Do I know that God loves me unconditionally?
I saw the Interventional Radiologist on 5 March after my C T Scan of 27/2/19. The RFA on segment III and segment V were successfully done on 17 Jan 2019. But, another 0.9 x 0.6 cm tumor (10th Liver Cancer Occurrence) has appeared high up at segment III, which is 6 mm away from the heart. The Interventional Radiologist knows that my preference is for RFA. She said it will be very challenging to do that. She is proposing to do TACE for this new tumor and the one in segment II/IVa (8th Liver Cancer Occurrence on 6 Aug 2018 at 4 mm), which remains at 1.2 x 1.05 cm since 7 Dec 2018. She will discuss with other doctors to see whether there are other better alternatives for me. She has scheduled the TACE to be done on 18 March. If there are other alternatives she will cancel the TACE procedure and I will be seeing her on 12 March. She thinks that it is not so good to be doing RFA or TACE so often. Every procedure has is pluses and minuses. She has to weigh which is best for my case. She is thorough and good. She spent about an hour advising me, in a matter of fact manner, of the risks of having to do so many procedures in the past 2 years. This time she was more empathetic. But, with the recent cases of the Singapore Medical Council charging doctors for not alerting patients of some possible risks, doctors have to practice defensive medicine to protect themselves.
I can’t help being affected by her enumerating all possible risks of going through procedures for treating cancer because it creates anxiety and fear. Good doctoring must always give hope to patients. If a doctor fails to establish trust and confidence between the doctor and patient, to me as a patient, he would have given up something precious in doctoring. Words do have their effect. I was knocked down but not knocked out. I was devastated and downcast by the probable risks involved and my prolonged condition. I need to pick myself up!!! I need to focus on the fact that Christ loves me unconditionally so that I can have the total assurance and confidence that He is in charge, whatever the outcome.
But do I truly know that God loves me unconditionally?
The great mystery of my Christian faith is that I do not choose God but that God chooses me. Long “Before I was born, the Lord chose me” and God says “I have written your name on the palms of My hands” (Psalm 49:1,16) My ability to love is “because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) He loves me with an unconditional love.
Henri J M Nouwen emphasized that, “From all eternity we are hidden "in the shadow of God's hand" and "engraved on his palm."(Isaiah 49:2,16) Before any human being touches us, God "forms us in secret" and "textures us" (Psalm 139:15) in the depth of the earth, and before any human being decides about us, God "knits us together in our mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) God loves us before any human person can show love to us. He loves us with a "first" love, an unlimited, unconditional love, wants us to be his beloved children, and tells us to become as loving as himself.” (The Return of the Prodigal Son, pg 106)
But Henri Nouwen also said, “. . . one of the greatest temptations of a monk is to doubt God’s love.” and “the great adventure of the monk: to really believe that God loves you, . . .. even while you are aware of your sinfulness, weaknesses, and miseries” (The Genesee Diary, Oct 27 1974).
And Henri Nouwen, himself, had his moments of doubt, “During my months of anguish, I often wondered if God is real or just a product of my imagination. I now know that while I felt completely abandoned, God didn’t leave me alone” (The Inner Voice of Love, 115).
Mother Teresa also had her doubt on the Love of God for her. The "darkness", "loneliness", “unwantedness" "torture," and "unloved” that Mother Teresa experienced and described in her letters, which spanned some 50 years, showed the strength and beauty of her soul. Her untold darkness began almost immediately in 1949 or 1950 (Come Be My Light, p.1), after she started her Missionaries of Charity for the poorest of the poor. Her torment was intense, terrible and unrelenting. You can read it in “Mother Teresa---A Crisis of Faith or A Crisis of the Imagination?”
Now, if a monk or Henri Nouwen or Mother Teresa who spends full time contemplating and meditating on God, has doubts that God loves him/her; what then must a mortal like me concentrate on?
· Do I have to seek doubly hard to know that God loves me?
· Do I know in my head and especially in my heart that Christ loves me unconditionally?
· Do I faithfully trust Jesus is in charge of my life? and
· Would I have the sincerity to pray: Let me be an instrument, or a vehicle, or a channel of Your unconditional love for my spouse, family members, relatives and others?
What, then, does unconditional love means? It means love without conditions. God’s love for me does not depend on what I do or say or on my success or popularity. It means that He loves without expecting or asking for anything in return from me. He loves me regardless of how I think or feel about Him. God is love and His love extends even towards me, the unlovely and unlovable. He chooses me to be His beloved son.
In every situation or circumstance, God seeks to enter into my mind and heart, but unfortunately, I build too many walls around my heart and so I struggle to find God, to know God, to love God and to know His presence in my trying situation. I have failed too many times. Now I wonder whether I have to change my mind-set and solve for myself the questions:
· “How am I to Let myself be found by God?” instead of “How am I to find God?”
· “How am I to Let myself be known by God?” instead of “How am I to know God?”
· “How am I to Let myself be loved by God?” instead of “How am I to love God?”
To resolve this, I have to truly understand in my heart what Jesus requires of me:
· LET Him serve me. . . “But I (Jesus) am among you as One who serves” (Luke 22:27)
· LET Him come into my heart. . . “Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. . .” (Revelation 3:20)
· LET Him love me unconditionally. . . “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12) "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22 NKJV)
These principles are illustrated by Peter in the Gospel. Peter wanted to serve Jesus and he was extremely adamant that Jesus should not serve him or wash his feet. Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8) From this example, I need to understand with my heart that unless I let Jesus serve me, I will not be able to serve others for Him. If I want to serve others, I will have to let Jesus serve me first, in order for me to be able to serve others.
To see whether Peter understood with his heart what this means, the Bible shows me the scene at Mount Olives where Peter’s spirit was willing to stay awake for Jesus but his flesh was weak. If Peter had allowed Jesus to come into his heart, his flesh would have the power to stay awake with Jesus.
Peter was very fervent and sincere in declaring that he would never deny Jesus. He depended on his own strength and he failed. But, if Peter knew with his heart that Jesus loved him with an unconditional love, he would never have denied Jesus three times. “Before the roaster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:72)
After the resurrection of Jesus, Peter finally understood with his heart that Jesus loved him unconditionally and was therefore able to die as a martyr for Jesus. When Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Jesus was in fact asking Peter “Do you know in your heart now that I have loved you with an unconditional love?” Peter ended by saying to Jesus that “You know all things” and thus knows my heart.
What all this effectively means is that I must be still in my heart to listen to my Lord Jesus’ voice or prompting. I will be still to know You are my God and open my heart to Receive You, for Jesus has said, “ Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears My voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” (Rev 3:20)
Until I know with my heart and not my head only, that Jesus loves me with an unconditional love, I will not be able to sustain consistently the assurance and confidence that He is in charge; and I will not consistently have the love for my spouse, family members, relatives and others in the way that Jesus commands me to do: “Be compassionate just as your Heavenly Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36) and be as loving as my Heavenly Father is loving.
It is fascinating for me to listen that beliefs, expectations or suggestions do have a placebo effect on the mind-body interaction in ”Placebo Effect from TEDTalk”, “Placebo Effect from YouTube”.
I must pray and constantly focus on the Icon of Jesus walking on the water for the miracle to happen to me.
Written on 9 March 2019