Loving God means trusting Him when life hurts
Readings: II Corinthians 4:8&9, Isaiah 43:1-3
I dreaded my 30th birthday for a long time! I remembered how much I hated turning from 19 to 20 and I was sure changing from twenty something to the big 3- 0 would be even worse!
But no matter how many ‘big’ birthdays pass, I am sure they will not be as bad as my 29th. For 16th June 2003 was my worst birthday, in fact it was the worst day of my life so far.
On that day, I was admitted to Knockbracken- a psychiatric hospital. I had been struggling with severe mental illness for 7 months. I was anxious, depressed and even suicidal. I felt so alone. My husband was at home with my two small children, trying to explain “Mummy’s gone to hospital because she’s lost her smile”
A lot of my family were away in America at a wedding. I felt so low as I looked around the grey walls of the ward, wondering how I was ever going to get out of this place. For the first time in my life I felt abandoned by God. The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” echoed through my mixed up mind.
Yet even in this deeply dark time, God’s still small voice reminded me that Jesus knew how I was feeling. For on the cross, the cry from Jesus’ anguished heart was “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
On the cross, to a much greater extent than we will ever know, Jesus felt abandoned by His Father God as He took on the sins of the world. And at that time, in the middle of my deep depression, I could take comfort from the fact that Jesus understood, that He could sympathise with my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)
The next day Pastor Baird came to see me and read Isaiah 43 and the Word of the Lord was deeply comforting – ‘
But now, this is what the Lord says-
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1-3-NIV)
The Message phrases those words this way- “Don’t be afraid,I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end –
Because I am your God, your personal God”
(Isaiah 43:1-3-The Message)
No matter how hard life gets, no matter how down we feel, no matter how much we feel on our own, we are never alone. God is there with us – in the middle of our troubles, heartache and despair.
‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18 – NLT)
Like the foot- prints poem reminds us, in our darkest hour, when there is just one set of footprints in the sand, we are not alone, God is carrying us.
Slowly and steadily over the days, weeks and months, I began to feel better – thanks to God and a very supportive family (and of course medication and my psychiatrist too!) Looking back, I can see God’s hand at work. I can see how He brought us through and how He taught me to rely on Him.
There are some things that can only be learnt in the middle of difficulties. When our backs are to the wall, we tend to fall to our knees. Our heart cries out to God and He hears us. There are treasures of darkness – times of feeling God close against the odds – character building, spiritually defining times.
And these dark threads are necessary in the tapestry of life. God, the Master Craftsman is working on us, His work of art – and the dark areas give depth and character to the tapestry of life. It’s hard to see all this at the time, but at the end, when His work is complete, we’ll gasp in awe and realise truly that our God does work together all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28)
It is in the valleys of life (not the mountain tops) that the real fruit grows. And God wants us to be vibrant, productive, fruitful Christians.
A diamond sparkles best against a black back- ground. God the Master Craftsman knows that we, His precious stones reflect His glory best when times are tough.
Yes, we may feel abandoned, but we are never alone.
‘We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going’
(II Corinthians 4: 8&9 NLT)
As I said before, it’s just as well we don’t know what is around the corner of life – and it is. But God knows, and He is holding us, leading us on. And all around, and underneath are His everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)
In the midst of all our trouble, Heartache and despair,
We have a God who stands beside us,
A Friend Who’s always there,
A Hope when things seem hopeless, A Faith when things go wrong,
A Love that will never fail us,
That’s never been more strong!
‘But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold’
‘Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.’
(James 1: 2-4 – The Message)
A prayer from the heart
Lord, I need You.
I need You now more than ever before.
I need You to minister to me-to help me
rise above the problems and difficulties of life.
I need You to fill up my emptiness, because
I’m completely wiped out and spent.
I need Your grace at this time of need.
I need to sense Your love now more than ever.
I need to feel Your arms of love around me, to enable me to feel safe and secure, despite the turmoil around. I need to be touched by You- so that
I can reach out to others.
I need Your strength at my time of weakness.
I need Your joy now, when life hurts deeply.
I need You to know the cry of my heart, a cry so deep, so silent that no-one else hears.
I need Your patience to take one day at a
time, step by step with You.
Lord, I know that You are all-
sufficient. You are my All in all.
I CAN depend on You- my Rock,
my Song, my Awesome Father God.
(This prayer was scribbled in a journal during another hospital admission. It was truly a prayer from the heart)
The words of our Father
“I am your fortress in times of trouble,
My love is the anchor when things go wrong,
You are precious and in all situations,
I am working to make you strong!
I am your Rock when life seems uncertain,
My presence will guide when things are unclear.
You are loved and in all your problems
You can trust and have nothing to fear.
I am your Helper in times of testing,
My strength shows up best when you are weak, You are my child and through all the tough times, You can know my strength whenever you seek”
P.S. My 30th birthday (& 40th too!)has long been and gone! On my 30th we had a great barbeque-complete with an adult sized bouncy castle. It was a bright, sunny day- and more importantly there was sunshine in my heart- a complete contrast to my 29th!
*Revised & updated from ‘Its all about love’ self published in 2007