Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Where Loneliness Meets God and God Heals the Loneliness

ONE vivid night, around October 2004, though there were many of them in that season, I found myself bereft of comfort. No presence of anything — thought, person or God — could have helped that night. I was inconsolably sad and lonely to the point of torment. Graced by no Presence of the Holy Spirit I was alone, vanquished of soul and spirit.
I wept. I laid there, with no thought at all apart from vacuousness, and just cried and cried and cried. When the psalmist writes that their tears were food and that their tears made the pillow wet the whole way through, I know what both of those images feel like.
I was rocked without a hope. As time would have it, I was also to have many of those nights through the ensuing months as my heart grew sick for a hope that vanished. And yet, God had provided hope for a different thing. He provided in a different way. I could see it. But that compensation did not amend my loneliness; a man only fresh from divorce finding his way in a new world.
God was very gracious in that day. My loneliness meant I got over my shy desire for time to myself; I was sick of being alone. I threw myself into church and the people of God loved me back to life. Yet there were still a thousand lonely nights to endure.
After those thousand nights, having been healed of the heartbreak of divorce, and having qualified at seminary, it was time to make a life that I felt God was calling me to own. Per the provision of God, I started courting the gorgeous woman who would become my wife only a short time later.
We married and still there was the occasional loneliness (for us both). We found not the perfect partner, but a partner we could each work with as we laboured in love. We learned that marriage doesn’t fix loneliness entirely; that there are still many times to run to God for the solace only he can provide.
Loneliness has taught me — even as I cast my reflective eye back, over a decade ago now — that that loneliest of experiences — when life were a bitter hell — that God is there when we imagine him there.
God is there by prayer.
As we lay there, sobbing our tears, exhausted and pitiful, faces amess, God is there.
God is there with heavenly care,
When by prayer we dare,
When we are bereft.
When life’s not fair,
We should go to God in prayer,
Even when we feel he’s left.
Loneliness can be the golden gateway of heaven’s healing brought to earth.
Loneliness can deliver us to our healing God, because we prayed in belief.
The absolute worst experiences of life can turn out to be the most memorable of healing experiences.
God may still heal you in your loneliness. Believe, for it can be true.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, July 24, 2015

When Life is Just Very, Very Hard

SOMETIMES, no matter what we try, and despite what we wish life would be, life is just very, very hard. There are two options in our outlook: 1) to whistle away as if it was not happening, or 2) acknowledge that it is happening.
It seems wise to go the first way, but that way, though it seems easier, is not easier in the longer run. But to contemplate the second way is also not only a barren contemplation, it requires energy and takes us into the realm of pain.
Neither option avails itself to us as an option. We would avoid the one and the other! But life does not present us with such a luxury. Indeed, we can only run for so long in any event.
Let’s look at some important truths before we go any further. These might help:
1.     Most hard things as they start out don’t end up being as hard as we thought they initially were.
2.     If we just focus on what is present in front of us, in the actual day, hour or moment, what is hard is made manageable, palatable; achievable.
3.     When we are able to share the anguish in the journey, particularly with mature persons, our anxiety is reduced, because our perspective is increased.
4.     What is important now probably won’t be as important in two months’ time.
5.     Look at what has been endured — a tremendous amount. This situation, also, will be endured.
6.     Sometimes, actually most of the time, if our hardship surrounds tasks we are blessed just to start and keep going.
When we can say that life is just very, very hard we might also say that it lasts just a limited period of time; a short season. But some are called to very hard lives, where the struggle lasts and lasts. It is not just quaint to hold onto the heavenly hope. It only appears to be quaint when we can only see this world’s perspective. This life is short and heaven is long. To ponder ‘home’ may be the most reasonable thing anyone can do.
Perspective is a sliding scale. As perspective is increased, anxiety is decreased. As we step away from the bubbling cauldron of our lives, we step toward the cool change of peace.
Departing from the frenetic nature of life, even just for an hour, helps us restore vital balance.
And yet, sometimes life is just hard. Sometimes no amount of ‘perspective’ helps. Know that God knows. Know that his empathy is felt by you in ways you need, in ways you can receive healing, in ways that are personal and unique.
When life is just very, very hard, take heart not to grow hard.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Best Day Ever After the Worst Day Ever

