Monday, September 29, 2014

Faithfulness, The Most Enduring Virtue

Faithfulness is a gem,
Of reliability and constancy,
Those who prove faithful,
Overcome evil’s obstinacy.
Prayers are answered,
For the faithful one,
The one whom believes,
On the power of God’s only Son.
Endurance seems to be the greatest test of life, when it is all said and done. We can all venture forward on a course of action for a day or a week or a month, but can we continue, faithfully, and make the course of action part of who we are?
We are certainly counselled to be faithful by the Scriptures, but one thing we may not reckon upon is that the Word of God may actually empower us toward faithfulness; certainly as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We may think we do not have the resources within us to make change part of who we are, but in the Holy Spirit we have everything we need. But we must be honest every step of the way. We must be faithful, and, because God is faithful, God will see to it that we achieve what we have set out to achieve.
Faithfulness is the ideal remedy for the frustration we experience of not being able to change. As we journey one day at a time, keeping things simple, proving faithful, God is giving us power to say either yes or no to those things we are either trying to establish or trying to debunk.
God will ensure that we have everything we need to make the changes we need to make. Our Lord is a miracle worker, and we only have to experience this once and we are converted as believers.
There is everything to hope for and there is nothing much of true value to lose in going ahead with God into the establishment of the new creation life.
Prayers are answered more readily for the faithful one (see James 1:7-8). If we hope to have our prayers answered, yet we have neither the patience nor the strength to wait, we are probably hoping in vain. James tells us that the person who is easily blown by the winds of the sea is unlikely to get what he or she wants. But the faithful person – the person who is ready and willing to work and to keep working on their labours of love – can expect their prayers to at least be heard by the Lord.
The faithful life is a wise life. With endurance comes success. With diligence comes confidence because outcomes are reliable and good. The responsible life is a wise life.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Praise God When the Only Way Is Up

When we are down, way down low,
When we’ve received that crushing blow,
One direction we must continually look,
We must look up by hook or by crook.
The Shepherd’s staff is both the image and very manifestation of the shepherd’s craft in the tending of his or her flock. The shepherd uses the staff to guide the sheep in the way they should go and to retrieve lost and fallen sheep by the use of the hook.
God is interested in us to a point beyond our comprehension. God can never not be interested in our lives. Therefore, when we have received that crushing blow, when we have been taken down far below where we’ve ever been, God is there, and it’s his role to retrieve us by his Shepherd’s hook.
In the same way special air service troops are trained through a method of deconstructing them psychologically so they may be reconstructed in the military way. This may sound overly harsh. But if we study Job we find that is what God allowed Job to go through; the deconstruction and reconstruction process. He became a more righteous and a more compassionate man as a result.
This is why we can take great heart in the experience of being taken down so low that we literally have no hope left; no hope but God.
At this point we are so bereft of any reason for our existence we may think quickly of ending it all. The greatest irony as far as East is to the West is the lower we go, the greater God’s plans are to use us for his Kingdom purposes.
Not only does God not waste these rock bottom experiences, he turns them to our benefit, and to the Kingdom’s benefit, as we later empower others’ lives at the right time and in the right way.
This is why we can praise God when the only way to go is up.
The best is literally yet to come, and this needs to be our hope; a contrived hope, perhaps. We are either our greatest own enemy or our greatest own ally. It’s always our choice.
If we cooperate with what the Spirit of God is trying to do in us – no matter how humiliating it seems – the Spirit of God will work through us and many others will ultimately benefit. But we must first allow the Spirit of God to work within us to forge a competent character that will withstand many a test and challenge in the future.
If we are already deep down low, the deconstruction process is well under way. Let us unlearn all things that hinder love, joy, and peace. And let us begin embracing those things that build others up, that give to others, and that bless others.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Accepting the Truth About Ourselves

What we don’t like deep down about ourselves,
Comes out in the play of life when we are least aware,
These are exposed by the pressures of life,
Our only defence is to care.
There is a great paradox in the character of a given human being. The person who sees themselves as infallible and perfect is likely to be dangerously narcissistic, and they are the farthest from perfection and infallibility. The person, on the other hand, who sees the truth – at least as much as it can be seen – that they are broken, fallen, and very frail and vulnerable in various situations, has accepted the truth about themselves.
The truth needs to be accepted: we are far from who we would like to be.
We would love to be somewhere or do something different. We would love to be universally accepted. We would also love to have the power to change everything we don’t like about ourselves.
But God does not give us that sort of control over our own lives. Sometimes we do have power to change. But we do not have universal control.
It is madness to think that we can influence those things we cannot influence. Yet it doesn’t stop us from trying, and try it is we do until we finally realise acceptance is the key.
When we understand our inner workings to the point that we accept those ugly bits about our personalities and characters, we also extend to ourselves the grace God requires us to give to ourselves.
If we cannot extend to ourselves the grace God requires us to give to ourselves, we cannot extend to others the grace God expects us to extend to them.
What must come first is an essential valuing of ourselves as God values us: his unique and eternal possessions, whom he loves with a love we can never fully comprehend.
God loves all his creations. And God cannot hold back from loving his created world and all of those creative factors within the world. The moment we understand what is truly happening in us – by his Spirit – is the moment we comprehend something of the love of God that has always been in us.
Accepting the truth about ourselves is the biggest favour we can do for ourselves in the loving of others and in being faithful before the Lord.
When we accept ourselves as we should, we can accept others, and, being no threat to them, they are more likely to reciprocate. They may love us as we love them. It must start from us.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Journey Through Brokenness to Wholeness

