He did it without a firm plan and purpose. He has known us and chosen us before the foundation of the world. Even before anything was created, He has known us and His purposes for us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:3-6, emphasis added)

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will… (Eph. 1:11)

The meaning and purpose of our lives is not solely and primarily to pursue careers and relationships and adventures and pleasures and wealth and bask in them, but to be one in Him and to be holy and without blame before Him in love. Which ultimately means that we are always in Him, in our Lord Jesus Christ, for He it is that sanctifies us. It is through Him that we have obtained an inheritance. And it is He who works all things in and through us to fulfil that predestined purpose.

The real heart and soul of the matter is to be so connected to God that we become one, making His will and desires and purposes for us our very own.

How does that look like for me who is housebound and weak and unwell? It is to invite Him into my life. There are times that I long for the Lord Jesus Christ so much, yearning to see and touch Him, that I feel even reading His Word, or attempting to watch Jesus films, or listening to praise, wouldn’t suffice. There are times that my yearning for Him is so deep that nothing else seems to satisfy.

So, one night, I closed my Bible and the TV (where I was trying to look for films about Him) and with eyes closed, I whispered:

I want You in my life, Lord.

I want You in my longings.

I want You in my sufferings.

I want You in all my troubles.

I want You in my sadness and loneliness.

I want You in my fears.

Having excavated and known my deepest wants, I then invited Him into my life, to be God to me, to be my Shepherd. For when I let Him be God and Shepherd of my life, the Bible says that I. Shall. Not. Want. 

Lord, I invite You into my life. Please come and inhabit Your throne in me and reign all over me.

You are the heart of my life.

You are the Life of my life.

Be to me the Healer that You are.

Be my Shepherd.

Be ALL God to me, my everything in every area of my life.

There is a family in church whose testimony is that, they used to live off garbage. It was their livelihood. They would wait for the garbage trucks to arrive at the dump site and forage for anything that they could then sell. They would also eat off the food that they found there. But when they began serving the Lord faithfully and learned how to give for the work of the Lord (much like the widow who gave her two mites), the Lord began to bless them abundantly. Now, the children are all grown up, finished school, and are all working successfully abroad. The parents would visit them, traveling to distant countries they never dreamed of seeing.

When they gave their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, He became a Shepherd to them. Their lives took a new form. They could taste the fruits of being with God.

If we give our whole lives to God and let Him reign over us and lead us — we shall not want.

He causes us to lie down on green pastures. He satisfies our hunger. He makes our fondest dreams a reality.

He brings placidness to our spirits.

He restores us when we are a mess and we have made a mess of everything.

He leads us in His way.

He is with us through trials. His strength will be with us. He takes away our fears.

He comforts us in our sorrow.

He blesses us in the sight of all.

He blesses us with all spiritual blessings.

He makes our lives full and running over.

And afterward, He will receive us to glory.

And we will dwell with Him forever.

Life on earth is short. But be that as it may, we will live it in Him and by Him and through Him and for Him. It is the only way to live.

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On Sacrifice {A Family Tale}

The daddy leaves for church on a Sunday morning, alone this time because the two kids, who sing in different choirs, Children’s and Youth, are both sick, but not after cooking food, chicken adobo for the kids (their Sunday staple) and sinigang (fish and fish roe in sour broth with vegetables) for the mommy. The teenage daughter comes down and settles in bed beside her mom (who has been ailing these past 14 years), feverish and with a headache. The almost-ten son is just recovering from chicken pox. By God’s grace, the pustules are just few and they are now flattening down and drying out. Except for those, he is well and roams around the house as usual.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

The maid left a few days ago, and although she didn’t want to leave, she had no choice. Her teenage middle son stopped going to school because he wanted his mother to be home.

So, the family is alone at present because the employment agencies are vacant. They have nobody to send. Most maids are now found abroad. Greener pastures.

All Sunday, the little boy tended to both mother and sister (who are stationed in bed) while the father worshiped the Lord in church which is from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Maybe already tired, twice he brought to the bedroom the pot of dish itself to serve food to the sick. But the mommy is so very thankful for the food he served. It definitely brought sustenance to their weak bodies.

