Marti and I have been privileged to have many friends—some in YWAM and some not. We recently hosted a group of about 15 friends with three or four more online. We loved the feelings of warmth and trust as they began arriving and began to get caught up on many months of life when we could not see one another because of the social restrictions.
Warmth and joy at being together were the most obvious emotions, but there was an undercurrent of pain too. The preceding two years have been hard on all of us and very hard on some. Friends and family members have died, businesses have gone bust, and the loneliness of separation from those we love has sometimes been crushing.
After chats and hugs, we made time for each person to talk about whatever they wanted us all to know. Gratitude for God’s grace was a common theme, but tears flowed at times. One gracious, mature, and emotionally resilient lady eloquently expressed how hard these months have been. She said, “Eventually I sat down and said, ‘God, I am just full of holes!’“ It seemed to me that she was saying God had poured out His grace on her, but she just couldn’t retain and live in it. From that confession, she said, healing began.
THE FIRST STEP TO HEALING
Very often the first step towards healing is to admit that we are in pain and that, having done our best, nothing seems to be better.
“When I am weak, then He is strong.” That’s how Paul wrote it. Also, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Another friend confessed that she had just endured “the worst three weeks” of her life. She had gone on a long trip to visit one of her adult children and to enjoy a spiritual retreat. But when she got there, her daughter was rarely available and, when she was, she was distracted by other obligations. And the spiritual retreat was nothing like she expected. It seemed dry, barren, and legalistic.
She was about to leave and was feeling despondent, when a mature woman at the retreat centre approached her. It was clear that she understood what our friend was going through. In a brief conversation, she emphasised three responses that changed her outlook and have already been very helpful to me too.
These three fundamental choices can make all the difference when facing pain and disappointment:
- Remember to trust God when disappointment and pain strike—whether that is emotional pain or physical pain. He is the one who has promised that He will “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Pain and disappointment can occur suddenly and demand our full attention. If we don’t make a faith-filled choice to trust God at that point, the exclusive focus on the unwanted developments can disconnect us from any awareness of God’s grace. The scriptures are clear that God’s grace comes to us when we have faith.
- Begin to give thanks for how God is going to redeem this situation. We do not need to understand how God will work to bring about good; but we do need to trust that He will. Thanksgiving is the language of faith. Sometimes the trials that come to us have the potential for destroying our faith, but if we find a way to give thanks and then we continue in that language of gratitude and thanksgiving, we will see God at work. In my recent New Testament reading, the following scripture struck me powerfully: Hebrews 10:34 “When people looted your property, you actually welcomed it joyfully, because you knew that you had a better possession, a lasting one.” What a statement! That is mature faith.
- Live each successive day in faith. That initial response of believing that God is as good as His word must be reinforced daily. He IS able to make everything work together for good! I sometimes wake up in the morning with a vague sense of dread—I think that is unbelief that somehow creeps into my spirit and mind overnight. When that happens, it is essential that I spend time in the scriptures, in thanksgiving and in supplication—asking God for what I need. I cannot get into the day with anything other than a confident hope and faith in who God is and that He loves me and is working in the world around me to bring blessing to me.
These disappointments and pain can turn out to be great blessings. The scriptures are full of examples; many of the Psalms were written from a place of pain, disappointment, and fear, but the Psalmist, usually David, poured out his heart until he broke through to faith. Psalm 57 is one of many examples. The Apostle, James, put it so well in James 1:2-4 “My Dear Family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy because you know that, when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience. What’s more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete and whole, not falling short in anything.
Trust, Faith and Thanksgiving are the best of all medications for pain of the soul!
Within hours, our friend had a perfect opportunity to put her lesson into practice. She arrived at London Heathrow airport at about the same time as her husband was flying out of another terminal. They had arranged for him to leave their car at her arrival terminal and put the keys in their usual hiding place.
When she connected with him online, there was a photo of where the car was, and everything seemed to be in order, so she phoned him to say thank you and goodbye—then she asked him if he had left the keys where they had agreed. The phone went silent. Then he confessed that he had forgotten. He felt terrible and decide he would not go on the ministry trip he was planning, but she urged him to go, and in her inner self, she trusted God to bring good out of this small disaster.
When they ended the call, he went to the airline help desk (inside immigration and near the departure gate) and explained his dilemma to the staff. Another staff member was standing nearby and said, “I’m just about to go to that terminal. Give me the keys and your wife’s number and I will take them to her.” As she emerged from the baggage hall, that kind airline staff person was there to welcome her home and hand her the keys to her car. AND she didn’t even lose her temper to her husband! Lesson learned. I hope she retains it, and I hope I do too, and perhaps you would like to ask God to help you remember also!