GIVING up is such a strong option one day, then, with the healing power of God, through surrendering, we are raised the day following. It is almost a routine phenomenon for me. It is a learned state of enduring what cannot be reconciled in the given day. Enduring such a day is simply about letting it happen.
New Year’s Day 2015 was one such memorable day where — for even a ten-minute period — I was caught up in such a spiritual attack I seriously questioned my life. The day was one of my worst. I was so viscerally discouraged, so betwixt and between, given a circumstance or three that had overwhelmed me. Yet, my life overall was replete with hope.
What had happened that took me so far out to sea? Well, “what” is less of a help than “why?”
Why do we fall for bad days that are harsh upon our experience; where our very existence is drawn into question; when we cannot bear the contemplations of life?
And still more an important question than “why” is “how do we reconcile the day?” How are we to make the very most of something utterly bleak?
That January 1st would be blotted out of my book if I’d have any say over it; yet, to do that would miss something profound in the land of revelation borne of my Lord.
January 2nd came. It came and I was a different man. Though I stumbled on that fateful Thursday, Friday beckoned, as if by delivery that was prophesied from the Ancients. My life would be okay. Though I stumbled one day, the next would not see me fall.
God delivers us when we don’t rally against him.
God takes what was interminable — a sullied existence — and makes of it what he will, if we are prepared to look in the mirror and admit, “I am not enough, yet you are, my Lord!”
The best day ever follows the worst day ever simply because hope for life returns. Yesterday hope was vanquished. Today is new and pitch darkness is but a memory.
To reconcile the day to hope is to move past what was.
To bring justice to the present we simply say in our soul, “God, you are enough. I have no further demands for life. Make of this day in my midst what you will.”
When we willingly smile into a mirror, despite the longing of the day, we find our souls saying, “God, you are enough for me.” Everything is ordered from there.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, July 20, 2015

From Days of Disaster to the Day of Delight

THOUSANDS of days make their way through the experience of our existence.
We are ever impacted by our days. Through our days here on earth we are ensconced to live life whether we wish to or not. There are many days when we would honestly determine not to be here. But there is also a nudge at this time from a presence somewhere deep inside us that we are not taking everything into account.
Sometime later all is well. We may well wonder, as in a mystery, what all the fuss was about. Don’t worry, the same cycles are destined to repeat themselves, time after time. We won’t miss a thing — more, in some ways, is the pity.
Some days are disastrous. What starts out well deteriorates in a flash of news or what starts out poorly does not improve. Sometimes bad days follow sad ones. Sometimes our anger flares up and we wonder in reflection where it came from — there’s an unacknowledged sadness deeper beneath.
Whatever lurks darker down is a remnant of that which craves the Day of Delight, and there can be only one of that type.
It is a thing we all look forward to eagerly, yet we still so ardently hunger for more in this life.
The sadness in our days of disaster reminds us that we are not there yet — our foibles, follies and failures, the angst that others give us, the pain of enduring what we cannot deny we hate — all these things — propel us to imagine a better reality. We cannot help to hope for something better; that which is just over the horizon.
So where does this leave us?
We have the disaster in the day with which to contend with; to make something worthwhile out of something downright destructive. It seems an impossibility. But we awaken the day following resolved to do better, despite what we feel. We must fight and we do. Destiny is in our hands.
Days of disaster neither characterise us as reprobate nor do they commend us to despair. They merely remind us that we are human and capable of great wrongs. That is not the end game.
Being gentle with ourselves in the midst of a day of disaster is all we can do and it is all we need to do. What is maddening cannot be understood, rationalised with or reconciled. We tie it off, say our sorry stories with authentic tenacity, and we go on trying our best again tomorrow. It is the best we can do.
Crushed by the day of disaster we praise God that we have a Day of Delight ahead. But God is even better in that he gives us a hope for delight even in this life; the concept of tomorrow.
A Trickling Thought: Tomorrow is hope when today we can’t cope.
Tomorrow is a thought to borrow,
It commends us to joy beyond sorrow,
And if tomorrow won’t lend,
God will extend,
Have hope and look forward to tomorrow.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Series of Loss, Grief and Brokenness Quotes

