If the Lord Wills

by Doreen Lau

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

‘In their hearts, humans may plan their course,’ we are counseled in Proverbs 16:9, ‘but it is the LORD who establishes their steps.’ This is one of the most encouraging promises from the Bible. Wherever you may be and whatever circumstances you may be in, be sure that God has a plan for you, a good plan, one of hope and a future. 

Our writer Doreen shares from two real-life experiences about the faithfulness of God in ordaining the steps of those He loves: one from her own life, the other from the well-known apologist, Ravi Zacharias.    

The whole world is in a seemingly chaotic state today because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyone everywhere is facing an uncertain future with great fear and anxiety. It is during such times that we need to remind ourselves that God is in control when everything around us seems out of control. With God’s promises, we can overcome anxiety and fear.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

God is in control of everything that happens in our lives.  When I failed to complete my nursing course in London because of ill-health, I mistakenly thought it was a misfortune. But God has other plans for me. In hindsight, I realised that nothing happens by accident. Every misfortune is an opportunity to see God at work leading me to something greater in order to fulfill His plans for me. Three months after my arrival in London, I became seriously ill. For forty-eight hours, I couldn’t speak or swallow and had to be given oxygen because of respiratory failure. After being given up for dead, to the bafflement of the attending doctors, I woke up the next morning feeling perfectly fine. It took more than thirty years later before I discovered what the Lord had in store for me.

I returned home to Malaysia jobless and urgently in need of employment.  Without any working experience and academic qualifications, finding a job in Kuala Lumpur was a huge challenge.  When I finally found a job in an international publishing company, the low salary was scarcely enough to support my family of nine siblings.  I waited patiently for 19 years before I had an opportunity to move forward to increase my finances.  During my final 10 years as a Photo Editor, I learned that Malaysia did not have a picture bank catering to the requirements of Asians. All images in the only stock photo library in the country were more suitable for the western market. I decided to start the first local stock photo library in Malaysia specialising in images of Asia for the Asian countries. I had no experience in how to run a business. Despite my lack of business acumen, the Lord guided me to succeed. Looking back at the numerous times I made wrong decisions that would cause setbacks in the business financially, I know now that it was His unseen Hand that steered me through the difficult times and not my own wisdom or foresight.

It was the Lord’s plan to allow me to succeed. Flushed with the success in my business, I now have the financial means not only to support my family but also to bless the poor and homeless. To top it all, He led me to buy an apartment that was located right next to His house of worship. It was not a coincidence that I found this apartment which was the only unit left unoccupied for more than four years. It was waiting for me to own it. The apartment is in a five-storey condo with a lift and covered car park, two basic facilities which are essential in one’s advancing years.  It was the Lord’s perfect plan that I should live next to His house, to hear His Gospel from His people, and to stop wandering blindly in the darkness. Soon after moving into my new home, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. It was the Lord’s plan to lead me to salvation so that I can walk together with Him in His light.

For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)

The late Ravi Zacharias’ life story was a perfect example of how the Lord’s purpose prevails. He turned Ravi’s negative childhood experiences into a blessing that not only blessed him but others in the world whose lives he touched.

Ravi Zacharias, well-known apologist for the Lord

Ravi was born in India in an era where the ultimate goal of every family was to succeed professionally. Unfortunately, Ravi lacked the discipline to study when he was young. He was always at the bottom of his class. He was more interested in sports and cricket was the love of his life. Despite his success in sports, there were nights when he felt a loneliness he couldn’t explain. Nobody knew, not even his family, the depths of this loneliness that stalked him. To compensate for this feeling of emptiness, Ravi did a lot of reckless things to make him feel that he was somebody. It was at this point of his life that his father started vilifying him with words that cut deeply into his heart, words such as ‘you’re a complete failure, you’re an embarrassment to the family’. Ravi wrote that he was ashamed to be labelled thus and was in great despair at his father’s summation of him. He was only fifteen years old then.

The culmination of years of loneliness came on the day his father received his report card showing the number of days he was absent from school. The torrent of anger his father unleashed on him was like none before. He was given such a beating that had his mother not intervened, Ravi would have suffered a serious injury. After the beating, he decided to spare his family any further shame and spare himself any further failure. He stole some unknown chemicals marked “poison” from the laboratory and took them home with him. The next morning when everyone had left the house, he poured the contents into a glass of water and drank the concoction in the bathroom. But the Lord had other plans for him. A servant heard his cries of pain and came to his rescue.

While he was recovering in hospital, Fred David from Youth of Christ visited him and left a Bible marking the chapter John 14 for him to read. Too weak even to hold the Bible, his mother read to him instead and when she came to verse 19: “Because I live, you also will live” Ravi felt as though the Lord spoke directly to him. There and then Ravi decided that life, as defined by the Author of life, was his only hope, his new way of living.

Looking back Ravi himself never believed that this was what the Lord had in store for him when he started to rebuild his life. For a person who was always at the bottom of his class, he was now invited to speak to ambassadors to the United Nations, and invitations to share God’s Word came from countries worldwide. His sermons and testimonies inspired people all over the world. When he finally could bring himself to share about his attempted suicide, countless people came up to thank him for turning their lives around instead of ending it. Ravi believed that no human being could have engineered this life of his. Only the Lord could have put these pieces together.

According to Ravi Zacharias, successes or failures are not measured by how many sermons one has preached or books one has written. It is, “How well do you know Jesus?”  There is no greater discovery than knowing God as the author of your destiny and fulfilling His predestined plan for you.

God chooses us from the moment of conception. We are created, sustained, and upheld by God since birth. He uses difficulties and challenges in our lives to strengthen our character, transform us, and advance His purpose in our lives. God is constantly shaping us. Through all our struggles and difficulties, God has a good plan for our future. It does not matter to Him whether you were a failed trainee nurse or the dumbest student in class. Once you are chosen, He will never abandon you nor forsake you. Whatever His purpose, it is always a perfect plan that will bless others and glorify Him.

Knowing that God is in control of our lives, gives us the courage to face life’s extraordinary challenges. He has the power to transform every unexpected misfortune and every crisis into a blessing as He wills. We need not fear situations like the Covid-19 pandemic or people that threaten our well-being. God is in control of everything that happens. Stand firm in our trust that God comes alongside us in the midst of our confusion and distress. He alone could turn any evil into good if He should choose to do so.

“He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17 NIV)


Walking from East to West by Ravi Zacharias

God Establishes Our Steps

About the Writer

From a very young age, Doreen Lau has had a heart for evangelism and the deep belief in the power of words and stories to heal and encourage. Though she embarked for London as a young woman to train as a nurse, the Lord had different plans for her. Coming from a background in which she has had to be resilient, Doreen’s life has been shaped and directed by the Lord to be one of ministry, using her life experience to provide encouragement and to build up the vulnerable in our society.   

Feeling a scarcity of an Asian-related image repository to tell the story of Asians, Doreen founded PhotoAsia in 1992 and managed it for 22 years. Throughout the tenure, she used the images to produce posters and calendars for sale, the proceeds of which were donated to orphanages and a rehab centre for senior drug addicts.

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