Let me share with you three things that God is teaching me during this season.
It’s already been one year and a few months into this pandemic and yet we’re still here today facing its devastating effects. Much of the world is impacted by this, others say COVID is the great equalizer. I get it that they meant the virus does not choose who will be infected, whether young or old, well-off or poverty-stricken, man or woman. As a fulltime staff of GCAF working for Paglaum and Kids Central, much of our ministry work had been planned out already even before the year started. When COVID happened, it was very challenging as we were supposedly well into the end of the fiscal year, but then we had to re-start with entirely new plans. Going through the initial few months was like groping in a dark alley. Personally, I too had my own struggles. While adapting to the virtual style of doing things in the new normal may not have been too hard for me (hello, millennial baby), there was another struggle I know most of us, if not all, can relate with. Fear for life. Not just for my life but for my loved ones also. In our household, most of us are working; with the exception of my niece, all of us go out every day so we’re highly exposed to risks. And the thought that you won’t even know if you are a carrier already and you could be causing your family harm, that’s a really scary and heavy burden. BUT my faith calls me to step out and live not by sight. By God’s grace, we are still here. We have been brought by God this far along. He has brought me this far along and with the three things I learned in this journey. They are found in Romans 12:12 which says: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)
Joyful in Hope
If you have been tuning in to the news lately, whether on cable or on social media, and their reporting on the COVID-19 crisis, you might be convinced the crisis gets worse each day. You can just say: when will this ever end, Lord? We’ve already been under General Community Quarantine, then the virus evolved into much stronger variants and now the city is in Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. What else are we to go through? How long will this last? While that echoes a lot of people’s sentiment (me included) and this remark would easily be made to pass these days, remember: we are not a people without hope. In fact, God’s word calls us to be joyful in hope. In other translations it says “rejoice in hope”! That word “rejoice” means to be glad, take pleasure, delight. It’s not saying to rejoice in a party level, but that we still somehow look to the “silver lining”. So, how are we to picture that right now?
Well for me, some of the reasons that I rejoice are: One, we just celebrated 5 birthdays of family members in a span of one week, including the 80th birthday of my father. Yes, that’s 8-0 years of God’s faithfulness! Also, my sister and her family in Canada are already done with their second dose of vaccines so they can go about a little more freely. My brother just successfully underwent naturopathy procedure for his gall stones, and I could go still go on…. And yet, even just being here, still here, present with you, able to praise God and enjoy this fellowship, this is one good reason to rejoice. While this may seem a bit difficult to practice right now, if we choose to see it that way, we will find that this is just a small sample of the things to rejoice in. The bottom line is this: even if we don’t know our future, we know Who holds our future. We have a hope, including hope that in the future this virus will be but a memory, and so God calls us to rejoice! Romans 15:13 says “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Patient in Affliction
Let’s be honest. When we hear the word patient or patience, what most easily comes to our minds is like the expression to “take deep breaths, hold your tongue” in the middle of experiencing maybe an annoying or challenging situation or when you encounter difficult people. Or when you are waiting for your turn to enter a mall or the bank, and then someone cuts in.., but you choose not to react negatively. So you can say I have patience. But patience here is more than that. Patience here means to be persistent; you refuse to stop, you endure, you wait expectantly and stand firm. The point is that patience is ongoing, consistent, and lasting. In short, enduring. Depending on your perspective, tribulation or affliction–like the coronavirus may bring physical, mental, social, or economic adversity. Depending on your experience also, all of these words may describe your situation all at once. But I hope that we would be reminded with this: to be patient in tribulation is remembering what Scripture says repeatedly—it came to pass. The phrase “And it came to pass….” is found in the King James Bible, an incredible 396 times! Wow! What an encouragement to hear that the situations we face don’t come to stay; they come to pass. Whatever hard times and crisis situations we go through don’t come to stay, but instead they come to pass. Even if we don’t know when this crisis will pass, we are to patiently endure until it does. The time will come when we are not dealing with social distancing protocols, hassles in wearing masks and face shields, or dread reading about the latest case count or covid news on the internet or reports of death, etc. There is a time after “it came to pass”. It is my prayer that we are still looking forward to the glorious hope that this too shall pass, we will one day declare “it came to pass.” “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Faithful in Prayer
To be faithful is to persevere in some activity to the point of devotion, to be constant, consistent, to persist. Our ability to be joyful in hope and to be patient in affliction is directly related to the consistency of our prayer lives. Too many of us (yours truly included, I must admit) do not yet have the kind of consistent, daily prayer time with the Lord that we ought to have during good times. How much more then when we are facing difficulties in life. While I am making efforts on being faithful every day in my prayer, and it is one of the disciplines that God has been working in me during this pandemic, I have found this to be true where prayer is concerned: balance and fruitfulness of my day’s endeavors are most evident in the times when I spent more time in prayer. Seeing that this has been a blessing of God has helped me greatly. Especially during these past few weeks when I experienced the most challenging time of my life yet as a wider group leader. When my wider groupmate’s sister was hospitalized to the point of being in critical condition. I mean, how do you minister to a friend, whose sister (whom you also adore) is at the point of death and the outcome is still very uncertain? I admit I had a hard time dealing with it, even coping with the news didn’t come readily for me. But truly, nothing is impossible to God and for the one who believes. There was nothing I could do in my limited human capacity but I can pray to God for my friend and her sister, and rally people for prayers and intercession. There was one time when we saw each other after her sister was having multiple seizures, I could see that my friend was really helpless. There was nothing else I could offer her, no words of comfort enough to assure her. But what she said after our conversation, crying moments and prayer time really struck me. That no matter what happens, she is sure that her sister’s life is already in God’s hands for she has received the free gift of salvation already. But even then, she also said, that doesn’t mean that she would not do something as a family entrusted with her life. And I was like, “Wow! What hope, what patience and what faithfulness.” Her response was not really of desperation but of faith and trust in God.
Today, that friend’s sister is already out of critical condition. She is free from intubation and is able to slightly move about. It’s just so amazing how God worked things out, from the doctors’ and hospital staff helping them out to the favor in processing her transfer to another facility for further treatment. Thank you for partnering with me through your prayers for my friend and her sister.
It is a wonderful and very special privilege to pray. I can say this because I get to witness how God works transformation and even miracles in the lives of those for whom I pray. I realize how God orchestrates things and events to unfold in such an order that His answers truly amaze me. And of course, as I pray, God changes me by allowing me to see how great and awesome and loving and faithful He is to answer my prayers.