My journey: a mother’s testimony through grief

I’ve got to know Vicky through our mutual journey through loss and faith, and our blogs. We both write about our emotions and thoughts as a way to process our experiences. Vicky’s story is very different from mine; however, our views are very similar.

Vicky has shared her faith testimony on her blog which I would encourage you to read, especially if you are dealing with, or have dealt with, the terminal illness of a loved one. Vicky blends her relationship with God so movingly into her story, and while her daughter Leah’s illness and passing is so heartbreaking, I also felt encouraged by her words and very grateful for her transparency.

Vicky’s faith was strong and had been part of her life for many years before her loss, and what her testimony demonstrates is the help and comfort knowing God gave them all during the most difficult time of their lives, something I wish I had at that the time I lost my own daughter.

Vicky’s testimony features some of the many Bible passages that helped them. What struck me, reading this, was when she said this:

I really appreciate this Bible passage (Isaiah 43:1-2) about walking through the fire, as some Christians seem to have this erroneous idea that if you have enough faith that you will live a long and happy life – that you can just command your troubles in Jesus name to disappear and they will go. I have read the Bible from Genesis through to Revelation and that’s not what I have read.

This is an important part of our faith which is very difficult to understand. We can live the most holy life dedicated to God yet still suffer and die, yet some who never bother with God can live long, healthy lives. It doesn’t always make sense. God never said we would not suffer and lose, but He promised He would love us through it all – that life is far more than just our mortal lives here on earth.

As times of sorrow, it’s so important to hear the words of mothers like Vicky, who share their stories so that others can feel perhaps a little less alone.

Please read My Journey here.

 

 

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‘Be now my vision’ – an unexpected experience with the Holy Spirit on the Alpha course

As part of my series about sharing my faith testimony, this post is about my experience of attending an Alpha course. I’ve tried to keep it as brief as possible but also wanted to capture the main aspects for readers to appreciate what and why I saw what I did.

Parts of my experience are deeply personal to me, but in many ways that makes it even more worthy of sharing. In fact, I’ve delayed sharing it for five months because it is so special to me, but I know I must (I would also like to do this before my baby arrives as my blogging will likely take a back seat for a while).

Last September, I attended an Alpha course run by my church. I felt confident in my faith, having had the experiences I had with God, like this one, since my daughter’s death in 2013. I felt I had a strong spiritual side, but I wanted to learn more about the factual side of Christianity… the questions we all ask ‘Who is God? Who was Jesus? Why do we suffer? etc.’

A shaky start!
Entering the first session, I thought that there wasn’t too much the course could add to my faith. I was also a little sceptical about a course which I believed, in essence, converts unbelieving people into believing Christians. To me, belief was personal and couldn’t be ‘taught’, but I was open to learning more and hearing others’ experiences, as apparently, Alpha has been hugely successful in bringing people from all walks of life to and encouraging them to think about faith.

One of the first questions that people asked of the hosts running the course was ‘Why do you believe?’ ‘What was it, exactly, that made you decide that God, Jesus and the Bible were all true?’ There was a mixed response from the leaders, but each was based on a profound experience or a moment when the truth was simply ‘revealed’ to them, an awakening if you like. For some this happened in their youth, for others much later in life.

While people do come to faith through apologetics and analysis of the facts, it seems that having an encounter or awakening is the point when they really know Christ.

The Alpha course was spread over 12 weekly 2-hour sessions. For the first half of the course I found, rather than deepening my faith, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the assumptive and the somewhat lack of an impartial approach by both the Alpha materials and the leaders. Even though I understood the course to be an open forum for us to ask whatever questions we wanted, the scope to ask those challenging questions seemed to close up as we got further in.

Despite this, I found that I spent the week following a session reflecting on the key aspect of discussion, which was hugely beneficial. I also started to read the Gospels from start to finish. So I was learning something, just not in the way I expected… but that’s how God works!

Yet, still, I felt my frustration increase with each session. Some of the others who attended were heavily sceptical. They wanted facts and hard evidence and were not convinced by the rather weak ‘it’s just true so you should believe it’ approach of Nicky Gumbel et al. This was understandable initially, but I could see that their views were not changing as the sessions went on. If anything, they were becoming more sceptical, hostile and confused by the faith experiences of others, because they were so far apart with the ‘nothing’ that they had experienced.

