Part 3: Abyss.

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This 2-year prison for my body and for my soul is the period that I call the “Abyss”.

The last post entiled Part 2: Pariah saw how I slowly got to this point.

In this Abyss, I had to retreat into my imagination since I had been expelled from the “real world”. In my imagination, I put God on trial. “How could you betray me?” “Are you even who you say you are?” “The atheists were right, you don’t exist.” “How can I solve my problems if there is no God, the best medicines money can buy can’t solve it?” “Maybe I need to pray, even if I don’t feel anything.” “I hate you.” “But I need you.”

Despair led to pleading to God for help. Pleading to God led to a sense of betrayal. A sense of betrayal led me to try to do anything to make meaning out of my life… like reading.

I would try to read as many books as though knowledge would give me meaning. From the atheist books like “God is not great” by Hitchens, to the Bible, to Phillip Yancey’s The Jesus I never knew, Freakanomics by Gladwell, and eventually tens to twenties of books of the financial markets, like the Intelligent Investor by Ben Graham. I read books from philosophy to Harry Potter. Every month I would go to the book shop, under the cover of the cool darkness of the evening, and buy a couple of books. By the end of those 2 years, my library would literally have more than a hundred books.

When the knowledge of books didn’t bring me any lasting answers, I would drown my waking hours watching trashy entertainment on YouTube, or playing computer games. World of Warcraft (WOW) was what I played the most. After 30 weeks of playing it, the biggest thing I learned is that WOW hunters are really squishy, and that two clan members, one from USA and the other from Australia, can actually fall in love even though they never met in person. She cheated on him weeks later, of course, and in the game, he and I perched on a high mountain overlooking Azeroth as he poured out his woes to me.

But when reading hubris, or playing roleplaying games didn’t bring any lasting satisfaction, I would end up in despair again. Forcing me to contemplate begging God for help. But how could I? He betrayed me. I felt like a battered wife going back to her abusive husband because she had no choice… he pays the bills and I would starve without him. The best doctors couldn’t save me so if there really wasn’t a God then I was truly doomed. This despair – seeking God – feeling betrayed – doing hubris to distract – cycle would repeat again. At least over 100 times in that decade. My mind was so abused that even today, years after my redemption started, I still have a form of PTSD. Some memories are triggered by even mundane things, and tears might flow uncontrollably, or I might freeze in my tracks for a while.

BUT.

With each cycle, and as madness loomed around the corner, my knowledge of God and my place in the world would increase, unknowingly.

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Finding Grace in the Darkness

This Abyss, the place of being forgotten, is also the exact place I would find a priceless treasure. What the enemy intended for evil, God can turn it to your good. WIth God, destroyed foundations can be rebuilt into something bigger, better and can withstand the tests of time. This would be the place that I saw Jesus in a deeper way that I couldn’t appreciate fully over 30 years of being a Christian. You could say that new revelations about Him suddenly brought a newness of relationship with Him.

The biggest revelation, I think, was Biblical Grace, and who Jesus really was. As the revelations increased, and my relationship with God matured, my world, internally and externally, would start to reverse itself. God would literally do what decades of medical specialists couldn’t do. My eczema would start to get better, and over the years, I would require less medicines to be stable.(3) Financial and career blessings came out from nowhere.

A significant part of the book will be to detail my experience in Abyss, the truths about Jesus and grace, and how as I was fighting this spiritual war, God would, in God fashion (beyond imagination) restore what was lost. Today, I am still in the progress of that restoration, just as I am still learning about Jesus, in fear and excitement.

I write this today, just finished my 3-year contract as a senior financial and business analyst in a large Radiology group, outperformed the broad market index in the financial markets for the last 5 years as a stock investor, now in my new house in Perth, dropping my immuno-suppressant levels to the lowest in 20 years and about to marry a wonderful Christian girl. These were things both I, as well as the outsiders, thought simply impossible just a decade back. (6)

The results of my spiritual journey in the Abyss “leaked” into the real world.
These spiritual lessons that captured my imagination during the Abyss literally started to leak out into the real world, just as Jesus hoped for us when He asked us to pray that God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Biblical grace that started as an idea started working in my life. The more I saw who Jesus was, the more my life would start to align itself towards a shalom peace, and a supply for my needs.

Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21)

What exactly is Biblical Grace? Click here for more.

The grace I’ve been exposed to in the past seem either unrealistically sterile or self-ego driven. They either offered little comfort in light of the senseless futility, or it overpromised because of positivity or word of faith. But the Grace I discovered is different … it’s alive, far from sterile and it’s powered by God’s heart and centered around His will for us and not our selfish ambitions.

