Sadness and Sepia Moments

When you are at your lowest, you are most vulnerable. You are easily convinced by the voice that says you are worthless, good for nothing.

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Have you ever experienced a time when everything around you seems dull and lifeless, the gloom so real and overwhelming that you can feel how it embraces you and convinces you that he is your friend willing to follow you wherever you go? You look around and see everyone around you wearing a smile, but unfortunately for you, you can’t seem to find any reason to wear one. You did not intend to succumb to the embrace of gloominess but you can’t shrug it off as well. You see yourself a victim.

Sadness and Sepia Moments (1)

Happiness is relative. Some people find happiness in simple pleasures such as having a new toy, gaining social media attention, finishing another book or the just the scent of fresh flowers. Some are hard to please – they are constantly chasing for material things, prestige, or new relationships. While the things that make us happy vary, we can all agree that the satisfaction brought about by these things is fleeting. Happiness doesn’t last. One day you’re OK and the next day, you begin to sulk.

I have my share of my lowest days. I call these days sepia moments, just like the feeling imbibed by just looking at old pictures. When you are at your lowest, you are most vulnerable. You are easily convinced by the voice that says you are worthless, good for nothing. Your worries seem insurmountable and you feel defeated. Even simple problems turn gargantuan.

On one of my shower ruminations, I have thought of three reasons for occasional sadness that I feel. Again, these are personal insights but I think these may also apply to anyone.

  1. Whenever I obsess myself with the accomplishments of people on social media.

Yes, social media envy sometimes gets the best of me. It starts with a simple peek at one’s post, liking one’s vacation or one’s recent purchase. Then another post pops up with news of job promotion or an engagement. Posts and tweets pile up and soon I find myself envious with my “friends;” highlight reel. I emphasized the word friends because most of these people I get envious of are not really my friends in real life! But why do I feel so affected with whatever happens to them when they don’t even care about what happens with my life? I guess this is the irony of social media friendships, as Dave Ramsey notes: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” And it is a sad reality to accept.

But why do I feel so affected with whatever happens to them when they don’t even care about what happens with my life? I guess this is the irony of social media friendships

  1. Whenever I measure my worth based on what people say, think about me.

I am a people-pleaser, and I am very much aware of that. I can’t sleep well if I know I have offended or have not responded to someone who asks for favor, especially if within my capacity to help. I tend to think over and over of things I might have done wrong, or words I shouldn’t have said. This is emotional torture, I think. But the pain doubles when someone has told me something I least expect to hear. I end up feeling unloved and unimportant. I sulk over things that I know are not true. I measure my worth based on what they think or say about me, which are not necessarily true. During my high school years I believed I am up to no good just because a classmate had told me so. I carried the weight for a couple of years until it shaped my motivations and view of self. It’s all by God’s grace I was delivered from that unnecessary weight.

  1. Whenever there are unconfessed sin that I try to rationalize or hide.

The weight of sin carried from day to day is enough reason for me to get anxious and depressed. I have heard a teaching that if there are sins that you keep to yourself, sins you choose not to expose in the open, chances are, you’re gonna repeat the same sin over and over. Sin takes us on hold us until we share it with a trusted person who will pray for us and with us and challenge us to overcome it. How often I find myself bugged down by my struggles just because I am too proud to share my weakness with my friends. But as soon as I share my issues with my trusted friends, not only do I find myself co-laborers with the weight I’m bearing, I also find people who makes me realize that I am not supposed to walk this life alone.

  1. When I choose not to spend significant time with God

I am often victimized by this seemingly harmless neglect. I used to tell myself: “just this one time”. One skip, followed by another, and soon I find myself losing touch with the Source. If you identify yourself as a Jesus-follower, you know what I am saying. Spending time with God is our lifeline for joy and spiritual sustenance. Sever your connections with God’s word and your joy will soon fade. I know because I have been in that situation – a couple of times. One painful rebuke I have read from Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:

“If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we don’t enjoy being in his presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would he send anyone there who doesn’t long for Him passionately here on earth?”

