INTRODUCTION: TURNING TRIALS INTO BLESSINGS By Duane Cartujano

I should have written this a long time ago. However, I became very busy with many activities in the ministry that my community entrusted to me. My current focus is on the apologetics ministry.

Despite my hectic routine in writing articles, my work, and personal bonding with my wife, I also encounter different challenges and trials which make me stronger.

I thank God for all His blessings since I became more firm in my faith. I was inspired to share this with thousands who listen to my talk at the Flock of the Divine Mercy Retreat.

We can read in the Gospel of Matthew 14:25-27 that despite the trials that confronted the Disciples of Christ because of the powerful waves and winds, there was always the presence of Christ. It is not right to say that all these things are due to bad luck or karma or any other term that is not biblical.

If we meditate on all tribulations that come into our lives, God has a message which is we need to learn, strengthen our faith, and add more wisdom that we can share as inspiration to others.

We have our own struggles and problems. Even the most honest person who helps others, do things according to God’s will and pray regularly are not exempted from problems and tests.

One of the reasons why people commit suicide, become reckless, or lose faith in God is because of severe problems in life. One atheist that I know questioned the existence of God because of a big problem that he experienced. Many people get depressed because of serious ailments, loss of a loved one’s life, poverty, and betrayal by a friend. All these things happened because of trials in life.

Some people blame God as a result of their misfortunes. God allows challenges to happen to people who serve Him (1 Peter 4:12-14). Some people have the wrong impression that they will have comfortable lives once they serve God. The Book of Sirach 2:1 said, “if you are going to serve the Lord, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test.”

By reading the Bible, you will be inspired by the life of Job who faced different trials despite being a good man and serving God. Yet, he overcame all these tests and obtained many blessings.

We cannot avoid problems while we are still alive. We will get hurt, sick, and weep but all these will ceases once we die and enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:4).

Our lives in this world are only temporary since our true lives are in the next world like what Jesus said about Eternal Life in the Bible. Apostle Paul’s verse in Romans 8:18 is very inspiring. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

If we reflect on the message of the Gospel, it does not mean that we will not go through trials even if we are with God. We can read this in Mark 4:37-38 when the disciples were with Jesus in the boat but were still afraid of the massive waves and strong winds since God allows us to experience all these tests.

We will also see His might in Matthew 14:33 when they realized He is the Son of God. They witnessed many times Jesus performing miracles. We also experience miracles daily but we still doubt God. That is why we must allow God to test our lives so we will know Him well and His power.

Many of us claim to worship and believe in God but this is only lip-service. Our problems come because of personal decisions in life. For example, you break the law if you steal. We should not blame this action on God since it is our own free will to choose between right or wrong (Deuteronomy 30:19). God did not create us as robots and any problem that comes because we did something bad is like what St. Peter said in 1 Peter 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker.”

Suffering is part of serving God (Philippians 1:29) and anyone who bears till the end will be saved (Mark 13:13).

It is not easy to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 7:13-14). The early Christians were advised in Acts 14:22, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.” However, there are people who think sufferings happen to prove God does not exist.

Isn’t Human Suffering proof God must not Exist?

Christianity solves the “problem of evil” by explaining evil is not the fault of God, but rather is the result of human sin and the sin of evil spiritual beings. Both groups (humans and evil spiritual beings) rebelled against God, who is essentially loving and good. God did not create the physical or spiritual world full of evil. His creations, of their own free will, chose evil.

Although the world chose evil, Christianity teaches GOD REDEEMED IT FROM EVIL by coming down to Earth and living life as human. He suffered and experienced evil and died on the cross. He did this even though He was without sin and did not deserve to die. He showed us His love to conquer evil forever and reconcile us with God.

Consider this analogy which explains our relationship to God:
Imagine we’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean standing next to God. Everything is perfect and we’re safe and happy with God. God says to us, “Don’t leave me and jump in the ocean or you’ll drown and die. I’m giving you a choice.” But we chose to jump in the ocean and start to drown.

