Trust, or, When Things Seem to Go Wrong

It was my housemate’s birthday on Friday. So on Saturday we decided to do Go Ape. (Go Ape is so much fun, in particular the zip lines at the end of each section. I would definitely recommend doing it, or similar).

Whilst there are about a thousand metaphors to take from having to trust simply ropes and carabiners to prevent a drop from up to 35m (at its highest point), this was actually not what I intended to write about.

In fact, in finishing the course, the need to trust got (unintentionally) much greater. There were only two buses that we could get back home, and the first was in about 20 minutes. There was no way we could possibly get that. The last bus was approximately two hours later. Plenty of time, right?

Not when you miss the path you were supposed to take, walk quite a way further down the road, convince yourselves you were a lot more on course than you actually were, and then find yourself lost in the middle of the countryside with very little in the way of internet connection or mobile signal.

To cut a long story short, we walked a lot further than we should have done (including over a barbed wire fence because we couldn’t face going back through the field to get back on track), got soaked through to the skin as it had been raining earlier, and missed the last bus home by quite a way.

Whilst we were walking we decided to stop and pray for a bit. This served multiple purposes. To collect our thoughts. To make sure we stayed joyful. To make sure we trusted God rather than a pathetic internet connection.

When we got phone signal we called people from Church and somebody came to pick us up. But it was quite difficult. None of us like to be needy. Especially not to the level of “there are 6 of us in the countryside about an hour away…”. And by that time we were all tired and soaking wet. We may or may not have been laughing hysterically at our predicament.

But through the whole evening there was an implicit trust that we could get home – be it that day or the next, be it by bus or by getting a lift.

I think my point here is: even in the little things, keep trusting. God is faithful. And whether things are going right, or you end up lost in the middle of nowhere, keep praying. Keep rejoicing. God is good.

Reasons to Praise God

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

Sometimes I find it really easy to praise God. Other times I just need a little reminder. So I decided to leave this as a reminder of why God is so amazing 🙂

  • He is compassionate
  • He is faithful
  • He is forgiving
  • He is generous
  • He is glorious
  • He is good
  • He is gracious
  • He is kind
  • He is loving
  • He is merciful
  • He is patient
  • He is powerful
  • He is unchanging

Whilst all of these are important reasons to praise God, at the moment I’m particularly remembering the last one. As I write votes are being counted in the UK General Election. With Brexit talks due to start in a matter of days, the real possibility of a hung parliament or a “coalition of chaos” headed by the person who described herself as “strong and stable” – an exit poll that shows the cat well and truly among the pigeons…

It’s great to be able to praise a God who is constant through everything that goes on. Whilst I pray for the best result for the country and for the world, I should also remember to praise God for everything He is and everything He has done, including His steadfast love and faithfulness, how His hand has guided us up until now, and that we can count on His continued and constant grace and mercy.

So. Much. Paperwork.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34

#thesarcasmisstrongwiththisone

Paperwork is great. I love paperwork. Everything seems to make so much sense and I really enjoy filling in form after form with very similar information, when I have exams on. It doesn’t stress me out at all that I have 2 exams next week, plus coursework due in, plus the application for next year to sort out. And I didn’t freak out at all because I had a speaking exam earlier this week.

Apologies. Most of my inner emotions work their way out through the medium of sarcasm. It’s probably not the best way of communicating though…

There have been times in the past week I’ve really struggled. Depending on the day you ask, I’ve either been fine, or panicking. Would I finish in time? Would the application go fine? Would I manage to avoid ending up a sobbing mess on the floor?

There was a prayer meeting on Friday evening, where there was also a time of worship. I realised that I probably wouldn’t go. Then the worship team asked the PA team if anyone could do PA. Being on the PA team, and realising that I probably should go, I volunteered. So it forced me to go.

The need to step away from what I was doing. The need to spend time with God. It was so good to spend that time with others. And to pray for them, and for them to pray for me. And God is so faithful.

One of my friends recently shared this, which I think perfectly sums up my feelings right now. It’s a good reminder of God’s faithfulness.

May every cry, “I can’t,”
When yet, in fact, “I must,”
Become by grace, “He can,”
And then, in Him, “I trust.” – John Piper

The context for the quote at the top is wonderful. It’s a great reminder that God knows our needs, and so we don’t need to worry about them. We should instead “seek his kingdom and his righteousness” – this changes our priorities. In fact it completely turns them on their head. It’s such a reassuring and yet massively challenging upheaval.

