Coronavirus Updates

I am Case 63,429. I am alive and well

Thir.st // October 5, 2021, 5:11 pm

Ps Zac covid - featured

Beneath these masks were wide smiles as this photo was taken on the day Pastor Zac Zhang and his wife could finally leave their isolation facility. All photos courtesy of Pastor Zac.

When Pastor Zac Zhang tested positive for Covid-19 in mid-May, Singapore was just entering Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).

The Delta variant had just arrived on our shores, but the 39-year-old was not vaccinated yet as the vaccines had not been offered to his age group at that time.

The Lead Pastor of Hearts Alive Church shares how he battled the virus together with his wife in this first-person account.


It was pretty surreal.

For me, till that point in time, Covid-19 was really about news in the media, new arrangements in daily routines and looking out for the vulnerable as a Church.

So when it hit me that the virus was within my body, the pandemic went from being a global phenomenon to a wild and jarring personal reality.

My wife tested positive two days before me, and my first thoughts were for my family, especially my two young boys.

It was quite an experience for all of us in those two weeks, as the Ministry of Health placed my entire household on home quarantine order, complete with movement monitoring devices.

I spoke at church that weekend as well, so I was also very concerned if anyone in the congregation was infected. Thankfully, no one caught the virus.

Initially, my symptoms were really mild — occasional coughs, stuffy nose and some throat irritation. I could still function normally.

But from Day 6 to 7, the fever began to kick in and the cough intensified.

My temperatures rose sharply whenever the sun set. It was pretty tough when things peaked on Days 11 and 12.

I had asthma as a kid, so I was pretty concerned when the coughing got serious. There were also reports that the new Delta variant was deadlier than the original strain.

At one point during my stay in the hospital, it occurred to me that there was a real possibility I might not make it out alive.

That night, for the first time in my life, I thought I was about to die.

I remember saying to the Lord that if He was going to bring me home then, I was ready. My family and church were in His hands, and I knew He would take good care of them.

That night, I deeply reckoned the fragility of life and the fleetingness of our stay here on earth. My only regret was that I would not have more time to serve the Lord.

I told the Lord that if He was willing, I would like to stay on earth longer to serve Him and help more people know of Jesus’ finished work on the Cross.

Thankfully, when I awoke the next day, I found that my condition had improved! I really felt I had been given a new lease of life.

By Day 13, my fever became milder, and that’s when I knew I was somewhat out of the woods.

AWAY FROM HOME FOR NEARLY A MONTH

My recovery period was spread over two phases, each spanning about 14 days.

The first one was the stay in a public hospital in a four-man ward. I had a small standing fan beside my bed, and no curtains and air-con in the room.

Together with the fever and cough, I really struggled with getting decent rest. I asked the Lord why He brought me here.

On one difficult afternoon, when I could no longer take the heat, fever and cough, I cried out to Him for relief. 

Soon after, I dozed off, only to be quickly woken up by the sound of thunder and rain. That was unforgettable.

The second phase was when my wife and I were sent to the isolation facility at D’Resort to recover fully before we can be integrated back into society. For almost two weeks, we were comfortably housed in a hotel room.

It had been a while since we spent an extended period of time together with no interruption from work or responsibilities as parents. It was a refreshing sabbatical we both needed and we were grateful for it.

Thankfully, I live with my in-laws (who were fully vaccinated then), so my boys were well taken care of during that period. For sure, we missed our boys terribly while we were away. But when things got better, we would chat and pray with them daily via video conferencing.

Throughout the entire season, we were showered with much love and concern from our families, colleagues, church and friends.

Every evening, we would take some time to reply to the flurry of messages checking in on our well-being. Friends and families whom we had not been in touch for a while texted us too, so it was a pretty special time as well.

COMING CLOSE TO DEATH

“Even when Your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for You already have!

“Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of Your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for You are near.” (Psalm 23:4 The Passion Translation) 

All my life, I have never felt so close to death itself.

There were difficult seasons in my life journey, but it would be a stretch to say I was ever near the “shadow of death”.

I never really thought I resonated deeply with (the psalmist) David on this verse, until that night in the hospital when I was confronted with the very real prospect of leaving this world.

There and then on the hospital bed, I was weak, helpless and totally surrendered.

I was too weak to hold on to my faith, yet my faith was holding on to me.

In those times, you don’t even have to try to surrender — you simply surrender because you have nothing left to fight with.

I’m not sure if this makes sense, but in those moments, I was too weak to hold on to my faith, yet my faith was holding on to me.

I experienced assuring peace amid real trepidation, and strong hope amid deep fears. It was a strange place to be in, but it was a good place to be in.

So Psalm 23:4 really made sense to me. I could see why David penned those words, and I think he was not even trying to be poetic.

