There is so much goodness in this world.
With a thankful heart we can enjoy so much. With gratitude we can celebrate good news, new horizons and moments of laughter. We all want it – heaps of happiness.
Why is it that our instinct is to feel shame for the wealth that we have?
In recent years I have been incredibly fortunate to be in a wealthy situation both finacially and physically. So many abundant blessings are being poured out and I am so incredibly thankful. Yet, in all of this goodness, often sits a shameful lie telling me that I don’t deserve it; an awareness that others dont share the same wealth often leaves me feeling guilty.
When I hear and read about God’s goodness I cannot deny how abundant his blessings are. But I also have this idea that wealth and rich abundance is taboo.
When I was a teenager, the idea that living for God did not mean a high paid job or a perfect health or owning your own home was imprinted. Yes, we believe that living for God is not easy and what we do have we should share and not store up. However, I really cannot support this idea that denying ourselves of goodness is biblically healthy.
This year I have discovered how much I live under the shame blanket of ‘I dont deserve it.’ I wanted to honour God in my budgeting, my serving and my health. I fell far from this and found I was actually just denying myself.
I remember my family coming to visit me in February and my Dad just showered me with goodness. He took me for dinner, drove me around places, fixed my bike, bought me all the essentials I’d not bought in so long. When I did a food shop, my mum filled my basket way more than I usually did… They spent time with me and cared for me like a child.
When they left, I suddenly became so overwhelmed by just how abundantly they had loved. There was this small and still voice that said, “let me love you unconditionally and shower my goodness over you just like your earthly father does.” God used my parents to speak the truth – I was to live freely under God’s blessings and provision.
The story behind Japan
If you have been following me on Instagram, you will know that I have been in Japan. Again, this is another moment of realising just how good God is.
Back in December I returned home after a long first semester. I had this dream to travel somewhere in the Summer and an application for a travel bursary was made available to me. The likeliness of winning this bursary is pretty low – only 2 are given out.
Applying on a complete whim, the application was a chance to simply research another country. Soon I was falling in love with Japan and had to completely surrender this dream. I prayed, ‘Lord if you want to send me to Japan, then may this bursary be won. But if not, then I thank you for all the travel I’ve already done and for the summer plans you have for me instead.”
2 months later I’d completely forgotten about it all… The day after my parents left in February, I opened an email that told me I’d been one of the two winners. What?!
After the initial excitement, all this anxiety and shame hit. A) I had to travel to Japan alone, B) I really didn’t deserve it and it just didn’t seem fair that others couldn’t share in the same goodness.
If that wasn’t abundant enough, later that week my parents also told me that they were planning to take me and my brothers to Canada. Now come on – this is too much! I was so guilty that I actually put my foot down and said no to going to Canada. I was hands down ready to deny myself that trip even though my Dad and I had always dreamed of going there together.
All of this is just crazy. All of this is wealth. All of this is God’s provision.
Stubbornness and truth
I have spent months refusing to accept that God actually just wants to give these blessings to me. Two days before I left for Japan I was sat reading my bible and suddenly God just really spoke to me. He reminded me of the words he’d spoken in February. Again there was his voice that just said, “this next season is for you to enjoy. My grace is abundant and my goodness is for you – just flipping accept it!!”
Refusing to accept it and making wealth a taboo topic is not living out the grace that we profess. I’m not saying we should idolise wealth or store it up. But, when we are in a position of wealth (financially, emotionally, physically…) we should use that to worship God. We should share our wealth with others, but also not deny ourselves or give all of it away. When God blesses us abundantly this is to be accepted with humility and thankfulness, not boasting and bragging in ourselves and what we have, but boasting in God’s crazily abundant and unconditional blessings.
Nourished in gracious goodness
We can only live a nourished life if we ourselves are nourished in God’s goodness. Timothy was instructed by Paul to reject the false teaching that called the church to deny themselves goodness.
“They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
1 Timothy 4:3-6 NIV
Behind the scenes, this year has been incredibly hard. Yet parallel to the struggle have been so many abundant and miraculous blessings both small and large. All of this must be received – the good as well as the bad. And in all of it I continually choose to praise God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
God’s goodness is so rich. Recieve it.
