Through Trials and Sufferings He Brings Us Deeper to Himself
by Nora Sy, September, 1997
Prior to everything else, I would like to express my wholehearted and endless thanks and praises to our everloving and gracious God because it was through His abounding grace and mercy that I am given the privilege and ability to share my testimony. I am giving this testimony out of my deep gratitude and sincere love to Him for all the good things He has done and made me experience in my life.
My sharing is about my life, which God has transformed into a life of peace from what used to be a life filled with anxieties and tension to the point where I was suffering from hypertension.
Let me begin by introducing myself. I am half Chinese, half Filipina and my husband is pure Chinese. We have two sons and two daughters. As of this writing, we have 4 grandchildren. As for my spiritual background, I was a Catholic since birth. Our mother, since deceased, was a very devoted Catholic. She was a great influence on our family, especially with regards to her faith and so much so that even our father, who was a pure Chinese and since deceased, became a Catholic also.
I encountered the biggest problems in my life when I became separated from my husband. Our relationship encountered problems very early on in our married life. It got so serious that the only solution was for us to part ways. We separated right after I gave birth to our youngest son. Our oldest son was only seven years old at the time. Fearing the many bigger problems if I continued on living with my husband who was deeply entrenched in his vices, and not minding the many hardships I would suffer as a single parent, I separated from my husband having all my four children with me.
I was only twenty six years old then and even at that time, I had only one thing in mind: to be always together with our four children and give them the best things in life, insofar as I could and or God would allow me. Although I will not be able to give a full account of all the details here of what happened over the 24 years of being a mother as well as a father to my children, I’m sure you can well imagine the hardships and sufferings I went through. To mention a few, the anxieties about my children’s welfare, the tensions and pressures on my frail mind and body to overcome my lack of education and qualify for better jobs so as to provide for my family, my heart full of bitterness and hatred towards my husband, and finally my constant fear of what lay in the future. All these things weighed on me like a heavy burden which I was hard pressed to bear.
Although I was not as devoted a Catholic as my mother, I can say that I lived for the most part, with a clear conscience in my faith and also lived in harmony with my fellow Catholics. I started truly depending on God for all our needs. Morning, noon and night I prayed to the Lord for protection and for daily needs. Nobody could help me but the Lord. My own brothers and sisters had their own families to attend to and they were earning just enough for their needs.
Though I found it painful to do so, I left my three eldest children with my parents who were living in my home province of Marinduque, and went with my youngest son to find work in the city of Manila. He was just two years old at the time. Through the Lord’s gracious provision, I was employed by a company with which I worked for the next twenty years. As three of our children were then living and studying in Marinduque, my expenses were lower and I earned just enough to support the whole family.
As time went on and our children grew, their needs grew also but always, the Lord was faithful to meet these needs and accomplished this through providing me with additional earnings outside my main employment. Testifying to the Lord’s love and faithfulness over these difficult years is the fact that all our children went on and completed their university educations. While these were anxiety filled years, I can look back and see God’s gracious hand overseeing my life and taking care of me each step of the way. Even now with none of my children practicing their professions, the Lord is still gracious to provide enough for all our needs. Having received so much from the Lord for my physical needs, what more could I ask of Him? Such was my thinking until He helped me to see there was something better that He wanted to give me.
It was at this time when I seemed satisfied with all that the Lord had given me physically that in His tender, gentle and loving way, He touched me and showed me the many discrepancies in my spiritual life that He wanted to make right. In 1994 I came in contact with a group of Christians who loved and practiced the Word of God. It was through my daughter Lilian that I was able to meet them.
Lilian had started joining their church gatherings and Bible studies and she would often come home and share with me what she learnt. After several times of sharing, she began to ask me to comment and give her feedback. Because she also shared my Catholic background, she expected to see changes and growth in my spiritual life as a result of these sharings. Not observing any changes until much later, she started to rebuke me. She would explain to me more deeply what she had learned and as she did so, I became hurt and offended. How dare she, being my daughter, think she had something to teach me, her mother? We argued several times when she tried to reprove me on these spiritual matters, which were related to non-biblical practices in the Catholic faith. On these occasions, I scolded her and even called her boastful and ungrateful. I did this in spite of the fact that I agreed with her that those things she was pointing out to me were really from the Bible.
My lack of openness to correction did not stop the Lord from performing His work in my life. As these sharings from Lilian continued, I became more and more offended to the point where I became very angry with her and ordered her to stop speaking and also warned her I would hurt her if she continued. I also told her if going to these church gatherings made her so proud, it would be better if she stopped attending. She did not heed my warnings and continued to reprove me to the point I became so angry that I lost my temper and took a rubber slipper and struck her with it. Although I had succeeded in stopping her from sharing, I was the most hurt as I saw her crying. I felt deeply sorry for what I had done.