This sounds cliche, but I think when we truly come to a place where we have to leave everything behind, we will come to truly reckon that all we need is Jesus and nothing more.

DEALING WITH DOUBTS

There was a part of me that wondered if God was mad at me, or if I did something wrong to deserve this.

However, I also realised it’s in times like this that the devil will plant thoughts of confusion and condemnation in our hearts.

The enemy of our souls will make us wonder if God is truly a good Father and if He sincerely loves His children.

The evil one can also remind us of our failures in such times and how we “deserve” these ordeals.

So yes, I was bombarded with those thoughts in that period of time.

Our loving Father is not one who inflicts pain on those with weak faith. That’s just not His nature.

Yet, by His grace, I was reminded that we are called to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

What that meant for me was to reframe my emotions and perception of reality — not according to the voices of the world or the voices in my head, but according to how God’s Word would interpret them.

God’s Word will decide the narrative in my mind, not anything else. God’s truth will define my reality, not something else.

His Word tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17), and that everything in our lives will work together for the good of all who love Him (Romans 8:28).

That’s powerful, if you ask me.

As sons and daughters of the Most High God, we can be rest assured that even the seemingly “bad” things in our lives can and will be used by our loving Father for His good purposes.

He is all-powerful, He is good and He is faithful to His own.

Yes, you can still claim Psalm 91 (Just not like the devil did!)

So if you are ever infected by Covid-19 and think that it is the result of your weak faith, I would encourage you to trust in His love for you once again and reject that thought from the evil one.

Our loving Father is not one who inflicts pain on those with weak faith. That’s just not His nature.

Jesus loves you and He is with you on this journey. He has a purpose for what you are going through. Trust Him. He can be trusted.

We all know that the Christian life is not one void of suffering.

And sometimes, just like Job, we may not always have the answers to the “whys” of pain and suffering while we are still journeying through the tunnel.

Yet given some time, we can be certain that we will eventually be able to join the dots and see what our Father is accomplishing for His beloved sons and daughters in seasons as such. 

WHERE DOES YOUR HELP COME FROM?

This is truly a trying time for all of us.

Having spoken to some friends who were infected after getting vaccinated, I realised their experiences were much milder than mine.

I think the vaccine does make a profound difference to how our bodies respond to this virus, so I would encourage those of us who can get vaccinated to do so.

I suppose these are also times for us to examine the foundations upon which we build our lives.

This is a good time to consider if our peace, security and contentment is truly founded in Christ alone.

Certainly, we are coming to see how a micro-organism can wreak phenomenal havoc on the world we are familiar with and unsettle all we find security in.

This is a good time to consider if our peace, security and contentment is truly founded in Christ alone.

I would admit that very often, my fears and anxieties in difficult times say more about the posture of my heart before the Lord than anything else. They reveal to me the parts of my life that I have not surrendered to Jesus.

And it is therefore on me to come before my Lord and address those areas of my life.

Heartbreak, loss and COVID-19: I am Case 74 and this is my story

Our fears and anxieties also tend to exaggerate and amplify worst-case scenarios.

They often do not give the most accurate prediction of how things may be. They persuade us to think of the most negative of outcomes and paralyse even the best of us.

And that is a bad way to live.

That is not how our loving Father wants us to journey through this season. He wants us to trust in Him and His goodness. He is a good Father. He can be trusted.

Tomorrow may bring many uncertainties, but our Father’s love for His children is not one of them.

  • We can leave all our cares and burdens to Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
  • We can choose not to meditate on the negatives, but to fill our minds with good thoughts (Philippians 4:8).
  • We can look out for others and encourage them (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and in turn be encouraged and refreshed as well (Proverbs 11:25).

I love how Eugene Peterson says it with defiant faith in The Message translation for Romans 8:31: “With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”

Tomorrow may bring many uncertainties, but our Father’s love for His children is not one of them.

As with all difficult times, this season will come to an end some day as well.

I am reminded of the simple lyrics of a Sunday School song I sang as a kid: With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm. Smile at the storm. Smile at the storm.

Yes, we may be in a storm. But we have Jesus in our boat. And that really is good enough. That really is all we need.

May we trust in Him and find rest in Him alone. In so doing, may we allow Him to fulfil the purposes that He has for us, even through this pandemic.

I do not know what is ahead of me, but this I know — it is a tremendous blessing to be alive and serve the Lord here on earth.

THINK + TALK 

  1. What are you fearful or anxious about at the present moment?
  2. Where is the source of your security? Cling onto to God’s Word and what it says about God’s character.
  3. Are there parts of your life that you have yet to surrender to God? If your life were to abruptly come to an end, are you ready to meet God?