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Adrian and I saw Ludovic Einaudi at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham yesterday evening. It was excellent. I’d surprised Adrian with tickets for his birthday but, to be honest, I was expecting to be a little bit bored. I enjoy listening to music, but prefer it to be in the background while I’m doing something else like reading or writing. But to hear such great music live was a good experience. The small orchestra was multi-talented with different instruments and the symphony and harmonies (forgive me if I get the terms wrong, I enjoy music but am not particularly musical!) were exquisite. The music was relaxing, uplifting, exciting and dramatic in turn. I got completely lost in it and found my heart full of worship to God as I listened.
Einaudi bowed at the end of the concert, along with his orchestra, and they disappeared off stage. The audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation. Some whistled and shouted to show their appreciation. But, on the whole, we remained very British and simply clapped. Loudly.
We kept clapping and the stage remained empty. Adrian leaned down to me and whispered: ‘Do you think he’s going to come back?’ I replied: ‘Surely, he can’t resist the pressure!’ because the several hundred-strong audience was clapping in unison. The clapping got quicker and quicker, louder and louder. Still no sign of Einaudi. I wondered if, like Beethoven, he might be deaf and couldn’t hear how much we wanted him to come back and delight us with his music.
At that point, I sensed God asking me: ‘How much do you want this?’ He wasn’t asking me how much I wanted to hear Einaudi again. He was looking into my heart, asking how much I wanted Him to answer a particular prayer request (well, two actually) for which I had been praying all the way through the concert. How much did I really want Him to work? Was I prepared to persevere until there is breakthrough?
Even while I pondered these things, a great roar went up. Einaudi and his orchestra came back on stage. We all settled back down in our seats and enjoyed more beautiful music.
Jesus taught that when it comes to prayer, the Father yearns to bless us with good things. His ears are open to our cries. He is generous and compassionate and concerned to give us the very best. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek and knock in our praying. He promises that for those who ask, it will be given. For those who seek, we will find. For those who knock, it will be opened to us. God isn’t interested in being (indeed, He isn’t!) a heavenly slot machine whereby we recite a prayer and blessing immediately comes out. Oh no. Often when we pray for things, God is interested in changing and sanctifying our hearts through our prayers. His desire for us is that we delight ourselves in Him so that He can give us the desires of our hearts, because it’s when we delight ourselves in Him that our desires change to be more in line with His.
The Father also wants us to learn persistence and perseverence in our praying. Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow, to show that God isn’t hard-hearted and tight-fisted but that He longs that we develop faith in Him. A faith that says no matter how long it takes or how things turn out, we will trust Him. When Jesus met a Canaanite woman during His time as a man on earth, He gently tested her faith. She cried after Him, asking Him to have mercy on her daughter who was severely oppressed by an evil spirit. He questioned her, testing her: how much did she really want what He dearly wanted to give? The end result was that Jesus praised her great faith, granted her desires and healed her daughter.
If you are longing for God to act in your life, in the life of someone you love, or in a particular situation, may I encourage you to persevere in prayer until you see a breakthrough. It may not be what you expect – God delights in surprising us and doing over and above our expectations – but He will answer. Keep asking, seeking and knocking.
Did you see Penguins - Spy in the Huddleon BBC1 recently? For three consecutive Monday evenings, I was mesmerised by these entertaining creatures. The documentary put spy cameras disguised as penguins into the middle of three colonies: stately emporer penguins in Antarctica, funny rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands, and shy humboldt penguins in Peru. I have to admit to a bias towards emporer penguins.
Both mum and dad are committed to hatching their precious chick. Mum must pass the egg to dad before she can return to the sea to feed. The parents practice this tricky maneouvre a few times so that the egg is not exposed to the freezing cold air for too long. (It’s easy to tell the old hands from the new parents at this stage, and my heart was in my mouth while I watched.) With egg safely tucked in dad’s pouch, it’s time for mum to return to the sea so she can feast on fish. The dads stay behind, huddling together for warmth against the bitter Antarctic winds. I mused on the fact that we can learn a lot from the animal kingdom at times. No chance among penguins of the male getting the female pregnant and then disappearing without any sign of commitment….
Dad is in charge of hatching the chick, which he feeds from his own meagre resources. He is literally starving by the time mum returns, looking plump and well-fed. For all that he is desperate to get to the sea and a good feed himself, he is most reluctant to leave his chick. In some cases, mum had to resort to pecking him to force him to go. Such is the emporer dad’s commitment. There I go again with that word ‘commitment’!
