The message of pain.

With the new year I began a read through of the Bible. We enter with a perfect world being created – a world of hope and promise and intimacy with God. But it only last until the third chapter when Satan tempts, Adam and Eve disobey God, the world is cursed and evil enters. Now there is sin, shame, and pain.

What struck me reading through this again was how necessary pain is. Pain carries a message… But what is that message?

1. Something is wrong!

The purpose of pain is to tell us that something is wrong. A doctor working with patients with leprosy (a disease that affects the nerves and removes the ability to feel pain causing rotting flesh and injuries) said this: “Pain is not the enemy, but the loyal scout announcing the enemy…Pain truly is the gift nobody wants.” – Dr. Paul Brand (p. 20)

This is a concept I could grasp, but struggled with during the years of chronic unexplained pain (you can read more of my story here). There was no obvious reason for my pain, so what was the point? What is this “enemy” that pain is announcing? The doctors may not have been able to find what was wrong with my body, but it was screaming out a message to me that something was wrong.

2. The enemy is sin.

Not only did my pain tell me that things were going wrong physically, but it spoke a deeper message… Something is wrong with this world. Pain entered the world because of our sin, and now Pain announces the enemy of sin.

Without pain, we could be quite content with our sin and brokenness. Pain makes us aware of our brokenness, aware of the need of deliverance, and grows a longing for something more.

3. We need God

Pain is a symptom of sin, and our inability to create a world without pain speaks of our inability to achieve righteousness without sin. Until we face up to this, we will continue to strive to create and define our own righteousness. Pain causes us to cry out to God for the righteousness and healing we cannot create ourselves. Pain is one of the few realities that no-one can deny, run from, hide from, or escape, that calls us to repent and cast ourselves upon God and his grace.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

4. Repent!

Pain tells us that something is wrong… The enemy is sin…. We need God and cannot remedy it ourselves… So the only response is to Repent! Turn from your sin and cry out to God for the forgiveness, righteousness and healing only He can bring!

5. A deliverer is coming!

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:8-11).

Pain is a path to hearing God’s voice. He speaks to us through it revealing our brokenness, and our need for a Saviour, but also revealing the depths of God’s love, because he himself entered into our pain. Right from the moment we caused it, he had a plan to deliver us from from it: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from it’s bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” – Romans 8:19-21

6. The depths of God’s love are revealed.

It is in the depths of our pain that we begin to glimpse the depths of God. The God who humbled himself, who entered into and beyond our pain, who suffered and died to deliver us from it. If you have ever doubted the goodness of God, look again at the cross and the immeasurable pain Jesus experienced to save us. That is love!

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Jesus was wounded for us. He knows intimately our suffering, whether that is physical or emotional. He was wounded to become our healer. The depth of His compassion and committed love and grace can sometimes only be found in the depths of our pain. Cry out to Him from those depths, and listen for an answering depth. A depth of mercy answers our sin. A depth of strength answers our weakness. A depth of healing answers our brokenness. A depth of love answers our woundedness. A depth of grace answers our failures. A depth of sovereignty answers our fear. A depth of devotion answers our loneliness. Whatever depths you are experiencing now, there are greater depths found in Him. With His stripes you are healed.

7. Look to eternity and our coming King!

He is bringing a Kingdom with no sin and no pain!

“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 25:8

The message of pain perpetually calls to us “there is more to come!” This life cannot be all there is. It lifts our eyes to our Saviour – Jesus, and to the hope of that day when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:17

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Romans 8:18

I pray that God would reveal his glory to each one of you in your suffering. Let your pain drive you to him, and make you look to eternity. There is hope!

Because of Jesus,

Hephzibah

Please comment… Share your thoughts, encourage or challenge me to grow in Christ and in my writing. Let’s do this together!

