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, and this newness changed me on the inside, attracted supply and blessings, and purpose started to emerge.
I found Grace in that darkness. A treasure at the bottom of the dark ocean. See my last post – Part 3: Abyss.
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 lesser concentrations of medicines to be stable. Financial and career blessings came out from nowhere.
Even if I did recover, I was too old and too irrelevant to rebuild my career or too unattractive physically to attract a mate. I would rather the disease continue to get worse and take me home. At least I would have my rest in heaven, or if there were no heaven, even nothingness is better than living in a world that has left me behind.
But what I never could expect is that God could indeed hit the “reset” button. Not only did healing come – my immune system started to get better without any new medicines or treatments but rather on a steady diet of focusing on Jesus every day, and deciding to be obedient to whatever God wanted me to do, no matter how small or insignificant. I read as many books about life and Jesus, I meditated on His word. I would pray with others, I would declare healing on others even when I wasn’t healed yet at all (it was ballsy and many thought I was nuts – imagine a man full of sores and blood stains proclaiming healing on people!). I couldn’t go to church, but I would write letters to encourage those who were also forgotten. I did these things because I knew this pleased Jesus’ heart. These were my 5 loaves and 2 fish. But when placed in Jesus’ hands, and done unto Jesus, these small things are multiplied to bless others as well as the person who gave of his resources. As I gained in revelations about Jesus, it was like a new world invaded the cursed world I was in. This Kingdom of God is a reverse of the natural world of sin and scarcity we live in. The more I came unfettered to the real Jesus, the more I had no choice but fall in humility, and humility attracts grace, and grace works out salvation in your life. This salvation brings healing, breakthrough, and freedom.
Simply put, seeing Jesus causes humility, humility attracts grace, grace causes restoration and blessing to accomplish God’s purpose.
Redemption is seen best on hindsight if it weren’t for the Abyss and what God led me to do in that dark place, I wouldn’t have flourished in the financial markets and wouldn’t be in this place of relevance. The “wasted” years turned out to have a purpose.
As I sought after God by exploring Jesus, God was working behind the scenes bringing purpose to those dark places. As I grew in my revelations of Jesus, beauty was being woven into the fabric of my story.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecc 3:11)
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)
No doctor healed me. No new miracle drug. God provided me wisdom at the right moments to learn what to do in the financial crisis and make the wise bets in the stock market. God also led a CEO in the US to hire me as a senior business analyst doing in house consulting when I have no prior experience in this field. I went from entry level financial analyst work, to higher level business consulting. My salary literally doubled.
As I sit back in this home in Perth, alone, because I have given Him the next 6 months of my life; I realized that when I calculated what this home is worth, it is actually more than what I would have saved if I had continued to be a teacher or engineer for the last 10 years that I lost. I wasn’t shortchanged. And now I understand this word God gives to His people:
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten … And My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:25-26)
No man can do this but the Lord. He lives outside time, and can supernaturally restore to you all the wasted time you have spent in fear, worry, doubt, guilt, condemnation, sickness, and bondage. Whether you have lost precious time, a relationship dear to you, or if you’ve suffered a debilitating illness that has robbed you of your health or your youth, or all like myself, all three?!, let His Word strengthen your heart today.
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.
Today, I am still in the progress of that restoration, just as I am still learning about Jesus, in fear and excitement.
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)
When we see Biblical Grace clearly, Grace starts to affect your reality – you and the circumstances around you. I’ll write much more about this in the book or in another series, where in my life the 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.
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.
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, and you will see it most clearly at your worst times, 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 inside you. And God’s work inside you 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. When times get really tough, remember that the darkness can have a purpose and it will not last forever. (Even though it seems like it would.)
“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.
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)
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, everything looks different.
Seeing the people that hurt us through the lens of grace.
I think the darkest part of the Abyss was when I felt misunderstood and rejected by the Christian leaders. I learned that if one is rejected by the representatives of God long enough, it is only a matter of time before he thinks he is being rejected by God himself.
In the darkest part of this Abyss, I had to retreat into my imagination since that’s pretty much all I had left. In my imagination, I put God on trial. “How could you betray me?” “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.” “I need you.”
So many conflicting thoughts leading to cognitive dissonance.
