Sarah was not expected to be the same ever again. However, through the eyes of faith, her parents firmly believed that God would heal her and her life would be preserved.
Miraculously, Sarah not only woke up from her coma, but made a full recovery just 12 hours later! She laughs when I asked what she remembers of that momentous event.
“It’s so funny because all I remember is waking up in the hospital with all these Barbie dolls and birthday gifts. I wondered why I was in the hospital and why there were so many people staring at me. I don’t remember the trauma. All I remember are the good parts!”
“Quite honestly, there was almost no chance would be brought back with the amount of time I was without oxygen. Now that I’m studying the complexity of the human body as a medical student, it just affirms that God is so much bigger than anyone can comprehend. He can actually command every cell in my body to do what it’s supposed to do. That just blows my mind.”
EVERYTHING I DID … WAS JUST BASED ON WHAT PEOPLE EXPECTED OF ME AND NOT BECAUSE I WANTED TO KNOW GOD.
With such a unique experience of God’s saving grace at such a young age, it seems a given that Sarah would have a firm faith in Christ. Indeed, she serves as a worship and small-group leader in her church, and as she talks animatedly about how knowing God has utterly changed her life, it is evident how much God’s love has captured her heart.
But it wasn’t always like this.
GROWING UP AS THE PASTOR’S KID
“Growing up, I was never just Doctor Phillip’s daughter, but also Pastor Phillip’s daughter (Sarah’s father serves as a senior pastor). I really didn’t have a good relationship with God at that time, so everything I did — like reading my Bible and stuff like that — was just based on what people expected of me and not because I wanted to know God. When I was growing up, I was just the ‘miracle’ people would invite to hear from. I just reiterated whatever was told to me about what happened and all the things Christians would want to hear [about God’s faithfulness], even though I hadn’t really believed it for myself!”
“I remember a time when I literally sat my dad down and said, ‘Why do we even try if we’re all sinners and we’re all going to go to hell anyway?’ I was like 12 at this time. He was shocked by that question because it was so full-on for my age. There were definitely times when I doubted whether God existed, and whether He wanted to do anything good in my life.”
I was surprised by the account of her lack of faith as a child. Wouldn’t the fact that she had been literally brought back to life by God’s grace be evidence of His existence and goodness toward her? She’s pensive as she considers this.
I KIND OF BELITTLED THE MIRACLE, AND THEN AFTER A WHILE I WAS LIKE, ‘OH, I WAS ACTUALLY DEAD!’
“Yeah, I think that my parents walked through that more than me, even though I was the person who ‘was the miracle.’ I didn’t necessarily get the outcome of faith that everyone else got. I was just the vessel.”
“I hadn’t really understood the weight of what had happened. I didn’t really think much of the miracle to be honest — I kind of belittled the miracle, and then after a while I was like, ‘Oh, I was actually dead!’ And it’s almost as if you can get familiar with the story and not comprehend how amazing it is, just like how you can hear the story of Jesus dying and get so familiar with it that you forget, and then something happens and you’re just like, ‘Wow, that is such a powerful and life-changing story.’”
So, what was the “something” that happened for Sarah?
“As a pastor’s daughter, I was constantly in the spotlight. It felt like everything I did was being watched, and I had to reach a certain standard. I left Malaysia at 15 to attend boarding school in Australia, and that was such a crucial time for me to find my own identity. I had the chance to do that without people telling me who I should be and what I should be. I actually found my relationship with God in Australia when I was alone, when I had no one else around me. But I think it was the most beautiful thing ever, finding God in the quiet and in the midst of the loneliness and everything.”
“Also, even though I had a rebellious outlook on faith, my dad just took the time to answer all my questions and pray for me. He was always there to subtly guide me towards God. It was never a push and it wasn’t a shove but always a hand-holding toward God. I really appreciated that because the choice was in my hands and it made me respect my parents a lot.”
THE MIRACLE WASN'T THE BASIS FOR MY FAITH — IT WAS THE CROSS.
THE MIRACLE OF THE CROSS
As we wrapped up the interview, I asked a final question: How has the miracle of her “resurrection” defined her faith?
“I can honestly say that I got to know God better outside of the miracle. When I forgot everything that happened with the miracle and I just focused on Him on the cross, that was the real miracle for me. Everything He did for me was a bonus after that. The miracle wasn’t the basis for my faith — it was the cross.”
“I still can’t, to this day, comprehend that God had saved me. I just don’t understand why He did, because I hadn’t done anything to earn it.”
I point out that what she says has a double meaning — God saving her life on her fourth birthday, but also saving her soul for all eternity. She laughs as she sees the connection.
“And I think that’s the beauty of a relationship with God and His love — no one’s done anything to earn it! I always asked, why would God save me? But then I came to realise this: everything that He does is not because we’ve earned it, but just because He is Love.”