Bible, Christian, Digging Deeper

Pain, Purpose, and Priceless Treasures. – Part 1

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Yesterday I came back from a 2 week family holiday. For me it was a time of contrast, and looking back over the last few years. We stayed in that place once before (four years ago I think) but this was near the lowest point of my illness, and I cannot remember much. When we went I was confined to the house and in a lot of pain, but I remember being amazed at gifts God had put in place even before we knew I needed them. We had booked the holiday many months in advance when my health was in decline, but we had no idea then how far it would go. By the time we went I couldn’t climb stairs, but God had provided downstairs bedrooms. I couldn’t leave the house, but there was a stunning sea view. I couldn’t maintain my body temperature without a fire or hot water bottle (often both!), and there was an open fire. In each detail, we saw that God had gone before us and seen to the needs I didn’t even realise I would have.

This year is so different! I’m not in pain, I have gone on walks, swam in the sea every day, gone paddle boarding, done handstands, joined in with my family, and (excitingly 😜) slept in an upstairs bedroom!

But some things are the same: as I look back, I am reminded of things God taught me through illness – truths that have not changed though my circumstances have. There is one in particular which I’d like to share that God taught me through my wheelchair.

During recovery, I started to be able to leave the house in a wheelchair. This was both enabling and exciting, but at the same time very humbling. I wrote this at the time:

If you have never needed a wheelchair, you probably will not know what an enabling thing it is, making the impossible possible. But it is also challenging as your mobility depends on others, and varies a lot on who is pushing.

One of the things God has been challenging me on is ‘wheelchair faith’. He has been teaching me through my wheelchair that I can not always choose where to go, and I do not do things in my own strength. There are times I’m parked up and left alone, and other times when my brothers race with me and I effortlessly speed up hills.

It made me think of how God is sometimes compared in a derogatory way to a crutch, for people who are weak. But a crutch is something you only use when you choose to, a tool to get from one place to another. A wheelchair, however, is giving the decisions to someone else. It is an acknowledgement of extreme weakness, and dependency on the one pushing. I realised I need God to be my wheelchair. I’m too weak for a crutch!

I started thinking what it would mean to be in ‘God’s wheelchair’. Would I be willing to let him ‘park me up’ and be left alone while others go to places and do things I can’t ? How about when he calls me to heights that I cannot climb, will I be willing to trust him to take me there? The promise of this also comes with a warning: when I am enjoying those high places, not to forget that it is because of the strength of the one pushing me and make the mistake of getting out of the wheelchair. I am still a weak cripple, just being ‘pushed’ by a great God.”

This is the great thing, though! There is no limit to what God can do, where He can take me, or what He can do through me. The race of my life will not be confined to a “wheelchair friendly” route. Once I realise that it all depends on Him (not me!), then the possibilities of God’s plan for my life expand. He is limitless!

This transforms the way I view my circumstances. I have felt so limited… So trapped. I know I can not accomplish anything for God, and sometimes I give in to the lie that this means He can not glorify himself in me. But once I realised that – no matter how weak I am – I am only as limited as the one pushing my wheelchair, my limitations melt away into awe at this unlimited God.

In a wheelchair (age 16)

Now (returning to my typical craziness!)

To take it further, God is showing me how, when I am in the wheelchair, people end up putting all their bags, coats, and even tired siblings on my lap… so much that I could never carry, even in perfect health, if not in the wheelchair. This is one of the weakest times in my life, but somehow I am carrying more… because it does not depend on me. I can’t take credit for it, or be proud of anything, because it is only by the strength of the one pushing me. So…

Could it be the ones in ‘God’s wheelchairs’ to whom he gives more to carry…?

Those who seem strongest are often those who lean hardest.

I’ve used the wheelchair as a picture of what faith can look like as we live by God strength. To be in ‘God’s wheelchair’ does not necessarily mean having a physical disability, but to know your weakness, and to live in obedience by faith trusting God for the strength you do not have, and letting Him decide the path you take. It is to lean hard into Him.

Recently I watched a clip (click here to view) of a father and son doing an Iron Man together . The son is severely disabled, and the father swims, cycles, and runs him the whole way. I love the way this demonstrates the truths God has taught me through my own disability and his redemption of my life. He has shown me that, as the Father sees his son as so much more than his disabilities, so God sees a value in us that goes so much further than what we can (or cannot) do. Throughout the video, you can see that their delight in each other and absolute devotion to each other is what motivates each of them. And it is this same delight and devotion that marks, motivates, and makes beautiful our journey with God. He glorifies Himself in us because he delights in us, not because of our striving.

