Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What burnout did to me, what it’s like now

Photo by J Scott Rakozy on Unsplash

One of the unfortunate though necessary events in life is burnout for the person who continues to refuse to own their limits.
This happened to me in 2005.
Working and ministering at much more than full-time load, with a full-time study load, with three children, and in a season of life where I was saying yes to everything, something drastic happened to bring an abrupt halt to my preferred mode of operating.
I feel I only approached burnout and didn’t enter the entirety of what would have been a cataclysmic personal event. But the burnout I experienced caused my brain and my body to be semi-permanently affected.
Some of these effects were deficits I’ve had to adapt to, and some of these effects have had a positive impact as far as my body’s protective mechanisms that were initiated and remain in place today.
The way my brain worked shifted suddenly.
Immediately the symptoms of burnout began, I knew instantly what was causing it, and though there were no warning signs, I did know what God was saying. For the previous 18-months I have been working in kind of Superman mode. Freshly baptised in the Holy Spirit, I felt I could do anything. I really had no idea that I was limited, and wouldn’t have accepted it had I known.
God was using His grace to remind me
that while He was Sovereign, I wasn’t.
It was a hard lesson to learn. It was a scary change that had occurred to me. Without notice. Perhaps akin to what trauma does to us. In some ways burnout is trauma. Burnout symptoms made me feel like I was out of control.
With burnout, there isn’t any choice in matters.
Suddenly I was rendered incapable of cognitive processing when I suffered stress on the fateful day the first event occurred. Suddenly my mind just froze in a way it never had before. Later in the season of recovery the cognitive freeze would manifest itself behaviourally as well, affecting my vocal expression, in that when I was maximally stressed I was incapable of speaking any sense for up to a few hours. I felt incredibly vulnerable when this would take place in my workplace. More than once my wife had to pick me up and discreetly whisk me away to refuge.
My only hope on these occasions was to get complete rest, to escape the stressful situation, and to then gradually re-emerge hours later, needing to express what had led me to the emotional meltdown that had stopped my brain from working.
With time came recovery, but it took a few years of these episodes before they relented.
Now I still have the cognitive incapacity when I’m overwhelmed. My mind literally seizes up. But I’ve learned to accept it and live with it. My mind works better in one direction at a time now. The less I try to control it, the easier it frees itself up.
Burnout is much better prevented than cured.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

How much control do you need?

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

I wonder with some ideas I write on why I hadn’t already written something. This one is one of those. Such an obvious thing to be aware of and especially to be wary of.
But how many of us
are aware of this issue
and wary of it?
The fact is we are in bondage to anything we need to control, whether it is people, the possessions we have, the circumstances of our lives, and especially how events we are involved in play out.
Whatever we need to control controls us,
and we’re tempted to use what controls us,
to control others.
And if we need to control anything, especially where people are concerned, that control not only controls us, it tends to have a controlling influence over others as well. And that’s a problem that bleeds into abuse.
For instance, this article was prompted by my awareness of a simple action I made on social media where I knew that an action I took — a responsible and free action, nothing to be ashamed of — might be tracked by a particular person. Sounds like stalking doesn’t it? It is a form of stalking, but in this situation, it is part of an ongoing conversation. But it is controlling. And I feel controlled, even if I’m comfortable knowing there is control, that someone is watching, and that that someone may very well be reading these words. And I hope they are. (It’s unfortunate that it is possible on social media to track a person’s activity. Because it makes stalking behaviour not only possible, it allows and even encourages such behaviour.)
What we all need to come to terms with is the influence we each have over other people, or better put, the influence we attempt to have over others. Attempting control over another person is, of course, an abuse of the relationship.
For what are the ways that we try and control things in our life:
·        We try to control people outright. Anyone who denies this is denying an important reality. We all try to manipulate people. The only way we stop this is by becoming aware of what we’re doing. If we refuse to stop controlling people, frankly we’re unsafe for relationship.
·        We try to control the possessions we have, and more so in the accumulation of more. This becomes a problem when the demand for and coveting of possessions drives us.
·        We try to control the events in our lives and our part in them. This is mostly about feeling safe. Anxiety is an indication that we either aren’t in control or that we desire more control over the circumstances of the events of our lives.
I think it’s God’s will that we allow Him to help us seize attention for the things that control us and the things we wish to control. God wants us free of external control; that the only God-anointed control we have is the responsibility we must have over our own life.

