I Faced My Own Death 3 Times About My Inward Journey
I thank God that I am loved and that I am His beloved child. I am blessed by the mercy and grace of God, for He has seen me through two liver cancer operations: one in April 1999 and the other in February 2000.
What have I been doing since I retired in 1996?
I have embarked on my spiritual journey!!
I wish to start by saying life is full of surprises and we can’t be absolutely certain where it is going to take us. Many of us want to live inan eternity of love, where “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4 NIV).
Many people wish that they could be like so and so who has found ‘the Way’. For me it has been a long spiritual journey and I am still on my journey. When did it get started?
It started in the middle of 2000. I had 2 liver cancer operations—one in April 1999, the other in February 2000. After that I was among the first in Singapore to have radio-active substance Yttrium 90 put into my liver, where I was hospitalized for another 42 days with intermittent fever.
I stared at my own death 3 times. The first time my attitude was “so what is death? you die only once and this is no big deal. Die, die, so what.” The second time I faced my own death; I was a little more respectful and said, “Hey, this is serious! Don’t play the fool. Better be careful. See what I can do.” I then seriously noted that people who die don’t exist anymore in this world. No more second chance! The third time I faced my own death, I was extremely scared! Death was in my mind all the time. I went through all the emotions you can think of. One minute my feeling was up, the next minute down and this time I prayed for miracles to happen. I fought hard to be alive! I understand now why many dying people don’t give up that easily!
When I had my first liver cancer operation, I searched the Internet then and I found that practically all liver cancer patients die within a year or two. I asked a lot of “Why?” On my second liver operation, I was concerned but was doing fine. Soon after that, I was given radio-active Iodine to cure the cancer but I was hospitalized again for 42 days. I was scared to death when 2 other surgeons besides my liver cancer surgeon told me to have another operation (3rd one) to remove the excess fluid in my liver to bring down the fever. I refused as it was too soon after the second liver operation. I was angry. I was fearful. I was distressed. I was in agony. I was in pain. I cried for mercy and grace. I prayed for miracles. You name the emotions, I had experienced them.
By the grace and mercy of God a miracle did happen and I did not have to be operated again. When I was pushed into that ultimate corner, I could become bitter and cynical or I could become better in my life with God.
I promised myself that “I want to turn over a new leaf and change my life style so that I do not repeat the same mistake and develop cancer again. This is the start of a new chapter in my life and a spiritual quest for more enlightenment in my life. I pray for success. With God’s help I hope that I will be able to stick to my new resolve so that I can claim my right to God’s promises of a life of joy, peace, happiness and rest.” [This was what I wrote immediately after my 42 days of hospital stay in my website (www.jameslau88.com} under the Heading “My Testimony”]
What have I found out? Basically:
1. That suffering is God’s megaphone calling me to Him. Calling me—to make that quantum leap in my faith and trust in Him. God allows me to suffer as one of the ways He grabs my attention to truly and fully turn to Him. I choose to believe that God will guide my life. I choose to believe that joy can come amidst my suffering just as crushed grapes can produce delicious wine. I know that we are “children of God” (1 John 3:1 TEV), and that God is “always ready to help (me) in times of trouble” (Psalms 46:1 TEV), and nothing can come into my life unless He allows it. I choose to believe that He is in charge. That He is in control. I choose to believe that with all my heart, and look about expectantly for what God is doing—in me or through me.
One reason why God allows me to have trials and adversity is for me to discover and learn for myself, through my own personal experience, “how very great is His power at work in us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19 TEV)
I have also discovered a great secret in life—it is that suffering can become a source of new hope and new life for me. We know: no hardened ground can bear fruit if it is not broken up by the plough; no grain can become bread if it is not ground and baked; no rough diamond can be transformed to its true brilliance if it is not cut and polished; and no steel can be strong without going through fire and cold water. So, in like manner, if our hearts are hard like stone, it will not bear fruit; but our lives can be fruitful if our hearts are open and softened through suffering. Our hearts are then renewed to help and comfort others.
