Injustice… and hope

These are two words I’ve been considering very closely over the last few days. I’m doing a lot of background reading on hope, as the next set of bible reading notes I’m writing are based on it. But I didn’t expect to be able to link it with the word injustice. However, both bible reading notes I’ve looked at today have spoken so clearly into my own personal situations that that is exactly what has happened. So I’m going to attempt to unpack some of the mass of thoughts going on in my head right now!

I hate injustice. It makes my blood boil to learn the terrifying facts about human trafficking, for instance, and I love the chances I get to write about charities and individuals really making a difference, raising awareness on that issue. I also can’t believe that in our own country, half a million people rely on Food Banks. I think they are fantastic – but so many people shouldn’t be in the state of poverty that forces them to need Food Banks in order to survive. Something is going horribly wrong in our society… I am also supporting the IF campaign – and think it is wonderful how many ‘known’ people have gotten behind it. Perhaps, just perhaps, governments will sit up and take notice – and make some changes.

But enough of the big issues. Each one of those merits a lot of discussion and action, but the injustice I’ve been feeling is far nearer to home. And, while it is a tad embarrassing to admit it, especially after all the things I’ve just listed, it is the injustices against me personally that I’ve been riled about this week. Do please be honest though, because I know I’m not alone in this – and don’t want to keep feeling as sheepish as I do writing this! You know what I mean, it’s the actions that other people choose to take, or the words they decide to say to you, that really affect your day. I’ve been struggling, deep down in my soul, after some words and actions others said and did on Monday. I’ve really been looking at what that says about me, and my responses to it all, but then there were some further actions done yesterday that have affected me too, and I realised this morning that I’ve allowed a large burden to settle on myself. I’ve had little rants about the injustice of it all – how unfair it is, how it affects me and makes my life a lot harder as I’m now exhausted. And, while that is all true, my bible readings this morning helped me take a step back and see how like a toddler I was behaving, stamping my foot and shouting ‘it’s not fair’. Because while it isn’t fair and there ARE people who need to think about what they do and say, they aren’t the ones who’ve allowed themselves to get twisted up inside about it all – that would be little old me. Even as I write this part of me is screaming that I’m the one with the thick, heavy head, a sore throat I can’t get rid of and a sadness that is making it hard to work. BUT, then I consider what I’ve read this morning:

The Lord is faithful in all he says;
he is gracious in all he does.
The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts up those bent beneath their loads. (Ps 145)

The example the bible notes gave alongside this psalm was of a former slave meeting a master who had beaten them in the past. When the master asked if the slave had been able to forgive them the slave said that they had left the past long behind, thanks to the God of love that they serve. Wow.

That hit me hard. My circumstances – and trials – seem quite ridiculous alongside something like that. And then the response section invited me to meditate on the unmerited goodness God has shown towards me – the way in which he has rescued me. And that’s where the link suddenly came flooding in. It is so obvious, but do you ever have those days when the ancient truths just hit you again in a totally fresh way? Powerful, oh so powerful. It doesn’t mean it will suddenly be easy to walk in the truth of it all, but that’s the tension we live in day by day isn’t it? But I’m running ahead of myself. Because it was the hope that hit me once again. Jesus Christ is the ultimate hope for us all and listen to how he lived his life, full of hope and expectation about what was coming:

Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward… Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (Hebrews 12)

Well scripture certainly socked it to me when I turned to that passage in Hebrews, as instructed to by the next set of bible reading notes! Later in that chapter it talks about discipline – and I know that part of the way we interact with one another and respond to people when they mistreat us is about developing our character. And listen to the promise that comes with the discipline:

God’s discipline is always right and good for us, because it means we will share in his holiness.

Amazing.

Talking of character, I was immediately taken back in my mind to the very well known passage in Romans 5:

…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I was going to share what focusing on hope these last few days has brought to mind for me personally too, but I think I’ll have to save that for my next post as this one is now rather epic! But, to finish, I do want to say that living as a pastor’s wife, and being a leader in various roles in the church etc does bring an added pressure to deal with difficulties, disappointments and sins quickly and efficiently. So I can feel like a real failure when I do struggle with something as petty as personal injustices. But God knew how I was feeling about that too, and encouraged me with the following lines, found at the end of my second daily reading today:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Another great promise to cling to 🙂

Are you ‘abiding’?

Last week’s sermon included the passage that was my favourite when I was growing up – John 15, the vine and the branches. One phrase kept cropping up on Sunday – ‘Abide in me’. I haven’t been able to shake it so far this week, and I think it may be because it is a lesson I need to relearn. So what does it mean to abide? I looked up some online dictionary definitions and I really like some of the words Brainy Quote uses to describe ‘abide’:

‘To wait; to pause; to delay. To stay; to continue in a place; to have one’s abode; to dwell; to sojourn; to remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain; to wait for; to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; to endure; to sustain; to submit to.’

Wow. There’s a lot to digest in there. And I think the overriding sense is of taking your time, making space and waiting to hear from God. To linger with Him rather than ticking off time spent with Him as another job done successfully before rushing onto the next one. To truly abide in Him, which is how the Scriptures say we bear fruit as Christians, we need to open ourselves up to Him constantly – wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Now, as a mum of two small kids I have certainly learned the art of talking to God while doing a hundred and one other things. And I think that’s what He likes – He wants to interact with us in all our ‘daily doings’. But I also think it is important to draw aside and come before Him quietly each day. Our lives are so full of ‘noise’ and ‘stuff’ that we can be totally distracted even when we are supposedly communing with God! And He very rarely shouts at us – His is that still, small voice. How are we supposed to hear it when it is being crowded out by everything else? When did you last hear it? I have been really challenged by the fact that I am now writing and editing for Christian publications, so am spending more time in the Word and studying than I have done since the kids were born, and yet the craziness of my schedule means I don’t feel like I have connected with God intimately for a little while. I think the words ‘Abide in me’ are a gentle nudge to me that He’s missing me. How about you? Is He missing you too?

A pioneering woman, pt 2

The second part of my interview with Wendy Virgo:

How did you juggle supporting your husband and being involved in ministry while you raised such a large family? What were the biggest challenges?

Very early in our marriage, Terry and I redefined what we meant by “ministry”. Everything in our lives was to be seen as under the umbrella of serving God; there was no distinction between “sacred” and “secular”. So my ministry to God included loving and supporting my husband, loving and training my children and creating a godly and peaceful home and all the domestic activities involved in that. It also included praying, worshipping, seeking God for gifts of the Spirit and teaching and encouraging others. So as it was all ministry, I didn’t feel I was having to juggle home and ministry! But I did have to fight for time to study and pray, and I learned to pray while I was doing other things.

I found there were seasons in life, so that consistent times of prayer and Bible study were difficult after the birth of a new baby in the period of night feeds. I had to learn to talk to God while I was ironing or driving to the supermarket. There wasn’t much time for reading so I would learn to “feed” on a few verses of scripture. I also drew strength from being with others in prayer times etc. A young mum can feel very alone, so it is important to make time to meet with others.

As you said above that you had to fight for time to study and pray, could you share what you have found most useful for your own personal devotional times?

I have used different methods of personal study over the years. Sometimes I have followed a year plan; sometimes used daily notes. (I actually write for CWR’s excellent “Inspiring Women Every Day” series). I particularly like using the Bible Speaks Today series of commentaries edited by John Stott. I prefer to work through a book of the Bible rather than to jump about. That way you get a much more in depth understanding of the development of Biblical truth than if you just hop from one topic to another…although topical study can also have its place.

As the children grew up of course, the rhythm of life kept changing and now Terry and I are in the happy season of being able to pray together every day, which we really love!