God Poured Out His Love for Me
Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
I woke up to clapping. That was how my mom used to communicate since the tracheotomy tube prevented her from speaking. A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure which incises a hole in a person’s neck to allow for breathing. The cancer on my mom’s neck had grown to the extent that her airway had been obstructed. I thought she was calling for me to help feed meal replacement shakes into her Per cutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy (PEG) tube. The tracheotomy also prohibited her from eating so a feeding PEG tube was surgically placed through the abdominal wall into her stomach. Groggy from being awakened in the middle of the night, I slowly got out of my bed to help with her routine feeding regimen. But, the clapping grew more frantic. Sensing urgency I ran to my mom’s room with my sister, who had similarly woken from my mom’s agitated claps. The panic in my sister’s voice as she desperately cried to the ambulance dispatcher, and later the ER attendants, was soon drowned out by my own thoughts as I tried to make sense of the chaos happening around me. The paramedics, ER doctor and nurses did all they could with futile efforts. I feebly looked as the hands, which had produced wakening claps just moments ago, lay lifeless before my eyes.
I never felt so lost. Never felt so hopeless. Never so betrayed. In the midst of her chemotherapy sessions my mom had assured me that God promised to heal her. I believed her, I trusted God, and I had prayed desperately. But, my mom’s death left me confused. Why did God lie to her? Has everything she had taught me about God been a lie? Had my mom believed in a God who deceived the very daughter who feared and loved Him so fervently? Pain and trauma led to doubt and skepticism, which ultimately spiraled into hatred and animosity. I grew to despise and curse the God whom I once revered.
In my mind I knew for certain that my mom would have wanted me to continue in my walk with God, despite her passing. But, instead of clinging on to this truth I fed myself with lies and grew distant from Him. I told myself that the loving and merciful God I learned about growing up would never allow my mom to suffer so cruelly and die- it was incomprehensible. As I grew more detached from Him, I found myself seeking external coping methods for my deep-rooted internal issues. I turned to partying, friends, drugs and alcohol; I remained lost in these temporary joys for about eight years until I encountered a revelation.
For years I had been telling my childhood church friends that I would join them at retreat. And for years I had planned trips or work events around their retreat time, which provided me with good excuses to tell them I could not make it. But, opportunity presented itself as busy season at work had just ended and my old church’s January 2019 winter retreat was fast approaching. I committed myself to going with no real purpose, other than to catch up with my old friends and enjoy a nice weekend getaway.
At the retreat, I met a guest pastor. It was by chance that she ended up coming to this retreat because her husband, who was the intended guest speaker, had urgent matters to take care of at their home church. The pastor had a counseling background and delivered the gospel in a way that I had never heard before. Her sermons, however, very much made sense to me because I had been learning about psychology and attachment styles. In addition to meditation and reading self-help books, I was learning about psychological theories to deal with stress and anger management. Not only did her sermons pique my interest because it made sense in the context of what I had learned, but they were also focused around healing.
During prayer time, she challenged us to dig deep internally and forgive those who had hurt us in the past. I tried to think of people who had hurt me. But, apart from those who I could easily forgive over minor arguments in the past, no one else came to mind. As my mind was aimlessly droning, the pastor said, “… some of us may even have to forgive God”. Forgive God? Blasphemy! How could a sinner like me even say that I can forgive God? But, the more I tried to dismiss the notion, the more it engulfed my mind. So, I cautiously began a prayer that progressed into a conversation with Him. I confessed to God I held Him accountable for my mother’s death and told Him of the betrayal I felt when I needed Him most. I asked Him how He could have been so cruel to not only take away my mom’s life, but also to leave her husband, her daughter, and her son broken beyond repair. I told God I hated Him for not having been there for me.
I was worried that my confessions would only add to the bitterness I had towards God. Instead, after digging deep and fully confessing to God, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit of all the times He had been there for me. I was reminded of: (a) my mom’s salvation through the love and zeal she had for God, that the reason He took her back to His presence was because she had already been saved and no longer needed to suffer on this earth; (b) my family’s salvation, for having been grounded in faith through my mom; (c) my worth as a child of God, because my mom had raised me through prayer and the Scripture; (d) the closer bond that I was able to form with my dad and sister after my mom’s passing; and (e) the community of brothers and sisters who had consistently prayed for and thought of me, especially when I was lost. I remember coming back from that retreat with a deep sense of peace that I had never experienced before. It was a gray and rainy day, but I remember feeling a calmness and joy that radiated throughout my body the whole ride back.
For Your Reflection
At times we are only able to experience the faithfulness of God in hindsight, often because we are blinded by our own shortsightedness and shortcomings. In my case, I needed to have a falling out with God in order to come back with a right and genuine heart for Him. Even when I felt lost, God’s mercy and love for me remained constant. I just needed to realize it. Likewise, I pray that we consistently place our hope in God, especially in times when we are unable to feel His presence, because His love remains constant forever.
To those who have let go of God before, remember that He pursues you desperately especially during those times. He wants to show his mercy to you, demonstrate his love for you, and be with you. Pray for the eyes to see God's faithfulness, and may your praises be multiplied as God reveals His heart for you.