2009. I remember that year very clearly. I was in my O-Levels year, and my dad had undergone emergency heart surgery at a private hospital. In the aftermath of that, we were facing an unresolved hospital bill of about $48,000.
Facing that huge financial stress, my parents had a major fight that resulted in them not talking for almost a decade. Overnight, we went from family to just housemates. Our home was reduced to a house.
That same year at a Christmas church service, I went down to the front of the auditorium to receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
While everything about that day is kind of fuzzy in my memory now, one thing I remember clearly: the friend who had brought me there that day prayed for restoration in my family and for my parents’ salvation.
At that moment, I had wished so desperately amidst tears that it would be so.
Here’s a confession: Whenever there was an altar call at church to pray for the restoration of families and reconciliation of relationships, I never stepped forward.
I was filled with certainty that these human hearts were unmovable by God.
All the other things He can do, but this He definitely cannot. And that was how I’ve been living my life for the past decade.
It was only until the start of this year that God started to unearth this part of my heart.
In a journal entry dated January 11, 2019, I wrote: “I cannot be frugal with my sacrifice to God. I cannot be restrained with my surrender. I cannot be argumentative about my obedience. I cannot be calculative about my submission. I must be all in.”
There and then, I resolved to persevere and press in with my prayer life for the year ahead.
In another journal entry dated January 29, 2019, I wrote specifically regarding my family situation: “What is preventing me from trusting and believing for God to do certain things – miracles – in my life? Am I the spanner that has been obstructing God to perform His miracle in my life? I dare not believe, or even ask, for God to restore the brokenness in my family… But what if I’m the one standing in His way?”
You know how we set New Year resolutions year after year, only to realise every December that we’ve not fulfilled any of them? Sure enough, even after I had written out all these declarations to God… I did nothing.
While I prayed for my family behind closed doors, nothing else changed. I couldn’t find the courage to start a conversation with my dad whom I had become so distant from. I couldn’t bring myself to speak to my mum about her relationship with my dad. I just couldn’t do anything.
Then the following month, my dad was hospitalised. The stent that they’d placed in his heart 10 years ago was failing and he would have to undergo open-heart bypass surgery.
On the morning of his surgery, I sat in silence with my dad in the waiting room. As I helped him into his operation gown, I felt a strong compulsion to pray for him.
But the words just couldn’t come out of my mouth. And even when he was wheeled into the operating theatre and out of my sight, I never said anything. If not for God’s mercy, I would be living in regret and remorse today.
My dad almost never made it. He suffered a major stroke during the operation that resulted in the left side of his body being paralysed. He couldn’t move, his eyes were crossed and half his face was drooping. He had pipes everywhere, couldn’t breathe on his own and tears kept rolling down his face every time he saw me and my mum.
What should have been a short-term hospital stay of eight days turned into three whole months. But it was during these three months that things really started to shake up and change in our family.
My parents started conversing with each other; we could finally talk. We became concerned about each other. We slowly learnt how to be a family again. I prayed for my dad every night before we left the hospital.
During this time, I also truly learnt to press in persistently in prayer. Every day, I prayed that God would show up, even in the smallest of ways possible, for God to have mercy on my family, for God to let my parents experience Him for themselves.
It was during these three months that my parents came to know the Lord.
To be really honest, I believe God knew. He knew that I would cop out of this whole thing if left to my own devices. I could already see myself doing it. If my dad had come out of the operation smoothly, if he was discharged within that one week… I would’ve gone back to living life as it was, status quo and in doubt.
If I had ever dared imagine my parents receiving Christ, I always imagined myself being overwhelmed by emotions and bawling my eyes out. Every part of that scenario was ultra-dramatic. But when the real deal happened, it was nothing like that.
When my mum received Christ at the Celebration of Hope this year, I was on work duty. The exact moment? I was trying to finish up that night’s social media posts and was hardly paying attention to what was going on around me.
When they gave the altar call, my mum suddenly turned to me and said: “I want to go down (to the prayer counsellors).” In disbelief, I left my belongings at the media booth and brought her down to the front of the stadium.
God doesn’t only work in the fanfare… Most of the time, He works in silence. He works in the valleys. He works in the boring. He works in the waiting.
The prayer counsellor turned out to be an acquaintance. We got so excited we almost forgot to pray. and half my mind was still thinking about whether anyone on my team would notice and take care of my unattended laptop.
The day my dad received Christ, I wasn’t even around! I was in Japan, miles away from home. I didn’t even know he had gone for chapel service in the hospital. I only found out over FaceTime, when my mum casually brought it up at the end of the call like a postscript.
And this is me, realising that God doesn’t only work in the fanfare. He doesn’t need to come through in big and dramatic ways. Sometimes, and most of the time, He works in silence. He works in the valleys. He works in the boring. He works in the waiting. He’s working, even when we don’t see or feel it.
So if you’re stuck in a situation that seems to bring no hope and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel (or just where is the end of this tunnel?), I encourage you to hang in there.
You might have been stuck in your situation for years, for decades… You might be on the brink of losing hope, losing it all. You might be just like me – thinking that God can do everything else, but not for this situation of mine… Press in. Press on.
Keep praying. Persevere in prayer. There is much power to be found in that.
Something Bobbie Houston once said comes to mind: “Timing and answers are often a mystery to us… but never to Him. He is author, finisher, and the source of our faith and story. Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1) He has perfect hearing when it comes to you, and His goodness will never fail.”
This Christmas, as I celebrate my 10th year of knowing Christ, I remember what He has done for me – with my family.