When you can’t find JOY

For God is with us, even in times of brokenness, of solitude, of sadness. In fact, He is closer than ever.

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Since my last post about sadness, I felt a prod from the heart to re-watch Inside Out. For me, Inside Out is not just another good-to-see animated movie – it speaks to the heart and establishes a fact that our emotions, be it joy, anger, disgust, fear and sadness are part of who we really are. We are wired by God with different personalities, and that includes our sometimes complex emotions.

The portion where my tears welled up while watching the movie is the moment when Joy finally recognizes that Sadness is also a part of Riley (the character depicting all of us) – that Riley cannot always deny the surging pain and frustration inside her. Life is not everyday bliss. We have to embrace the fact that inside all of us resides our version of sadness, and fear, disgust and anger. OK, I also cried too when Bingbong, Riley’s imaginary friend, disappeared like dust. It gave me the same chills like how half of the Avengers turned into dust in that great “Thanos Snap”

When you can't find Joy

While I am preparing for a message outline for church, I had a chance to read the book of Job in one sweep. Yes, all 42 chapters in one sitting. I want to see the big picture how a righteous man, who fears and Lord and is full of integrity – descriptions coming directly from God himself (verses Job 1:8, 2:3), fared when all else were taken before him. I want to see how he managed his emotions amidst his depressing situation. Here are the things that I discovered when you cannot seem to find JOY.

  1. Accept the fact that even in becoming a Christian, you will still face sufferings.

This is a hard truth to digest. Many are convinced with the idea that one you accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, life’s challenges will soon be gone. This is a shallow foundation to stand upon, and is obviously not true. If Jesus, the author of salvation, was not spared from sufferings, what makes us think we will be exempted? Isn’t the Bible clear in saying that “a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). We are not exempted. Job was a righteous person, but He did suffer. No one is like Job. He was God’s “trophy” back then, but still, he mourned, and wept and lost a lot of things. So we are not exempt from life’s bitter servings. By accepting this fact, you will have a better understanding of life.

  1. People will mistreat, accuse or misunderstand you. Yes, even your closest friends.

Job, coated with boils, blisters and wounds, was accompanied by his closest friends. But their presence didn’t even soothe the pain he felt, but instead added insult to the wounds that he has, when he was accused of sins he didn’t even commit. God has punished him for an unconfessed sin, they say. Surely God has a reason for all his misfortunes, as God’s justice is always in effect. But Job clung to his innocence, and claimed he didn’t do anything wrong deserving of his sufferings. They had a heated argument – which did not help the person in pain. This is so disheartening, yet this is a fact. There will be people who will not empathize with you. There will be people who will not understand you. But you have the choice not to wear the sandals they are forcing you to wear. As long as you know you are walking within the circle of God’s will, though people do not understand what you’re going through, just tell yourself, “bakit ako matatakot?”

  1. Cling onto hope – it will keep you strong.

Job was very resilient. But it doesn’t mean he is beyond breaking. And one good observation in his narrative is the hope he has in his Savior. In Job 19:25-27 it says:

25 I know that my redeemer lives,

    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

26 And after my skin has been destroyed,

    yet in my flesh I will see God;

27 I myself will see him

    with my own eyes—I, and not another.

    How my heart yearns within me!

It is no different with the Apostle Paul’s “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. This is more than positive thinking. Realize that there is no better time and place to exercise your faith than the time when all hope seems lost and all help seems gone. Job was looking forward to the day of his redemption – which may come physically to relieve him of his ordeal, or soon when he joins his Creator in heaven, which for him is a better deal! If you find that all joy is gone within you, cling onto hope – it will help you through. It will strengthen you.

  1. Cry onto God. He is not intimidated with that.

I had a personal encounter with extreme sadness. Maybe some other time I’ll share my story. But to give a short piece of account, I suffered from depressing thoughts never I have expected to have. I confided to a mature friend and I was advised to jot down my thoughts – all of it, no holds barred. Being a writer, I wrote my thoughts in an orderly, somehow artistic and carefully-worded manner. But I was rebuked. I am not writing to impress but to express. That time, I am writing not for people, but for myself. So there has to be no more inhibitions, no more censorship, no need to be careful.

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Somewhere within the premises of Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain

After jotting down all my thoughts, I realized, with tears flowing down my cheeks, that I was too tired and exhausted then. I had too many angst against people, against my situation, against my past decisions. It all welled up until it became too heavy to bear. I was caught off-guard by the excesses of life that I allowed my heart to carry. That exercise helped me unload some weight. I encourage you to do that as well.