Mum cares for the chick, feeding it on regurgitated fish (yuck!) and endeavouring to shelter it from the ferocious storms for the next few weeks until dad returns from the sea to share the task of bringing up their little one.
The chicks in the colony become more and more independent as they grow bigger and stronger, until one day the majority of the parents leave for the sea for the last time. After a while the chicks sense the call of the sea themselves, and start the long journey over the ice.
In the process, the chicks find areas where the ice has melted into piles of slush. They have never before encountered a non-solid surface and falling into the icy water takes them by surprise. They flap in a flustered sort of way, trying to get back onto solid snow. It’s a shock to them, but it’s a good thing because it teaches them to swim so that when they finally reach the sea itself, they can confidently throw themselves into it.
Life is a bit like that. When things are going well, we can feel all cosy and settled. But then something happens that takes us by surprise, stretching us. It can feel like we’ve just fallen into icy water sometimes and it’s not pleasant. Like when Adrian was made redundant a few years ago. I remember that cold feeling gripping my stomach as we sat in the lounge in complete silence, just looking at each other. Or like when we were informed we could never – humanly-speaking – have children of our own, the day after my dad had died. Or when my neighbour drives me mad with her loud television! But these are vital growing times in our lives. Without the tough episodes, we would end up pretty spineless and pathetic. Redundancy taught us more than we’d ever known before of trusting God, comprehending a little more of His sovereignty, and experiencing His provision. Losing my dad and being unable to have children has enabled me to experience at a deeper level God’s emotional healing and comfort – and now I can comfort others in the same position, understanding what they’re going through because I’ve been there. And I’m painfully learning some patience through the trial of the television….
With God’s help, it’s possible to accept the trials (even though we don’t enjoy them at the time because they’re painful and hard) and to grow through the experience. God is able to turn our sorrow into joy (Isaiah 61, Psalm 126, James 1, 2 Corinthians 1).
You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand - you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.’ Psalm 40:6-8 (New Living Translation)
This Psalm became important to me after my first healing breakthrough in the autumn of 2010 and I’ve spent time since then meditating on it and pondering what it means. These verses were a bit of a puzzle for a while, but the meaning is becoming clearer. So I’m going to share here where I’m at with my thoughts on obedience and sacrifice and who has God’s instructions written on their hearts.
Why doesn’t God delight in sacrifices and offerings? Whole chunks of the Old Testament are dedicated to exactly how sacrifices were to be made. The Israelites would have been in big trouble had they neglected to make sacrifices and bring offerings to God. But even in the Old Testament, God is more concerned with what’s going on in people’s hearts than what we show outwardly. Anyone can make sacrifices. Obedience is harder because it can cost more. We can make sacrifices and look good, but still be doing what we want and going our own way. Obedience requires that we put someone else first (in this instance, God) and yield to what they want. Israel’s first king, Saul, was given specific instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekite people and their animals because of their sin. But Saul kept the Amalekite king alive along with the best of the cows, sheep and goats. When confronted about it, Saul said he’d kept the animals to make sacrifices and offerings to God. He didn’t realise until Samuel pointed it out, that: ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15). God wanted obedience, not sacrifice. Sacrifice can be a cop out.
Obedience is much more important to God because when we obey Him, we show Him we love Him. Jesus explained this to His disciples a few hours before He was arrested and executed (John 14). Being a Christian isn’t about keeping a list of rules – that’s legalism – but about a relationship with God. Jesus had an incredibly close and intimate relationship with His Father and He delighted to obey His Dad because God’s instructions were written on His heart. And, if you know God, He has done the same thing for you.
This is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… they will all know me, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8).
Do you love Jesus? Then just love Him. You don’t have to do anything to earn His love and grace – He’s done it all, even to the point of putting His law in your heart. Aim to please Him because you love Him. Obeying Him is a joyful thing. Jesus didn’t walk around miserable, He was full of joy (I know Isaiah described Him as a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ but that was when He was on the cross carrying your grief and sorrows and sin). Jesus was an attractive person to be around – look at the crowds He drew. I love being around joyful people who are radiant with their love for Jesus, and I want to be like that. I’m not so fussed on being around people who are full of woe with a daunting list of do’s and don’ts! Christians aren’t meant to be weighed down with rules; we joyfully obey God because we love Him.
