When the chips are down, and when life is hard for various reasons, it is relatively easy to lose one’s grip on faith and the fact that God has not taken a holy hiatus. It is often when things are going well, when one’s life-boat is not shaken and rocked, that it becomes easy to be either lackadaisical or complacent with one’s faith, or worse, one’s relationship with God who makes all things possible.
Where do we get our faith strengthened when the going gets bleak? When we believe in a God who loves and creates out of love and nothing else, it becomes necessary to go back to scriptural evidence of how God himself is faithful despite the fact that we, the people he made the various covenants with have not been faithful.
Just last week, in the first reading at Mass, we saw how God made the covenant with Abram. It’s one of my personal favourites within the Bible. So much is revealed about just how God loves in this treaty that mirrors many other treaties in those times. The fact that God doesn’t want Abram to walk with him through the split carcasses of the animals meant that God was going to bear the brunt of a treaty that was dishonoured and broken. In God’s great love and wisdom, he knew that man was not going to be faithful to the covenant, thus the slumber that he put Abram to. But in his greater love and wisdom, God walked himself through the split carcasses and this was a prophetic action that foretold of the passion of the Son of God on Calvary. God takes upon himself the suffering that we deserve, and this is seen writ large when we gaze upon the crucified Messiah on the Cross.
When faithfulness is borne to such an extent, and shown in such a grand display, it becomes for us a backbone and a firm foundation for our own faithfulness, especially when we are put to the test and our backs are against the wall. But I have to admit that it is human to find our faith on wobbly ground from time to time, especially when what we have trained for, prayed so much about, and lived out in our lives is challenged and perhaps even taken away for a moment.
It may not surprise most of my readers by now that the illness that I have been struggling with in DC was more than just bronchitis and a persistent fever that would not go away. My decision to come back to Singapore to get myself treated by local doctors has borne some ‘fruit’ in that they have discovered the cause of my illness. I have been diagnosed with the cancer Leukemia, and I have a long haul of treatment to face. I have always wondered what it would be like to receive such debilitating news such as a cancer prognosis, but now I need wonder no more. While it is not pretty and exciting as news goes, there has been a certain grace that has embraced me from the moment that it was confirmed and told to me. I don’t think I am in denial, as I am well aware of just how much pain and suffering there is to endure. But there is no fear, no anger, no regret and most importantly, no bitterness.
One of the things that still keeps me strong is my constant reflection on just how great God’s faithfulness is. And because he is faithful to such a degree, and calls us to be holy as he is holy, he is also constantly calling each one of us to become like him in our ways of living. I can say confidently that at this point of time in my life, the way to live a holy life that imitates God’s is to not let go of my faith despite this news of my illness.
I spoke with a priest-friend over the phone last evening, and he was so upset that I had to comfort and cheer him up. He called it a ‘death-sentence’. I call it a “hidden blessing”. And it is a blessing because it draws us constantly closer to God and to rely on him and his strength in all the different trials and difficulties that will come our way in the treatment that we choose when we are ill. I believe that it is a blessing because it will allow me to truly be at one with the many other people who have had to walk this same journey too.
Today I should begin my chemo journey, and I believe that much will be revealed to me. Times will be tough, and there will be much to endure. I only need to be attuned to the way that my God speaks to me through various circumstances, and hope to become an effective channel of his love and mercy to the many who need to hear the Good News – of God’s unending faithfulness. I ask for your prayers and I too will pray for you my dear readers. Because of the unknown element of how I will take to the therapy, I may not be able to write as regularly as I would like to. I ask for your patience in this.