Waiting in the Shadows


When Mama passed away, I wrote in her eulogy: There is “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die. . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1–2, 4). We comfort those who are mourning, and we rejoice with those who are rejoicing. We laugh and weep together because there is a time for everything, and everything in its time.

God has made everything beautiful in its time—the time to do whatever needs to be done, whatever is fitting.

But God has also set eternity in our hearts—a sense of timelessness. We can never understand what God has done since the beginning of time, nor will we ever imagine what God will do till the end of time. And so even as we live in time, we wait with hope for the end of time. Yet waiting for the fulfillment of this promise is difficult, especially if we do not know how long we have to wait.

Paul encouraged the Romans to be joyful, patient, and faithful. Joy and affliction are paradoxical realities. It is not easy to be joyful in affliction. But when there is hope, joy is possible. Hopeful joy helps me to be patient in suffering. I wait in joyful expectancy that the suffering will end. Days will be better.

This joyful hope sustains my prayer just as much as hopeful joy keeps me praying. When I expect God to do good things for me, I wait patiently with joy, even amidst sufferings. This is not possible by my own strength, but only by persistently keeping in touch with the One who is faithful, who is my source of joy and hope.

I thank God for the lessons I learned through my parents’ sufferings, in sickness, and in death. In the days and weeks that followed my mom’s passing, I kept visiting my father, who was so frail, weak, sad, and sick. Many times I prayed, “Lord, have mercy, take Papa quickly so he will not suffer so much.” But God’s ways are not our ways, and over time, I began to pray, “Lord, have mercy, Thy will be done.”

During Papa’s sickness, my sister and I learned how to help one another, forgive one another, pray more and depend on God more. We each discovered new meanings in Jesus’ prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I learned that the greater the pain, the more I would learn about humility, patience, courage, trust and dependence on God. I practiced how to be strong, one step at a time, moment by moment, day by day as I sought to depend on God’s grace and call on his mercy.

One day, my sister called me and said: Papa is so different today. How?

“He ate ice cream, asked for water, asked to go to the toilet because he didn’t want to pee in the diaper, and he also asked for bread,” she told me. “He also asked,  How old is your elder sister?, and I said, ‘She is 54 years old.’ And he smiled.”

“He’s asked me that before,” I told her. “Biya, How old are you?

During these times, my sister and I were ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan’ (shallow happiness), because we were easily pleased by the simple pleasures in life.

Because he could not see, each time I visited him, I would say, Pa, I’m Biya.” Happily, he replied:You, Biya?”

We learned to find joy in each one of papa’s talkative or alert moments, to delight in his memories, to record the words he spoke, or, later, the way he opened his mouth to utter words his voice could not sound. We learned to be grateful for his good appetite (for ice cream, soup, and siopao (pork buns) —which we did not give him because we worried he might choke). We learned not to take for granted his toothless smile in unexpected moments, his nod or his furrowed eyebrow to acknowledge our presence when he could not speak. We learned to praise God for sunshine on dialysis days, for kind nurses or hospital staff, for light traffic along the way, for arriving safely at his destination. We even praised God for solid poops.

I paid attention to the way God faithfully provided such good caregivers for my father. I remember with gratitude when a friend who visited me during my sickness ministered to my father when he was in need of a catheter not available in the hospital he’s staying. She helped us source the catheter.

The fire of our father’s suffering—his peg installation, pneumonia, sepsis, bed sores, colon obstruction, stent insertion, and on-going dialysis—enabled our family to experience greater heights of joy together. After watching him endure excruciating pain, we rejoiced when he received relief. Because of our journey through the long dark tunnel of sickness and death, we began to watch hopefully for each momentary glimmer of light. These flashes of light and hope gave us courage to face the road still ahead of us.

In the last few months of Papa’s sickness, whenever Marian and I asked if he was in pain, he always answered in the negative. Only once did he admit to his caregiver that he was in pain. Even so, we always knew it was painful for him – from his facial expressions: when he winced, jerked his arm or hand, or covered where it hurt. His courage and endurance of pain encourage us to be brave.

With the psalmist, we began to delight ourselves in the Lord, trusting him to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). For the God of yesterday’s pain is with us today and forever, and His grace and mercy will lead us through each step of our journey.

Lord, help me to delight in you. Shape my desires to your desires so that I can receive whatever you give with gratitude, trusting in your love and goodness. Enable me to be joyful, hopeful and faithful even as I wait in the shadows. Amen.


