Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Comfort for When Joy and Peace Are Vanquished

THERE are times when grief makes siege and loss drives hope away in storm.
Such times we realise there is a depth to suffering we had no idea about.  We’re taken captive against our will and we enter into an abyss that is too cruel to describe.  Such times beckon us into an unimaginable despair where the days are perilous and the nights are only relieved by unconsciousness.
I could go on but that, too, would be pointless.  The point is clear; in some suffering God shows us what hellishness of life is possible.  It’s a springboard for empathy, later on, where we have the pluck to survive it.  But in the meantime we do need to survive it.
What is needed is comfort, but not just that; hope, a vision for the present which helps us hold on for the future.
Hope is the giddy premise of joy and peace, and without such a thing we cannot survive.
The purpose of suffering is to drive us from the abyss into a hope that can sustain us for the moment.  A moment’s hope is enough; it’s all we have, so God makes it possible that it’s all we need.
The deeper the pain of suffering, the more palpable the felt experience of hellish life, the more resilience is borne upon the soul.  We find we do get through when we believe we can get through.  In this, God is faithful.
Reflecting on such a fact is enough to get us through the day.  We would change it in a heartbeat, but we only engage in wonderful maturity as we come to end of ourselves.
The moment’s hope that gives us a foretaste of a future’s joy and peace is a comfort richly earned by faith.
There’s only one thing for it: trust.  Reach out to love and trust.
In pain, give God your trust and receive the love of supportive others, and hope will restore you to peace and joy.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Courageous Journey Past Temptation to Suicide

Life is tough.  We know that, most of us.  But we’re given to forgetting just how tough life is — for a season, even a whole life, on and off — when we would rather pretend all is okay.  Well, some of the time, for many people, life is not okay, and getting through some pivotal hours is a task requiring significant self-restraint.
After one such season of deathly life — where to take one’s life was a dear temptation — a brave and very loving soul contacted me with a poem, simply wanting to share.
The following poem, titled LIFE, captures the essence of suicidal motivation, and it’s written, for the reader, in the gold of empathy, in the cherished hope it might help someone.
— Anonymous (a person known to me,
published with their consent and blessing)
Read the desperation, the despondency, the despair.  All these, but truth, too… raw honest feeling put down in words that bite with the sting of reality.  Courageous.  Bold.  Real.  True.
The poem was written in capitalisation, published as is.  Should it be “shouted” when read?  No.  I think it has best effect when it’s read as it is.  Simply to read it aloud evokes emotion.
Is it a concern to be publishing what could be or would be someone’s suicide note?  Possibly.  But our intention is to encourage empathy through commonality of experience so that a person-of-concern might seek help through dialogue with skilled others, and with the support of loved ones wherever possible.
The truth is, for the person close to suicide, the issues mentioned in the poem are all up for grabs — they all need to find expression, and be discussed.  They’re all viable emotions and states of life.  There is a viable answer for these emotions and the overall state of being, but it’s not what we think it is when we’re in the mire of self-loathing.
LIFE can very well be all of what is depicted in the poem, but we’re encouraged to take heart — life makes more sense once we’re through the grief and on the other side in a comparative happiness, which may not be a rose garden, but a life we can accept.
Faith in Jesus Christ helps more than anything else.  It may be the only thing that works.
We all want to be heard.  We all need to be listened to.  When we approach temptation to end our life, more than ever we need to be encouraged to continue; to be reminded there is hope for better outcomes.
If anyone reads this and feels tempted to harm themselves in any way, you’re urged to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (Australia) or a Suicide Hotline in your country (click here).

© 2016 Steve Wickham (with many thanks to the courageous author of the poem, LIFE).