The way the son asks to do an Iron Man with his Dad reminds me of the power and intimacy of prayer. We can ask our heavenly Father to do great things in our lives beyond our limitations, because it is His committed love for us and limitless power that will accomplish this.

And finally, I think my favourite moment is when they are running up to the finish line, the son waving his arms in exultation as the crowds cheer…. This is how we will cross the finish lines of our lives if we live by faith. Yet the beauty of it is that, though there will be a “crowd of witnesses” rejoicing in a race well run, it will be clear that it was only by our Father’s strength that it was completed.

Now I have different challenges, and different choices. As, my strength returns, my abilities increase, and my circumstances change I remember the God who has brought me through, and continues to carry me now. He has not changed, nor have his promises, nor has his ability to glorify himself in me unhindered by any weakness of mine.

I am reminded to stay in my “wheelchair of faith”, to keep depending on God, and leaning hard into Him, to delight in Him, and have confidence in the God who holds my future, to know that He can make the race of my life like that Iron Man – unlimited by my weakness, and to know that everything that He accomplishes in me will be by His strength for His glory. “For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen!” (Romans 11)

Outing with family (in wheelchair age 16)

(Now) On a walk with siblings again

I pray that each one of us would come to know the joy of running the race He has set for us in His strength and for His glory. Let us lean hard into Him!

Hephzibah

For more on living an abundant life by faith see Called to Thrive

blog, Christian, Digging Deeper, Faith

Wheelchair faith

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A cure for condemnation

When I first started developing CFS/ME, neither me or my family worked it out for a while. I kept falling asleep when working, forgetting things, and getting behind in all my work. My academic studies were sliding, my room was becoming a mess, and I frequently forgot things I was supposed to do. For some months, we all believed I was just lazy. I lived under this constant weight of believing I was selfish, lazy, and needed to pull myself together more. Others believed this too, and told me so. I did not feel I could talk to others or ask for prayer, as it was myself that was the problem. As things started getting rapidly worse, we recognised that I wasn’t well, and started seeking a diagnosis. There was an immediate probable diagnosis, but it took about a year to be properly diagnosed.

In realising that I was unwell, I had a legitimate reason for my behaviour, and knew that my fatigue and forgetfulness had not been laziness… I was not the horrible, ungodly, selfish person I had come to believe I was. But I still felt under a crushing weight of condemnation.

Knowing that my circumstances weren’t just a result of my own laziness, I felt able to ask for prayer. The church had just had training in prayer ministry, and were eager to put into practice what they’d learnt. One of the comments that came up during the training was that sometimes, when God is healing, someone can feel heat in a specific place. One of the two ladies praying for me had her hand resting on my back between my shoulders. As they were praying, her hand got unusually hot, and the place on my back it was resting on. She asked me if that meant anything to me. Slightly puzzled, I dismissed it saying, “no, the problem wasn’t in my back”.

After praying, I left church with my family and continued with the day, but that heat between my shoulders remained. Eventually I went to my room, and just asked God “Is there something you are saying here?” As I looked up from praying, I saw these verses (among many others) stuck on my wall:

That was what the heat was about! God wanted me to know that He was dwelling between my shoulders.

Suddenly the condemnation lifted. Despite all I couldn’t do, despite others’ opinions of me, despite my own weakness and sinfulness, God called me His Beloved. He was with me! Dwelling in me! Surrounding me! The peace of his presence, and amazing grace of his approval rested on me and calmed my soul.

God knows the healing that we need. This was only the beginning of a long road of severe chronic illness, but the healing of my heart was his priority. I needed to know that His love for me was no less for all my limitations and failings. I am his Beloved when I sin and repent. I am his Beloved when I am needy and require help from others rather than give it. I am his Beloved when I can’t string together a prayer that makes sense. I am his Beloved when I fall asleep trying to read his word. I am His Beloved when I don’t keep up with all the things I should do. I am his Beloved when my room is a mess and I’m failing at my work. None of these things can lessen his love for me, or take away my identity as His.

