The initial cheers for our frontline workers (medics, virologists, drivers, supermarket workers, cleaners, crematorium staff, care workers, the list goes on…) across the globe felt like a crescendo of encouragement, ‘rallying the troops’. In this pandemic, countries are not warring with each other, but rallying together against a common global enemy.
Perhaps being isolated, you have felt helpless and alone in this strange catastrophe. Yet, the scenes we have witnessed and been part of, open a window to the many others who are all ‘on the same team’.
Now, we’re collectively fighting Coronavirus, and I sincerely hope that the ‘troops on the frontline’ feel a bit more refreshed and appreciated in their ongoing battle.
Let me just get back to the image of everyone clapping outside their homes, or from their homes. We are not isolated, although tucked away inside, we are not alone, and we *all* have a part to play, no matter how small that might feel to you at the moment, we all have a crucial role to play in ‘blocking those gaps’ against this unseen enemy, by staying at home, by good hygiene, and by supporting other people in a variety of ways, and also by taking care of ourselves.
You may be wondering why I have titled this post ‘swords and spades’. I’m glad you asked ! 😉 Some of you I’m well aware will already know, and that gives me a boost of confidence for a variety of reasons 🙏👌.
For those of you who don’t yet know, if we look back in history, there was a man named Nehemiah who was an ordinary and decent man, living in 5th Century BC, who found himself in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We have witnessed news of wars and terrorism all across the world, and Nehemiah lived at a time where he was living in the midst of constant attacks from groups of people who wanted to destroy and crush those he knew, those he worked with, those he loved, an entire group of people just going about their lives. As enemies descended upon them with distressing regularity, they found their daily lives to be changed and challenged.
In front of *their* own homes, each and every one of them had to be part of a defence and recovery mission. Literally, with a sword in one hand an a tool for building in the other they had to both defend themselves against attack, and also collectively build together what was constantly being broken down. Just as in a previous post where I talked about the image of us bringing our ‘shields’ together in mutual defence and protection, I am sure you can see the analogies here with our own situation, from these actual events in history.
What figuratively are the swords and spades you are able to use, each from our own homes, in a collective and united effort?
What are your means of protection, and what are your instruments and skills to rebuild what is being broken?
Remember that you are part of a great and collective effort against all of this distress and unseen attack, and no small effort is wasted. Keep going, you fight and build with millions around the globe, so be encouraged! You are making a difference, but you shouldn’t let your guard down. Keep protecting, keep rebuilding.
(For those who are also fighting and defending on another level, a different ‘frontline’ where the battle is real and fierce, remember it is fought and won on our knees! Have vision and remember the stakes are even higher in this one, so pray and allow the Light to break through the darkness. Our Commander in Chief has got this. 😉 🙏👌💪
I wonder if, for those of us who don’t work on the front line, we would ever choose to put our lives at risk to save others. To be honest, that’s a bit of a loaded question, because the point of it is the aspect of choice, and not simply duty.
If you were a doctor or nurse, for example, and we sincerely applaud you and your colleagues if you are, you may find yourself duty bound by the Hippocratic Oath to serve your fellow human beings, even at risk to your own life and that of your closest family. But would you choose it? If pre-Covid days you were given a glimpse into the future and shown what was to come, if you were told you would have no PPE, if you knew that you would be walking into certain death, would you do it to save someone else?
For those of us who don’t work on the front line, could we imagine for a moment being in such a situation and raising our hands to volunteer to save someone else? Not because it is the right thing to do, or because we have a sense of duty, or because we find ourselves in the situation and persevere through it, but would we knowingly choose to die, to save the life of another, even those people who don’t know anything about us, or care about us, or acknowledge what we are doing for them? People who perhaps have recklessly put their life in danger by not following the rules, and who didn’t care about causing harm to others? Do any of us care that much? Do any of us love others more than we love our own life even those who don’t realise what we are doing for them?
