Painful healing

Pain is a great indicator of healing they say.

Pain is a sign of recovery.

Pain is a gracious reminder our bodies are compromised, in need of attention and care.

But it requires us to slow down, to stop, to pause, to take more time and effort over our steps, our breathes.

Pain reminds us we have been knocked, we have been bruised, we have been struck down.

It confronts us with the fragility of our bodies.

Demands we adjust, change pace or position.

This week has been painful.

I have been rendered weak, fearful, shaken and knocked down. All my hopes…. no all my plans for the week required a strong body, a life free of pain. As I enjoyed an early morning cycle I didn’t think it would end with shock, frustration, end not at home but on a roundabout being knocked over by a car. I didn’t think it would end in so much pain.

We often pray our lives were marked by less pain. Surely our lives would bear witness to the good life, the joyful life, the blessed life in Christ without pain?

Without the family battles and breakdown.

Without the animosity or indifference of family and friends.

Without relentless suffering in lives consumed and marked by depression

Without the constant feelings of failure and inadequacy of parenting.Without yet another symptom or diagnosis.

Without the demand on time engagement and emotions when all you need is to be held, to be comforted, to be heard.

Our lives are marked by pain.

I often think my witness to the good life with Jesus would be more effective with fewer falls. No one would display the cyclist knocked down to advertise the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle so why do our lives in Christ preach lives defined so often by pain? What is good about pain?

As pain grips, it heals.

It grips our mind, focusing us on the reality of what has happened.

It doesn’t allow us to escape or ignore.

It requires we attend and attune our minds, hearts and bodies to the reality of the present.

It reassures and reminds us of the reality of our suffering, of its significance, of its hurt and frustration even when bruises remain hidden from others.

As it floods our bodies, our minds, our hearts with its overwhelming intensity, filling every nerve and sense, affecting every move and thought, it reminds us we are alive. We feel and we feel intensely.

My accident, my fall, my pain this week required I abandon all the plans I’d made. Required I abandon my plans to rest in the sovereign purposes of my heavenly Father. Required I abandon my method of recovery to rest in the better comfort of my gracious Saviour.

In the frantic searching and scrambling for comfort and peace, I’ve only found one place of healing and rest.

In the frustration of living with more rest I’ve only found one place of forgiveness.

In the living of my weakness, I’ve only found one place of power and grace sufficient to sustain.

In my falling and in my fears, I have one who upholds.

In my shaking and tears, I have one who steadies my heart with His presence. Turning my fearful what if into a rejoicing what did.

We’re tempted to imagine the painless life is the good life. We’re tempted to think if this, or without that our lives would be more validated as Christians. But in times of suffering, there is no time wasted. The times of pain are times of purpose.

Whether it’s getting back on the bike or getting out of bed. Whether it’s the next step, or the next sorry, the pain may be powerful, but it is purposeful.

Our plans may require changing as we continue through a time of pain. But the Lord’s plans are purposeful and powerful, sustaining and strengthening every fibre, every nerve marked by pain.

Our temptation may be a longing to hide our pain, to replay and rewrite the moments, to conceal our pain or try and escape it. We may spend all our energy to fight that feeling of shame in our weakness. But mercifully, we have a gracious Father who overcomes our weakness, who shows the perfection of his strength through our weakness, who hides us in His love and in His mercy and comfort.

We have a God who has gone through every suffering, every pain, through death itself.
And as we share in his suffering, as we live our lives of pain, He does not put us to shame.
Through the pain, God beautifully works to display us, to shine us, with all the mess in our lives, all our fallings and our weaknesses, to a fallen and broken world in desperate need of his upholding and sustaining love.

We may be fallen, we may continue to fall, but the pain we endure powerfully, purposefully points the watching world to God our Saviour whose life of suffering purposed and achieved life in all its fullness for us. Pain that points to Jesus our Saviour who is keeping safe for us our forever home with Him, where we will be perfectly healed, perfectly restored, and forever freed from all pain.

Living in fear

We live our lives in fear.

Fear that grips our hearts, overrules our emotions, drives our decisions, flows from the deepest places of our hearts.

Fear that influences our words, actions, dictates the times we speak and chokes our words, catching them in our throats and rendering us speechless.

Fear that affects our bank balances, our use of time, our parenting, friendships and marriages.

There is no escaping a life of fear.

But there is an escape, a rescue, a wonderful redemption and salvation from the death of captive fear, an existence of deathly enslavement to fear, into a life of fear, a fullness of alive, joyful, worshipful, liberating and privileged fear.

There is a way to live in fear, a ransom from deathly, sinful fear, and that way is Jesus. The Son of God, who has brought us to enjoy fear of the Lord, no longer as slaves, but now as adopted sons and daughters. Filial, freeing fear.

No longer captive to fearing the opinions of others, trapped in spiralling thoughts of people pleasing anxiety. No longer rendered mute, our bodies paralysed and gripped, unsure of what is expected or demanded, overwhelmed by the burdening expectations of those around.

