Today is Good Friday. It has always been a day where I’m reminded of God’s love for me, for us, and for all of humanity. As I was thanking God today for my husband’s health, as I do every day, the idea of God’s love hit me on a much more personal level than it usually does.
“Jesus love me
This I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little to ones to Him belong
They are weak
But He is strong”
I learned this song as a little child, and as long as I can remember, I’ve known of God’s love for me. My memories took me back to a day of extreme sorrow several years ago when I learned of God’s love for me beyond the “Bible telling me so.”
My husband, Joe, had been battling brain cancer for about a year and a half. Throughout the time of dealing with the disease, of dealing with ups and downs, of magnifying the meager blessings just to survive the day, nothing prepared me for this day.
Joe had not been able to eat for about six months. He had fallen into a cycle of intractable vomiting and hospitalization. Even after stopping chemo, he was getting worse, not better. Because he was unable to retain any nourishment, he had a tube put into his intestines where nurishment could go directly into his system. I was hopeful... until his system went haywire shortly after the procedure.
Suddenly he was unresponsive. In the brief times that he was awake, he was not Joe. His body seemed to be giving up. The rounding neurologist told me while looking at the latest MRI that the cancer mass was significantly smaller than it had been, but his brain overall did not look healthy. He didn’t think that Joe would ever get better than he was at that moment. The doctor said something to the effect that it looked like the cancer was under control, but he didn’t think that I would ever get my Joe back. At that moment every fiber that had been holding me together discenigrated. It was one thing all these months to wrestle with implications of a terminal disease, but this was something completely different. Now we were looking at years of life in the state he was in- which wasn’t good.
I went for a walk. I found myself outside, sitting on the ground, head against the rough concrete hospital wall. I cried. I prayed. I cried. And cried more. I don’t know how much time had passed, but eventually I was in the hospital listening to a chaplain. She was very kind, but none of her words brought me comfort. None of the verses from the Bible that she read to me brought hope.
Then as she was talking I felt the Holy Spirit remind me deep in my soul of God’s love for me. I pushed it away, believing that regardless of His love, nothing could save Joe now and because of that not even the idea of God’s love would bring me comfort. I knew that God loved me and loved my husband more than I could possibly imagine. But it wasn’t enough to bring me any comfort, any relief.
And then I felt the Holy Spirit again remind me that I’m loved by God. “I know,” I replied inside my head, “but it doesn’t help me right now.” Again, I felt the reminder. I don’t know how many times I felt the simple clear reminder, “God loves you,” before I stopped saying it didn’t help and asked “I know. How does that knowledge help me now? How does it help Joe?” Then the reminder changed a little to say, “God loves. You can know this and trust Me because you know that Jesus died for you and for Joe.” This put weight into the truth of God’s love for me. It was a weight that I could feel deep in my heart. It was like an anchor that brought me stability. I started repeating over and over in my head, “I know that God loves me. Jesus died for me and for Joe.” This didn’t make Joe better. This wasn’t an answer for me as to what I should do next or how I could start to imagine my future and Joe’s future, but the more I repeated that mantra in my head, the less those looming questions mattered. The more I heard myself say this in my head, the deeper my understanding of God’s love grew in my heart and my soul.
Eventually the nice chaplin left. I thanked her for her compassion and prayers. I continued meditating on God’s love for me and for Joe. The longer I did this, the more comfort I felt and finally my faith grew to trust that although I couldn’t see a solution, and I didn’t know what would happen to Joe and to me, I knew at a deeper level than ever before that God loves me and loves Joe. Because of that understanding of His love, I could trust God and knew that somehow and sometime both Joe and I would be okay. I could not begin to imagine what that could possibly mean, but that didn’t matter.
That was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my life. The sorrow and hopelessness I felt was beyond measure, and at the same time so was God’s love.
On this Good Friday, I think about Jesus carrying our sins to the cross, willingly suffering so that we could know freedom from the bondage of our sins. I think about the cross - meant for punishment and torture. And I think of how God transformed what man meant for suffering and pain into a symbol of hope, acceptance and freedom and the ultimate proof of the Living God’s love for each of us.
I still sing “Jesus Loves Me” and each time, I’m reminded of that day and I feel the weight of the cross anchoring me to the truth of God’s love.