2. That God is love and God loves each one of us. He loves us unconditionally. As Henri J M Nouwen says, “What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, ‘I love you, if. . . ‘ There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related event or circumstance. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.
“Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.” (Bread for the Journey, Feb 5)
However, I often feel unworthy of His love because I cannot live up to His standard. I feel I cannot please Him enough. I am not good enough. But God loves me not because of what I do. He loves me because He is Love. Love is who God is. God loves every one of us. Even monks have doubt of God’s love, as Henri Nouwen says, “one of the greatest temptations of a monk is to doubt God’s love.” (The Genesee Diary, Oct 27 1974)
3. That God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the world to reconcile us sinners with Him. By His grace and mercy anyone who believes and receives Jesus is put right with God: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV)and“to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). St Paul states “God has shown us how much He loves us–it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By His blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by Him from God’s anger.” (Romans 5:8-9 TEV) The Gospel tells us about Jesus Christ and as Mother Teresa says “The whole Gospel is very, very simple. Do you love me? Obey my commandments. He’s turning and twisting just to get around to one thing: love one another.” (No Greater Love, 20)
4. That Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God and as long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. But who truly is Jesus Christ? Who do I say He is?
I agree with C S Lewis, who, after having examined the claims by Jesus in the Bible, declares that: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher, he’d either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg—or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. . . . But don’t let us come up with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us. He didn’t intend to. . . .We are faced then with a frightening alternative. The man we are talking about was (and is,) just what he said or else a lunatic or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that he was neither a lunatic nor a fiend; and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that he was and is God.” (Mere Christianity, 52-53)
I see Jesus’ life as a personification of God’s love for me and I re-discover the truth of Jesus’ bold assertion that, “The Father and I are one.”(John 10:30 TEV) and “Whoever sees Me sees also Him who sent Me.”(John 12:45 TEV) And when Jesus was questioned, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father. If you knew Me, you would know my Father also.”(John 8:19 TEV) St Paul clearly states, “Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God.”(Colossians 1:15 TEV) and “I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me” (John 6:37 TEV).
For me personally, I believe in Jesus’ assertion that: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”(John 14:6 NKJV) and in Peter’s saying that: “Only in Him (Jesus Christ) is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NJB) As for people of other faiths, I prefer not to limit God in His Judgment Day but to leave it to His divine mercy and justice. The Bible also says, “I will judge you. . . every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 18:30 NIV) and “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) Jesus shows clearly the extent of His divine mercy to the criminal at the crucifixion, when Jesus says, ”In truth I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NJB)
Ultimately, a person who believes in Jesus Christ has also to have faith that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. If Jesus Christ is not raised from the dead then his faith in Jesus Christ is useless, for: “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NKJV) And faith is a gift from God. But, is faith really the gift of God? Yes, faith is a gift from God for faith gives us the grace or the power to believe. Without this grace or power to believe, no one can believe or ever did believe. His faith is in the Person he believes in, he does not have faith in his own faith or in his ability to maintain his own faith. But the act of believing must come from the individual. It is the individual choice. No one, not even God, can believe for any man. Just like no one can repent for any man.
5. That we are getting a foretaste of love here and now and as Jesus promises, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). In eternity we will have the full force of love in all its beauty and glory.
I had stopped going to Church during most of my working life. To be good in my career, I read mainly Management books. I have even written a Project management book, which can be downloaded at my website. It was only when I retired in 1996 that I started to go back to Church. Since the start of my spiritual journey, I have been reading Christian books and listening to audio MP3 sermons, which I downloaded from the Internet. I put whatever I find useful in my website for future reference and to share with any one.
Today, I take it that another miracle has occurred—as I am still alive, nearly 11 years after my first liver cancer operation. A few doctors have personally told me that it is a miracle that I am alive. I am no longer the person I was. My personality is still the same but my disposition and my attitudes have changed by the grace of God. I am more eager to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
You may like to read the articles in my website to see my quest. Why? For each of us has to find our own way to God.