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Faith Booster

BETWEEN a promise and its manifestation is a voyage, from land to land, where there is no land in sight for much longer than we wish.  Such a voyage we call depression, singleness, barrenness, unemployment, loss, among so many others.  Such a sojourn is a lonely, frustrating, infuriating time.  Such a time on the open seas is tumultuous as it’s perilous.  It’s a time when our trust in God is pushed and cajoled toward compromise, where complaint and bitterness and resentment resemble the spiritual compromise of giving up.
Moses was at the point of giving up when he has a conversation with God.  The Lord reminds Moses in Numbers 11:23 (below) of an important fact:
The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?  Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” (NIV)
God reminds Moses of an incredibly powerful truth: the Lord’s provision is not limited to our human conception of provision.  When we think of the Lord’s creative provision — life, the universe, everything — we should never underestimate God’s creative capacity in delivering us into the purposes He has promised us.
But we must believe what He has promised, and the only way to believe is to trust.
The faith booster is simply trust.  And the greatest test of faith is when hope wanes and vanishes.
Nothing boosts faith more than trust.  Trust ensures our faith remains viable.
The person who trusts and keeps on trusting is earning their redemption by their faith.  The harder, more impossible the situation, the more trust is pressed into temptation to give up, the more important it is to trust.
Hope may wither, and confidence may fall, but through trust we emerge, and by faith we ascend.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grateful Heart’s a Great Way to Start

MORNINGS are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a mornings person.
One morning in recent memory, a few years ago now, I got up in an unusual fog and was led to our lounge room.  Suddenly it dawned on me that there is so much evidence of my life, as if I could not hide my existence, if I wanted to (not that I would wish to).  My ‘footprint’ was everywhere.  But that wasn’t the end of this ethereal escapade.  Just as suddenly, within sight, I panned my head and saw my wife asleep, I considered my young son asleep, and then I surveyed the five children in photographs.  From some angles of life, it appears we don’t achieve much, but from what God was showing me, there was evidence everywhere of progress.
That wasn’t the final stop along this reflective sojourn.  In only about ten minutes God showed me something else.  Suddenly all the possessions I could see were like living legacies of times past where I’d done something, with family or friends, where I’d been actively involved in life.
I was overwhelmed as I sat there.  On the one hand, I wasn’t living an extraordinary life, yet on the other hand, from an eternal perspective, where every moment is significant, all my past moments and memories were extraordinary.  And what I was seeing was the evidence.
When we look around our lives, and seriously contemplate in silence and wonder, entering into moments of memory without rushing, God may enter that time with us to show us a new thing.  Something we had missed before.  None of us are insignificant.
The amazing thing about this experience is it was actually a catalyst for getting me out of a problematic season that could have led to depression.  Those first waking ten minutes turned my world around.
A grateful heart, a heart full of praise, where God’s Spirit does raise: a new way to start.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Peace Embodied Bitter Sweetness of Faith

WHAT can we know about the nature of Faith?  Here are some of my attempts at tying down some meaning in such a nebulous concept:
Faith and Life’s Difficulties
Faith wrestles with the inevitable and enigmatic dichotomies of life, and finds within herself the resources to dig deeper and to grow, not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.
Faith sees not the cost of the trial, or its pain, but the compensation that comes from enduring the trial.
Faith doesn’t deny the pain, for it’s real, but the pain isn’t all there is.  Faith attempts to see with eternity’s perspective, and receives the gift of perspective in eternity’s moment.  One at a time, each one enough.
Faith and God’s Promises
Faith awaits with expectation the awesome promises of God, whilst accepting the mysteries in the unknowable future.
Faith accepts the promises in God’s Word with expectation, whilst acknowledging the unknowable mystery in stepping forward.
Faith trusts, and when trust is fully fledged as alleged on the Bible promise, she believes in such a way that brings the thing to pass.
Faith and God’s Deliverance
Faith sees the fruition of a hope come to pass.  With trust vindicated, she celebrates with meek poise.  She knew victory would come, but never realised it would taste as good as this.
Faith’s confidence is its greatest achievement, and such wellbeing comes from victory.
From victory comes the unshakable security of trust in God’s faithful goodness.
Faith must emanate from difficulty, to trust in a promise, in order to realise deliverance.
It’s the way Faith works.  It’s dormant when life is well.  But when is life truly well?  Two answers: it’s well all the time and rarely.
Faith therefore is something we find we need, that not only makes life better, it makes life the best, even when life isn’t well.
Faith accepts the bitter sweetness of life.  At least it isn’t all bitter.  So Faith can rest comfortably at peace in every situation.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Radical Call of True Faith