Although the kids are used to assisting their sick mom and have both learned how to respond and act on her signs when she is so unwell, they haven’t completely learned to not complain. The teenager may not voice out her complaints, but often, her face says it all. And the little boy? He complains incessantly when he is not his sweet self. For when he is sweet (for he is a very sweet boy, indeed), he’s an angel.

The mother thinks they complain because they believe that they should not be serving like that. Their classmates in the international school that they attend are probably not required to serve. For the mom has yet to see a home in the village they live in (and she knows for certain in the homes of her kids’ classmates) which doesn’t employ a maid or two.

The kids grew up having maids around, but the mommy believes that it should not hinder her desire to train them to help with chores. Whenever the family finds itself maidless, the kids know how to sweep and mop the floors, clean their rooms and bathrooms, wash dishes, cook, tend to the dogs, and answer to their mother’s calls. But this is nothing compared to her training growing up.

Many years ago in the province where life was generally hard and maids were unheard of, everyone in the family, except the baby in the cradle, helped. She doesn’t fail to tell these stories to the kids, how the wooden and untiled floors must be waxed, then scrubbed with a coconut husk to make them shine, would take almost half a day and all your strength. How water must be fetched from the well across the street, for washing, laundry, and bathing. How they all washed their clothes by hand including bleaching the cloth diapers of the baby under the powerful sunshine, because Pampers and Huggies were just a figment of the imagination.

But she doesn’t think that they completely absorb these stories. They are so farfetched from the life they have now. They don’t know the hard life in the province.

And so the mother, while waiting out for good breathing and strength with tightly closed eyes, wish so much in her heart to teach and model to her children the virtue of sacrifice. To let them know that life in the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely different from the life in the world, especialy their friends’ and classmates’ lives. That it’s okay to be different as long as the reason for it is because they are children of God and followers of the Lord Jesus and His teachings. That serving others, even sacrificing for them, is a part and a virtue of the Christian life.

She wishes to teach all these and she frets in her spirit for she knows that her strength is not enough for lengthy Bible Study and discussion. But the desire will serve as a goal for her to rise up and serve her family, especially her children, in the ways of the Lord.

How she longs to teach them, as she also has recently learned, that serving and sacrificing are things not to be despised or shunned but to be embraced. She wants them to understand, as she is just beginning to understand it herself, that the serving and sacrificing life is not hidden from the eyes of God, and that, it will be rewarded, if not in the here and now, in eternity.

She knows that her family longs to travel, to see the world, like all families dream and strive of doing. She knows that her family looks at the world, at other families in their neighborhood and in school, and so desires to be like them. And she used to feel that way, too. But now she understands that, to truly follow Christ is to denounce the pleasures of the world. That even though they enjoy its offerings from time to time, it is not their life. It is not their way of life. But that their life is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ who, though He owned heaven and earth and is the King of kings, chose to be born in a smelly stable.

She understands it now, like the breaking of dawn through the pink-purple sky, that the cause of all her woes is because she desired things other than what the Lord is offering. 

She knows sacrifice, but because of wealth, she and her family dream of pleasurable and beautiful things. She knows that silent service, where God maybe the only audience, makes life deeply meaningful and rewarding. 

She remembers the days how her two caregivers (also nannies to the kids), both cousins of her husband, took care of her, bathed and fed her when she was too weak. On two separate occasions when one of them was bathing her, she touched their heads and expressed her gratitude and declared that their acts of love will be rewarded by the Lord.

And that is what she wants to teach her children, that sacrifice is always an act of love and nothing but. That a service when done grudgingly loses its helping and healing power and it only leaves heaviness in the spirit of the recipient. When a service is done with heavy heart, hand, and words, it is futile in the end. 

It is always this:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)

And to always remember the Lord’s words:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat. 25:40)

Every act of love, every sacrifice, we do it to Him and for Him.

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Yearning

Though it hurts, yearning is good for my heart, that yearning for the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know that kind of deep yearning, one that is borne out of desperation? That yearning that I am sure the woman who bled for 12 years had, or the leper who begged the Lord, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean”, or the father of the child with a dumb and deaf spirit who cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” Or Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter lay at home dying.

This was just a quick sketch and dabble and though it's quite unfinished (the other flower needs more color), I enjoyed painting it just for the joy and freedom of painting.

