The day was Monday, 25 May 2020. I returned from overseas and underwent a week of self-isolation in a single room at a designated service suite. A picture of an ancient collapsible grill gate hung above the bed. It was painted in a ghastly green color with two noticeable padlocks. A clear reminder that I was not allowed to leave the room except for work.
It was almost midnight. Though momentarily perturbed, I knew that I was safe. I was reminded of the extraordinary faith of the Apostle Paul, who faced persecutions & imprisonments and his unshakeable allegiance to the LORD. Unlike Paul and Silas, my feet were not shackled. I sang and slept very well.
The following morning I saw a panoramic city view, with the Singapore Flyer like a small cogwheel suspended in the sky filled with majestic clouds. It stood in stark contrast to the image above my bed. I sensed that the Lord has prepared many lessons for me during this period. My current fast- paced life is one of rush through my Quiet Time; long waiting queues for transport, food, and tedious, energy-draining activities. All of which dampened my desire to commune intimately with the Lord. My days ended in exhaustion where I uttered a brief prayer before sleep, hoping that tomorrow I will rise early to commune with the Lord. Sadly, this rarely occurred.
I felt trapped in my prison of busyness. I recalled episodes of agony and regret over mistakes made, harsh words spoken, deep wounds inflicted on others, wasted energy, and time spent on futile activities. Self-doubt assailed me as I poured my complaints to God. The “whys” dominated my conversations with Him instead of submitting. A note from a friend encouraged me. “Don’t look back and ask WHY. Look ahead and say WHY NOT”
Anger welled within me. I was confined in space and restricted in movement. I resented the prospect of a ‘new norm’. Fear of death from Covid-19 shrouded our nation. We easily overlook the truth that He, the Author of Life, was in total control. Nothing can separate us from Him, including death. (Romans 8:38-39). Would a locked room, faulty keys and, window grills, hinder us from abiding in the Lord. (Philippians 3:13-14)
I’ve learned 3 important lessons:-
Lesson 1 – True liberation is abiding in God’s presence, not in the absence of external restrictions.
Two pictures in one room. They faced different directions. One was lifeless and morbid- looking. The footage in front was refreshing and vibrant. The days of my life are unpredictable-cloudy,rainy, or sunny. But thank God, He is immutable. The lyrics of an old, familiar hymn brought comfort and peace. ‘Great is thy faithfulness; morning by morning new mercies I see’. My past mistakes and hurts were history. God in His mercy will take away my pain. I determined to abide fully in God’s presence, to know Him intimately, and to constantly cling to His unfailing promises.
I visualized our Heavenly Father’s loving arms around me. An indescribable sense of God’s presence permeated the ground I stood. To quote Max Lucado, “God Came Near”. I felt so loved and privileged that God Almighty would visit me in the room. The Holy Spirit changed my priority from frustration to a desire to accomplish God’s purpose in my generation.
I felt free at last! I passed the week of isolation with a heightened sense of purpose in life. Daily I hailed a cab to and from work with renewed vigor. Yes, I missed my family dearly, but what was more satisfying was the time of worship and reading the Word in the room which became my sanctuary. Basking in His presence was so delightful. I desire to cultivate the soil of my heart with God’s precious Word and bear fruit for Him. The world deceitfully offers me pleasures that subtly choke the Word. (Mark 4:18-19). Obedience to Scripture is what He desires, not mere lip-service. Soon it was time to check out. I spent my last day in prayer for many hours. I need not ride the beautiful Singapore Flyer to be “lifted high.”
Lesson #2 – Crises are opportunities to apply God’s Word more meaningfully and trust God more fully.
God heard my cries for greater intimacy. He answered my prayers. One day when I finally meet Him face to face, He can explain the thousands “Whys” I had asked of Him. For now, I am contented that He is near.
On the morning of 28 May 2020, Charles Spurgeon’s words rang loud.
“Far from a world of grief and sin,
With God, eternally shut in, thou shalt rest for ever and ever.”
My vocation and calling came into clear perspective. The two contrasting images in my bedroom completely shook my world. I had to make a choice, either to look back & be trapped in putrid wounds and sinful habits, or to look to God & move forward in faith.
Lesson #3 – When circumstances are beyond my comprehension, God’s guidance will see me through.
Dearest Lord Jesus, please help fix my eyes on You and draw strength from You as I run this race because You are my Resource, my Redeemer and, my Reward in life. I choose You. (Heb 12:1)