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. Psalm 40:4-5 (New Living Translation)
Is there joy in your heart? I pray that if you are low on joy today, God will fill you with joy by the time you get to the end of this post.
I used to trust God for things, sort of, but I always wanted to get to that place where I could trust Him completely and stop worrying about things. Worrying doesn’t accomplish anything except a quickened heart rate, sleepless nights and a mammoth-sized headache if you’re not careful. When I was ill, God took me to a whole new level of dependency on Him. My regular prayer during the illness was ‘help’ – several times a day I would stand at the top of the stairs knowing I had neither concentation nor adequate control of my body to get down them safely and in one piece. Same for going up them, I knew there was every likelihood of my body lurching over backwards as I climbed. But every time, God got me safely up and down the stairs. Every time. At the worst of the illness, at my weakest stage, I was unable to get out of a chair by myself. I would count under my breath, ‘one, two, three, hup’ but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get to my feet. Only when I prayed, was I able to get out of the chair. The fact that I counted the Lord in is neither here nor there…. ‘Okay Lord, one, two, three, hup’ – as if He needed help!
When you have that kind of confidence in God – confidence in Him enabling you to do the small, everyday things that we normally take for granted – it brings a real sense of joy in Him. This is a joy that can’t be manufactured. It’s an impossible joy that bubbles up inside, despite the circumstances. We realise on a new level the wonderful deeds God has done for us and know that we could never get to the end of thanking Him for all the things He does. Do you realise that every breath you take – and the fact that most of the time you’re not even aware of breathing – is a gift from God? Every time your heart beats – and it usually beats around 80 times per minute – is a gift from God. It is due to Him entirely that you are able to read this blog post and understand it. Just a handful of all the wonderful deeds He does for us continuously. Because He loves us, and because He wants us to enjoy Him and rejoice in Him.
Joy characterised Jesus. It says of Him that the Father anointed Him with the oil of gladness more than His companions. Therefore, joy must characterise the life of a Christian. It’s God who gives the joy; it’s part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? If you want joy and don’t have it, or you want more joy, just ask God.
While I was ill, my brain was pretty messed up and it was hard (impossible at times) to pray coherently for myself, but I had a handful of wonderful friends who lovingly prayed me through that time (and I’m convinced God shielded me from the worst of that illness because of my praying friends). So, if you’re needing help but feeling overwhelmed by life just now, please leave a comment on this post and I will pray for you.
I’m in Marseille right now meeting with my team-mates and unexpectedly found myself with a free morning so, since I’m leading Prayers on Friday, I thought it would be a good time to prepare. And now I’m excited about God’s wonderfulness so I thought I’d share it with you.
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He has set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3 (New Living Translation)
Do you feel bogged down with life just now? Are your circumstances difficult? Are you stuck in some temptation or situation that you know is wrong and you don’t want to be caught in it but feel you have no power to help yourself? Are you at the end of your tether?
I have good news. Jesus specialises in breaking the power of temptation (He really does!), cleaning up horrendous messes, and rescuing hopeless situations. When we’re at the end of ourselves, all we have to do is tell Him that we need Him and ask Him to rescue us. And He does. He is able to forgive, and provide us with a new heart and a positive outlook on life. He makes everything new, bringing healing and wholeness, as He gradually changes us from the inside out. The more we understand – really comprehend – what He has done for us, the more we want to sing and praise Him out of a heart overflowing with thankfulness. And people around us will notice, and want to know why we are different. They will be attracted to the Jesus they see in us.
Let me show you how this was mirrored in my life a couple of years ago. As you know, I had a debilitating illness – cerebellar ataxia and chronic fatigue – which meant that most days my brain and mind were exhausted and I had no strength in my body. I was constantly dizzy, and could only walk by slowly shuffling along, lurching unsteadily from side-to-side. It felt as though I was drowning in the mud and mire of excessive weakness and confusion. My body was in a terrible state, some days every ounce of energy and concentration went on simply breathing – in… pause, out… pause, in… pause, out… – and I knew I was in the valley of the shadow. But praise God, He healed me! It felt very much as though He had set me on solid ground and steadied me as a I walked along – literally! – by taking away the vertigo and infusing my body with strength. I soon discovered the power of praising Him (not for nothing did the songwriter pen those words: ‘His praise shall be our battle cry’). I felt as if I’d been made new in some way from the illness, and I had a new song to sing of praise to God-my-Healer. As I tell my story, and as people have witnessed the change His healing power has wrought in my life, they are amazed and built up in their faith. My prayer is that through my story of the wonderful things Jesus has done for me, many will put their trust in Him.
