Nothing ever happens in Singapore. It’s not impossible to get caught in the humdrum of life, where we go through each day of school/work and the leisure activities of respite in between. Life isn’t easy, but it’s comfortable.
Comfortable enough for us to be just a little desensitised to the very real pain and suffering happening around the world. Natural disasters like an earthquake that triggers a tsunami, and then a volcanic eruption? We don’t even experience the four seasons.
That was until I was brought to the other side of life just this week with a bad bout of stomach flu that meant being unable to retain anything I ate or drank – and from both ends, if you know what I mean. It was so bad my parents had to send me to the A&E.
After diagnosing me with gastroenteritis and severe dehydration, I was put in the observation ward with an IV drip to bring my body’s water level back to normal.
And if my own little “natural disaster” wasn’t enough to sober me to the realities of the people in Palu, who’ve just had their lives overturned on September 28, 2018, by a 7.5 magnitude (that’s huge) earthquake and resulting tsunami – a few hours in the A&E made sure of that.
Not before long, an uncle who was also waiting his turn started talking to my dad about his health problems. Their conversation was in Hokkien, so I could not understand all of it, but it was enough to discover that he had, amidst a slew of other issues, kidney problems that meant being in and out of the hospital often.
I also found myself getting acquainted with a couple who was there because the husband had fallen at home due to an accident with his prosthetic leg. All around me, I was hearing stories of sicknesses, surgeries and treatment for every kind of ailment.
Unable to take in any food or water and rendered bed-bound for the duration of my stay, my heart really went out to those suffering in Palu. Having little access to basic necessities and medical help, all while grieving the loss of family, friends and home – my affliction was but a small taste of the anguish they must have been in.
And in the wake of my own grievance from the gastroenteritis, support from the people around me never felt sweeter, no matter the magnitude. The friends who prayed for me and checked in on me, my parents who accompanied me to the hospital … I knew then that we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to those in need.
We serve a God who did not withhold Himself from the greatest humiliations and afflictions of this life – who went the extra mile from heaven to earth, paradise to hell – just to be able to say, I’m here for you.
God has always shown us how to love others. He showed us through His Son Jesus Christ, who walked the earth with unrivalled compassion and love in action.
“Then the King will say … ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” (Matthew 25:34)
Jesus ministered to the sick and hungry. And at the end of His brief life, He demonstrated the greatest love of all by paying the penalty for the sins of humankind through His death on the Cross.
Yes, life is more than just food and clothing. In the end our most dire need is that of the soul – salvation. But through His Word and the works of Jesus we can see that God knows our physical needs are important too (Matthew 6:31-32) – and He wants us to care for others in the same way.
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)
Even if we struggle to identify with the pain and suffering we know others are facing, we take heart that Jesus Himself identifies with it all. We serve a God who did not withhold Himself from the greatest humiliations and afflictions of this life – who went the extra mile from heaven to earth, paradise to hell – just to be able to say, I’m here for you.
Sometimes responding to pain doesn’t need words of wisdom or extravagant resources, but simply a hand to hold onto. We can do the same for others. We already carry the hope that out of great darkness and disaster there is still a light, there is a love that conquers all.
I woke up today to the fresh air of the morning. The flu in my stomach is still there, but I’m feeling much better now. God truly does make all things new. In moments of gratefulness like this I hold fast to the promise that all pain and suffering experienced here on earth will pale in comparison to the heaven that awaits all who believe in Jesus Christ.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:4-5)
Things in Palu are not well right now. So let’s do what we can, whichever part of the human chain of support we can fill. Give freely, as we have been given (Matthew 10:5-8). Be the hope that arises from Singapore to the nations in the midst of these tough times.