Studies

When COVID-19 hit our schools: A lesson on beating bitterness

Samuel Tan // March 28, 2020, 9:26 pm

Empty chairs

When the news reached my inbox, I felt angry. I replied the emails with my concerns, thinking that they would fall on deaf ears.

“The senior leadership probably only cares about the reputation of the institution.”

“The student union is not listening to us; the leaders just want to boost their portfolios.”

Those were my thoughts, at the news that undergraduates from my school could write off their grades for this semester’s modules in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See, the problem is that we, as NUS students, can only write off about two modules, compared to NTU and SMU students, who now have a grade-free semester.

Our university’s schedule for final exams and assignments has also been revised, effectively extending our semester by two weeks (we only just received word today that it has been reversed). Some internships have actually been cancelled as a result. I lamented as I started to compare what we had to go through compared to other students.

I complained so much to the people around me. I was infecting my close circles with negativity, discouragement and disillusionment. The more I let the anger fester, the more dissatisfied I felt and the more my heart grew cold.

I realised that I couldn’t pray properly that night. I couldn’t connect with God with that anger. I had to repent.

“I was tired of being angry”: From broken family to champion of families

The next morning, God opened my eyes in the Word to what Jesus would have done instead.

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18)

With that in mind, here are my takeaways on how we should respond to policies or decisions we don’t like. This can apply whether or not you’re from NUS, SMU or NTU – just anyone, really.

It’s something worth thinking about in critical times like these, wheb plans change so quickly and difficult decisions have to be made.

3 HANDLES ON RESPONDING IN LOVE

1. Rejoice always

Perhaps our leaders’ policies don’t spark joy. We can disagree about how effective and thoughtful they may be – but rejoice in the Lord always.

Our circumstances don’t take away the fact that in all good and bad things, God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

God still loves us. God still cares and listens to us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

The policies we disagree with will last for a moment in time, but God’s faithfulness will last for all of time. We need that perspective to keep our joy.

COVID-19 and the valley of decision: The unbearable pressure your Senior Pastor is under

2. Pray for our leaders

As I complained about those in authority, that blinded me from seeing our leaders as people trying their best to help us. I became indifferent and scornful towards them.

But God asked me: “Do you think your leaders are all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful?” It was then that I knew: I had heaped expectations on my leaders they could never match up to.

Praying blessings for people melts a hardened heart.

Our leaders must handle so much stress and tensions across many priorities and stakeholders. The least I can do is pray for them. And from my experience, praying blessings for people melts a hardened heart.

So I urge you to make petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for your leaders.

7 things you should be praying about (but probably aren’t)

3. Encourage our leaders

Leadership is a lonely journey. In this crisis, our leaders are facing a lot of complaints, hate, rejection and problems. They could be doubting themselves and crumbling under a load of burdens besides their jobs and studies.

But we can bring life to them. They are placed in leadership by God for such a time as this, and we can rally around them to affirm their calling and give love in this crisis when everyone is clamouring for respite.

At this time of writing, I have also received an apology email from the student union. This is a setback for their team, and they may feel discouraged or inadequate. I foresee that there will only be more memes to mock and ridicule our leaders.

Leadership is a lonely journey.

So how about texting your friend in the student union to show your support? No matter how polite our complaint emails are, they are discouraging and bring stress. We should express our concerns, but we can also encourage our leaders.

I urge you to love, and love abundantly. We have the resources to. First, go to God in prayer. Repent of our anger and be filled with God’s love.

That will be more than enough for you to give others warmth in the cold and light in the darkness.

Got a story? Share it with us at hello@thir.st! 

THINK + TALK

  1. Were you affected by your university’s arrangements? Or have you experienced a similar situation where things felt unfair?
  2. How did you respond then?
  3. What is one way you can realign your response so that it honours God?
  4. Think of one leader in your life you can pray for and encourage this week.