I’ve been in full-time ministry for 30 years, and in all those 30 years, three clearly stood out as being earth-shaking.
The first was 2001. What happened? 9/11. When those planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the world we knew changed forever. And I remember the exact moment I heard the news. Time stopped for me as I watched the horror of those twin towers collapsing. Life was never going to be the same again.
A war followed shortly. Stock markets around the world crashed. Fear was all around. The Middle East was in turmoil. Security ramped up around the world. The new normal was long queues at airports, tight airport security, restrictions. But we learned to make adjustments, and live with inconveniences because life had to go on.
The second year that stood out was 2004. On Boxing Day, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake caused a rift in the plates that released tsunami waves of over 100 feet high that led to deaths of over 230,000 people. And this happened in our backyard.
It was by far the worst natural disaster in my lifetime and took a long time for the world to recover from the tragedy. I saw first-hand the devastation when I visited the countries hit by the tsunami. It was horrific.
The big theological question then was, who was responsible for it? Did God orchestrate the tsunami? Was it just an act of nature? Was the devil behind it? People were asking, “If God is a good God, why does He allow something like this to happen?”
There wasn’t a conclusive answer. But the fortunate thing for us was – Singapore was preserved from the devastating effects of the tsunami. But again, the whole world was shaken, and life just went on.
But nothing comes close to what we’ve just undergone in 2020. This year was unforgettable, devastating, but also truly amazing. No one expected it to turn out the way it did, not even in our wildest imaginations.
2020 has been a year of upheaval and crisis. Whole cities and nations were shut down. Travel came to a virtual standstill. Schools, businesses, churches, tourism, beaches, sports, entertainment spots – everything was closed. The bourses crashed and the lockdown affected the whole world. No nation was exempt from its effects.
Once the coronavirus went global, life as we knew it was changed. Sports, movies, and even Disneyland struggled for customers. People lost more than their jobs – many lost their lives. To date, the virus infected over 75 million people and almost 1.7 million died.
In Singapore, over 58,000 people were infected. Famous shops and brand names were shut for good. The global economy took a beating.
Ironically, it was on 31 Dec 2019 that the world was first alerted to the emergence of a new virus. Many people just shrugged it off but, by March 2020, it was declared a pandemic.
On 7 April, Singapore introduced circuit breaker measures that ended on 1 June. Since then, we’ve relaxed some restrictions bit by bit and are now in Phase 3.
This reminds me of a man who went to his optician to check his eyes. The optician put a contraption on his face and asked him what he saw. He said, “I see empty airports, empty malls, empty pubs, empty restaurants, empty schools.” The optician replied, “Wow, you’ve perfect 20/20 vision”.
But please, don’t be optimistic. One of the pictures that Jesus used to describe the last days was a woman in labour. Just before the baby pops out, two things will happen.
The contractions will be more intense and rapid, with shorter intervals. And this is exactly what’s been happening. We’re now witnessing the birth pangs of the nations and, as we approach the finale, it’ll get more intense and the contractions will be more rapid. Let’s get used to it.
The world’s trajectory is going downhill. Wars, rumours of wars, famines, massive earthquakes, tsunamis, pestilences, severe climate changes – that’s the new normal, folks; and we’ve to be prepared even more for 2021. We can’t afford to be complacent.
It’s interesting that scientists refer to Covid-19 as a one-in-a-century pandemic but, as governments roll out vaccines, they warn of newer and more severe pandemics on the horizon.
Brace yourself for more. It’s not going to get better – but worse.