We are surrounded by heroes. Some of them, filled with fear, are persevering through a situation they didn’t and wouldn’t choose for themselves to be in, yet they are risking their lives to save others, and that is so humbling. Even more so, are the people who know that they will suffer, they will die, but they *choose* to save someone else and lay down their own life for the greater good. These people are astounding.
We’ve heard the stories of people, young men particularly, who chose to fight in the second world war to protect their country and the freedoms of those they loved. Some were forced to join the fight, others willingly stepped forth knowing that they were stepping into a horrific situation where they would be in constant danger, they would see people close to them killed and they would not come out of it alive, and if they did they would be maimed and traumatised, their lives changed forever, and not for the better. We regularly remember them and others like them, who lay down their lives to protect others. Regardless of what our thoughts are on war and politics, the sacrifice of others humbles us because it is so alien to our everyday motives for self-preservation and protecting our own lives, those of our families and shielding those closest to us from harm. Who among us can honestly say that we would choose to give up everything near and dear to us to save other people, people who may not even know or care what we personally did for them? How few among us can honestly answer ‘yes’! It is most likely that none among us, not even those front-line workers who find themselves thrown into this undesirable reality, would ever say yes. There have been times in my life, and I won’t go into details here, and perhaps there have been in yours, where I have been thrown into ‘fiery trials’ of immense pressure and personal suffering, and persevered through them, knowing that it was important to do so not only for myself but also for the good of others. But hand to my heart I didn’t choose to go through those painful trials. If for example it was the only way to help the people I love, then yes, I would choose that painful path, but if there was any other, easier way, then I would choose the painless path. There would be less growth, but there would be less pain also. Perhaps we would reluctantly ‘choose’ a difficult path because of the good that would come out of it for others and for our own characters, but it is highly unlikely that most of us would stick our hands up and volunteer to suffer.
So why have I entitled this post ‘true love’? Partly because our society exalts romantic love above ….well, most things really. If you consider the greeting cards you have seen in your lifetime, how many of them celebrated sacrificial love? How many of them were ‘thank you’ cards for brave men, women and children who put themselves at risk for others? I have never seen such a card that wasn’t hand made, and even then, before the Coronavirus, I’m not sure if I’d seen a hand made card celebrating sacrificial love. Perhaps this will change after this pandemic has passed. Perhaps greeting card companies will be printing cards celebrating the love shown by people who put their lives at risk to save others. Maybe as a society we will change the way we think about ‘love’.
Our society is obsessed with romance, and in a very selfish way. Yes, some may find ‘true love’ romantically, but how deep is this compared to sacrificial love that willingly chooses to put someone else first, even at great loss to oneself?
Just think about the vast majority of people who enter into marriages and relationships with a ‘try it and see’ kind of attitude. Think of how many lives have been touched by divorce. Think of the celebrity relationships that end because one partner no longer feels ‘fulfilled’ by the other. That’s not true love, that’s convenience, it is status, it is ‘how will this benefit me?’ Love that seeks its own benefit, is ultimately not true love, it is not the deepest or purest form of love, yet it is what we celebrate the most.
Why? Because it is prettier, it is sanitised, it makes for cuter Instagram pictures and Facebook posts!
Would people rather look at or be part of a love that sings of roses, and chocolates, blue skies, sunshine, candle-lit romantic meals, and happy company? Or would they want to look at the deeper, truer, steadfast love that never quits? A love that speaks instead of blood, sweat, tears, agony, anguish, immense personal pain, trauma, sickness, terror, fear, heartache, loss? Is this kind of deeper, truer love celebrated on greeting cards and Facebook posts? This messy, ‘ugly’, sacrificial, painfilled love that goes beyond, so far beyond the realm of ‘duty bound’ – it is a Love that *chooses* knowingly, intentionally, willingly, to suffer at great cost, for the sake of the beloved, even when the beloved is unworthy of such love, unworthy people like you and me.