This was just a quick sketch and dabble and though it’s quite unfinished (the other flower needs more color), I enjoyed painting it just for the joy and freedom of painting.

These all and many others had gone through indescribable desperation and sought the Lord Jesus’ help. I know there are still many out there that, like me, are going through the same. But that is the big difference between our stories and those stories in the Bible during the time of the Lord Jesus Christ: they had Him in the flesh, going about all the cities and villages, healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 

And that is where my yearning cuts deep: I want Him so much to be here, in the flesh, to see His eyes of compassion and feel His hands of mercy and healing. To be before Him, begging Him on my knees to deliver me from my sickness and suffering. Or even to crawl behind Him and be able to touch even the hem of His garment, then everything will be fine. Then healing would flow to my body and all would be well.

I long for Him, yes, so much that it hurts.

Sometimes I wonder, does He know our deepest longings? How does He feel about them? What does He want to do about them?

The Gospels tell us that, He was moved with compassion. And since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), He is still moved with compassion today.

He is still moved with compassion today. Let this truth steep our whole being from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet.

But we need proof, don’t we? We want to experience this compassion in action from a compassionate God. We want to bask in our belovedness. For we are His beloved and He is ours.

Years ago when I was very sick again and languished in bed, I experienced the same yearning for God, to know His heart, to see His eyes. What did they see? What was their expression?

One day I was reading through The Book of Daniel and that encounter between him and the angel Gabriel touched me deeply that I had to put down my Bible and pondered on it. Gabriel told Daniel that He was a man greatly beloved. Three times the angel assured Daniel this, that he was a man greatly beloved by God.

How I wished I were in Daniel’s stead!

I closed my Bible and thought long and hard: “Am I also a woman greatly beloved by God?” I was no prophet. I hadn’t the wisdom or the faith and calling of Daniel. I was a woman whose sin was darker than the darkest night. And yet a woman who had received great mercy and grace from the compassionate God and complete forgiveness of my sins. And had been washed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that flowed profusely in Calvary.

Didn’t He give His life to give me mine?

He loved me and died for me even when I was yet a sinner. So, am I a woman greatly beloved by Him? Is there doubt about that?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

But, I ask Felix my husband in a whisper, “Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does God even allow it? Even to His children?” as I swipe away tears that sneak out at the corners of my eyes. He whispers back his reply, “I don’t know, My.”

And so we yearn. We long for His touch, for His eyes that look at us compassionately and being moved by what He sees. We long for heaven touching earth and healing everything that needs healing.

This deep longing, this yearning in the heart that is not totally quenched in the here and now – it is proof that we belong to Him eternally. That our hearts and souls carry with them a part of eternity. And that our longing hearts are proof that our love is not dead but is forever alive and beating for Him.

My heart beats for Him. And that is good.

The last time that I came through one of those horrible sufferings, I only felt love for my Savior – a quiet, steadfast, indestructible love – all glory to Him! I listened to praise and loved on Him, then I reached for my prayer journal and told Him how He is my all in all, my everything in every aspect of my life. How I live in Him and by Him and through Him. And for Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18)

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“How Great Thou Art” {A Little Testimony}

Like any other testimony of God’s wonders and grace, whether a major one or of the everyday kind, this story began at the deepest end of human emotions: weariness, anger, resentment, lostness, helplessness. Of hope flying away; faith groping in the dark; heart bordering to rebellion. Against God. A body and heart that have been so hurt by the — unresponsive God. A soul that wept and shook and shed tears and poured out its bitter complaint.

IMG_7844

I am so sorry that I have to go through this again, but I promise that, like all other testimonies, it will be glorious in the end.

Last week, the flu bug found me and as if my present illness and suffering weren’t enough, the flu had to do its work also. It left my body feeling like it was tightly tied by a taut, thick rope from the head to the feet. The problems and discomforts that I used to suffer everyday intensified and felt like there was no relenting, especially on Tuesday. In the evening, exhausted and “sick and tired” of my situation, I attempted to listen to our church’s praise and worship on YouTube, but after just a few minutes, my breathing wasn’t improving and the music wasn’t helping, so I muted it.

I turned on my side and waited out for relief. When I was feeling strong enough to write on my prayer journal, I poised myself to do so. But already at this time, my heart was breaking. From hurt, disappointment, anger, and hope fading.