Neither will he give up on you. Your failings cannot take away the place you hold in his heart or the value he places on you. Your sin cannot remove you so far from God’s presence that he cannot find you and redeem you. If you are His, then nothing else defines who you are… not your memories, your experiences, your scars, your boasts, your pain or shame, failings or fears, not others’ words or opinions, not the lies of the enemy, or the worth the world places on you. You are His – the Beloved of the LORD. And you dwell in safety; for the High God surrounds you all day long and dwells between your shoulders. He is with you… always.

Your Sister In Christ,

Hephzibah

(Illustration by Valerie Martin)

Christian, Digging Deeper, identity

A cure for condemnation

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Betrayed by God?

Have you ever felt betrayed by God? When prayers you have desperately prayed, seem to go unheard and unanswered? When the promises you have clung to appear empty and without fulfilment? When the hope you have kept alive is finally dashed beyond repair…

“Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” – Psalm 77:8-9

Maybe your prayers have sounded like this at times… or your secret thoughts. What is it that causes that deep grief?

“This is my grief: that the right hand of the Most High has changed” – Psalm 77:10

To the psalmist’s eyes, God’s blessing had changed. The right hand signified blessing, and it seemed God had removed that or changed his character. This grieved him more than anything else. I think this is also what most deeply grieves us in any situation. It is not always the circumstances themselves that drive us to despair, but the fact that we cannot see God in them, and to us it seems that he has changed, failed, given up, or betrayed us.

God is unchangeable. He cannot lie. He cannot deny who He is. Yet there are things that we cannot and never will understand, things that we won’t be able to reconcile to a good God.

I think often our feeling of betrayal by God comes from our expectation. We read promises like “all things work together for good”, and “I will prosper the righteous”, and we imagine a life full of blessings, victories, and prayers answered how we want them. When this does not happen, we think God must be false to His promises, but maybe it is just that we never really grasped them in the first place.

I am not saying here that we should not live in expectation… of course we should! We have a great God who works to bless his people and we should have confidence in that… only that we should not define what that blessing is.

We so like to tell God what is best. Our idea of God’s best for us is health, a job or ministry we love, a happy family, good finances, and a bit of spiritual growth too. But look at the way He promises to care for us in John 15. He promises to prune us to make us grow and thrive. This means being cut back, experiencing frustration, disappointment, and loss. These may be big or little things, but He loves us enough to do whatever is necessary to make us grow, thrive, and produce an abundant harvest in Him, and that includes allowing pain and loss.

Another mistake we make is to tell God when and how. A good friend and role-model of mine said recently

When God gives you a promise, it’s because you’re going to need it.

That is so simple, but a truth very few of us grasp. If it is all going to happen now, what need is there for Him to have given a promise? When we receive God’s promises, we want to see it happen… now! But He gives us promises as hope to cling on to when it looks impossible. He gives us promises for things we are going to have to wait for. He gives us promises so we have a window into the goodness of God when we can find it nowhere else.

And this is the psalmist’s response. He cannot see it now, but he declares what he knows about God…

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What God is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people…” – Psalm 77:11-15

One thing I have discovered is that God fulfils every promise he has made… but the fulfilment of those is very rarely what I have expected. He answers every prayer… but his answer is not always how we want.

In the preface to her book “Joni”, Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic) wrote

“To rephrase this thought, I suggest that there are likewise only two joys. One is having God answer all your prayers; the other is not receiving the answer to all your prayers. I believe this because I have found that God knows my needs infinitely better than I know them. And He is utterly dependable, no matter which direction our circumstances take us.”

He is faithful. He is enough. He is all I need. But let’s be real about the pain and confusion that can make us question, and the times we feel God has let us down or betrayed us. May God enable us to embrace each joy He gives… through the answers we want, and the ones we don’t. And may He strengthen us to hold onto truth. To hold onto the promises He’s given us for the waiting. And to hold onto the memories of His goodness to us and the anchor of our Hope – Jesus crucified for us, and certain, glorious eternity with Him.

Press on, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Press on to receive that crown of glory He has waiting for you. It will be worth it!