I was a quiet observer during the first few weeks, taking my time to get to know the others and whether I felt safe. I had a difficult story to tell about my grief and faith, and I didn’t want to reveal that until I felt it appropriate. I didn’t want people to judge my faith because of my loss. However, it was quite fascinating listening to the others and hearing their good and bad experiences of religion. It was clear some had got wrapped up in the hearsay and speculation of the media and negative history rather than the core elements of what Christianity is and is not. They couldn’t separate the sinful human from the loving God.

I couldn’t help becoming irritated by the sceptics’ desire for hard fact alone, and actually found it quite upsetting. Like ‘doubting Thomas’ they wanted to see the body of Jesus, they wanted to look at a library of books and photos documenting his every move, they could not see evidence of a loving God anywhere in this world. It reached a point where we were debating a minor point for so long that I almost snapped. I shared with them my encounter with God. I shared my daughter’s passing to Him. I wanted them to know that if they were seeking faith in apologetics alone, they weren’t going to find it.

I’m not sure some of the group even wanted to believe. Devoted Christians can seem strange people. They are so convinced by this thing that is, on the face of it, unbelievable yet the love of Christ radiates from them. I am pretty intuitive to people’s feelings and I sensed they felt uncomfortable around those in the group who were more forceful or stringent in their beliefs. While I felt the hosts could have been a little less domineering in their approach, I also understood that once you have deep faith it really is very difficult to accept any other view (which I suppose is why religion in general has such a poor reputation!).

An unexpected encounter
It was at the half-way point that we were asked to attend an away day together, called the Holy Spirit Day. This day takes the course members away from the endless questioning (which really could go on forever) and offers them the opportunity for a more spiritual experience of the faith and to perhaps encounter the Holy Spirit for themselves.

Despite my prior experiences of hearing and feeling God’s presence, I was particularly – and stubbornly – sceptical about this day. The cynics in the group didn’t want to go at all, they were very uncomfortable about spending a day in worship with ‘fanatics’ when they were not nearly at a stage to believe themselves. I understood this, but as we had become friendly I found I myself encouraging them to go, explaining my own reservations but that I also felt it important to see the entire course through. With Christianity, you can’t pick and choose the bits you like, it is a package. Apparently over 27 million people around the world (including notable celebrities) have attended the Alpha Holy Spirit day, so I felt we really should go, if anything to see what the ‘fuss’ was about. We wouldn’t know if we simply stayed home.

At the same time I felt protective of my previous personal encounters with God. They were special to me and my situation. I didn’t see how the Holy Spirit would suddenly turn up on a prescribed day to convince us of His being, least of all me. It seemed too controlled by us, impersonal and not led by Him at all, almost as though we were testing Him to show Himself. But these were Christian and non-Christian friends of mine, so I knew I would be in very good and safe company.

So it was with some reluctance and curiosity that one Saturday I went to the venue with one of the members of the group who I had become friends with. I went hoping more that she would get something out of it, as I was much further in faith than she was. I so wanted the others to feel what I felt. To soften the hardness in their cynical hearts.

The morning started with an interesting discussion and I learnt a great deal about what the Holy Spirit is, and is not. The others seemed to relax as they clearly enjoyed the safety of the informal debate. After lunch, we reconvened and were led into worship by our vicar. I wasn’t expecting this, not singing! We sang a hymn, which I knew well, but I sensed my friend was becoming more uncomfortable. She wasn’t ready for this at all. It was almost as though if she sang, she was committing to something she wasn’t ready for. As a result, I found it impossible to achieve any depth of mediation seeing as I was so aware of her discomfort.

After the hymn, we had a quiet period of prayer, this was when we invited the Holy Spirit to come. One of the leaders came over and prayed over me. There was nothing strange in her words, she simply stood in front of me and asked the Holy Spirit to fill my life and bless me, or something along those lines. It was an unusual experience. I felt a warmth inside. I felt kind of tired and also like emotions were being pulled to the surface. I suddenly felt quite vulnerable, yet safe.

She moved on to someone else and I found myself sitting down with my eyes closed; my mind felt empty but I tried to use the time to focus. It was then that I saw the most striking vision! It was of Jesus on the cross, at a side angle. The cross was a bright blue and Jesus was dead.

It wasn’t a frightening image at all. In that instant I had an overwhelming sense of comfort.

I felt love like I have never known. Unconditional, constant love.

I felt utterly forgiven – and that I understood what ‘forgiveness’ meant.