The key here is not just to read the Bible and ticking a checklist on your reading plan. Neither it is about uttering a hurried prayer then you’re done. The point is cultivating a relationship with your Maker through meaningful spiritual conversations and yielding to His will. No wonder because of my continued “just this one time” moments, I often end up as a wilted plant.

These things may also be true to you. Perhaps the things I have mentioned are also the reasons why you feel sad and gloomy and lifeless at times. Or you could add more to the list. But I don’t want to end up with just diagnosing the causes of my gloominess. I don’t want to be overcome by sadness that all I can see is the rain and not the rainbow after the rain.

I have two important disclaimers here:

First, the sadness or gloominess I am speaking of doesn’t necessarily mean clinical anxiety or depression. I may have described similarities but it is not my intention (yet) to cross over the topic of depression. Perhaps in the near future, when I have gathered much information about the subject matter.

Sadness
© walmart.com

Second, the sadness I am speaking of is viewed in the lens of spiritual context. And the causes I have cited are detrimental to one’s spiritual health. However, being the reflective type of person, I recognize that there is a kind of sadness that makes us appreciate life even more. One that is best portrayed in the animated film Inside Out. There is a form of sadness that makes us more human, gives us a moment to slow down a notch, and think about our life well. Let me quote Sadness, “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

If not for God’s grace, perhaps gloom has devoured me completely. But thankfully, in the deepest, darkest and messiest point of my life, rescue is still available and joy awaits. Lasting JOY – not just mere happiness, which is temporal and fleeting. Joy that freely given to those whose lives are surrendered to Jesus.

Privileged

We are privileged, and we got a message to share.

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Day 1: God says you are…

PRIVILEGED

I attended the Sunday morning service in spite of the body ache and drowsiness. I am not a morning person so waking up earlier than my usual routine, especially during weekends is a challenge. But enough of the introductions, I just want to say that I am very privileged. We are all privileged.

Naaalala ko pa yung unang love letter na ginawa ko years back (or decade na nga yata). Sa sobrang emotions na binuhos ko sa letter na yun, talagang siniguro kong maisulat siya sa maayos na stationary, magandang panulat at ang pinakamaayos kong handwriting. At sa sobrang pagkatuwa ko sa finished product, napagpasyahan kong hindi na lang ibigay ang bunga ng aking inspirasyon. Haha!

I tell you, when someone makes an effort to do things for you just to express his affection, I can say you are very privileged. May mga tao akong nakikilala na nagsasabing ang asawa nila or ang boyfriend/girlfriend nila ay hindi expressive, much more romantic. It is hard to prove one’s love kung hindi rin ito mabibigyan ng justice through efforts or kahit kaunting patunay.

He has proven His love in many ways but let me just start with His message.

Kung tayo gumagawa ng love letter for someone we truly dear, Jesus Himself became the message for us. His words became our anchor for life; His words became our source of joy, hope and everything we cling to for life eternal. At ang Kanyang mga Salita ay hindi nagtapos sa kanyang pagkapako sa krus – umabot ito sa panaho natin, napadpad sa mga tahanan natin, sa mga simbahan at eskwelahan, at sa iba’t ibang lugar.

We are privileged because through the years, courageous men and women of faith, in their love for God and His Word, made an effort to make sure the Word will reach our time – to the point of risking, or sacrificing their own lives. We are privileged because we are a generation who can listen to God in more ways than before.

We are privileged because God’s Word reached us and offered us an invitation for eternal life. We are privileged because we can hold onto physically the written Word of God – the Bible in our hands. We are privileged because through the years, courageous men and women of faith, in their love for God and His Word, made an effort to make sure the Word will reach our time – to the point of risking, or sacrificing their own lives. We are privileged because we are a generation who can listen to God in more ways than before. We are privileged. Isn’t it overwhelming?

Unlike me na hindi na nakuha pang ibigay ang loveletter na ginawa ko, we are privileged dahil ang Dios ay hindi pumayag na hindi umabot sa ating panahon ang loveletter na Siya mismo ang lumagda – sa pamamagitan ng dugo ng Kanyang Bugtong na Anak na si Hesus.