The rejection by people made me feel indignant. Not because they have criticisms for me, but because I felt that much of it was unfounded and self-centered. One hurtful comment came from a family member who kept telling me that it was irresponsible of me to keep taking Ciclosporin. “How can you keep taking it? Don’t you know it will kill you? So many other people I know with eczema cope without it, why can’t you?” This person, like many, condemns me for taking this treatment path but was totally unable to provide a solution. This reminds me of the Law of Moses. It condemns you and points out your shortcomings, but offers no solution.
But seeing how limited the world is only made me see how Jesus is the complete opposite. He doesn’t condemn, He saves. The Abyss drove me to Jesus.
Then I realized that for most, people are quick to fit your situation into a box that they can understand so that it will validate the life that they have spent all that time building. Imagine
I remembered what some of them said.
“Ken, you would be better off if you had the discipline to follow the doctor’s instructions.”
“Ken, you obviously are too lazy to take care of yourself.”
“Ken, someone your age should have had a career by now.”
Let me reinterpret what they were actually saying.
“Ken, you would be better off if you had the discipline to follow the doctor’s instructions, like me.”
“Ken, you obviously are too lazy to take care of yourself. I’m doing well because I’m not lazy.”
“Ken, someone your age should have had a career by now. Like me.”
In a way, I was crushed in order to validate other people’s personal idea of self-righteousness.
Yet, didn’t Jesus, the God we follow, go through the exact same thing, except much worse? How could, in reality, the most perfect person to exist be accused of being a criminal? How could God be accused of being a devil? To the Christian, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Counselor, Merciful Son of God. Yet, to the early Jewish establishment that were blinded to this, the Talmud calls him “as a frivolous disciple who practiced magic, and turned to idolatry” (Sanh 107b) and was a “bastard born of adultery” (Yebamoth 49b). They had no choice but to box Him as such, for even daring to investigate Jesus just a little further might mean having to dismantle everything important they built their life and self-righteousness on.
But years later, once I experienced restoration, I look back and understand that we all have limitations. Their responses are their ways of responding to those limitations when triggered by events that uncover those insecurities. One very dear and intelligent Christian leader in training both admired me and was afraid to talk to me at the same time. Unlike the others, we had many deep conversations and prayed for each other. She recognized a lot of myself in her, she thought I possessed a real depth in my soul, she knew I tried to walk in God’s promises even during rejection and sickness; but the idea that such a person whom she knew Jesus once favored could be cursed in such unwinnable fashion was too horrible to even think about.
If even such an empathetic, intelligent Christian girl who knew me well was afraid to face a possible dark reality that my suffering implied, how much can I expect of others? Imagine if we were always told that all people who attended the top university always do well, and then you suddenly found many of those university alumni who did badly in life later. How would it make you feel about yourself, and all the things you thought would bring you success? It’s easier to assume they did something wrong than to have the mental fortitude to make changes to our worldview, especially if you have been investing your time, money and ago in that worldview. As I became fluent in understanding my own limitations and place before God, I understood more of Henri Houwen, reflections on healing:
You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.
– Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, Understanding the Limitation of Others
I think this is what Joseph, now governor, felt when he saw his brothers that betrayed him all those years ago again. God’s restoration of Joseph can be measured not just by his wealth and position, but by the way Joseph was emotionally affected by his brothers’ betrayal. Remembrance of his brothers went from evoking bitterness to a bittersweet realization of how flawed all of us humans are, and how much we need God to give our lives meaning. When God gives us a taste of his abundance, we see how all of us, even those that betray us, are in great lack.
And, in the silence, if I am honest with myself, did I treated other people that I didn’t understand the same way? Did I try to box someone in based on my own limited knowledge and experience? Did I put enough effort into exploring before rushing to judgment? I knew that I too have been guilty of exactly this as well.
God’s redemption allows us to recognize the full extent of hurts dealt to us, and eventually to forgive others and forgive ourselves. It is not characterized by ignorance, but real strength. When God’s redemption fully runs it’s course, it causes us to be outward-looking, not inward-looking.
We started out with an idealistic story about a kid’s $5.32 gift for God that was rewarded in a heartwarming way, forging a relationship with Him. But this story turned so dark that for many years, the $5.32 was like a cruel joke – a dumb naivety.
But 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. WIth God, it’s always about the 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?
So was Joseph and Jesus. As He is, so you are in this world. God had a plan in that pit.
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 5: Rorscharch.
(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