When the Wind Blows

I recall sitting in the wee hours of the morning listening to a sermon centred on Song of Solomon 4:16: “Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow ….”  I remember listening to the speaker and feeling wow… this verse is truly beautiful. I want to live this verse. I want the wind to blow upon me so that it will bring out my fragrance to the Lord. At the same time, I was fearful of what the wind might bring.

When I was feeling inexpressible peace and joy after my grandfather’s passing in September 2022, I wondered to myself, “Is God preparing me for something more challenging?”  There was a feeling that God was training me in prayer to trust in Him and that in the future, the wind would blow upon me.

Sure enough, come 2023, I developed Topical Steroid Withdrawal. It’s not eczema, but a rebound reaction caused by the use of topical corticosteroids. It is the worst thing that I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

I have been affected physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the early stages, physical discomfort made attending church services difficult, and I had to go home or stay home to attend online services. I frequently felt like I was on the verge of depression. The FB international support group either scared the living daylights out of me with posts of graphic photos or caused me misery with members posting their suicidal thoughts caused by their suffering.

I met our resident preacher for morning tea on 29th April 2024.  He encouraged me with Psalms 18:29: “For by you, I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.” I must run with the troops and eliminate them one by one. Looking back, it has felt like I’ve been battling through a series of challenges.

Though I considered various therapies, I could not see any benefit. None of them would lessen my suffering. There is no quick fix healing and a lot come with worse side effects than what I’m already experiencing. So I resolved to rely on prayer. As I read Psalms, two things were imprinted in my mind—to trust in God, not man and to WAIT for the Lord.

It has not been easy. Firstly, in the early stage in March 2023, my husband tried to take me to A&E when I suffered edema in my legs.  Thank God, after I told him, “No, please just read about this condition,” he did so and told me that I needed a lot of emotional support. In fact, many church members and friends asked if I had seen a doctor or recommended alternatives and told me that it would be fine to see a doctor as well as pray.

One sleepless night, I was texting my son. He then told me that a brother who was a GP suggested I consult a dermatologist. I replied that the last time I visited a dermatologist, she just told me to apply hydrocortisone on healthy skin as preventative treatment. I would only get prescribed stronger steroids. Topical Steroid Withdrawal is not recognised here.

Nonetheless, I decided to put it in prayer and ask God if I should see a doctor or keep relying on prayer. I was hoping that perhaps God would answer me with a dream as that was my mum’s recent experience. To my disappointment God did not respond with a dream.  At lunchtime, the following day (Sabbath day), a sister approached me, to tell me that the late Pr. Chin had told her that she must remember to tell me that he was praying for me. I believe that was God’s response to keep relying on prayer.

At a time when I was suffering a painful facial and neck flare, a sister, a virtual spiritual buddy, sent me a link to join the Ministry Volunteer Program in July 2023. They were accepting remote participants even though it was an in-person program. I had reservations about joining because of my physical condition. When I contemplated on it, I recalled a conversation with a sister in 2022. She had joined MVP 2022 remotely.  “Where were you?” she asked, “I was waiting for you.”  It reminded me that I had made a promise to God in 2021 to keep working in Literary Ministry.  I must uphold my promise. There was an encouragement from Pr. Kuo at MVP 2023 from 2 Timothy 4:5 to be “watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”  He exhorted us to endure physical or other sufferings.  We volunteered; therefore we must fulfil our role to the best of our ability. I felt as if he was talking directly to me.

By September 2023, pain, itching, insomnia, and the incessant flaking of my skin took its toll on me mentally.  One night whilst praying, I thought, “Maybe if I pray just a wee bit longer tonight, God might pour his healing balm on me in my sleep….” Suddenly, Proverbs 17:22 came to my mind: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I must pursue joy!  But how? It was easy to rejoice and not to worry about tomorrow when I faced health scares in the past because I was physically fine.  With physical suffering it isn’t easy at all. For a while, I had also questioned what it means that God’s grace is sufficient. I could not see it or perhaps I was too insolent to accept it?

A few weeks later, it finally dawned on me that God has only given me what I can bear!  I understood and was able to say with conviction that God’s grace is sufficient for me.  And that was how I found joy. I paid attention to the lyrics of the hymn God Paves the Way and realised how much I could relate. I had found peace.

In January 2024, I was infected with Eczema Herpeticum which is contagious and spreads quickly. I looked like I had walked through a poison fog as yellow pus oozed out of volcanic crater looking sores on my face, neck and décolleté. I thought, “O My goodness … God, why? I finally understood you gave me what I could bear, and you just pushed the bar up and I can’t bear it … Where are you? Can you please just show me that You are right here beside me?”

I was devastated. I was forlorn and I cried in prayer to God when I was home alone. I wondered if it was because God did not want me to teach playgroup and I was ready to just give up and not do it.  The GP had misdiagnosed me initially so the medication he prescribed was ineffective and the rash continued to spread. This occurred over the weekend, so the clinic was closed. I was anxious that I might be hospitalised as eczema herpeticum can lead to severe and life threatening complications. 

Once again God helped me to overcome my weaknesses; He changed my heart and my perspective amid a prayer. I felt peaceful and positive. I was able to continue with the preparatory work for playgroup. Since I had prayed to God for the doctor to have the wisdom to specifically treat my infection, I must have faith to entrust in God.

A week or so later, after the Short Term Theological Course was over, our resident preacher offered to pray with me. God embraced me again. He sent a preacher to reassure me of His presence.

On 25 April 2024, while I was struggling with intense itching and thinking the compulsion to scratch would never end, a Chinese children’s hymn popped into my mind: “I must always pray to Jesus, He will hear my voice in prayer. Jesus loves to hear me praying, I must pray. I must pray.”

During our family altar, on the evening of Tuesday, 30 April 2024, I was reading 2 Kings 5:11 where Namaan expected to be healed immediately; another realisation dawned on me—I was Namaan. I wanted God to miraculously heal me instantly. I wanted to leap over the wall but alas, I must run with the troops and keep persevering in prayer. 

If I leap over the wall, then I am not living the bible verse I so wanted to live. It is only by running with the troops that I can bring out my fragrance to the Lord.

Whenever I feel sad or overwhelmed, God sends brothers and sisters to encourage me and lift me up. God has allowed my husband to willingly support and bear with me. I find peace and joy from hymns, sermons, and devotionals.

God is my strength and song and my salvation. God is walking with me and leading me to fight against the giants in my life. I don’t know when God will heal me, I must continue to pray unceasingly with faith and wait for His time.

Last year, I was unwilling to have my name on the prayer list. I felt that I already had friends, family, and spiritual buddies praying for me, so it wasn’t necessary. However, after experiencing the herpeticum infection together with the emotional and spiritual struggle, I realised that it was necessary. It is through these intercessory prayers that I believe my skin has improved visually and I am able to be joyful. Sometimes, it is hard to focus on prayer when one is struggling physically and that is when we need the loving intercession of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I believe it is intercessory prayers that have helped me hold fast in faith and not fall into the deep dark depths of depression. The love of God abides within our church and in my heart.

The wind not only brings out the fragrance in our Christian life but allows us to bear fruit that is pleasing to the Lord. In our life, the wind will blow, but we need not fear, for the wind will only create fragrance.

May all glory be unto God. Hallelujah, Amen.

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