By Joshua Ng, SMU, 25
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” – John 21 : 18
When I was younger, Religion, to me, was mostly a social affair. I had been through RCIY after JC2, but God to me was someone who was distant and far, someone who gave and took on His own whims without care or concern as to how I felt. I had a common theme in my life where I would always feel as though I was close to finding my ‘happiness’, but somehow it would fall apart quickly and I would be back with nothing. To me, it felt as though God was punishing me and I could not understand why.
Before my encounter with Jesus, I was a boy who sought affirmation from wherever I could find it. This became very apparent when I entered university as a freshman: I desired social statuses, overly stellar grades, and good internships. Back then, I felt that these things would keep me satisfied and happy with my life. However, I fell into anxiety and had frequent panic attacks in my first year. I felt as though I was perpetually reaching out for things that just kept going out of my grasp and somehow nothing I could do would fix the messes I ended up in.
During SOCL 2018, I distinctly remember during a session I had a vision of myself sitting in a dim empty room, with the table full of the things I had cherished. A hooded figure came in and placed all these things in a haversack and my heart broke as I watched all these things being swept away. As the figure walked to the door, the figure slid his hood off and it turned out to be Jesus and He asked me if I trusted Him. With tears in my eyes, I said “yes Jesus, I do” very hesitantly, and Jesus brought the bag out with Him.
Joshua with his brothers in SOCL’18
Since that vision, I would frequently go through moments of pruning by Jesus. There were many things that my heart desired, but somehow Jesus would fulfil that desire in different ways; either in a different form or by purifying my desires for wanting things. There was once where I yearned to get my dream internship. But after months of praying, I attended a session about John 15 in a retreat, where Jesus spoke about cutting away the branches that did not give life. It was a very painful session for me, to be able to accept that it was alright that I did not make it through and to really surrender this desire to Jesus, allowing Him to “take it away”. However, after that dramatic internal strife, the very next morning I got a call informing me that I had made it to the next round of interviews. I was very confused, and had thought God was testing my resolve. In hindsight, I realise now that my desires were borne out of a God-shaped hole in my heart. Jesus timed the call so perfectly for me: If I had gotten it even hours earlier, I would have found my worth on my performance during the internship. Instead, I went into the internship understanding that my worth was on Jesus’ purifying love for me. Whatever God has given me has fulfilled me so much more than what I could have gained for myself.
However, the most precious thing borne out of all the pruning was learning to trust the Lord deeper with each cut He made in my life. I now see that growth in my faith was not about becoming more vocal in professing my faith, but rather shortening the time it took for me to say, “Lord, save me”.
Today, I can now live with the conviction that Jesus truly desires what He wants for me and has plans for me to prosper and not to harm me. In my faith journey, there were many small yet uncomfortable “yes”es I had to say to the Lord. In each occasion, the Lord could only work in my life when I was able to say “Lord, I trust you and I desire to desire what you desire for me.” John 21:18 was a verse that came to me in prayer during SOCL2018 and has been one that I have been carrying with me for all these years.
When I was young in my faith, every decision I made was based off my emotions and whether I was “feeling it”. I could not understand what Jesus was inviting me to yet, but I now understand that Jesus was not fulfilling my desires just to make me “happy”. Rather, Jesus was constantly purifying those desires so that I would no longer derive my worth from the world, but on my relationship with Jesus. Now that I have matured in my faith, I see that there are many times where the Lord tugs at my heartstrings to push me towards uncomfortable decisions. Yet, all these decisions have led me closer to the heart of Jesus.
Today, I pray that you may began to allow Jesus to prune your life too. The Lord will not fail you. In the struggling and discomfort, there will be peace in knowing that Jesus is leading you towards abundant fruits and graces. Thankfully for us, all we need to do is surrender control to Jesus. Will you let go of the reins today?