I recently came across some memes on Instagram in which a person, who seemed to be an atheist, blamed God for the poverty in the world. There were pictures of refuge kids and the caption read – “God’s Vacation Pics”. Another picture was of a few malnourished kids and the caption read – “God has the most amazing plans for you”. He claimed that God doesn’t exist, if He did then there shouldn’t be children suffering from poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
One thing I don’t understand, if he believes there is no God, then why blame Him for the poverty? And how easy it is for people to create memes about the hungry kids, in the comfort of their houses and accuse God for His inexistence. Anyways…
These memes and much more very demeaning memes about Jesus and God in the person’s Instagram account were very disturbing to me personally. I don’t know much about atheism and why some people deny God’s existence. I can only assume it’s because God doesn’t do things as per their To-Do list.
“Don’t yawn! Don’t get bored! Pay attention and stay on your place! These are my prime instructions to my 9 years old before his online class on Zoom begins. But every time it seems like my instructions are falling on deaf ears. He does what he wants to do.
Once I had to mute the speaker and turn off the camera to instruct him during the class strictly not to yawn constantly or show that you are bored. But his very frank response surprised me. He said, “Mummy, yawning is natural. I can’t stop it!”
Children are amazingly honest with their feelings. In Asher’s case, he is the same in and out. If he is upset, he is. If he is happy, he is. If he is sad, he is. If he is bored, he is. There is no pretension of any kind, no mask of any other feelings over the real ones.
I wonder, whether we outgrow the ability to be honest with our feelings as we grow up. We don’t usually reveal how we feel. Do we? Especially the feelings of depression, negativity or sadness are the most suppressed ones. We are conscious of being judged by others. We wonder if others will criticize us for our pain. So we always want to put our best self forward. Under the “I am fine” phrase, we keep on fighting our silent battles.
Above all, we are Christians so we aren’t supposed to feel any negativity. We are supposed to choose joy everyday. How can one have negative feelings and claim to love or believe in Jesus?
We are told that being followers of Christ, we must be joyful always. The Christian life is a life of victory. We must focus on whatever is good. We must choose joy and cling to the biblical promises. We must consider our trials and tribulations as a furnace for refining our faith.
And I am sure all of us want to live our Christian life exactly this way. After all, who wants to live a miserable life right?
But there are times and I mean those toughest times, when nothing really makes sense in life. There is an ache in your heart which doesn’t go away. No amount of encouragement works. You can’t differentiate between the fixed mind-set and growth mind-set and which one you actually have. You aren’t able make lemonade from the lemons you get. No sermon or motivational book seems to help you. No matter how much you try, you just can’t see the silver linings around your clouds. Happiness seems everyone’s state of mind but yours. And all you want is to just feel numb for a moment.
There are times when Job’s or Joseph’s life-example doesn’t motivate you enough. Paul’s letters don’t bring any instant hope. Nothing proves to be soothing for your aching soul. Though deep down you know that you trust in God and love Jesus deeply, but you just don’t feel like praying another prayer. Your cup seems to run dry. You cry yourself to sleep and getting up for another day feels like a huge burden for you.
And…and there are days when your prayers seem to hit the ceiling and come back to you. “This too shall pass” looks much like “this too shall last”. And you wonder day after day if there is any end to your challenges. And above all, God seems to be silent, distant and angry with you…
In his book “A Grief Observed”, C.S. Lewis describes God’s silence in this way –
“When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.”
We read in Psalms where David expresses his genuine feelings to God. He is so vulnerable and honest with how he feels and what agonizes his heart. And we see that he is always comforted by the Spirit of God at the end.
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” Psalms 13:1-2
Being real with your feelings can sometimes be hard. But choosing to be real is the way out. As long as you resist the pain, it will only intensify. So, if you feel like crying, just cry. If you want to stay alone for some time and process your feelings, just do that. If you want to just have some rest, allow yourself to rest. If you want to share your feelings with someone whom you trust, please do that. If you want to write down your feelings in a journal, do that (this has helped me a lot). But be open with how you feel.
