24 May, Tuesday — “I Am Here”

Tuesday of the 6th Week of Easter

Acts 16:22-34
Jn 16:5-11

But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here!”           

COVID-19 has really turned our lives on its head. Even though most countries have eased restrictions, life as we know it will not be quite the same anymore. Lives and livelihoods have been lost. Even as we yearn for a sense of normalcy, we are living life with uncertainty, wondering if there will be a next wave around the corner, or another mutation of the virus.

The impact of this pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of people, mentally and emotionally. So many cases of suicide and depression have made the headlines during this time. The isolation, the uncertainty, not being able to be with the people we love, the loss in livelihood… it is no surprise that the feelings of helplessness, uselessness, and being overwhelmed have driven many a person to his/her mental brink. I wish I could say God is the ‘cure-all’, which to an extent He is, but I know it is not that straightforward or easy.

Extrapolating our situation to the jailer in today’s reading, we are hardly dissimilar to him. Our lives and that of our loved ones are in our hands and sometimes, we can be faced with such situations that we see no end except for the ending of our own lives. Please, I implore you, don’t. That is not a solution at all, not one with happy consequences. The thought of public humiliation that the jailer possibly faced for losing all the prisoners under his watch was so disheartening that death seemed the quickest way out. That is not the choice that God wanted for him, and that is not the choice that God wants for us either.

The apostle Paul stayed the jailer’s hand by assuring him that they were “all here”. Firstly, he wanted to assure that all was actually well, the jailer had not lost a single prisoner even though the ground beneath his feet trembled and the walls around him had crumbled. And true enough, when the jailer shone his torch closely, he saw that Paul was right. Secondly, I would like to believe that Paul meant that the jailer was not alone. In the darkness, the jailer heard a cry of reassurance: “We are all here!” I find some comfort in those words, words to say that we are not alone, that we have others standing with us, and we have not been forsaken, even in our darkest hour.

“What must I do to be saved?” asked the jailer, to which Paul and Silas said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus”. I know there are some sceptics out there who will say that saying such things is hardly a solution to our problems. No, it isn’t, I agree. But it is the start of the solution. It is the lifting of the burden from our hearts when we know that God has sent us someone to stop us from going mental, and that we certainly do not have to bear this on our own. It is the relief from a hundred worries of how, what, when, and where that clamour in our minds, knowing now that we have help. All the prayers that we didn’t dare or know how to utter but somehow got heard, that is the weight that has now been lifted, knowing that it is Jesus who bears us instead. And He will bear us to safer shores.

I cannot deny some of us have problems bigger and more serious than others, perhaps even beyond our understanding or empathy. Maybe we can’t speak of it because of its magnitude, or it has a stigma. But it is when we feel that no one can help that God will send someone to help us. We may fear being judged, but God’s grace is impartial, His mercy limitless, His love endless.

Don’t lose sight in the darkness of your problems, even in these bleakest of days. Look a little closer instead, and we will probably hear God say, “I am here.”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for this world stricken by pandemic and war. We pray for it to end and for healing to begin. We pray for those who feel helpless or forsaken, those who feel lonely, exhausted, unappreciated, unloved. We pray for help for them, and that they may always feel your presence to guide them back from the brink.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for those who have come to our aid. The guardian angels that you have sent when we least expected it. And in receiving such help, may we also be able to be bearers of love, light and aid to those who need it.

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