We all have a purpose in life. Yes, it’s a single, clearly defined purpose fit to us as unique individuals. However, it manifests itself in different ways in each season of our lives.
For example, I would say that my one true purpose is to rejoice. I live to worship God. By this I mean to express joy in everything and in every situation allowing that joy to not only be a light to others, but a thankful expression of how amazing God is. I’d say that my purpose is to declare the unconditional, unimaginable, incredible love that I believe God has for every one of us.
This has looked so different in various seasons:
As a teenager, it looked like learning to play musical instruments, write songs and paint. Through creativity I expressed joy.
In 2017, I found that by training to run, I was honouring God for strengthening my body and committing to giving 100% effort to use that body.
Last year, rejoicing looked like dancing crazily with children who experience abuse at home or struggle to focus in school. It was watching a lady smile as she tried on her first ever pair of glasses.
Recently, expressing joy has looked like fighting battles. Sacrificing so much time to studies and persevering through moments of crippling anxiety has had such purpose because I have learnt what it is to be thankful and sing in the midst of a storm. I have spent a year prioritising community living in a wonderful flat and my purpose to express the love and light of God motivated me to cook them dinner, be radically generous, pray for them throughout the year and just spend time doing life together.
‘I don’t feel like I have a purpose’
It can be so easy to worry that our lives don’t have a purpose. Often we only see the purpose when we look back. I know I also find that I grieve the last season thinking, ‘I had so much purpose,’ or, ‘I never get chance to do that anymore.’ But I have to trust that I still have the same purpose – it just looks different!
In fact, this year the phrase, “I will put a new song in your heart” has been on my mind. It speaks hope to me and it also excites me – my life will change and look different but in it I can always find something to sing about because God is all good and all loving! Dreams keep coming true, strength increases when times are hard and I can laugh at the days to come because at the end of the day, whatever the future holds, I know that I will still be me. And me, is all that I ever have to be!
Moulded for a specific purpose
In the bible, it talks about how God is a potter. He takes a lump of clay and he moulds it into something. Some lumps he will mould into common, practical dinner plates whilst others he may mould into beautiful display vases. It also affirms that God is a completely fair God and highlights that our purpose in life is to display God’s power in us. We may be an incredible noble-peace-prize winner, or maybe we will just be the local (incredibly important) caretaker.
We all have different skills, passions, personalities… These were all predestined and created in us. These things show God’s power of creating! You are a unique, beautifully crafted person and your purpose is to express that to the full. For now, that may look like studying and training an intelligent brain. In the future perhaps it’s to travel and become so thankful for this awesome world set before us. One day it could simply just be raising a child to know that they are loved and valued, or practising a sport.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
You are a beautiful, worthy human being and your life has so much purpose! Your mind, emotions and dreams are all so intricately detailed. Every single season of your life has a purpose.
Start believing it. Start living it.
If Jesus was God and about to leave the world, surely He would depart with a huge speech or teaching. If you are about to leave your friends forever wouldn’t you enjoy a huge feast and celebrate all the memories?
Jesus knew that a cruel murder awaited him. He sits down with the twelve disciples for one last meal. These men are his brothers – He loved them until the end.
Yet in the last moments, there is no big speech. He doesn’t leave them with a good memory, a blessing or one last sermon. Jesus doesn’t expect anyone to thank him for all the miracles and the teaching, nor does He wait for everyone to worship him.
Instead Jesus takes off the clothes that He is wearing. Dressed in nothing but a towel this man gets up from the table…
Honour and shame culture comes into play here. Interestingly, there is a huge amount of pride in appearance in the honour and shame world; if you look smart, you are honourable. It is incredibly shameful to be seen wearing your working clothes out of context.
This story reminds me of our house helper in Guinea. There too, honour and shame culture determines the way of life. It was custom for our Nene to walk to our house dressed in her finest clothes. Only once she arrived and the gates of the compound closed would she change into clothes worthy of dirty housework.
In the same way, we see Jesus physically step out of his dinner clothes and put on the scrubs of a servant. He culturally emphasises that He is ready to serve. God takes on the appearance of a houseworker. This requires so much humility.
Jesus then starts to wash his disciples’ feet.
