This is the script for my church testimony on October 30, 2020:
Hello, everyone. When I was asked to give my testimony for One Church three weeks ago, I instantly said yes without any hesitations. It’s because at some point in my life years ago, I told myself that I would never say ‘no’ to any chance or opportunity to serve, thank, and glorify God unless the task is truly not my gift. It wasn’t until the next morning that it dawned on me what a task it was. I’m still in my early twenties so clearly, my experiences are not as rich as others. But whenever I look back at my life experiences, I am extremely filled with gratitude and the urge to thank God overflows. So tonight, I would like to share my journey of faith during the pandemic.
When talks of lockdown began to circulate, I was entering my 24th year of life. On March 11, my birthday, I was already working two days at home. Instead of the birthday singing and greetings during coffee break at work, I celebrated the day at home. I was a year older into my adult life, already comfortable in my job, my graduate school classes, and my busy life, but then, I found myself in the midst of a growing pandemic. God bless.
How does one make sense of all of this? Days before my birthday, I was surveying several different branches of Mercury Drug Stores late one night after I got out of my evening graduate class, determined to get at least three more packs of face masks. Faced with an invisible enemy, the threat of joblessness, the looming lack of physical connection, and the cancellation of plans, I was at least preparing myself for one of the four. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I simply stopped making plans for my life.
At the onset, it was a welcomed break from the usual busyness and social pressures (and social media), but as the pandemic drew on, the uncertainty began to get to me. There was a time when I was restless for a number of reasons. Firstly, home, for me, was a place I believed needed to be outgrown. And instead of moving forward into adulthood, I felt that I was taking a step backward to a life confined at home, like in my childhood. I was even back to childhood hobbies such as reading books and painting.
Secondly during this lockdown, we may not only grieve for the physical loss of a friend, a mentor, or a family member, but most of us go through the less tangible, experiential loss. We no longer get to enjoy previous joys and comforts and instead, we have to adjust to new chores and the lack of work boundaries at home.
Lastly, unlike the quick emergency phases of a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake or a flood, a pandemic of this magnitude is chronic and there is an element of uncertainty. Until when do we need to live in a restricted manner? Until when are we under threat from the virus? And even by then, how will my life get back on its track? I’m sure that people my age can understand this nagging feeling of worry over the uncertainty of the future. As I’ve said, when it started, my life was only beginning.
But that’s the beauty of the pandemic: we lost all control. And it was only in this period of complete surrender that I finally understood the sovereign will of God. Despite all our efforts to secure ourselves with material provisions and from any sickness, all of it is truly up to God now. Is it that scary to let go of everything? Quite the contrary if you have Jesus Christ.
I truly believe that God is using this period to mold us into the people He wants us to be. The newfound time was not just a period of experiential loss, but it became a time to grow in my personal relationship with God.
One new development is the restoration of my daily quiet time with God. When I previously struggled to maintain it, nowadays, I look forward to receiving God’s Word of the day to guide me in my everyday behavior. It is observable that people may get a bit edgy now due to stress, but daily devotion time helps me to become aware and reminds me to be a source of God’s love and encouragement to others. Additionally, physical barriers are also no longer present so there is truly no excuse to forego on “attending” church services. My mom and I often joke that we are church-hopping as we move on to the third Sunday church service to listen.
His sustenance is also more noticeable now. To think that we are just at home, but God continues to provide everything that we need and even beyond. We still have food to eat on the table everyday. Opportunities still abound to serve and learn more about God. And whenever I feel tired because of so many small tasks I need to do, God reminds me that small obedience matters even in the hiddenness of the home kitchen. In these simple times, I remember the verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (NIV).”
I was also more enlightened about the challenges that we encountered. A minor issue was the lack of internet service we had at home. I worried about how it will affect my online activities. By God’s grace, after months without internet, our service finally got fixed just when life began to resume online. There were also major challenges that brought unprecedented stress in the family. In hindsight, they were opportunities for God to strengthen our faith in Him. Often we had no choice, we were only exposed out of necessity: for work or for school.
One such instance was when my professor went to France for a conference in March. We were scheduled to have class the week she returned, but thankfully, the Lord paved the way for the class to be protected from possible transmissions. ECQ was implemented that very week and my professor, unfortunately, did test positive for a very strong strain of Covid19 from Europe. Several other close calls that we encountered as a family only prove how good God is.
Because of these crises, the next time another and an even more stressful and dangerous concern emerged, we remembered how God had been faithful in protecting us in the past and so, we calmed down about the result of the swab test. It is truly the peace that transcends all understanding because I know how great my God is!
To close, 2020 was a very challenging year for everyone, but I hope that as the year ends, we can look back and see how God has changed us. I may be just a twenty-something, but may we all learn to acknowledge God’s amazing grace even in the mundane, daily experiences. Because it is in these seemingly small things that, when added up to this very moment, reveal God’s great provisions and compassion for us. We don’t know what the future holds, but let’s trust God. After all, in Jeremiah 29:11, he promised that He has a plan for you, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV).” All glory and praise to God.