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‘What’s so bad about that?’

WE all expect good things in return whenever we do good things. After all, we reap what we sow. What comes around, goes around. Whenever bad things happen to bad people, we can just claim it was poetic justice. For others, they say it’s just plain karma.

What seems beyond human comprehension, however, is when good things happen to bad people and, conversely, when bad things happen to good people. In my four and a half years in the Bureau of Immigration, I have witnessed quite a few ruthless scoundrels go unscathed in terms of legal retribution due to the inherent difficulties in successfully prosecuting cases against them. In my 12 years in the Army, I also saw a few senior officers promoted ahead of the deserving others, despite their corrupt ways. They even end up in “juicy” positions. Some rotten eggs in government, already separated for cause, still managed to be reinstated for reasons that defy logic. There has to be something very wrong with that!

Only with a biblical view can I belatedly understand that, while justice may not be had here on earth, justice can still be swift and divine. In the Bible, Psalms 73:18-19 tells us about people who do bad things—“Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!” As the saying goes, “there will always be a day of reckoning!”

More exasperating to fathom is when a few good men in public service are put to shame and persecution. George was administratively charged in 2017 over alleged anomalous purchases in the Coast Guard. Stung by a stigma of an Ombudsman finding of guilt, George struggled to progress in his career. But knowing his strong relationship with our Creator, George could be reminding himself what the Bible tells us in Psalms 73:13-14, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.” Colleagues and some of his classmates may have abandoned or even ostracized him. In time, however, the appellate court cleared George of administrative charges in 2018. Today, George Ursabia, my classmate in the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1987, bested two other contenders to be the 29th commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard. What I admire about George is his very public and open sharing of his faith. On social media, he always shares inspirational and devotional reflections as if he dedicates each day to Him. George simply never wavered in his faith in God despite the many struggles that befell him during the early days of his career. I can only surmise that Admiral George Ursabia kept the verses in Psalms 73:23-24 close to his heart, which say, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” Glory indeed goes with being designated as the highest official of the Philippine Coast Guard. Yet George never fails to give glory, every day, to the One who never left his side.

Perspective affects how we think and how we act, as well as those around us. As a child, Raissa saw the cross “as something to be worn —perhaps a piece of jewelry, an amulet, or a gesture to be made before facing something scary or to keep bad things away or to make pain go away.” In time, Raissa realized that the cross symbolizes something “so heavy and must be carried, like Jesus did.” Her parents Maloy and Ipe, lawyers by profession, have appreciated that the “greater, heavier, and more menacing the cross, the closer we (they) come to experiencing what Jesus did.” This kind of perspective is what we need to face the ongoing struggles amid this pandemic. Quarantine restrictions have placed a burden to many, especially to rank and file employees who face the looming prospect of retrenchment and to small business owners who contemplate filing for bankruptcy. Knowing how most Filipinos are believers, I can sense that most are slowly realizing the heaviness of this “cross,” brought about by the coronavirus, which can be lighter and easier to bear when we turn to Him. This is the kind of adversity that somehow solidified how a teenager like Raissa can have a perspective that made her and her parents embrace a severely debilitating disease.

Raissa was only 13 when she was diagnosed with cancer. Never naïve about the diagnosis, Raissa once told her distraught mother, “Mom, if I don’t win this battle, I will be with Jesus…what’s so bad about that?” Raissa’s mental and physical response to cancer is grounded to an eternal perspective. With that child-like faith, Maloy came to realize that her daughter Raissa was His in the first place. Maloy shared, “From the moment everything aligned and she (Raissa) started her journey, her cells formed in a way that He planned as His great hands molded her, formed her…and now, with the most devastating of diagnoses, guided her.” For some cancer survivors, the unfortunate chapter of having that illness eventually cured by science is just like a bump down the road. They resume their pre-cancer lifestyle as if nothing happened and trying to make the most out of this second chance in life.

Raissa, still a teenager, thinks and acts differently as she continually carries on this cross, brought about by cancer, as something win-win. If she survives, she will have more time with her siblings and her parents. If she does not, she will be reunited with Jesus. Either way, “what’s so bad about that?”

The outlook of George and Raissa can be summed up in Psalms 73:26: “My heart and my body may fail, but God will always make me strong. He is all that I will ever need.”

We will all struggle but we know it will be temporary. We will all fail at one point yet we shall endure. In the case of George and Raissa, their outlooks exemplify what Psalms 73:28 tells us, “But it is good for me to be near to God. I have made the Lord God the safe place where I hide. I will tell people about the good things that you do.” The struggles they live with are lessons they have learned and have shared, not to glorify themselves but to glorify our Almighty God.

So, the next time we face a seemingly unfair treatment or a painfully agonizing situation, let’s remind ourselves what Raissa said, “what’s so bad about that?”

A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at sbmison@gmail.com.

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