Grief is not the making of us nor is it the breaking of us. Grief is simply the generator of transformation. God will do the rest.
Broken a person may be. There may be no hope. But from the ashes rises the great phoenix. And from the ashes of a life burned to the ground comes heat energy for something utterly new.
Loss brings with it a sense for the end of things. There is no road left on which to travel. A new road must be found. Along the road of grief meaning is found, but only by faith.
Grief will end when a new self is unveiled to the self. Grief cannot end until that truth takes hold of our lives.
Brokenness is beautiful in its own time, for brokenness was made only for that point in time. From broken beginnings there is the budding of a blossom that will one day bless the earth with a sweetly fragrant flower.
Lose and we may win, but there is no bruise without the presence of sin. And where a bruise is worn, the battle tirade is torn. By faith alone can we hope for something out of loss.
Grief sends us into an unearthly time and there is no reconciling it. It will take us to the very pit of hell. Let our quiet forbearance eject us from there at the proper time.
Tease out the flax of a plant and there are many parts. Tease out the feelings in grief, of which there may be no limit. But be willing and healing will come.
Loss is a briar. It takes a toll upon everything it touches. Surviving grief is like bearing up under intermittent abrasion.
Play for life and we get to play a game with no knowable rules. But the secret is known in the end. Keep playing.
Broken with no hope is where the wisest sage has been. Even for a short time, such an experience of such a place is awesome, indeed, to come back from.
What we suffer in life is but a small sacrifice for the eternal peace possible in the moment of recovery — yes, in this life.
Be blessed to know that there is much more to life than you can now even know. God is able to deliver us to heaven.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Understanding and Accepting the “Chameleon Effect”

“Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.”
 Pope Benedict XVI
CHAMELEON is the former designate of a time gone by for me. A former manager would often refer to me as a chameleon for my capacity to change my mind. It wasn’t always hedged in negative terms. Indeed, he would often be surprised how “God” would change my mind. Occasionally it was a witness of God’s ability to transform me by the renewing of my mind. But I also vacillated in that season of my life. And we can be forgiven for being in a period of vacillation where we might take the counsel of James 1:7-8 as rampant discouragement: “for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
Earlier in James (verse 5) it counsels us to seek from the Lord, wisdom, for God is generous and the giver of every good gift (verse 17). So long as we are seeking wisdom from the Lord, and we seek it persistently, we can be assured we counteract the counsel of James 1:7-8 by our obedience of faith.
This is where others come in: trusted others.
“Concern for what other people think” is not the same as relying on the prayerful guidance of those God has placed in our lives.
“Concern for what other people think” is more about what the broader population might assume by judgment and ridicule and partiality against us. They are neither trustworthy nor are they trusted, yet we are so easily influenced by what they think.
This ought not to be. It ought to be the material of prayer — that God would give us sufficient capacity of focus to elevate the trusted voice to primacy. We are so dogged in life by what others think. It is so veritably destructive!
God has placed wise people in our lives — they are wise by virtue that they act for our betterment without the partiality of favouritism. They seek what is only best for us. They deliver us with perspective — just in time in so many cases.
So, being a chameleon is to be expected in some indecisive seasons of life. Best be patient whilst urgently seeking the wise direction through it.
Best, in indecision, not to make decisions hastily, for the tide of wisdom turns unpredictably. Best, instead, to weigh decisions carefully and patiently. God’s way will come.
Taking the calm, prayerful approach in the valley of indecision is best. Less regret that way. God’s way will come.
Evil draws its power from indecision,
And from what other people think,
Better by far to wait upon God,
And upon only his wisdom to drink.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

