By JT Chen, Singapore
One morning in December 2019, what started out as a normal trip to the bathroom turned into a literal bloody nightmare.
I had just given birth a week before. It was normal to bleed postpartum, but at that point there was simply too much blood gushing out of me, so my husband rushed me to the hospital.
It felt like an eternity as I waited for the doctor to arrive, my blood soaking the sheet of the hospital bed I was lying on. After undergoing a procedure, the doctor told me that I had contracted a rare infection in the womb that led to the postpartum haemorrhage. This condition affects about 1 to 5 of 100 women who give birth.
It took me about a month to physically recover from the massive loss of blood, but it took longer to recover mentally and emotionally. Every time I used the bathroom, I would remember how blood surged out of me and covered the floor. What if this happens again? What if I bleed to death?
Yet during my moments of fear, God always had an apt word to comfort, correct, or challenge me. Many of us think that faith and fear cannot co-exist, as if a faithful Christian should not feel a tinge of fear. However, fear is often a fertile ground for faith to flourish.
Whenever I felt afraid, it was a prompting for me to take God at His word. And every time I decided to obey in faith, I felt the shackles of anxiety loosen, bit by bit.
And so, from this struggle with fear, I came to learn three hard but gracious truths.
I ain’t got this, but I can walk by His power
“You got this” is a common phrase people like to tell themselves and others so that they can have some semblance of control. I was no different. But my optimism quickly fizzled when I found myself out of my depth.
As a new mother, I was battling many challenges—pain down there, sleepless nights, breastfeeding woes, and the constant anxiety that I would make wrong decisions that would damage my child for life. To top it all off, there was Covid-19.
The stress and the fear of the unknown rattled me. I ain’t got this.
Humbled by the limitations of my strength and wisdom, I learnt to lean on God, who promises His power when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:9) and His wisdom when we are clueless (James 1:5-8).
With His wisdom, I found ways to manage my time and complete my work and studies. With His guidance, I was able to make sense of advice I found on Google or heard from people. Through trial and error, I tried my hardest to make each decision for the good of my child.
Leaning on God was a moment-by-moment endeavour. Isaiah 40:30-31 was particularly reassuring. Most people tend to focus on the “soaring like an eagle” part, but that was too lofty a goal for me. I was just glad to hear the reassurance that those who trust God will find the strength to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint.
In my daily struggles, I could only see myself walking, hoping that I would not faint. I prayed for strength to change the next diaper or to give the next feed. Whether it was slowly recovering from the haemorrhage, or simultaneously working and caring for my baby during the lockdown, I needed God’s strength to walk, sometimes limp, through the day.
And God never fails to deliver. Every day He releases an unceasing flow of grace, enabling me to do His will even when I feel weak and limited.
I may have more hard times ahead, but I can rest in His care
For some time, every decision I made was tainted by the fear of “what-ifs”. At one point, I considered skipping church services altogether because I thought, “What if my baby contracts Covid from others?”
Out of loving concern, my husband confronted me with a rhetorical question, “Are you a Christian or not?” This might sound harsh, but it was the wake-up call I needed. My husband knew my journey with God, and he saw the need to rebuke the fearfulness in me.If I could not trust God to do what was good for me in the midst of uncertainty, could I really claim to be a believer?
I realised that I do not want to live as if I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. My tendency to catastrophise must yield to my trust in God’s sovereign care. I may still feel fear, but I did not have to let it dictate my life.
As I prayed, I came to a deeper conviction that God, not the virus, was in control. Nothing can happen to me unless God says so, and no matter what happens, I will still be in God’s good hands.
It is helpful to prepare ourselves for the worst, for the Bible tells us to expect trials and tribulations (1 Peter 4:12). But if we are preoccupied with bracing ourselves for bad things to come, we will not be able to do God’s will because we are too busy trying to protect ourselves from danger.
It is like driving. We prepare for accidents by putting on our seat belts and making sure that the brakes are working properly. With safety precautions in place, we drive to our desired destination. But we cannot drive well if we’re constantly shielding ourselves with our hands and bracing for impact.
Spiritually, we prepare for the worst by obeying God and trusting in Him every day (Matthew 7:24-27). This way, we put our faith to work, so that we can have an unwavering faith to withstand the storms of life.
No matter what’s ahead, God’s heartening promise to watch over us (Matthew 6:25-30) frees us from worrying and allows us to rest. By resting in Him, we are enabled to pursue His purpose (Matthew 6:33).
Through my struggle with fear, I am convinced that hardships are a gift that opens my heart to experience God’s grace in profound ways, as I continue to discover and fulfil God’s purpose for me as a mother.
I may not survive, but I will be in His presence
My physical health scare became a spiritual health check as it forced me to examine whether I really believed the Word of God. During my scariest moments, I found both a comfort and a challenge in Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
If I truly trust the Scripture, then I need not fear because whether I live or die, I will run into the goodness of God. If I live, I can exalt Christ through my roles as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and worker. If I die, I will be with Christ. Finally seeing my Lord who gave His life for me, who loves me for all that I am – the reunion would be more beautiful than I can possibly imagine.
Some may ask, “Aren’t you afraid to leave your family behind when you die?” I think, when the day comes and God takes me into His presence, I may be sad knowing that I could no longer take care of my family. However, I would be comforted knowing that God will do a far better job than I ever could in loving them.
Whether I live or die, I am immersed in the grace of God. Therefore, during my finite time on earth, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9b).”