In many hot arid climates, dust sits everywhere. It gets in your shoes, on your clothes and even in your ears. Orange clay coats the whole house which must be cleaned daily. The journey to this meal will definitely have resulted in orange, filthy, smelly feet.
Just imagine it:
Jesus hauls a heavy water jar. He uses all his strength to pour out some of this water into a basin. Then, bending his knees, He picks up the weighty basin and carries it to the first of his friends. Setting it down, this teacher begins to scrub at the orange, thick dust. A clay-like coating clings to Jesus’ hands as He carefully cleanses. Taking the foot, He dries it on the towel that He is wearing, inevitably wiping away the remaining residue.
With a towel stained orange and damp, He picks up the basin and moves along to the next.
There is just so much love in this. I remember daily cleaning my feet in Guinea. Each night before bed I would begin the ritual cleansing in order to be clean and ready for rest. This dirty chore was a symbol of arriving home and preparing to stay put for a little while.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”
Jesus was a teacher. He clearly taught us to act no greater than anyone else. Leaving earth, Jesus’ final lesson was no rulebook. The truth He left behind was this: Blessed is the one who washes another person’s feet for no master is greater than his servant.
Jesus came to serve us. This Lord is one who lifts weights, takes our dirt and carries it upon himself. He welcomes us into a clean, warm home where we can stay put forever. Blessed is Jesus for his compassion and mercy.
Blessed are those who say yes to this free gift of love. Then, out of this love, blessed are those who live out such an example of humility, revealing the love of Jesus to others.
Imagine if you could just eat a slice of bread and be instantly energised, happy, and fit. Wouldn’t that be amazing? We would do away with stress eating and comfort eating and be completely satisfied…
Just About Managing to Feed Myself
Honestly, I don’t know how I get through a day without falling apart. Perhaps it sounds a little dramatic, but I’m just so aware of my vulnerability. Each day I run at a bunch of goals, encounter a range of people, stress myself out over one anxiety or another, run to some sort of social and just about manage to feed myself.
Okay, there are a million joys too but we are all human. There’s always a few struggles. Some days are more hectic than others, but I’m sure you can relate; we all just about manage…
We have a huge material need and most of what we do is determined by this: what we eat, where we work, the hours we sleep, what we spend money on…
We get caught up in all of this and sometimes we can’t help but feel inadequate – because we are. This inadequacy isn’t just related to material needs either. We also fail at being emotionally happy and physically well.
Something Deeper than Material Need
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:35-37
Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with five small loaves and two fish when He said this. The miracle was incredible and after everyone ate and was satisfied, twelve basketfuls of leftovers were collected! As you would imagine, the crowds were amazed and followed Jesus to where He went next.
However Jesus wanted the crowds to realise something that goes beyond the material realm. Jesus actually rebuked the crowd for following him because they were just seeking another material provision. He challenged the crowds to look for something much deeper – a ‘bread’ that provides for emotional, physical and spiritual needs. This ‘bread of life’ would grant eternal life and the one requirement was that they simply believed in Jesus as the Son of God.
Bread Falling From the Sky…
In the Jewish scriptures, there is a story about a prophet, Moses who leads God’s chosen people through the wilderness to the promised land. In this wilderness, God chose to provide for their needs by causing ‘manna’ to rain down from the sky. This manna was simply bread – yes, bread falling from the sky! It was enough to sustain them for another day walking through the wilderness. It reminded them of the promised land to come…
When Jesus came to earth, He used this as an example. Relating to this story, He taught the people about how God, the living Father, had sent him from heaven, to come to earth as the ‘bread of heaven.’ But the difference is that Jesus was more than a material provision that could only fill the stomach. Jesus came to welcome God’s beloved children into his arms, to sacrifice himself in order that we may be reconciled to him. In sending his son, God promised to never drive us away and to be our hope of a promised land to come.
Ultimately, Jesus came to give us eternal life!
His Arms Are Wide Open
When I read about this ‘bread of life’ in John 6, I just can’t stop picturing Jesus with his arms wide open! He asks us to come to him and rest in him! He can’t force us and this is why we must believe that from him come all good things – we must believe that He is God.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” John 6:54-57
As christians we choose to live in Jesus – we choose to ‘remain’ in him. Jesus can provide all that we need in the material, emotional, physical and spiritual sense! We come to Jesus and find strength, dignity, love, value, purpose and the promise of treasure in heaven.
