1 The government is my shepherd, I need not work 2. It allows me to lie down on good jobs. 3. It destroyeth my initiative; it leads me into paths of the parasite for politics’ sake. 4. Yea, tho I walk through the valley of laziness and deficit spending, I will fear no evil; for the government is with me; it doles its vote-getter, it comforts me. 5. It prepareth an economic Utopia for me by appropriating the earnings of my grandchildren. It filleth my bologna; my inefficiency runneth over. 6. Surely the government shall care for me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in fool’s paradise forever. (New Psalm Parrsboro Record, Nova Scotia in Oct. 1950. Original source not confirmed.)
A person under God — Psalm 23 when I hear God speaks instead
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
You heard it said, we cannot allow the cure to be worse than the disease. In the same way, we cannot allow fear to be greater than the problem either. Add anxiety to it and fear becomes panic. When the problem of pain comes, we ask, what to do now? What will happen to me now? We would seek where it comes from but rarely ask what pain is and how it can benefit me. Pain is a sensation with a message. It can turn into good or bad suffering depending on how we understand it and use it.
When crisis comes, we can choose to be happy up to an extent until physical or emotional pain overwhelms, whichever comes first. Job showed us his resilience till his mind could no longer fathom as his body was exhausted. But before you conclude it’s over and this is a reason for despair, note that Job’s inner perspective was restored first which eventually led to the healing of his body.
I know that not everyone has the same good ending. We heard of people under duress took their lives. We need to take human pain seriously for we have our limits. Pain will reveal that to us quickly. As the story of Job shows, he went through the experience with the support of his friends who mourned with him, listened and talked to him as he processed his sufferings for days. In the end, what the well-meaning friends could not deliver, God came to the rescue. The road to our deliverance always involves God, never human alone. Pain asks: Am I alone? Is the unlimited God in my support system?
But you may say, I asked for help and He was silent. Believe me, there are many who blame the Healer than team up with Him. You mean God is with me? You mean the sun is still there when it’s pouring rain? Well, aside from thinking we suffer alone, this really pains me that we can’t see through our pain. Job was in the same situation. I have been there too. Doubting, angry and resentful. But we need not stay there. Pain has a message that can be a door opener.
Probably, Easter will mean differently this year. It is time we see the meaning in Jesus’ pain. He gives us the full human experience through the cross. He shows us even the way to glory is through the death on the cross. To ditch this pain, this cross, only enshrines the flesh that kills the spirit, not just the body. The invisible darkness inside is the one killing us. It blinds us. What do you do when the enemy is invisible? So, pain makes it visible. Our true color shows in times of crisis. Our dependence or a.k.a. addiction, insecurity, selfishness, arrogance, hatred, ignorance, etc. But then we need not rot there. Jesus did not just make our suffering His by suffering for us and with us. Best of all, Jesus did not remain defeated. He overcame death (due to sin) by resurrecting to life and opened the door to those who followed. Pain asks: has it uncovered what is rotting in you?
Thus, the greatest pain is the one that has no meaning because one misses the point. Every year we celebrate Easter, but we only learn of new ways to dress up the Easter Egg? I hope not. Easter is about hope, that there is life after a crisis. But not before taking out the bad guys first. Not at all difficult to understand. You remember seeking dental help once your tooth hurts? That in turn saves your tooth.
So whether it is physical or spiritual, there are times when pain is necessary or we would have destroyed and be destroyed. Pain also forces us to examine our perspective, priorities, and purpose for living. As an added value, be changed. After the pandemic, many things will no longer be the same, including your values, plans, even politics. Like the world after the Flood, pain can be a new beginning. Pain ask: what would your new world be like? Maybe a world more attuned to the suffering of others? More appreciative of what you already have? Less wasteful, and more prepared? Less demanding and more forgiving?
But woe to the one who takes advantage of pain for greed, to manipulate, to “educate” others for selfish ends. Those who believe in using “fake” struggle to weed out the weak for the survival of the fittest justify it. They create fear to control others. But it is never God who’d do this. God wants us to be healed, happy and holy. In God’s economy, those who make even the little one stumble, He will make them pay, in a way that only He can. Wow. In the meantime, He calls the fittest to help others to survive, to suffer with those who suffer, to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to spread truth and good news, not deception and doom. Pain clarifies. So pain asks: on whose side are you? Are you part of the solution or the problem?