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Song in the Night

“Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” – Psalm 77:6

“Tuesday 23rd October 2017

I am sitting awake in bed at 04:11 having been awake for an hour. And even though (being October) it’s still a good few hours until the sun rises, there is this bird singing. Only one, but it is being beautifully persistent. The sound of it is somehow comforting and seems to speak of hope. For, though it is on its own and there is not the slightest sign of dawn, yet it’s song holds a sense of promise. There will be a time when other birds will join in singing, and there will be a whole chorus of them before the sun rises and a new day begins.”

This is a diary excerpt from a very difficult year, when, after seeming to recover, my health was very rapidly declining again. I only slept a couple of hours a night (hence the time of the entry) and was not far off being housebound again. I believed in a good God, but could not see any of his goodness to me. I was becoming more isolated, struggling with depression, and hurt by Christians. And I was having to accept the likelihood that – to some degree – this illness was permanent, and I would never fully recover. It was hard to imagine any “dawn”. But through scripture, and this crazy, persistent bird with a messed up body-clock, God wanted to teach me about the Song in the Night.

Firstly, the song in the night is a song of faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Well, the very nature of night is that we cannot see. But to sing in the night with certainty about that which we do not see, this is faith. When I could see no goodness, to sing of a good God. When I was not being healed, to trust my Healer. When everything was so out of control I did not know if I’d be able to eat the next meal, to have faith in the God who is sovereign.

In the passages where it speaks of the song in the night, it also speaks of remembering. (Psalm 77)

“I will remember…” v11

“You are the God who…” v14

Remember… Remember his faithfulness in the past. Remember the stars he has shown you in dark nights. Name those that you have seen, retrace the constellations of grace that you know to be there, even if you cannot see them now. Remember when he answered prayer. Remember when he saved you. And if you can remember nothing else, remember Jesus crucified for you. There is no greater love, no greater promise, no greater hope than this.

“He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32)

This is a song of thankfulness to the “God who Is”.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

One of the most beautiful things about the Song in the Night, is that it is a heart’s cry. It does not need words or music (though often it overflows to this) but it is the raw cry from the depths of our pain to the depths of God. I learnt it in a time when I could hardly pray any more, I had no more words, I could only cry out to Him.

“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7-8)

“His song is with me”. God sings over us (Zeph 3:17), and we have to learn to listen, learn to hear his song of delight. The song in the night is only a harmony to this song he continually sings, and if we can learn to hear his song, we also learn to sing. This is a song of such incredible beauty because it is eternal. All other songs will fade, but this song – this harmony of Creator rejoicing over his people, and his people rejoicing in who he is – this is a song that can be sung through life, through death, and into eternity. It is a song that is shared with all believers, although most often sung alone. It is the song of those darkest places where no person can reach, those fiercest battles no one can see, the deepest pain and loneliness that others cannot enter into. But who knows who hears, who sees, and who finds hope from our song in the night? What better witness is there – either to other people or to the heavenly realms – than to find God to be enough to sing in the night. To be able to say “God is enough for me to worship”.

” ‘I have a Christ that will do to die by; I have a religion that will make me sing in the night’. Let me hear how you can sing, ‘Victory, victory, victory!’ through Him that loved you. I tell you, we may preach fifty thousand sermons to prove the gospel, but will not prove it half so well as you will through singing in the night”. – C. Spurgeon

Yet the thing that most defines the song in the night, is that it is a song of hope and longing. We can only sing because we know there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more fear, no more broken lives, broken families, or broken hearts. There will be a day when all this mess will be transformed to glory, and everything that has been lost will be redeemed. There will be a day when sin is no more, and we will finally meet, face to face, the One our souls long for. That day when we see Jesus, and all that is ugly is stripped away forever. This is worth singing for.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

There will be a day when our song in the night is transformed into a chorus of voices, a multitude of those who are His, singing for the Hope of eternity with Christ, welcoming the dawn we have longed for.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5-6)

(Diary entry continued)…

“Father, when I am going through a time of darkness and night may I be like that bird – persistent in praising you. Even when it feels like I am alone, there is no one to join, or even see/hear, help me continue. May I live in hope, and make my life speak of hope. Make my whole life praise and worship to you. Like that bird’s song make it persistently beautiful. And, LORD, bring the time when there is a whole multitude praising you wholeheartedly regardless. A whole throng who will sing in the night, abandoned to your praise. A throng who will sing until the dawn and keep going even then. A people who wait on you, whose hope is fixed in you. Fill us with your promise, and a sense of promise as we look to you. And Lord, bring the dawn! I pray both for a revival, an outpouring of the Spirit of God, the power of your presence; and also for your final return when Jesus comes to judge the world, and we will reign with him and spend eternity in your presence! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

…But until then, make us, your people, persistent in praise and in prayer, filled with your promise.”

