Tonight I was given the opportunity to speak at a Churches Together event. When I asked God what I should speak on, I found myself singing Hillsong’s Glorious Ruins which includes these words:
“When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I’ll sing”
The song is partly based on Isaiah 51:3, “The Lord will comfort Zion again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.” I am writing about finding God and staying in relationship with God and others, even in the midst of our greatest trials.
Our family is facing a tricky time at the moment, our daughter has been ill and in pain since Christmas and the doctors don’t yet know why which as you can imagine is distressing. Our daughter, like us, believes that God can heal her and yet He hasn’t healed her yet. We are facing a daily barrage of fiery darts of worry, fear, guilt, shame, disappointment, resentment, anger, frustration, depression, sadness and doubt. You may be going through similar.
My question to you is this, “How do you respond when bad things happen to good people?”
Top 10 Tips
1) Put on the armour of God
Bill Johnson was once asked, “Have you put the armour of God on today?” to which he replied, “I never take it off.” I was meditating on that last week and thought I would catch up on my bible reading plan on my kindle. The very next passage was Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT). I love it when God does that, let’s you think a thought, meditate on it and then immediately confirms it:
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm….. Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil…. Pray””
2) Life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to be able to serve God
Paul goes on to write that he was in chains and still preaching! Our life does not have to be perfect to demonstrate God’s glory or to know we are in His will. Consciously apply the armour of God and ask God daily to help you stand firm even in the midst of trials. Like in the Lord’s prayer, ask God for your daily needs and for deliverance from all evil.
3) False guilt helps no-one, instead, ask for and give support to others in hard times
Last week my husband and I were talking about the impact the situation was having on our faith. We have both struggled with feelings of unworthiness and false guilt, the worry that we had somehow done something wrong or that we had failed to have enough faith. We both recognised that we needed to take up the “shield of faith” and “quench”, which means put out, the “fiery darts of the enemy”. Prayer and reading the bible are both very real weapons of defence and offence in doing that. So is friendship and spending time reconnecting with people. We mustn’t be like the gazelle we have seen all too often on nature films, isolated from the herd, easily picked off by predators. Let’s make time for one another, support one another.
4) Illness not due to sin or our fault
Both of us had separately asked God whether we were to blame for our daughter’s illness. God reminded my husband of the story of the blind man from birth who the disciples asked Jesus about. John 9: 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” They wanted to assign blame, rather like Job’s comforters did, yet Jesus got on and healed the blind man by in a very unpolitically correct way – by spitting on some clay, rubbing it on his eyes and telling him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. This man wasn’t even asked if he had faith, Jesus just got on and healed him while the disciples were arguing among themselves as to whose fault the situation was.
5) God is still good and he likes us!
I don’t know why my daughter isn’t yet healed, but I do know this, it isn’t my fault. God not only loves us, He chose us and He likes us. He doesn’t spend His whole time looking from afar and judging us and finding us wanting, instead He is like a Father who wants to play with us, swing us round, laugh with us, celebrate with us, cuddle us and even cry with us. That’s how God loves us. So we will continue praying for our daughter’s healing while also thanking God for the great medical and other services available in this country.
God showed me this verse a few weeks ago,
Isaiah 50:10, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.”
God promises to be the light in our darkness just as we are called to be the light of the world.
6) God teaches us so we can comfort the weary
God has been speaking to me a lot from Isaiah recently, particularly Isaiah 50-52. Perhaps you could also read it sometime soon if you too are struggling to make sense of suffering.
Isaiah 50:4 “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.”
Nothing in God is wasted, He uses even the hard times to equip us to help others. The very next verses are a prophetic declaration about Jesus who allowed Himself to be whipped and abused for us, who set His face like flint to endure the cross. The passage goes on to say, “I know that I will not be put to shame…. See the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty?”
7) God keeps a record of our tears and sorrows
We need to be kind to ourselves and to each other when we are going through difficulty and not beat ourselves up, even when we struggle to pray and to hold on. Remember, “Tears are prayers too, they travel to God when we can’t speak.” If you want a verse for that, see Psalm 56:8 and Isaiah 38 where God saw the prayers and tears of King Hezekiah on learning he was about to die and sent the prophet back to tell him 15 years would be added to his life instead!
8) God doesn’t leave us hopeless
You see God doesn’t leave us hopeless and in despair. Psalms 30:5 puts it, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night but joy comes with the morning.” There are different seasons of life, sometimes it’s a run and others a crawl. God promises to be with us regardless. Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor comparing life to a weaving of tapestry wrote, “Oft times I in foolish pride, forget he sees the upper and I the underside.” There are many things we won’t understand this side of heaven including suffering and yet, we can choose like Job, to honour God anyway.
Ecclesiastes 3, tells us, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
9) God sends orders to save us
We have hope in a God who sends orders to save us. He reminds us that in Him we have certain hope of salvation but also of great destiny and purpose in Him.
Isaiah 51 says, “Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance— all who seek the Lord! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation.” The Lord will comfort Zion again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”
God created a nation out of one couple. We are made of the same stuff. What seems impossible to us, is child’s play to God. Even when we are all messed up and look like a heap of rubble, God looks at us with delight and says I can help you rebuild and can bring new life. As you can read in the story of Nehemiah in the Bible, God took burned stones that should have been worthless and got a few survivors together to rebuild a strong wall in record time. This prophecy has already came to pass in the history of the nation of Israel. God takes a seed of hope and plants it deep in our lives. For a seed to bloom in the wilderness, it has to burrow down to great depths to find water, but as a result it is strong and not easily shifted once established. God promises that we will experience joy and gladness again and that we will have songs of thankfulness to sing.
10) We need to rise up even while it is still dark!
We have a part to play too. The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 rose up while it was still dark and we are called to do that too. To change our position, our perspective, our mindset. To accept that our thoughts and God’s thoughts are not the same. God doesn’t want us to sit their passively in the dust instead he tells us to wake up, get dressed in strength and in beautiful clothes, to break the yoke of slavery off ourselves. He tells us to leave our nakedness and sit in a place of honour.
Isaiah 52: “The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Zion. Let the ruins of Zion break into joyful song, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has redeemed Zion. The Lord has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God.”
Yes there are times in each of our lives where we go through trial and suffering. This doesn’t mean that we did something wrong although we may have done. It definitely doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us or no longer loves us. It also doesn’t mean that we are in a hopeless situation and doomed to failure. God delights in the impossible and doing things we never even dreamed of. God is with us and watching over us even in times of suffering. In our deepest adversity, is the seed of our greatest triumph.
I would like to finish with a prayer but before that would like to share a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago called, “A grateful heart”:
When troubles come and disaster looms
When we are tossed like flotsam
on a stormy sea dragged
and hope is
We like sailors of old, must cry out,
“Lord save us!
Don’t you care that we are
Then at last
He calms the storm to a whisper
Stilling the waves
leading us safe to harbour
Letting us float
light as a feather
in His peace
As we give thanks
with a grateful heart now
Some of you reading this may want to get to know the God I serve or recommit your life to Him. In which case I invite you to pray the prayer below. If you want any more information, please feel free to comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to teach me more about you, to comfort and strengthen me, to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
For those of you who have read this far, May God bless you and keep you. May God shine the light of His favour on you and give you His peace, now and forevermore, Amen.”
© Michelle Sherlock 29/3/15