Embracing pain with joy

I used to complain I could not sleep. I told insomnia to go away. I watched the clock ticking the seconds away willing myself to sleep. I even once put the clock on its face so I would not see the seconds ticking away. I fret about insomnia and this anxiety about insomnia caused me sleepless nights. It’s quite ironic. I went to the psychiatrist for prescription to help me sleep. Look what that got me! I had a bad fall that pretty much awaken me to my problem.

One morning, I opened my eyes and it was 2am. I realized that I no longer fret about it. It’s alright. I will write about it instead.

I embrace insomnia. This means I will accept it and not fret about it. This leads me to another thought. How about grief? I embrace that too.

In the few months after my parents passed away, God taught me to embrace pain… with joy. Job is one character in the Bible most associated with suffering. Yet he was able to say this:

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

Job found joy in unending pain. In fact it was his comfort and encouragement, his joy in suffering, that he did not deny God. Job was loyal to God to the end.


A good friend once observed that in class, no student would raise his/her hand to answer a difficult question from the teacher. In life, nobody, not even a Christian would volunteer to take a difficult test from God. I would not choose for my mom to get sick and die. I would never choose to fall and break my ankle. Neither would I choose for my father to go through so many painful procedures and so much suffering.

But God’s grace is sufficient. He sees us through the long dark tunnel. With each difficult challenge, He enables us to overcome. He nourishes me with His Word – the Bible. As I read His promises, as I trust in His word, and obey Him, I experience that indeed God works out all things for my good, for the good of those who love Him because those who love Him are called to do his good purpose on earth. That purpose is make Him known to all people; that through the people who love God, all other people will see and experience the greatness of our God.

And so I choose to embrace pain. The world is filled with evil – from the work of Satan – through bad people causing violence, calamity and death. Bad things people do are output of man’s sinful nature. All nature is filled with natural disasters like earthquake, tsunami, tornado, drought/famine, floods etc. Children of God are not exempted from these troubles. But they stand out different 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 expectations to spending eternity with their eternal God – forever free from the stronghold of death!



The Joy of the Poor

How are you today? That’s the usual greeting I get when I go into shops here down under. It’s a good public relations strategy to greet customers this way. It shows that you notice their presence. Tourism is built on the principle of presence and value of presence.

One morning when I was in El Nido, Palawan, a couple from South Africa said: The Philippines is the best place in all of the vacations we had. How and why? Because of the hospitality of the Filipino people. The Filipinos are the most valuable asset of the country! Nowhere else in the world can u find a more hospitable people giving the kind of service that they give. Wow! What a compliment! Mabuhay ang Filipino!

I had the same thought. These good-natured people with their warm smile and ready hands are God’s gift to the Philippines. Yet, it is also sad we often complain of graft and corruption – what a hopeless situation we have in the government. How come?

I wonder could it be that the nearer man is to nature and works of God, the better he behaves? They are happier with their simple lifestyle – riding on their bangkas, cruising around the seas, swimming with the fishes, with the sun shining on them and the wind blowing in their faces – how rich they are in God’s wondrous creations! Does it matter that their clothing’s are not the latest fashion or branded? A rubber slipper is just as comfortable. To be together with their families and friends from their barangays – to roam in the midst of nature – between mountains, riding on the waves, feeling the breezy sprays of the seawater on their faces, feasting on the green forests atop mountains and soft/cottony clouds amidst the blue skies… how much does it cost them? a few hours ride and few hundred pesos of the bangka rental to b shared by so many people or maybe even the bangka is free – they need to put gas in them.

When I was in Myanmar, I noticed that the Burmese people are courteous. They are sincere and warm in their effort to help the tourists. Their simple lifestyle of working with their hands is enough to live on. Their doors are without locks. When they go on vacation to other places, they leave their homes in the care of their neighbours. They do not need to lock up. The guides told us that it is quite safe to be a tourist in their country. A friend asked about their prisons. The guide said their prisons are for political prisoners. 😥

Back to the Filipinos… Each time I go to the provinces for vacation, it warms my heart to experience the Filipino hospitality. They smile their greeting. They are happy when you thank them or compliment their food. They even reply with thank you to your thank you. They offer ways and means to make your stay comfortable – even before you ask for them.

