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Posted By Nan

God you’re my last chance of the day.

The only friend I have left is Darkness.


Psalm 88:1,11 The Message.


No matter what darkness we suffer, we are never the only one suffering. Of course, if you come to me when you are suffering, I won’t point that out to you. Your suffering is valid and terrible for you. You don’t need your suffering invalidated by someone telling you someone else is worse off than you. Today, however, God has led me to talk about some work I do as a counsellor that is often seemingly hopeless. I am a member of a team of volunteer therapists who support refugees incarcerated in terrible conditions offshore by the Government of the country they tried to seek refuge in. While wealthy, overpaid footballers seek crowd funding to make an unfair dismissal claim against their former employer because of a breach of contract, there are people being left for dead in these locations. As far as the Government is concerned, these people will never leave. Their sentence for being refugees desperate for somewhere to live is to spend the rest of their lives separated from their families, from life, from hope by a Government that claims to know God, but only knows hate.
When I communicate with these beautiful people seeking sanctuary, I am filled with the sense of how hopeless their situation is. So many of them self-harm and sadly kill themselves because they have no hope. They are given inadequate food, rare and limited medical care, and are living through the prime of their lives stuck somewhere with nothing to do but lament the loss of their dreams of a normal, productive life. They have no access to family or support networks.
For these beautiful people God is the last chance of the day. And the only friend they feel they have left is darkness.
I have spent a lot of time in prayer about these beautiful people and their terrible plight. A few days ago God reminded me of the story of Corrie Ten Boom. For those who do not know it, Corrie was a Dutch woman who hid Jews in her house in Haarlem in the Netherlands. Eventually she and her sister were caught and sent to a prison camp where her sister died. Her sister gave her hope in the darkness by reminding her that “There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.” That reminder sustained her through the hopelessness of existence in the camp. For the people I communicate with that is their only hope. Some have a faith in God, but others have abandoned all such faith.
Would you be willing to pray for these brothers and sisters of ours? To pray that God will comfort them. That He will reveal himself to them. That He will guide them out of their darkness to the place He has prepared for them.
Sometimes we need comfort in our darkness. And other times, we need to be the comfort for others in darkness. Because despite the psalmist’s hopeless belief, the only friend he has left is God.
No pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.
 

 
Posted By Nan
Psalm 130:5
One of the things that happens to us when we come into a time of darkness is that we usually stop sitting and waiting. Initially anyway. We tend to rush around trying to fix things. As a counsellor I find that one of the quickest ways my clients find life feeling out of control is to “leave their bodies”. By this I mean to spend so long in their heads, worrying about what to do, where to go, what has happened, what they are doing tomorrow, and so on, that they fail to pay attention to what is happening here, now. They lose sight of the present moment.
How many times have you felt distressed and got in the car to go somewhere, and on arrival not been able to remember how you got there? Or how many times have you been so full of thoughts about something that is troubling you that take a wrong turning and end up in the wrong place?
All those are examples of not being in your body. Instead of paying attention to the present moment, you are busy sitting in your head worrying about other moments.
When you are not in the present moment, also known as being out of your body, you are not aware of what is going on around you. You are also not aware of what is going on in your body either. When you lose touch with your body you lose touch with your spirit. When you lose touch with your spirit you lose touch with God.
Often a cure for feeling God is not present is to stop and sit with your body and what it is feeling. Once you attend to what your body is feeling, you can attend to what God is telling you.
People who find themselves in darkness frequently fill the space with prayers to God. Psalm 88 v 1 says “Of Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.” Day and night the psalmist cries out and leaves no space for God to reply. When we fill our minds with prayers and don’t sit in silence waiting for God we cannot hear Him. When we cannot hear Him, we cannot be aware of His presence. Then we feel trapped in darkness.
It is quite likely that we will enter a time of darkness and not feel God. But when we stop fighting and sit and listen, then God can come to us in that place of darkness and heal us. He can speak to us. He can show us His will for our lives. He can lead us out of that place. He can wait with us in that place.
It is hard to wait, particularly in a place that is so unsure and has no definite end. But there are times when waiting is what God wants us to do. It is not wrong to pray while waiting, but it is not good to pray so much God’s voice cannot be heard.
 