10 Things I Learned In One Incredible 20-Minute Conversation

CONVERSATIONS can be anything from interesting, absorbing, boring, to life-changing. And when we are in a great deal of spiritual flux, we actually need more of those regular life-changing conversations. Here is an easy list of ten clear things I learned in a short conversation on the phone recently:
1.     “Why” is the only important issue — the rest of our concerns look after themselves. When we know the answer to the question is “yes” (i.e. “I know why I need to do this thing, and therefore, I can do it…”), the “how” becomes irrelevant. The “how” is a simply about engineering the necessary transactions that must take place. Purpose is impetus. Purpose is all we need. Know “why” and we have the reason to know everything we need to know.
2.     We share the same problems. Most of our problems — when we are in a cohort — are actually shared by others in the cohort. More individuals who have the same life situation have the same thoughts and struggles. We just don’t know it because we don’t commonly communicate it.
3.     Close working relationships are like marriages. Conflict is bound to be experienced. Negotiating the conflict is the elixir of healing. Bipartisan compromise paves the way to sustainability. Christians have a better share of the answer; only one party needs to accept and assume responsibility and reconciliation has more than half a hope. And when both see reconciling issues as important, the ‘marriage’ is healthy.
4.     Perspective is truth; the truth is borne when perspective is in sight. As we reflect we have always been more effective than we thought we were in the midst of the moment. It’s simple. We know more later on. We know more about the actual effects of our work and the impact it’s had on people. We may seriously underestimate the effect of our work for the Lord if we reflect prematurely and critically. All we need to do is maintain our intent. That’s faith.
5.     Make decisions hastily at your peril, and miss out on what God’s doing both in you and through you. God’s calling to something else, or God’s release to something ‘bigger’ and ‘better’, always lags behind our own agitation to move on and get on with things. We want everything perfect. But perfection is in gratitude and thankfulness, not looking over the fence. God’s release from an arduous ordeal will always ‘lag’ simply because in the adversity is all the material we will ever need for learning. But we don’t like being uncomfortable and humble. To embrace these, however, can only benefit us, both in the now and in what is still coming.
6.     Passion is the way through anything. Fall in love with the actual place and position we find ourselves in, now, and we will find we have never been more content. We overflow in gratefulness and thankfulness. Passion, like purpose beforehand, comes to be everything.
7.     Our purpose as the Servant is to showcase God’s glory. The purpose superintends the activity — in every single case. It really doesn’t matter what season we are in. God has chosen it for us, and, because of this and not in spite of it, we can endure it, and the gold is, we grow through it.
8.     Take the risk and be honest — with trusted mentors it’s always worth it. When God creates space for a mentoring conversation we are shrewd to make of the opportunity all we can. Twenty minutes well and truly soundly invested has such eternal weight for our growth journey now and to come.
9.     Opportunities to serve that are taken up always end up as a blessing. God goes before us. When we discern the opportunity to serve, and we defy our fear for a lack of capacity or wisdom, offering ourselves up as a living sacrifice, humbly, in any event, we are blessed, even if the other party is most centrally blessed. Such a blessing is in the form of an affirmation — God saying, “I want to use you… in this way… that I know… endears your heart. I know you need purpose — here it is!”
10. A ‘word’ left to ponder graces the subconscious with a divine work where the Spirit can only elucidate. The gift of having been left with something to ponder — a thing that lined up wonderfully with what someone else I respected had said only the day before — is a most divine gift.
Conversations we have with the wise today, enrich the conversations we have with ourselves tomorrow.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Nearer Brokenness, the Nearer Healing and Wholeness