For me, my healing is a picture of salvation. I was bogged down by the mud and mire of selfishness and pride, in the desperate pit of wanting my own way and of ignoring God. I couldn’t do anything to help myself. When I realised I needed someone to rescue me from that, I prayed to Jesus. He is the only one who can save and bring us into relationship with God. He forgave my sin, and kept a careful watch on me as I learned to live with Him as my boss. He keeps me on the right path and hoiks me back when I stray. The more I understand of what He has done, the more I praise Him out of a deeply grateful heart. And I trust that my joy spills out so that others notice it and want to know the Source of my joy.
How about you? If you feel like you’re weighed down by the cares and responsibilities of life, in the pit of despair, tell Jesus about it. He can and He will help you. If you’d like me to pray for you, then please leave a comment on this post or contact me using the ‘contact’ page and I will be happy to do so.
Our house is upside down at the moment. The lounge is echoey with bare walls and a minimum of furniture (we’ve taken the minimalist look to a new level!), the bedroom furniture is all bunched together in the middle of the room, requiring Adrian and me to go through all manner of gymnastics just to get into bed at night, and there is stuff all over the study that doesn’t belong there. As for the spare room, it’s become a storage box for all the stuff that is usually in the lounge, bedroom and study…. The kitchen hasn’t escaped unscathed with its constant smell of white spirits and array of paint tins, brushes and rollers. Even the shower in the bathroom is joining in by working haphazardly. All our spare time is spent on painting or preparing to paint, looking at colours, carpets and curtains, and endless trips to B&Q, Homebase and Ikea.
Consequently, life is exhausting and somewhat stressful in the Johnson household. At times, I look around at all the work that still needs to be done and am in danger of being completely overwhelmed. Deep breaths are needed.
It will be good when all these rooms are finished and home is back to being home. But we have to go through the mess and upheaval before we can sit back and enjoy the results.
It’s the same when God comes in and turns your life upside down. At first you think, ‘I can do this, yes I trust You Lord,’ while merrily trundling along in your own strength. And then He adds in something else to the mix, and then that thing goes wrong. Before you know it, life feels overwhelming and you begin to wonder just how it could all go so wrong. It’s not pleasant, it’s not easy and it’s downright hard when it happens.
At various times, God has – without notice or my prior consent – stepped in and caused apparent chaos in my life. The first major upheaval came along in my late teens when my dad was ill with heart problems, in and out of hospital. Eventually he was told he needed a heart transplant, for which the likely wait would be two and a half years. But the doctors only gave him two years to live. At that point, I decided I’d had enough of God messing things up in my life. If that was how He was going to manage things, fine, I was going to take over. I could do a much better job. While my mum and dad quietly accepted the diagnosis and committed themselves and the situation to God, I rebelled in my heart. They had inner peace that kept them sane in the months waiting for a heart to become available, and during the long nights when my dad struggled to breathe and my mum secretly wondered if she would wake up in the morning a widow. I, on the other hand, had nothing but stress and fear. I was terrified of losing my dad and I was stressed because I was completely helpless. This was not one of those situations of knowing the right people to get things done. There was nothing I could do – apart from pray, and there was no way I was going to do that! Subsequently, my parents’ prayers were answered and my dad got his new heart (albeit it on the third time after two false alarms). They both pulled through. I collapsed a few months later, having learned the hard way that God loves me way too much to allow me to just cut Him out of my life without a second thought. He brought me to a complete standstill so that I could say, ‘sorry’ and get right with Him again. Through that I’ve learned that no matter how tough life is, keep the communication lines open between you and God. Cutting Him off is the very worst thing you can do.
Why does God allow these hard times to happen? I believe there are two main answers. If you don’t know God personally, then He may be using difficult circumstances to get your attention. He loves you and wants you to enjoy a relationship with Him. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to make it possible. So if you don’t know God right now but you are going through a hard time, why not consider finding out more about Him? He might be trying to get your attention.
