Embers of Transformation: Finding Jesus in the Time of Pandemic

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Shadab Yunis Hakim

Embers of Transformation: Finding Jesus in the Time of Pandemic

  MISSIOLOGICAL THINKING(MT)

Amidst the tumultuous era of the pandemic year, a journey of profound significance unfolded—my path toward Jesus. As I contemplated the presence of COVID-19 in our lives, questions swirled within me, questioning why a loving God would allow such a devastating affliction. Yet, a realization dawned upon me, whispering the truth that God, in His infinite wisdom, often permits hardship to draw us closer to His Son, Jesus. Through His divine power, He transforms the darkest trials into blessings beyond measure.

In the early days of January 2021, a debilitating illness struck me amid the relentless grip of COVID-19. It is through the lens of this sickness that I recount the tale of my encounter with Jesus, a journey that would forever alter the course of my existence. As the pages of my tale unfurl, the scene is set amidst the dawning of a new year. In the blessed halls of Christ Church, my family and I congregated, seeking solace within the embrace of faith. Our spirits uplifted, and we ventured forth to a nearby park, where a tranquil respite awaited. There, in the gentle warmth of the sun's rays, we ordered a delectable feast of pizzas, summoning them to our location through the marvels of technology, Food Panda, the courier of our desires. Within the clutches of a winter season cloaked in an icy embrace, I felt the chilling breath of nature upon my skin, mirroring the trials that had befallen humanity. In those days, the collective suffering of countless souls filled the air, their lives upended by the relentless onslaught of the unforgiving virus, COVID-19, reigning supreme.

Yet, little did I know that amidst the turmoil and affliction, a divine plan was unfurling, weaving the tapestry of my destiny. It was during that period of sickness, shrouded in the cloak of COVID-19, that the seeds of transformation were sown within my heart.

With great anticipation, I invite you to embark upon this narrative, to journey alongside me as I recount the tale of my encounter with Jesus amid the depths of my sickness. Prepare to witness the awe-inspiring power of divine intervention, as a chapter of my life unfolds—a chapter that would forever alter the fabric of my being, and ignite the flame of rebirth and redemption within my soul. Within the depths of this tumultuous pandemic year, the loss of my two beloved uncles weighed heavily upon my heart. Amidst the sorrow, a flickering ember of hope ignited within me—an unwavering desire to share the testimony of how God, in His boundless grace, saved both me and my family during this arduous time.

The tale commences on a fateful day in January 2021, when an unassuming illness seized hold of my being. It began with bouts of nausea, followed by an unwelcome fever. Initially, I brushed it off, attributing the malady to the ebb and flow of seasonal afflictions. Days passed, and the illness persisted, casting doubt upon its true nature. Memories surfaced of a television program I had watched back in 2020—a pastor recounting his journey to Jesus. His testimony resonated deep within my soul, sparking a longing to proclaim my encounter with the divine. Yet, a disconcerting truth lingered—I had yet to experience the transformative power of Jesus in my own life, despite my knowledge of Him.

During the pastor's testimony, a prayer rose within me, fervently beseeching God to enter my life and unveil His saving grace. I yearned to have my testimony to share, one that would speak to diverse groups of beliefs, testifying to the resounding truth that I had heard His voice. Although I had shared my testimonies within the walls of the church, a profound personal transformation had eluded me. Thus, my heart overflowed with a plea for Jesus to reveal Himself as my Savior, to grant me the tale I longed to tell—one of life-altering redemption.

Unwilling to seek medical assistance, as my symptoms remained mild, I continued to navigate the labyrinth of my illness. One evening, as I lay upon my bed, consumed by contemplation, a disconcerting realization struck me—my senses of smell and taste had vanished. I chewed a piece of gum, yet it carried no discernible flavor. An undercurrent of anxiety coursed through me as I confided in my wife (Mrs. Saima Shadab), sharing the peculiar happenings within my ailing body.