The fear of discomfort and exposure of self and sin. The fear of others knowing the secrets and intentions you bury deep within. This fear which spills out in defensiveness, in cruelty and shaming of others, in timidity and self-deprecation, all to layer up and hide the fears that pervade your mind and heart.

The fear that drives fight and flight resolve, that compels you away from the Lord, desperate to hide away from his sight, fearful of Him, afraid of Him.

The fear that hardens hearts towards him, denies his Fatherly goodness and comfort, and rages at him in hateful raging or dismissive apathy.

We see this fear pervade the world, the hearts and lives of our loved ones. We recognise this fear in ourselves, in our lives before Christ and in our fight now.

But you are no longer a slave but a son, a daughter

The Son and Daughter of the King, of your loving, good Heavenly Father.

A son, a daughter, called to a life of fear.

A fear that overwhelms, a fear that compels to action, love, speaking and serving. A fear that grips your heart, chokes your emotions, loosens and liberates your tongue one moment and silences you another. A fear that dictates and demands to be the motivation of everything you do.

But this fear is a fear cultivated by the Spirit you have of adoption, no longer of slavery.

The spirit of power, love and self-control.

This fear leaves us trembling. Trembling as the bride walking down the aisle who shakes with joyful, overcome, loving, fearful, wondering anticipation of meeting her bridegroom, trusting in the goodness he has shown her up until that moment and walking on in faith towards the life of promise thereafter.

Our fear of the Lord is a trembling fear of love, a trembling of delight, of overcome devotion and gratitude before the goodness and mercy of the Lord. Fearing the goodness and the love of our gracious God and trembling in his presence.

Our fear as children of God turns our hearts, minds and feet from fleeing away from God, trying to hide from Him, and drives us now to hide in Him, flee to Him for refuge, comfort, relief, forgiveness, mercy, strength and satisfaction.

No longer driven by a fear of slavery that whispers to us our need for self, our need for independence and self sustaining strength, that motivates all our frantic pursuit in life, or leaves us paralyzed in fear, crumpled on the floor, fearful and alone unable to stand.

This life of fear. This living in fear of the Lord doesn’t leave us staggering and striving for place and purpose, relying on nothing or no one else, leaning on myself on.

This living, godly fear doesn’t leave us staggering alone, but it does staggers us. This living fear liberates us from the crutch of self or others, and leans us instead on God, in staggered praise and faith in Him alone.

This fear of the Lord liberates us from deathly captivity to fear, and breathes new life in us. It gives us an anticipation of heaven, as we praise and tremble before our Almighty, Good God, Father, Son and Spirit, this life of fear of the Lord prepares us for an eternity of heavenly trembling and rejoicing before Him.

Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling

Psalm 2v11

Defining love

A groom beholding his bride walking towards him overcome by the beauty of the moment, the glory of his beloved.

The gasping overcome breathe of a father as his firstborn enters the world and he holds fast his weary wife and precious child in fearful, protective embrace.

Breathless, tearful goodbyes between lovers soon to be separated.

The choked tender goodnight kiss of a weary mother impressing quivering lips to the peacefully sleeping child, no longer fighting restlessly.

I love you

So much desire, pain, hope, history, excitement, wonder and awe bound up within the phrase, the word. Yet so often the word gets caught in the throat, and spills out in a look, an action, any way to express the height, depth and breadth. I love you.

Our children ask us the meaning of all sorts of words at the moment. Worlds of fantasy and fiction, of fairytale and fact are opening their imaginations and minds to an overwhelming plethora of new language.

Words to be tried out and tested, played with and sounded out, used and misused, spoken and whispered and screamed back out into the world, taken from pages to people.

But not once have they asked us to define love.

What does love mean?

This word that transcends comprehension, articulation, that no number of synonym can suffice to encapsulate with all its wonder, fear, awe, emotion, action and depth.

We find ourselves lost for words;

Hunting around for synonyms that don’t quite fit;

Offering a definition that falls far short of all we want to convey.

Or maybe there is a way to define. A way for our finite hearts and minds to grasp a degree of the transcendent glory contained in this word.

For love is defined only and purely by one.
By one is who Beloved and creates, calls and carries us forevermore as his own beloved.
For the word love is defined by the name Jesus.

Defined by the person Jesus.

Defined by the only Son of God, Jesus.

The Beloved who lives forevermore as Lover, as one who defines and fulfills all that is means to love.

Who calls us to live a life of love, as created and so creatively, purposefully, with intentional pursuit, giving ourselves to loving others.

As we behold the life of love that Jesus enacted, seeking out the lost, declaring loved and accepted those the world would define as ‘un-loveable’. Washing feet, feeding, consoling, convicting, debating, healing, calling, sending, resting, rebuking, lamenting and rejoicing, receiving hospitality and extending it, noticing, inviting, intentionally pursuing and being willing to be interrupted.

The Beloved declaring in every attentive word and deed, I love you.