Groaning in the Shadows

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.                           –Romans 8:22–28

I cry easily. I cry when I watch dramas on TV or in movie houses. I cry when I see people cry. In Tagalog, we call it ‘mababaw ang luha’ (shallow tears that easily overflow).

On the day of my mother’s funeral, I remember crying, “Mama… Mama…” as I stood beside her coffin. I didn’t care that my cries were loud and long, but then I had to stop crying, because it was time for the cremation to begin.

After my mom died, I did not have much time to cry, because I was too anxious for my father, who was ninety-two, was blind on one eye and almost blind on the other. He did not have an appetite. It was a constant struggle of anxiety and stress to feed him.

Because I did not know how to deal with my grief, I had a hard time comforting my father. As I sat by his sick bed, I often did not know how to pray. So I would pray, “Lord, have mercy.” (wishing for God to take him so his suffering would end.)

Although I’m thankful that Mama is now in heaven, where there is no pain, sorrow, or sickness, I could not pray this thought with my father. I thought – how good this was for mom, but how hard it was for dad. Whenever I prayed with him, I felt even more grieved when I opened my eyes and saw tears in my father’s eyes. I thought my prayers had made him cry, and so I prayed silently, “Lord, please take him to eternal rest, to be with Mama, where there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears.”

I tried talking with him about the past, about details from his younger days. In our talk, I could not speak much of my mom or their times together. I worried these memories would make my father sad. And so I grieved in silence with him, crying silently, grateful that he could not see my tears.

On the last day that I visited Papa at home, I sat in Mama’s favorite chair and cried like a baby. I cried, “Mama… Papa…” over and over again. The nurse was in the next room with Papa, who was asleep. As I stood by his bedside, he spoke his last word to me, “Mama…,” but he could not continue because he was having a hard time breathing. “Mama is resting,” I told him.

After my father died, I stood with my daughter, Hannah, by his body. As the mortician combed his hair and brushed his coat, I touched his cold hands and cried, “Papa… Papa..” I had to hold back my crying because it was time for him to be transferred to the coffin.

At the funeral, as I took one last look at Papa, I cried again, “Papa… Papa…” My whole body shook as tears ran down my face. But then I had to stop crying because it was time to close the coffin.

One morning, as I reviewed the eulogy I had written for Papa, tears flowed again. My husband woke and heard my sniffles. “Are you crying?” he asked. I gave a muffled answer and wiped away the tears.

crying caring

I used to think I was ‘mababaw luha’ because I was emotionally weak and full of self-pity. So I learned to be strong and held back my tears.

I remember the times of my deep depression when I could not cry at all. It was horrible. I am reminded that tears are a blessing.

crying not weak

In the Gospel of John, Scripture says: Jesus wept (John 11:35). Jesus cried in public with Mary. Jesus grieved with Mary for the loss of her brother and his friend, Lazarus. Though Jesus wept in solitude in the garden of Gethsemane, he also wept in the crowd alongside Mary. His last cry on the cross that God, his father had forsaken him is the ultimate example of the greatest grief possible.

When I feel hurt or sad, crying relieves me. Once, after my husband and I had a big argument, I went to see the movie Phantom of the Opera, and after immersing myself in the story and crying through the movie, I went home feeling much better.


Now I cry often both in joy and in grief. Tears fill my eyes as I remember the past with gratitude—not regrets, but fond memories. Tears clear my eyes so I can live the present with faith. Tears rejuvenate my heart so I can receive the future with hope, trusting that in all things, both good and bad, God is working for my good. He makes us right with him so that in all seasons, we will reflect his glory.

My journey through the darkness reminds me of the paradoxes of God, who gives joy in times of grief and enables me to smile even as he allows me to cry. In the despair of death, he teaches me the hope of new life. As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And one day, I shall surely dwell in the house of the Lord forever, where I shall see Papa and Mama again.

Until my last breath, when God will wipe every tear from my eyes, I know my journey with tears will continue. On that day, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).


Lord, help me remember that you have called me to become a mirror of your glory. Help me to glorify you by praising you for all things, even in dark times. Help me to cling to you and to trust in your goodness and love as I seek to live in obedience to your will. Amen.