 
Posted By Nan
As those who regularly read my blog know, my husband and I left the church system shortly after I started writing my blog. I prayed and studied the Bible for a few months, seeking to learn whether I was required to attend church. I discovered there is no Biblical directive to join a church, only a directive to fellowship with others when able. After much prayer, my husband I then left the church system.
What you may not know is that every so often I have been tempted to join a church. Every time I have prayed about joining one God has said NO. Recently I have felt drawn again to belong to a church family. At the same time I saw a local church building a community centre and really wanted to be part of that. Almost as soon as the thought was formed, God was urging me to speak to this church. I sat on that directive for over a year, until friends gave me a contact for someone in that centre.
I rang the contact and we agreed to meet. The meeting seemed to go well. The next day, I was at a training day, and I received a far from pleasant text from that person. The person saw something on my professional counselling website they did not like and had judged me without praying about it or talking to me about it.
After praying about this I learned two things. These are what I will be discussing in my blog.
The first is that sometimes when God wants to say NO, He directs us to seek to do the opposite. For me, He knew my longing, and knew that longing may override any prayerful consideration I may put in and any directions God may be giving me. So He directed me to offer my involvement so that I could understand the NO He gave me through the other person. That was quite a learning experience for me. I am used to the idea of doors closing when I try under my own strength to do something, but this was a new thing for me. God had asked me to seek out this person. It is possible that, had that person been one to prayerfully seek God’s will, the outcome would be different. Maybe the Yes would only have come if that person had been seeking God instead of his own personal belief system.
That is quite a thought to consider. What if the NO God gives us is conditional on other people and their responses as well as our own?
That makes sense when I consider times in the past when I sought to do things, only to be stopped. If we look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, there are many examples of Jesus not doing things because He was blocked by the people He was seeking to work with. The most obvious example is Matthew 13:53-58 where Jesus was not listened to nor able to perform many miracles in Nazareth because the people would not accept Him.
The second point I wanted to make about this is about the culturally influenced interpretation of the Bible in Western Christianity. To put this in context, we need to consider the changes that took place in Europe as people moved out of the Middle Ages with its adherence to God and the directives of the Church. Life revolved around God and the philosophical underpinning of life was about God.
As Europe moved into the new age after that time, people began to challenge God’s existence. This left a vacuum in our concept of what life was. Philosophers started to conceptualise what life meant without God. This philosophising led to the Enlightenment period. A changed perception of life without God also challenged the authority of the church. This led to the breaking up of Christianity into rival, and at the time warring, factions within Christianity. As the new factions formed into denominations they took into their doctrine the new philosophies of life without God. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, but when the conversation within a society centres around a particular subject, it is hard to avoid it. Also, most people were not even aware that these new conversations were about conceptualising life without God.
Much of the doctrine of the Western Church is based on philosophies that were against God. These cultural practices are so entrenched in the Western Church people believe they are actually the proper way to worship God. It often results in the “throwing out of the baby with the bathwater”. Ways of conceptualising God, especially in regard to the Spiritual aspect of life, have been cast aside and now looked on suspiciously. People reject things they label as not being of God, because they are not part of Western Christianity. They ignore the evidence of life during the time of Jesus. They ignore the writings of Jewish writers in the period leading up to birth of Jesus and His new gospel. They ignore the experience of the early church. They fail to read the Bible in its proper context and instead either completely ignore its writings or take phrases out of context to support their cultural beliefs.
People seeking God today turn away from Christianity because they don’t find God there. Their God shaped hole needs to be filled with the spiritual, and that is sadly lacking in much of the Western Church. They turn to other religions that use the spiritual in their practices. I should point out here that ALL things are created by God. All things glorify God and all are used by and acceptable to God. Western Christianity has rejected things that were previously an integral part of Christian Worship. So things that are created by God are being rejected by the Western Church.
In addition to this culturally influenced doctrine, there is a lack of leaders in Western Christianity who know God. So many are more involved in the intrigues of human hierarchies than spending time in prayer seeking to know God and His will. There is a tendency for those who minister to the church communities – the pastors, reverends, ministers, priests etc. – to tell people what they should think and who God is, rather than encouraging them to know God themselves. People are told things they shouldn’t do, or that others do that are wrong and believe that is in the Bible. But when challenged, people cannot provide the Bible verse to back up what they say. In fact, a discussion of the Bible quickly reveals most people do not know their Bible. They don’t actually read the Bible. They rely on the interpretation of others. This means they are vulnerable to being told the wrong thing. That puts them at risk of false prophets. It also puts them at risk of not hearing God’s messages for them and not doing what He wants them to do.
So what does all this have to do with my experience with the person at the church community centre?
This person objected to something I used in my professional counselling practice that I spent many weeks praying about before making the decision to train to use this. I also sought advice from Christian mentors on whether I should train in this spiritual practice. The clear answer from God was yes. This man not only rejected me immediately based on a cultural belief about what was acceptable to God, he also rejected God’s directive for my life.
In a previous blog I mentioned the story of a woman attacking me about a decision I had made, that I had spent many long hours praying about. As I left the meeting, God had said to me “In denying you have done what I told you, she has rejected Me and she will have to answer to me for that”. The same applies to this man, and anyone else we encounter in life who rejects us for following God’s directive, that they have decided is against God.
Earlier in the blog I mentioned that NO sometimes comes about because the other person is not ready for us to do what God wants. This man, caught up in cultural observances is not ready for what God wants. So the answer was NO.
 
