Joy in the Midst of Great Pain (Justin Fan)


My mom taught me to never show my brokenness not only because it made me appear weak and feeble, but also because it made those around me feel burdened with the thought of it. Even to God, I believed my brokenness was an extension of my own faults, and I had no right to bother Him with them. However, the journey that He took me on this past year tested and forged my trust and put me in places where all I could do was surrender at His grace.

2016 and 2017 were the toughest years ever for my family. My dad lost his business and we burned through all of our savings. Even when he found a job, the tension at home was thick. I visited home once in a while, and even then, things seemed off. I heard my dad speaking Chinese late into the night alone, and I would joke that he had a mistress. I swear that on those nights, the Lord gave me the spiritual gift of prophecy. My dad was cheating. He was cheating hard.

Going to the University of California, Irvine, my mom would come to see me from San Diego to run errands in Irvine. On Mother’s Day of 2017, one day after my mom’s birthday, while she was visiting me, my family found out the truth about my dad’s affair. Ten thousand dollars spent at a Pandora Jewelry right next to our house, the mortgage not been paid in months, internet bill, cellphone bill, every utility account was behind on payments. Confronted, he admitted right away to cheating with a woman from his work. A year went by, he promised he was no longer seeing his mistress, but he got caught again.

To my dad, it seemed so ordinary to cheat, as if it was a rite of passage for a middle aged married man.  He apologized, but in a way that only filled social decorum. His apology was hollow, insincere, and lacking true repentance. So many things, so many new struggles happened that I could never imagine. Financial, social, and especially familial problems arose and flooded my life. My mom’s fear of showing brokenness forced us to hide from the rest of our family. My identity as the child of my father, tarnished. My dad even had the audacity to send my mom to jail, accusing her of abuse, then lying to my entire family that she called the police on herself.

Even to this day, I feel like the events that unfolded in my life were just a dream. Beyond my brokenness, the hurt my mom had to endure and the hatred brewing in my brother chips away at my heart every day. But through it all, God provided. Through all my worries from tuition to fighting a miasma of depression, He provided abundantly. I realized my selfishness and sinful desire to hate my dad was what brought me even more despair and tribulations. By giving up my sinful heart to Jesus, I feel free from the immense pain caused by my earthly father. In application, I remember at the apex of the conflict, my mom would spew her spiteful agendas against my dad to me. Plans to take his every penny, to shun him to the ends of the earth, such dark words festered in her heart. In a moment of serendipity, I cried out begging her to love on him like Jesus loves us, and from there a transformation in us came as we surrendered our hurt, our dad, and actions to God. Though there is still great pain in the offering, I can say that there is joy in the Lord and that the Lord is with me and my family.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

(Matthew 6:26-34)

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