Alone and not lonely

When I was young, I was a shy introvert. It was uncomfortable for me to be alone in a crowd whether at school or at church. I was safer and more at ease with a companion or friend by my side. It did not matter that I was the shadow or side-kick as long as I could tag along to where my friend would be. When visitors came to our home, I would hide inside our bedroom. My mom used to explain to people that I was shy. Adolescence was an awkward period in my life. I was known at school to be snobbish because I did not know how to greet people with a smile. It was awkward for me to smile at schoolmates who were less than acquaintances for me.

I was most at ease among my ‘barkada.’ (Tagalog term for gang – group of friends that hang out together regularly) Music and singing brought us close together. During the last year in high school, we had a concert. The time we spent at rehearsals brought us even closer to each other. After graduation, we each went our separate ways and one by one, my close high school friends went abroad. I was left with my older church friends. I found myself tagging along these friends – making them my barkada even though they were ‘barkada’ on their own.

Then I got married. My in-laws used to complain about my non-responsive ways. I was quiet when they asked me questions coz I did not know what to answer or how to answer them.

I guess my mom named me ‘静’ (quiet) 薇 (small) because of my introvert personality. Marriage made me grow up. I was forced to speak up even when I did not feel like it. My in-laws expected me to reply when I was asked a question or respond even when I was being criticised.

I learned to be independent and to be brave when I became a mother. In the Filipino-Chinese culture in Manila, it was usual for middle-class to upper-class couples to have ‘yaya’ (nanny) take care of their children. Hubby and I belonged to middle-class family. While many of my contemporaries had house help (maids) and yayas, when we first got married, we lived with my in-laws with no house help at all. It was something new for me because I grew up having maids at home to help my mom do housework. I remember bringing my first-born to see the paediatrician for her regular vaccination. I had to carry my child, along with her baby things in a bag, walked from our place to the hospital (it was very near) alone to have her check-up. While waiting at the clinic, I would enviously notice how other mothers had their yaya and hubby or even mother beside them. Looking back, it was ok. I did not really feel that bad. I had no choice. God put me where I was to make me grow – from a scared dependent child to a brave independent adult by His grace and mercy.

When I was young, I was most contented and secure to be the follower. My strongly dominant friends set the trend and I followed where they led. But these friends eventually moved away. Then I got married. I need to follow my husband. Being a wife and a mother made me grow up. I learned to make decisions and stand by them. God is gracious as he listened to my mom’s prayers for me everyday. By the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, I slowly took on roles to be a leader as I followed the examples of more mature Christian friends who went before me. I guess I became the reluctant leader – the transformed follower-leader.

Over the years I realised that I could be alone and not lonely. My self-confidence grew when I noticed friends following my lead. Perhaps I was unaware of my inherent gifts – God-given traits which God intended to be used for His purpose. And I am learning to tread carefully between the thin line of being alone and not lonely – to stand for what I believe is right even when the majority is not for it. And more importantly, I need to be careful and beware of pride – the state of being too comfortably alone and ending up lonely.


This is a paradox – to be alone and not lonely. Solitude and loneliness – what are they? When I attended a ‘Soul Care’ class at the seminary, the professor asked us to explore our own shadows – the experiences in our life where we are most uncomfortable. She encouraged us to reflect on these dark places – to face them instead of turning away from them. So here are my thoughts on “The place of Loneliness and Solitude.”

To be lonely is to be isolated. To be in solitude is to be embraced.

The place of loneliness is a place of darkness. The place of solitude is a place of light.

To feel lonely is sad. There is joy in solitude.

To be alone is scary. To be in solitude is to be safe.

Paradox of Loneliness and Solitude

I can be lonely in a crowd. I can also be alone but not lonely.

While there is loneliness in a crowd, there is also solitude in a crowd.

Loneliness and Solitude are both places of the heart.

Jesus come into my heart.



Desolation and Consolation

Desolation is the state of complete emptiness or destruction; of anguished misery and loneliness. Consolation is comfort received after desolation. Desolation and consolation… life is full of them.

I have experienced in one moment the stress of listening to gripes of bitterness and anger… I became the object of wrath or subject of critical judgment. Then in another unexpected moment, there’s consolation in having a positive response to an intentional act of kindness – no matter how seemingly hopeless or useless this act might be. Consolation comes in the form of timely unexpected call of a friend; prayers for grace of angels God sent to me.

How to traverse between desolation and consolation?