FOLLOW-UP articles represent the further completion of thought — (as if any thought could be completed!).  This is a follow-up to the article, Why Loving Enemies Is Easier Than Forgiving Friends.  I like it when the Holy Spirit nudges me, “Come on, you’re not finished with that yet.”  In some ways it’s an ugly feeling, but not every godly cajoling feels comfortable.  Most don’t.
In the case of the discussion regarding loving enemies and forgiving friends — one being supposedly easier than the other — I re-read 1 John 3:16: “This is how we have come to know love: Jesus laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers [and sisters].” (HCSB)
Notwithstanding love in action that transcends our words, which is foundational to our faith, there is a clearer biblical imperative:
love inspired through action is faith
revealing a hope beyond this world
Such an expression of hope is out of this world.  Such hope is bounded to the ridiculous.  We can see how it lines up biblically, to Jesus’ radical call, but to give up our own needs and desires in order that another’s needs and desires might be met is antithetical in this life.
We’re called to a radical faith.  We know we’re approaching the cusp of this holy trust when we do things in faith that seem to make no sense to the worldly person in us and others, without actually sabotaging our own or anyone else’s life.
Radical faith trusts the call of God to the ignorance of how we feel about present circumstances.  It continues to cast us forward into the fray of the difficult life.  It presents us holy and blameless when we would have some hideous claim to bitterness and complaint.
Radical faith finds it easy to forgive everyone.  The key is staying there.
Jesus laid down His life, and not for just one person or two.  With the totality of that commitment, we’re encouraged.  We can lay down our lives, and for whom is not really the point.  More to the point is we’re willing and able to lay down our lives.
That’s radical faith, because it trusts God at His Word.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Trusting the Holy Spirit for Healing and Wholeness

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (HCSB)
The Holy Spirit wants to do a precious, holy, and lasting work in us.  But He needs permission.
A Word On Growth – It Comes With Pain
Growth involves pain, but it’s not a pain that harms. It’s a pain that helps and heals, bringing wholeness.  But it’s still painful.  It still feels humiliating.  And when we point God to all the people who are not making the sacrifices we are in our growth, we should expect to find no empathy.  We have given Him permission to bring about change in our life.
Get this right: the choice we make to grow is the choice we make to sacrifice what we had for something better.  It’s as simple as that.  How much do we want what we do not yet have?
A Word On Trust – The Key to Unlocking Growth
Growth reduces down to trust.  When we trust God to do what His Word tells us is His nature, we suddenly find we’re turning the very key which unlocks growth.  Suddenly there’s the capacity to change.  It seems incredible, and indeed it’s a miracle.
When we trust the Holy Spirit, He proves Himself trustworthy.
God is faithful.  He just wants to make us a little more like Jesus.  How good is God to want to do that in us, for us, for others who will inevitably benefit, and ultimately for His own purposes and joy?
God is good in what He desires to give us; not simply a salvation that saves us, but a healing that makes us whole.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Believing On the Faithfulness of God

“… if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.  So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
— Mark 11:23-24 (NRSV)
NOTHING comes close to being desperate for God’s faithfulness than injustice.  Nothing quite compares with our desperation in prayer than when we feel maligned.  And faith becomes real when we are so desperate as to be beside ourselves with furious sorrow.
That’s good news.  It’s very good news.  For God is especially present to augment growth and healing for the person ailing due to the perception of a sweeping injustice.
Belief is never more important than when our backs are against the wall.
When our backs are against the wall, all the more is there the compelling option — one way or tother.  But belief, though it’s harder, is first class wisdom when the other choice is bewilderment.
Hope can only return in the presence of belief.  Joy can only be experienced when buffered by belief.  Peace, too, is the gracious portent of belief.  And belief is ever more persuasive when it’s backed into a corner.
We ought to thank God for trials that force our faith to believe in His provident goodness.  Gratitude for the pain that brings us to our knees before God.
Pain is wonderful in that it brings us to the point of actually believing on the faithfulness of God.
To not believe in God, especially when life is toughest, is to stop believing in ourselves.
There is no risk in trusting our full lives fully to God, because God is fully trustworthy.  And yet it’s only when we do actually fully trust Him that we experience His trustworthiness.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.