What’s the weather like?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:31-34
One CU last year, one of the leaders (who is now one of my housemates) came up with an idea. We went round the group, and all of us described our situations, our worries, our stresses, and our hopes in terms of the weather.
Lots of people disliked this idea. It seemed to make very little sense, and was a little too vague and analogy-like.
But I for one found it pretty useful.
I often have difficulty expressing my emotions. Quite often I can describe my feelings but it’s not that clear-cut. For example, deadlines often make me quite stressed. But not super stressed, just enough that I have to make some progress to relieve the stress, but literally one minute I can be panicking that I haven’t got enough time and the next minute relaxing because I’ve got plenty of time.
Trying to explain that in normal terms, as you’ve just seen, is not that effective.
It just makes a lot of sense to me when putting it in terms of storm clouds, which are threatening to rain but will probably hold off and clear.
On the way back from a (different) CU meeting, my housemate asked how I was feeling about next year. I struggled. She suggested putting it in terms of how the weather was. I responded something along the lines of “mostly sunny, but with some pretty threatening storm clouds on the horizon. Like I’m quite worried about the storm clouds but it’s also a pretty good situation overall.”. She responded simply by reminding me who had the umbrella.
Yes, I’ve got a whole load of stuff to do before I go away in September. I’ve got a whole load of paperwork, plus normal assignments and exams. And no doubt that will be stressful.
But the verse at the top offers a wonderful challenge. Don’t worry about all of that. Because God knows about it. Instead, be searching for Him and His kingdom. Look to glorify Him and seek His grace, mercy and righteousness.
There’s a wonderful quote from someone (attributed to Francis de Sales) that goes something along the lines of “Every Christian needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.” This, for me, sums up this article. There may be storm clouds on the horizon, or looming overhead, but God is faithful, and we are able to cast our worries onto Him. Our own umbrellas won’t be able to deal with those storms. How reassuring, then, that we don’t need to use our own umbrellas.

When I Get Too Pedantic…

Asda (a cheap UK supermarket) have been advertising their Easter products. And whilst doing so, they used an interesting tagline. “Everything you can imagine this Easter”.

This is where the pedantry really sets in. What I can imagine this Easter is a church full of people praising God, celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, singing great hymns like “Thine Be The Glory” at the tops of their voices (with a modulation for the final verse, of course!). And then I broaden this imagination to hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of churches, all celebrating such a special event!

I probably couldn’t buy that at Asda. I’ll admit, some chocolate wouldn’t go amiss. Which is probably more what Asda had in mind…

10 days to go until Easter!

Bible Study

So at uni, I go to CU. Every Tuesday, our college groups meet together and study the Bible, with the aim of equipping us for mission on campus. I also go to Church Bible study, which also meets on a Tuesday (albeit at lunchtime rather than the evening), but has a very different focus. It’s a completely different style as well, and I appreciate that.

So then I come home from uni and my weekly pattern of Bible study is disrupted. But then I get invited to two different home groups on the same night and have to pick which one…

Each of the groups I’ve been to has a very different approach to Bible study.

In CU, the leaders prepare a set of questions and the focus is on the CU as a whole.

At Church, we read through a passage, and people will mention different things that jumped out at them, and we can have deep discussions about something that initially seemed so inconsequential but are actually deeply significant (see Doves), or we could move on quite quickly. There are no pre-prepared questions, it’s just a matter of what we hear when reading the passage.

At home group, we were going through a Diocesan Lent course, which included plenty of questions but was mostly focused on the Church and how the Church would seem to non-Christians. And how we as members of the Church display the characteristic of (in this case) courage. Other studies in the series included generosity and joy.

These three groups are all very different. Meeting with a very different demographic, discussing very different things, in very different contexts. And yet all of them are relevant.

Something that we often ask in Church Bible study is “why”. Why did Matthew mention this? Why does Isaiah emphasise that? Why is Ecclesiastes in the Bible? And the answer boils down to this: Because it’s relevant. Sometimes it’s relevant to the context of the passage. Sometimes it’s relevant in define exactly who someone is. Sometimes it’s scarily relevant to the world we live in today.

The Bible has so much wisdom, and is so rich and varied – studying the same passage 5 times could bring up 5 different take-away points. And that’s the joy of studying it with a variety of different groups. The different demographics will always come up with different ideas, and it’s all valuable in coming to know God more.

Music as Worship

It’s important to remember that worship is not exclusively singing and music-making. However, music plays a hugely important part in worship and in praising God.

I’m much more likely to use traditional hymns to worship. Knowing that they’ve got a background – having been sung for generations, knowing that they’ve been used to praise and worship God for a long time – is one reason. Another being the fact that I prefer the music… (ducks).

The Psalms are a great example of singing God’s praises. Many of them are themselves songs, others, like Psalm 150, encouraging singing, dancing, and playing instruments to praise God.

And when a full congregation is singing their heart out, lifting up their voices to worship God, it’s so uplifting and so joyous. Even more so because we are all singing with one purpose: to bring praise and glory to God.