In other words, we must allow others to be free to make their choices whilst we exercise control over our choices.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How men can help their wives feel safe

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

I was asked a question some time ago by a man who genuinely wished for his wife to feel safer in their marriage. (He had dealt with her in an abusive way and had shown the fruit of genuine repentance — that is, he had learned from his wrong and had turned back to God to learn and apply new ways of behaving.)
As happens in many marriages, not that we hear it very much, there are abuses done, and the statistics tell us that 85% of abuse is perpetrated by husbands. Many wives have become victims of abuse, and a lot of this abuse is invisible, for example, verbal, psychological, emotional, financial, and neglect.
This article focuses on abuses done to wives, the 85%,
not abuse done to husbands (15%),
which I will cover at another time.
At the centre of abuse is a husband driven by insecurity and the need for control. Any man worth his salt will attest to those drives, but not every man succumbs to those drives.
At the core of every person is the need to feel safe and secure, yet safety and security needs are elevated in women. For a wife, that need for security is most deeply met in how her husband provides for her holistic care, loving her by respecting unequivocally her right to her mental and emotional well-being, ensuring he’s no barrier to it, accepting it is her domain, to which he adds his proactive support.
In the simplest terms, he meets her security needs by making her feel safe.
What does this mean?
·        He doesn’t control her in any way, and his wife is the arbiter about that. If she feels controlled, she knows it and she feels unsafe. She is empowered to call it what it is. And he listens in humility and corrects his behaviour.
·        He watches how he interacts with his wife and is careful not to behave in ways that cause her to feel anxious. (This assumes he’s interested and curious enough to know what makes her feel anxious.) Where his behaviour does cause her anxiety, he is quick to acknowledge his wrong and repent of it.
·        He manages his anger, knowing that annoyance, frustration and irritation are the things he feels. His wife feels far more threatening emotions, like fear, intimidation and diminishment of her personhood. He recognises there are stark differences in how the gender roles play out; that her fear trumps his frustration. While he hates being frustrated and annoyed, he hates more contributing to her feeling fearful.
·        He understands that privilege and power that is availed to him in simply being male in this world. This is a journey for a man to come to this understanding, because he’s never been a woman. But understanding gender privilege and the power that comes with it, he has a choice: to depower himself and empower those around him, especially the girls and women in his life.
·        He takes his responsibility seriously, isn’t quick to blame his wife for anything, and willingly gets the log out of his own eye in conflict (Matthew 7:1-5). And where he does falter, he’s quick to apologise with sincerity.[1]
·        He is committed to resolving conflict in a peacemaking way. He learns when he can overlook an offence, is committed to reconciliation and negotiation, and executes accountability over himself.
·        He gives her permission to do that which she feels called or obligated to do, understanding that she ought not to be required to gain his permission. He is her cheerleader. She has control over her life.
·        He shares his feelings with her but is careful never to blame or attack her. In other words, he owns his feelings and can hold her safe in his communication. This way, she is free to support him without having to wrestle with the angst caused by having to support him whilst feeling attacked or blamed. She cannot support him when she feels attacked or blamed.
Above all, a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church believes everything she says is important and valid and worthy.
To do these things, the husband needs to be safe in himself, and how can he be safe in himself unless he is safe in God? In loving God, he has learned the glory of serving his wife. A husband like this, for any wife, is a pleasure to submit to, for there is mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21).
These are some of the mandates I espouse in counselling husbands and wives.
And just to complete the article adequately, men must ask how they can keep their wives safe in the company of unsafe others — in their workplaces particularly. At the earliest sign of a toxic relationship in a workplace, husbands can support their wives by empowering them to do all they can to use formal processes of grievance; once they’ve been exhausted, to be prepared to withdraw from unsafe situations.
This article was inspired by an article on the blog A Cry for Justice: https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2018/07/06/chris-moles-gets-the-gender-thing-right-in-domestic-abuse/
This article also acknowledges the PeaceWise suite of tools, especially The Slippery Slope of Conflict and Peacemaking Responses.