Whereas the American culture emphasises tipping and gratuity, the Filipino culture encourages the bayanihan spirit even in tipping. They suggest that all tokens of appreciation be given to a common fund to be shared by all.

Now why do I feel proud to be Filipino among these people? Why do I feel frustration and hopelessness with those in high places of power and wealth? And I am reminded of the Biblical wisdom that the love of money is the root of all evils.c2abb3ce4905b84650579175d3c4dc87--than-you-html


Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit means lowly and humble in heart – depending on the God of abundance to supply all their needs.


Poor in spirit is about contentment and gratitude for what is given and what one has. It is free from ambitious striving and greed – for position or power or achievements.

Happiness is to be close to nature and to be embraced by the God of nature – to rejoice in service of others… to enjoy the handiworks of God.. to smile in deep gratitude for the breath of life… Today let me remember to live truly and simply in peaceful contentment with a thankful heart for what God gives to me.

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).


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.


My journey with the big C – Part 1

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:17–18


In 2009, when I was forty-seven, I was diagnosed with Stage O, ductal carcinoma in situ. My journey with cancer is a milestone in my life on the journey with the God of grace. My treatment included a lumpectomy to remove a portion of my left breast, as well as thirty-four sessions of radiation therapy, and cancer maintenance medications that I continued to take (with all their side-effects and possible consequences) for seven years.

When I began going through radiation treatment, God’s Word nourished and sustained me. As I read God’s word each day, I experienced his presence and power strengthening me, and I rejoiced in his amazing grace. My prayer was, Lord, if you think my life has achieved the purpose you planned for me, then I am at peace with that. But if my mission is not yet complete, then show the way that I will continue to live according to your purpose. In the meantime, I want to make my life useful for your glory—to help my neighbors go through their challenges and any people you bring to me.”

All through my journey with cancer, I felt God’s warm embrace around me—a comfort beyond words and an immovable standing stone. As I got to know God more deeply by talking to him, listening to him, and discovering his character through the Bible, I experienced his peace beyond understanding and felt his assurance that I could live each day in joy and gratitude.

Psalm 1 says that blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. And the promise is that he will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he will prosper.

Bearing fruit in season does not mean that my life will always be smooth and rosy, but that I can persevere and stand firm in God’s promises that all things—the good and the bad—will work for my good, because he loves me and is calling me according to his purpose.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your word and promise that in all things—even in suffering—you are calling me for your purpose. Help me to delight in your word and meditate on it so that I will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Amen.


When the bad and the sad linger…

I have learned and am still learning that God allows many challenges to go on in my life until I learn my lessons from them. One example is my dh (domestic helper) issue. For more than half of my life, the ‘tiny’ (not so tiny at times) thorn in my side is anxiety about maids. Not that I no longer have dh concerns but I no longer fret as much. I learned through the years that God wants me to depend on him. God let me witnessed how he provided just in time (many times) when I let go and let God. I also learned patience – in forgiveness for their wrongs and in persistence to teach them right.


Another reason for enduring and persevering in trials and difficulties is so I can be a credible witness and companion to the people going through similar circumstances. I testify to how God embraced me when I was going through cancer treatment. Friends with the big ‘C’ know I speak from my own experiences. I can empathize with people going through depression. I share my weaknesses with those who are going through midlife crisis. I know how it was to experience ‘the dark night of the soul.’

Ultimately, one truth I hang on to when the road is long and the way is dark, God will see me through. He is behind me, beside me, over me and in front of me leading me to the light.05d2c8cdb39ba3607276b88cf94c2d7e--godly-quotes-bible-quotes

Are you tired and weary going through difficult times? Hang on and hold tight. Hold on with faith, walk on in hope and hang on to the love of God which is beyond what we can imagine.