What If God Doesn’t Take The Pain Away?

Will you still praise Him?

I asked myself this question when I got stranded at a coffee shop yesterday. I was supposed to go home, but since the engine of my car did not start, I had no choice but to stay and wait for help. “No way, Lord. Not again! Another hurdle this month?” I felt annoyed and ashamed at the same time. But, God has always been patient in revealing impurities like this in me. As He is allowing me to go through these moments of brokenness, I see how He is also graciously sustaining me.

In the past month, I have struggled with two unexpected hurdles. I will be sharing more about them and what the Lord has been teaching me through them.

 

HURDLE #1: HEALTH

There is an infection (not contagious) in my body and it has been here for more than three weeks now. Despite me taking antibiotics, praying, and going through treatments, it still won’t go away! Aside from causing me pain, it also affected my usual activities. I needed to take a few leaves at work, postpone my exercise routine at the gym (Hello, monthly gym fee!) and my participation at a table tennis tournament. Managing my time, energy, and money as I recover from it has also been challenging for me. Each day, I hoped and prayed for the Lord to finally heal me. But for some reason, He still is letting me experience it, even as I am typing these words.

Through this, the Lord continues to remind me to trust in His character.

He is GOOD and He will always be good in every situation we’re in. By His grace, I started seeing His goodness through His provision. I realized that I didn’t need to spend for consultation fees or treatments outside because my parents (who are also doctors) can check up on me anytime at home. Also, I could have my medicines reimbursed at work, as part of the benefits for the employees. But, more than the physical aspect of this situation, each time my heart gets discouraged, the Lord continues to comfort me with His presence. He is with me. Through this weakness, by God’s grace, I find myself drawing closer to Him and Him drawing closer to me.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” –Isaiah 41:10

 

HURDLE #2: CAR TROUBLE

In my 11 years of driving, I have not experienced bumping another vehicle until last week. My stubborn self has always been distracted whenever I drive around, and this time, the Lord did not want me to escape the consequences of my actions. Unfortunately, I have learned the skill of putting on make-up, navigating through my phone, and organizing my bag WHILE driving. I can try to blame the luxury of time I have as I am usually stuck in traffic, but I can really only blame myself.

On my way to work last Monday, I was getting something from my bag on the passenger’s seat when I suddenly felt a loud bang in front of me. I bumped the back of a white van and I immediately felt a cold shiver in my body. The driver of the van went down and asked for my license as I sincerely apologized to him. He told me to meet him inside BGC so that we would not cause traffic along C5. As soon as we got to an emergency bay, he approached me and asked for a specific amount to pay for the damages I caused as he was already running late for work. I only had HALF of the amount with me at that time, so I asked if he could accept it instead. By God’s grace, the driver agreed to let me go, gave my license back, and received my cash payment. You could just imagine how embarrassed and humbled I was before God as I continued driving to our office.

Later that day, my manager and supervisor called me for a lunch meeting and the first thing they mentioned to me was: “Congratulations! We are promoting you! Yaaay!” The crazy thing about it was the amount of salary increase was the exact amount the driver was asking me to pay him earlier. Also, half of the salary increase was already credited to my account three days before the incident! God, in His perfect timing and sovereignty, graciously provided for me even before I got into an accident!

In this situation, I felt the Lord break me as He convicted me of the importance of obeying Him in the smallest things, even when no one is looking. The grace He showed me that day broke my heart even more and moved me to not only remove the distractions while I am driving, but also, to let go of the distractions that hinder me from honoring Him and seeking Him in my heart.

God used these two hurdles to speak to me in the recent weeks and I thought I had learned my lesson. But when I had another hurdle yesterday, the pride in my heart overflowed as I blurted out my frustration. “Lord, why do I feel like, even as I obey You, You still continue to break me? Is this how it’s supposed to be?” I went out of my car, walked back to the coffee shop, grumbled in my heart, and started worrying about the additional expenses for the car again. That was when I felt the Lord speak to me: “Nic, what if I don’t take the pain away? What if I keep letting you experience more hurdles? Will you still find it in your heart to praise Me?”