If you are a Christian, then you could well be going through hardship so that He can refine you. The best way I’ve learned to deal with difficulties and heartache is to ask God to take you right through the bottom of it and help you to learn all that He wants you to know. I’m not sure it makes it any easier to go through the problem, but you will become a richer Christian for it – rich in an intimacy and knowledge of God that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to know. I’ve practiced this through a painful broken relationship and through ill health that cost me my job and my independence. But through both of these difficulties, I’ve absolutely gained. Knowing Jesus intimately is the best thing that can ever happen.
My house is upside down while we redecorate. We’re not enjoying all the upheaval and mess but it will be worth it when it’s finished.
Maybe life is upside down for you. Is God trying to get your attention? Respond to Him and make this momentary affliction worth while.
We always said we would only decorate one room at a time. Which is obviously why we’ve chosen to decorate three all at once. Yes, we are in the middle of redecorating and, yes, we are crazy. The reason for three rooms in one go is because we’ve had sound proofing put up on all the walls adjoining our neighbour who enjoys listening to the television very loudly. We don’t enjoy listening to her programmes through the wall quite so much….
Preparation, I think, is the worst part about decorating or having any kind of building work done. Adrian and I spent a couple of weekends and several nights with a steamer and scrapers in an attempt to clear the walls of paper. We thought the study would be the easiest room because we only needed to scrape paper from one wall. But it was harder than you might imagine because once we’d stripped the top layer off we discovered we’d been lazy when we previously decorated and simply papered on top of the paper that was already there. Uh oh. Not good. Oh well, we resignedly started stripping the next layer off too. But as we progressed along the wall, we realised that someone had painted words over the top of the wallpaper. And, the painted words were almost impossible to scrape off.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
I recalled that I had painted that across the wall in a fit of evangelistic zeal several years ago when we previously decorated the study. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But as we laboured hard to remove the words so that the sound proofing could be installed, I couldn’t help regretting my action.
‘Remind me to do this never again,’ I groaned to Adrian, as I nursed my aching arms. It was probably a good thing that we found the writing rather than anyone else because I doubt it would have had the desired affect of drawing attention to Jesus, I should think rather I would have been cursed for my stupidity!
As we struggled to remove the painted words, it strongly reminded me that my name is written on the palms of Jesus’ hands. I am that precious to Jesus, He has actually engraved my name on the palms of His hands. Wow, what love! Engraved – that speaks of permanence. It’s not like Jesus will ever think, ‘Oh boy did I make a mistake with her. Where’s the soap so I can wash away her name?’ No, even though I have bad days when I let Him down (I guess every day is like that if we’re honest), He will never remove my name from His hands. Because He bought me with His own life, the price He paid for me was way too high for Him to change His mind about me on a whim. No, as Augustus Toplady’s beautiful hymn puts it:
My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Is it less than a fortnight ago since the Olympics finished? Hard to believe. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the rhythmic gymnasts dancing gracefully about the floor with ribbons, balls, clubs and hoops. Amazing agility.
My favourite routine is with the ribbon. There is something particularly mesmerising watching the intertwining patterns made by the gymnast and the ribbon. Even when the gymnast tosses the ribbon high and leaps or twirls across the floor, her eyes never leave it for one second and she knows exactly when to extend hand or foot to catch it. Thankfully, in these Olympics none of the ribbons developed knots and there was nothing to hinder the display of grace and beauty. But in previous Games I’ve seen gymnasts stopping in the middle of their routine in order to speedily unknot the end of the ribbon. Knots and beauty in this instance don’t go together, in fact a knot prevents the ribbon being whisked into its ever-changing patterns.
I caught myself wanting to be as beautiful in God’s hands as the ribbon is in the gymnast’s hands. I don’t want knots – bad attitudes, wilful sin, addictions, selfishness - getting in the way. But when they do, I know that Jesus is more than able to unpick those knots and set me free again so that I can worship Him and give Him joy. Even during the tough, stressful times when it feels as though He has let go, His eyes never leave me, His precious one, for a millisecond. He knows exactly what He is doing.
The gymnast knows her routine perfectly. All the ribbon has to do, is to be a ribbon, and the beauty is evident to everyone. God knows the pattern He has for our lives. All we have to do is be obedient responders to Him, let Him be our Lord, and the beauty of Jesus will be evident to everyone.