[1] A sincere apology addresses everyone involved, avoids ifs, buts, and maybes, admits the error specifically, acknowledges the hurt caused, accepts the consequences commensurate with the hurt caused, alters behaviour, and asks for forgiveness. Source: PeaceWise, Seven A’s of Confession. More information: https://peacewise.org.au/a-good-confession/

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The life of faith isn’t a picture-perfect life

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Very many people converting to Christ in God expect their life to improve, for the fortunes in life to unfold, and it just isn’t true.
It’s a hard lesson, then, when they do wake up on the proverbial Day 2 of the journey to realise it is a journey — that none of us ever quite ‘get there’ — to that halcyon place of a living heaven on earth.
Perhaps we’re troubled more and more in our social media world where most people insist on posting only moments on their highlights reel. Maybe it’s the innate desire within us to experience ease and comfort in life. Possibly it’s the fact we feel we deserve a break, especially in our comparisons of others (notice how you never compare with people who are worse off than you.)
What we actually need to do is repent
of the desire for the world’s concept of prosperity.
It’s understandable that we would want a picture-perfect life, filled with awe, joy at every turn, willing and able to worship God from a heart quickened by praise. The truth is we’ll always want these things.
But the opportunity we have as Christians
is to differentiate our desires from the way life is.
There is a mismatch between our desires
and how life works, disappointing as that is.
The very first task of a Christian in living their life is to live it steadfastly committed to the truth. If it’s hard, we acknowledge it’s hard. If it’s terrific, we weigh the fact that it won’t remain that way. If it’s that we’re just going through the motions, or we’re in a problematic relationship, or we’re stressed beyond coping, or we’re overwhelmed with grief, we must be honest. God is pleased most when we’re honest. Most of the time life can be ho-hum, and it’s good to be honest about it.
The Christian life of bearing our cross — the resemblance of the cross Jesus bore for us, for our sin, fear, guilt, shame — is centrally about understanding that this life is no bed of roses, but that as we draw near to God, He can satisfy us in a way the world simply cannot. Jesus is a better way. When we’ve experienced Jesus we quickly determine He’s the only way.
This process of drawing close is no easy process,
for it involves us willingly dying to our desires
that morph quickly into demands.
But it is possible…
if God is important enough to us.
I feel sad for Christians who constantly put on a show about how successful they are. They’re not living a true life if that’s all they present to the world. And they create envy in others, which is a sin they ought to avoid. Why would we willingly put others in harm’s way of temptation?
Why be purveyors of misery
when we’re supposed to be loving one another?
We need to appreciate the influence we have
and use it for good and godly purposes.
We can do this by living authentic lives, unafraid that someone might doubt the tenacity of our faith because we struggle. Jesus struggled. He faced temptation. He faced rejection. He faced persecution. He faced being misunderstood.
Converts to Christ ought to be well warned that their lives aren’t going to radically improve; if anything, they’ll be radically challenged. But at least they’ll be endeavouring to live for truth and can grow in love. At least they’ll be well on their way to the restoration of their identity, their integrity, their relationships. And at least they’ll finally come back to the place where life starts — with Jesus.
The Bible is a book littered with accounts, concepts and wisdom about suffering. That’s intentional.
Very truly, God shows you depths of caverns more about Himself when you’re brought to your knees in life. When you’re compelled to pray, to seek His face, to rely on Him, for your life, like us all, is a crushing reality sometimes.
Life is designed to crush us.
Until it does, we’ll have no stake in God.
Until we have a stake in God we waste our lives.
And a picture-perfect life is a waste of a life.
A picture-perfect life misses God.
There’s nothing more encouraging to your peers than for them to see through you a real life lived, enduring the hardships as best you can. This is because deep down inside all of us we feel unworthy and alone in our inadequacies — even the most confident people face this if they’re honest.
When we’re honest,
it’s as if we’re saying to all those around us,
‘See, I’m just like you.’
Humanity needs to see our humanity.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Making sense of the attitude of forgiveness

