I am alive.
If somebody had told me a couple of years back that we’d be living in a pandemic today, I probably would’ve laughed out loud and brushed it off. Science and technology should be powerful enough to prevent such a scenario was what I thought. Obviously, I had it wrong.
The first thing that I battle upon waking up this past week was the idea that God has given me another day to waste. I struggled every morning trying to find joy and meaning in the present. When will I ever find it?
I wonder why I even bother searching when I couldn’t even pray out loud to God. These days I didn’t know what to say because everything I wanted to tell him, I have already told Him before. Maybe I was growing tired.
Never in my life have I imagined feeling as lost and lonely as I feel these days. I know I am privileged than a lot of people in many ways, but smiling or being happy is a luxury that I cannot afford.
How can I feel both thankful and tired?
At night I lay on the sofa, look up at the ceiling, and rewind in my head all the things that I should be thankful for. I end up being filled with too much sorrow to be grateful. All I do during prayer time lately is cry. I’ve been crying like a kid. Sobs echo throughout the living room, and I wonder if God understood what my tears represent. Because I don’t.
Before I head to bed the past nights, feelings of relief and disappointment beat me. I felt relieved because I survived another day. Disappointed because all I do is survive. And I hate myself for even thinking like this while a huge portion of the population is unemployed, sick, grieving over a death of a loved one, or starving.
Facebook has somehow become an obituary. Twitter has turned into a protest plaza. Instagram is still a gallery of glitter and glamour as if there is nothing wrong with the world now. I tried to get off these social media platforms, but detaching myself didn’t seem appropriate. I want to mourn with the world if it means losing my forged peace. Yes, for things to be completely different feels uneasy but to pretend that everything can stay exactly the same is foolish.
Even as I deal with difficult moments like this, one thing I am assured of is that God has never failed me and I know He won’t start now. If it were just me, I would’ve succumbed to the feeling of loneliness. Giving up this fight is convenient but there was a constant voice within me telling me to have faith.
I feel empty yet I am here. I can still fight because I am still here.
My devotional time with God sobered me up, little by little. Through readings in the Bible and fellowship with other believers, I heard God’s whisper interrupt my weeping.
Wayward child. God first told me that I wasn’t desperate enough to seek Him. The prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 turned away from his father to follow his selfish desires until one day he had nothing left. He endured his hunger by filling his stomach with pig’s food, but he sank deeper in despair, desperate enough to remember his father’s kindness and go back to him in humility.
Desperate times should point us to our only true hope. I know it’s only natural to feel sorrowful and mournful in a situation like ours. Emotions like these make us human, but I was wrong in giving them power over me. I saw myself in the prodigal child — I was hungry for a solution and comfort, but instead of looking to God, I looked to the world and tried to understand it on my own. Just when I can no longer endure the loneliness, God made me remember that I can run to Him.
Despite the recent struggle to pull myself together, Jesus being my hope and salvation was still very clear to me. Never, not even once, have I doubted that truth. Having said that, it was also clear to me that what I felt during the past week was not hopelessness but rather joylessness. The dullness in repeating the same day, again and again, overtook me. No amount of writing and no form of amusement interest me. I was scared by the fact that I was not alone, yet I felt profoundly lonely. I have a river of life flowing inside me, yet I choose to be paralyzed.
I went adrift in this sea of unhappiness.
Lost sheep. God pointed out how lost I was when I encountered Psalm 23:1. It was a reminder that I am still a lost sheep in need of a wise, loving shepherd. I couldn’t admit then how lost I felt because my head tells me it’s not possible. How can that happen when I read the Bible in the morning and evening, I consistently have fellowship, and I volunteer in this and that? There I saw the subtlety of my pride! Perhaps I got arrogant in my knowledge of God’s words that I felt what I know and what I do were sufficient to keep me going.
I picked Psalm 23:6 as a memory verse — one I can declare to myself at times of testing. Ironically, I have forgotten about it recently, but God indeed never fails. He brought it to my attention once again. God even made me preach it to the small group I’m leading!
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Sometimes I forget, and other times, I choose to forget, But the truth is that Christ is and will always be enough to satisfy. He can fill me not only with hope for joy in the future but also with the joy of the present moment.
So what changed after all I’ve heard from God?
Before I sleep, I still feel relieved that I had gotten through another day. But am I still disappointed? Not anymore. I fought a good fight today, and tomorrow is another victory to claim.
At night I still lay on the sofa, look up at the ceiling, and rewind in my head all the things that I should be thankful for. I am still filled with sorrow, and sometimes I still cry, but it gives me peace that God understands my tears. He hears the words to my wordless prayers and that is consolation enough to restore my weary soul. There are moments I still feel sad, but I no longer feel lost. I’ve finally stopped feeding my loneliness. And I am not staying in that place for a long time again.
Do I still feel tired while thankful to be alive? Absolutely, but I learned that being tired is no reason to give up on life. There’s a famous saying that goes: “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
I still struggle in the mornings trying to find meaning in the present, yet I will keep searching for it because God woke me up for that very reason. There is a purpose for everything and that doesn’t change even when my head gets fuzzy. At least I already have my joy back, right?
Nobody said we’d be living in a pandemic today, even scientists and governments failed to prevent it. And boy, I’m glad I didn’t put my hope on them. God is powerful to get us through this. He is not done with us yet.
We are surrounded by tyranny, injustice, oppression, starvation, and death, but I shouldn’t ignore that we are also surrounded by hope, love, favor, grace, and salvation. Seeds of hope are scattered in many different places and we have to water them in prayer and acts of faith. To name a few, we see the spirit of charity and mercy is very much alive through the community pantry initiative, feeding programs, and other community service projects. There are also select individuals in authority that point us to a positive change.
I am alive. I still have a purpose. And by the grace of God, I have joy.
Just like Nehemiah, I pray: “For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9)