The news is all around us, and it’s hard to avoid. I have an anxiety disorder and complex PTSD and clinical depression and I have been working hard over the past few years to get stronger and to really make progress in this recovery and wellbeing journey. However, like many of you, the news and the uncertainty of Covid-19, and the reactions of other people, can add to those inner feelings of anxiety and unease. Last night, after chatting with my family on the phone, I spent some time just laying down and listening to healing Scriptures, and I woke up in the morning feeling His Peace – the Peace of Christ – so that when I read the news it didn’t really shake me. I remember the times before I knew The LORD in experience, I couldn’t find any true and lasting relief for my anxiety and often crippling fears (symptoms of C-PTSD and GAD that I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with) no matter how hard I tried. And I did try! The soothing feelings I experienced in nature, as lovely as they were, didn’t last beyond my time being in such natural surroundings. When I had to re-join the world of other people, my peace quickly dissipated. Now, I have a true Peace, an experiential Peace and the reality of The Living God Who Is holding me and guiding me (and often times carrying me) through the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and joys of life, in His Perfect Love. I pray that we all will come to know this in reality.
Whether or not you know The Lord Jesus Christ, I’d like to encourage you in terms of the effects that this current world situation might be having on you, especially if you are in recovery of any type. This could be recovery from mental health conditions such as depression, managing anxiety, or it could be to do with fear of open spaces, of viruses and health, recovery from addiction or eating disorders or social phobias, or whatever the case may be. I don’t know what you might have been working hard to overcome, but if you have been working hard to overcome something, please don’t let this pandemic ‘situation’ throw you off course.
This ‘wise advice’ is for myself as well as for many of you, because when we are so caught up in what is going on around us, our own wellbeing might begin to take second, or third, or even last place, and that’s not good for anyone.
As well as following the medical and government advice and all the protocols to look after your health in terms of this pandemic, please, please don’t neglect to keep up your routines for your own recovery for whatever that might be.
You might find that you will have to work harder at things because of the additional things that everyone is dealing with, but remember your coping strategies, your tools and techniques, and be organised in your mind and write down and plan your routine as much as possible so that in this seeming chaos, you don’t forget to keep doing what you’ve been doing to get better, stronger, healthier and to stay well.
Take care everyone, and I will write more encouraging posts for you as the days progress. x
I’m not in isolation or lockdown or anything like that yet, and am thankfully fit and healthy and well, however, more and more it looks like the country and the world is moving in that direction whether you have symptoms of Covid-19 or not. The rationale is to contain and minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
It strikes me that people are responding very differently to the thought of having to stay indoors or limit their activity for an extended period of time than when they might be in a similar situation say during the Christmas holidays for example.
I’m still out and about going to work, although keeping my distance as much as possible, but the government is recommending that employers allow staff to work from home, so it is a wait and see time for us until we get definitive direction. In the meantime, we have to keep showing up.
However, I digress. There is a difference if you have to stay indoors and you are the only one in that situation, but there is, or at least there can be, a sense of community and camaraderie and shared experience when you know a large percentage of the world are in a similar situation. That’s part of the reason why I love Christmas, and the holiday season, because despite the diversity of beliefs, there is a sense of a shared experience.
Now, I know this whole pandemic is a different situation entirely, but let’s just think of how we can help and encourage each other to stay happy and healthy and mentally well during what might eventually turn out to be an extended period of time indoors. How can we help each other to counter the fear and anxiety that is so rife? Many people may find themselves completely symptom and virus free, but be advised by their employers or governments to stay at home, for the greater good. At any other time and in other circumstances, many of us would jump at the chance for some work from home days, or the chance to take a break away from it all in the comfort of our own homes. However, in this climate of fear, we are reacting very differently, or so it seems to me.
Ok, so maybe you are well and yet having to stay at home. I’m kind of hoping that I will be able to work from home too, but like I said, it’s ‘wait and see’. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods and jobs are at risk, but if you don’t have those issues and simply have to stay indoors, how can we make the most of the situation?