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash

If I’m a student of grief, I’m also a student of conflict, and whilst understanding of grief leads to acceptance, understanding of conflict leads to forgiveness. This is the premise:
When you forgive you let go
of what you cannot control.
Let me be frank. I’ve wandered two quite unique journeys of reconciling myself to peace, in making matters right in my own mind and heart, through forgiveness.
Incredibly I found complete peace when the most significant person in my world ended our relationship. Almost immediately I could see where I’d messed up in that relationship. I owned my contribution. Forgiveness was easy because I took the log out of my own eye.
But there is another path I’ve had to walk, where I felt abused, and there has been no effort from others involved to reconcile matters, despite our efforts. A completely different path for someone who has experienced the ease of letting go by letting God have His way. I can tell you that this ease of letting go was as real as could be, yet it was nothing about me being in my power — all God’s power, because that’s how God works — through our letting go.
So, with the experience of forgiving a betrayal about as deep as anyone could be betrayed, contrasted with experiences of not being free to let other situations go, I have prayed long and desperately to understand something more of the riches of God in the grace He gives and the grace He takes away.
Suddenly I’ve come to an understanding that in experiencing both kinds of hearts — soft and hard — God has shown me both the depths of His grace to enable us to let go and the extent of our sin to resist His movement of softening our hearts. I know both intimately. Both states of heart have been important experiences.  I thank Him for both.
God has allowed both and has invited me
to compare them in the light of His grace.
What He’s allowed me to see is compelling.
Until we’ve not been able to forgive, we’ve not come to the place where we’re desperate enough to give forgiveness another try. Until it’s been impossible to forgive someone who abused us or betrayed us, we don’t dig deeply enough into the mysteries of the heart’s rebellion in unforgiveness. We remain in self-protection mode. But we also remain locked out of the freedom Jesus seeks for us to have and knows we need. A freedom from the perpetrator, so they may no longer do us any harm.
In those difficult situations where letting go seems impossible, we’re given the opportunity to develop an attitude of forgiveness, acknowledging forgiveness is classically a two-way process requiring protagonists to give and receive forgiveness.
It helps in our developing this attitude of forgiveness when we acknowledge it makes logical sense to let go that which we cannot control. To let go of that over which we have no control. It makes no sense to continue to hold that which can only be bad and that which can never be good for us.
When you forgive you let go
of what you cannot control.
While we prepare for ourselves a heart ready to forgive we have another opportunity: to prepare our hearts for what God is doing in the mix of what was a troubled relationship.
God brings us all to account. Even if we’ve experienced the worst kind of abuse and our offender is the worst kind of sociopath, we have equivalence in our relationship with God. The Lord calls us all to account. We must be ready for ours with a clear conscience for what that might entail. And pity them if they refuse their own readiness!
You have control over how God will judge you.
Sometimes God wants us to be tough on a person for their own good; it’s the loving thing. We can be tough in kind ways. We can be firm in gentle ways. We can hold our ground in ways that is inoffensive. We can prepare to meet the offender in the grace they withheld from us. We can rise above the standard of their sinfulness. We do not need to trust them if they’re not trustworthy. We can make things right.
When you forgive you do what God wants,
by doing what is within your control.
When you act in grace, you forgive by action.
When you forgive you exhibit God’s power
to love a person, not according to what they deserve,
but according to the victorious holy standard of God.
For, in forgiving a person of their sin against Deity
you let yourself off the hook of God’s judgment,
while there they remain, standing in the Dock.
The only way they can make it right with God
is if they make it right with you.
When you forgive you do what God wants,
and you get out of His way and
let Him do what He will do.
These kinds of things demonstrate an attitude of forgiveness acknowledging in faith that God catches up with every sinner this side of eternity or the other.
Acknowledgement to PeaceWise teachings, a ministry I’m privileged to be involved with.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The one true quality of those who love God

