Sometime in March this year, an old friend of mine, messaged me about meeting in India and we were chatting back and forth, and all of a sudden, she asked me a singular question: “Patrick, are you really happy? I mean, really, really happy?” I felt like someone hit my forehead with a ton of bricks. As I pondered more on what I must reply. I realized I was not actually happy. I was energetic, positive and all that. But I was not happy. I was not filled with the joy of the Lord. I really felt bad about that. That despite all the promises of the Lord, I was not filled with the joy of the Lord. And then it dawned upon me that I had not been happy in a long time. Even when I went to sleep, unless I was very tired, I would be spending two or three hours, thinking about many things, sometimes praying, but most of the time, worrying. To be honest, as a Christian, I felt ashamed for not rejoicing in the Lord.
Then I became sick and was admitted to the ICU. The LORD taught me during my stay there. And recently, on this Sunday (27th November, 2016), I was asked the second question.
My daughter was visiting me and we were talking about a lot of things. Suddenly, she asked me, “Are you sad?” I did not even understand what she meant by that. She asked if I was sad about all the things that had happened in my life. Because in last one year, I had received offers from three Universities in USA, but due to financial reasons, could not accept them. Then I fell sick and literally I have no money now. I am in such an impoverished condition, I don’t have any money for Sunday offerings. And I am still recovering my sickness and am quite weak. So, she asked me if I was sad. And my answer surprised even myself. I said, “No dear, I am really happy and am filled with the joy of the Lord.” And I was not saying it for the sake of my daughter. I am really happy and satisfied.
Now, that does not make sense. In March, I had my health and some money. Yet, I was sad and had trouble sleeping. I was even prescribed sleeping pills. Now, I have nothing. Five months on, I am still recovering from my sickness. Absolutely no money left. But I am filled with the joy of the Lord. And the weird thing is, I take only 2-3 minutes to fall asleep and as my wife noticed, I am sleeping like a little baby. What happened at the ICU?
During my days at the ICU, though weakened I was, the presence of the Lord filled me. The peace I felt during those days. It was like the beloved disciple reclining on the Lord during the Last Supper. Though I was alone and was attached to so many tubes, in all those, I felt the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I never felt like I was alone. In all the silence, He was communing with me; in all the darkness, He was teaching me (Matthew 10:27). HE made me understand how amazing are His ways, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, I was not alone, not even for a second. My good Shepherd was and is always with me (Psalm 23:4). I have never felt such a calmness and assurance in my life, like I felt during those days.
There are times, now, I miss those silent days; when it was so dark around me. No, I am not missing the sufferings. But in the din of everyday life, it is so easy not to hear the tender voice of the Shepherd. However, now I yearn more for His presence, and His voice. And the more I hear His voice, I forget every single problem ahead of me. My heart is not filled with the worries of this life, but with the joys of His presence.
Yes, I know that by the standards of this world, I am a pauper. That I need to worry about even the vagaries of day-to-day life. But somehow, I am filled with this inexplicable joy, the joy that only the presence of the Lord can give; with peace, the peace that transcends all human understanding. And with David, I can surely say:
You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
– Psalm 4:7-8