He then reminded me of Joseph’s testimony in the Bible and how he continued to seek and honor God in the highlights and hurdles of his life. He also reminded me of Jesus’ example and how He humbly surrendered His life to God, even though He is also Lord and King. My desire and ability to seek and obey the Lord comes from Him. It isn’t about me and it never will be. I asked for forgiveness from the Lord as I acknowledged the pride in my heart. The same God who was with Joseph then is still the same God today. What a comfort it is to know that He is good, Holy, faithful, sovereign, loving, and gracious. That He loves His children enough to discipline us, even if it means letting us experience brokenness again and again.

By God’s grace, my dad came to the rescue and helped me jumpstart the car. As soon as we got home, he also assisted me in having my car’s battery replaced that same day.

I share these things not to boast about anything except for His power and grace in my weaknesses. In whatever struggle we may go through, no matter how big or small, I pray that these verses would be real in our hearts and in our lives, for the glory of God.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” –Psalm 34:1

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sharing with you a song I wrote recently, inspired by being broken before the Lord. I hope it encourages your heart to keep your eyes on Him!

My 60-Year Old Dad

My dad is known as Kuya, Doc, or Pastor Glenn
He’s a teacher, a singer, and a son of a comedian
He’s a darl, tito, ninong, lolo, and bro
But enough about what you already know.

My dad exposed us siblings to sports and music
He showed us how to sing and play guitar that is acoustic
He used a plywood table when he taught us pingpong
He let us listen to standards and Disney sing-alongs

My dad influenced us to love animals too
Growing up, it felt like we had our own mini zoo
From having cats, birds, plenty of fish, and dogs
To raising turtles, hamsters, chickens, and a duck

My dad taught me what it means to be content
Especially during a meal time when we only had rice, tomato, and egg
He said “Wow, Nicolas! What a special breakfast!
We have rice, tomato, and a ‘chicken’ in front of us!”

My dad did not hesitate to discipline us back then
He spanked and grounded us when we disobeyed them
Even as we grew older, he took time to rebuke
To help us please God; to help us follow His truths.

My dad provided for us ever since we were young.
I don’t remember a time when we had none.
Even as adults, he still graciously gives
A roof over our heads and even emergency needs.

My dad has been faithful not only in His walk
But also in the way He shares Jesus in His talks
In his life, he acknowledges the presence of God
Through 143s and even the past fire, robbery, and flood.

My dad is so much more than what was shared in this poem
And it’s only by God’s grace that he is able to show ‘em
Happy, happy birthday to this earthly father of mine
You don’t look like 60…

…you only look 59.

Hahahahaha! Love you, Dad!

Five Things I Learned from Songwriting

It has been almost three months since my last blog post and I am very happy to be back! A lot of events happened recently which caused my hiatus in writing, but I think one of the biggest factors was my journey in songwriting. A few weeks ago, I was surprised by how I survived the past months without writing on my journal or blog as often as I did. It was then that I realized how the Lord allowed me to express both my hurts and the lessons I have learned through music.

By God’s grace, He gave me the privilege of writing ten original songs about my walk with Him in the past nine weeks since the month of June. This morning, I listened to them again and remembered the pain and comfort I felt before as I read through the lyrics. I thanked the Lord because even though I didn’t get to write my thoughts down as much as I could, they were somehow immortalized through these songs. Personally, I find myself singing some of the lyrics especially when I experience the same struggles again.

TEN SONGS:

  1. “It’s You, Jesus”  – Walking by faith whenever I struggle with worry.
  2. “This Is Love” – No earthly love can ever compare to Jesus’ love for us.
  3. “Not Even a Hint” – Pursuing purity and fleeing from pornography.
  4. “You Are” – Amazed by how beautiful nature is, but even more awestruck by who our Creator is.
  5. “Into Your Arms” – Experiencing God’s forgiveness after falling into sin.
  6. “I Can” – Battlecry in the midst of problems and pains.
  7. “White as Snow” – Surrendering regrets and shame (because of my past) to the Lord.
  8. “No One Like You” – How God is the strength and desire of my heart.
  9. “You’re In Control” – Trusting in God’s will.
  10. “Don’t Ever Forget” – Finding hope in God’s love whenever we are downcast.