Amid my uncertainty, a question danced upon the edges of my consciousness—what would become of my beloved family if I were to test positive for COVID-19? Our modest existence, nestled within the confines of a single room, presented a vulnerable picture. Fears whispered of the disease's rapid transmission through everyday objects, painting a daunting future before my eyes. Yet, amid the shadows of apprehension, a glimmer of faith ignited. It whispered tales of hope and resilience, reminding me that even in the darkest of times, God's guiding hand remains steadfast. The next chapters of this narrative will unveil the remarkable twists and turns that unfolded as my journey intertwined with divine providence, culminating in a testament to survival and the transformative power of faith in the face of adversity. In the depths of my prayer, I vividly recall bowing down on my knees, seeking divine intervention from the Almighty. Time and again, God graciously revealed to me a profound verse from the Old Testament, Isaiah chapter 41:10, proclaiming:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This sacred scripture served as a wellspring of strength during my supplication, yet upon emerging from that sacred space, a lingering veil of sorrow would once again envelop me. In this regard, I extend heartfelt gratitude to my esteemed twin brother, Rev. Aftab Yunis Hakim whose unwavering encouragement accompanies me every step of the way. Whenever I shared with him the revelation of a specific verse bestowed upon me during my ailment, his steadfast support never wavered. On the 8th of January, I confided in my wife about my deteriorating health and contemplated seeking medical attention. However, even throughout that challenging period, my prayers persisted ceaselessly, beseeching God for understanding as to the prolonged endurance of my affliction.

It was at the stroke of midnight on the 11th of January, precisely at 2 a.m., a date etched in my memory, that I implored God, yearning to discern the appointed time of my recovery, for my malady had persisted unabated for over a week. In response, a divine voice resounded, commanding me to prostrate myself in humble supplication before the Creator. Without delay, I obediently knelt, beseeching God for the cessation of my suffering, for the burden of this illness had rendered me devoid of comfort. It was then that God bestowed upon me the promise of healing within a mere two days. During that spiritual night-time encounter, I presented numerous entreaties to God, each of which I intend to document in my forthcoming literary endeavor.

In the course of this sacred exchange, I humbly asked God for a sign, seeking assurance regarding the impending conclusion of my sickness within the stipulated two-day timeframe. In response, God planted within my consciousness the remembrance of Rev. Aftab Yunis Hakim, who had recently returned to Pakistan from Korea following the completion of his M. Phil in Biblical studies. Thus, I inquired of God regarding the commencement of his divine ministry, and to my awe, God proclaimed that it would be initiated within the ensuing week. This undeniable revelation served as incontrovertible evidence that God had spoken to me on that fateful night.

At daybreak, with a heart brimming with anticipation, I approached my mother (Mrs. Parveen Younis), seeking news of my twin brother. She informed me that he had departed early that day, answering the call to undertake the Lord's work. At that moment, the Holy Spirit gently touched my soul, rekindling the promise bestowed upon me by God during the previous night's communion.

As I already made an appointment at the Fauji Foundation Hospital, Lahore for my check-up dated 10 January 2021. It was then that a call pierced through the silence, shattering the fragile peace I held. It was my brother’s wife, Mrs. Shamim Irbab, a dedicated nurse. She urged me to visit the hospital at once, as she had shared my condition with the doctor. At that moment, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, reminding me that I was well and that there was no reason for fear or insecurity.

Mounting my bike, I embarked on the drive to the hospital, each passing mile a tumult of emotions and divine reminders. The promises of God reverberated in my mind, providing solace amidst the uncertainty. Upon arrival, the doctor examined me with a calm demeanor, but when I disclosed the loss of taste and smell, his demeanor changed. With a grave expression, he instructed me to put on a mask and promptly informed my brother’s wife that my symptoms pointed to a 100 percent positive COVID-19 case. Tests need to be conducted without delay, and medications prescribed. As the medical check-up unfolded, additional issues emerged, including soaring blood pressure and heart problems. The doctor insisted on an ECG and, above all, a COVID-19 test. Based on his experience, he was convinced of my positive status.

Amid this conversation, a desire surged within me to proclaim the good news to the Doctor about the loving God who had whispered to me the previous night. But fear held my tongue captive, for during this perilous pandemic era, people tend to distance themselves from those infected, shrouding them in a veil of judgment and divine retribution. It pained me to witness such a misunderstanding. Despite it all, I mustered the courage to assure my brother’s wife as we left the hospital that I am well, and nothing would befall me. The words spoken by God lingered in my thoughts, yet doubts and concerns clouded my mind, especially when considering the welfare of my beloved family.

Finally, I arrived home, preparing myself mentally and emotionally for the test. Throughout the journey, God's voice resonated within, an unwavering reminder of His boundless love. He had bestowed upon me a family not to take away but to bless and multiply. These words echoed in my soul as I arrived at the Lab Islamabad diagnosis center, where a helpful cousin (Mr. Farrukh, a.k.a Heera) of mine extended a guiding hand. The COVID-19 test was conducted, signifying a turning point in my uncertain journey.

