There came a point in my cancer journey when we knew we had to tell people what was going on. We had only asked a few people to pray for some upcoming appointments, but after meeting with a specialist we knew it was time. And I knew the first call had to be to my parents.
I picked up the phone and called my parents. They had been praying for our appointment and were waiting for an update. They put the phone on speaker so they could both hear. I tried to keep my voice calm; I didn’t want to give them any reason to worry. And I did not want to cry; I might not ever stop.
I explained what the doctor had said: They are non-curative, which means some sort of chemotherapy for the rest of my life. And they don’t know how to keep it from coming back again and again and again.
After all the logistical questions had been answered and I felt myself reaching the end of my everything-is-OK-don’t-worry voice, my dad asked one final question: “OK, Nanc…what do you need?”
I wanted to crumple into a heap of tears and crawl into my Daddy’s lap like the scared little girl I was. I wanted him to kiss my forehead and promise me it would be all right; he would take care of everything. I wanted him to soothe my worries and my fears the way he used to when my biggest fear was what lurked inside my dark closet. And I’m sure he wanted the same thing. I know, if he could, my dad would move heaven and Earth to keep me from this battle.
Sometimes as Christians we have no trouble viewing Jesus as our Brother or Advocate, but we have a hard time seeing God as our Father. Angry judge? Sure. Righteous and vindictive? Possibly. Aloof and uncaring? Potentially. But loving Father? Doubtful.
If we believe that God truly is good, then the next step is to understand that He really does love us…not just mankind as a whole, but you, individually. Me, individually. Your mom, your sister, your neighbor, individually.
But how can we know for sure?
Let’s look at how God describes His relationship with us:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'” (Genesis 1:26).
We were God’s idea, and we are His creation. His relationship with us didn’t end once He breathed life into Adam. When Adam blew it in the garden, God pursued him (Genesis 3:8, 9). When Israel turned on God again…and again…and again, God pursued them (Isaiah 44:21, 22). And when we fail God…again…and again…and again, He doesn’t give up on us. We were created for Him…to have a relationship with Him.
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14).
Now that I’m a parent, I understand more clearly parental love. Just this morning one of my children claimed they felt “no one loved them.” Not because they were abused and mistreated. Simply because I was hurrying them along at a pace they did not want to go. Did my love for them change in that moment? No. They felt unloved because of an emotional response to their circumstances. But my love remained unwavering.
We cannot base our belief of God’s goodness on our present situation, and we cannot base our belief of God’s love for us on our present emotions. Our circumstances may change. Our emotions will change. But God’s love for us unchanging.
I realize not everyone has (or had) a good relationship with their earthly father. If that is the case for you, I am truly sorry. But let me just say, God is not like your earthly father. He is not waiting for you to fail. He is not mad at you. He is not disappointed in you. He loves you and He wants to show you just how great His love is.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
We don’t understand much about shepherding in our modern, Western culture, but it’s a concept that would have been familiar to the people in both Old and New Testaments. They would have understood the heart of the shepherd toward his sheep. They would have known that a shepherd would go to great lengths to provide for and protect his sheep, even sacrificing his own life to ensure their protection. By referring to himself as the good shepherd, Christ was saying that He will go to great lengths to provide for and protect His sheep (i.e., you and me!) And that’s exactly what He did…
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 8:5).
Perhaps the most compelling argument for God’s love for us is the fact that when we had nothing to offer Him…when all of our best intentions and greatest accomplishments only add up to rubbish (Isaiah 64:6), God still loved us. He showed that love for us by sending His Son to die in our place (the penalty of sin), so that He could have a relationship with us…which was His original plan all along.
If you feel unloved by the Father today, I pray He will wrap His great, big, Daddy arms around you today and show you His love!
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (John 3:1)
This post is part of the series, Embracing Hope. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at why we can put our hope in God, how we put our hope in God, and what we can do when it feels all hope is lost. Won’t you come along for the journey? Consider subscribing via e-mail so you can receive new posts delivered directly to your inbox! Simply enter your e-mail address in the box to the right.
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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.