*January 6, 2023
Sa pagkakataong ito, susubukan ko pong magsulat sa Tagalog. Kinakailangan ko pong magsulat sa Tagalog dahil eto po ang ibabahagi ko sa munting pagtitipon namin, kasama ang pamilya ng namatay na pamangkin ng isang miyembro namin sa simbahan. Bagamat sila’y nakakaintindi ng Inggles, ang pribadong pananalita nila ay Tagalog, kaya’t ngayon pa lang sinasanay ko na po ang sarili ko; kung nakakasulat po ako ng mensahe sa Tagalog, siguro naman mas kampante po akong makasalita sa Tagalog mamaya.
At kung tutuusin, nauunawaan ko po ngayon pa lang na hindi ako pwedeng magbahagi ng mensahe sa Inggles lamang, lalo na’t nakikita ko ang aking kongregasyon at napapansin ko po na hindi lahat nang nandoon ay nakakaintindi ng mga mas malalim na salita. Habang kaya ko, ako na lang po ang mag-‘adjust’, ika nga.
Inaamin ko po, ngayon pa lang, nahihirapan na ako, pero sa halip neto ay natutuwa ako kasi habang ginagawa ko ito madami akong natututunan. Nagpapasalamat ako sa Google Translate na tumutulong sa akin para mabuo itong mensahe ko.
So all that was composed just hours before the actual gathering. Obviously, typing articles in other languages is something I’m having a hard time with, and it’s something I’m apparently going to be doing more of, precisely because of the challenge it presents.
There are at least 2 things I want to divulge in today’s article: Something I shared, and something I’m planning on sharing.
First off is what I shared last night. Or, well, how it went, anyway. We started off with a disclaimer to the family that Tagalog is obviously not my first language, but I will try my darndest to share what’s in my heart in Tagalog. We had four songs alternating with 3 portions: The reading of the first set of scriptures, the second reading immediately followed by my message, and then a prayer for the dearly departed infant, and her family. I initially wanted to print and share the entire Psalm 34 but settled with verses 15-22:
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
dnone of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
After a song I followed this up with Matthew 11:25-30:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Sudden tragedy has its way of shaking us to the core, to the point that those of us with any semblance of beliefs (meaning all of us) would begin to question what they have in mind as absolutes. Consider, say, a tsunami that instantly sweeps through entire towns with sheer destructive force, or when nonstop rains cause silent mudslides in the middle of the night, burying entire houses and families. Apparently, for a good number of us, a question pops up – we’d ask it to ourselves, or we would probably hear some seemingly educated person confront us with it: ‘Where’s your God now?’
I see this as a legitimate question, taking out the cynical and sarcastic insinuations. Or rather, I guess I understand why these sorts of questions come up. We’d love to place the blame on someone or something in our attempt to make sense of everything. But maybe there lies the problem – in our insistence in making sense of everything. Now don’t get me wrong. I’d find it extreme if we really would just sing que sera sera every time something suddenly good or bad happens to us – that’d be going against our nature as created beings who have been given senses to feel. But on the other hand, I do find it extreme for us to insist on having an explanation for everything.
Call it an escape of sorts, but instead of us agonizing over finding a legitimate explanation for why this person died, or why this project fell through in spite of all possible efforts taken for its progression and success, we probably should take a step back and understand the sobering truth that as created beings, we will never know everything beyond our Creator – and as such, here’s where I would have us consider that we place our trust in Him.
No, let’s not try to figure Him out. I’ve already had it burned into my mind that Creation can never hope to fully fathom, much less contain its Creator, just as a finite container could never hope to hold all of its infinite Maker.
Yes, we can trust in Him. For indeed, we hold on to what the Apostle Paul so passionately proposed for our consideration, in Romans 8:31-32: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Folks, in our darkest of days, let us not think that God is nowhere to be found; in fact, He is close to us in our times of trial. He is close to us, and He is calling us to draw closer, that He would give us rest. We can trust Him. He is for us, and not against us.
And we are confident to make such bold claims… not out of our own reasoning, but by way of beholding Christ, who did not hold back, but gave everything that we would be reconciled to Him.
We’re scheduled to go back to the Funeral Parlor tonight, for what I’m told is the last night before they bring the ashes to the province. I intend to present a recap of what we talked about the night before, but not before sharing the Word I spoke to an ailing Uncle of mine. I was told that he was recovering, but he wasn’t responding… hence my approach to read the Word out aloud for him to hear. My rationale for this is found in Romans 10:17:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
So I read this out, and proceeded to speak Psalm 23, then Psalm 91, then Psalm 139 to him. To my surprise, he was stronger than I was led to expect. He was speaking – sure, it was in whispers, but I’m pretty sure this is a whole lot better than just him in silence. And it didn’t stop there – He was also moving… and in fact, he gave me thumbs up after thumbs up, before holding my hand. His grip was actually pretty strong. After speaking the Word, I proceeded to pray for him and his family, before heading out.
It’s on the walk back to church that I thought, perhaps the next word to share to those I’d be speaking to in the funeral service, is a sort of reinforcement to what was shared yesterday. We’ve already established that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He calls us to draw closer to Him, and He will give us rest. I’m going to follow this up with the following verses:
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
My point here is to share, that this same God who is with us when we grieve, is the same God who is with us wherever we go; He is with us at the top of the mountain, and up in the heavens, BUT He is just as present and with us in the bottom of the valleys, yes, even in the gates of hell.
God is with us when we grieve… and even, say, if the grief subsides, and even if it does come back, He is still going to be with us. Christ paid such a great price for this to be possible – for us to enjoy His presence, wherever we are in the process of living. We are led to rest, and He is with us. We are led to walk in paths, and He is with us. Even in the valleys and within the shadows, He is with us. Before our enemies, He is with us… and in fact, He causes goodness and mercy to follow us, all throughout our days.
It is my prayer that in our process of appreciating the unyielding presence of God, we would find peace for today, and encouragement for tomorrow.
This is my prayer, whether we are speaking to those who have suddenly experienced tragedy in their lives, or to those who are enduring situations that play over the span of days, weeks, months, and even years. With that said, I pray for the peace of God to manifest in the lives of the family that the young angel left behind… and I pray for the power of God to manifest in the life of my uncle, who is in the slow but hopefully sure path of recovery.
Wherever we are in this life we’re living – whether we’re grieving or recovering; or, whether we’re helping those who grieve, or those who are recovering – may we all realize and appreciate the great price Christ paid, by way of His finished work. For it is only through Christ that we are bold to say that we are not only loved by God, but accopanied by Him – He is as close to us as He could ever be, and we are as close to Him as we could ever be…
It’s by His presence that we celebrate His peace, and His power.
We’ve only finished the first week of January, and already so much is happening, and so much is being revealed. It’s by no accident that I was listening to the radio on the drive home last night; I could have hooked my phone to the stereo, but I’m assuming God wanted me to hear the Carpenters:
‘We’ve only just begun to live…’
Until the next post, God bless you.