However that doesn’t mean that life is perfect. Often, to be honest, life is a mess.
So how can this all be true? How can we eat the ‘bread of life?’ Is it even real?
What on Earth does this Mean?
The thing is that Jesus himself, as the ‘bread of life,’ gave himself to be sacrificed on the cross. Jesus was God, embodied in a human form. He lived out God’s kingdom values of love, righteousness, peace… Because of this controversial way of living, He was rejected and despised. Jesus was killed on a cross. He suffered the worst death possible and his ‘blood’ is a symbol of this suffering.
When we talk about drinking Jesus’ blood, we are talking about the sufferings we face. When we find ourselves struggling, we can run to Jesus because He knows exactly what it is like. In him we find comfort, and He promises to strengthen us and not allow us to fall.
Despite our circumstances we can trust that He is good, He will strengthen us to face all things, and that we have God on our side; all that we need each day will be provided.
When we talk about ‘flesh.’ We are talking about what Jesus looks like in human form. We put our trust in Jesus and we try our best to live like He did. As we live like him, our relationships, our values, our desires change for the better.
I Flipping Need Jesus!
Lately, I have to truly rely on Jesus to be all that I need. I daily have to ask Jesus to provide all that I need – not just physically! Living out love, grace, truth, humility, righteousness is never easy in the simplest of circumstances, never mind when you’re having a tough time!
Without Jesus, I cannot cope.
I find myself daily needing to be strengthened in him, to be reminded that my life has purpose, and to be rooted and established in the love He has for me. It is so easy to look to friendships, relationships, material possessions, and educational success to affirm yourself.
But actually, we can only truly be satisfied in Jesus’ rich love for us.
Jesus has his arms wide open and all we need to do is believe that He can satisfy all our needs. He loves you so incredibly and He cares for you so, so deeply! Will you let him give you all that you could ever need?
Purpose is everything and one of my greatest life mottos was to run every step of the race with purpose. I’m not just talking stepping with meaning, but actively living.
I believe that I was created by a loving God who cares for me and desires me to live for him. As a runner, I know that God created me to run fast and use that to glorify him. I love running!
However, what happens when suddenly you can’t run anymore? How can you run purposefully when you’re faced with the possibility of never running again?
In August I was hit with injury. My training hit a level where I just wasn’t improving or getting faster. I would wake up in pain and go to sleep in pain. When I ran, I felt guilty for potentially making it worse, yet when I rested, I felt rubbish in myself. Reaching out for help felt scary and facing the prospect of never running again was something I just wanted to avoid…
6 weeks later, having been diagnosed with the issue and working hard on physio, I was still having pain. Whilst I’d taken up cycling and swimming, I had fully given up on running.
Three weeks ago I moved to university and the pain was getting worse, not better. Within the first few weeks I found myself at church asking for prayer. I was prayed for twice. The first time, the pain got a little bit better but days later started to get worse again. No result.
Later that week, I went to an evening meeting and the lady who prayed for me asked me how I was. Reluctantly I agreed to let her husband pray for me, although at this point I was pretty skeptical.
However, as Peter prayed over me, he started to speak truth. He spoke about how he believed that God had made me to run and that he wanted to bless me as I ran for him. God was not finished. Why was I giving up? By giving up I was giving this pain the authority to be there when Jesus had put that to death on a cross.
Another weird experience of having oil put on my head later…
The pain is pretty much gone. Whilst I still get the odd achey leg that comes from general use and exercise, the pain in my knees has gone! I’ve joined an athletics club, been training and even done a park run. How incredible is this?
Now, when I run, I am reminded of his faithfulness! For me, running has become a form of worship in which I glorify God. For he has blessed me so richly. In a time when I wanted to give up, Jesus pursued me.
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how good God is?! I’ve been praying for my leg for months. It wasn’t healed straight way in a swooping miraculous situation. Rather, as I trusted God and waited on him, he gradually turned the bad into good.
I still have a recovery ahead, but the progress has been crazy good! And in all of this, I can only glorify God!
The other day we were asked a challenging question, which lead to a community culture conversation: What was most responsible for the growth that you experienced overseas in Guinea?
