A Personal Testimony
"What if there Isn't a God?"
Below is a letter we received from a friend who is battling cancer. We found it powerful on so many levels and, with her permission, very worth sharing. (The emphasis is ours.)
It was so good being out at the Mission on Good Friday. It was also good seeing everyone.
So, I have a story. I am still processing it, but I wanted to share anyway. The week leading up to my operation, I started to feel very anxious about the results of the surgery. I wasn’t confident that the margins would be clear, or that the surgeon would find clean lymph nodes. In fact, I became fairly convinced that we would find out that the cancer had spread. I also began to worry that I wouldn’t make it through the surgery. I had felt such confidence in my doctors and had received such comfort from prayers during my treatment previously, that I wasn’t sure how to handle these anxieties. I didn’t discuss any of it with my husband because I also felt these anxieties were silly. I felt very alone that week. The morning of the surgery, as we were driving to the hospital, I became even more stressed. All of a sudden I had a thought: What if I was feeling this way because God didn’t care about me? Or... what if there wasn’t a God?
We arrived at the hospital. We checked in, I was tucked into the hospital bed, the nurses came in to take my blood pressure and to stick me with the IV, and the entire time all I could think was “There isn’t a God.” I realized that if there isn’t a God, obviously everything I have done my entire life has no meaning. This existential crisis shook me. I mean, of course at times throughout my life I had questioned the existence of God or questioned how much of a role He played in our lives... Certainly belief ebbs and flows, but His absence was something I never *seriously* considered real. Now, however, I was convinced of it. I also became convinced that I was going to die during surgery. And because I didn’t believe in God anymore, I was convinced I was going to go to Hell. (I know the logic doesn’t make sense— how could there be a Hell if there isn’t a God?— and I told myself then that it didn’t make sense, but it didn’t matter. That is what I believed.) So I became terrified of going to Hell. I was so scared— and anguished—that I considered calling off the surgery, but I didn’t know how to explain to my surgeon that because I no longer believed in God, I couldn’t have the surgery.
So I decided to say a decade of the Rosary. I knew it wouldn’t do any good, because since there wasn’t a God, the Rosary had no meaning, but I have been trained, if you will, to fall back on the Rosary when times get tough, so I figured I would say a decade and see what happened. So I prayed. It wasn’t a good prayer. My mind was all over the place and my heart wasn’t in it. By the time I was finished with the decade, the anesthesiologist came in to administer anesthesia and the surgeon came in to wheel me to the operating room. I didn’t have time to think about anything else. I don’t even know if I told my husband good bye or that I loved him. I just don’t remember. All of a sudden everything happened very quickly. I remember thinking that— I finished the prayer and was surprised that the doctors were already ready to go.
Hours later, I woke up in the recovery room. The first thought that came to my mind was “Thank God, I am alive.” The first person I saw was my surgeon standing next to me, waiting for me to wake up. The first thing she told me was that she only needed to take 3 lymph nodes because the initial pathology showed they were clear. In other words, the cancer hadn’t spread.The two things I feared the most leading up to the surgery didn’t come to fruition.
I teach at a college and most of my colleagues are atheists. These are really great people who just don’t believe in God. We have had many conversations about why they believe there isn’t a God and why I do. I have witnessed their anguish and anxiety and fear and desolation and despair at life... and I honestly believe that all of these emotions are because they don’t believe in God— or maybe they really do and are in denial, and maybe that denial makes things worse for them. Whatever it is, as I was laying in the hospital bed, I completely understood every bit of despair and isolation they feel. I felt so sad. Really, I can’t accurately describe what I felt, because it was so horrible and I don’t have the words. One thing I am very aware of, however, is that whatever I felt laying in the hospital bed was blessedly short... maybe 15 minutes? But it was the worst 15 minutes of my life, literally. It was true anguish. And I am so sad for my colleagues who feel this way every day— way more than 15 minutes— because they don’t believe in God.