My observation of this grace and Jesus seemed to affect my reality itself. The physics teacher in me reminded me of quantum theory. One of the most bizarre premises of quantum theory, which has long fascinated philosophers and physicists alike, states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality.

When we see Biblical Grace clearly, Grace starts to affect your reality – you and the circumstances around you. Perhaps one way of describing it is God’s will in heaven superimposing your world on earth. I’ll write much more about this, as I’ve seen this is real life, where an unwinnable circumstance melted into beautiful possibilities, as heaven imposed its will on the world around me. All the while, God was teaching me more about His love for me in Jesus. Two worlds were colliding inside me.

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Biblical Grace is very unintuitive when compared to other forms of “worldly grace.” Biblical grace is not “positivity”, “the new age law of attraction”, or “only a ticket to heaven while you suffer on earth”. Grace stems from the heart of Jesus for you, not from your works. It is a gift, and not something you earn. But to understand the heart of Jesus, you have to see how different He is from others.

Click here to see how Jesus is the subject of over 300 Old Testament Prophecies, and how He uniquely sets Himself apart from other gods.

I remembered my reaction as I started to understanding Jesus more … He was truly so counterintuitive that I could never have made him up. Jesus set Himself up to… die? Yet, He was everything inside of me that I wish I could be. Once I saw more of Him, I realized that no one else I knew personally, or in history comes close to winning my heart.

The award-winning journalist Phillip Yancey sums up the uniqueness of Jesus in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Jesus is radically unlike anyone else who has ever lived. The difference, in Charles WIlliams’ phrase, is the difference between “one who is an example of living and one who is the life itself.” (5)

As radically unlike Jesus is to anyone else that lived, so is His grace that He brings.

The difference, in Charles WIlliams’ phrase, is the difference between “one who is an example of living and one who is the life itself.”

Real Biblical Grace is uncontrollable by you, it comes at your worst, not at your best. It doesn’t come at your emotional highs, or how high people in church esteem you. It can come when you are a nobody like Joseph in his prison, or when the world despises you like Job. Both these biblical heroes would have failed the positivity/faith calling test and both of these people are the ones I am greatly engrossed by. This is the greatest comfort for the sufferer, especially for those who think their situations are irredeemable. It matters not whether the situation was exacerbated by your mistakes or by the mistakes of others. The more you come to the end of yourself and your ego, the more room you give God to work. And God’s work ultimate results in abundance as a byproduct. (John 10:10)

A short description of “abundance” is that it consists of all the promises made to you through the finished works of Jesus Christ. If you are struggling, your natural inclination is to quickly solve your problems as fast as possible. Resist this temptation first. Fight the war inside of you first before trying to put out all the fires that are external. You will win the war inside when your soul finally intimately knows the heart of the One who created you, and know just how He is for you. The prosperity of your soul that occurs when we sacrifice time to discover this will leak into the physical. (3 John 1:2). It’s like when we look at God with curious eyes and a seeking heart, God looks back at us and active redemption starts working behind the scenes.

Simply put, once we accept Jesus’ sacrifice that atones for our sins, and want to know Him more, Biblical Grace starts working in our lives. Transforming it from the inside out. From your soul and thought life, to your behavior, to the circumstances around you too.

More importantly, Real Biblical Grace can be seen more clearly from hindsight, and when framed by real, not imaginary, difficulty; just as the stars framed by darkness can be even more clearly seen. So do not despise all the adversities in totally, they can have a purpose. Your darkness will not last forever.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.” Annie Dillard

My Abyss period that the enemy wished for my destruction caused me to look for Jesus and His Grace in a deeper way that was impossible to see without the darkness to bring out clarity in contrast.

The long senseless suffering of the Abyss twisted my mind into fatalism, like a chess player that has an unwinnable position but is forced to find a winning move (that doesn’t exist). But the person of Jesus freed my mind to become more like an artist whose mind was free to create and explore possibilities, possibly daring to believe that my life was like a canvas, and even ugly individual strokes could eventually be made into a masterpiece.

My rebound would start moving tangibly from this point.

I write this today, just finished my 3-year contract as a senior financial and business analyst in a large Radiology group, outperformed the broad market index in the financial markets for the last 5 years as part-time stock investor, now in my new house in Perth, dropping my immuno-suppressant levels to the lowest in 20 years and about to marry a wonderful Christian girl. These were things both I, as well as the outsiders, thought simply impossible just a decade back.

I write this today, just finished my 3-year contract as a senior financial and business analyst in a large Radiology group, outperformed the broad market index in the financial markets for the last 5 years as part-time stock investor, now in my new house in Perth, dropping my immuno-suppressant levels to the lowest in 20 years and about to marry a wonderful Christian girl. These were things both I, as well as the outsiders, thought simply impossible just a decade back.