The following night I was at a social get together of professionals who work in my building. There I met a new professional who is Christian and does not belong to a church. We had a lovely time of fellowship. I was longing for fellowship and God supplied it. And I didn’t have to go to a church to find that fellowship.
 
 
Posted By Nan

This blog was written on Wednesday but I never had time to post it. So I am posting this today, and tomorrow I will post the blog I write today.


It may seem odd to talk about peace in the midst of a discussion about going through dark times. My reasoning is found in John 16:33 “… in this world you will have trouble…”
The preceding sentence says: “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace…”
It is worth noting that the last sentences of that verse read “…but take heart. I have overcome the world.”
In reading through the many references to peace in the Bible, it is interesting to note one of the words associated with peace is rest (2 Chronicles 14:6). So often, when we are in a place of darkness, we do not find rest. It is as if we have lost the space in our lives for joy. It is rest that allows us that space to open up. In a place of rest there is respite from fear and turmoil and we experience peace from which joy is able to spring.
Trust is also a word associated with peace (Isaiah 26:3). This makes it possible to envisage peace, even in the darkest moments.
Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there is a time for everything. In verse 8 we read that there is a time to love, hate, have war and peace. If your time is one of darkness, it is possible to cling to God, place your trust in Him and allow yourself to receive everything else in His time.
It may seem counter intuitive to suggest you seek rest in a dark time, but sometimes no effort on our part will take us out of darkness. Sometimes the only way to deal with darkness is to wait, allow the space for rest, and let God do everything else!
 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 84 especially 10-11.

I am continuing to explore what we can do when we find ourselves in those wilderness times when life seems so hopeless. Today I want to explore Psalm 84.
I was drawn to Psalm 84 today after thinking and praying about a beautiful woman I knew years ago. She had great faith in God but was going through a time of terrible depression. Her path lead through endless dark places. Eventually the darkness overwhelmed her and she sadly took her own life.
It was what to do about this darkness that led me to be directed to Psalm 84. I know from being in my own dark places that nothing is so bad that God is not greater still. But not all people are able to find that truth.
I am not saying that my dear friend failed because she couldn’t see that truth. But I am saying it is possible to find that truth. And we need to watch out for each other, especially those we know are struggling.
As I read this psalm, I was reminded of some beautiful songs based on it that have been written.
One of my favourite ones, that is based on more than just Psalm 84 is Under the Shadow of Your Wings by Chris Bowater. (Link to video on YouTube is below). The reference to Psalm 84 is in the middle of the song when the words repeat those of this blog’s heading (v10). The words of faith and praise in this song are wonderful and I never cease to be lifted up by them, no matter how low I feel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1yLdSOqyE4

In The Message, Psalm 84 has been beautifully written. The most inspiring excerpt starts at verse 5:

“And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-travelled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn – Zion! God in full view!”

That is so beautiful.
Our lives become the roads we travel. We wind through lonely places and beautiful places and at the end we see God.
I am going to close this blog with verse 11 (NIV). A reminder that God is our sun and He is our shield. We walk through difficult, lonely places in our lives. Life is not always a happy, pleasant place. We often get so caught up in the sadness we forget our joy. We live our lives in the shadow of His wings and we eventually come to realise that it is better to have one day in the presence of God than a thousand in any other place. Of course we will have more than one day in God’s presence. But it is worth realising the value of that eternity by considering how much one day in His presence is worth compared to other places we might be.

If you are going through a dark time now, or sometime in the future, remember that, no matter how bleak things seem, there is hope and a way out ...

For the Lord God is your sun and shield.
 

 


 
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Nan
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