Life can get blurry sometimes, heaving us into questioning and despair
I’ve always had an eye on the future, ever primed to run ahead. When I was fourteen, I already had my life idealistically mapped out: what major to read in university, which company to work for, which country to live in. Goals, plans, and timelines have always been an integral and intimate part of my life growing up. How could one not simply know what’s next in life?
Life sure knows how to take me on a spin, for never in my life have I been as unsure as I am right now. I’m about to graduate from university in eight months, yet I have no inkling on which path to take — I am wandering and lost. There are numerous possibilities at the fork road, but none of these lanes seem to be illuminated. I have made valiant attempts to trace His hand, only to dive into dungeons of doubt: “Where are you, God? What exactly are you saying?” Whenever I think about transiting into “adulthood”, I shrivel like sodden fingers and silence hangs — swollen — in the air.
Times of pain and confusion; moments where you feel like you’ve fallen from grace; long periods where breakthrough seems nowhere in sight. What do we do when we can’t see the destination, when our vision is hazed with frustration and anxiety? As I’ve spent months and months waiting for dawn to break and the mist to clear, I’ve had a few revelations:
1. As Christians, we can assume that life becomes comfortable and easy.
In the secular worldview, suffering is never seen as a meaningful constituent of life; it only serves as an interruption. I’ve also been to numerous evangelistic services where the preacher blatantly speaks about an easier, roaring life for Christians. We can assume that as His sons and daughters, God will shine down manifold blessings: success in the workplace, health improvement, and favour. As I look back on my prayers, I realise that they are about making life more effortless, and on my terms. So often have we desired for our faith to work for us, for our prayers to wrench God’s hands to do what we want.
James 1:2 (ESV) clearly states that Christians shall “meet trials of various kinds”. I think this is especially true as the second coming of Christ fast approaches like the chasing wind. The difference for us is that no struggle or affliction should tamper with our joy — we may be “pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.” (2 Cor 4:8 NLT) In the rolling of the waves, our joy is anchored in knowing the blesser and not the blessing, for “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28 NIV)
2. The fortitude of my faith is revealed in testing.
As Singaporeans shuttled through the education system, we grow to handle life in a quick, systematic, and efficient manner. We have everything drawn out from the get-go, sometimes more thorough than what our financial planner has fastidiously drawn out. Thus, we tend to adopt our faith like it is a GPS, trusting it to calibrate the easiest and shortest route in life — no winding paths and steep hills please.
Faith, however, is more like trekking through the jungles in the somnolent heat, with fallen tree trunks to step over and mosquitoes to swat. The Israelites, for example, meandered on punishing terrain for 40 years before stepping into Canaan. (Numbers 32:13)
In the arid valleys of prolonged faithlessness — utter discontentment with my school posting, recurring resentment against family members, character flaws that just keep surfacing — the authenticity of what I believe in is tested. If faith were straight, well-paved roads, then our Christian doctrines remain as nice theories, ones which we can very well live without.
While we may confidently advise a friend, “God will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6), this truth could suspend as head knowledge; we know it but do not believe in it. Yet, when we shamble through a time of forlornness and isolation, this axiom slowly trickles into the canals of our heart, like the pulling of gravity. It is during such moments that we discover what our faith truly stands for: an oasis we can drink from or a mere mirage.
3. We tend to focus on us and not on Him during such seasons.
In seasons of blindness, we are often culpable for wallowing, whingeing, and wailing. We zero in on how treacherous the journey is, as if His presence had long deserted us, leaving us to grope through the darkness. My “quiet times” have been anything but muted, as it is rife with questioning, highly charged with expressing my feelings and my desires.
However, when I look to Him and not on how pitiable I am, my soul starts to open up like stretches of long morning light, giving me the opportunity to live a much larger story. I learn His heart for me; I discover how “perfect” my Father is (Matthew 5:48). The waiting, the restlessness, the reasoning are all chances He’s giving me to transform me in His love and graciousness.
4. We need to locate ‘unbelief’ in our hearts during such seasons.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT)
In lush, sun-washed Eden, Eve first doubted the love and goodness of God before choosing to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent planted a seed of doubt in the soil of her mind, shifting her attention to that one tree. In long spells of pensive waiting and susceptible agitation, unbelief easily sprouts in our minds.
When we entertain toxic thoughts, we simply lose confidence in His character. I could not reconcile with the truth that He wants the best for me, allowing distrust to sweep through my heart like moss. We could start doubting whether He will provide, whether He yearns to speak to us, whether He is actively working in us. The devil ever longs to drag us to such a place of division and discord, where the truth of His word and character is dislodged from our hearts.
As I remain stranded in the fog, I choose to still my heart and re-learn that there is no one like Him (Psalm 46:10). My lips shall persist in praise, for I have tasted His goodness and witnessed His faithfulness many times over, and I am not ready to stop now. As I continue giving God my heart, I shall grasp, more and more fully, that He has given me all I need.
Even when your hallelujah is broken, like a fractured wing, may you find the strength to take flight in Him (2 Cor 12:9–10). Even though you cannot seem to breathe properly in the film of smoke, I pray that you’ll choose to steady your heart in Him and free-fall into the palm of His omniscience. So when the billows clear, you will be ready to run, run, run into destiny.