“YHWH, we have awaited you — for your name and your memorial with longing of soul. With my soul I have longed for you in the night, indeed, in my inmost spirit I look for your dawning.” (Isaiah 26:8-9)

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Treasures of darkness


“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” – Isaiah 45:3

In suffering, we are often given verses that promise good things – hope and future, that He’ll make your ways straight, that all things will work out together for good, but as Christians we tend to diminish the reality of suffering when we do this. We take God’s promises too lightly. We pretend that because God has said these things we shouldn’t struggle. And when we do this, we miss the whole point of a suffering Saviour entering into our brokenness – the ultimate promise of scripture fulfilled in suffering. 

If God’s promise of perfect salvation came through suffering, then could his other promises too?

Treasures of darkness is my journey of recapturing the preciousness of God’s promises where they shine brightest – in darkness. It is my attempt to share my wrestling with God through suffering. It is my heart’s cry of “Lord, show me how to live the abundant life in brokenness!”

“Hope itself is like a star – not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” – Charles Spurgeon 

Several years ago I entered a season of night. Within the church we were heavily involved in, things went very wrong, and for a while we lost almost every friend we ever had. At the same time my Dads business crashed, and within our family we went through a heart scare and leukaemia scare, both of which turned out to be less frightening, but had extended time of tests and uncertainty. My baby faith of just over a year (I was just turning 13), was getting quite a shaking. A few months after leaving the church, my mum became pregnant – our first ray of light. Not long after finding out, she miscarried and the baby died, and with it what seemed the last ray of hope. Had God abandoned us?

A year after leaving the church, things were slightly less drastic. We were still grieving and finding our feet, but it seemed that the worst was over. Then I started with health difficulties. I didn’t take any notice for a while, I never took time off to be ill anyway… but as time went on things grew worse. I kept pushing until I finally collapsed, unable to do anything. The diagnosis – ME/CFS. 

I knew some of what this meant – tiredness, a few years with limitations… but I had no idea what lay in store. 

Since, God has taken me through nights of incredible darkness and pain… both figuratively and literally. I went through years of sleepless nights, when the pain – physical and emotional – would become unbearable, rising up like a silent scream so I would have to cover my mouth not to wake my family. Hours of darkness every night is a very vulnerable time for spiritual attack. There have been times I have felt unable to pray, only cry out to Him. Often it seems the clouds have come and covered even the stars in those black nights. But sometimes God has cleared away those clouds, and a star has shone through of such incredible beauty that even the memory of it is enough to give hope when the clouds come back. Over the years, He has allowed me to see a whole galaxy of stars – the secret riches of suffering. These are what I want to share.

Stars cannot be seen in daylight, neither can the full preciousness of God’s promises be known in prosperity. He is not only a God who works in suffering, he is a God revealed through suffering. The God who came and suffered, who redeemed our brokenness by becoming brokenness, and who bought eternal life through death. If we are to follow this God, surely we must follow his way.

There are treasures to be found in darkness, and abundant life in brokenness. But these treasures are not just on my path, I know they can be found to anyone who looks. My prayer is that for those who are walking in darkness that this will serve as a guide to your hand to reach out and receive these treasures, discover their beauty for yourself, and add them to your crown of life for eternity. 

I pray also that the wondrous beauty of our God – a God who revealed the extent of his love and glorious redemption in a moment of utter darkness as Jesus was broken, poured out, and abandoned – would continue to reveal himself in our suffering. And that we, his people, would learn to walk the way of the cross – the broken way that leads to abundant life. 

Hephzibah

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