I think if I have to stay inside for an extended period of time, I might put up my Christmas tree! Perhaps that seems strange to you if you live in sunnier climes, but I live in Scotland, and although the days are lighter and we have some dry days here and there, spring hasn’t really ‘sprung’ as yet, and we do get more than our fair share of rain, so some days it does still feel a bit ‘wintery’.
If you are new to my blog, I have written various series’ on self care, staycations, mental health and wellbeing, retreats of various types, and keeping cosy, so hopefully you will find some inspiration to make the most of an otherwise uncertain time.
Think about the things you would ideally do if you were organising a ‘staycation’ for yourself in your own home, or town. How many of us so often feel the need to ‘get away from it all’ without the practical hassles of travel, and to just have some ‘down time’ to think and reflect and nurture our own souls? How can we be people who seek to be encouragers and a positive influence when all around us is panic and anxiety and uncertainty?
For me, if I were to have to stay indoors, these are the things I would focus my attention on:
Drawing even closer to God, enjoying His Presence, allowing Him to continue His work of healing and restoration, and building up myself in my true identity so that I will be stronger and a vessel for His use in greater measure than before. Spending time with the One Who Loves me most and learning from Him.
Praying and interceding for other people, not only in terms of the concerns around Coronavirus, but taking time to think and pray about and appeal to God for the many people and situations that we so often don’t think about because we are ‘too busy’ with getting through the day to day things of life, and ‘cares of this world’. Focused prayer for people’s salvation and also for the needs of those who are caring for others, making decisions, ‘on the front line’ in some way, or who are ill and suffering or in need. Finding ways to advocate for those who suffer from injustice and abuse whether through prayer and practical means.
Reaching out to other people, and seeking to be a ‘good steward’ of the resources He has given me, and making a positive impact on the world, whether by blogging, keeping in touch with and encouraging people over the phone or email or other means.
Taking time for self development, nurturing myself and allowing God to continue to heal me, and also doing my part in looking after my emotional and mental health.
Working hard, obviously, if working from home did become a reality, and doing my duties to the best of my ability.
Taking time to continue writing my novel.
Read the books that have been waiting for me to get to them! 🙂
Exercise and healthy living.
Take time to be grateful, mindful and thankful for all of the blessings I do have in my life.
Finding ways to encourage and pray for other people, and to offer help where it is safe and wise and healthy to do so.
Home organisation and decluttering.
Arts and crafts projects, adult colouring in, continuing to learn to draw.
Music, playing worship on my violin.
Photography projects – finally compiling my photography work into one place.
Continue work on my blog to help bullied children (which I haven’t been able to while maintaining a daily routine of going to work, etc.).
Having pamper days for self care and looking after my body as well as my mind.
Learning new skills and online learning.
Tidying out my spare room!
Cosying up like at Christmas time and watching some nice films or box sets.
Live a ‘hygge life’.
Encouraging others and being kind!
So, what about you? What positives can you glean from this situation, and how would you, or how are you spending your time ‘away from it all’?
What are your struggles, and what are the things you have learned or that you enjoy that you can share that will benefit others reading this?
Let’s stick together and become stronger in the midst of all of this uncertainty, and bring out the best in each other as we make our way through this uncertain world.
I am thankful that my faith, certainty and hope is in the unchanging, solid rock of Jesus Christ, the source of life and pure love.
Take care and stay well, healthy, and safe, everyone. x
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
Well dear readers, friends, we’re finally here, and I’d like to wish you all a very happy December.
This is the time of the year when everyone seems to say “Can you believe it? December is here already, hasn’t this year gone by quickly?”. I personally don’t think it has, but it is a natural time of reflection when the seasons change and the calendar year comes to an end. We ask ourselves where the time has gone, and it is a chance to look back in reflection and also to look forwards in hope.
I’ve never done ‘Blogmas’ before, you know, posting a new blog post every day in the lead up to Christmas. I really like this idea and have often enjoyed stopping by different ‘vlogs’ on YouTube for ‘Vlogmas’.