Letting go of the desolation – put it behind me… not to repeat and rehearse the cursing I heard. Not to dwell on the hateful words or hold on to the moments of grief or anger. This is not easy. I want to defend myself – how I was wronged; how I was wrongly accused or judged. I need to make the other person see and hear how hurt I am. The people we love often have the power to hurt us the most.


Looking towards consolation is putting one foot in front of the other – to step out in hope and faith that things will get better – to offer kindness even if I do not feel like it; even if I might be rejected; no matter how short or fleeting the consolation. To forgive again and again – to give water or food to the one that hurt me… this forgiveness that is more than just plain passive letting go. Jesus calls me to love – to actively do something in spite of the desolation. In doing so, I follow Jesus to the path of consolation – to the place of peace.


Holding on to consolation moments – depositing them in the power bank from which to withdraw my strength – for me to use as an ammunition till the next desolation comes.

Lord, heal me in my desolation and let your healing presence be my consolation.

Growing in Patience


Time is a valuable element in our lives. In our fast-paced world, we want everything instant and fast! Instant coffee, instant noodles, fast lane, express counter, express delivery. We also want efficiency. We want everything to work out smoothly, according to our plans. We plan based on what we know. Plans guide us so we know what’s next. We want assurance and security. We dislike uncertainty, because it makes us feel unstable.

So it is difficult to wait patiently in the midst of suffering. The Chinese character for patience (忍) is a compound word with knife (刀) on top of heart (心). When we are patient, we endure a painful stab in our hearts. Yet we bear up to the pain, and our heart keeps pumping in spite of the wound.

But waiting is easier if I know how long I will have to wait. I appreciate the digital displays on traffic lights that tell me how long I have to wait. I sometimes call my drivers: “San ka na?” (Where are you?) So often they answer, “Malapit na!” (Near already.) But malapit is relative—what’s “near” for my driver may not be “near” for me. And when time is of the essence, a ten-minute malapit is not the same as a ten-second malapit.

After I had a bad fall and fractured my right ankle, a friend wisely encouraged me to be patient with my healing. I knew that patience was a virtue, fruit of the Holy Spirit. But I wanted to get better faster. I wanted to know when I would walk again. I kept asking my doctors how soon I could get back to normal walking, when I could put weight on my right leg. When? When? When?

It took me four months of physical therapy before I could walk normally. Seven months after the surgery, I still felt tightness in my right ankle whenever I walked down the stairs.

During this season, God began teaching me to embrace pain with joy. Job is the character in the Bible who is most associated with suffering. Yet he was able to say:

Then I would still have this consolation— my joy in unrelenting pain— that I had not denied the words of the Holy One (Job 6:10).

Job’s comfort and encouragement, his joy in suffering, was that he did not deny God, but remained loyal to God throughout his trials.

Of course, nobody would volunteer to take a difficult test from God. I certainly didn’t volunteer for cancer, and I didn’t volunteer to break my ankle!

Yet from hard splint to air cast, from swelling to healing, from sitting to standing, from hopping to shuffling, from strength to strength (Psa 84:7), God holds my hands and brings me through each difficult time, inviting me to experience his peace that passes understanding.

And because of my fall, I learned how to use a wheelchair, navigate the stairs with crutches, and practice patience—an experience that has made me more compassionate with those who cannot walk.

Before I had my ankle surgery, a friend told me that her doctor brother said, “We do not have to tiis (tolerate) pain unnecessarily.” With all of our medical advances, we certainly do not need to bear pain unnecessarily. Yet there is another kind of pain that no painkiller can fix—the pain of a broken mind, heart, spirit, soul.

Psalm 34:18 declares that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 51:17 says that “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

We live in a broken world, where we cannot fix things or run away from pain and grief. Yet Christians have assurance that our pain and sufferings are not in vain. For God works out all things—good and bad—for our good, for those he calls for his purpose.

Because of my cancer, I have become more compassionate towards others who are suffering. Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

As Henri Nouwen wisely observed: “The dance of life finds its beginnings in grief. . . Here a completely new way of living is revealed. It is the way in which pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge that something new will be born in the pain.”

When friends come to me for comfort and help, God helps me comfort them with the comfort that I received from him. As Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5).

Paul prayed three times for God to take away his thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7–8). God told him, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8).  God wanted Paul to rely on his power and not to exalt himself.