We had never thought about defining an overruling factor before. Of course, there have been umpteen challenges, growth points and stretching factors that we regularly highlight. But which had the most impact?
We found ourselves having a conversation as a team in front of our church audience that night, evaluating this question. The result? In a fashion, we each found ourselves approaching each other and naming one another responsible for our growth.
When we boarded an aeroplane in October, our families’ expectations were that we were flying the nest and becoming independent. Our western culture models independence as the ideal lifestyle, forgetting community culture. Yet little did we know that as we held hands on take off, prayed for a safe flight and left all things comfortable, we were about to become the most dependent we had ever been…
We depend on the body of Christ. Alone, we could not and would not have navigated a new culture, a wave of hardships and incredible joy. It was impossible. We left our familiarity but held onto each other, strengthening one another and running at God together in all that we did. We ate together, prayed together, worked together, read books together, studied God’s word together, worshipped together, lived under the same roof… One of our team values was “laugh together, cry together.”
Depending on each other was crucial.
Speaking of a new culture, the greatest change was switching from, “me,” to, “we.” In fact, when we claim to speak French, we can actually only conjugate the “nous” form! We never used, “I,” or “she,” throughout our six months. In Guinea you just don’t speak individually. Everything is about community. The things you do affect whole neighbourhoods and what you speak, you speak on behalf of your family or tribe. Community culture is quite literally the opposite of British lifestyle, where everyone thinks for themselves and actions don’t affect others.
The craziest thing is that we never questioned this. Somehow, we automatically switched into the community culture and it felt natural.
When we apply this to faith we see something greater. The Guinean church will never talk about, “my faith,” or say, “this is what I believe,” as we do in the west. Instead the church will always talk about, “our faith,” proclaiming, “this is what we believe!” Faith is not an individual belief or opinion. No, it’s a system of hearts coming together, abandoning certain individual values that misalign and pursuing the values and beliefs that Christ set, together.
This is the body of Christ that Apostle Paul talks about in the bible. This is a body of people from different backgrounds and tribes, coming together, to journey onwards. Prayer in Guinea is not individual either, but collective. Christians meet regularly (if not daily) to pray together and build one another up. They have not yet achieved the goal. At times tribal culture may cause disagreements but as a community they uplift this to God and make one kingdom decision together. In times of trouble, the body of Christ come alongside each other and depend upon one another for strength. Perhaps neither knows the answer but living alongside each other, they can try to move onwards as one.
Imagine if this was the vision of the western church today. Imagine if we lived together in a community culture – what would that look like? Would it be open doors, shared houses, a redefinition of the word, “family?” Perhaps we would scrap the “this is what I believe,” statements and move towards, “this is what the bible says we should believe and so let’s pursue it together.”
As a team this is something we are exploring together and are passionate about. Whilst we do not yet know the answers, we are eager to journey together and wait upon God to see just how and where He will use us to build his kingdom in this way. We don’t believe that there is space in the kingdom of heaven for lonely individuals or huge theological disagreements. In our advancing individualistic nation, it’s devastating to see division over what certain parts of the bible mean or how a church should “do church.”
For the church is not a group of individuals using the same theology to live their own lives. The church is a body of people who come together, believe in one God, lay down their own lives and move forwards together, as one multitude of kingdom builders. A body who hear the truth and share it. A community culture.
Do you ever feel like you’re not fully conscious? As if you’re living the longest dream, blinking, about to wake up and return to reality?
Everything at the moment seems incredibly surreal. I leave home in under 2 weeks to start a gap year with BMS World Mission. I have always known that I would do this however now that it’s happening, it looks and feels so different to what I had imagined a couple of years ago.
First of all, I’m going to live in Africa for 6 months – one of the poorest places in the world! It’s going to be such an adventure. But the closer I get, the more I have to come to terms with things, and the more I have to give up: family, friends, diet, communication, reliable electricity, toiletries, clothes, money, a years worth of appointments and dreams… Even the freedom to walk or run alone!
I am quite literally laying my everything down right now! I am surrendering so much to God – so many things that I have never surrendered to God. Yet I am fully confident that it will be worth it. He will protect me and give me joy!
Already I have built strong friendships with the others on my team. Already so many unexpected donations have come through. Already so much equipment has been sourced.