You aren’t exaggerating them, you aren’t acting weird. It’s just natural that you don’t feel good. As they say, it’s just ok not to be ok. Keeping your true feelings suppressed will only do you more harm than any good. So let them vent out. At the end it doesn’t matter how many people you pleased by your smiling face but aching heart. Your life is yours and your mental health is your responsibility.
Feelings aren’t permanent. And you are not your feelings. They are just natural human responses to pain and challenging situations. In fact they are very necessary to address the cause of your pain, so you can know how things should look. Expressing your true feelings, shedding the suppressed tears aren’t the signs of your failing faith or distrust in God but it simply means you have been strong for so long, you still want to keep going but you just need some breather….you just need some time out.
And know this unchanging truth that no matter how hard you feel, God always remains by your side and walks you through this valley of sorrow. And His love for you never changes. He is your everlasting light. And this light is best experienced from the place of darkness!
Our smoothly sailing life got a little bit ruffled with both of our kids falling sick at the same time. What was thought to be a common cold and cough worsened with time and both of them were admitted in two different hospitals.
My son developed breathing difficulties and was kept in ICU for a couple of days for oxygen support and my daughter was beginning to develop pneumonia and was being treated for the same.
Things got disoriented and due to the COVID protocol, it was a bit challenging to deal with all the hospital procedures. While my husband stayed with my son, I stayed with my daughter in the hospital.
It was the first time both of them fell very sick together and we found ourselves stressed out both physically and emotionally. When my son was admitted in the hospital, his absence in the home made me saddened. The silence at home sounded louder than the noise and mess he used to make being at home. For the first time the house looked tidy, everything in the house was in its place, except him. My daughter on the other side was struggling with her health challenges. The fever and increasing cough made her too weak. When Asher was discharged, the same day she was admitted.
This was a trying time for us as a family but God was with us. Most importantly, this time we could feel Him, hear Him, talk to Him, experience His help and His compassion, His touch, His assuring and comforting words and His presence in the most authentic and real ways. In other words we saw Him……
During this challenging period, we weren’t all alone. Our loving family members stood by us throughout this difficult time. Our friends came over to offer their help for the hospital stays and other related conveniences. The Esther prayer group’s sisters offered their continued prayers for us. Asher’s home-schooling community families supported us with their prayers and calls and few of my friends whom I had never met but who were just connected with me through the blog, backed me up with their messages and prayers. Also, we met very kind hospital staff and doctors who were so empathetic, caring and relational.
During my stay with my daughter in hospital, the nurses walked the extra mile with me as I looked after her. They helped me in ways which were not part of their duty. They offered their help in wonderful ways. When I was alone in the room with my daughter, some of the nurses would just come over to ask if I was OK. They would talk with me and listen long as I told them about Jennie. Some would simply visit to see if she was improving in her health. They called her “Vave” (baby) with love. They made sure that she gets less pain as they gently inserted cannula, gave injections and took out blood for the tests from her fragile hands. Every evening, a very graceful and softly-spoken catholic nun would visit the patients to pray for them. When she would visit us, she would run her fingers through Jennie’s hair and talk to her. She would spend extra time to know about her health.
Through these supportive, loving, kind, helpful and caring people, we experienced God’s constant presence with us in our hardships. He showed up through the people whom He put in our lives.
I am a “let me carry my own cross” type person. I hesitate to take help from others. I am like that drowning man who trusts God for his rescue but refuses to take help from the people who are willing to help him. He believes that God will save him but He doesn’t realise that God is helping him through the people He has sent for his rescue.
In the creation narrative in Genesis, we read that God made man in His own image and likeness.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
As I think deeply about this verse, I understand that God has endowed His attributes upon humans as He created them. Man is to show God’s invisible image through his visible life. It’s not that God possesses human-like features but it’s more about God’s Spirit which dwells in humans. God is invisible, He is a Spirit but He surely manifests himself through humans – His unique creations. Humans are the visible reflections, the imprints of the invisible God.