It’s the 5th of December, so I’ve already missed the first few days, but it’s nice also to blog as we approach Christmas, without necessarily doing this every day. Just as I created my Winter Survival Guide series (my 50th and final post for that series will be coming soon!), I’d like to also blog regularly in December. I love the idea of reading your Christmas themed blog posts, and ‘blogmas’ posts, it is a cosy and comforting feeling.
However, as I contemplated using the term ‘blogmas’ in my title, I realised that it wasn’t really what my heart was going for. Which is why you can think of this as a Christmas blog story, as I like to focus on Christ being the centre of Christmas, rather than blogging or any other thing. It’s just a personal feeling I had for my own blog, but like I said I love all of your blogmas posts and will enjoy reading them. So, what instead….?
Who doesn’t love an advent calendar? I have quite a fondness, even though I don’t have one myself, for those hand stitched patchwork style advent creations with hand stitched pockets. I think we all love the countdown to something special and exciting and worth celebrating.
For many of us, Advent signifies the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and the waiting and anticipation of those who lived during that time. Now as a Christian, I can approach Christmas reflecting back with gratitude for Christ’s first coming into the world, and looking forward in hope to His second coming for He will return again, and also celebrate the Christmas season knowing and experiencing personally that He Is Emmanuel – God with us – The One True and Living God, here, and now.
Advent is also a time of preparation, and I love this because as a Christian, preparing my heart for Christ is a daily thing, however at this time of the year it is a new and fresh opportunity to do this with other believers and also to know that the world around us is celebrating and anticipating and that this is an opportunity to share the Light, Love and Truth of Jesus Christ with all.
What are you waiting for?
As a Christian, I wait on God, and I live in the experience of His present love, forgiveness, peace, joy and truth. I wait, and yet I am also fulfilled.
What are you waiting for and preparing for at this time of year?
I look forward to sharing my journey, this year’s Christmas (blog) Story with you as I give you a glimpse into my thoughts, friendships, travels, holiday fun, faith, spirituality, home and lifestyle. I hope you will stay with me as we continue on to the next chapter, and as we hopefully approach what will be a “Merry Christmas for one and all”.
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
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x
There’s a lyric in the song, ‘Chasing Cars’ by the band ‘Snow Patrol’ that has a lot to teach me:
“I need your grace to remind me to find my own”.
Now, I can’t with all honesty say that I know or understand what all of the lyrics in this song are about. However, this line resonates with me in such a practical way.
I love Jesus Christ, and at the very heart of being a follower of Christ is the Cross. Forgiveness. Mercy. Unmerited grace and favour. God’s Riches (towards me, a sinner) At Christ’s Expense. GRACE. Amazing Grace. I am awed and humbled by this almost unthinkable, almost absurd, if it wasn’t so incredible, so full of love and self sacrifice, that God Incarnate would take the place of His sinful creation, that Jesus Christ the Son of God would take the wrath and punishment for our, my sins against a Holy God, and having paid the price in full, tear down the dividing wall between a Holy God and sinful man / woman, impart to me His Righteousness.
“I stand amazed in the Presence of Jesus The Nazarene, and wonder how He could Love me, a sinner, condemned unclean, how marvellous, how wonderful and my song shall ever be, how marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s Love for me!” I am clothed and covered in His Righteousness. This complete forgiveness, love and acceptance, a new life, is His Gift to me.
And although this often does leave me speechless, I often fail to understand how to walk in this Truth in the mud and mire of everyday life on this planet.
If forgiveness is so important to me, the very crux and foundation of my faith and my identity in Christ, then why do I need to be reminded of it when people wrong or hurt me? Why as human beings is it so hard to ask for or to extend forgiveness? We still battle against sin in this fallen world, and in ourselves.
I realise that regardless of what anyone else is doing, I need to humble myself before God. Whether that is to repent and ask for forgiveness myself, or to ask for His Grace to work in my heart to enable me to love and forgive those who have wronged me, or in most cases it will be both, whichever way, I need Him.
The impossible is made possible at the Cross, through His death and resurrection. And the beautiful thing is that I have His Grace, to remind me, to find my own (in Him).