My point of giving up, is also where I found the most precious treasure.

Would we expect any different? Jesus’ darkest moment on the cross was not his defeat, but the start of a great victory. As He is, so are we in the world. (1 John 4:17)

In my imagination, as I put God on trial, I declared God guilty of betrayal and slammed down the judge’s hammer in a judgment. I thought I would forever shut Him away in a cell, never to hear from Him again… and yet when I look down, I found my hammer was the instrument nailing Christ’s hands to the cross. I judged him, He understood and saved me anyway.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Is 53:5)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)

My hope is that as I start writing my major story arc, you’ll see the $5.32 story serves as a starting bookend of a long journey characterized by long darkness and a couple shows of stars before the sun rises. God had to show me His heart first before I would be ready to be tested to the brink.

I suppose my story is a couple of smaller story arcs, umbrellaed by the larger story arc of the declining health till capitulation.

From an Ivy League school graduate with a great life trajectory to losing it all, and being made to feel irrelevant by the people who were not supposed to.

Irrelevance is the greatest fear all men have, and we fight tooth and nail to prevent this for usually once a person hits total irrelevance, there is almost no way back; for the net total of the circumstances cause it in the first place seem unwinnable, or else you wouldn’t have been made totally irrelevant in the first place. It is a fearful and yet wonderful experience knowing to have been brought to this place and yet I lived to tell the tale.

Look at all the biblical characters that had a relationship with God and fell into the deepest pits … Joseph, Job, Jesus. What do they have in common? All their stories are also the biggest story of grace and redemption. With the deepest pits come forth the greatest stories of redemption. Do you feel like dying? In Jesus, with death comes new life. The darkness can spawn new hope. A stream can be found in the wasteland.

When the advent of the full journey of redemption comes, I call this the event the sun rising in that long Antarctican winter night.

So it turns out the $5.32 story wasn’t dumb and naive after all but served as just a small part of a larger story.

The $5.32 story wasn’t naive or dumb after all but served as a small part of a larger story.

And my final chapter in my redemptive journey will harken back to this moment – where an 8-year-old gave God his world, and God remembered their covenant and built a new world using the ruins of 30 years, as the 8-year-old learned more and more about Jesus and Grace.

Checkov’s gun indeed.

Are you in a pit now?

Bury yourself with His grace and I know the day will come when Grace will carry you till you can say, just like the Psalmist David, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

So be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord….

Does this encourage you? It will get better as we tie it all together in the final next post, Part 4: Rorscharch.

 

Footnotes:

(3) From the age of 9 to 34, my eczema kept getting worse and I had to use 300mg a day of an immunosuppressant, today, I am only using 50mg. None of the specialists that I have met have seen a case like mine, where someone’s eczema was so severe that he had to use that level of immunosuppressant for close to a decade, to get better to the point of reducing it to 50mg. The last doctor that saw me this year remarked that I am doing very well and she is “not so concerned” with my low dosage. She actually couldn’t believe how the eczema got better without a change in medicines. She tried to justify my recovery as me “having less stress”, or some other environmental factor. This is patently false, because my recovery started at the worst time in my life, not when things were looking up. The only thing that changed was that I came to the end of myself, and found a Jesus I never knew, and determined that I will be obedient to Him who holds my life in His hands. I didn’t change my medical routines. But human institutions will always have confirmation bias to protect their sacred domains of knowledge. You cannot challenge it else it will undermine all they have studied, and by extension, their pocketbooks, stature and mystique. The last specialist who was considered very experienced and accredited, even sent me to a psychologist because he couldn’t believe that his treatments were not enough to help me. Hence, the problem has to be me.

(4) Even today, years after the start of my redemption, I still have a form of PTSD of the mental anguish.

(5) Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew (p. 258). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

(6) In just one particular smaller story arc 4 years ago, in 2015, as my redemption was starting to pick up, I developed a quantitative model that predicted major turning points in a particular asset class by God’s grace. I couldn’t have developed it without meeting the right people at the right thing, having the right random conversations at the right time, and getting hold of the right information at the right time. God was definitely there to connect all those dots. When it was finally developed, I suddenly had the courage to email a prominent stock market analysis service for feedback. Imagine how humbled and amazed I was when instead of feedback, they wanted to license it from me. It was such a validation! This would be one of the stepping stones that accelerated my progress in my career. It literally doubled my pay. When I contrast this to how old college acquaintances thought me too unworthy for even an internship in finance, it reminded me that even if the world turns its back, God still has the backs of His children


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