Have you ever been thoroughly in love with someone, believing the feelings were mutual, only to discover you were nothing special? Few emotions are as devastating.
I grew up intensely believing God loves me. He loves me so much, that if I were the only sinner in the world, Jesus would have died just for me. He loves me so much He would pursue me to the deepest darkest hell in order to bring me back to Him.
I loved Him back.
“Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.”
This past year I clung to this belief like a drowning man clings to a life preserver. I could handle anything life threw at me, because my Savior loves me.
Then, two weeks before our scheduled surgery, I was hit by a tsunami.
Since our son was an infant, we knew he would eventually need a kidney transplant. Since that day, I have hoped I would be a match. Last summer when the dreaded need arose, we began testing. There were many sleepless nights, and many days spent crying out to God for a miracle, a healing. God is able. “If not, please, Lord, provide a good match.”
When the call came in that I matched, we hugged each other and praised God for answered prayer. The date was set. I was strong and healthy, all was a go. My son didn’t need to start dialysis or spend years on a waiting list.
It’s not the life I would have chosen, but I had faith that God knew better than I. He was the Great Provider. He loved my son. He loved me.
Then two weeks before surgery I went in for the final blood tests, tests to make sure I hadn’t developed some antibody that would make my kidney no longer compatible. My lab results left me in shock. That life preserver I’d been clinging to began to slip from my grasp and I started to go under.
It wasn’t some simple antibody. I think that would have been easier to accept. I came back positive for hepatitis. To match the test result, my liver enzymes were all out of whack. The doctors did a med search on the supplements I was taking. Turns out green tea and Emergen-C (which I had been taking hoping to prevent catching a cold) can cause the elevated liver enzymes. But they would never cause hepatitis.
I have been vaccinated, a requirement for nursing. I have absolutely no risk factors. I had not been out of the country. I had no doubt about my husband’s fidelity, and in case he had been exposed through his work, he got tested. He was negative.
How could this be? Our surgery was put on hold while further testing was done. What was God doing to me?
Suddenly the reassurance of God’s love totally disappeared. He was playing with me: leading me to believe everything was fine and dandy, and then throwing the impossible in my face. Just because.
“Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”
Is that what the Bible teaches? Have I misunderstood? Maybe God loves “mankind” as a whole, but could I presume He loves individuals on a separate basis?
“For God so loved the WORLD.” The verse now taunted me.
More devastating than the thought that I might have an illness that would prevent donation was the idea that this “Jesus, Lover of my soul” thought of me indifferently. He didn’t love me.
I was drowning. I couldn’t speak of it. My husband kept reassuring me that everything would be fine, the final tests would prove my results were an error. I trusted my husband more than I did God, but not even he knew the struggles I was dealing with.
I devoured my Bible wanting proof. Reassurance. I felt like a wife who has just been told her husband no longer loved her.
I never doubted God’s sovereignty. His power is undeniable. But why would He do this? Why would He lead us this far and then laugh in my face?
For many of you who have experienced so much worse, this struggle must seem trivial. In the grand scheme of things, it was. But it was real. Even now, my chest tightens, and I want to cry just thinking about it.
Verse after verse I read could be taken both as “God loves me” and “God loves us as a whole.” I wanted the “God loves ME!” I kept reading. Searching.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. Ps. 40:11.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. Ps. 94:18.
Like a child, crying into her father’s shoulders after a spanking, the reassurance crept back in.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
Shame replaced my hurt feelings. How could I give into to doubt so easily?
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:5 (NIV)
I will never understand the ways of God. Three days before the surgery was scheduled, my tests came back. No trace of the hepatitis DNA in my blood. I am one of the 1% who gets a false positive. We proceeded with the surgery. All went well.
I have no idea what God was doing. Maybe He needed to teach me how weak I am where I believed I was strong. Will I trust Him no matter the outcome? I’m no longer so sure. I need His help, even to hold onto the life preserver.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help you my unbelief. Mark 9:24
Are you struggling today? Do you know God’s love?
You’re not alone.
“Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed, all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in thee I find;
raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is thy name, I am all unrighteousness;
false and full of sin I am; thou art full of truth and grace.” (From Jesus, Lover of My Soul, by Charles Wesley)