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Nothing pleases God more I’m sure than honesty in a person.
Honesty is in abundance in all good and faithful servants, and all true believers in Jesus genuinely seek God’s approval to the end of being called a ‘good and faithful servant’ (see Matthew 25:14-30). It becomes a number-one operating mandate for an ethic that simply can’t lose.
Honest people are honest about themselves, toward others in love, and before God. They believe honesty is both the cherished means and the blessed end of life, and their whole life is oriented toward such obedience of faith.
About Themselves
Honest people are truthful about themselves, especially their foibles. They know they’re flawed, but they don’t berate themselves, because they’re honest enough with themselves to know that perfectionism is folly; that to believe they can attain perfection is a lie they will not subscribe to.
They hold themselves to be responsible human beings who understand there are limits to responsibility; that they cannot always be responsible for others’ actions, yet they will never shirk their own responsibility.
They understand they will one day be held to account for all they did. They’re intrinsically motivated, therefore, to make good on that account today and all days, for every known transgression.
Honest people are humble, and their authenticity causes them to reflect and gain insight toward self-awareness, and any sincere person who is aware of an issue must strive earnestly to resolve that issue.
People who love God take the prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 seriously as their basis of relationship with God. They are able to hear God with respect to their own sin, their insecurity, fears, pride, and propensity to manipulate situations for self-gain. They hear God and they respond instinctively and diligently. Their life is an instrument in God’s hands for learning and mastery to this end.
Toward Others in Love
When we love God, we are compelled to be trustworthy and reliable in relationship. Lovers of God communicate with a sensitive candour, and they’re prepared to be honestly dealt with. They come across as logical and rationale and quickly-as-possible apologise when they break from that form.
This is how we will know them/ourselves:
by the fruit of their/our deeds
we will know them/us.
(Matthew 7:15-20)
You could almost say that for the person who is honest, nothing is impossible. They overcome their own fears and present a persona entirely comfortable in exposure to vulnerability, or they’re honest when they haven’t overcome their fears, when they’re not comfortable in exposure to vulnerability.
They’re open to becoming aware of when insecurity ransoms their peace, when they’re tempted to misuse their power. They’re honest about these insecurities that run virulent in all of us.
Of course, the honest person is ideally suited to every kind of life-giving and life-receiving relationship, especially marriage, because relationships thrive in a seedbed of honesty, where trust builds, and intimacy blossoms. And the marriage relationship is the halcyon of all these.
Above all, those ruled by honesty realise the need to be committed to all kinds of God-given relationships. They endeavour to see the bigger perspective in people who are problematic. But they also don’t abide in dishonesty. They keenly discern the presence of unsafe people in their midst. They know that God empowers them to kick the dust from their feet, but without permission to offend, and they have continued openness to see change in such an individual and pray for them.
Honest people respect people, because
they know how much they value being respected.
Their Allegiance to and Service under God
God will do anything for the person who is honest, as they put the Lord’s Kingdom and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), and God will give them the desires of their heart (Psalm 37:4), which is the desire of His heart; His will.
In honesty, a person deals with guilt and shame there and then, and sin cannot harbour and manifest into a problematic pattern of behaviour with a person who is honest.
You’ll know that this article is aspirational in nature — calling the writer and reader to the realm of virtue in honesty.
It is to God’s glory
when we commit ourselves
to honesty.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The compound nature of suffering in grief