In Asher’s English grammar syllabus, I was confused in classifying “God” as a concrete or abstract noun. Concrete nouns name a physical object which can be experienced with the five senses while abstract nouns are a concept, quality or condition which can’t be experienced with the five senses. We can’t sense God through five senses. We can’t see Him, hear Him, or touch Him. So how can we put God in the concrete noun category? We can…because the world He made is concrete. His Son Jesus whom He sent was in the human form and the human beings He created in His image and likeness are concrete too. Through them we can definitely sense God, His touch, His healing, His voice, His comfort, His assurance, His love, His kindness, His compassion and His blessings too.
I have no answers to the question, “why are sufferings there and why does God allow them?” But I am beginning to realise that it’s only in the midst of pain we can fully experience His healing touch; only in need we can fully experience His provision; only in brokenness can we fully experience His love; only in loneliness can we fully experience His presence; only in hardships and emotional upheaval can we fully experience His comfort and only in the life’s storms we can fully experience our faith in Him. When there is pain, there will be love, mercy, compassion, comfort, care and empathy and we as His image bearers are called to demonstrate them to the suffering world through our lives.
We are the “Imago Dei“, His image; the concrete reflection of Him to the world. Let others see Him and experience Him through each one of our lives!
“Do Small Things With Great Love” – My T-shirt has these words written on it. I often wear it at home but never really reflected on its message. Interestingly, who really wants to do small things or even regard them as important right? To be honest, all of us wish for doing something big, something extraordinary and remarkable, something which will bring us applause, admiration, recognition and probably self-satisfaction and a sense of greatness.
The world tells us to go big or go home. You are only admired and considered great when you are successful enough in every area of life. So, somehow we have subscribed to this notion – Big things = Greatness.
For most of my life, I’d believed the same thing. Perhaps, this was one of the reasons I was never quite content with the life I was given. I tried having it all fixed together. I begged God to change my circumstances. I cried millions of tears for having children with special needs. I wanted a different life. Being there for my children’s needs felt like I was trapped between four walls at home. I tried doing different things and works which I thought would bring value to my life and a sense of greatness and fulfilment. I tried to search meaning and purpose for my life outside of God’s plans. Instead of paying close attention to what He wanted me to do, I went on to navigate what I wished for. I refused to do “small things” in order to do big things and do them merely for some sort of recognition.
The people who struggle with life’s challenges, loss, grief, or any other major hardships or painful tragedies, constantly wrestle with the question “why?” They can explain to you what has happened, when it has happened, where it has happened, and how it has happened, but the “whys” remain unanswered most of the time. And we aren’t an exception to this either. My husband and I are trying to make the best sense of our different life, we are trying to overcome our pain with hope, positivity and perseverance, and we are also trying to find the “why” along the way in our daughter’s case.
Sometimes, It’s a hard situation to be in. It’s a whirlpool of different emotions, thoughts and unanswered questions. Butwhat makes it even harder is when others try to assume different answers to those “whys,” when others try to fill in those blanks with the reasons they want to choose. Its hard when others play the guessing game for your “whys”.
A person we met recently, claimed that our daughter’s medical condition is a result of a servant of God cursing our family. Further, if there are any grudges we hold against anyone, we must reconcile with them. He was sure that there is a curse on our family. He shared this out of his personal experiences. We were meeting him for the first time. His statements seemed humiliating as well as sort of disturbing to our nearly healed wounds. We wondered: How could he be so insensitive?
Home-schooling my son has been a lonely and daunting journey for me for the last three years. I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to quit as there were times I just couldn’t make it successfully through the day.
I had always felt inadequate being his teacher. My graduate studies are incomplete, which made me doubt even more my abilities as a better educator. I had tried my best to teach him but I was always concerned that he might miss out on the essential things in his studies which only a proficient teacher can teach.