Lastly, this too shall pass. So you can breath now. Jesus spreads everlasting life, not everlasting problem or pain. It runs on faith, not fear. In fact, a faith as small as a mustard seed will do. What if instead of fear, we react with faith in face of pain? It would be as epidemiologist Jeff Levin’s study shows how one’s “ongoing faith commitment” increases resilience and yields better medical outcome.” After all, real faith always benefit your soul though you suffer physically. Faith in God is life enhancing, not fatalistic. Fear and freedom are opposites. Faith gives us the land of the living and the free. Pain forces us to think, reflect, examine and presents us with a choice. Pain asks: what’s will it be today, fear or faith?
A Prayer for Healing “Our God, Your word says You answer and deliver people when they call on Your name. So we ask that You would heal and protect those who are sick or who are carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing it. Provide a cure for the Coronavirus, heal our economy, and bring a quick end to this darkness. Whether healing comes today, next week, or next month, we believe You will heal our world. And we will continue to praise You, even as we wait for answers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. ” from YouVersion
Simple step: “For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 Do you have a prayer request? Write it down so I can pray with you.
If only that is so. “When the world and I were young, just yesterday, life was such a simple game, a child could play. It was easy then to tell truth from lies…” These words from a song are more than just sentiments. I used to like true or false tests cause they were easy. Not anymore.
Today, even the innocence of children are preyed upon. There is this insidious incessant voice planting doubts, confusion and dissatisfaction with yourself, your identity, your color, size, gender. The only choice left seems to be “be yourself.” But which “self”?
Then there is another problem. Self-deception is human nature, and it usually wins. To be yourself is actually self-defeating. Just think of the many ways we try to self-define. There is the blurring of feeling and reality, past and present, style and substance, comfort and corruption, means and ends, fact and opinion, reason and desire, human and machine, freedom and depravity, compassion and bribery, safety and irresponsibility, science and indoctrination, tissue and fetus,… Oh, I hope I didn’t lose you with that long list. But I felt a knot in my stomach just running that list in my mind. You see that blurring confuses and clogs the brain.
To unclog, we need wisdom. It is the ability to discern that brings clarity. And how we need that since truth is not neutral. That is why aim for clarity first, not for agreement. Fluidity which erases the lines is not freedom but brings chaos. Fortunately, God draws all the lines to maintain clarity and order. And to erase the lines does the opposite.
For example, He divided the light from darkness since the beginning. Did you know the sun was created to mark the day and the moon to mark the night? Animals are distinguished from plants and animals differ in kind from each other. That is how we can tell if we are eating chicken or beef. Of course, they are distinct. Adam knew Eve was distinctly different, more similar to him than the animals. Note that God set the time of a week since creation. Imagine if we are free to count 8 days a week or call Monday a Sunday because we feel like it, because we have a right to our own time or because the differences are just man-made? The farmers who rely on this 52-week calendar knows it is not to be tampered with.
Hmmm… Let’s take a practical road test. How do we navigate the road when the basic markers are erased, when the individual decides to stop or go based on feelings or ideology? The scariest thing is what this will amount to – power without boundaries. Isn’t that a definition of evil? I’m sure I did not make that up either. God said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil …”(Isaiah 5:20).
Without true markers, woe to us. We lose the ability to think clearly which makes us easier to prey on. We also waste time and effort reconstructing the basics. True markers are taught in the Bible and have been self-evident throughout civilization. What can we expect from chaos if not weakness and unhappiness? Without true markers, especially moral markers, evil reigns. Woe because we are lost.
“Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” Jn 17:17
Small step: As you go forward, do you have to clear some clutter, I mean in your brain, heart and relationships, not just your closet? To have a more fruitful life, restore order and clarity, start making a list of markers you need to respect. And if you happen to uncover some lies you have, awesome. Remember, you are welcomed to share your list and bless others as well.
Disappointments occur, at times daily. Maybe an unkind word meant to be a joke but it still hurts. Disagreements, shaming, unequal treatment, troubled past or feeling miserable that one cannot change the outcome of a bad decision.
The fact is one’s response to the hurt would make it worse than the hurt itself. We may not be responsible for what happens to us, but we are still responsible for how we respond to it. In reality, the past is for redemptive reflection, not for blaming or collecting. Why should we go about collecting “garbage” when there is no obligation to do so? Why must we expect perfection when there is simply no such thing? Why let pride dictate my response when pride always leads to a fall? Some responses like resentment, bitterness, envy, scoring, self-pity and self-doubt can eat us up, adding to the hurt. We could eventually find ourselves lonelier, weaker and feeling trapped.