But that was not all. I went to a solitary place to literally cry out everything. I went to Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain and there I confessed, questioned, and groaned unto God. It was a great experience, much like a spiritual detoxification.

Job did exactly just that. He cried unto God. He was so down and depressed that he already want to die. He was brutally honest –living with such losses, with boils and wounds and blisters and sores all over your body, being scorned by people around him, and being falsely accused by his “close friends” – for him, death would be a great bargain!

After jotting down all my thoughts, I realized, with tears flowing down my cheeks, that I was too tired and exhausted then. I had too many angst against people, against my situation, against my past decisions. It all welled up until it became too heavy to bear.

God is never overwhelmed by the weight of our prayers. He is not overwhelmed by our emotions. We can always be honest with Him. In fact, we can never hide anything from Him! He knows our thoughts, He knows our ways, He knows the deepest parts of our heart. He formed us and we are His. So cry unto Him. People might not understand what you are going through but trust me, He understands.

  1. Remember: it’s OK to not be OK

If you are feeling down and low, it’s OK. It doesn’t make you less of a human when you get sad at times. When you feel frustrated over something, don’t brush your tears away immediately, don’t hide your pain. It is not a sign of weakness when you cry for something that makes you sad. What’s weak is when you deny it and shrug it off as if it’s nothing when it is really something. When joy is not around, embrace sadness for a time, and when you have already cried your heart out, get up and walk again. Pursue joy once more. Life is not a competition who is the emotionally strongest – for we can all be emotionally secure in the Lord. Life is best lived in a community, where we can all share our joys and sadness and grow in the likeness of our God.

At the end of their heated discourse, Job prayed for his friends, they were forgiven. Whatever Job lost was restored, in double portions. This is because he was standing on a solid foundation. He went through a very challenging ordeal. He was tested by fire, but he came our refined. All because he acknowledged that he was not OK and God was fine with it. God is looking for broken people. He is not impressed by strength. So if you are not OK, let God deal with you. He will see you through.


Just prior to writing this blog, I revisited the story of Elijah (1 Kings 18-19). He was a very powerful and anointed prophet. He won the battle at Mount Carmel where he defeated numerous ministers of the false god Baal. He was a very accomplished person. But when his life was threatened, all signs of strength quickly fade. The man who prayed for fire and rain now prays for his life. Obviously he was shocked, devastated, depressed and afraid. But God assured him – he was not alone.

For God is with us, even in times of brokenness, of solitude, of sadness. In fact, He is closer than ever.

Often we long for answers in the form of a storm, an earthquake, or a fire. We long to see God working in mighty ways that will take our breath away. While it is true that God is a mighty God and He can always reveal Himself in mighty ways, like in the case of Elijah, He may also reveal Himself in subtle ways like a whisper. Yes, a sweet, soft, almost unnoticeable whisper. Let us not despair the silent moments of our lives. Let us not despair the times when our sadness seem to take the best of us. Let us not despair our moments of solitude, moments when joy seem to be absent. For God is with us, even in times of brokenness, of solitude, of sadness. In fact, He is closer than ever.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18

 

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.

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.

The Joy of Forgiving

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

When memories haunt you and pain seems fresh, forgiveness is surreal. When offended, we want to get even. When assaulted, we want to retaliate. We want to set things straight: we are not going to succumb to anyone without getting a fight for our rights, especially when we end up getting hurt.

the-joy-of-forgiving

People think that refusing to give forgiveness to the offending person is a form of retaliation. They think that it is the same as getting even. The unforgiving always carry the burden of hatred and hopes that in one way or another, vengeance will befall the hands of his perpetrator. Day in and day out, his desire is to get even. He never realize that carrying the weight of unforgiveness is like carrying a dead weight. Imagine carrying a corpse in your back wherever you go! And a corpse is heavier than living person!

Unforgiveness hurts no one than the person who keeps it for himself. On the contrary, releasing forgiveness sets a person free. You do not deserve to carry the weight of pain and haunting memories. Let go of the past. Remember that you are only hurting yourself with your unforgiveness. And while it is true that the memories will always pay you a visit, keep in mind what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

Embrace joy today and release forgiveness.

To all my Friends

I’ll never run out of reasons to thank the Lord for friends who always warm my life.

To all my friendsAs I reflect upon the year

Since I first step into existence,

I couldn’t help but be amazed

For God’s gifts called friends.