We are privileged, and we got a message to share. Please let others know that they too are privileged too, kahit pa kailanganin mong gumising ng umaga o kahit masakit pa ang iyong katawan.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

John 1:14

Arrogance and Downfall

Have you ever wondered why there are people who are so arrogant and self-righteous yet the Lord seems not to care?

The book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, yet being the shortest doesn’t mean that he has the least message to say. This book assures us, as children of God, that He got us covered, and those who are arrogant has a special place in His judgment.

Have you ever wondered why there are people who are so arrogant and self-righteous yet the Lord seems not to care? Given, there are people who are rude and lawless in their acts, but I am referring to those who think so highly of themselves that they have reached the level of ‘beyond annoying’. Umamin ka na, even once in your life may nakilala kang ganito ang ugali.

This is the case of the Edomites, Israel’s neighbor to the south. The Edomites trace their roots from Esau, Jacob’s older brother. If you are still familiar with your Sunday school story, Esau and Jacob have this sibling rivalry even while they were still in their mother’s womb. They grew up fighting over the attention of their parents, and eventually parted ways when Jacob pretended to be Esau with a stew and goat’s hair and deceived their father. In fact, their family is an excellent source of lessons for parenting and sibling relationships. Good thing, after a very dramatic episode on the latter part of their life, the brothers agreed to embrace peace and forget their rivalry.

However, generations later, their descendants are still in conflict with each other. The Edomites are still hostile with their Israelite cousins. Their hostility led them to think that they are far above and greater than their neighbors. Because they lived in seemingly impregnable cities that were cut out of rock cliffs, they arrogantly felt as if nothing could touch them. Lalo na nang ang kanilang kaaway ay inatake ng ibang bayan, sila ay nagdiwang at nagtawa pa sa sinapit ng iba! O di ba, parang kontrabida lang sa telenovela!

God hates pride so much because it is an overemphasis on self. It is as if saying that we can go along well even without God.

If there is one message that the book of Obadiah wants to tell us, it is that those who are proud will be humbled, those who think so high of themselves will be brought to low, and those who rely too much on their own will soon find their efforts crashing down.

God hates pride so much because it is an overemphasis on self. It is as if saying that we can go along well even without God. The Edomites has adopted this kind of arrogance. They thought they don’t need anyone else, not even God. The Bible says, “pride goes before destruction” – and God issued His verdict through Obadiah that soon enough, the Edomites will receive what their deeds deserve. The pride in their hearts has deceived them and it caused them their downfall.

Now, if you know someone who has the kind of arrogance like the Edomites (o baka naman tayo rin pala ang ganun), remember that God’s primary concern is not to bring them to their destruction; neither are we entitled to condemn. We are to love and pray for them, thinking more of their salvation than their judgment. Keep in mind that God’s judgment is reserved only to those who refuse to acknowledge Him until the end.

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The ancient city of Petra, now in ruins.

The history books tell us that Edom did OK for perhaps a hundred years after their final warning from God’s prophets. Then, during the fifth century (400-499) B.C. the “Edomites” were overwhelmed by other Arab groups. In turn, these groups were taken over by the Nabataeans, who started living in the area sometime around 312 B.C. By the way, the Nabataeans, not the Edomites, are the people who cut the temples in the sandstone walls of Petra. Under the Nabataeans, the city of Petra flourished until 106 A.D., when the Romans conquered Petra. From that time it slid into disuse, to the point that Edom was almost uninhabited from the 7th to the 12th century A.D. It revived slightly in the 12th century when the crusaders built a castle there called Sel. Afterward, it remained so forgotten that it had to be rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss traveler Johann. L. Burckhardt. (Source: http://www.clarifyingchristianity.com/fulfill.shtml)

Speaking with a goldfish: Important notes I’ve discovered in the Book of James

When one is in trial, he learns to persevere.