Many of you will sadly go through your entire lives never experiencing first hand that kind of True Love, choosing instead to settle for the flowers and the fairy tales that will eventually fade, as beautiful as they are. But many among us have and daily continue to know first hand this True Love like no other, the most sacrificial and purest Love of all, and on Good Friday we do celebrate this love of blood, sweat, tears and agony, because it has changed our lives…not textbook, not religious change, but in reality. We celebrate the purest, truest agape (sacrificial) Love of all – that of God Who gave His Only Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for your sin, for mine that separated us from Him. That of The Man Christ Jesus Who knowing that the only way to rescue you and I was to suffer immensely. He chose The Cross….He chose you….the reality of His tangible presence, His True Love, has changed everything for me, and continues to.
This is Good Friday, and if you know that this commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, for you, for me – you may wonder why on earth a day of darkness, pain, betrayal, agony, death, fear, blood, sweat and tears is celebrated as in any way ‘Good’. It’s one of the biggest questions you will ever ask in your life time. It is the day that True Love died…..but that’s not the end of the story, the Reality….and this Sacrifice has changed and continues to change the lives of people like me, and is an open invitation to every one to experience this True Love for the rest of their lives….it is an invitation that many people sadly will discard, for the sake of flowers and chocolates….the toughest choices were made by Jesus, but the choice still remains with each of us as to whether we will choose to welcome His True Love for us, or to discard His Pure Love Sacrifice for us individually.
When the time comes for me to die, I know I would rather have the love of blood, sweat and tears and sacrificial Pure Love holding me, than that of chocolates and flowers, that will melt and wither and do nothing for me. Yet the wonderful thing is none of us have to wait for death to experience the reality of this Pure Love now and everyday of our lives going forwards. Because it is not a Love that remains confined to the pages of a book, but the tangible, real Love that meets you at your worst, your messiest, your most unlovely, and chooses to go on loving you in a way no mere mortal ever could, a love that will never fail, forsake you or let you down. The difficult choice to love you like that has been made, and it will never be rescinded….but what will you choose in return?
Every life has its turning points. Points where there is a shift, a change, a ‘crossing over’. Sadly, sometimes, these might be negative as well as positive. Some people’s turning points come in the descent from when an interest becomes an obsession, which then becomes an addiction, and leads to a life of decline, where at the ‘turning point’ a choice to cry out for help, for intervention, could have been made. Yet, perhaps that turning point is yet to come, so if you are somewhere in that mire, don’t give up hope. Mercy & Grace is waiting for you.
But what of those more positive and hopeful turning points in life, and in particular for this blog post, in recovery?
People who care about me used to say that they hoped that I would soon ‘turn the corner’ in my recovery from complex PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and depression. It was a rough time in my life and there didn’t seem to be much apparent hope for change that things would get better or easier anytime soon. At one point I felt I might have to just live in that way for the rest of my life.
Have you had to recover from something? Perhaps like me, it is or has been PTSD, depression, panic attacks and so forth, and also related to this I have had chronic pain. Maybe you have had to recover from a physical injury, a divorce, a loss of some kind, an eating disorder, a traumatic event or a long period of ill health. Perhaps recovery has been to do with an addiction, a mental health condition, a job loss, a ‘failure’ of some sort. For the journeys of recovery that span years and potentially decades, like mine, and perhaps like yours, the idea of there being something for us around that ‘corner’ wherever it is, can feel somewhat elusive.
Yet turning points in recovery can and do happen, sometimes in a profound moment, but perhaps more often they occur gradually, subtly, over time until we get to the point of perspective where we realise that although we still have our struggles in relation to what we went through, we are not where we used to be, not by a long shot.
This blessed realisation is beginning to dawn on me, at the dawn of 2020 🙂 I’m by no means ‘out of the woods’ as I still have to work at things every day, but I have ‘turned a corner’ which I never knew if I would ever find – Hallelu-Jah! God Is Good.