Photo by Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash

The saddest, most profound truth about the suffering in grief is that it has a compound nature about it. What I mean is that there are layers to the suffering that prove overwhelming.
Within one single loss event there can be a myriad of separate grief issues, because rarely is loss linear. If we lose a spouse or a parent or a child or a marriage or a career, several relationships change, and there are numerous losses within the loss event itself.
For myself, when I lost my first marriage in 2003, I lost not only my wife (the major loss), but my home, constant access to my children, the ability to stay in my job, and financially too. And this doesn’t cover reputational losses, and the losses incurred to my mental health. The rest of my family, on both sides, also experienced their own sense of loss. And yet I understand why that marriage failed, and today I’m an advocate for women who are dealing with husbands like I was. Even then, as that marriage went up in smoke, I was aware of the consequences of my lack of action that led to its demise. Suffering regret and remorse was essentially a further layer of grief that took me some time to understand and accept.
And then there is the phenomenon where one loss is followed by another and then another, and even multiple loss events that occur simultaneously. If we can only imagine how so many people suffer from the loss of a family member, and a marriage, and a career change they didn’t choose or financial loss, or the loss of their mental health and their physical health, or the loss of two or three family members in a relatively short space of time. So many people must grieve the loss of a preferred life path which came because relationships were untenable — two losses at the same time.
When we were losing Nathanael, there was another very real and tangible loss we were experiencing, something that felt out of our control, something that was very hard for me personally, something very stressful for both of us, completely unconnected to the loss of our baby — two journeys of loss in parallel. Add to this another issue that was to consume many hours of our time, yet a process God had called us to. And yet remarkably we knew God was close right throughout the entire season, every single day. Even as we felt overwhelmed in many ways, we also knew we were being carried by prayer. Not that it wasn’t the toughest kind of season that regularly pushed us beyond our limits, because it was.
We are forgiven for feeling under attack, and for wondering whether God has in fact turned His face from us, or for feeling numb or beyond our means to cope. Many are also tempted to feel angry toward God, like, ‘How could God allow this or these things to happen?’ These are all normal feelings and responses.
It isn’t abnormal to find ourselves in a Job kind of experience, but of course within our realm of relationships it is unlikely that we will know another person afflicted like we are at the time. And it doesn’t always help if we do know someone who is equivalently afflicted. They can drag us down, or we can find that we drag them down. Empathy isn’t straightforward when we’re grieving, nor is support from another person who is grieving or suffering in any way, apart from the knowledge that we are not alone, although it is true that two separate persons don’t always feel weak at the same time. Sometimes facilitated counselling groups can be a Godsend.
As you traverse your grief, you may well notice the multidimensional nature of the loss event you are in. It may help to list down the losses in becoming aware of the magnitude of those sources of grief. This as a source for being gentle with yourself.
It is good to know that grief is a journey, and there does not need to always feel so sharp. But some are called to an extended season of grief that does seem to last and last. One thing can be certain, grief always last longer than we would prefer it to.
Just about every form of suffering has grief in it, and often mental illness is caused by grief.
I would like to conclude with some words on faith:
Faith is like deciding to cross a bridge. The journey is worth the work and pain. Hope gets us across. Jesus is with us every step of the way. Even as we rest when the journey is too much for us. His Presence ministers to us as we rest, and it empowers each movement forward. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
And yet, there are times when the journey, having commenced it, feels not only impossible, but not worth it. We consider turning back. Indeed, there are times when we cannot go on, just as there are times when we find ourselves walking the other way, at war with ourselves for what we are doing.
We just feel incapable of righting our thinking. Jesus understands.
Even as we turn and walk the other way, Jesus is still with us, not berating us nor condemning us. He is simply there, with us as our ally, encouraging us to draw close to Him.