Most of all, I know now that I am about to step into the unknown: a new country; a new culture; a new world of political background; an unknown landscape. There are almost no photographs to look at, very few travel reviews and I don’t even know the exact location of my accommodation yet. I have absolutely no control over anything! Am I willing to accept that?
God wants me to take my biggest leap of faith yet. Literally! I know for sure that I want to say yes – to let go of all control is to allow God to show me that he really is in control of everything. Only one thing remains – God’s compassion.
BMS World Mission are an excellent organisation and they look after their workers so well. I know that God will be my protector and that this next year will bring the adventure of a life-time as I learn to rely on the one true God, whilst helping others at the same time.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He will keep me safe. He will go with me and He will allow me to have joy as I adventure further than I’ve ever been before!
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Galatians 3:9 so those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Today I want to talk about Paul, Silas and Timothy. These three leaders were incredibly influential and played a significant role in the faith of the church in Thessalonica. You can read all about their influence, the growth of this little church and the things that the three leaders taught in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. However what catches my eye is how faith thrives amongst these three leaders…
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, we learnt that Paul and Silas were suffering a horrid persecution. However Paul makes an effort to send Timothy to Thessalonica, in order to find out how the church is continuing to grow. When he discovers that faith is truly thriving in this church, he writes back immediately, encouraged by all that he has heard. In fact, by asking fellow Christians about how they are journeying with God, Paul was made alive despite all of his suffering.
Hearing testimony, even when we ourselves feel as though we are far, spiritually dry or simply insignificant, should shake us alive! How often do we ask one another, “what is God revealing to you right now?” Or perhaps, “what have you been challenged with recently?” This question is vital so that we may all be shaken to life, grow in the knowledge of the many marvellous ways in which God works and be leaders for each other.
So without further ado, “what is God doing in your life right now?”
I know for sure that within my own personal journey with God, I am learning more and more about how my faith applies to real world situations. Recently, God has been revealing areas in life where he is present. The recent general election has been a particular growth point – this year I was eligible to vote for the first time. Previous to this I had rarely payed attention to politics, knew very little about policies, cared even less about the need to vote and simply had never even considered how God could be present in politics. Over the past month through prayer, scripture and reading, God has shown me just how many Christians there are in politics and simply opened my eyes to be more aware of our country’s affairs. As a result, I was able to prayerfully make my own personal choice whilst having the confidence to know that God is in control and will use whoever is currently in parliament to govern our country. God is present in the every day.
I would also say that I have recently been learning from various leaders, including Moses, Paul and Jesus himself. I have been growing in the knowledge of how they actively lead their people in the small things – that leadership is largely about attitude, outlook, and humble steps. I’m still journeying through this and learning so much – this idea of making effort to ask each other for testimony is one of many little learning curves.
When turning to friends, I was amazed to hear some wonderful stories: the power of healing; finding purpose; walking alongside those who are questioning God…
May you share with one another and be made alive in the thriving of the faith of God’s church!
The question is, what is God doing in your life right now?
This morning I woke up as usual but as soon as I swiped right to turn off my alarm, the words “Manchester Terror Attack” boldly sat staring up from my lock screen. Immediately I awoke from my slumber and came to the realisation that the city I have known for so long, had now been targeted with violence. Reading those three words and shortly after discovering the details, I felt sickened, angered and completely speechless…
Half of my family live in Manchester. My best friend was supposed to go to a concert tomorrow – it could have easily been her. I’ve walked down those very same concert hall steps.
It really, utterly hit home and my heart just cried out for all involved – I honestly wanted to jump in my car, drive to Manchester and start helping those affected. But I knew that wasn’t possible.
All day I felt riddled with anger and upset, as I’m sure thousands have today. But when I came home, I turned to my bible and I randomly came across Psalm 141(NIV). What I discovered was incredibly moving…
This Psalm is a prayer written by David, who also found himself surrounded by a violence (whether physical, emotional or mental I don’t know) caused by someone else. David felt angry and frustrated. His heart also cried out for mercy. I found it incredibly comforting and humbling to read that I was not the only one.
We can’t deny that evil is in this world – after what happened today we can’t help but stand stunned, angry and devastated. But in a similar situation, David (who was just as stunned) turned to prayer and remembered the truth of who God is – despite how he felt.