He is being home-schooled by me because he was denied admission in schools due to his inattention issues. It was disheartening to see him being rejected. The rejection could make things even emotionally difficult for a 6 year-old. I didn’t want his gifts and skills to be trampled on before they blossom. So, I needed to take initiative to continue his studies despite my challenges.
These years I have been in a fog of confusion. Even as I felt lonely, my son felt lonely too, as he couldn’t be a part of any school and have friends. I have been praying and searching for a suitable school, or an experienced home-schooling family which might guide me along. But there wasn’t any evident result of my persistent search or answer to my prayers.
The news about the second wave of covid-19, and the rapidly rising numbers of positive cases, was all over India during the months of April and May. The social media messages were filled with sad emojis 😥and praying hands🙏🏼 during this time. Many people I knew were also affected by the virus and few of them even lost their lives due to it.
“Please remember my family friend in your prayers. He is Covid positive. He is in critical condition and is on oxygen support.” This was the message I received from one of my friends during the same time. I assured her of my prayers as I saw her message. “Sure! I will pray,” I replied instantly. While closing the chat tab, I whispered a prayer in my mind for him and went on to do the household work.
Later on, I didn’t remember praying for him or asking about his health until few days later, when the virus hit my own family. When I saw my husband struggle with severe cough during the night, and the way the virus was causing emotional and physical chaos to us, I realised the seriousness of covid-19.
A few weeks back, we as a family, shifted back from Maharashtra which is in the northern part of India to Kerala in the South. For safe and swift travel, we considered flying, as it takes just 2-3 hours. Also during this pandemic time, it felt more convenient to fly – especially for our 7 year old daughter who has special needs.
But, sadly, our flight kept getting cancelled for some or other reason. This happened three times in a row. It was very frustrating the third day. Every morning when we would do all the preparations for travel and announce that we are leaving, the very next day the notification of flight cancellation from the airline would pop onto my husband’s phone. It was a puzzling moment.
Refiner’s fire – The word isn’t new for us as Christians. We have heard it in many sermons. There are many songs written about it. Many books and articles describe its analogy with life’s various trials. The Bible tells us how God refines our lives like silver or gold are refined in the furnace.
Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
We are like a lump of unrefined metal in His hands. He is our refiner. Just like the refiner sees the value of the unrefined metal and what it can become, our Master Refiner sees the richness and the value of our lives and what we can become.
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3
How does the refinement process for the silver or gold works?
A metal such as gold or silver can be purified when it is melted at a high temperature. The dross or the impurities rises to the top and it is then removed from the metal before it cools down. The process of heating continues until the metal is pure. Though it seems like the fire will destroy the metal, it only makes it more pure and valuable.
“For you have tested us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined.” Psalm 66:10
How does God’s refinement process work?
Certain trials or afflictions God allows in our lives because He has a purpose for them. But none of us really likes to be in this place. It’s hard, it’s hot, it’s painful, it’s inconvenient, it’s frightening and it’s hurting being here. But, just like the metal endures the process of its refining, you and I are to endure the process of our refining in the furnace of life’s trials. And this is only possible when we truly understand the refiner’s place in the metal’s life, when we choose His will and ways instead of our own, when we are willing to change when He reveals to us our impurities or our weaknesses and when we are willing to fully trust His heart of love in the process no matter how long it takes or how ‘hot’ it gets.
On 9th April, I received a voice mail from my friend Sheetal in the morning. A couple of months back, we were talking about God’s healing and about the same topic, she had shared her beautiful and deep insights with me. I listened to the mail and thanked her for her thoughtful message.
But little did I know that I would need her words in the next few weeks; or maybe, the voice message was preparing me in advance for the worst that was headed my way.
The very next day, my parents and my younger brother were tested positive for Covid -19. And within a few days’ time, my husband too was found infected by the virus. My biggest fear came true as the deadly virus had reached my dear ones when I least expected it.