My pain allowed me to experience fully God’s grace and mercy. I will always remember how God warmly embraced me when I was going through cancer treatment—how he walked me through the deep dark valley of depression, even when my emotional and mental being denied his presence. We embrace pain by remembering pain and how it was overcome. The pain we experienced yesterday can become a steppingstone to joy today.

But until I learn the lessons of patience, God will continue to send difficult people, and put me in places that test my patience. Until I learn the lessons of love, there will always be unlovable, unreasonable, and rude people to test my patience.

The thorns in our life could be God’s means of teaching us something. God wants us to depend on him, to hone our characters and make us more like Jesus.

And so I choose to embrace pain. The world is filled with evil—those who cause violence, calamity, and death. All nature is filled with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, droughts, famines, and floods. Children of God are not exempt from these troubles. But they stand out from the world, because they choose to rejoice amidst the sadness. They have faith in the One who holds the world in his hands. They have hope that one day, Jesus Christ will return to conquer evil and death. They look forward with gladness and hope to spend eternity with their eternal God, forever free from the stronghold of death!

Lord, have mercy and thank you for being patient with me while I learn patience. May I learn to learn it neither too quickly, nor too slowly, but in your beautiful time. Amen.

[i]Henri Nouwen. Here and Now Living in the Spirit. (New York: Crossroad, 1994).


The Walking Bible

Yesterday, my aero classmate and I had snack after class. I was so hungry after the 2-hour workout at the gym and dance floor. I finished a big bowl of wanton noodles after eating 1/8 cup of colored rice for brunch before the workout.😜 You might wonder what this has to do with evangelism and authentic Christian living.

My aero classmate is a buddhist. When I first became the editor of UECP Herald, our church magazine, I offered a copy to this classmate. She turned me down saying she’s not interested. Napahiya ako. (I was embarrassed.) 😂😅 Last year when I published my book, I had 2nd thoughts on giving her a copy. So yesterday, when we went out for a meal, I asked her if she wants to read my book. She said is it about “Christiantiy?” (基督教)I answered it’s about my life. She said yes, she would like to read it. I did some sales talk coz I know she’s more into Chinese reading and she’s perhaps 8-9 years older than I am. I said I wrote it in mixed English and Chinese. (even though Chinese words are few. 😁)

I have been attending this aero class for years. I go to class to dance and I leave right after. I am not one to mingle and chat with my classmates. Out of all my classmates, this lady is one with whom I befriend well enough to know her name and visit her house to pray with her before she had a major surgery. In 2016, when my mom was very sick and I was worried for her, I had the chance to have lunch with this friend. I shared my mom’s testimony with her. She was so touched she cried. It was about the same time that she was scheduled for a surgery and she’s a bit worried about it. So after lunch, she invited me to her house. I asked her “Do u want me to pray with you?” Guess what her answer was? “Yes.” She asked “What do I do?’ I said you can close your eyes and pray/listen to what I pray. Then we sort of lost touch coz she had her surgery and missed classes coz it took awhile for her to recover. And my parents passed away in the months that follow.

So now it is almost 2 years since our last meal. Yesterday she wanted to pay me back for the meal i treated her then. This was the context of my belief on lifestyle evangelism.

I know it might be hard to believe that I am basically an introvert person. I share my life on FB and social media perhaps a bit more than what an introvert would do. When I was young (perhaps during my college days), I joined the EE (Evangelism Explosion) experience. I went out with 2 other church friends as a team of 3, to knock on doors to ask permission to share the gospel the EE way. I was glad I had my 2 older Christian brothers to accompany me. It was not easy. I felt uncomfortable sharing the gospel with strangers I did not know. Today, I still feel the same. I am not one to chat with seat mate on the plane to share the good news of Jesus. But when I was having radiation treatment at the cancer centre, I found courage to show concern and pray with a young lady with a big tumour on her forehead. I learned this idea from a cancer survivor acquaintance: how he did the same during his chemo sessions. He asked co-patients if they would like him to pray for them one-on-one. He shared that none had ever turned him down.

I realised that indeed sharing the good news of Jesus is about making good use of God-given opportunities with God-given wisdom and courage. The Holy Spirit helps us to witness for Jesus and share the good news by living an authentic Christian life – one that others would want to know more about. It is not a smooth life of pure sunshine and a bed of roses. It is about living victoriously in difficult times. It is being vulnerable and transparent enough to share the shadows and the valleys – and how Christ enables us to overcome these challenges and see the light in the darkness.