What to do now? Should I quit or move? Maybe it is not “where” but “what and how.” It could simply be realizing that we become what we respond to and how we respond to it. What if we choose to respond to what is true “and” eternal instead? Won’t we become truer and wiser? What if we ask what can this teach me and think of how to overcome? Won’t we become the architect instead of the victim?
Maybe it is easier said than done? Actually, using this approach is so rewarding you would not even mind the effort. Remember Joseph who was sold to slavery by his brothers? He named his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. The names meant “God has made me forget” and “God has made me fertile in the land of my affliction” respectively. These names reminded him over and over about what’s true, what he chose to respond to. What a creative way to respond to his misfortunes, and so rewarding.
As much as receiving something is fun, creating something is much more fun and satisfying actually. Doing is creating. You might not realize this is part of being made in God’s image. Like Him, we can create, produce and make.
Didn’t Jesus once said, it is “more” blessed to give than to receive? A life that creates what’s good, true and beautiful will be made more “blessed.” God wants to bless the producers and givers, not the sloth, selfish takers. Since He wants us to walk as Jesus walked, we are not fashioned after some prehistoric creature, but after the Creator of the universe. Like Him, our lives are to be about creating happiness, love and peace.
Technically speaking, “to create” means “to make something out of nothing.” Now, we can make many and almost anything big and small for our enjoyment and benefit because God has already provided the materials. It is humbling but true that almost everything we see and use is made by someone. That includes you and me. Through procreation, our parents made us so now we are here. To “create” a person into existence! This is the closest we can get to the original creative act of God in Genesis 1:1. That isn’t just fun, it is awesome, incredulous, mind-blowing, etc.
If you realize that, life can never be boring or meaningless again. We can even recycle trash to make them useful again. What a metaphor of broken lives and dreams recreated in the hands of the Creator-Savior! Due to our foolishness we might have made things that destroy us: lies, naivete, vile and simplistic solutions. But we can start anew now.
The psalmist wrote God’s steadfast love and mercies are new every morning. Every day can become a new beginning. “Make love not war.” I like that slogan from the 60’s. What about you? What is it you want to “create”? Make someone laugh? Try me. I mean it. Put it in the comment section below. What else? Make money? Why not? Once there was a person who asked God for money. God gave him life with a “new heart” so he could work and make “money” for himself, and enough to share with others. How about making the world a safe place? More on that in my next blog.
Simple step: When you wake up in the morning, warm your stomach (coffee?) and your heart with these thoughts. Then in “Christ-like” fashion, think what you want to “create” today. And what would you want God to create in you? How about new life in Christ? Don’t overthink. I’d love to hear how it eventually works out for you.
(For more on God’s image, you are welcome to follow this up by reading the first chapter of Counseling the Heart by Shirley Y Wong.)
Why hide under a smile when your heart hurts. The world looks and feels different. The pain wants to shout to tear its way out. Instead, you feel trapped unexpectedly like a spider in its web. It might seem too late, but nothing is farther from the truth than this.
When the web of life you’ve built around you is also crumbling, at least you’ve realized your limit. This is actually good – the moment of truth. It is the truth you’ve forgotten or once defied. Multitasking, technological speed, compromising, skipping quiet time with God are just a few common ingredients in the mix. But they cannot make you bionic.
What do we see when we look at the mirror now? A person with flesh and blood, not a fantasy heroine or hero. But someone with limitations.
According to our Maker, a person does not and cannot live by bread alone, but by every Word from God. And Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. He is the Word of God. God speaks to us through Him. He is the Vine and apart from Him, we the branches cannot bear fruit. His Spirit is the living water that will never cease. So His Spirit living in us is the strength we need in us.
Small steps: Feeling tired? Lost? Down? Why not thank God for letting you see your limits. Take the time to rest in His word, and in prayer surrender your burdens to HIm. He gives strength to those who call Him. Do not rush. For they that wait upon Him shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).
Counsel in a person’s heart is like deep water, but an understanding person draws it out.” Proverbs 20:5
Since my childhood years, one question has impacted me more than anything. How does a man change? This book discusses the three key elements of the human heart spoken in the Bible. These elements are involved in everything that we think, say and do. Prov. 4:23 tells us to guard our heart above all things for from it are all the issues of life. How accurately it describes the human experience. But the verse is not just describing. It is prescribing the way to direct our lives and the corollary “ways to help a person change” his heart, and eventually the course of his life.
If changing hearts is also your interest, I invite you to read this blog. I would like to hear your experience in changing hearts as well. The human heart is complex, but it is not impossible to know and tame. And the more we reflect and share, the more it speaks to us. The more it speaks to us, the more we are acquainted with our hearts to be able to sort it out and plan.