THERE are times when we may seriously wonder if the mess we made of our lives can ever be repealed, when, in fact, we are fairer on ourselves, we know it has been — not the consequences, but the effect. “We’ve been forgiven, we’ve been set free” as the song says. But ever more we find this true in our actual lived experience: we have been made whole through the filling of our voids of self by the glorious most healing light of God.
We cannot help it if we suffered the folly of a life partially wasted. What is, is. But we also cannot help it if we have never suffered such follies that rend our lives harmonious. If life hasn’t besmirched us to the degree of suffering, is that our fault? Not at all.
Yet, the person who has never suffered fits neatly the older brother’s image and the one who has suffered is the proverbial Prodigal Son. The one who has never suffered — or who has suffered and became hard as a result — comes to resent the fact that God has healed the one who suffered and remained soft. This explains much of the chagrin in the Christian landscape of things. Yet it is neither’s fault. The enemy has a field day simply because God makes generous compensation for anyone who suffers well. Both have voids to be filled — one is crushed in their softness, whilst the other is crushed to make them soft. And only God may fill them both.
God of heaven and earth,
My Provider of divine rebirth,
Only you have power to heal,
Power of truth to help me be real.
You target my empty void,
Saving me from being destroyed,
You come in and heal and fill,
And in chaos I can come and be still.
We Must Be Emptied In Order to Be Filled
Life can only begin when life has ended. When life has ended, and nothing bargains our way out, then and only then are we ready with nothing of our own to contribute.
This is an important lesson; we learn it once, yet we do, if we are wise, learn it again and again. We become knowledgeable of one thing: we can only be filled if we are empty.
The nearer we are to our broken selves, the nearer we are to our healed and whole self.
Brokenness is a sign of a healing about to take place. It is a void for the glory of God to fill. When wholeness takes up that space, our brokenness remains, and from brokenness is made an inspirational, courageous New Creation self.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

God’s Heart for the Grieving and Brokenhearted

“Even in laughter the heart is sad,
and the end of joy is grief.”
— Proverbs 14:13 (NRSV)
HORROR is the end of things so we are best to have a veritable relationship with God to vouchsafe wellbeing. I hate to sound like a pessimist, because, in living effect I am not. I am a realist in this: we will all be rattled by grief, anxiety or hurt at some stage. Those who aren’t, don’t need to be ministered to, but those who are may find they are intractably drawn to be ministered to and to minister.
God’s heart for humanity is captured in the brokenness of people. Where humanity most represents humanity, God most represents God. When we can be truly human — that is, broken and true — God can truly be God in the midst of our need.
God is always God but our Lord can’t be for us everything we need him to be unless we make way.
All we need to know is that God’s heart is for us when we are battling manfully just to get through the shadowy valley.
This is my personal experience…
The amount of times I poured out tears, soaking an already saturated pillow, crying tears so densely heavy they would make sounds upon the floor as they fell, God was with me.
As I shed those tears — feeling most estranged to life — I knew that God knew what I was going through.
As I would journal my mood and emotion would ebb and flow from a restrained sorrow to anger to an overwhelming pity for my situation — God’s empathy awash through my soul.
It was easy to see the Spirit’s work in all this as I felt the healing of my indignation with a compassion I could feel — a compassion that was directed like an arrow into the heart of my brokenness, itself. I never hid my brokenness. I would laud it before the Lord so he could direct his compassion right there, into the heart of it.
God’s heart for the grieving, the anxious, the hurting — the broken — is compassion enacted as a direct hit as an arrow into the heart of our brokenness.
God’s heart for the broken is an arrow of compassion directed into the heart of our brokenness. Pierced, a sorrowful pressure is released eliciting compassion and healing.
Compassion felt is healing and wholeness experienced.
God’s heart for the broken can never be denied. Compassion is eternal. It is destined to heal the heart of the broken. All the broken-hearted need do is be open.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Not Wasting This Thing Called “Life”