In the rugged path I’m trudging

Wonderful people I have met.

Some chose to stay, while others left

But their memories are remembered and kept.

When I’m with them the joy turns double

And in times of doubt they offer me hope.

In my frailties they refuse to mumble —

Helping hands present when heavier came each load.

Jesus lifts up my banner,

My friends lift up my hands;

They are more than encouragement

As we enter the Promised Land.

I’ll never run out of reasons to thank the Lord

For friends who always warm my life;

They may not be perfect, so am I,

But as long as they’re present, I know life’s worthwhile.


Originally written: 11.29.11

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(c) Facebook birthday greeting

Malaking shout-outs muna!

I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to all the people who remembered me on my birthday, especially those greeted me personally, those who called, who texted, messaged me via PM on Facebook or posted their greeting on my timeline. I may not be able to name you all but you know who you are! May God bless you all richly.

I feel so blessed hearing commendations from people who appreciate my craft in writing, though there are times I’m think that I do not have an audience in the genre I am writing about. For those who read my blogs, my sincerest thanks! It is my utmost desire to minister with every poem, with every hugot, with every reflection, with every personal testimony and experiences, and with every blog I post here and in my other blog – www.heartsandhalo.blogspot.com.

 

 

Mga Batang Superbook Unite!

If you remember these cartoon characters, then your childhood is awesome!

Nowadays, it is not only the parents and the teachers who influence and teach virtues to the children. The media has also become an active participant in leading a child to proper values education. I am grateful for having parents who taught me how should I behave as a kid then – that I should respect the elderly, to be obedient, to be polite and to be God-fearing, among others.

I remember one of our bonding moments when I was a kid is by watching educational TV shows together. Among my favorites then were Batibot, Sesame Street, the educational programs of ABS-CBN and Superbook. Actually I can claim that I learned some of my foundational lessons in front of the television. (Note: guided TV watching, I may say).

When I learned that Superbook will be re-aired and rehashed – the Superbook Reimagined, I felt a bit excited. Its as if my childhood memories with the series is to be reborn, in a digitally-improved animation! I’m going to see Chris, Joy and Gizmo and their biblical time travel experience once again! If you remember these cartoon characters, then your childhood is awesome!

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As I mature, I learned that Superbook is more than just a cartoon with positive message. It is more than just story telling. What Superbook does is more like gospel sharing in a language that children can easily understand. It appeals to the children’s eyes with its visuals, to their emotions with its lessons, and most importantly to their hearts with its message – the message of the gospel. Moreover, the ministry of Superbook touches not just the children but extends to their families as well.

What Superbook does is more like gospel sharing in a language that children can easily understand. It appeals to the children’s eyes with its visuals, to their emotions with its lessons, and most importantly to their hearts with its message – the message of the gospel.

The desire of CBN Asia Inc., the organization behind the animated series, is to continue to expand the ministry of Superbook. “Since the first airing of Superbook on Philippine TV, it has reached millions of families, with over 80 million viewers the past year alone,” says John Tan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of CBN Asia Inc. “That is an amazing number of people watching the Gospel every week and our hope is that we will be able to continue doing that,” Tan continued.

That is why Chris, Joy and Gizmo is calling us to partner with them in bringing the good news of the gospel by allowing them to continue their airtime. CBN Asia Inc. has officially launched the Superbook SuperGifts website where fans can join in and partner in bringing God’s love to Filipino kids any time, wherever in the world they are.

The SuperGifts website will not only enable people to donate to Superbook and help continue its airing, mall tours and outreaches, but will also provide Christian materials for children to enjoy. For every donation given through the website, children and their families can enjoy DVD episodes of the animated series, discussion guides, and new limited edition character figurines. “We hope to provide great Christian materials so they can use it for their families, churches, and schools,” he added.
“I hope that they will continue to partner with us because the task is great,” Tan concluded. However, at present time, SuperGifts can only be shipped to a physical Philippine address.

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The Superbook crew welcomes us to become their partner in accomplishing the task of spreading God’s love and giving hope to children. “God has a great plan for them. He loves them, cares for them and He will be there–now that they are children until they grow old and have their own families. The assurance of God’s love is what we are trying to convey. By partnering with us using the SuperGifts website and donating to the cause, you will really help us in pursuing God’s call to CBN Asia.”

You may visit the Superbook SuperGifts website (www.batangsuperbook.com/supergifts) to be a part of sharing God’s great love to Filipino children!

© All photos are property of CBN Asia Inc.