As we behold Jesus calling children, the elderly, the leprous, the marginalized, the poor, rich, as we behold Him speaking with compassion and convicting challenge, we behold the Beloved who loved his own.

As we behold his relentless unyielding pursuit of living out the loving eternal fellowship with Father and Spirit, pouring this same love out to others, we behold a love enacted in sacrificial surrender and death.

In Jesus we behold the love of God that loves his own and loves them to the end.

By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16

By this we know what love is… Jesus.

Created, commanded and compelled by the love of the Beloved to live lives defined by love.

Defined by Jesus.

The place for me, myself and I

When confronted with an immensity that overwhelms, a world that seems incomprehensible and unattainable, we can begin to wonder where we fit in.

Do I have a place?

Am I noticed?

Our selves begin to panic, become focused and intent on establishing a place, of creating an impression, of securing validation. Focusing with increasing clarity, vision, intent until the immensity that fuelled our motivations becomes blurred in the narrowing pursuit of self.

Or do we fear, retreat, step back and away from the threat, put up the barriers, make the defences secure, limit the space and confine to the achievable, attainable known. Confining and limiting until all that’s left is self?

Whether it’s fight or flight, self struggles and strives for place.

Ultimately there are only two worlds that offer this place:

The first is all about self. It’s alluring, inviting.

Seemingly full of excitement and adventure with a cushioning of comfort and no possibility of failure.

Promising freedom and rest.

Inviting the soul to discover, to celebrate, to feel alive and awakened not only to possibility but actualized potential.

The best you that you can be.

The world of self-help is spiritually intoxicating.

The problem is, it’s just that. Intoxicating.

Infiltrating deep within minds, souls, hearts that are in desperate hungering need of freedom, true freedom.

Minds that are caught in perpetual spirals of self doubt, self despair, and self deception, caught in frenzied pursuit of grabbing onto ideas, any ideas that help make sense, that offer perspective, that give meaning or assurance that you, your life matters.

Hearts that are weighed down with worry, manically restless in the mundane, and overwhelmed by obscurity and the unknown.

The world of self-help is intoxicating, but its introspection only drags the self deeper into self until all ability to wonder at other, all sense of awe before the glorious aesthetic beauties of the world, all joy and wonder in and with others is squeezed out and stifled.

Until there is just self.

Isolated self.

Intoxicated self filling up and serving self.

The second world has no concern for self.

In this place, the self is abandoned, always set aside for others.

In this world, the self is crucified, put to death.

How can I breathe with so little space for myself?

How can I fulfill with so little time, thought, or limitation to myself?

The problem is this space is the kingdom of God.

If it is to find its place here, the self has only one answer to its pursuit of life, freedom and rest.

Death to self.

This death comes in varying forms: Surrender of self, setting aside of self, establishing control of self, denying self.

If self is to find life, to find security, life and a place in this world, it must die.

But in the fear that you will be lost as you abandon self, God speaks with comforting clarity.

As you lose yourself, you are now foundAs you die to self, you are alive

As pursuit of self gain is abandoned for following Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

This is where you in true fullness of life, grows and flourishes in ways you never could have imagined.

This is where you are freed to love in eternal security, rooted and established in Christ, united to him forevermore.

This is where you are transformed by the renewing of your mind, where words of life are spoken over you by your heavenly Father.

No longer desperately spiralling into a world of conflicting voices.

Now given the mind of Christ. Your mind formed by and filled with the life giving words of God.

As selfish gain gives over to delight in the Lord, you are awakened to a vision, a plan that exceeds any career, family, healthy lifestyle, or athletic goal. Your heart is freed to imagine the purposes beyond this moment.

All self justification surrendered. All self promotion and serving left behind, all pride in self given over, you are free to come empty handed to receive and enjoy eternal relationship with God. As self infatuation is brought to death, your heart is free to witness a world of wonder and awe and beauty. The sight of a newborn baby, the smell of bluebells carpeting the forest floor, the silence of the morning awakening wonder and fear of the Lord who spoke and it came to be, whose word alone creates and sustains all life.

With self preservation abandoned, self serving motives and all manipulation and control put to death, there is only now truly secure, servant hearted, loving relationship with others.
With sight no longer fixed on self, we are freed to see the image of God in every living person.
Freed to grieve over the fallen, marred image and compassionately long for its renewal in our lost friends.

Free to delight in the renewing, transforming image of God growing from one degree of glory to another in our graciously redeemed brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is a battle for self and a battle of self to be fought and there are days we seem to be fighting a losing battle:

Self doubt threatens to sabotage relationship.

And in the fight for self, whispering words of degradation spill out attacking self or others. Responding in fight or flight.

But the outcome is secure. The victory is won. God brought us by grace alone into his kingdom. He has purposefully placed us, called us, redeemed us within his kingdom that gloriously extends far beyond ourselves.

Before the immensity of God’s vision for us in his kingdom, before the incomprehensibility of his grace and mercy, when confronted with a salvation and eternity that is unattainable for self , we no longer wonder where we fit in, but come in wonder that by grace we do.