What marks a change, a turning point? For me, when I was in a very difficult place (although after the point of feeling like ‘giving up’), where I could barely make it through a day without my body giving up on me and sometimes collapsing in searing panic, when I would move through the day in a state of flux between the fog of dissociation and the waking night mare of fear and flashbacks, and where my night times would be restless and fearful too, I had a hope that someday would come when I would be strong enough to help other people, like in the biographies I read of people I looked up to who had reached their own ‘turning point’ and were going on to do greater things, helping so many people along the way.
Well, it seems my turning point has arrived, gently, subtly, and perhaps just at its beginning of finding the hope to bud and bloom. The green shoots of life, of hope and of change are beginning to emerge from the ashes of seeming defeat and brokenness. My blog is one way in which this turning point is coming about, however, what I am seeing in my life is that I am able to encourage, help and provide comfort to people face to face, precisely because of what I have been through.
In my toughest times in life I have felt alienated from the people around me who (and by their own admissions) had never suffered much and I couldn’t relate to them in finding hope or strength through the pain. Yet I did find that solace in Jesus Christ (Who knows and has experienced suffering in its greatest depths of pain, loneliness and shame, and Who has the greatest love, understanding and compassion for us), I found that ‘kinship’ in the books written of the lives of others who had made it through their own challenges in life, and I found the authentic comfort from friends, some older, who had gone through some of their own really tough times.
When someone is able to say ‘I went through this…’ there is a more solid hope and a more authentic comfort than someone who tries to help (or not as the case may be) or advise (ouch!) when they haven’t been challenged and softened by suffering themselves. It doesn’t even have to be the same kind of experience for one to be able to provide a greater depth and reality of hope and of comfort, for there is something that changes within the person who has suffered and who has persevered through it to find grace, healing, hope and kindness and a deeper understanding and compassion through the process, and continuing on ‘on the other side’.
The corner has been turned, even as I was simply continuing on with my own journey of getting stronger and realising that the things I wanted to do to help other people (such as mentoring) were things I wasn’t quite ready for. Yet other opportunities present themselves now, quite naturally, and because of what I went through I can relate to the people who need compassion in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. We all want peace, and yet sometimes to be ministers of peace in the world, we have to go through turbulence that leads us to finding our eternal hope and dependence in True Peace.
There’s a verse in Scripture that says that God works ‘all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes’. For many years this seemed out of my grasp, the pain was too much to see how things would work together for good, but the hope of that ‘someday’ was still there, even though it often seemed and felt ‘impossible’. This verse – Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things are good, no the Bible is very honest with the darkness and difficulties and pain encountered in this life, but because God Is Good, He can and will work everything for good ultimately, even though we see the mess of things just now. On the grandest scale this is true, and on the smaller scale of an individual life trusting in Him, it is also true.
And so after many years of pain, inner turmoil, brokenness, fear, anxiety, depression, suffering and feeling like things would not relent for so long, finally the turning point has arrived, praise God. Recovery is perhaps a lifetime journey in many respects for all of us, however, ahead of me is a new road that I haven’t encountered before. One in which weakness and strength go hand in hand. One in which because of pain, of fragility that has been overcome, I can be a source of comfort, strength and lived out hope for others. The healing is still happening, the hope is still blossoming, and the journey ahead at last looks promising, one in which the purpose from the pain comes when I am able to help another hurting soul as they head towards their own ‘turning point’ in their life. xx
A favourite Scripture among many Christians is from the book of Proverbs (Chapter 3: verses 5 – 6).
“Trust in The LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.
For those who have never encountered The Living God, who don’t know the Reality of the Risen Christ, and who don’t personally have a relationship with Him as their Lord and Saviour, then this advice might seem a little bit strange, inaccessible or contrary to their way of thinking and of living life. For without God in the picture, people trust in their own wayward hearts, they lean on their own faulty reasoning, ‘logic’ and understanding, and that of other people as they try to forge out a way forwards, yet never walking in the Truth.