I felt a deep and sincere sense of calm and peace. The vision was showing me that Jesus died for me and that no matter how I felt – how I had sinned in the past, how I beat myself up about not being good enough, how I held in my emotions because I was scared, how I tried to fight what I believed in – that Jesus loved me and always, always had. I felt the overwhelming peaceful ‘power of the cross’, of what it meant for Jesus to die. Ultimately, it was not sorrow, it was all love!

(This vision was five months ago, and I finally got round to drawing what I saw. It is just an amateur sketch as I’m no artist, but I always felt I should try to draw it. I still see it vividly today. Jesus was real, with blood and sweat all over his hair and body, the wood of the cross was split and bleached blue… it was a lifelike image rather than an illustration.)

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I found myself suddenly sobbing, to my great embarrassment! I simply could not stop the tears. Tears of love and release, fear and wonder, thanks and submission. I’m a deeply private person, an introvert, yet despite the room full of people, this still felt like a deeply personal moment. I could just as well been at home in my room.

My poor friend beside me must have wondered what on earth had happened! She and many others knew about my daughter so presumed my tears were for her. I couldn’t speak. I just needed to pour out my heart to Him, to go with this awesome vision.

My friend was quite glad to comfort me, I think it helped her to find something to do among all these people acting oddly (I wasn’t aware until after but a couple were lying on the floor absorbed in prayer) and there was me sobbing like a child! But I was thankful for her support and knew I couldn’t fight it and pretend I was okay this time. It was nice to have the human and spiritual comfort.

The group were lovely with me afterwards (as I was the only one who had such a dramatic reaction!). I felt quite confused by it; all I could say was that it was most definitely not about Abi. To my surprise, this experience had nothing of my daughter in it, which felt odd to admit to as, if anything, I was expecting that. In the vision, I had the sense that because I was loved, so was she.

After a brief chat, we went home. I was suddenly thrown back into normality, with the chatter of my children and things to be done. I felt what I can only describe as numb. I had cried so much and was utterly humbled by what I saw and felt. I was scared in a way. I now understood what it meant to be fearful of God, I’d always wondered what ‘fear Him’ meant, and it’s a good fear! I was ‘lost for words’ as I was not expecting anything like what I experienced, especially as my cynicism had been growing along with the others.

I felt numb for a few days. I thought I should feel joyful, so this reaction troubled me, but I realised that it’s normal to feel like this after an intense encounter.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for some time, and I’ve only told a few people from church who I feel would understand. What could I say? I would be seen as totally bonkers! Brainwashed even! As time passed, I tried to find reasons for the vision, but couldn’t. I thought perhaps my brain was recalling another image I’d seen, like when you stare at something and close your eyes and it’s still there in your mind. There was some modern abstract Christian art in the room but otherwise it was very neutral. I don’t recall seeing an image of Christ like this, especially not at this unusual side angle. I didn’t feel I was led into this vision by anyone else in the room or by the hymns we sang.

The rest of the course was about living out the faith, presuming that people were convinced by the Holy Spirit day… my friend dropped out.

I felt sad that she didn’t get anything out of it but was more excited by the fact that God was still very much with me! That I did get something from the course, that He is interested in me, that it is all true and He really wanted me to know that. Perhaps it was more useful to Him that I have an experience rather than my cynical friend, because I am now glad to share it with others through my writing? Who knows?

I don’t know why not everyone gets a direct Holy Spirit encounter… perhaps they do, but they miss seeing it? There was a faithful woman in my group who had never heard or seen God, despite praying for it all her life. She so longed to see him. She didn’t go on the Holy Spirit day so I’ll never know if she would have received something then. But then it’s not my concern. I remember being struck by this quote when reading The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis: “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” It made me aware that I shouldn’t worry about what God is doing for other people, he’s got it covered!

It took me a few weeks after to feel the joy of my experience. I wasn’t sure if what I encountered was correct. Of course it was, but I wasn’t sure what I was feeling – my practical mind tried to convince me I’d made it up. But I just knew what I felt and importantly what I saw. Again, as in other my encounters, my mind was ‘closed’ and distracted when I had the experience. I wasn’t seeking an encounter, in fact I was rather afraid of it in a room full of people and was more aware of making my sceptical friend feel comfortable. I felt I had become the sceptic again, yet God came and literally showed me the cross. My eyes were opened. I finally understood the cross, what it really means to give your life to Christ (up to then it seemed like nothing but a phrase).