Have you ever read Mary Norton’s stories about The Borrowers? In the second book, The Borrowers Afield, young Arrietty is enamoured of a new life outdoors:
After bathing… sometimes she would dress up: a skirt of violet leaves, stalks uppermost, secured about the waist with a twist of faded columbine, and, aping the fairies, a foxglove bell for a hat. This, Arrietty though as she stared at her bright reflection in the stagnant water of a hoof crater,… might look all right on gnomes, elves, brownies, pixies, and what not, but she had to admit that it looked pretty silly on a common or garden borrower: for one thing, if the lip fitted the circumference of her head, the whole thing stood up too high like some kind of pinkish sausage or a very drawn-out chef’s cap. Yet if, on the other hand, the lip of the bell flowed out generously in a gentle, more hat-like curve, the whole contraption slid down past her face to rest on her shoulders in a Klu-Klux-Klan effect.
And to get hold of these bells at all was not easy: foxglove plants were high. Fairies, Arrietty supposed, just flew up to them with raised chins and neatly pointed toes, trailing a wisp of gauze. …Arrietty, poor girl, had to hook down the plant with a forked stick and sit on it as heavily as she could while she plucked any bells within reach.
In the book, Arrietty was the same size as a fairy but the clothes she imagined they would wear looked completely wrong on her. It wasn’t what she expected.
I’ve been thinking recently about the fact that things aren’t always how they look. It had always been a dream of mine to work in mission mobilisation. I had a vague idea that speaking at different meetings around the country and travelling would be exciting and glamorous. And so it was the first few times I did it. But the ‘glamour’ soon wore thin and, while I still thoroughly enjoyed the work, it became routine. The reality was rather different to how I imagined it would be.
In his sermon this morning, one of the elders told a story of how someone once prophecied over him that he would become a man of prayer. He happily anticipated how this would look: wow, to be known as a prayer warrier! But next morning was a different story. He couldn’t think of anything to pray about, felt tired from a late night, and found his thoughts wandering. He estimated that he probably spent about sixty seconds praying that morning. He related that some years later, he still has to motivate himself in prayer. But by disciplining himself to meet with God whether he feels like it or not, he is fulfilling that prophecy and is becoming a man of prayer.
Maybe you began the Christian life with great excitement and anticipation, and now it has become fairly humdrum. Perhaps even the idea of reading your Bible and praying sounds boring, and you wonder what is the point? There is every point. Just because it isn’t quite how you expected it to be is no reason to give up. The Holy Spirit is a fantastic mentor and teacher, the best in fact, so tell Him how you feel and ask Him for help. God is a person; remind yourself that He loves spending time with you. So much so, that Jesus died and came back to life in order for you to enjoy friendship with Him. Stir your soul by singing a psalm, tell God what He means to you, speak Bible truths aloud, welcome His presence, enjoy Him. You become like the people you spend time with the most. Spending time with Jesus is to become like Him, and as you get to know Him intimately, you will begin to find that what you expected the Christian life to be, is what it actually is.
My friend came round for a three hour marathon coffee and catch-up time yesterday. We had a great time together. One of the things she said struck a chord in me. She mentioned that while praying through a difficult situation, God gave her a picture of an oyster. The irritating bits of sand and dirt that get inside the oyster shell are what produce the beautiful pearl.
This reminded me of the way God taught me spiritual truth through a tea bag a few weeks ago. I, too, was feeling miserable about an ongoing difficult situation. Actually, forget miserable, I was indulging in feeling thoroughly sorry for myself, even asking God what I’d done to deserve this. Especially as I could see no end to it.
I happened to be making a cup of tea at the time and the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the tea bag. A tea bag on its own doesn’t do anything. You can’t eat it, you can’t drink it, and it doesn’t smell particularly pleasant. But a tea bag that has had boiling water poured on becomes a fragrant and refreshing drink. It’s the boiling water that draws out the flavour.
Through both of these pictures, God showed my friend and me that it’s through the difficult times that we grow in character. He allows difficult people – whether that be family, irritating work colleagues, or inconsiderate neighbours – and hard situations into our lives at times for our good and, ultimately, for His glory. By trusting Him and allowing Him to take us right through situations that we would rather not be in, He will use them to ensure our rough edges are rubbed off until we reflect more-and-more the beauty of Jesus’ character. And we will become richer Christians, richer in spiritual things.
So if this is you today, why not thank God for this trial and ask Him to teach you all that He wants you to learn from it? A purity of faith and beauty of character will be the end result.
Let me close with the words of a man in the Bible called Job, who lost all of his children, his job, his possessions and his health all in one day: