I have been cutting down from social media activities since the beginning of this month, and it has led to an increasingly greater quietness within. I don’t know how long this season will last — the last time God led me into this, it was for 10 years — but I’m enjoying it. I wonder if this is a little of how the saints of old felt when they retreated into the cells of their monasteries or into their caves to seek Him.
“A little” as I’m not living the ascetic lifestyle they lived, but as I cut down on my activities, I become more aware of how social media saps our soul and distracts us from ourselves. Conversely, as we step away from all the noise, we become aware of the inner stirrings of our heart and so can tend to them; as we tend to them, a greater wholeness and quietness settles within.
Most people I know live in frantic interaction with others and pay scant attention to their own selves, and it’s to their loss. Frankly, I think many people don’t want to look at what’s in their heart. But as we do, as we pay attention and tend to our own heart, the reward is peace and quiet within and a greater awareness of the presence of God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)
(Picture was taken at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens).
6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (1 Sam 30: 6)
One of the hazards of being a leader is that you run the risk of being stoned by your own followers for your errors, real or perceived.
In the above passage, David had taken his men to battle, but his enemies took advantage of his absence to raid their stronghold and kidnap their wives and children. His men, enraged by this tactical mistake and embittered by the loss of their loved ones, spoke of killing him.
Talk about being thoroughly demoralised! The very people you had trained and counted on over the years, turn on you in a moment of crisis!
“But David found strength in the Lord his God.” David knew God’s heart for him. He knew God’s opinion of him is always favorable despite what others may say.
No matter what others may think of you now, God’s opinion of you is of much greater importance. His viewpoint and subsequent actions are an expression of His nature.
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. (Psalm 116 NIV)
He knows you’re in process; He’s chipping away at the rough edges; He’s allowing you to be washed in the giant washing machine that is the community of His people — just like the way clothes get washed by the friction in the washer, so are His people, through friction against one another. And the result, hopefully, is a cleaner, brighter you.
Today, I will share the story of Joseph, who was pledged to be married to Mary. From the Gospel of Matthew, we know him to be a righteous man, one who followed the law. When he found out she was pregnant, I guess he didn’t accept her explanation that it was all part of God’s plan. Caught between his sense of righteousness and his love for Mary, he decided to take a path that would protect his reputation and protect Mary — he decided to divorce her quietly rather than expose her to public disgrace. It took an angel to convince him that what Mary said was true.
So, here was someone with a good reputation, a good Jew following all the traditions, a kind man as well as a righteous one, shouldering the burden of marrying someone already pregnant. One can imagine the whispers going around; and if he or Mary even tried to explain, one can imagine that the whispers would become a roar!
So my question is, what would you do if your reputation was ruined, like Joseph’s, and it’s for doing the right thing? What would you do when your integrity is being questioned, and — it’s God’s handiwork?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus called out the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and embarrassed her? As an Asian growing up in an Asian society, it’s practically taboo to cause a person to “lose face”. But Jesus isn’t someone who’d just conform to cultural norms, as we well know. Here’s the passage:
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” (Luke 8, NIV)
Here is someone carrying a deep, secret shame. A woman’s menstrual flow is considered unclean in biblical times, and to have it ongoing for 12 years, for the doctors to discuss her case and for this issue to be quietly whispered about in her neighborhood — she must have felt so alone and outcast.
And so, she hears of this man Jesus who had the power to heal. Quietly, she sneaked up under the cover of the crowds and received healing from the anointing that was just overflowing from Him. She desired to sneak away quietly too, but it wasn’t to be so.
Jesus called her out in public. Trembling in acute embarrassment, fear and shame, she testified to her healing to those around her.
There were a few reasons why Jesus called her out: First, this public testimony served to tell the neighborhood that she was “clean”, and there was no need to shun her. Second, making her speak out about it made the healing real to her. Third, it gave Jesus the opportunity to affirm her faith — not just because she went to Him, but that she persisted for 12 years to look for healing and didn’t give up. Indeed, she had faith that she would be healed, and she was.
But I also think that Jesus was enabling her to take a stance against the strongholds of shame and secrecy that had been haunting her for over a decade. In order to be free, she had to do the opposite of what she had been habitually doing, and Jesus made her take the first step.
Do you need to take a stance against the stronghold of shame and secrecy? For sin — whether you did it, or others did it to you — opens the door to shame, which opens the door to secrecy. Secrecy gives the enemy the power to mentally torment. Mental torment, as we know, often results in physical ailments.
Confession to the right person is powerful and effective to stop the cycle.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5, NIV)