On 21 May, my wife, Lan, and I returned to Singapore from London, where we’ve been with our daughter and her family. The day before we flew Lan had chills, but we didn’t think it serious enough to seek medical attention. The following week, we both had fever, and went to A&E. They tested us for COVID-19, and sent us home to await the results. What happened next became the most traumatic and life-changing period of our lives!
In the late evening the call: We’d tested positive! The ambulance came. While waiting for clearance to enter the hospital, Lan turned to me and said: “Do you realize that we may not get to see each other again?”
They discharged Lan after 9 days, but “detained” me for another 31, firstly at the hospital, and then at a resort. At first, Lan’s words didn’t alarm me. After all, it seemed that we had only mild flu symptoms. When they were separating us to our different wards, I told Lan, “See you soon.” “ Soon” turned out to be 40 days and nights! The most traumatic of all was that week-by-week, I was tested positive. It horrified me to learn that COVID-19 fatalities are most prevalent in my age-group! Lan’s words grew more and more ominous with each passing day.
Have you ever felt that way? A sense of foreboding, of fragility and helplessness – not knowing what to expect for tomorrow, or if tomorrow will ever come? If so, we are not alone. Eminent scientists warn of runaway consumption due to an exploding population; of environmental calamities caused by catastrophic climate change, deforestation, mass species extinction, ocean dead zones, and severe water shortage. Law enforcement sees increasing transnational crimes and violent conflicts. Economists fear that most children will be worse off than their parents – and all that was before the pandemic. The experts’ common adjective for the future: “Bleak!”
But there is good news! Just as diamonds and emeralds are mined from dirt, there are gems of truth to be discovered or recovered in the worst adversity. Here are four precious gems that I found during my 40-day adversity that became my comfort and confidence, hope, joy and peace; tiding me through it as well as offering a way forward for the rest of my life. These helped lift the bleakness for me. May they help you, as they did me, to not just survive but thrive through the COVID-19s of your life.
Gem No. 1: The Bible has Accurate Diagnosis.
The most crucial element for treatment or amelioration of a disease is accurate diagnosis. Ignorance or misdiagnosis bring about dire consequences. Unfortunately, in this age of news explosion, unchecked information and rampant deception, it is difficult to find a source you can trust. Fortunately, there is a reliable source: it’s ancient, tested through more than 2000 years, validated extensively by scholarship, and trusted by millions. All the disasters threatening a bleak future have been prophesied in the Bible thousands of years before.
For example, Jesus said of the future: “Nation shall rise against nation…: and great earthquakes…famines, and pestilences;…distress of nations… men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth…”
The news confirm His accuracy. He wanted to forewarn us, that we may be forearmed!
But, is there a prescription as well?
Gem No. 2: The Prescription
The Bible’s prescription for troublous times: “God will save you from hidden dangers and from deadly diseases. You can go to him for protection. He will cover
you like a bird spreading its wings over its babies…You will have no fear of diseases that come in the dark or terrible suffering that comes at noon… Trust in the Lord for protection…make God Most High your place of safety. So nothing bad will happen to you. No diseases will come near your home. When my followers call to me, I will answer them. I will be with them when they are in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will give my followers a long life and show them my power to save.” 2
Before He left for Heaven (the reason we’ll find out later), Jesus reiterated by promising a Friend for times of need:
“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you…remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole, that’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you… feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”3
This is the most amazing gift ever, for it brings with it all that Heaven offers, and all that we’ll ever need to live abundantly. It promises God-inspired love, a law-abiding character, and talent and power for good! His promise is sure, all we need is ask: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Gem No. 3 The Cure
Jesus went about healing people of their handicaps and diseases. In each case, He’d ask “Would you be made whole?’ and “Your sins are forgiven thee.” 5
There is no greater disease than the disease of sin. It corrupts us, and permeates everything we do. COVID-19, Polio, HIV, Ebola, Spanish Flu, etc. kill the body, but sin causes misery and ultimately destroys the soul. Jesus offers forgiveness for sin to all. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,”6 He prayed, through agonizing breath at the cross, even for those who tortured and humiliated Him, and crucified Him as a vile criminal. The Father Himself loves and has forgiven the world that He gave His Son to save. 7
There’s more! God does not merely forgive us our sins and let us continue being sin’s slave. Jesus told a woman caught in adultery that He does not condemn her, but added, “Go, and sin no more.”8 That bidding, is an enabling. He wants to make us whole.9 In fact, He will keep us whole, to present us faultless before the Father.10
His cure is complete. He retrieves us from the soil of sin, cleanses us, and keeps us from falling to present us as faultless gems before the Father’s presence. This is accomplished, not by our strength or work, but through His Holy Spirit who lives and works within us, if we let Him.11
During my COVID-19 ordeal, I was helpless, I could not cure myself. Neither could the doctors, however skilled, treat this new, unknown virus. What healed me eventually was the build-up of anti-bodies in my body, through a complex immune system involving sunlight, vitamin D, vitamin C, and God knows what else. It’s still a mystery as far as I’m concerned, but I got well! Similarly, how God works within us is a mystery – and we will get well!
Gem No. 4 Jesus Promises Life Beyond COVIDS
Hard to believe, but there’s still more! When Jesus redeems us from sin, we exchange the consequence of death for God’s gift of eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 12
Remember Jesus’s prophecy of troublous times? He immediately offers a resolution. He will come again, to redeem and take us home to His Father’s house. The Bible writes, “and then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” 13
Did you ever wonder why Jesus left His disciples and ascended to Heaven? Jesus said: “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again; and take you unto Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” 14
COVID-19 has been my wake up call. It worried me that I might not live to see my wife again, or worse still, that I might have to live my life with a perpetual disease and impairment. The future got bleaker by the day. But it also made me realize that there are important things in life that have escaped my attention. There is treasure beyond what this world offers that I have neglected, and there is a Saviour waiting patiently at my heart’s door, whose knocking has been unheard and unheeded. Though unworthy, His forgiveness is for my asking. Instead of a bleak future He offers an abundant life, cleansed from sin and filled with the Holy Spirit, who will deliver us from troubles and walk with us through them. He will prepare us to appear as Gems before the Father, to live eternally with Him in His house, when Jesus comes again. I am glad I woke up and found these gems. They, my friend, are for you too!