Below I share with you the words I wrote on my journal. I am sharing this with you because it’s part of the story. And because there is always this hope in my heart that, when I share my story and soul, someone, anyone, who might read it will be blessed as I pray God would intend to use it. And bring Him glory.

22nd August ’17

     Father in heaven, I always do my best to be good for You though I know that, oftentimes, I fail. Still, I strive to do so. I always do my best to pick myself up no matter how hard I am suffering.

     But I am weary, Father. I am weary of this suffering – relentless, cruel, punishing. My complaint rises up from within me like bile. My heart is in bitter complaint because of this suffering that seems endless.

     I’m only human. I am made of flesh and bones. I am weak. I suffer everyday and there is no end to it. I feel bitter. I feel discouraged. I feel… angry, somehow. Why is the punishment on my body never ends? I beg for Your mercy, but still, the suffering, the illness, clings to me like my own skin.

     I feel helpless.

     I am lost. I don’t know what to do, what to think, where to go.

     I feel lost.

     I am weak. I can’t fight this feeling of disheartenment.

     I don’t know what to say. I want to hurl things and smash them against the wall. Yes, there is anger in my heart. There is resentment. There is bitterness. Who wouldn’t be bitter? 14 years of sickness and suffering.

     I am in the dark. I can’t see light. My heart is gripped with sorrow. My faith is groping. I don’t know what to do.

     I don’t have the inspiration to do what I must do.

     I’m pitiful. I’m lost in my hope. [Here, I abruptly stopped and closed my journal as sobbing wracked my body].

I closed my journal and howled in my anguish. I thought about the Lord Jesus Christ, the words beloved and best friend so far away like shrouded in thick fog. But in my weeping, I uttered the words “Healer, Healer, Healer” and “Deliverer, Deliverer, Deliverer” over and over, not to beg, but to ask, “What do they really mean?” This was the question behind those words.

I prayed towards heaven as tears kept on rolling, “Father, please do not let me suffer so much that I would fall into doubt, unbelief, or rebellion!” I cried some more, curled up like a fetus in the womb.

When I was exhausted at last (and my complaints, too), I looked at my TV screen. The praise and worship video was still there, suspended, waiting. But my heart wasn’t yearning to praise and worship. It wasn’t into it, so I didn’t force it. I clicked it close and went to Home, intending to search for Jesus movie. I was thinking that maybe, when I see the Lord Jesus (even if only a movie), teaching, loving, caring, healing – my heart would have a turnaround.

I know Jesus. I know my Shepherd. But I’m not okay now. Such were the whisperings of my soul.

But when I reached YouTube Home, the video Hymn History “How Great Thou Art” caught my eye and I said, “I’ll watch this first.”

I watched it and when finally, the beloved hymn was played, I was unprepared as to what was to come.

By the second stanza, something began to happen.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

“I know, Father. Though I haven’t been through the woods and forest glades, or on top of the mountain or near the brook, my soul knows them,” my heart whispered, the course of tears on my cheeks still damp. “I know the sound of the birds singing sweetly in the trees. I know it so well.”

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

I first saw (or heard?) the lyrics even as I shifted my eyes on the cross, and there, He took me totally unexpectedly. He took me wholly, and my anguish, too. The weight of His Truth, my salvation story, and His love – the weight of glory – it can topple one onto one’s knees and assume the posture of worship. The worship of God with the whole spirit. The worship of God that relinquishes any traces of complaint.

And I was reduced to someone who needs saving once again. Someone who is a sinner and a recipient of God’s amazing grace. Someone who was a filthy rag but was washed by the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ – my best friend and beloved.

I flung my arms upwards and shouted with all the strength I had, “I love You, my dearest Lord Jesus! I love You, I love You, I love You!” as fresh tears once again smeared my face.

The weight of God’s glory upon one’s spirit is restoring.

It is not my striving to be perfect that draws me to the throne of grace. It is my great neediness.