Since then, I felt it important I document my faith journey. I’m not expecting my experience to convert anybody to Christianity. It will be interesting to some but a relationship with God is personal so, if you have one, it will be very different to mine. Most importantly, I cannot – and should not – forget these encounters and also how God is working in my life.

I don’t have all the answers – far from it! I still have much I want to understand, but now I do less doubting and questioning and instead seek answers in faith.

I’m probably the most surprised by what Alpha gave me in the end, having had such a shaky start, but I will always be glad that I bothered!

When I consider my journey to and in faith thus far, I can see that I don’t have just one testimony, I have a few of them – from my youth, my early married life, my eldest daughter’s death, and now this. That’s quite something and shows me that God is constant and always will be. I wonder what’s next?

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Irish, ca. 8th century; trans. Mary Byrne (1880-1931) versified, Eleanor Hull (1860-1935)

If God is so good, why do we ignore Him?

Something that’s always bothered me is why some humans believe in God and others don’t. Where did it go wrong? We are I believe mostly good people, trying to raise our families and live our lives well, so if God was so instrumental to this why aren’t the churches packed with worshippers?

Since diving full on into a life with Christ, my Bible reading has ramped up and I relish learning more about God and Jesus. It really is true that the more you read, the deeper your faith grows. But… if someone told me this a few years ago, I would have been more than a little sceptical.

Like many, I would have thought:”Yeah right, they only want to brainwash me with their religion. Who has time to read the Bible when there is so much else to do? Give me OK magazine any day! And why go to church? If God loves us all, He’ll know I’m fine as I am and will love me whether I bother or not. We’re not all meant to be pious martyrs!’

Yep, pretty cynical and, if I’m honest, I was brushing it off because I didn’t have time in my life for God, I didn’t find church very exciting, I didn’t understand much of it, I’d had some bad experiences and I simply wasn’t ‘holy’ enough… so I just didn’t go there.

I considered myself, for most of my life, to be a Christian (of sorts), someone who (mostly) believed in God and felt a sense of something special when I went into a church (which became more as a tourist or spectator). I’d look at Christians and feel a bit envious that they had something I didn’t, that depth of faith that I seemed to be lacking, yet also I’d be very wary of them….

But all that changed when my daughter died and I found God waiting patiently for me.

Just as an atheist struggles to understand why anyone would believe in God, once you have experienced God you look at people who haven’t and wonder why. Why don’t they feel this? Why don’t they see what you see? They are missing out on so much deep joy! It really does make you want to spread the Word!

But the thing is, people don’t want to be saved.

Right from the beginning, Genesis, since the Fall (yes, I totally believe all that about Adam and Eve) we have turned away from God. God gave us free will, which in the main we love and make use of, but it means He won’t interfere to turn our hearts towards Him. He’s no wish-granter, but it’s a bit like the idea of a genie where you can have whatever you wish for but he can’t make you love someone, including himself.

And early in Genesis, we start doing our own thing and losing touch with the creator. So much so that God sends the flood to wipe the earth clean! Then, in Exodus, God is obviously involved with his people and communicates to them through Moses and others and numerous signs. Time and again they go to him then it’s not long before they seem to forget. Forget how powerful and loving he is. Forget the creator! If he’s not there, right there, performing miracles or some other wondrous act, he’s forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind! And just like children, once we are left to our own devices we usually get up to no good!

I imagine it to feel, to Him, the same way we do when our children grow up, gain independence and not need us any more. Some children stick around and keep in contact with their parents, often or occasionally. Others don’t. In God’s case, many of his children have said, ‘See you later Dad, we can do it by ourselves, that is, until we need something so we’ll pop back just in case you can help, or we’ll blame you for everything and never speak to you again!’

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Breathe deeply in faith

I’ve realised that it doesn’t take much these days to break me. I always mourn my daughter harder when life feels tough…illness, sleep deprivation, anxieties, parenting challenges all set to chip away at my weary soul.

Women, mothers, hold up so much. We carry so much burden to alleviate the physical and emotional burden on others. We keep things ticking. Our minds work at a thousand paces. Yet we are human too.

I pray for patience then sin with words. I pray for peace then sin with angry thoughts. I feel I should be more. Be calmer, milder, more accepting but that only seems to create the opposite as I fail to live up to my own expectations. I’m not happy with my behaviour. I beat myself up. I’m irritable. And perhaps worst of all, I feel desperately alone. Pressures God knows I don’t need.