Statements like these can be hard to swallow, might invite challenging discussion, but as someone who does know The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, I also know just how much I need Him to navigate the path ahead for me, and to trust The One Who sees and knows with perfect wisdom the many things I can’t possibly figure out without Him. Who would walk into a jungle for the first time without a guide? Who would walk through the jungle of life without The Saviour, The Shepherd, The One Who declares in Truth: “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life (no one comes to The Father except through Me)” ?
For those of us who do know Him, we have a responsibility to always seek His guidance and direction in our lives, in the day to day decisions, as well as the bigger situations we may face. How many times do we get into a mess trying to figure out things all on our own, when we only have to ask, and listen for that direction that He so freely gives? The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray.
We need to stay focussed on Him, because He has a plan, a mission, a purpose for our lives, and much of this is being played out in the spiritual realm – something that the secular world around us does not understand, accept or acknowledge, and something that others may not be ‘armed’ to know what they are actually ‘dabbling with’ when it comes to spiritual things that on the surface seem harmless.
WE need to stay focussed, alert, on track and listen for His direction, and guidance, through the Word and being led by His Spirit.
Sometimes there may be a lot of competing demands in our lives, things that arise from a variety of sources, and seemingly ‘good causes’, but before diving in, we need to acknowledge our Lord and ask what He desires and requires of us. Just because something on the surface seems like it is a good thing to be involved with, doesn’t mean that it is something that He wants us to focus our attention on, or maybe He has a different or a better way than the one we see immediately set before us.
Are you letting competing voices draw you away from hearing The Voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ?
The world busies itself with all sorts of things to be done, but sometimes rushing into things isn’t the best course of action. Wait, listen, trust in Him with all your heart, lean on His understanding and not your own, acknowledge Him in everything, knowing that without any doubt, He *will* direct your paths.
At the start of a New Year we often find ourselves evaluating our priorities and assessing our progress over the past year. Many people have health and fitness goals, however, focusing on things like nutrition is only part of what it means to be healthy, and being spiritually fit, healthy and nourished is fundamental to true success in life.
This post is geared towards fellow believers in The LORD who want to deepen and strengthen their relationship with God and to live a life led by Him. It is also for anyone who is interested in knowing more about God, anyone who is interested in reading The Word of God, but unsure as to where to start.
Over the past few years I have done various ‘plans’ using an online resource called ‘YouVersion’. This provides written as well as audio and visual Bible reading resources, and if you log in and create an account you can see that there is a wide range of resources that include reading Scripture by books in the Bible, by life topics, and many categories so that you will surely find something that will help you with where you are at in life whatever your age, life stage, or situation.
Last year, however, I tried something new, and this was a Bible reading plan via YouVersion that I did with other people in my church. The resource is set up so that you have the option of doing plans individually or with other people. Up until last year I had only ever gone through these plans individually. However, the plan involved reading a chapter of the Bible a day, and at the end of the year this resulted in reading through the whole New Testament. Weekends were ‘reflection’ days so there were no readings for these, which also allowed time to play ‘catch up’. I didn’t always manage to do the readings on a day to day basis with this plan, although I would be ‘feeding’ myself with Scripture on a daily basis in other ways. This meant that I spent lengthier periods ‘catching up’ but I am pleased and blessed to say that I did finish the year long plan and it was a really positive experience.
One of the highlights for me was that at the end of each reading people could comment and reflect upon and discuss with each other what we had all just read. It provided a wonderful new way of learning and gaining insights from other people as well, which I wouldn’t otherwise have when reading on my own, and I think it is important to have a balance of both personal and devotional reading, and group study. I have to say, I only knew a few of the people doing the study to talk to, and most of the others I still don’t know, which gave a sense of being more connected with a wider group of believers that I may not otherwise have had the chance to have any interaction with.
This year another group study has started which I have also joined in with, covering both the Old and New Testaments, and which will take two years (or one, depending on the reading plan and pace you decide to go at). I am excited about this because it feels like a journey together, of daily mutual encouragement and insight, and most of all growing closer to God and His ways.