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Be Strong and Courageous

One day last week after a long suffering bout where I had felt like I was dangling over a deep canyon and just the tiniest error on my part or a soft whiff of wind would send me plummeting into the deep and… end, many confusing thoughts and swirling emotions gripped me. It was a moment that I didn’t want to analyze things anymore, that I was tired thinking, analyzing, and trying to understand what I was unable to comprehend anyway. I was thinking that once I had enough strength and good breathing, I was going to write on my journal this: “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore.” I was so exhausted not only physically but in fighting spiritually or even mentally, trying to outsmart my sickness and suffering. For a change I wanted to just be lost and not think or do anything.

My daisy meadow from last year.

My daisy meadow from last year.

For what could a mere human do in the face of so much hardship? I thought about the unfairness of life: the wicked enjoying a long, healthy, and prosperous life, and the people that are still so needed by their families are taken away (here, I was thinking of my friend who passed away recently, leaving her 4 children orphans, for her husband had gone before her ten years prior).

So, I was facing yet another major bout of discouragement and hopelessness.

But just as soon as these feelings of weakness and lostness engulfed me, these words flashed in my mind in red letters: Be strong and courageous.

And instantly, I was renewed to be strong and courageous again.

Then I understood (again), that there was no other way, really, in this faith that we have been given. So, I comforted and encouraged myself with these words as the last few moments of recovery (from the attack) came to an end: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (see Eph. 6:10).

I am not a stranger to this admonition. In fact, it is my battlecry in the 14 years of being sick and suffering. It has seen me through the dark valleys and stormy seas. In the face of great fear, uncertainties, suffering, discouragements, hopelessness, and wanting to give up, “Be strong and courageous” has always gained the upper hand.

Yes, to remain standing still after each storm. For the Lord Jesus Christ is able to make us stand.

…Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Rom. 14:4)

It is God’s power and grace that make us stand.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:11-13)

Having done all, to stand. I often think and wonder why, after doing all the things that I know are pleasing to God – obeying His commands, living His Word, and not neglecting to worship and commune with Him first and foremost – still, there are prayers, very important ones, that are left unanswered. Still, illness stays and suffering continues. After each and every suffering bout, I ask in the depths of my soul, like an anguished animal desperate for deliverance, “What else needs to be done?”

And when we only hear hollow echoes of our questions and not a clear answer, we either slump down in utter dejection and discouragement or become bitter, resentful, and more doubtful.

But the Apostle Paul exhorts that having done all, to still stand. Stand and not cave in. Stand and not doubt. Stand and forge on. Stand and be strong and courageous. Stand and be faithful to the end.

I know firsthand how this is not easily done, especially in the face of so much hardships and challenges. But it is what needs to be done. Our God commands it.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)

I am no Joshua, but I can make the other women of the Bible who had shown strength and courage in the face of life’s trials and challenges as my role models.

Esther

There is Esther who bravely faced her fate twice. First, as a candidate for queen among other young women. What if she had other plans for herself? All that had to be forgotten for she was brought to the palace to be prepared for one night with the king. What if she wasn’t chosen? She will be kept in the harem as the king’s concubine for life. A very daunting prospect.

But she did her best and became a shining star in the palace and earned the trust and respect of Hegai, custodian of the women, and the other girls. She wasn’t afraid even ensconced within the walls of the palace that could serve her prison for life.

Then there was the moment in her life as queen when she needed to approach the king and present her petition, putting her life on the line. For any one who had not been summoned by the king and presented themselves risked death.

Ruth

Who doesn’t love Ruth? A widow and a stranger to Israel being a Moabitess, she could have stayed behind with her family and the people she knew. But she cleaved to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and set her face to a pilgrimage to the land she had never been before, to a people and faith foreign to her, and to a God she had not known.

And yet, she had the heart and courage to face all that without being afraid. And then followed the back-breaking labor of gleaning barley from sunup to sundown.

And having done all, to stand.

Rahab

Who would forget Rahab? She was a brave and gutsy woman for sure. She didn’t only shine hiding the spies and bravely facing the king’s stewards who came knocking at her door demanding her to turn in the spies. But to turn her back from her old occupation and start a whole new life in the embrace of Israel and her God. From a prostitute to an Israel adoptee (even capturing Salmon’s heart), she bravely yielded herself to the challenges that she faced. It wouldn’t have been easy to live normally and blissfully and to be with only one man with the demons of her past visiting her many a sleepless night. The remembrance of her past life.

But having done all, to stand.

And then there is Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus. But we end here.

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. (Ps. 94:18)

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