Today, I prayed a psalm of thanks which fell open in my Bible. I then prayed for God’s help, again. My prayers feel selfish but I poured it out to God in the brief moment I had without a child’s demands. I opened my Lent book, God on Mute, by Peter Greig, and read this quote…  Yet again I realise that, in prayer, I don’t need to search too far or for too long to find comfort and guidance just to…

…breathe deeply in faith.

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Are you ‘right with God’?

I attended a funeral this week of an inspiring lady from my church, ‘D’. Her death, while expected in some ways due to the leukaemia that had taken over her body, was a shock to her family and friends nonetheless.

She and her husband are both committed Christians and have done a lot for the church in their lifetime. However, the funeral wasn’t so much about their depth of faith, but was about how ‘D’ had lived her life and the impressions she made on people. We learned how she was the kind of woman to make the most of every day. How she was always challenging herself. How she used her creative talents to benefit others. How she was involved in community work and selflessly reached out to support young and old. All the while raising two children and being a dedicated wife, grandmother and homemaker. She had lived a life many of us aspire to, but did so without self-congratulation or pride, but humbly and modestly, and with an awesome dose of humour! She dealt with her illness with great courage and dignity.

It spoke volumes that the church was full of mourners and there was standing room only for some. While not originally from our village, all ages and people from all her life attended. A testament to who she was. A much-loved person who gave more love in return. I had only known her relatively briefly, a few years, and we socialised at church events. But there was much about my own relationship with her that made me feel a connection to her and such sorrow at her death.

She first introduced herself to me at the first church service I attended after my daughter’s funeral. This kind-faced couple approached me and she told me how they knew something of our loss, as they had lost their eldest grandchild in similarly sudden and unexpected circumstances at a similar age to Abi (who was 12 when she died). Ever since, they always made a point to say hello or to have a chat whenever they saw me. While there were periods where I didn’t see them for a while, I felt welcomed as an instant friend and there was a genuine sense of care and love about them.

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Having the courage to believe

This week, I attended my 8-year-old son’s parents’ evening. Like many parents at this time of year, I was keen and somewhat nervous to see how he was getting on.

In the past, before my eldest child died, I was guided a lot by the grades my children achieved. Abi, my eldest child, always did very well. Effortlessly getting good grades due to her natural affinity to the school system and learning. My second child was similar; a good all rounder with a creative flair. My son has found learning at school harder to adjust to. As one of the youngest in his class, he was at a slight disadvantage to his peers. He’s bright enough and loves maths, but he’s not keen on writing or reading in a structured way. He tends to worry about getting things wrong and will simply ‘switch off’ when he can’t handle something. Yet he’s happy and his confidence in himself is growing all the time.

When Abi died, my perspective on many things changed. Everything seemed insignificant… of course it was… but it was such a big thing to adjust to that no one warned me about. I suddenly didn’t know what to care about anymore. But as their routines didn’t stop, I needed to somehow find a way to continue to support my children’s schooling. Our children need to see that we care about all the things they do.

Three years on, I’m in a fairly happy place with this now; my focus centres on my children’s overall happiness and wellbeing. The grades don’t really matter. Clearly, I see the value of learning essentials such as English and mathematics, but I’m not fussed about them achieving the ever-pressured targets set by the government. I firmly believe in a rounded education that includes sports, arts, faith, hobbies and just plain old having fun.

It was something the teacher said that struck me the most about his progress. He was sat at a table with his peers and they were talking about God and Jesus. Everyone except my son said they didn’t believe in Him, they made jokes about Jesus and giggled about it. It wasn’t a deep theological debate this was just 8-year-olds having a chat. But my son went against their opinions and admitted he believed in God, and he said this with simple and honest courage in his convictions. The teacher noticed this and commented on it to us.

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‘Where is your God now?’

While there are many commonalities to being a Christian, a relationship with God is a deeply personal thing. Those who believe have ways of talking to or hearing God. Some people come to the faith through deliberate reasoning and learning, others simply grow into the faith, and then there are those who have the encounters with God that most of us pray for. But one thing I noticed, and have wrestled with, is how the relationship with God can change after a bereavement or period of suffering.