TEMPTATIONS, life is replete with them! One of the most innocuous of them is to focus on the fleeting things to the detriment of the eternal things. The fleeting things I’m tempted to put in front of the eternal things are sports results, my own progress in the world of ministry, and my own pleasures, simple though they are. Still, the eternal things come more regularly into view since I lost my son, stillborn on October 30, 2014. I have found that my mind and heart steer more often toward eternity since this time. For that I am heavenly grateful.
Consider this poem:
Don’t waste this thing called life,
By engaging in things of strife,
It is better to grow in virtue,
Than to risk living a life untrue.
Living a life of meaning,
Is about not getting lost in dreaming,
Living a life beyond waste,
Is pondering eternity to taste.
We don’t have to spend too much time in thought to know when and whether we are wasting our lives; eternity, coming face to face with God, is our gauge.
Nothing we do in this life is ever hidden. All things are done in the open, even those secret things that only we, ourselves, do and know alone. The point is not to inflict guilt or shame. God must want us to consider the balance of what we do in those secret times and to consider how we can waste less of our lives.
Waste our lives and life is a waste.
Yet, there is a sense in all our lives that at least part of our lives has been wasted. Much of life is spent learning, and, whilst learning itself has a purpose, learning can feel like a waste of time. There are times in my life when I have felt as though whole years, and several of them, have been a waste. Yet, some of these times have involved immense spiritual growth.
The best of life is a life not wasted. And that’s the point. Much of life can appear a waste, but, if we are growing in the stature of virtue, we have not wasted our life, because we are readier for eternity.
Growing in virtue, through the tough times, when life appears stagnant, is the ideal investment toward eternity.
Living intentionally for eternity is about living intently with our eyes fixed eternally.
Living intentionally for eternity is life’s goal when we understand any other goal for life is a waste of our time.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Divine Help When Under Spiritual Attack

THREATENED by the compassionate strength in a new believer, Satan attacks them, making life a misery, when the new believer actually stands on the precipice of God’s gorgeous truth. An experienced believer is cut down by a grief attending that will not let go, and the experienced believer is tempted to give up on life.
When we are at our greatest potential to produce for the Kingdom of God we are also most at risk of spiritual attack. Satan need not attack a believer who is dormant in effect. Satan need not waste his time on a believer who is daily aware of his wiles.
But the believer who is on the cusp of defeating one of the evil one’s plans; that believer will be attacked.
The truth of matters, so far as spiritual attack, is this:
You can be brave even though you may be weak.
You can be strong even when your life is bleak.
You are who God loves even if you have no hope.
You are who God loves even when you do not cope.
Where there is awareness there can be a counterattack. We don’t counterattack ever from strong positions, however. We counterattack out of weakness, from the perspective of bleakness, when there is no vision for hope, when we cannot even hope to cope.
But we often need to be told how and when and why to counterattack—told by the Holy Spirit, not by a human voice, but sometimes through a human voice.
Awareness of attack is the most crucial thing.
When we are aware that the profusion of chaos in the events before us could be explained by spiritual attack we are greatly advantaged. Suddenly everything is explicable. Just that the matters of pandemonium could be the enemy interrupting the flow of God’s goodness in our lives should make us wary.
The most important step in repelling spiritual attack has already been taken in simply becoming aware. There is no need to fret in knowing Satan has attacked us; there are thousands of other attacks occurring in our world at the same time. The enemy is no respecter of persons. But we must take action.
Praying for the evil force to depart in Jesus’ name is always a good first step. But it shouldn’t be the only action we take. Whatever the enemy is trying to upset needs to be continued, and sometimes differently, but very much in the spirit of being gentle though determined, of being humble though resolute.
Satan rattles believers rendering them weak, but glory to God; through weakness is great strength in Jesus’ name.
Divine help comes through surrendering to our weakness; to feel what we really feel. That is sadness instead of anger, and joy because of what God has already done through Jesus.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.