I also am looking forward to studying more personal topics to me on an individual basis through this resource, as well as through other avenues of Bible study for me this year.
Of course, as with everything it is important to be discerning, and to prayerfully consider which plans to do, especially if any seem to be led more by a person or theme, than by the Pure Word of God. On the whole, however, I do recommend this online resource to be a good way to nourish our souls and spiritual growth in a manageable way, and which helps us to see our ‘progress’ as we journey through the Bible this year.
So, here is the link if you would like to take a look, and praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we will all have a fruitful year, in which God Is greatly glorified in our lives, by His Spirit, and for those who are ‘testing the waters’ that you will respond to His call of Pure Love to You to be part of His family and His kingdom.
God bless, and behold the ‘new things’ He Is doing in your life this year! Shalom. <>< x
Life is filled with wonder. With every sunrise we have a new day to live, new things to discover, new questions to ask and to be curious about, new challenges and unknowns. With every sunset we have the chance to enjoy the fulfilment of another day lived, whether with joy or sadness, and to reflect upon what we have learned and experienced.
We all look up from time to time from the everyday things of our lives. We remind ourselves that we are a small part of something far greater than us, far beyond our understanding and comprehension. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time reflecting and contemplating the miracle of our existence in this vast universe, for surely everyone who stands in solitude and stares up at a star filled night sky, or waits in silence upon a mountain top, feeling the raw beauty and power of nature and of design, feels humbled by the exquisiteness of the ‘something more’ that we have been gifted to be a part of.
I think if we would all but take the time to inhabit such moments more often, then we would live as people and amongst people of humbled hearts and inquiring minds. We would remember that we are not the centre of all things, but we are important as small as we are and have a part to play in this wondrous symphony of life conducted from far higher than any perspective we could hope to have in this fragile life. Perhaps we would notice more the harmony of the diverse aspects of nature working together in one accord, and we would take those lessons to heart in the way we perceive life and our fellow human beings and how we treat each other – each unique but with an important reason and part to play in the grander scheme of things. We all need to ‘look up’, and perhaps we need to make time to do this more often in lives that are otherwise overly busy, hurried and caught up in the mud and mire at our feet.
I like to think of the deeper aspects of life regularly. I believe in, know and love God – The One True and Living God, and as a follower of Christ, Loved Perfectly by Him, I anticipate the gifts of this season when Truth is more freely proclaimed about Who He Is and why He came to us. To honour and think upon the uncreated One Who has Been since before time was, in Whom everything exists and lives and moves and has its being, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.
No matter where we are on life’s journey, we need to make time to think, to consider our faith, our relationship to our thoughts about our very existence and what that means for who we are and how we live. We need to look up, and not just look but listen. Be still, ponder Truth, and let our faith be strengthened.
There are points in our lives that ‘define’ us. That statement in itself is loaded, and one that can be debated. But in the simplest of senses, certain things in our lives change the way we see things, the world and ourselves.
Such points can happen negatively in trauma where one’s sense of identity is shattered, our minds feel like they’ve become fragmented or fractured, we become ‘stuck’ in a place of pain and fear, and we live the trauma and torment over and over again for years until we finally process it and are able to move forwards having gleaned a new narrative and a new meaning from it.
They can happen also in rescue, where once we were broken, helpless, feeling unwanted or unloved, and alone, prisoners to our own overwhelming and unmanageable experiences, we come in contact with a rescuer, someone who can help, who can revive, nurture, heal and restore. We are no longer alone, fighting ourselves over whether to try to go on living through the pain or to give up, we have others fighting in our corner, and they can help us through. (The ultimate Rescuer Who can perfectly help us is the Saviour, Jesus Christ, but people can help us in smaller ways on our journey too).
In recovery we meet change points when we move from the mental state of a victim to that of a survivor, and then a fighter, an overcomer, a warrior.
And in restoration we meet these moments when we discover a new narrative, a new identity and new hope.