I’ve always been interested in human psychology. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are too. However, don’t you find that there is a marked and poignant difference between those instances where we have a purely intellectual fascination in an aspect of psychology from when we have a personal reason or investment to figure ourselves and other people out? I certainly do. The first approach perhaps is driven by curiosity, fascination, a love of learning and discovery. The second is perhaps tinged more with pain, hurt, confusion and a desire to seek out answers to make sense of things we are grappling with ‘in real life’ and / or to find some kind of mental and emotional healing. Sometimes both go hand in hand as two sides of the same coin.
One area of exploration that has come to my attention over the past while is the use of silence in human relationships, its power and place, its promise, and its pain. I can think of five different people over the past few years who use silence as a form of communication. However, without actually saying anything, how can a person know that the message they are portraying is the one that they want to be received? I don’t know. It’s never been something I have intentionally done to anyone, and never something I intend to initiate. The Power of Silence:
Silence can be a blessed and a beautiful thing. Many of us will be familiar with the phrase that ‘silence is golden’. What does that mean? Silence is rare, precious, valuable, of great importance, a gift, to be treasured.
When I think of silence as a gift, I think of those precious moments of solitude where the noise of the world fades out, and we find peace in the stillness. I think of times of rest and relaxation, of being in nature, and although not being void of sound, of finding repose in the natural sounds of a babbling brook, of wind rustling through golden autumnal leaves, of gentle birdsong.
Sometimes I think of the beauty and power of silence as those moments when you embrace and hold someone you love and where conversation and chatter cease.
There is power in silence also, as Scripture tells us, in our souls waiting quietly before God. As we quieten down, perhaps in the sense of a ‘retreat’ we can find hope and connection, we can ‘hear God’s voice’, we can feel more grounded in ourselves, more in touch with the natural world, and find power in silence in a way that gives us clarity, answers, direction, meaning and restfulness that is all too easily dissipated in a world of noise and rush and hurry.
There is Power in Silence. And it can be Beautiful, as we ponder the vastness of existence, the complexity of the universe, the intricacy of our own souls, the value of the life we live and of the people around us. The Pain of Silence:
Sadly, however, there can also be pain in silence. Perhaps you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and you miss the sound of their voice.
But what of other types of silences in human relations and psychology? Silence that is not so much about absence as it is about presence? It’s something I am trying to understand a little more of just now, for the latter reason in the opening to this post.
Silence as a healer – sometimes we all find that we need to retreat, to pull away from the noise of the world and other people, and take time to be still and to heal, and this can be a beautiful yet painful thing. I personally am the kind of person who needs a lot of quiet time, time in nature, and time away from the crowds. Time to pray, to connect, to be still, to write, to understand. Sometimes we are more aware of our pain in times of silence, but inevitably, if used well, it is a positive aspect of human life to take time out to be still, to be quiet, and can indeed be very healing.
Sometimes I feel the need for taking a few days to myself to find the benefits of silence, and time with God, alone. In such instances, I communicate and let the people closest to me know that this is what I’m doing, so that they know that the quiet time is to do with my own needs for personal growth, and nothing that they might have done wrong.
As we seek to grow in ourselves, we would be wise and mature to reflect upon how our actions and inactions might affect or be interpreted by those around us, especially those with whom we are usually in most contact with so as not to cause unnecessary hurt or misunderstanding. I live on my own, but if I want to have some focused quiet time to myself, I’ll phone my family and let them know, and they respect that and give me some space and when we come together we have a healthy and loving place to pick up from.
Thinking of other people as well as ourselves helps to overcome misunderstanding, hurt and confusion, and it is a kind and responsible approach to life that we all do well to be mindful of.
However, sometimes silence is used in interpersonal relationships to hurt rather than to heal. Why is this?
Perhaps you have a spouse, a family member or close friend with whom you have either used or experienced ‘the silent treatment’ from. How do we interpret this and what could it mean?
