Coronavirus Updates

Don’t waste this “lockdown”: Jason Wong on coming out stronger when disruption comes our way

Jason Wong // April 4, 2020, 11:24 pm

Empty MRT train

As I was spending some time praying this morning (Friday, April 3), I was led to the familiar words: stay home, lockdown, quarantine.

Of course, this has to do with the COVID-19 situation – a new normal where many are either forced to go into lockdown mode, or voluntarily doing so. Some stay home out of fear, others out of social responsibility, and still others were given legal orders to do so.

As I mulled over how each person is doing – whether he or she is staying at home, at a quarantine site or in a hospital – I also wondered how one should cope in such a situation, and how a person going through such an experience may change after the pandemic is over.

For answers, I began to look at the experience of those who had gone through “lockdowns” in their lives due to other circumstances.

I have used “lockdown” here to refer to any circumstance in our lives that can derail our plans, disrupt our normal lives and make us feel like we are held captive in a “prison”.

For example, those who experienced having their lives “locked down” through no fault of theirs, such as someone hit by a car and landing up in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until recovery, or a child being physically abused by his father and having to go through protection and “lockdown” in a children’s home.

Others may have experienced “lockdown” due to their own life’s choices and actions – like those in the prisons, having been caught for taking drugs, being involved in gangs, cheating on others, etc.

On a daily basis, thousands of people go through some kind of “lockdown” in their lives.

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How did they cope? How did they manage to go through these “lockdowns” and disruptions to their normal lives? Or maybe they didn’t manage to.

Is there something we can learn from their experiences that would be useful for the rest of us? Did the experience make them stronger? Or did they give up on life?

Did the “lockdown” cause them to lead their lives differently “post-lockdown”? Or did they continue to live life the same as before?

As I reflected on this, I came to the conclusion that there are two key lessons that we can learn from those who had gone through life’s “lockdowns”:

1. “Lockdowns” give us an opportunity to review how we had lived our lives, and to decide if we should live it differently

Some of you know that I used to work in the Singapore Prison Service. I have seen many who, after the temporary “lockdown” in a prison, go back to their old ways. There are even cases where their lives go from bad to worse.

They never took the opportunity to review how they had lived their lives. Some of them even felt they had missed all the fun things in life when they were locked up in prison that they told themselves that they would go all out to “enjoy life”, “go for the drugs that they missed”, etc when they are released.

The only lesson they learnt from the “lockdown” was that they didn’t plan well the last time and got caught, so they became wiser and determined not to get caught again. Fortunately, this is not a big number.

How will the post-COVID-19 you be different?

Over the years, there are growing numbers of prisoners who choose to take the opportunity while in prison to review how they had lived their lives, how they had made wrong choices, how they should stop blaming others and take responsibility for their actions, and determined in their minds that they would never go back to their old ways or old friends again.

They made full use of the “lockdown” in prison to make a change.

Similarly, others who had “lockdown” experiences can either come out worse than before, or they choose wisely, and come out stronger and better than before.

In the current COVID-19 situation, I am glad to hear of many who are saying that they now treasure family time more; that they should not take their job for granted; that it was wise for our government to accumulate reserves for use during rainy days; that they appreciate the cleaner air and less pollution due to less air travel and traffic on the road.

And for anyone who had to be hospitalised, especially in ICU, and came out alive, I believe he or she will be living and prioritising life very differently.

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So what about you? Are you taking the opportunity to reflect and review how you have lived? What if you had been one of those in ICU?

Would the post-COVID-19 you be different from the one before? How will it be different?

2. Contentment is the best antidote for life’s “lockdowns”

As we hope and pray for post-COVID-19 to come soon, we still need to go through this “lockdown” for a few more months.

Is there any lesson that we can glean from those who have gone through other life’s “lockdowns” that can help us cope better with the current “lockdown”? I do not know what your answer is, but I would like to offer mine.

I think the answer is this: contentment.

Contentment is the antidote against bitterness, fear, striving and the desire to control our lives.

I was sharing with you at the start that I was actually praying this morning, which led me to mull over this matter. As I pondered over it, I was also led to this Bible passage in Philippians 4:11-13 where Paul wrote:

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

When we are in “lockdown” due to any unfortunate circumstance, the best attitude, mindset or posture to adopt is to be content.

Contentment is the antidote against bitterness, fear, striving and the desire to control our lives.

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I am not sure if you know where the apostle Paul penned his letter to the Philippians. If you do, you will likely be even more convinced that Paul knew what he was talking about.

When Paul was giving this advice to the Philippians, he was actually under complete lockdown – in a prison cell in Rome (probably more like a dungeon), chained to Roman guards, with all his rights and freedom taken away from him.

Some of us have read about Singaporeans who had been given orders to be quarantined in hotels and holiday resorts and heard them share how comfortable these places were to them, with some saying it is even better than their own houses.

To Paul, this would be considered “well fed” and “plenty”.

What is Paul’s secret to learning how to be content? It is this: He has Christ with him.

For he said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When Noah and his family was locked down in the Ark, God was with them (Genesis 6-8). When the 10th plague – the angel of death – was going from house to house, God kept His people safe as they locked themselves up in their homes (Exodus 11-12).

When the disciples encountered a storm while on a boat, Jesus was in the same boat with them. Jesus didn’t only calm the physical storm, but He also calmed the storm of fear in the hearts of His disciples (Matthew 8:23-27).

How can we stay calm and contented if we are ordered to stay at home more? How can we not become agitated when the entertainment outlets and bars are all closed? How can we not become overly concerned about the future of our kids when their tuition centres are closed? How can we not fear the loss of our jobs, or not fear going hungry and living in want?

Psalm 23: 1 says: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (KJV) / “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (NIV)

The antidote to a lockdown in our lives is to be content. To be content is to not want. If we have God, we lack nothing.

In Psalm 84:10, the psalmist said: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

What if your room, your home or your hospital isolation is a place where the Lord dwells and visits?

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Well, the psalmist’s experience is that one day in the presence of the Lord is better than a thousand elsewhere – better than watching a movie, better than dining in a fine restaurant, better than on a cruise ship.

I know this to be true. Not only in my own life, but also from the mouths of prison inmates who encountered Jesus in their prison cells, and my former Prison boss Mr Chua Chin Kiat who almost died in hospital of liver sickness but encountered God and came out alive.

In closing, let us all take this opportunity to review and reflect on how we have lived our lives thus far, and aim to be a better person post-COVID-19. And let us pray to Jesus and ask Him to give us strength and peace to go through these trying times.

May we all, like Paul, “learn to be content whatever the circumstances”.

This article was first published on Jason’s Facebook page and has been republished with permission.