When COVID-19 disrupted my life
Jacqueline Lie // October 14, 2020, 11:48 am
“The staffroom has been asking after you! How have you been in such messed up times?”
That was what my ex-colleague recently asked me, out of concern at my seeming lack of a career. For around this time last year, I made the decision to leave my iron rice bowl.
Friends and colleagues commented on my rashness and temerity, but I had my reasons. One reason was that I thought I could have an independent season where I can have the space to embrace the unknown.
Yet, the year so far has proven to be more unexpected than I expected.
Indeed, this pandemic situation, with its accompanying uncertainties, revealed a trait in me that I attribute to my Singaporean kiasuness: I like things to go the way I plan.
In fact, I like to plan things way ahead of time. Weeks before my last date of service on 31 December, I bought a plane ticket for a two-month adventure for mid-2020.
In my mind, it was perfect. I would visit a best friend overseas, run around the mountains and learn about Church history right at its first-century heart.
As it turned out, COVID-19 reached Rome before I did. I guess though all roads lead to Rome, some roads are longer and perhaps blocked.
This past year thus has been a learning journey for me to learn how to thank God for His faithfulness even if things never turn out the way I planned.
In hindsight, amidst the uncertainties of thwarted plans and unforeseeable future, three principles were helpful for me.
1. God works
Fallible plans do not mean that planning isn’t good. God has given us the ability to rationalise and discern. Therefore we do make plans, such as planning out safety measures for church services to resume in-person.
But if things do not turn out the way we expect, do we get angry? When meticulous plans do not go smoothly, do we get angry with people around us? When unexpected incidents happen, do we get angry with God?
The key issue is whether we are holding things with open hands and hearts. Are we holding onto things too tightly? Are we acting like gods of our lives?
We are indeed allowing the devil to work if we do not embrace God’s plans – be it open or closed doors in our lives.
When Jesus shared with His disciples what they could expect from the crucifixion, Peter dismissed it as it was not what he expected, “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22).
Jesus rebuked him harshly: “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus’ response seemed strange at first, but upon a closer look, we see that we are indeed allowing the devil to work if we do not embrace God’s plans – be it open or closed doors in our lives.
Back to my cancelled adventure earlier this year: I was naturally upset. But I soon got over it, I realised that God was making me stay in Singapore to reexamine several aspects of my life.
With travel restrictions, I was forced to face issues that I was putting off, such as making a transition to another church. Indeed, God has shown His faithfulness through grounding me for this season.
2. God works out His faithfulness
It may seem frustrating when God “disrupts” our plans. But most of the time, we do not see the better plans He has in store for us.
We see this time and time again in Scripture: things do not seem to be going as planned, yet God works for the good of His people.
Joseph had aspirations that I doubt involved him going to Egypt or to prison – yet God meant all his trials for good.
Indeed, God was so faithful to Israel, keeping His promise to Abraham, although the ever-complaining Israelites were stiff-necked.
We see many examples of God’s faithfulness in Joshua’s conquest, such as how the Israelites did not even have to fight for Jericho to be given to them. They simply had to obey, even though it seemed ridiculous to march around the city.
Even if this pandemic has thrown lemons at you, let us learn to recognise and thank God for His faithfulness in the seemingly minor details.
One of the highlights of my wilderness months this year is that I had the chance to work for a place far away from home. I was hesitant – it would take me thrice as long to travel compared to my previous workplace!
But the offer was good and I knew I would learn a lot just from this short stint there. So I said yes to it, and behold, an hour after I signed my agreement, PM Lee announced the Circuit Breaker.
That meant I could work from home! I thank God for His care for me.
For those of us who have recognised God’s faithfulness and grace – show God’s faithfulness and extend grace to others.
On this note, I am very aware of the many people who lost their employment and income, not by choice.
I was part-timing at a café situated in a tech-zone. The tech companies around us went full-swing into work from home mode even before it was made mandatory.
Business came to standstill, with my poor manager seeing not a shadow of a customer the whole day. To many, especially for non-Christians, the challenges that this uncertain season has brought can seem insurmountable.
It is thus crucial for those of us who have recognised God’s faithfulness throughout history, and the undeserved grace He has shown in our lives, to show God’s faithfulness and extend grace to others.
3. God works out His faithfulness through us
When God made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 12, His promise concluded with the statement: “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Isn’t it curious how God’s promise was not just for obedient Abram, but all the families of the earth as well?
Likewise, if we surrender our plans to God, allowing Him to work, He will indeed show His faithfulness to us. But His faithfulness does not stop at us!
If we surrender our plans to God, God will then use us for His ultimate plan, a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10).
Today then, having experienced God’s faithfulness to us, even amidst these messy times, how do we respond in faith? For those of us who have not lost financially, how do we extend grace to others?
How do we bless others who do not have the resources we do?
I am heartened to see individuals and organisations stepping up to serve the community over the past months.
Churches have opened up their premises to provide shelter for the homeless, funds have been poured, volunteers have risen to the occasion to serve food to households in need.
And Singaporeans have not limited their aid to local efforts, with NGOs working extra hard to send aid overseas. For example, ReliefSG is raising funds to sponsor masks for children and elderly in refugee camps.
We receive so many free masks in Singapore, but our friends in neighbouring countries are not so privileged.
In all these, we see that God is working out His plans. What is our role then? Not to be passive observers! But when things do not go according to our plans (and truly they hardly do) we learn to recognise God’s faithfulness.
And seeing His faithfulness, we as Abraham’s descendants by faith are called to be vessels through which God works out His plan!
THINK + TALK
- What are some ways your life has been recently disrupted?
- How might God be working in your life through these disruptions?
- What is one way you can extend God’s grace and faithfulness to others?