God tells us that He can give us a “Hope and a future”, and Scripture is filled with the realities of brokenness and the greater realities of God’s transforming love and power to bring rescue, healing, recovery, a hope and a future, ‘beauty for ashes’, ‘the oil of joy’ to replace mourning, and ‘garments of Praise’ in place of a ‘spirit of heaviness’.
The pages of Scripture tell of the realities that many followers of Christ have lived through. Read people’s testimonies, listen to what they have to say and you will find this translation from darkness into Light, from old to new, from fear to courage, from despair to hope, from abandonment and loneliness to the rescued knowing that they have been saved by Grace, adopted by Christ into the family of God and are now Beloved, washed clean by the atoning sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and have a new heart and a new spirit.
This kind of a hope and a future goes far beyond recovery processes, self-help journeys, 12 step programmes or positive thinking. Why? Because when we are born again, spirit filled, our very nature changes spiritually – the power of God Is within us, and we are ‘new creatures’ / new creations as the Bible tells us.
The healing journey can often be painful and take a long time, although for some people by the Grace of God it happens instantaneously such as people who have been in a moment by the power of Christ been set free from drug addictions for example. The ordinary Christians around you will have some extraordinary stories to tell of our incredible God.
It can seem like it is getting worse before it gets better, but that is because God deals with the deep rooted things within us, the brokenness, the sin, the old, which needs to be taken out just as the new needs to grow and flourish. It is because He Is transforming us perfectly, and this is a work He will bring to completion in His time.
On this road, there are change points too. A point where we cross over in our healing and restoration journey to a place of standing in our True Identity in Christ. That doesn’t mean to say that the damage has been fully healed, the battles all fought (although at the Cross they are overcome, victory is in Christ), but we no longer view our recovery, our challenges, our lives from a place of defeat, but of victory.
That is one of the most remarkable change points of our lives. And although we may stumble and struggle, we get up, renewed, our minds being transformed to know that if God Is for us, Who can be against us? He will give us everything we need, and that gives us a hope, a future in Him, in His love and eternal victory – and that, no matter the struggle, changes *everything*!
Life often presents us with seasons of unknown tomorrows. Sometimes we barely have the breath to be able to live in such a way as to think that there can even be a tomorrow, or we simply struggle on with our heads bowed because of the painful challenges we face. Sometimes we look around us and see other people in seasons of fulfilment and we wait, we pray, we feel disheartened, we hope and wonder if we will ever come to our own seasons of joy and blessing…of our heart’s desires.
Proverbs tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.
Do you know that feeling? The one that is somehow always just under the surface, but you try to wish it away, or to wish your unfulfilled dreams away? Well then you’re not alone. I am sure every human being at some point in their lives has felt this, and some of us go through longer and more protracted periods of waiting, anticipating, hoping, grieving, focusing on the here and now, wondering and beginning again. Hope deferred does make the heart sick, so should we go on hoping?
I suppose we need to ask ourselves at the deepest level, where we are putting our hope, and what are we putting our hope in?
What are you waiting for?
Throughout life’s seasons we wait for things. As a child, you may wait for a toy, for your birthday, to see your best friend, a parent you no longer live with, or you may wait for a holiday.
As a teenager, you may wait for your exam results, to know if you’ll ever fit in at school, for romance, to find out what on earth you are good and what you should do with your life.
As a young adult you may wait and work to pass your driving test, to get the grades you need to get into university, college, an apprenticeship, etc. You might wait for your parents to understand what you are all about. You might be waiting to figure that out yourself. Maybe you are waiting once more for exam results, to find out if you will graduate, for your first job, flat, home and for direction in your life.
Maybe you are single and waiting, looking and praying for a spouse. Maybe you are waiting for test results and for a breakthrough in your health. Maybe you are waiting to save up enough money to travel or to get out of the place you are in that you are longing to leave behind so that you can start afresh. Maybe you are waiting to find out who your birth family are and whether they might want to know you. Maybe you are waiting and trying and praying for a baby. Maybe you are waiting for someone who has left you to come back, for reconciliation with estranged friends or family, for that career break, the pay rise, the new job opportunity, the love of your life, the thing right now that your heart desires.
