In February, we ran an article on Joy who was fighting for her life after being stricken with what doctors suspected was lupus. Though Joy’s family and friends rallied around her in prayer, she went home to be with the Lord on 27 February 2022.
The author of this article — Rebecca Tan — is one of Joy’s dear friends, who shares a sobering reflection on death, disappointment, friendship and life.
“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be; when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and dance in victory.”
What do we do when the disappointment of unanswered prayers comes knocking and when life springs forth only after death?
Entering mid-life, we had just reached the prime of our lives and were barely beginning to savour the fruits of it when news came that a dreadful disease hit one of us.
Joy, or Sok as some of us knew her by, was struck with an autoimmune disease — the worst of its lot — putting her in a coma which she never woke up from.
We pleaded on heaven’s door, fervently praying and knocking day and night, rallying the church, friends and acquaintances to join our hearts in prayer and intercession.
All in the hope of seeing God miraculously stretching forth His hand and healing her, taking away the many tubes inside of her, the pain, the bleeding within her organs, the damage to her brain, the failing of her body systems, the life support that keeping her breathing.
Take all of it away, Lord. Take it away as if none of it ever happened. That was the miracle that we had prayed for, and one we never saw come to pass.
At least not in the way we had wanted.
When I first heard the news of her being unconscious and in ICU, her life in a precarious state, I had to take half a day off work to process this.
How can this be happening Lord? Maybe tomorrow things will go back to being “normal” as we had known it.
God draws near to those who draw near to Him, as I looked back, God was speaking to me through all of it.
He is with each of us, and I believe even more so, He is with Sok
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14)
Sok said the salvation prayer in her teenage days and she also rededicated herself to the Lord in her adulthood.
But she was not someone you would usually find in church. While she came to church a few times, God had never really been the centre of her life.
In the pursuit of our own dreams, ambitions, desires and the life we longed for, she was like many of us, a sheep gone astray.
Knowing her condition and the state of her relationship with God, I was praying for my dear friend.
God spoke to me, assuring me that we would see His goodness and that His goodness would run after her.
“God, I believe,” I said in reply. “I believe Your goodness pursues us. Your grace is sufficient for us, it’s Your grace that saved us, not by our own works.”
We went for prayer walks almost every night in the time she was fighting for her life, we rallied many to pray together over Zoom sessions night after night.
We wanted to battle for her and with her, alongside her, and the only way we could and knew how was through prayer.
I knew God was with us, yet when the good news ceased and the chat group fell silent, I started to wonder in my heart.
That was when God showed me that I had gotten weary and lost heart because I stopped believing in Him.
When the nights grew longer and cast an ominous shadow over that last strand of hope we were clinging to, I knew in my heart that that which we had hoped for would not come, at least not on this earthly plane.
When despair and weariness took over and there were no more tears to cry, no more love to give, and no more miracles to believe in, I heard from God to wait on Him and He would strengthen our hearts.
And He did. God, You are our portion when our oil runs dry.
And when death cast a lingering shadow of doubt over me and the disappointment that Sok would never wake up and go on to share this amazing testimony with all of our friends returning to the Lord, God told me we will see His goodness in this land if we wait upon Him.
Lord, help us to wait well, because salvation belongs to You.
And so, I learnt to lay down the burden of seeing my friends come to know Jesus because God alone knows who, when, where and how.
And so, how can one make sense of a trauma or tragedy? Death is no stranger, yet it still is difficult each time.
A hard pill to swallow was how Sok’s death felt. And it happened exactly on my birthday too.
I thought to myself: “Why today God? Any day but this day. Now I will always have to remember that my friend died on the day I celebrate the life I’m given.
“How can I celebrate? I can’t. I don’t know how to.”
Yet, God brought a principle to mind from John 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain”.
Life springs forth, more often than not, after death.
And didn’t Jesus do the same for you and me?
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, one day when we all get to heaven, there will be the grandest reunion ever heard or known of.
This is my hope and vision. A joy to behold: Our mourning turned into dancing, our weeping to joy, because of what Jesus had done at the cross.
And so, when disappointment knocks, and death billows, this is where we need to park our hope. In the Lord.
This is how we are able to overcome the sting of death. In Him who overcame.
So back to the question: how can one make sense of a trauma or tragedy?
- By placing our hope in the Word of Lord, for His promise is sure.
- By placing our hope in His love, for it never changes and never fails.
- By placing our hope in His sovereignty.
Seeing Sok in her final moments on earth, she was barely recognisable. Friends and family were overtaken by grief.
I couldn’t understand why God hadn’t chosen to glorify Himself through miraculously healing her when He could easily have done so.
I thought that if He did such a thing, then many would fall on their knees in worship and confess that Jesus is Lord.
Yet, from the time of Moses when the Israelites witnessed the Ten Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea; to the time of Jesus who healed the sick, restored the sight of the blind, made the lame walk again and called the dead to life — it was never the signs and wonders that transformed the hearts of men and sustained their faith.
Only Jesus can. But being a spectator or fan of Jesus is not the same as being His follower or disciple.
And so I pondered, if things were to happen the way I had hoped, with Sok healed and awake like everything had been a bad dream — would there really be a fairy tale ending with all of our friends realising their need for Christ?
Maybe. Maybe not. God has to first work in each of our hearts to till the land, and make ready our hearts for Christ to dwell.
Only God knows what each of us needs to get to that place where the seed of the Gospel will finally take root, spring forth and mature.
God is sovereign. That is why when faced with the hopelessness of death and unanswered prayers, we can continue to hope against all hope and believe because salvation belongs to the Lord alone.
He is the Chief Shepherd, the Chief Gardener and He knows what exactly has been planted into each of our hearts through this ordeal, and what it takes to bring these seeds to maturity.
We have to keep moving forward with the Lord, to continue to sow seeds of hope in this precarious world we are living in where many are faced with the same kind of despair and hopelessness.
Where hope is faint, as we till the ground, we partake and share in the joy of the harvest with our Lord.
Will we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, entrusted with a message of hope, partner Him this Easter to be His messengers?
We have all been commissioned to reach the lost, that we may by all means save some.
May you find rest in the grace and goodness of God, Sok. Till we meet again and bring many more friends along.
- What does the word “resurrection” mean to you?
- Read Luke 24. What does this chapter tell you about Jesus’ resurrection?
- How does His resurrection give you hope in your life today?
- Thank the Lord for what He has done this Resurrection Sunday.