Amidst my tight schedule, my preoccupations and numerous unreasonable excuses not to open my bible, finally I managed to get through the book of James. And it took me fifteen days to actually get its message! I call that goldfish memory days – my short lived memory cannot contain the jewels of life the book is giving me, perhaps due to physical exhaustion. But praise God, His words are powerful enough to overpower my seemingly over fatigued mind and body just to tell me How awesome His love is for me. During those fifteen days, God is like a man teaching his goldfish instructions to live life. And because nothing is impossible to God, He actually got His message across!

I have just finished my second week in school. At this early point, I’m already contemplating whether the subjects I’m currently taking are wise choices. Actually, I don’t know. Being a working student, my only goal is to get as many subjects as I could so as to accelerate my years studying. And after my first two weeks of gruelling schedule, I find myself overwhelmed with tons of responsibilities. To be honest, I have no complaints. I love challenges. I’m used to deadlines and pressures. My creative juices manifest when I’m in an adrenaline rush. But I was caught off guard this time. I’m thinking whether I’ve bitten more than what I can chew. And there is no turning back for me now. I have decided to face the challenge no matter what, backed up with confidence that God stands by me in this battle.

Consider it pure joy?

The earlier part of the fifteen-day journey through the book of James tells me to consider it pure joy when I’m in trial. Perseverance is the key.

Consider it pure joy? How can I be joyful when my eyes want to sleep but I still have to pass a research paper? Where can I find joy in the midst of tense classmates because our professor might “send us to hell” any moment?

When one is in trial, he learns to persevere. Perseverance produces maturity and completeness. Well, at first it’s easy to comprehend. These are all common and familiar verses in the Bible. Actually, the whole book of James is. But its familiar message turns surreal when I began to meet my terror professor, tons of assigned readings and lack of sleep. Consider it pure joy? How can I be joyful when my eyes want to sleep but I still have to pass a research paper? Where can I find joy in the midst of tense classmates because our professor might “send us to hell” any moment? But still, God speaks through James to consider it pure joy. Okay then, I’ll try…

Humility is Wisdom

In a classroom there exists competition for good grades and reputation. It is every wise student’s desire to excel in class. I believe I am one of those “wise” students. I want not just to survive the semester and get the most of my tuition fees, but to earn good grades and learn. But I was reminded that wisdom is evidenced by good life and deeds done in humility.

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. So a Christian’s “show-off” of wisdom is though genuine humility and good deeds, and the wisdom that comes from heaven is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

For people whose sole desire is to be at the top, they don’t mind being caught up in the midst of an unhealthy competition, fighting for their rights and boasting about what they have and what they can do. Envy and selfish ambition gets prevalent. But with Christians, it is (should be) different. We must not get wired up in the competition but must be above it. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. So a Christian’s “show-off” of wisdom is though genuine humility and good deeds, and the wisdom that comes from heaven is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. A real challenge because we tend to react to competition by trying to overpower others with what we have. But God says, be humble. And that is true wisdom.

Patience in Suffering

My terror professor asked the working students in the class, “You already have your job, why do you still want to pursue your studies?” I have an answer in mind, unfortunately I wasn’t called.

But as to when will I reach my goals, everything seems blurred. But God says be patient. As a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, for the autumn and spring rains, so I have to be patient.

I reflected upon that question as I go home, and I realized that even after I finish my second course, I’m still not sure what will happen. I have my visions in life. I already have my goals set. But as to when will I reach my goals, everything seems blurred. But God says be patient. As a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, for the autumn and spring rains, so I have to be patient. Moreover, the Lord is coming soon. To wait upon the Lord seems to be taxing but the rewards outweighs the pain; the result is greater than the suffering. He will avenge us from our oppressors. Above all, He will put in our heads the crown of life He has promised to those who love Him, to those who stood the test, to those who persevered under all these trials.

These are just some of the imperative reminders I’ve discovered in the precious book (I discovered a lot!). The best thing, this is just one of the life-transforming books available in the bible. And its message is applicable not for the semester alone, but throughout my faith journey.