New Year’s Musings of a Chinese Christian

Another year is ending. Around the dinner table, a friend shared he has cancer. His positive attitude of accepting whatever God has planned for Him is encouraging. He read from Psalm 90 n was reminded of God’s peace in the midst of challenges. He said if it’s his time, he is ready. It reminded me of my prayer years ago when I learned that I had cancer: Lord, if you think that your purpose for my life on earth is done, then I am at peace with that. But if there is anything else I need to do, please guide me through this journey.

Death is a morbid subject. Many do not like to think about it, talk about it. They avoid anything that looks like it n sounds like it. In the Chinese culture, four is not a good number because it sounds like death, whether in Mandarin, Cantonese or Fookienese. No matter what our attitude is, mortality is a reality. Even Christians are not exempted from cancer. What differentiates them is their attitude towards death. It is more than just passive, fatalistic acceptance. It is an acceptance in peace and being at peace, in hope… Hope to a future in God’s presence for eternity.

Today is the last day of the year. No one really knows for sure if it will be his last. The Bible teaches us that there are three things that last: faith, hope n love. (1 Corinthians 13) God’s children live each day in faith that God loves them n He knows best. They live with hope that there is life beyond mortality. They live in love just as God loves them and calls them to love. As we usher in the new year, let us face each day with renewed faith, encouraging hope n enduring love that only our Creator gives. Happy new year!

These were my thoughts written on Chinese New year’s eve in 2016.. about 3 months before my mom passed away and 4 months before my dad followed her. Today, my mom and dad are both in the eternal presence of God.  Today, that friend is still undergoing treatment for his cancer. Today, I have other friends going through similar journeys. Yesterday was Chinese New Year. It was my first time to celebrate Chinese New Year at a funeral. I attended the interment of a 93 year old family friend – a very close friend of my father. He was our family doctor when my sister and i were young. He was bedridden for the past 8 years. As I attended the farewell service of this dear uncle, I am both sad and glad. I am sad for his wife who is grieving and missing a lifelong friend and companion. I am reminded of man’s fragile mortality. I am also glad that he is now enjoying eternal bliss in the presence of his Creator – free from pain, no more tears and no more night.

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Moses prayed: Teach us, Lord to number our days that we gain a heart of wisdom. This prayer reminds us to make each day count. Numbering our days is to put a significant value to each moment of each day. As children of God, we need to savour each minute God gives us with a thankful attitude, a contented heart and a joyful disposition in this broken world. We need to be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation and persistent in prayer.

Let these values guide us in the coming days of the new year… faith, hope, love, joy, patience and wisdom to live life to the fullest.. what God intends for all his creatures.

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Waiting in the Shadows

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

Growing in Gratitude

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Those who go hungry appreciate most the feeling of being full. Those who have been thirsty realize the value of water.

In the aftermath of Yolanda (Haiyan – the super typhoon that hit the Philippines in November, 2013 taking thousands of lives), I remember a high school student, who went days without taking a bath, sharing how he savored each drop of water in his bath after the disaster.

So in my journey with cancer and a broken ankle, I learned to be thankful for my oncologists, surgeon and caregivers, who knew my needs and looked after me over the years. I learned to be grateful that even though my medications caused side effects, my oncologist was able to recommend helpful remedies.

When I remember the love and care I received during these dark times, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Of the people God sent to help lighten my load and brighten the way, I am especially touched by our family helpers.

When I fell and could not walk, my drivers helped to carry me in the wheelchair down and up two flights of stairs each time I need to consult the doctor. I remember each meal prepared, each item of clothing washed and ironed, every plate, spoon, fork, and cup washed, every room of the house cleaned. I recall each bath and ride in the wheelchair.

I think further of the hands and feet that did all those things. And I reflect with thankfulness the hearts and minds that move these hands and feet.

Sufferings are lenses through which we see life and living in a different perspective. These lenses magnify and enhance the trivial and unseen things, things I previously took for granted. Remembering to put on these lenses helps me to open my hands.

Jesus had these lenses on when he saw the poor widow put two small copper coins into the treasury. “Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:43–44). Jesus commended the widow because she gave everything.

Similarly, Paul commended the churches in Macedonia because “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:2–3).

When I hesitate about giving an extra tip to a porter or a waiter, I think about how insignificant this amount is in my bank balance—and yet how it might help the waiter put food on his family’s table, or how it might enable a street kid who watched my car to buy medicine for his sick mom.

Being generous is a gift from God, who does not withhold any good gift from his children. For he gave us the gift of Jesus, who “was rich, yet for [our] sake. . .became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). No matter how much I give, I will never outgive God.

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving yourself to me. Thank you for giving up the glory of heaven to be like us. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for my sins. Help me to give generously in joy and gratitude for the goodness you have bestowed in my life. Amen.

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.

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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.

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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

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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

 

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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.

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“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.