January 13, 2021
I remember the time when the suspension of classes was announced due to the threat of COVID-19. I was outside with my friends and, because we were certain that there would be no classes the next day, we decided to stay at Mcdo Katip to play and just rest in each other’s company. We even jokingly said that it was our “sem-ender.”
The day after, I left to have a short vacation at home, expecting I would come back to an exam after a few days. But a few days turned into long months, and just like that, the rest of 2020 was spent in lockdown. That “sem-ender” became true as if we predicted it.
I am blessed and privileged to have been with my family in a safe home during the lockdown. I was grateful that I got this chance to spend a long time with them again back in Cagayan, which is 12 hours away from school.
I am grateful that I got to spend time with my three-year-old brother and that he got to experience how it is to have his Ate with him. I’m glad that I was able to witness him learn new things every day, even when his naughtiness and my patience would clash. It brings me so much joy having listened to stories he would so enthusiastically tell, trying his best to find the right words. And I am also grateful that I got to experience how it is to be taken care of by my parents once again.
As days went by, although grateful to be home with my family, I started to miss my other home in the company of my friends. I missed their warmth and how, after a long day at school, you could easily call them to have dinner together. And I would often think about what memories could have been made if this pandemic didn’t happen.
But more than these, the struggles outside home couldn’t be ignored and shouldn’t be ignored. 2020 had been so cruel, and it did not stop with the pandemic. Issues of corruption and abuses, typhoons, adjustments to online classes and a lot more—is there any year more exhausting?
And so 2020 may be the most difficult year ever.
I’ve had countless breakdowns. I found myself crying without actually knowing why. There was anxiety in every “Hi! Kumusta?” and emptiness I struggled to escape from. My faith was challenged and I felt like I’ve seen a different kind of me that I hated.
Online classes weren’t of much help as well. There was always something to do. With deadlines after deadlines, rest seemed to become a luxury.
Then typhoon Ulysses happened. At around 2 a.m., someone texted my mother, informing her that the flood had risen up so fast. We checked outside our house and water was eagerly preparing to enter our gate. We were awakened by the urgency of putting our things upstairs, worried that the flood would eventually reach inside our house.
Soon enough, Cagayan was almost covered in flood, looking like a river, unforgivingly washing away lives and properties. It was tormenting to not be of much help, knowing that somewhere nearby, a person might be drowning or about to lose his life.
At that time, I desperately asked God to help us, but I also couldn’t help but complain. “Isn’t this too much, Lord? Haven’t Your people suffered enough? How could You still let this happen, when even before this typhoon a lot are already struggling to live?”
I started to have doubts. With all that has happened, it’s easy to think that God might not really be there. I’d say the fire within me wasn’t burning as brightly and it was a struggle to hold on.
But as much as this year scared me with such disasters, it scared me that I might one day totally lose my faith. I remember one of my friends saying that her biggest fear would be losing her faith. And truly, that’s one of the scariest that could happen. For if faith is gone, how could we hope for tomorrow? Whose promises could we hold on to?
I was reminded of one preaching saying, “Don’t let the unexplainable stop you from proclaiming the undeniable.”
I would recall God’s goodness in my life; how I know that it was Him and how He loves me far more than I deserve; how He would always pick me up after the countless times I fell and how He comforted me in my failures and frustrations.
And so, although I couldn’t comprehend how He could still be real in the midst of all these disasters, I could never deny that He truly exists. Because I myself have experienced His love and His goodness, and no one could tell me those aren’t real.
So what helped me survive 2020?
It was His love He so freely and generously gave despite my brokenness and doubts. It was His love that I felt through my family, my friends, and the many little things I often overlook.
It’s His goodness sustaining me in my weakest days. It’s Him waiting for me even when I am unworthy of His grace. It’s His promises that I hold on to and will continue to hold on to.
Through Him, I have overcome.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24–25 (NIV)
To those who are reading this, I am proud of you for surviving 2020. What a conqueror you are! You might have struggled with your faith but I tell you, you are not alone. (Same here! hehe) You might be struggling to come back and you may not know where to start, but there are neither how-tos nor requirements in order to get back to Him.
It’s because He’ll meet you where you are, just as you are. He’ll meet you in that confusion, emptiness, and brokenness. All you need to do is allow Him.
He will keep waiting for you, eagerly wanting to tell you, “Child, welcome home.”