As we consider the grief process in terms of the journey through brokenness to wholeness we must consider the transition through states of being.
In each state of being we have trials to overcome – besides the actual trial of the grief we bear for the loss(es) we have experienced.
We are on a journey from the damage of brokenness to being healed in an essential and, ultimately, lasting wholeness.
None of these states of being can be avoided, and they do tend to be linear in progression, though we do also experience ‘four seasons in a day’ at times. Let us go through these states:
1. The State of Commencing/Numbness
Initially, at the moment of loss, we arrive at a state of commencing; a state of numbness. At this state we must overcome our denial, but we shouldn’t overcome our denial at the expense of being snapped out of it.
Through every stage of the grief process there needs to be compassion enough to allow the states to be experienced fully before we move on to the next one. God is ever patient and we ought to be too.
2. The State of Journeying In Brokenness
Having overcome the state of commencing – the state of numbness – we come into a longer period of journeying in a state of brokenness.
What we must overcome through this state is the encroaching sense of pride, resentment, and anger that rise up – often toward God, or others – and arrive at an acceptance that journeying through this state of brokenness is our present challenge. It feels like a great injustice.
This state of being requires great faith, for at this state we are pre-hope. Hope of arriving at ‘a new thing’ – a recovered form of ourselves – is still vacant.
3. The State of Hopeful Progress
Eventually we arrive at a state of hopeful progress. There are more good days than bad days in this state, but we often grow impatient that we are not fully over it yet. We seem to have some really woeful days intermingled with days that are normal and even hopeful. We are making progress, but our feelings are still not fully under our control. We have a foretaste of wholeness, but we still have our training wheels on.
4. The State of Experienced Wholeness
The final state of this journey through brokenness to wholeness is the state of experienced wholeness. At this stage we have reached recovery, but there is one final threat to overcome: lethargy. If we grow complacent at this stage we will have learned little for the next experience of loss and grief we must deal with.
Recovery through grief, having been recovered from it once, done properly, without steps skipped, is the most important life skill we can ever learn.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

God’s Unconditional Love When Life Hurts

There are times in life when things are wrong,
Times when we just have to be strong,
Times when life tries us to the greatest extent,
Times when we are far from content.
What are we to do when hurts come our way?
How are we to hold on and find strength to stay?
It’s not such a simple answer that God gives to us,
We are advised most of all not to make a big fuss.
But grief will show us how weakened we can be,
Grief will show us how far we are from being free,
Grief is God’s way of getting in a mention,
It’s our growth God’s love calls to our attention.
Growth you see is the purpose of life,
Growth will see us through every bit of strife,
God’s interested in us growing tall in his love,
It’s a love we can trust because it comes from above.
There is just no flat out easy answer to the question of God’s unconditional love that allows suffering. I say allow because we cannot imagine God bringing suffering into our lives – because we accept that God is a good God. It does us no good to imagine a God who is capable of bringing harm into our lives.
One thing I can say – from a lived reality – as a product of my own life experience – is God can grow us through grief. If we will look to the heavens – assuming God is a good God – and seek his direction and care during the hardest of times, then God will bring us through the suffering in a way that we have learned incredibly valuable things about ourselves, other people, and about life.
When we cry out to God in our complaints, like the psalmists did, and whinge like Job did, and get depressed like Qoheleth did, then we find ourselves in excellent biblical company!
Everyone who suffers hates the injustice of suffering.
God must understand, because, from my personal experience, we can receive a healing we cannot explain, in the moment or shortly after; often the day after a night sodden with tears.
God hates it that we are suffering, but he knows that the more things are against us – when we look to him – and respond the best way we can – the more he can be for us. Our Lord will not stand by and leave us alone in our hour of need.
If we have faith to pray to God and share our innermost feelings, God will be real to us that moment. And as we look back months and years later, we will see God’s providential hand in our darkest time and most desperate need. That’s unconditional love!
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.