As we draw close to Jesus, He reminds us of His Word, of His truth, of His promises, and we may feel the reassurance of His Presence. He renews our heart and mind gradually as we press in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Faith’s deeper secrets acquired through grief

Photo by Matt Gross on Unsplash
There is much more to be experienced in the life of faith than any of us are prepared to expose ourselves to. But, as we know with grief, life exposes us to some things beyond our capacity to bear.
It wasn’t losing Nathanael that revealed to me what I’m about to share, but losing him reinforced this holy principle that is forever set apart from those who have never suffered. I learned this principle I’m going to share through the grief of having earlier had God say ‘No!’ to my prayers for healing — for my first marriage.
When God also said ‘No!’ to healing Nathanael as he grew in my wife’s womb toward that fateful day he was stillborn, we were granted entry into the deeper secret faith life that is available only for those whose prayers aren’t answered. It is sacred territory.
Yes, you read that right. In not answering our prayers for healing and comfort to be given to us the way we wanted it,
God gave us a comfort and a healing that
blew apart our superficial notions
of healing and comfort.
God blew those superficial notions away
so we could enter something eternally deeper.
God is taking us deeper into the journey of life by the circumstances of our testing. This is not about God ordaining pain for us, for that would be a wretched theology, but it is about God ordaining a purpose for the experience we can find can no escape from. Jesus is redeeming it. Some things cannot come without suffering. True compassion, for one instance, for compassion, in the etymology of the word, emanates from pain. Compassion is costly. It must be paid for. And yet it’s those who have never suffered deeply who cannot believe this. It’s something Jesus must show us as we enter the furnace of grief with Him.
We never enter that cauldron of pain willingly, yet as we step each step through sheer dependence on Him, because we’re so weak, Jesus is there. There we experience a healing that is so profound it transforms us in the very compassion of Jesus. We meet it and it becomes us. And that compassion sanctifies us. Compassion literally becomes us.
If we have a Saviour who suffered, and Jesus didn’t just suffer at the cross, we can only truly know Him through suffering. Sorry, but this is true. And you know it if you read this through the lens of your experience that broke you.
As the cross broke Jesus,
our crosses must break us.
In our case,
God cannot remake what is still intact.
Central to the understanding of what I’m sharing is a principle outlined in Psalm 84, verse 6. As we enter the valley of our desolation and weeping — where day upon day, over the months, we travail — and this is not easy to write! — we must realise that God’s Presence is never closer. He is there with us, within the torment. We call out to Him and as our anguish floors us, Jesus is there. He shows us that He identifies with the brutality of our agony. And He gives us something our hearts have looked all our lives for; a spring of life wells up from within…
Have you ever thought of this? In having our prayers answered ‘Yes!’ for healing, we can miss what deeper faith God has for us, or we don’t receive it; we’re not granted access to the most glorious prize. Yet, it is enough to be saved from grief. Any of us would take that gift, and so we should.
Miracles of growth are possible when we stare deeply into God in grief. In the very fact that our prayers have not been answered the way we would have hoped, there, in that, is a series of miracles nestled. Because God brought us here for a reason. To reveal to us what we otherwise could or would not see.
The deeper secret that God wishes to share with us is also a deeper secret that will exponentially expand our mind and heart for Him. The more we trust Jesus, the more He will take us deeper into this secret of our knowledge of who He is. This deeper secret cannot come without much anguish.
Do you realise that that prayer that God answers with a ‘No’ is the very material of a fathoms deeper miracle that God wants us to experience — if we will go there with Him.
He reveals in this that
we really do not know what we want.
Jesus knows what we need,
and we need to trust Him.
Let us return in finishing to the place we started.
There is much more to be experienced in the life of faith than any of us are prepared to experience. We’re blissfully unaware of the common life experiences that we go decades without experiencing; grief for one.
For the place of grief, the Lord has situated a compensation that is its own gift.