While drowning in this ocean of evil, God jumped into the water with us, and drowned in our place. All we have to do is trust Him and be lifted out of the water to be on the boat with God again.
So God throws us a life-ring, Jesus Christ, and says “I don’t want you to drown. All you NEED is grab the life-ring and live. I’m giving you a choice whether or not to grab the life-ring.

Some people choose to stay in the ocean screaming at God because they’re drowning. We blame God for the evil, suffering, and death in the world. Other people say it’s our fault jumping into the ocean to drown. Yet, they see God’s grace and mercy, grab the life-ring and live. These are people who admit that our own sin, evil, suffering, and death is our own fault, but they accept God’s forgiveness and mercy through Jesus Christ, and live.

We must not forget the last part of the Christian solution to the problem of which is the most important part: God promises one day he’ll remove the swirling ocean of evil and recreate the world in a perfect state without any pain or suffering or death. (Revelation 21:1-4).

God is the hero in this story. He rescued the world from evil in the most dramatic, and loving way. This is the Christian solution to the problem of evil. It shows how a good, perfect and loving God can exist despite the evil in the world.

Again, God put us in a very good environment, but we chose to rebel against God. This brought evil, suffering and death into the world. God didn’t want us to die. He forgave us. God came and took the punishment that WE DESERVED.

We can be forgiven and escape evil and death—but it’s our choice: We only need to ask God for forgiveness and accept that Jesus paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross. Jesus promised to return one day to earth and to end all evil and death and suffering and pain forever for those who have accepted His forgiveness.

God is not responsible for evil. We are responsible. We brought evil into this world when we sinned against God. He fixed it by taking the punishment when He came to earth as Jesus Christ and died for our sins. This defeats evil and restores us to a right relationship with God.

If we suffer from our wrong decisions and commit sins, God gives us the opportunity to return to Him and live a new life (Ezekiel 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9). My goal in writing this book is to ask for the Wisdom of God. I know He will give this to anyone who seeks it (James 1:5) to show that any trial or problem that comes can be converted to blessings and not misfortunes.

Let us adopt a positive view and avoid negative thoughts.
Acquiring cancer, experiencing failure in your love life, becoming poor, and incurring bad things in life can be converted to blessings if we are with God.

Remember God is bigger than cancer or any other problem in this universe. If we reflect on all trials that come to us, we will realize opportunities also come if we are close to God. Some people think wealth and anything material in this world will give them happiness. These things are only temporary. In the end, they will realize these cannot give us 100% true happiness which we can only find in God (Psalms 37:4).

I thank God since one of His blessings is making me realize life in this world is too short. I need to be grateful for all the opportunities particularly when I wake up in the morning and given another chance to thank Him. There is nothing different between those with cancer and those who are not sick with cancer. People without cancer are not assured of a long life in this world. You cannot choose the day and time of your death (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

We must use the talent God gave us while we can still talk, think, walk, write and have a fresh memory. Let us do these things for God since if our time comes, God will take back our lives which we only borrowed from Him. We must not worry if we do our best for God while we are still strong.

I used to ask many things from God. Yet, I am grateful for giving me the wisdom that people should ask this most important thing which is to follow His will so we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21).

Trials will come while we serve God but we can cope with these since God will not allow anything more than our capacity. St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.” Anyone who perseveres and does not give up in serving and loving God will receive a reward. St. James inspires us in Chapter 1 verse 12, “ Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

If someone discourages us and we say we cannot handle the trials, let us not listen to Satan who is the Father of all Lies (John 8:44).

God gave us a very beautiful life. However, we cannot measure the beauty of what awaits us and was promised to us by Jesus and the Father. It will help us a lot if we learn how to convert trials into opportunities for this will give us blessings. I recall when Jesus allowed St. Peter to walk above the waters and he did not drown since his focus was on Jesus. Yet, when he noticed the strong winds and became afraid, St. Peter started to sink. Let us focus on God and not the problems and trials that come along.

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