Over the last month I have been learning again something I already knew – that life can be really REALLY hard! Even when you know something, experiences can make you feel like you’re learning it all over again. Recently at St Nicholas Church, have wept and grieved alongside some members of our church family who have experienced real tragedy in their lives. Wonderfully the Lord has been at work in answer to our prayers and so I’ve also learnt (again!) how important prayer is.
Even if you’ve never had to face a real ‘tragedy’, I’m sure you’ve been through testing times and I suspect you’ll be know the saying: “It never rains but it pours”. Many people battle to face their trials alone but our Sunday sermons recently have come back – again and again – to the idea that we are not meant to be strong, sorted, self-sufficient heroes, easily able to deal with all that life throws at us. Rather, God has designed us to need support from one another as we live interdependent lives (not independent ones). Our society seems to prize independence and people are often encouraged to rely only on themselves. Is it any wonder, then, that when we look around, we see so many people struggling with loneliness and isolation?
As a church we have a Pastoral Team, a group of people who undertake to care for people from the church who are struggling, either with a specific challenge or an ongoing battle. We’re not trained doctors or debt counsellors; we are loving friends, who make time for friends in need and commit to praying for them. Jesus told us to love one another just as he loved us (which should mean our love never runs out!)
However, in times of trial the help and support of other people isn’t actually enough – we need something more, something stronger. What we really need is God…
In Psalm 31:21, the psalmist writes:
“Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.”
A city under siege is the perfect picture of someone helpless, under attack and cut off from all external support, with nowhere left to run. Yet even in the midst of the suffering, the writer stands secure in the knowledge of God’s love – that is his lifeline, and it can also be our lifeline! If we look to God – and lean on him – we will find he strengthens us during our trials.
People often want a God who will take away their pain, or make their tough situation easy. And although the God of the Bible is a rescuer, his rescue plan doesn’t always involve changing our circumstances or making life easy for us. It more usually involves working through a tough situation to soften our stubborn, independent hearts and call us to lean on him. And what a powerful motivation to turn back – when we come to realise the strength of God’s unfailing love for us whilst we feel under siege and all other help has long since failed. I wonder, do you know God’s love in the face of your trials? Do you want to know it?
Since God is our lifeline, it makes sense to get a firm grip and plant our feet securely on the rock of faith before the storms hit. I hope you’ll be helped in that by reading October’s book of the month Dig Deeper and our featured material from rightnowmedia.org (about church community). It could also be that the Identity Course is for you – it’s a great opportunity to lay down some firm foundations in the Christian faith, before you begin to build up from there.
Even if you know that ‘life can be really hard’, don’t be bullied into thinking that you need to face your struggles alone. We all face trials that are easier to bear with help from friends, and even easier with the help of God. You’ll find both of those things on offer if you come down and join us at a Sunday service and I look forward to welcoming you there!
This month written by Daniel Freyhan, Curate