Monthly Archives: April 2016

When we are overwhelmed 

“But my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is is made perfect in weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

There are many situations that I feel overwhelmed by. Sometimes it’s just getting up in the morning. Sometimes it’s the thought of having to find work after the trauma of the last months. I feel overwhelmed in the night when I wake up because I have a knot in my stomach and can’t remember why. I have been overwhelmed living in a new place. I’ve struggled in a new church and I am finding it hard to connect with strangers when I feel disconnected and grief stricken.

My heart hurts as my children go on this excruciating journey of working things through, and I have felt pained, and been in agony for them.

I am totally overwhelmed.

If my faith is real, God will eventually see me through. I may feel that my situation won’t right itself, but I know that God is using it to teach and to grow me.

So, I don’t need to fear, but I do need to trust in the one who knows it all. All I can do is take one day at a time and rest in the knowledge that I will get through this because his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in my weakness.

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Pray without ceasing.

My life as I now know it has overwhelmed me. It has devastated me on every level and without God, I don’t know what I would have done.

I have found that my only comfort has been talking to God. He has been my only constant and my only foundation. I have found myself talking to him continually.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. I have been unable to do anything else. I have muttered everywhere I’ve gone. When I have stopped talking to God, I have begun to sink into melancholy and despair. I have felt like a small child never taking its eyes off its mother, just in case all is lost.

At my lowest, all I have managed to mutter is “God, help me!” I have been unable to say anything more than that. It’s been so hard at times, I began to wonder if I would be able to stand under the weight of it. The feelings of isolation and bereavement have sometimes been so acute, that I have wondered if I will cope.

But, in all of this, I have found treasures that are precious. Even in the devastation of my life, I have known God to be faithful and kind all of the time. By leaning completely on God, my faith has been rooted in him and no other, which has been a help and a comfort. We are reading daily devotions on the psalms by Tim Keller. Today we read psalm 55 v 8, about David’s temptation to flee. Tim Keller says:

“But there is no shelter apart from God. We must continue to trust in him, because all other “shelters” will prove to be places of greater danger. There is no other place to go. He has the words of eternal life ( John 6:66 – 69)

When my life fell apart many friends failed, but God has stayed by my side. There is no situation too ugly for him to intervene. He is a precious and faithful God, full of mercy and abounding in love. He will never fail.

I know I can move forward with the confidence that only God can give. If God is with me, I need not fear. This is not the journey I would ever choose, but it’s the one that has been to given me, and my Heavenly Father knows best. I pray that I won’t waste this situation, but God would shape and mould me so that I become more like him.

Back to the cross I go.

Yesterday was an atrocious day. I felt bitterness in my heart from early on, and it went unchecked all day. It almost felt like I was feeling the full force of hurt and betrayal for the very first time. At 2:31 am, I had not slept a wink. The full force of bitterness was marching over my heart and taking up residence. Bitterness was occupying my heart like the enemy in war time.

In the small hours, I opened a book of daily readings at April 16. The book is called “a year’s journey with God” by Jennifer Rees Larcombe.

The verse was:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.”

She says:

” as Christians we feel we shouldn’t let things wind us up so we ignore the internal grazes and bruises and even pretend to ourselves that our hearts are not crushed by disapproval or unkindness or ripped open by betrayal. When Jesus said he had come to “mend the broken- hearted”, surely He was promising to heal these wounds, but I honestly think He can’t do that without our willingness to forgive the person who has hurt us.”

I have a close friend who often says to me, ” back to the cross you go then!” I have had to come to this place over and over again. When we let bitterness reign we allow Satan to take up residence in our hearts and minds and it produces nothing good and opposes all that Jesus says is right.

The longer I leave bitterness, the harder it seems to hand ownership back to God. This causes strife and bitterness. I was robbed of joy yesterday, and in the early hours of this morning, and I found myself wondering if I had a relationship with God at all. I felt blackness and despair which was too awful to describe.

To react well when we are feeling hurt is nigh on impossible. Reacting with ill grace is our natural bent. Sin from the beginning of time has manifested itself in blame and sulking. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent.

Sadly, very early on, we are often aware that we are going down a wrong path. We know how outrageous our behaviour is, and how unkind we are being, but getting off that road hurts our pride too much, so we doggedly stay on it. The results are never good and never worth it.

So the advice from my friend is key : ” back to the cross we go!”

Paul says in Romans 7:19

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”

I am finding this process exhausting and overwhelming, but thankfully the cross is never barred and God’s mercy is ever present to draw upon in our time of need.

Letting go of the past and accepting the now.

I have found it very difficult accepting that my past life has now gone.

After many years in one place, friendships are formed and cemented. To be able to walk in the community where you live, and meet people that you’ve known over many years is wonderful – but I took it for granted. I love the familiar and I hate change.

My closest friends were those I studied the bible with. I have found that my friendships have been the very best that they can be, when they have been fused around the word of God. But it takes years to cultivate friendships where honesty, accountability and transparency reign. I think that growing together around God’s word fosters love and friendship like nothing else can. These people become forever friends.

To lose this without having any sort of forewarning or preparation devastated and traumatised me.

5 months on I am still struggling to accept loss of all. I feel like I’ve gone through the stages of bereavement, but I’m still stuck at no 2 at times, and have not yet come to terms with no 5.

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Being torn from all I loved has been the most traumatic thing I have ever experienced. I have felt completely overwhelmed and disconnected. It has been very challenging working through how I should react to all of this. I have not yet arrived and I am struggling to accept the new life that has been given me.

A verse that was very precious to me is found in Jeremiah 29 v 11

” I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This was a tricky verse for me to grasp. I asked the Lord that we would be above reproach, and he gave me shame.

I have been torn away from my life and everything I know and love. And yet this verse has got to be true if we are in God’s kingdom. I don’t understand God’s plans, but I know that in this severe and overwhelming trial that has felt cruel and unpleasant, God has been at work in my life and he has taught me through it.

These are the things that I am learning ;

  1. That God is good all the time.
  2. That God never forsakes us, even though we may feel like we are in a psalm 46 situation, and that the mountains have fallen into the heart of the sea.
  3. That through severe trials God is revealing my sinful reactions and actions and humbles me.
  4. That Im not in control and I can’t fix it.
  5. That Satan is far more subtle and devious than we can ever imagine and I need to pray constantly and suit up in God’s armour.
  6. I need to hand control over to God and leave it there without clawing it back.
  7. That I can choose how I react – I can choose joy over anxiety and calm over panic.
  8. That I can leave the ones I love to God and entrust them to him, and not fret over their welfare or spiritual growth.
  9. That forgiveness is a very hard thing, and this shows us the huge forgiveness God has shown us in Jesus.
  10. That marriage isn’t about fulfilling our hopes and dreams , but sanctifies us by showing us our selfishness and pride and prepares us for heaven.
  11. Understanding the importance of cultivating our relationship with the only person who ultimately matters. God is the only person who truly satisfies.

So I need to accept that even though I don’t understand any of this, God does, and rather than looking back longingly at what I’ve lost, I need to look forward and accept what God has given me now. I know this in theory, but as yet, I have not worked it through in practice.

Paul says in Philippians 4:12

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”

Dear Lord,

Thank you that you know all things. Help me to trust you when the path I am on is dark and unfamiliar. Help me to understand that although this has taken me by surprise, nothing comes as a surprise to you. Help me to accept and know contentment with what I now have, and not look back longingly to what has been taken away. Use me in the new life you have now given me for your glory.

Amen

The importance of right identity

“What do people think about us now?” Is a thought that I often obsess over..

This is a very dangerous path to go on, especially if you have a sensitive disposition as I have. The right question to ask is this: “Does my identity lie in the opinion of others or is my identity in Christ?

And if like me, the opinion of others has mattered too much, we are left completely overwhelmed when our circumstances spiral downwards.

If my worth is measured by our achievements, or our popularity, what happens when failure looms large?

I now find myself in a situation where everything has been stripped from us and I am floundering. God is humbling me and what a hard lesson this is to learn… To fall from grace has hit me hard and has made me think about where my identity truly lies.

And yes, without really thinking about it my identity has been anchored elsewhere and not completely on christ. And now I feel like I’m drowning.

God is kind in all he allows, every trial is for our ultimate good no matter how harsh it appears. I’ve been stripped bare and have nothing left apart from christ. Losing our reputation has made me feel like an outcast, a second class citizen, but that’s my perception and not the truth.

God has taught me much about myself through this trial. I value the opinions of others far too much which is why I feel so crushed and overwhelmed.

The truth of God’s word is clear, we have no goodness, no attributes that we can call our own…. Anything good can only come from christ, and the wonderful news is that even though there has been spectacular failure, we are forgiven and restored in christ. Others may look down on us for many years to come, but we will look up and find our worth in him, having that confidence to know that all is well because christ has taken our shame. We are just as loved and accepted no matter how spectacularly we’ve messed up.

Where else do I want my identity to lie? It’s madness to put it anywhere other than Jesus.

Satan’s lies

I have done a lot of pondering over these last months about the situation that I have found myself in. There are so many facets of emotion that come to the fore without invitation like an unwanted guest. These emotions barge their way rudely into my thinking and spoil my equilibrium. Once there, my whole outlook on life can alter, and my whole mindset changes from calm to overwhelming anxiety. This in turn affects my relationship with my husband and can be extremely unhelpful and damaging.

I am learning slowly to recognise satan’s lies. In the beginning I swallowed them hook, line and sinker, and before I knew what was happening, Satan was accusing me and making me believe his pernicious untruths. Whatever his lies were, the end result was despair, guilt and blackness. Joy in the Lord was cruelly taken, and I would often feel overwhelmed and riddled with anxiety.

Satan’s lies went something like this:

  • The church will never recover from this.
  • We are now lepers
  • Our children will never recover.
  • Our non – Christian friends will now never come to Christ.
  • The shame will never go away.
  • I will never be happy again.
  • We won’t cope financially.
  • All is lost

How these lies put me in a pit. There was truth in all I believed, but when God’s grace is left out of the equation, condemnation prevails.

Satan loves to leave out grace… He wants us to despair and feel hopeless and this is where I wallowed for quite a while. The black despair that I felt paralysed me.

After wise counsel, I began to recognise Satan’s lies. Bit by bit, I began to understand the subtlety of his accusations. My husband had blown it with devastating consequences but it didn’t end in condemnation. Repentance opens the gates of God’s grace which brings forgiveness, hope and healing. Satan stops at condemnation, God stops with forgiveness and reconciliation

I love the hymn that says:

Satan is wanting to rob us of joy , he wants us to become ineffective for the gospel. And in some ways Satan’s accusations are absolutely right! We are great failures and we can never do anything right. We are guilty and condemned. But that’s where Satan stops.

We need to remind him LOUDLY that Christ has taken that condemnation and nailed it to the cross, and when Satan accuses, we need to shout the end of the story to him! He knows it already and hates it… So when we are tempted to believe his lies, we need to shout out that Christ has won and we no longer stand accused! We are guilty, but Christ has taken our punishment. We deserve hell but through Christ we have his forgiveness and hope of heaven.

Yes my husband has sinned, but God’s plans will not be thwarted. Despite our sin, he is working out his plans and purposes for his glory, and will hone us on the way. I am so thankful to God for his grace and mercy, and for his many wonderful promises.

I just love this verse in Isaiah 44:22

“I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.

Return to me, For I have redeemed you.”

Satan is the great deceiver and comes to us quietly and with great subtlety. If we believe his lies he has won a victory. We need to be alert and on our guard so that we can stand up against him. Ephesians chapter 6 is key. I have a wonderful friend who tells me constantly to “suit up.” We need to put that armour on so that we can stand up against the devil and win the battle !

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the sheild of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”

I need constant prayers that I will be alert. Like Peter, if I look to myself, I will drown. Praying for God’s help hour by hour.

The hard act of Forgiveness

This was the beginning of confronting my heart issue, and what I saw was hard to acknowledge. I had been desperately hurt yet God expected me to forgive, just like that! It seemed so unfair!

God had taken me to this parable 3 times in 3 days, and I couldn’t put this down to coincidence. I felt like Samuel, and I needed to say ” speak Lord, for your servant is listening”. (1 Samuel 3:10)

So I went back to that parable. That shocking picture in Matthew 18 of the servant who had been forgiven such a huge debt. The forgiveness of that kind King had saved him, saved his family, saved his life – the debt was paid in full with no record kept. How that man must have felt like he was walking on air coming out of the king’s palace – all debt wiped clean. It was as though that servant never had a debt in the first place. The record of wrong was gone.

We can look at this story and think how terrible that servant was for being so ungracious and unforgiving, but we are all that servant if we don’t forgive one another. God has loved and forgiven us so much. We don’t deserve that forgiveness, We deserve hell and alienation from God. I began to realise that if I didn’t show forgiveness I was like that unmerciful servant. Jesus commands us to forgive, just as he has forgiven us. If we refuse to, bitterness binds around our heart and mindset and robs us of joy and relationship with God.

Mark 11:25 says:

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your father also who us in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Matthew 6 :14 says:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you also.

Colossians 3:13 says:

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

So I came to realise that if we love God, we must model Jesus however hard this is. And that meant forgiving, no matter what response we get back. To me, this felt like getting into a big ice bath and being asked to put my shoulders under.

But I knew with my whole heart that my attitude and heart was wrong. And I asked God for help.

When I eventually got to the place of asking the Lord to bless the person I once wanted to curse, I knew that I had forgiven. It was a liberating and a wonderful place to be, and God is waiting to help and sustain all of us who desire to do what is right before him.

God is an amazing God, who by his grace changes our mindset and our hearts. But it’s a choice that we have to take. We need to work out our responses with an understanding that God expects us to forgive, as he has forgiven us. If we stubbornly refuse to forgive others, when we have been forgiven so much, there are consequences for the actions we decide to take. For that unmerciful servant The King responded like this:

Then the master called the servant in.” You wicked servant,” he said “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

With all of this knowledge about forgiveness in my heart and mind, I was now cruelly confronted with my husband’s adultery ; my life had been smashed to pieces, I had lost my home, my church and my community. I knew what was right before God, I had learned to submit to God once before the hard way, and God had already taught me about the consequences of not forgiving. I had to grant forgiveness and pray that God would help my emotions catch up with my will.

Thank you Lord that you are gracious and compassionate, and love to forgive contrite sinners.

Thank you for the Lord Jesus who was willing to suffer so much so that we can know that forgiveness.

Help us to forgive others because you have forgiven me so much.

Thank you for your Spirit which helps us to say ” No” to ungodliness and enables us to live in a way that’s pleasing to you.

Help us to live like him day by day, and as we will put on that full armour of God we will resist the devil’s fiery darts.

Amen