Even as I write this, I will be celebrating my 21st birthday this weekend. It is definitely not going to be the grandiose party I had in mind, and it still stings a bit.
However, I know that I can still trust in God. I fully believe He has something exciting and new in store for us each day.
How do I know this? Well, my confidence comes from what I experienced last year in National Service (NS).
I enlisted on 2 October 2019.
After a shaving ceremony and a heartwarming send-off from my loved ones, I found myself on the island of Tekong.
Unlike most of my peers, I was looking forward to my time here. This was because I was much closer to achieving my childhood dream of going through command school and becoming an officer in the army.
As expected, I took my initial weeks in Tekong positively and was adjusting well to the training. I was well-liked by my commanders and got along with my bunk mates and platoon.
I could see my dream of becoming an officer just around the corner.
It was in this atmosphere and joyful mood that things took an unexpected turn.
Without warning, I found myself lying on the floor. I had blacked-out.
In the fourth week, on an ordinary Tuesday morning, I was queuing to receive my rifle for training.
Then, without warning, I found myself lying on the floor. I had blacked-out. My commanders and platoon mates went into a frenzy. By the time I realised what was going on, I was on a stretcher and about to be sent to the medical centre.
The next thing I knew, I was on an emergency boat speeding off the island. They rushed me to Changi General Hospital for a thorough medical check-up.
After the check-up and a few days of rest at home, I was back in Tekong. There I had to visit the medical centre for a follow-up. In the doctor’s office, my condition was explained to me – vasovagal syncope.
Then his words rang through my entire being: “Cliff, based on your condition, I’m sorry, but mostly probably, I have to take you out of course.”
At that moment, my world started to collapse. Being out of course meant I could not participate in any more training and would not graduate with my peers.
But more importantly, because of my condition, I was no longer eligible for command school.
This was the start of a very dry and difficult period for me.
Though I was trying my best to trust God, I found it extremely hard to understand why this was happening to me.
Thoughts would constantly flood my mind about how I would never achieve my dream of becoming an officer. I gradually became upset, and even angry with God.
Why? That was the question I asked myself and God most often.
Why me? Why did this have to happen to me?
It was in this time of struggle that I experienced comfort and hope from my parents, cell leader, cell and the church community of my home church, Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC).
They rallied behind me and encouraged me that God has a plan through it all. All of them sent me messages of trust and hope, citing personal experiences and the Bible on how God can turn things around.
They shared how God works even in our brokenness and disappointments – He turns our mess into a message, a trial into a triumph and a test into a testimony.
Through it all, I held onto Jeremiah 29:11 and the lyrics of, “I Raise A Hallelujah”. Through all these encounters with God, I could move on with my life in the knowledge that He has something better in store for me.
He turns our mess into a message, a trial into a triumph and a test into a testimony.
Fast forward half a year, and now I find myself enjoying a relaxed and meaningful time in the Air Force as a storeman.
The abundance of time in this vocation has allowed me to do many things in the past few months. I was able to lead an evangelistic outreach event, spend more quality time with my parents and hang out more with my friends.
Daily life in camp is awesome as I have been blessed with exceptional colleagues, caring superiors and a wonderful work environment. This camp where I stay from Mondays to Fridays is also great as we have access to facilities such as the gym, swimming pool and basketball court.
Looking back, I can see now that God had this special plan for me when I went out of course.
It was definitely not what I had in mind, but it is much better than what I had hoped for from my time in NS. Though I may not be an officer, I enjoy my work and am able to do so many fruitful things.
So I hope my experience challenges your perspective on this COVID-19 season. It can be a prelude to something exciting God has in store for our lives.
We just need to wait patiently and trust in Him. It may not be easy right now, but the wait will be worthwhile.
Will you trust God for what He has in store for you?
- What was the biggest disappointment you’ve experienced in life?
- Where did you see God in it?
- How could you have handled it in a more God-honouring way?
The disruptive COVID-19 season has certainly been a disappointing and frustrating period for most of us, with many of the plans we had for the year being written off.