I’m not an expert, but as I try to figure some things out, my ponderings have led me to believe that silence when used by one person against another could perhaps convey some of the following: 1. The need for space:
Sometimes people use silence as a way of forming and setting boundaries with other people, of highlighting the distinction of one from another, and of asserting individuality. Men and women communicate differently, and sometimes men are silent, not in a manipulative way, but just because they want space and time to think about things, whereas women’s default communication style seems to be to talk things through. However, regardless of gender, people more generally can be silent because they may be subconsciously or intentionally creating space, distance, and be thinking through some things by themselves. 2. Silence as avoidance:
Whereas with the first point above, silence and space could come from a natural gravitation towards ‘problem solving’, or thinking things through, it can also be used more negatively as a form of avoidance. Sometimes people fall silent as a means of self-protection, of avoiding conversation or confrontation, or because they just don’t want to deal with something and it’s easier just to wish it away, by running away, or creating space. 3. Silence to communicate hurt:
We all hurt each other and get hurt from time to time, it’s inevitable in any human relationships, and for the most part in healthy interactions it is totally unintentional. Still, sometimes we just need time to be silent to either deal with and process or to communicate hurt that someone has caused us. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t caused me hurt or offence in some way at some time, and being human I must reflect that it must be the case that I have unintentionally done to others similar things as they have unintentionally done to me. To err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we feel it is all we can do to slink away, to nurse our wounds, and to come back when we are ready. For the most part I don’t tell people of all the things they do that hurt me because I know their character that they are kind people and don’t intentionally mean to do the things they do, just as I don’t if I cause people to feel that way – I don’t do this because overall I know that I can maturely bring my ‘issues’ before God and seek His strength, wisdom and grace and move on in healthy communication. The point is the intention to continue to build upon healthy relationships. 4. Silence as a weapon:
Unfortunately some people use silence, whether intentionally or only partially so, as a means of control, of negative communication, of power, and even punishment or manipulation. Certain personality types such as narcissists may have these tendencies, and may use silence to hurt other people, to cause concern, confusion, self-doubt in the other person as to what they have done wrong to ‘deserve’ being ignored, or to illicit a response.
I’d like to think that people like that are few and far between. I have come across, and worked with people like that in the past, but I’d like to think I can safely say that all of the people I consider friends do not set out to hurt or manipulate people by using silence.
And yet, I find that friends can and do use silence as a means to communicate, quite loudly, the problem being that maybe they aren’t aware of the message that is being conveyed. On the receiving end:
Being on the receiving end, unexpected silences from friends can convey the following, whether true and intended, or not:
You have offended me, and I will not tell you why.
You are not important to me.
I can’t deal with you.
You have served your ‘use value’ to me, I don’t need you or your friendship any more.
I discard you.
I don’t want you to be involved in this aspect of my life / my life.
I’ve moved on, and don’t consider the friendship important enough to communicate this to you.
My feelings are more important than yours, you should know why I am silent, and if you don’t you should figure it out.
I don’t want to deal with confrontation, so I’ll do things on my own terms, managing my own feelings, and will try not to worry about if I have hurt you, because I can’t really handle that.
You’re too much for me, these things….xxxxx……about you bother me, but I don’t know how to tell you that.
I have a new life, new friends now, you’re in the past but I don’t want to offend you by telling you this, so I’ll just move on and hope you figure it out – no hard feelings.
I’m moving into a new season of life, I have new people, I wish you all the best, but the past is the past, hopefully you can understand that from the silence.
I don’t like you.
I’m too good for you.
I’m too busy for you.
You’re a nuisance and inconvenience in my life, I’m better off without you, please leave me alone.
So in case you feel you have good reasons to use silence in a relationship or friendship, be aware that it could be misinterpreted, cause a great deal of hurt and confusion, and can leave the other person feeling used, washed up and discarded.