Until fairly recently, I was happy to pray to God, to ask Him for help with a problem, to pray for my family, to pray for healing, but when those prayers were not answered I felt confused and alone. Isn’t it true that when something goes well we believe that was God answering our prayers (and, perhaps, we take just a smidge of the glory by thinking it was thanks to us praying in the the first place!), yet when something goes badly we are stumped as to what happened, and don’t know what to say.

Reading about Jesus’s last days on earth, I understood how he knew he had to take the burden of our sin onto himself, he had to take the suffering of our bodies and minds, and worst of all, he had to be abandoned by God, his Father. He had to know what it was like to live without God, just as the people were doing. When our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be, it can feel this way for us.

‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’
Matthew 27:46

Yet, at the hour of his suffering and abandonment, Jesus put himself entirely into God’s hands.

Feeling is believing
After my daughter died, I knew in an instant that I wasn’t alone in my grief. That Jesus was there – right there – grieving with me. It was a comfort but it also left me feeling more confused than ever. I was totally separated from God at that point in my life. I hadn’t lived a very Christian life. If anything, I felt nothing but anger at my decision that it was ‘all untrue’. I felt spiritually alone. So I was shocked to feel this overwhelming sense of spiritual love.

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Life through God’s lense is not rose-tinted

With the popularity of social media it seems we know more about people than ever before. We know their good times though holiday snaps, happy families, beautiful homes, good jobs… then it goes wrong, for someone, somewhere. Someone we know or a friend of a friend. An accident, burglary, cancer diagnosis, sudden death… we perhaps, somewhat voyeuristically, crowd round them in a cyber world in shock and disbelief. While many will offer practical and emotional support, others will fan the flames of anger and injustice. Life is shit. It’s so unfair!

But, Jesus told us to expect all this. In fact, He promises ‘you will have trouble’ (John 16:33), which isn’t a phrase you’ll want to think of over the nicer messages!

Like me, one day your life could look very different… trouble comes knocking.

Your body doesn’t work the way it should anymore.
You develop anxiety over something unexpected.
Your job or income is threatened.
Your relationship breaks down.
You’re involved in an accident.
You are harmed in some way.
Someone in your family is taken ill.
Someone you know dies.

Something, anything, could have a profound affect on the rest of your life and how you are able to live it. And it’s often at times like this we turn away from God, confused about why our prayers aren’t being answered or why we have to endure this new situation and suffering.

Life is hard
In our society, we expect a large degree of perfection. Way back when, magazines touched up images of models to make them look perfect. This was one level of perfectionism that most people could ignore. However, the popularity and accessibility of social media amongst all ages and sexes has skewed how life is viewed. Life is edited to sound more interesting. Pictures are filtered to look better. The life we present online can show an unrealistic snapshot of what it truly is.

As a Christian, learning about Jesus, we are never told that our lives will be easy. I can see, now that I have explored further, that the message of ‘God Saves’ is not ‘God will solve all our problems’. When Jesus healed and raised people from death He was not just rescuing them from those afflictions, but was demonstrating who He really was and the power He had. (As we know, we often want evidence in order to to believe.) Jesus told us quite clearly that we will always have illness, poverty, evil and suffering, and that God will love and support us through it all and – ultimately – wipe every tear from every eye.

It seems a morose way to view life and contradicts what we are to believe in the love of God. But our suffering and God’s love go hand in hand, in equal measure.

When my daughter died, I didn’t understand why (I still don’t) but I did feel very strongly that Jesus was with me (and I had been so separated from my faith up to that point that I couldn’t even pray to God to save her). I felt a presence. I felt such love and grief alongside mine. I may not have understood what was happening to us, but I felt understood.

‘To be understood, as to understand.’
To be loved as to love with all my soul.’
Make me a Channel of your Peace, Prayer of St Francis

So Jesus’s message was we should not be surprised by the trials of life but know that we are blessed when things are going well. The good times shine out and become even better.

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A reflection on grief in the Bible

I wrote and adapted this old post of mine for the recent Service of Remembrance at my church earlier this month. This annual service is aimed at those have lost loved ones in the past year or so. Indeed, we attended during the year of Abi’s death and it was incredibly moving.

With memories of that, two years on, I was somewhat anxious about what to say. Preparing words of comfort for people at pretty raw stages of grief was more challenging than I thought. It’s easy enough online when people seek out the kind of words I write, but to stand up and speak about my view of grief was daunting. Continue reading