While hospitalised with Covid-19, Hermen was so sick that he could not tell whether he was dead or alive. The atmosphere in the hospital was frightening; patients started panicking because it is difficult to say when or how the disease will change for worse. In those difficult days and long, sleepless nights, Hermen held on to verses from God’s word that came to his mind.
“God’s grace is an important story of my life that keeps on repeating itself,” says Hermen in a video call. His voice sounds happy, and it’s hard to imagine that he almost died just a few weeks ago. “I owe Him everything.”
“God kept knocking on the door of my heart”
Hermen grew up with six sisters, and the Christian faith had a central place in the family. He had happy childhood memories and still remembers how his father told them Bible stories. But when he was a teenager, Hermen went his own way, and his childhood faith disappeared into the background.
“It’s pure grace that God kept knocking on the door of my heart,” says Hermen. He was 18 years old when he went on a holiday with a friend. It was not what he thought it would be, and Hermen returned home disappointed. “From that moment on, God’s Spirit started to speak to me powerfully; it was as if God grabbed me by my neck and said: ‘Hermen, what do you want with your life? I want to show you a completely different way!’ By God’s grace, I was able to repent at that time. I am convinced that I also owe that ‘turn around’ in my life to my parents’ prayers.”
Desire for an upright Christian life
The newly converted Hermen felt a great need to read the Bible. He longed for the honest and upright Christian life that he read about there. Several times a week, Hermen held a prayer meeting with some friends, and they prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “I read in John 3:8 that whoever is driven by the Holy Spirit is flexible like the wind, and that was exactly how I wanted to live! As human beings we can be so stiff and strict and worry about useless forms and how things look on the outside. But when we are inspired by God’s Spirit, we become pure and simple and we learn to be open to change. Then God can use us to live to the glory of His name.”
Infected with the coronavirus
In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hermen fell ill. At first it seemed like a flu, but soon it became worse: burning muscle pain, fever and increasing shortness of breath. In the end, an ambulance had to be called, and on the way to the hospital he was immediately put on a ventilator (an oxygen machine). His suspicions were shown to be true by a test in the hospital: he had been infected with the coronavirus.
Hermen’s condition became worse quickly. He had such difficulty breathing and felt so sick that he was not sure if he was still alive.
“When I felt like panicking, I clung to Bible verses”
The atmosphere in the hospital was heavy and depressing. “I was in a ward with two other patients. Uncertainty and fear made people panic. Next to me was a man who was coughing really badly. During one of those nights, the coughing suddenly stopped. He died without his loved ones around him. That was also very difficult for the nursing staff.”
In those difficult days and hours, when it felt like he was also starting to panic, Hermen held on to Bible verses that came to his mind. “The Bible is full of help. I won’t list all the verses that have helped me because there are many. But one amazing verse in Psalm 119:143 (GNT) often returned to my thoughts: ‘I am filled with trouble and anxiety [worry], but your commandments bring me joy.’”
“As I lay there, I thought about the words in the Bible. For example, ‘Don't worry about anything …’ (Philippians 4:6, CJB). I repeated that over and over: ‘Don't worry about anything!’ I noticed that when such words came to my mind, they helped me control my breathing. They gave me peace and brought me joy, as it says in that verse in Psalms!”
Read God’s word!
“You can think how thankful I was that I had read the Bible a lot when I was young, so that those words could come to my mind and help me! I would encourage every young person to read the Bible a lot! When you are young, you have time. You may think, ‘I still have years left’, and that is usually the case. But in this day and age, when there is so much information and entertainment on the internet, you can easily waste a lot of time.”
“There is no better investment in your life than reading God’s word. Take time to do this, don’t just read the Bible for the sake of reading it, but think about what it means for you personally. Then those Bible verses come to your mind and become a help to you in all circumstances. When you are busy with God’s word in this way, you get to know God yourself! That gives you a solid foundation in your life.”