However, if you find yourself on the receiving end and thinking any of the above, try not to internalise these things, however hard that might be. Most likely those things aren’t true or valid, or aren’t entirely so, and we all have things going on in ourselves and the person treating you in what feels like the above ways probably (or hopefully) doesn’t intend you to feel any of those bad things. Be kind to yourself, communication takes courage, so be gentle with yourself and with those people in your life who don’t really know how to do that well, and so prefer to risk causing greater hurt through silence. We all need a bit of work, and we all need a lot of grace, so focus on being loving, kind, gentle, and understanding, try to gain insight, and try to be the type of person that you aspire to be – one that is kind, patient, loving, understanding, gentle, keeps no record of wrongs, forgiving, helpful, strong, courageous, communicative, an encourager and a blessing to others rather than a source of hurt. The Promise of Silence:
As you can see from the above, silence leaves room for a whole lot of things! It can leave room for healing, for growth and for hope, but conversely it unfortunately, when communication is withheld can leave room for miscommunication, false beliefs, hurt, pain, negativity, and confusion. Be careful how you use silence in your life, and the lives of others. Don’t abuse it, because you never know how much you could unintentionally lose when you’re not brave enough to bring things to the light. Don’t let things fester, be honest in your communication – “Speak the Truth in Love”. So you might offend someone by what you say, by wanting to clear things up or communicate how they made you feel. Maybe you will find that you have caused them hurt too and give them an opportunity to help you grow as well. But by bringing things to light and communicating, you create the opportunity for growth, for sharing, for understanding and for a healthy and mature way to move forwards taking into consideration what both parties have to say. Don’t be afraid of that. But speak Truth in Love and with noble and kind intentions. You may just find that people are far more understanding than you give them credit for.
What is of more concern, I think is not the hurt and offence caused by trying to communicate, but the hurt, pain, and confusion by leaving space for things to be imagined, by not saying anything at all. Maybe what you think is ok from your point of view, comes across very differently to your intended recipient. And if you do intend to hurt people by using silence, perhaps it is time to turn away from that in humility and seek Forgiveness.
So, what of the promise of silence?
In the Bible, there are passages where people are calling out to God, lamenting His ‘silence’ and that He seems and feels far from them. I have experienced such seasons in my life. However, I realise that I have a relationship with God and as I grow in that faith replaces fear, trust and knowledge replace anxiety and worry. Why? Because I know my God’s proven character. Where He is silent on something, He is drawing me closer to Him to trust Him. It doesn’t mean that what is important to me, that He is silent on, isn’t important to Him too. He loves me. He loves you. He is a communicating God, and if He is seemingly silent on something it is for a very good reason, and I can trust His Word and His Character – He Is Good, and He Is Love. There is great promise in silence, in knowing Jesus Christ.
However, there is no one else who is so faithful and true. No one. No family member, friend, relationship, spouse or soul mate. There is no one as Faithful, Loving and True as The Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no one else who always has your absolute best intentions in His Heart, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. There is no one else who has or ever will pour out their love in sacrifice to take your punishment and forgive your sins, and draw you into His eternal care, as the Living God.
There is promise in the silences we commit to God. There is hope in knowing that with all the manifold things in our lives that we don’t understand, He does. And He Is loving and gentle and kind and knows how to lead and teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about other people and to learn to live these things out in a way that honours Him as He enables us. God Is always drawing us to Himself, to think upon Him, for His ways Are Perfect. His arms stretched wide on the cross remind us that He Is selfless and calls us to be like Him, to think of others and not just of ourselves.
It can be hard to know how to do this in practice, because we are a bunch of muddled up sinful people. But we are not alone. All we need to do is ask in faith, believing that Jesus Christ Is The Way, and that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
How intensely practical this is when it comes to human relationships, when we don’t know what to do. When we put God first, we allow Him to work in the silence, to bring promise where without Him there would only be pain.
And if you find that you can’t relate to these things, if you don’t believe, then what promise can you find in silence? From where you are just now, you can still find promise, you can find hope and a desire to understand people better, to be self-reflective and think about the impact your behaviour, your communication or lack of it has upon other people, even as you think about what effect they have on you.
None of us were made to live in isolation, we are social beings, but we also have a sometimes intense need for space and silence.
My reflection point for myself, and perhaps it could be for you, is how can I seek to use silence in my life in a way that is borne out of love, and is selfless, taking into account the needs of others and the impact it might have upon them. For me, the only truly wise and loving way to do this, is to look to Jesus. And for those in my life who use silence negatively, and not in the Love of God, I choose to forgive, and commit these silences to Him, to find in Him, their promise. x