God Holds My Hand : James Lim
Psalm 73:23-26 (ESV)
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
In the summer of 2018, I was diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), more commonly known as chronic kidney failure. I won’t delve into any details about the bodily suffering I went through because in the grand scheme of things, it is inconsequential. Pain was, and still is, nothing but an ever-present, dull reminder of my illness. True pain, no, the agony and anguish, comes from my heart, the memories and constant uncertainty of my future.
Do you know what happens when you get sick? Everything that seemed so precious to you before becomes worthless. Corporate job? I resigned when I got hospitalized. Graduate school? I dropped out when my kidney function finally dropped below 5%. Fitness? I cut everything by half when my anemia kicked in. Food? My kidneys can no longer filter sodium, potassium, phosphate and protein. Semblance of a normal life? I have dialysis sessions for five hours at 6 A.M. every morning.
But you know what the worst was? Seeing my parents crumple in front of my eyes as I got my diagnosis. I don’t know if I will ever forget the look on my mom’s face when the doctor told me I will never live a normal life. Nor the fear on my father’s when they told me my expected life span as an ESRD patient. My sister, a nurse who is no stranger to sickness, shed tears in a way I thought was not possible.
“God, my heart shattered that day and I’ll be lying if I say I don’t blame you. You broke my family into pieces and I wished You would say something, anything, to justify Yourself!”
All the love I had for God turned to hate, to uncontrollable rage with no clear aim. Wrath, sorrow, anger and hopelessness swirled within me, screaming for an escape, crying out to be released at… at something. But no, there was no such sweet deliverance. I was a broken cup, filled to the brim, straining from the pressure within, hoping that something would just slam me against the wall so that I could just let go.
I was just so scared and it honestly felt like God had let go of my hand. So I prayed. I prayed in a way that I had never dared. I cursed Him. I blamed Him. I pleaded with Him. I bargained, threatened, begged on my knees for an explanation of why He’d do this to me. And the unbelievable happened.
He didn’t say a thing. Nothing. Silence. Can silence be deafening? Because it was. It drowned out what little semblance of faith I had. In a way, this silence comforted me. God’s silence became a companion, a strange sort of consolation to my grief and… I stopped.
I stopped praying and I became indifferent. I stopped caring that I was sick. Funny thing about people is that they learn to live with unhappiness. They learn to live with pain and sadness. I learned to live with my restrictions. And I told myself I didn’t need God.
Months passed by without me talking with Him. I slowly gained control of my medications and dietary restrictions. I began to exercise again (in moderation) and focused on family and friends. I started smiling again and I began to have a bit more hope. I don’t want to lie and say, “God was definitely the source of me re-discovering my happiness.” Because even if it’s true, that is not how I felt at the time. However, there were definitely days when I looked up at the ceiling in my bed and whispered “You know what? Today was a good day.” I learned to accept my sickness as a part of my life. Life goes on. It always does.
Slowly, I began to talk with Him again. Just small moments here and there. I wasn’t as angry during these moments. Sometimes I was thankful for all the amazing people He placed in my life. Other times, I ranted about the small annoyances that I had to live with. But more often than not, we just… talked. I’d share about how my day went, how I felt about certain things. I’d talk about how I used to chase career and wealth, but all they brought me were a sense of longing. I told Him about how I felt happier now with my sickness, because it showed me that everything I wanted was in front of me all along.
So for the first time since I got sick, I thanked Him. I thanked Him for letting me get sick. Begrudgingly, yes, but I thanked Him for my disease. But I still blamed Him for breaking my family’s heart.
This process of me talking with God again took a better part of a year. I had moved back home after dropping out of school and was invited to my friend’s church retreat called Kingdom Series Conference. I had expected a fun little relaxing retreat, but unfortunately it was not that. It was filled with back to back sermons, prayer time and worship. It was excruciatingly long but it gave me time to talk with Him for hours.
So I asked Him the question that burned within me. I asked Him why He hurt my family. And He finally answered me. He asked me why I thought His heart wasn’t broken when I got sick. Why I thought He was indifferent to my pain when more than anyone else He was always next to me. Taking all my blame, anger and hurt without a word so that no one else in my life had to.
God never abandoned me. I was the one who pushed Him away. But He stayed with me. He stayed because no matter how much I cursed and blamed Him, He still loved me. As much as I broke His heart, He endured it all and never ever let go of my hand.
I’d be lying if I said my days with God are filled with laughter and joy. There are moments of frustration and days of pain. But I still thank God for my condition each morning. Because without my illness, I would never have understood His love for me. He is overflowing with love for me. So even if my future looks daunting at times, I look ahead with confidence. Because I know God was, is, and will always be holding my hand.
For Your Reflection
When we are in pain or worse when we see our loved ones suffer, we begin to ask God, “Why?” We first try to find answers on our own and make sense of our situation, but we often fail. This is when we begin to doubt God's love for us. Although it is completely normal to feel this way, know that God is waiting for you to come to Him. When you do, He will let you know that you were never alone - that He has been always holding your hand and He will never, ever let it go.