In vs 3-4 David acknowledges that violence is a very real thing – daily, people are doing evil all over the world. David acknowledges that this indeed is sickening, poisoning and dreadful. He recognises that these evil things are devised from corrupt, lost and broken hearts that do not know what goodness really is – that being the goodness of God. He responds by looking to God, declaring His goodness and praying for rescue. By doing so he turns his focus from the violence (not a blind eye – he still acknowledges it but refuses to dwell on it) and surrenders the situation to God, knowing that God can bring rescue.
Then in vs 4-5, David prays for protection. He is humbled by the violence, realising that He cannot keep himself safe. He chooses to rely upon God, and acknowledges the daily traps that entangle him, giving them to God. In the same way may I challenge us today to acknowledge the traps surrounding the Manchester Terror Attack:
- Terrorism causing fear – lets pray over our country, and the protection against fear so that we may rebuild a confident society, not allowing fear to cause worry or racial speculation.
- Blame: pray for protection against Islamic or Religious societies so they may not be trapped by prejudice labels regarding terrorism – sadly today I had to tweet somebody who wrongly and racially claimed that “religion has caused this hate.”
- Trauma: pray for protection against trauma, that all involved may be healed physically, restored emotionally and allowed to completely recover psychologically, not trapped by fear or trauma in the future.
Next, in vs 6-7 David cries out in mercy. Today’s events were sickening. As mentioned before, when I awoke today, my heart dropped and all I felt was compassion and hurt for all involved. Perhaps I couldn’t actively go and help, but like David, I could pray – I could cry out for mercy on behalf of those involved. Many injured may not know Christ and so as a follower of Jesus, my responsibility was to pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit bring comfort on behalf of them. I’m not talking about a quick, #prayformanchester tweet or arrow prayer. I’m talking about an invested, heartfelt faith-can-move-mountains prayer. Spend time praying and crying out to God for these people – prayer after all, is powerful.
When we look at vs9-11, we read that unfortunately, there will be people today who stand proud of what has gone on – how inhumane! Firstly whilst the psalm says that they will be, “thrown into the fire,” we must remember that these are David’s words, not God’s. Undoubtedly David, like many (including myself) today, was angry and craved justice. But unlike David, we have the truth of the New Testament. Jesus has died and rose victorious to take away sin, so all may be forgiven. I am not saying that the man who carried out the attack last night was right – he was very, very wrong. However, Jesus has already dealt with all wrongdoing. We don’t have the power to punish or judge this man (especially since he has died) but God does, and has already, dealt with it – we don’t know the outcome of this but we can trust that God is in control. Now, we must focus on applying the “all may be forgiven” aspect, not forgetting that what he did was wrong, but in our hearts coming to terms with it and moving on. This allows us to turn the tables, counteract the violence and have peace in our hearts.
World peace starts with inner peace and the first step is forgiveness. It’s hard and we don’t want to forgive right now – but the result will be worth it in time.
Finally, in vs 12-13, David finished his prayer with a great hope. He reminds himself that God is good and declares this over all of the violence. Right now it’s hard to see all the suffering and believe that God is good. But he is. Due to freewill, God can’t stop people from doing evil. He didn’t cause this pain, and he is rebuilding already through the work of emergency services and other aids. His presence is real and current – God is walking with the suffering.
We can all experience this goodness today amongst such violence – simply by opening our hearts with, “God, I need you – come and change my life, show me who you really are.”
If we do this, although there will still be hatred, we may enter a relationship with God and encounter his presence so that whilst in the storm, we may know and trust his good, strong and loving power.
This afternoon after reading and thinking about Psalm 141, I sat and prayed through all of these points. As I prayed for God to free and protect, I saw an image of a mouse trap clenched closed. But then the glorious light of Christ shone upon it, and set it wide open – free! In this moment, my heart suddenly felt peaceful. Suddenly I felt able to forgive and all my anger disappeared. I felt comforted knowing that the situation was now in God’s hands and that he is carrying those involved.
My prayer is that you may also know this freeing power in your heart.
Pray for Manchester – cry out for mercy and invite God in. Live freely set apart from all the violence in this world, simultaneously praying for, walking with and acting on behalf of those who are suffering.