Dear friends, be encouraged to be bold to share the good news of Jesus. It is possible by God’s amazing grace. Find courage to be the walking Bible that others read.


Journey with the big C: Growing in Grace



One dinnertime, shortly after my cancer diagnosis, when all my children were gathered around the table, I saw the older ones put food on my youngest daughter’s plate. I was greatly comforted to know that Mimi, who was just seven, would be cared for by her achis (older sisters). In that moment, God let me see that whatever happened, my children would take care of one another. His grace would be sufficient. All things would work together for the good.


“Don’t waste your cancer,” John Piper wrote on the eve of his cancer surgery. By living well with cancer rather than dying from cancer, Piper believes that Christians with cancer can glorify God.

Certainly, no one would choose cancer! But during radiation, I experienced the precious warmth of God’s great love for me and the embrace of his grace and mercy more than at any other time of my life. When I felt physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted, frustrated, or depressed, God was my constant companion. As I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he joined me and walked with me.

Looking back, there are many things in my life that I would not have chosen for myself, but these circumstances always made me grow, leading me to deeper knowledge of God and a fuller experience of God’s love.

When I felt weary, tired, worn-out, and wanted to give up, God said, “Run to me.” When the burden was heavy, and I felt weighed down with anger, sadness, worthlessness, and self-pity, God said, Come to me. You are my beloved. I am with you always. I love you. I forgive you. I treasure you. You are precious to me. I put you here for a purpose. I will enable you to accomplish the purpose. People will glorify me because of you. Stop struggling. Come to Me, and I will give you rest—from working to please people, from struggling against anger and anxiety, from striving to be right, from seeking after affirmation (drawn from Matthew 11:28–31).

For it is cumbersome to lug around heavy baggages! We will be hindered from moving on. This is why seasoned travellers only pack essentials. They know exactly what they need—and also what they don’t need.

Hebrews 12 teaches us this same principle for our spiritual journeys:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (vv. 1–3).

Hebrews 11 describes this great cloud of witnesses as great men and women who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground (vv. 33–38).

These people threw off everything that hindered them from obeying God. They persevered in their goals, hanging on to the promises of God.

Today, Christians are called to the same path. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the example of true obedience to God, the Father. Jesus endured the shame and suffering on the cross to fulfill God’s salvation plan for mankind. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God in heaven. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and remember how he suffered and persevered to the end, God promises that we will not grow weary. We will not give up. Each one of us has been called to glorify God.

In the Old Testament, prophets were called to make known the Sovereign God to obstinate people who would not listen. Most of the prophets were exiled—Jonah swallowed by a big fish, Daniel thrown in lion’s den, Jeremiah thrown in the pit to starve, Ezekiel told his wife would die, Hosea told to marry a prostitute! None of them volunteered to be God’s prophet, but God called, and they obeyed.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Each problem we experience, each grief we bear, every frustration and disappointment in our lives is an opportunity for us to experience God. In sorrow, he gives comfort. In despair, he gives hope. With unlovable people, he enables me to love. For each dilemma, he gives wisdom. In trouble, he gives peace.

When we face difficulties, God is glorified—not because the problem goes away, but when we live out of God’s amazing grace, when we become joyful in spite of our circumstances, when we give thanks in everything.

It is easy to be happy when life is rosy, because we don’t need God and can manage on our own. But when there is financial trouble, when relationships are broken, when sickness comes knocking, when our children do not get healed from a terminal disease, when our families are not spared from the tragedies of fire, earthquake, and other natural calamities, we can shine amidst the darkness as we stand firm in faith, hope, and love, trusting that the God who loves each one of us will lead us through the ups and downs of life.

Just as it takes hot water to bring out the taste in teabags, our lives will have more impact and show forth greater glory when we hang onto God in the midst of difficulties.

We all have a “cancer” in life, something “toxic” in Pinoy culture. But we can all invite God to transform what is malignant into something benign—or even good.

For God’s grace is sufficient. He sees us through the long dark tunnel. With each difficult challenge, he enables us to overcome by nourishing us with his Word. As we read his promises, trust in his word, and obey him, we will experience how “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Dear Jesus, I come to you with my heavy load. Help me take on your easy yoke and know your rest. I have trouble in the world. Help me take heart and know your peace. Amen.