I loved listening to music, singing songs, and playing simple chords in the guitar and piano growing up. If it is God’s will, I do hope I can continue enjoying and making music for His glory. As I celebrate my 10th song in a row since June, I would like to share five keywords that I have learned along the way. I hope that these will encourage your heart somehow:

 

1. INSPIRATION

After writing the sixth song, I told a friend “I’m so tired. Although I enjoy being able to express myself through songwriting, it does come with a lot of emotions.” Don’t get me wrong, my heart has been very grateful to the Lord for this opportunity. But to give you an idea of how it usually happens to me, it starts with a struggle in my heart. It could be about pride, anger, lust, insecurities, worry, loneliness, and many more. When this happens, I bring it up to the Lord and ask Him to help me fight it with His truths found in the Bible. Afterwards, either a random melody or a few lines about who God is or my identity in Him would pop up in my mind. Then, I would be able to finish the rest of the song eventually. Imagine this process happening every week for the past 2 ½ months. Haha!

But, I do praise God because He knows how much music speaks to my heart. So, being able to merge Biblical truths and music really does help me fight the struggles. Although this process has been emotionally heavy at times (as countless tears were shed), I realized that these struggles and God’s grace through them became the inspiration of the songs. Whenever I experience new struggles in my heart, the Lord continues to renew my mind and help me see things through His perspective and Word.

 

2. DISCIPLINE

I am an amateur guitarist, singer, and songwriter. This year, I had the desire to be more intentional in songwriting and by God’s grace, He has been allowing me to grow through it. It does take up a lot of time and effort. During the first two songs, I struggled recording them at home because my fingers would feel this burning sensation after playing the guitar a couple of times. That’s when I knew I had to develop callouses on my fingers to help me play with ease. I literally played the guitar for at least 15 minutes after work each day for two weeks. This eventually helped me play the next songs without feeling much pain on my fingers.

Another aspect of discipline that I learned in the recent months was prioritizing songwriting. I remember having to decline some of the hangouts with friends and colleagues because I intentionally scheduled some of my nights for songwriting and guitar practice. Also, I have been more conscious of my health since I started writing songs consistently. I made sure to boost my immune system with vitamin C, drink more water, lessen my sugar intake, and workout more regularly. If I do not become disciplined in this aspect, I may not be able to sing well because of the usual health issues I have: sore throat, cough, and colds.

By God’s grace, songwriting has also helped me practice writing poems, properly strum and pluck the guitar, transpose, find the key that is right for my voice, learn from the different styles of other songwriters, and improve after every song.

 

3. PATIENCE

One of the struggles of songwriters is having a growing list of unfinished songs. I can’t begin to explain how frustrating it is to hear melodies or words in your head and not be able to put them in a song. In my phone’s voice memo, I have MANY 10-second to 30-second recordings of melodies and words that I haven’t finished writing yet. Haha!

But what I’ve learned in the past months is being able to persevere in being patient. In my case, since I write about my walk with God or who He is, I trust that if ever He does want me to finish a song, He will allow it to happen in His perfect time. In the recent 10 songs that I’ve written, here are the various times it took me to finish them: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, 3 days, and 5 days. It’s fun to finish it in less than an hour. But when days have passed and the song isn’t finished yet, it’s tempting to just give up and forget about it. But I thank the Lord for His grace in giving me patience and helping me follow through.

 

4. AUTHENTICITY

I enjoy being with people who are real and it’s also because I like being real too. I remember one aunt casually told me: “You know, Nicole, it’s interesting and nice that you share what is in your heart whenever you blog. I mean, others wouldn’t really be that open with their struggles.” Another friend told me: “Nicole, we need this kind of realness in the world! Thank you for sharing!” There is beauty in authenticity that isn’t enjoyed or encouraged in the society often. Whenever I blog or write in my journals, I usually do not hold back and I share my hurts, the lessons I’ve learned, and how I am humbled through them. So, even in songwriting, it’s one of the non-negotiables that I have whenever I write the lyrics.