However, an unsettling tension began to stir within me, distinct from my illness. It was the realization that you had doubted the word of God spoken to you the previous night. Instead of embracing His message, you chose to visit the hospital and undergo a COVID-19 test, thereby disregarding His word and, more significantly, disobeying Him. Often, our human desires conflict with the guidance of our souls. Now, a profound sense of guilt enveloped me, for I had disobeyed God, and I knew that I would face the consequences.

As inhabitants of this earthly realm, we continually glean lessons, both positive and negative, from our experiences. This narrative unfolded further when I received notice of my COVID-19 test, scheduled to occur late at night via email. Once again, I found myself perplexed, opting to isolate myself until the test results returned negative. In the midnight hours, my wife received a message regarding my test results, and to my relief, the report declared that I was free from the virus. I praised God, acknowledging the truth of His promises. Yet, a lingering doubt persisted in my mind. I had still failed to wholeheartedly believe in the words spoken on January 11, and thus, I anticipated God's wrath.

Often, we ascribe our hardships to the malevolent machinations of Satan, as it preserves our sense of honor. Yet, what we often mistake as an assault from the Devil might be the loving discipline of a benevolent Father. The New Testament of the Bible asserts that:

“Because the Lord disciplines the one He loves and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son” (Hebrews 12:6).

While I knew that God's promises were true, I couldn't shake the memory of that fateful day. The first promise had been fulfilled, as evidenced by the receipt of my negative test report, which had been duly emailed to the doctor. Now, I eagerly awaited the second promise: that I would regain my health on January 13, 2021. Throughout this arduous journey, I gleaned profound lessons and experienced the unfailing love of God. Whenever afflictions or tribulations befell us, the word of God, embodied in Jesus, remained a comforting presence. Never before had I encountered such a divine and transformative experience in my life. Subsequently, whenever I engaged in conversations with my colleagues, family, and elders, I prioritized discussing the work of God in my life, for it held deep personal significance.

On January 13, 2021, I conducted a temperature check with the aid of a thermometer, discovering that it fell within the normal range, Hallelujah! At that moment, a resounding affirmation from the Holy Spirit echoed deep within, emphasizing the everlasting nature of God's promises. Throughout the entirety of this profound journey, one pivotal realization has emerged, and it is incumbent upon me to faithfully convey the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit. I approached God during a televised interview, fervently expressing my desire for a personal testimony to share with His people and a genuine experience of His divine presence, transcending mere intellectual knowledge.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus beckons us to ask, seek, and knock, assuring that our petitions will be answered, our quest will be fruitful, and doors will open before us. God extends His invitation to us, encouraging us to approach Him with our requests, and through Jesus, every promise He has made finds fulfillment.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so, through Him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

We discover in this narrative that God faithfully fulfills every promise He has declared. When we commune with Christ, we can rest assured that the promises encapsulated within the pages of the Bible are within our grasp. This realization motivates us to diligently seek out and comprehend the implications of these promises for our lives. Jesus has assured us that when we ask according to His will, He will grant us according to our faith. This promise extends to every follower of Christ. When we inquire of God whether this promise is meant for us, His response resounds with affirmation. If, at present, we have not witnessed the fulfillment of this promise in our lives, it does not invalidate the veracity of God's word. Rather, it may necessitate seeking God's guidance to discern His timing and purpose for its realization. The Apostle Paul attests to having tested and found abundantly true all these promises. Consequently, he declares,

“In Christ Jesus, we show the immeasurable riches of His grace" (Ephesians 2:7) and proclaim the good news of the inexhaustible treasures found in Christ (Ephesians 3:8).

Should you find yourself awaiting the complete manifestation of God’s promises in your life to share your testimony, do not succumb to impatience or despair. God may be preparing you for a profound revelation or an extraordinary experience. Spend dedicated time in the presence of God, allowing Him to shape and refine you. As you faithfully wait upon Him, you will witness the fulfillment of His promises following your deepest desires. Through the transcendent might of His divine nature, He orchestrates a remarkable alchemy, transmuting the depths of our darkest trials into immeasurable blessings. One verse from Psalm 23 has consistently steered me onto the path of righteousness, serving as a steadfast beacon of guidance.

“Even though I walk, through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

In due course, I will reveal to you another series of events that led to God speaking to me on that particular day, January 11, 2021.

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