When I quieted down and had time to reflect on the incident, I asked myself what had Lilian done to deserve such treatment and I realized that in fact she was only reproving me out of love and concern for me, to help me to see the true light. Through the incident, the Lord helped me once again to consider all the things that He was speaking to me on through Lilian and I realized I was wrong. I repented and asked the Lord for His forgiveness for what I had done to Lilian. My heart was changed from that very moment and I started to seek further for the truth and for God’s kingdom and His righteousness. As I sought the Lord through prayer, He began to help me to understand all the things that Lilian had been trying to explain to me. After understanding the errors in my faith, I was able to begin to set things right by the Lord’s grace.
After the incident with Lilian, she had been very quiet for almost two weeks. In our conversations she had avoided the subject of spiritual matters until one day she approached me very tenderly, gently and sheepishly, not knowing how to bring it up. I hinted to her that I knew what she wanted to say and I told her to relax and not to worry because I would not scold or hurt her anymore. I apologized for what I had done to her and thanked her for her love, concern and forbearance in sharing on those matters which she saw as necessary for my spiritual growth. I also shared that in addition to the things she had been reminding me of, the Lord had also brought to my attention more matters that needed to be corrected. At this time Lilian invited me to join her for the weekly Bible study and I agreed to join.
Honestly speaking, my initial agreement to join the Bible study was more out of curiosity so as to see and hear things for myself. At the first Bible study, Pastor Boo was sharing how he came to know, love and serve the Lord. His sharing had a great impact on my life because at his age and for the things he experienced, I realized how little I knew about the Lord and His ways and I also realized how ungrateful I had been. I saw Pastor Boo’s love for the Lord and his commitment to serve Him and I asked myself the question: what about me? That was the question which burned in my heart as I left the Bible study that night.
Pondering on all the good things that our Lord had done and given to me and my family, I really felt great shame and sorrow for my ungratefulness to Him. Although I had thanked our Lord every day, morning, noon and evening, as it was my habit, I came to learn and see clearly that such expression of my thanks was not enough. What the Lord wanted was my life...for me to give my life to Him and to live the rest of my days for Him and Him alone. For this reason, I committed my life to Him through water baptism, following the Lord’s instruction in the Scriptures.
Since committing my life to our Lord through water baptism, I have begun to grow deeper in my love and experience of Him as I actively participate as a member of His living body. Through this fellowship and interaction with the brothers and sisters and leaders, I can see the Lord leading and building us up in love and truth. That is to say there is a genuineness in how we relate to one another and the Lord is perfecting His love in our hearts as we seek to please Him. I also can attest to the Lord’s faithfulness to His words in Matthew 6:25-34 where He promises those who seek Him first, they will be delivered from anxieties and experience this life of contentment that He alone can give. I have also experienced His transforming power to deliver me from this hatred and bitterness which had so long controlled my heart and instead He has given me a heart of love and forgiveness. Yes, I admit and confess that even after being reconciled with my husband there was still some bitterness in my heart. It seemed I could not forgive him fully. I got easily hurt and angry with him even by the slight mistakes he would make. Every time he would wrong me, it would remind me of his past faults or shortcomings. Oftentimes it would lead to arguments and our relationship would suffer. Thanks to our Lord, He has changed my heart to be able to fully forgive my husband and to maintain this attitude day by day. By His grace, I was given the strength to bear the things which I was not able to do before. He has helped me to be more understanding and tolerant of the failings of others.
What more can I say? The Lord is so good. He does not just love us, but He allows us to see, experience and understand His love so that we can also follow Him in loving others. He has changed me from someone who as a sinner was always asking for the Lord’s forgiveness but not moving on to forgiving others, to a person who has begun to respond to His forgiving heart towards me by forgiving and forgetting the wrongs of others. As I live in this state of grace from the Lord where I constantly see my own need for His forgiveness, He pours forth His peace, contentment and joy into my heart so that indeed I can testify to the truth of His words in Matthew 6:14-15, that if we forgive those who wrong us, our Heavenly Father will also forgive us but if we refuse to forgive others, He also won’t forgive us and we will have no peace in our hearts until we forgive others.
Another amazing thing that the Lord has done in my life is to change my attitude towards the difficulties He brings my way. It used to be that I could give thanks to Him for all the good things He gave me, such as undertaking for the financial well-being of my family, but now He has opened my eyes to see that even in the difficulties, He is bringing about good in my life and for this I truly give thanks and bless His Name! So indeed I can echo the words of Romans 8:28 which promises us that God works out all things for good to those who love Him, not just as something that I hope can be true in my life but by the Lord’s grace, it is something that is real now and growing deeper as I follow Him. Surely God is good!
In conclusion, I can look back on my life and see that God’s love was working in my life, even when He allowed me to experience the trials and sufferings. Indeed, all along, He has been trying to draw me closer to Himself and the trials and the sufferings were to lead me on to this deeper relationship with Him, one in which I shared His love and attitude of heart towards others. It was not just my financial well-being that He was concerned with but rather, it was my spiritual well-being. All praise and glory be to the Lord our God.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church