I still remember the very first time I wrote a full song back in 2009. I wanted to find a song that expresses exactly what was going on in my heart, that I could sing along to. But I couldn’t find one at that time. So, I thought “Why not just write a song from your heart? In that way, your heart would really relate to every line that you sing.” As the years passed, people would randomly share how some of the songs I’ve written spoke to them and how much they could relate to them. Some even mentioned that they worship the Lord through some of my songs. It’s amazing how being real allows us to connect with others, even strangers, in an uplifting way. It’s okay to be broken and weak because God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness.

 

5. HUMILITY

As the Lord dealt with my heart’s struggles in the recent months, He made sure to remind me that at the end of each day and at the end of every song I’ve written, all the glory goes to Him. I can’t thank God enough for how He has used this recent journey in songwriting to show me that He alone is God and I am not. No one else is.

I also appreciate the many times I’ve received constructive feedback from family and friends on how to improve the way I choose my words, melody, and even beat of the song. For Christian songs, I learned from Tommy Walker how writing lyrics based on Bible verses not only makes the song beautiful, but it also impacts our hearts more than lyrics based on our own emotions. Of course! The Bible verses are God’s words! I’ve experienced this as I wrote the songs I mentioned above. It’s amazing how music helps me memorize verses from the Bible and encourages me to dig deeper in their context as I write about them.

This truth has been humbling my heart and helping me see my need to constantly abide in Him. With this, I take no glory for any of the songs I have written since I started. It is only by His grace that He gave me the privilege of being used by Him to make music for Him.

There were moments when I would tell God: “Lord, what if you remove my hands, my eyes, or my voice? What if I won’t be able to listen, sing, and make music for you anymore?” Then, God helped me realize that it isn’t about what I am able to do for Him, but it is always about His goodness, love, faithfulness, and grace for us. As He is teaching me to be humble, I am learning to surrender songwriting to Him and His will, whether or not He allows me to pursue this in the future. But for now, as long as I am able, I pray that I will keep my heart, ears, and hands open for His glory.

“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things…” –Psalm 98:1

“…Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –Ephesians 5:18-20

Is There Hope for My Broken Family?

One of the most difficult questions I’ve had to answer after our family’s 3-week vacation to the States was “How was your trip?”. Every single time a friend or a colleague asked me this, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said: “It was good! Really fun!” But, behind those answers was a heart breaking inside of me. Yes, by God’s grace, there were good and amazing highlights which I hope to share sometime soon. However, I couldn’t just let go of the fact that our family went through an emotional roller coaster ride that continued even a month after we got back to the Philippines. We went home to the same house each day and had occasional chats, but there was definitely an elephant in the room.

 

PRIDE IN THE FAMILY

The trip was supposed to be a fun time with the family because of three main reasons: 1) Our eldest sister’s wedding and meeting the extended family in Hawaii, 2) Our family reunion with my father’s side, and 3) Our whole family’s first time to travel the States together. But while we were still in the States, our different types of personalities clashed almost every day. From the smallest concerns to the biggest problems we encountered, the pride in us took over our hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, this caused us to stumble and sin not only in our thoughts, but also in the harsh and unloving words that we carelessly threw against each other. When someone made a mistake, some of us were quick to judge and comment about it. When someone made suggestions, some of us chose to disregard and belittle them. When someone opened up that he/she was hurt, the other side became defensive. When we experienced delays, hassles, or detours during the trip, blaming and getting annoyed at each other became a normal response. Moreover, smiling for the camera in between these moments was the cherry on top! It was very tiring and frustrating.