But the other thing I feel as a result of my experience before my surgery is God’s love. That is what I am still processing— what that means. Just like I don’t have the words to accurately explain how I felt during those 15 minutes of desolation, I don’t have the words to explain why I feel God’s love or what it feels like to feel the amount of God’s love that I do. The church says His love is fathomless, and yes, it is. It is powerful and all-encompassing and life sustaining and transformative. It is immeasurable amounts of joy and happiness. And even that doesn’t describe it. When I talked with you after Mass and said that this cancer experience was transformative, *this* is what I meant. I have never felt such love before. And I am unsure what to do with it.
When I first found out I had cancer, I said lots of prayers, as you can imagine. One was that God not let it go to waste— to use my suffering as He needed. I also asked Him to let this experience make me into whatever mother, wife, friend, daughter, person He needed me to be. Somehow the moments when I didn’t believe in Him were answers to my prayers, but I am not sure how. I just believe they must be. This is what I am still processing and trying to figure out.
The prayers from the Mission have meant so much to my family and to me, and I don’t know how I could have handled the last 9 months without them. I can’t say enough thank you’s to everyone at the Mission for their prayers and support. I hope you all recovered quickly from a long Easter weekend and have gotten some good rest in. Let me know how we can pray for you all.
We told you it was powerful! Total despair versus total awareness of His Love. Each of us may relate to a different aspect of her story. But all of us have friends and family members who, lacking Faith in God, are afflicted by the terrible anguish, fear and despair that she experienced briefly. The next two weeks' Meditations will offer short reflections on how we may be able to help them/us combat the fear and despair and come to experience His Love for them/us.
Mission of Divine Mercy
JULY 8, 2022
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To sign up for free, just go to https://mdm.formed.org and use the following code: 62QXM3
Mission to Close for the Entire Month of July
The Mission will be closed the entire month of July to provide our religious community with a sabbatical month in their 20th anniversary year. This means that there will be no public Masses at the Mission in July, instead of the usual two weeks. We are sorry for those who will be disappointed or inconvenienced by this, but the Community believes that this sabbatical month will provide a needed break to fortify them for the long haul.
The Mission office will be open during regular office hours so that work projects may continue. However, the Mission grounds will be closed so that Dave and his crew can proceed with special annual maintenance operations.
A NETWORK OF TRUST
"This is what MDM is called to be: a growing communion of trust in His Mercy
for our needy world." ~ Fr. John Mary
MDM started encouraging people to pray "Jesus, I trust in You" ten times a day back in 2011. Recently we felt it was important to remind people to turn to Jesus with this simple, powerful prayer in a world that feels more and more out of control. We are suggesting 20 times, but some people find themselves repeating it hundreds of times. It reminds our troubled souls that GOD IS IN CONTROL.
Many of you have put your name on our growing list and have also left a prayer intention or testimony:
Thank you for the beautiful Summer 2022 Newsletter. The discussions, regarding the 2 Sacred Hearts and the meaning of "Jesus I Trust in You," were very much appreciated. ~Mary
Praying for the protection of all Catholic Churches and pregnancy crisis centers. ~Donna
- Become another link in this growing Network of Trust by clicking on the button below.
Encounter With Jesus Retreats
Begin this Fall
Registration Opens for Sept. Retreat
September 8-11 – Women/English
ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS RETREAT SEPTEMBER 8 -11 WOMEN ENGLISH
October 6-9 -- Women/Spanish
December 8-11 – Men/English
February 9-12 – Women/English
March 9-12 -Women/Spanish
May 4-7 – Men/English
- Registration will open on our website, two months prior to each retreat.
- Each person must register individually, not as a group, so that we have contact information.
- We cannot reserve spaces in advance of the opening date for reservation.
- Due to limited space, we will give priority to those who have not made an EWJ.
- Prior retreatants wishing to make another retreat should call 830-302-9707 to be placed on the waiting list.
- For more information about the EWJ retreat, please go to our webpage: www.missionofdivinemercy.org