I’m at a place right now where I’m a little less afraid. A little more bold with my actions, a bit more expressive in the way I love people. But what people don’t see is that every day is a decision, and every day is a battlefield – especially in my mind.
I remember many moments at the altar where I would ask God to take my brain away because I have so many thoughts. I think too much, I think too fast. Why did God give me a brain like this? I would even curse myself and say: “You know, Isaac, you’re a mistake. Your mind’s a mistake.”
And there have been seasons where this makes me really depressed, many times where I’ve seriously toyed with the idea of death. There was once the depression was so bad, it took me on physically. I just opened my eyes one morning and found that my whole body couldn’t move.
My heart was so heavy; my whole body felt like a dead weight. I floated in and out of sleep, just unable to get out of bed or out of my thoughts: I hate my life. I hate what I’m doing. I have nobody on this earth. Nobody cares that I’ve been hurt and betrayed. I’m just a joke, a fool, and I don’t even think God cares.
But around the sixth or seventh time that I woke up, a question popped into my mind: “Isaac, how long more are you going to be like that?” And then a verse from Isaiah: “For a spirit of heaviness, put on a garment of praise.” (Isaiah 61:3)
It’s the last thing you want to do – praise God when your whole soul is weighed down. But I knew that it was a decision I had the power to make. Isaac, who are you gonna serve? Who do you say is Lord of your life?
So with whatever strength I could muster, I told myself, “In Jesus’ name, I command you to rise up!” And I suddenly could get up!
I picked up my guitar and began to sing, and out of my broken heart a new song was born.
“Take one more chance, take one more dance, trust in the Lord.”
I knew that many of the thoughts in my head that were causing me to feel so down were lies of the devil, and as I worshipped through my pain it brought me to a point where I realised that I had to cast all my cares and worries unto God, to intentionally capture every thought and surrender it to Him.
I had discovered the power of the secret place.
Time in the secret place has become so important that if it takes waking up at 4 or 5am to meet with God, I will. Before the rest of the world is awake, I’ll get up, go for a run, pray, worship and spend time refocussing on God in the midst of the fears, challenges and wanderings of my mind.
I think some people see me on public platforms and may think I draw strength from being on stage or in the public eye, but that’s far from the truth. My strength comes from being away from the crowd, hidden in the secret place.
It’s easy to say, “I can’t find time to spend with God” or “I’m trying to find time”, but if you love somebody, you make time!
It doesn’t come naturally for me, just like anybody else. Sometimes I get lazy, sometimes I don’t feel like it – but I’ve come to know that if I don’t seek God and rest in Him, I am absolutely nothing. And even on the days I feel like giving up, this is the place where I’m reminded of His love.
No matter how busy we become in the course of life, we have to make time for the person or thing you love. It’s easy to say, “I can’t find time to spend with God” or “I’m trying to find time”, but if you love somebody, you make time! I cannot say I love my wife, or I love my child, but I don’t make time or position myself to honour them or have them central in my life.
So even if it means setting my alarm clock to 5am when things get busier, I do it because it says: “This Person is really very important, I must know Him. Because only if I know Him, then I’ll trust Him and love Him with all my life.” If we say we truly value God, love Him and adore Him, then let our actions speak.
The secret place may not always be comfortable; there will be days you don’t want to do it. But how can you love somebody you don’t trust? And how can you trust somebody you don’t know? How can you know somebody if you don’t make the time? And that’s really where worship starts.
I think for me, I always believe that your public worship must come from a place of your private worship.
There are two significant moments that sealed this truth for me.
I remember there was a whole year where I just didn’t want to read my Bible – and this is not something I encourage at all. But every single night without fail, I would go to my room, lock the door, whip out my guitar and worship God. I poured out my heart and its struggles to Him. Why, Lord? I don’t know why I don’t like reading your Word!
And this went on night after night. 99% of the time I didn’t feel anything special; I didn’t have goosebumps or feel the presence of the Lord. Was I singing to the walls? Was anybody even there?
This was the case even a year later. It was only at a church camp where I asked God if He would speak to me. Give me a word, anything to let me know! But for all four days of the camp, no one spoke to me. And at the final benediction prayer, I thought, “That’s it, Lord. If you don’t speak to me, I’m really not sure if You’re there anymore.”
At that point, the pastor who was leading the closing session asked the other pastors in the room to go around to pray for people. So all of a sudden an Indonesian missionary whom I did not know came up to me and said, “You know, God loves it every time you go to your room, play the guitar and worship Him.”
It really grabbed my heart and I was weeping and thinking, “God, You are there!”
The second time was after a period of faithfully spending time with God every morning at a pull-up bar. I loved going to this particular pull-up bar, do a few pull-ups, sit down, pray and chill. I’d repeat this over and over for a long time, and I would worship and pray throughout.
I did this for almost two years, and at the end of 2016 I went on a trip to see the Circuit Riders in the USA. For most of it I felt like I was there to support the pastor I was with, to just observe the ministries we were visiting from the sidelines.
But something happened on the last day, at the last moment. The head pastor’s wife approached me and said, “Isaac, I have a very strange vision of you. Can I share it?” “Of course,” I probably replied.
“I see you at a pull-up bar,” she continued. “And I believe God is saying, ‘One more pull-up, just one more, and I’m going to launch you.”
My tears were flowing when she said this, and I knew then that God had always been there – even when I couldn’t feel it and there were so many things going on around me. He was right there in the stillness, always with me.
Ever since these encounters, I’ve always made time for the secret place. I need to spend time with my Maker because without Him, I will lose sight of who I am. I will begin to get comfortable with doing things on my own, with my own agenda, and find comfort and purpose in my achievements and even from the stage I’m on.
Being able to juggle so many things comes from that intentionality to meet with God in private. All I really do is pray, “God, You help me with this. You send people my way. You make opportunities work.”
This is godly time management, where events somehow line up perfectly because God is placing them together. I have also learnt that there will just be some things I cannot do or be a part of – and how to say no.
And because I’ve spent so much time worshipping God in the secret place, whether I’m taking the stage in church or on a show like The Voice, I’m unafraid to worship and pursue God wholeheartedly. I’m not worried if people think I’m crazy, lying on the stage during a worship session. I’m not ashamed if people on The Voice thought I was so intense because I cried when I sang.
If only they knew: I’m crying because when I look up to the heavens, there is only one person that I absolutely love and would absolutely die for – and that is my Jesus.
Isaac serves the community with his social company Colours Global, mentors the youth congregation of Emmanuel AOG, and was a finalist on both Channel 5‘s The Final 1 and The Voice (SG/MY). He often speaks in various church circles and leads the FOPx worship team.