How does one navigate a complete lack of control over one’s situation? When he was diagnosed with COVID, Xie Jiahao learned a precious lesson about placing it all in God’s hands.
Surviving an illness is not just a battle for the body, but for the mind and soul as well. For those who test positive for COVID-19, the battle is lonely. They are isolated in the hospital or recovery centers, and they only get to see their families electronically. What goes through their minds in such moments? What personal demons do they have to face?
It is also a battle for one’s faith. City Harvest member, Xie Jiahao, 37, went through this ordeal. He shares honestly about how he could not find the faith to believe for his own healing until he finally decided to let go and let God.
You were away from your family for 51 days! Tell us how it began.
It all started when I wanted to comfort my bereaved friend, who had just lost his wife. He had just returned from the UK and was staying alone in a rented apartment. All I wanted to do was to show my support by staying over at his place and by helping him with the funeral arrangements.
My wife, Jayme, was supportive of it since we are all close friends. We knew there was a risk, but we felt there was a greater need to be there for our friend.
All I planned for was a one-week stay. When my friend tested positive for COVID-19 on Mar 22, I had to make the brutal decision of whether to serve my 14-day quarantine order at home or away from home. What I didn’t know at that point was that that would be the last decision I could make in this predicament, because the rest was, in a way, no longer a matter of choice. Since my friend was hospitalized, he kindly let me serve my quarantine in his apartment after it had been disinfected. That one-week stay had extended to three weeks.
One week into my quarantine, I started to develop mild symptoms. It started with a sore throat, became a cough and eventually, a low-grade fever of 37.8 C. As I was a PUQ (Person Under Quarantine), any movement out of my designated quarantine location has to be escorted by the authorities. I alerted MOH about my symptoms and was sent to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in an ambulance for a nasal swab test. Thereafter, I was sent back to my designated location with the escort of an auxiliary police vehicle.
The next day I was informed of the swab test result—I had COVID. I felt my world shatter. I started claiming the promises of God. Being one of the earlier cases (Case 865), I didn’t know how this would pan out. There was little information about the recovery rate. Pastor Kong (Hee, CHC’s senior pastor) and (his wife) Sun got to know about it. They sent me an audio clip with a prayer for me and assured me that God is always with me.
But at that point, it was hard to even think about personal healing, much less believe in it, when my friend just passed away from cancer. But Sun encouraged me that we must believe that though Heaven and Earth will pass away, God’s word will stand forever. He is sovereign and He has clearly instructed us to believe and pray for healing. We can only surrender and trust Him for the healing.
Subsequently, many close friends and loved ones also sent me Bible verses, prayers by text message and audio clips of them praying for me. When I came to the end of myself, I leaned on their prayers and encouragement to hold my hands up in surrender to God. I am really grateful to many who were there for me during this very difficult period. Jayme and I never felt that we were alone in this ordeal—we were overwhelmed by our friends’ support, not just in prayers, but also practical acts of love like food deliveries almost every other day for the last 52 days.
Your family is very close-knit, and you adore your children. This year you had to miss both your kids’ and your own birthday celebration. That must have been very tough for you and your family.
I was admitted to NCID on the week of my daughter’s sixth birthday. As the news was still quite fresh for everyone, one of my worries was how the kids would cope. Daddy was supposed to be home after one week, but after three weeks, Daddy was now in the hospital.
Days before my daughter’s birthday, Jayme had asked her what cake she would like. I made a confident guess that she would choose Elsa from Frozen 2. With a heavy heart, Jayme told me over WhatsApp that my daughter wanted a cake with a family picture of Daddy, Mommy, her brother and herself under a rainbow.
I was so moved. That was when I realized my absence during her birthday had hurt her deeply. Even though there were many deliveries from friends on her birthday, she broke down in Jayme’s arms before bed because her Daddy wasn’t around.
Some people might ask how a good God can allow such bad things to happen to good people, especially His own children. Did that question cross your mind?
We all live in a fallen world, with a fallen body. God allows us to be sick, but we are also instructed by God to lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. I thought I had established that principle through my Christian walk but I didn’t follow what I knew. Instead, I started to doubt my own healing.
As time passed, I began to have a very strong need to know the trajectory of my illness. In the initial phase, I was told that it would take about 10 days. As the “deadline” approached, it got extended: first, it became two weeks, then four weeks, and subsequently six weeks. I even lost my composure during one of the swab test results, and the healthcare worker had to arrange for a counselor from the National Care Hotline to speak to me.
You had reached rock bottom. What happened after that? What changed?
I wanted so badly to know how much longer this was going to take, so that I could pace myself in this battle. But my turning point came when I came across an article by a patient in China who is still in isolation after 70 days.
At that moment, instead of wanting to know, wanting to be in control, I loosened the grip on my life.
I totally shut the news out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t belittle the need to gain knowledge. Yes, we need to know who God is and what is happening in the world. But my revelation at that point was that I didn’t need to conform to what the doctors and world were telling me, specifically predictions of when I would be out of this predicament.
I went on a full fast, abstaining from food. I told God that I would fast and seek His face until the day I am discharged. For me, that was whole new level of surrender. I thought I had surrendered to His sovereignty in the past, but this was total abandonment. Because of that, I became so sensitive to God’s love. Throughout the day I would just soak in His presence and let His love wash over me.
Did you feel that the whole ordeal was unfair, since you started out wanting to do good?
Psalms 41:1, 3-4 (TPT) reads, “God always blesses those who are kind to the poor and helpless. They’re the first ones God helps when they find themselves in any trouble…When they are sick, God will restore them, lying upon their bed of suffering. He will raise them up again and restore them back to health.”
I know God is still with me. We can never fully understand His plan for every individual, but we can be assured that He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep (Ps 121:4 NIV) He is at work all the time in the background for He promises a future and a hope for every one of us.
Tell us about your journey with God during your isolation period.
I had a shift from “conform” to “transform” by having my mind renewed in the Word of God. As I studied Psalms, I began to identify with David and his sufferings and how he lived out Romans 12:2, constantly praising the Lord in the midst of his adversities.
The song “The Blessing” (by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, Steven Furtick and Chris Brown) was on repeat throughout my days. Because of the lyrics of the song, which are based on Numbers 6:24-26, I began to study Moses in the Bible. In Exodus 14, the people asked Moses, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” My constant cry to God before my turning point was also to let me go back to my “Egypt”–let me join in the Circuit Breaker, don’t let me die here!
Little did I know that my answer was in the next verse, “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
It was then when I had the revelation that the “Egypt” that I wanted to return to, I will never see again. The Lord was, and still is, bringing me to a new normal, with a renewed mind.
You can read Jayme’s experience, which was featured in the Straits Times on May 9, 2020.