 

INDIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY

As each day passed by, I kept telling God about my disappointment and heartbreak because of our family’s situation. There were moments when I would cry or cringe especially when I would see myself and my other family members being joyful with others, yet having not much emotion or interest back at home. It broke my heart to see how it was normal for us to worship God and serve others when we ourselves weren’t honoring God in our relationships in the family. I also noticed that some of us preferred staying out late instead of going home early to spend more time with the family. In addition, some of us kept ourselves busy with work or other interests, since it was more convenient compared to dealing with the problem. In a nutshell, our family was already giving up on each other.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.Psalm 43:5

 

HUMILITY IN THE FAMILY

Last Saturday, during a road trip with my older sister to a coffee farm, I had the opportunity to open up to her and share what I was feeling and thinking of, in relation to the elephant in the room. I said things like: “I honestly don’t know my parents and siblings anymore. We don’t make time for each other which causes us to be quick in judging and not understanding each other.” and “I’ve been ranting about this to God almost every day. I feel like He’s telling me to stop ranting and to start doing something about it!”

Our exchanges of experiences led us to agreeing that we needed to resolve issues and have a family meeting. We just couldn’t imagine seeing this problem snowball into something bigger in the years to come. I sent out a chat invite to our family’s group chat and surprisingly, they all (parents, older sister, and younger brother) confirmed their attendance for the next day. Ironically, that same road trip, I let my pride take control of me and it caused a tension between me and my sister (which I shared in my previous POST). But, God used that experience for me to understand the value and blessing of humility and by His grace, this inspired me to be intentional in praying for and facilitating our family meeting that weekend.

It was one of the awkward moments I’ve had with the family. Seeing them walk in the coffee shop one by one and knowing that we all had unresolved issues in our hearts. But somehow, God was encouraging me to trust that He is more than able to restore our relationships in His perfect timing. After Mom opened in prayer, I started to lead the discussion by sharing that the purpose of our talk that night was for us to be aware of the situation we had and to trust that God will help us restore what was broken.

I then asked everyone (including myself) two questions that night. The first question was: “What changes do you desire to see in our family?”. This was our chance to let each other know about the improvements that we wanted to see in the members of the family. After around 10 minutes, I asked them the second question: “What changes do you desire to see in YOURSELF, in relation to the family?”. I remember seeing some of their eyes widen and hearing some say “ohh my!”. I guess it was a question that they did not expect. After everyone finished typing their answers on their mobile phones, I said: “Okay! It’s now time to share our answers to the group. Let’s begin with question… #2.”

By God’s grace, He inspired me to set the tone of humility in our discussion by starting with the second question. Knowing our family (based on the previous open forums we’ve had in the past years), whenever we first shared about family issues and problems because of each other, our conversations did end up having action steps, but they also turned a bit sour afterwards. Sometimes, there would still be conversations after the open forum where some of us would say, “I still felt that I wasn’t understood when I opened up…” and all those similar responses.

So, for our recent family meeting, it was refreshing and very humbling for each of us to start the discussion by admitting our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and desires to improve ourselves within the context of family. By the time we moved on to question #1, the issues and concerns shared were willingly welcomed by each member. After a loooong time, I sincerely saw how each member was intentional in hearing out and understanding where the hurting member was coming from. There were no defensive or harsh comments made and when we were almost leaning towards a tension, the other members helped in balancing the conversation. Not only did we get to know each other and our hurts more, we also had the opportunity to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to believe in the best towards each other. Hugs were given, tears were shed, funny comments were occasionally said, tips to love each other were shared, and walls among us were slowly being destroyed.

“God, I’m done running from the reason that You sent Your Son. So I’m gonna choose to love.
Maybe I’ll hurt, maybe I’ll bruise, maybe I’ll cry, maybe I’ll lose.
Still I will choose to love.” –Francesca Battistelli

 

HOPE FOR THE FAMILY

We ended the night by encouraging each other to grow in our relationship with Jesus and in our love for each other, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart was overjoyed, not because all of our family concerns were solved, but because we found hope in Jesus. In spite of our weaknesses, He is more than able to transform our hearts and do miracles in our families, no matter how simple or hopeless the situations and problems may be. All it takes is a step of faith when He calls us to act on it and trust in Him.

You too might wonder: “Is there hope for my broken family?”

I think you already know the answer to it. Will you believe it? :)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13

*Note: I asked my family’s permission before blogging about this.*