I have just returned from a trip to another country in the Middle East where a group of fellow believers and I had the privilege to meet with members of the persecuted church. Hearing their stories and their perspective on hardships and suffering made me think long and hard about my own theology of suffering and waiting and hoping. Some of the stories we heard were so encouraging and the believers we met were so faithful to the Lord, others however were stories of just surviving and of seeing no point to the many sufferings that they had endured at the hands of ISIS. It was clear though that everyone had suffered to one degree or another but it was also clear that the severity of their suffering was in no way linked to their current levels of faith and hope. If anything I would almost argue that those who had suffered the most had the most hope. Suffering is not confined to persecuted Christians, around the world hundreds of millions of people live in unspeakable circumstances and suffer a lack of food, clean water, security, a place to sleep at night, a job to go to in the day or perhaps a person to love them. Suffering comes to most of us in one way or another. But it has become clearer to me that it is not suffering that is the problem, it is what we do with it. After all Jesus himself said, ‘in the world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world’.
For those of us who have been waiting any decent length of time for our spouse to enter stage left, we can have periods when we feel just so tired of waiting. Periods when we may start to doubt God’s good plans for us and when we start to look around to see is there anyone, anyone vaguely suitable on the near horizon. Sometimes a person appears in our lives who we know is pretty far from what a God-loving, dependable, kind, decent, Christian man looks like, but we start to entertain romantic thoughts about them regardless, particularly if they have shown some reciprocal interest in us.
As I prayed and sought the Lord regarding His plans for me this year and what it was that He would have me write down as my prayers for the year ahead I felt him say the word release. Release what has gone before, release old hurts, release pain, release people from unrealistic expectations, release family members from past and even present wrongs. Release yourself from past sin, mistakes, failures and let go of what lies behind you.
I am currently reading a great book by Max Lucado called Anxious for Nothing, in this book, and so many others like it, the author talks about how we should respond when the ‘storms of life’ come. But I have to say that it is not the storms that worry me. Storms come and go as most of us know, and while it is good to be reminded in the stormy times to keep our eyes on the Lord, I think that far more dangerous to our faith and our Christian walk are perpetual clouds that never seem to lift.
As the days and months and years and decades go by and still our prayer for a spouse (or something else) goes unanswered it is natural to wonder what is going on with God. If you, like me, take to Google and search the words ‘unanswered prayer’ you will find over 6 million results!… Continue reading Dealing with Unanswered Prayer: When God Seems Silent
What do you think of when you hear the word hope? Does it speak of promises yet to be fulfilled, of a long wait, of a seemingly impossible dream? Does the word hope fill you with dread or with expectation? For me, the word hope is often accompanied by a slight feeling of anxiety; I hope this will work out, I hope my colleague isn’t angry with me, I hope I make the flight, I hope he will get in touch. Hope relates to what is not or at least not yet and as such it is a word that is both potentially full of promise and yet can be also full of fear.