It can be hard can’t it?
What are you in control of?
At least when we have some sense of control over our lives, our futures, our destiny then we can get to work on making things happen.
You’re waiting for a career break, but you know what steps to take and what training courses to do, and it is within your means to do it, so your hope is now a goal and you are excited about achieving it, even though there is a lot of hard work to do.
You’re waiting for the holiday you’ve always wanted, but you know how to plan for it and make it happen.
You’re waiting to publish your first book but you’ve been writing for a while, so at least you can do something about it and figure out the details of how along the way.
But what of the things that we can’t control, or things that involve a bit more heartache through the process? Like trying for a baby, hoping to find a spouse, the love of your life, hoping to get married and settle down and have a family? What about waiting to know whether your diagnosis will be favourable? What of the things that are not so much in our hands?
Our hearts sometimes ache, and sometimes we become jaded by our current realities especially if contrasted with people around us whose longings have been and are being fulfilled, and we put it down to something being wrong with us, and we want to wish away our hopes and our dreams because at least then it won’t hurt if we don’t have them.
There is no simple response to explain away the depth and intricacies of the human heart. But if you are facing hope deferred right now, just know that you are not alone. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you in your situation, but hopefully it will bring at least a little comfort to know that people throughout the ages and even now experience the heartache that you are feeling and those feelings are valid.
As to where to put our hopes, most people spend most of their lives putting their hopes in things that are transient, fleeting, imperfect and will inevitably disappoint. We put our hopes in other people, in romantic love, in families, in success, in money, in positions of authority, in children, in travel, in achievements. These as wonderful as they can be will inevitably disappoint in some way or another. Even the most ‘picture perfect’ life will have its pain hidden beneath the surface. Because these imperfect things simply cannot fill up the human heart.
I have learned that the only true fulfilment and True Hope that will *never* disappoint (and I know that that is a bold claim) is to put my hope in the One True and Living God. Only in Christ Jesus can I know the deepest needs of my heart being healed and met, and only God can bring to pass the fulfilment of His plan for my life, and show me what I need to do that is ultimately for my best and for His Glory.
Without Him I was merely lost, in pain, and unfulfilled, feeling always ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’, but now I have this liquid love within me, around me, and my hope is in the Perfect, the Eternal, in Pure Unfailing Love that cannot and will never disappoint.
Without Him, what hope is there? I wonder what your answer is in your life?
However, even for those of us who walk with Him, in this life there will still be disappointment, and He more than anyone knows what that feels like in this broken, fallen, sin stained world.
We are in the Presence of the Perfect, and yet our human hearts long for the temporal and temporary pleasures of this life. And you know what? That’s normal. And we don’t need to walk through those longings, hurts, feelings, disappointments or worries alone – we have, or can have Someone by our side always, Who will never leave us, fail us nor forsake us, and Who will constantly love us perfectly and carry us through.
And yes, sometimes God does make us wait. Sometimes for a very long time. And for some their dreams may not be fulfilled this side of eternity. But for some of us they will and we still have to go through the difficult but worthwhile heart lessons that are found in seasons of waiting. Waiting for a child, for marriage, for our calling, for healiing….but while we wait, even if we doubt whether what we hope for will come to pass or not, we wait for and with Someone Who Is Perfect, Who Is Trustworthy, Faithful, Perfectly Loving, Compassionate and Who will never let us down. We wait with Him and we hope in Him. We already have the Best thing Life can offer us in Jesus Christ. And He knows the desires of our hearts, and He will perfect that which concerns us, in His perfect way and time. Regardless of how things turn out – we have HIM. x
This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year. I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!
Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.
At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.
This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.
I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.
I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.
Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.
As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!
As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.
Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.
I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.
This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.
Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.