Waiting for Redemption
Isaiah 35:10 (ESV)
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
When life gets hard, we tend to feel bad about ourselves and the situations that we are in. We start to give up, falling into anxiety or depression. We lose confidence and take breaks from people and social media. But worst of all, we begin to lose hope. We can keep a mask on with those around us or avoid people to escape reality. We may sulk in our beds, not getting out of the house because we want to “sleep it off”. We might wander in our dark thoughts over and over again. We can even go to church and seek God, but nothing may change. No one would understand our hearts fully, and it doesn't matter if anyone does, because our problems won’t be solved with comforting words. Yes, we have all been there and felt incredibly alone. And it is when these negative thoughts come that we get deceived into believing these lies and struggle to get out of the darkness.
I grew up pretty much like any other first generation Korean-American with immigrant parents who struggled financially to support the family. However, finances became especially difficult when my parents separated. This was when I was around three years old. My mom started working full time, seven days a week to support my sister and I, while my grandma babysat us all day. Growing up with just our Korean-speaking grandma, we were not confident in our English, although we were raised in America. My sister and I became the “mute twins,” not speaking a word in public until the first grade. On top of that, we barely saw our mom’s face because she worked all day, so my childhood memories consist of mostly my sister and grandma who never ceased to pray for our family. And without realizing, I slowly grew bitter at my father who left us to struggle and never came back. When my grandma passed away while I was still in primary school, my mother came to Christ amid our hopeless situation and it was then that our family began to see true light.
During that time, I was miraculously healed from a heart condition that I was born with through intercessory prayer. That same year, I personally accepted Christ into my life as Lord and Savior. I was no longer someone who struggled growing up in a broken family, no longer a physically ill patient, and no longer void of a Father in my life. I dedicated my life to serve Him in whatever way He chose for me, because He was there when I needed Him most. My purpose in life became Him. This purpose decided what I studied in school, the people I chose to befriend, what I did in my free time and ultimately, my vision for the future. I was very persistent in pursuing God, reading the Bible, helping with my mother’s seminary work, praying consistently for hours with my sister, serving in the church, evangelizing every chance I had, and so on. God was no doubt moving in our hearts, even compelling us to reach out first to our father to reconcile.
However, despite all the blessings in my life, I grew jaded and doubtful of God. As life got more real and I started to experience more challenges, I began to dwell in my circumstances and troubles. My mother, who had become a pastoral intern through seminary school, even started losing hope because our financial situation got very difficult. And although my father and I reconciled, I didn’t realize that there were still deeper roots within me that made me feel that I was unaccepted by him. I would never share our troubles with him because I thought he didn't care genuinely. And because of this lack of communication, our relationship never grew and it got harder to be honest with him.
So, I did what seemed most valid to me in this situation — I started to blame God for my burdensome life. Instead of turning to Him for help, I turned away. I forgot how He saved me during my family’s utmost struggle and even grew uncertain of how He healed me. I started to make life about my own pleasure and craved for earthly wealth, thinking it would solve all my problems. And finally, I began to forget the passion I carried for Him and indulged in the world and the satisfaction of pleasing people. As I grew further away in my fellowship with God, I started to think it was okay to sin because I would repent right after. After all, why would He allow hardships for someone like me, who dedicated my life to Him?
This thought process and way of living continued. Sure, the world satisfied my problems, but only temporarily. As things didn’t seem to get better and situations worsened, I started to live in the moment, being thankful of the very time when not everything had fallen apart yet and started to live fearing the future instead — the future that I once devoted to God and had faith to surrender.
After years of forgetting the joy in reading the Bible, I began to read the Book of Job, only because my friend made me a study Bible and I felt it would be polite to journal in it and show it to her. But reading it has changed my perception of suffering since. The number one message I got from it was that God’s people go through suffering. Yes, it's very true, and a lot of people fear it. But during Job’s pain, it is evident that God was there throughout the entire journey, never leaving Job once. Meanwhile, Job complains continuously to God because he feels it is unfair that he would have to go through this when he was in fact, faithful. As God patiently waits for Job to finish venting and justifying himself, he is made humble. And it is when Job is humbled that God answers him. God is all-powerful and is just in all His choices. Therefore, He never intended harm on Job. He actually had a greater goal in mind, aiming to reveal Job’s true self to break those weak areas and mold him into a stronger man. These are but a few truths that were revealed to me.
But the best news is that God’s work in us doesn’t stop when we persevere through our sufferings. It is only the beginning. I struggled to write this testimony because I am currently still in the process of experiencing it myself, but I just wanted to proclaim God’s truth. Amidst my own dark moments, I thought that what I was lacking was comfort from my friends, family, and other church members. However, I realized that what was really missing in my life was the hope of redemption. What is redemption? It is the promise of God that our pain is not the end. He promises us that He will save us from our sins and deliver us from the consequences of our sins (pain and suffering) through Jesus.
For Your Reflection
When we go through suffering and experience hardship, it is hard to think of anything beyond our current situation. This is when we start to lose hope in ourselves and our disappointment for those who are around us begin to grow. When we are in complete darkness (i.e. run out of things and people to rely on), we can see the hope of light in Jesus. Are you suffering? "Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).