There is an emotive song by Jamie Lawson called “wasn’t expecting that”, which I challenge anyone who is in touch with their emotions to listen to and not then shed a tear! At some point in our lives, we will encounter unexpected and painful situations, problems that we cannot immediately fix or resolve. The likelihood is that these will only add to our growing sense of impotence, especially when these problems impact those we love and care for.
This past couple of weeks, I faced a couple of situations which, when I thought they could not get any worse, did. I believe it was Tommy Cooper who once said, “Smile; things could be worse. So, I smiled, and they were.”
Many have empathised, encouraging me to hold on to God in prayer, which honestly feels like the very last thing I want to do at this moment; nevertheless, I appreciate the sentiment. Others suggest that our wounds develop our character, alluding to James 1:4f in terms of the joy I should be sensing. But mine feel more like an obstacle than a gift.
Loving God, even when things feel tough, is never easy. I am, however, consoled that my relationship with God is not based purely on my level of input and effort but rather on a sympathetic God who knows first-hand how hurt, pain, and loss feel.
By this stage of the reflection, you are probably expecting some wise words, maybe a bible verse that will cause you to nod sagely or a spiritually uplifting conclusion in which I declare how ‘I have overcome my tribulations and am now praising God with the full joy of the Lord.’ I cannot offer you this.
I can reveal that I am clinging on whilst also crying out to God in full ‘Job-esque’ style, groping for a response and sensing my prayers bouncing off the clouds. Perhaps you “wasn’t expecting that”.
God is more offended, I believe, by fake cheeriness and ‘inauthentic prayers of faith’ where we tell God what God should do, binding everything in the language of spiritual battle and overcoming. The God I worship welcomes the cry of ‘help me Jesus’, understands my rants about the unfairness of life, and holds me so close when I tell Him exactly what I think about His plans in words far from edifying. If you consider this a step too far, you’ll probably need to remove most of the book of Psalms from your bible. Can I recommend using a fresh Stanley Knife to conceal any ‘editing’ from others?
I know deep down that God takes all our suffering and recycles it into soil to grow new seedlings; nevertheless, this composting period feels like another word for compost!
I believe Richard Rohr said, “Our natural instinct is to try to fix pain, to control it, or even, foolishly, to try to understand it. The ego insists on understanding. That’s why Jesus praises a certain quality even more than love, and he calls it faith. It is the ability to stand in liminal space, to stand on the threshold, to hold the contraries, until we are moved by grace to a much deeper level and a much larger frame, where our private pain is not centre stage, but a mystery shared with every act of bloodshed and every tear wept since the beginning of time. As such, our pain is not just our own.” I find this helpful.
Please don’t judge or think less of me (I’m pretty good at doing that all by myself!), but this is a difficult season for me and others on the team. Instead, can you pray for us as we pray for, serve, and support you, even when life is a bit ‘pants’.
CEO, Rural Ministries