I don’t know about you but I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that God’s truth, love and grace, never alter. As we heard from Andy on Sunday, thankfully, “truth is not weather dependent” and as we know, this is an incredibly infallible attribute of our Father God. Whatever the deal or the circumstances we are in, God’s truth stays the same. So much change happens around us that we can take refuge in the fact that this area of our lives can be a rare constant... if we’re prepared to see it that way. Oftentimes we don’t respond to God in this way because in order for us to understand Him, we tend to try and humanise Him but it really is true – amazing!
So, if we did find ourselves in a situation that really made us question everything we know to be true, would we be able to hold on to this truth like Daniel did? This has really stuck with me over the last few days... how would I feel if I was captured and moved forcefully to another part of the world, forced to learn a different language and be part of a different culture? Would I remain loyal to God if I was in this situation or would I think God had forgotten all about me?
I can’t imagine the terror of a refugee’s plight; the images we’ve seen in recent times, especially those of children separated from their parents, are chilling. In the school I work in, we have a small community of Afghan boys, most of whom were sent away by their families in search a better life. They are now fostered by some truly amazing families in the locality, have a comfortable life and more importantly, are safe but what must those darkest moments of that unknown journey have been like? Or what of the mother who sent her son away because the atrocities he faced where he was were no kind of future at all? And I wonder, as we all surely must do, how would I fare under such circumstances?
What strikes my colleagues and I about these young men, is their positive perspective. They have so much to mourn and yet they look to the future with great hope and gratitude. They are often shining examples to some of our local boys whose attitude to their education could do with a face lift to say the least! Perhaps it is because they have faced their darkest hour and they have survived that they see life with a new perspective. I looked for more examples of this because, as I say, it’s really been on my mind. I found Jana and her son Ahmed’s story amongst hundreds of inspiring scenarios:
“I was a teacher of Arabic in Aleppo. The war was awful. We could hear bombs, but never saw them. Then our house was hit and destroyed. Luckily we were out. It was a shock. You have a house, with decorations, your things, and then you have nothing. We had to leave. Everything in the street was destroyed. It was not safe for Ahmed. I am a Sunni, and Ahmed, because of his father, is a Shia. There was a time when it didn’t matter. Shia married to Sunni, Sunni married to Christian. But now people came to the house trying to take Ahmed away.
We left at night. It took three days, walking most of the way, hiding at night, walking again. There was nothing left for us. My mother is still there. It is not safe. But she is 70. Where could she go? We were in Lebanon for two years. I made sure Ahmed went to school and he started learning English. Then we learnt we would come to the UK. It was a big surprise. It is a good feeling being in the UK, but it is hard. I am alone with the baby, alone taking care of Ahmed. The first day after the baby was born, I went to my English class, with the baby! I want to teach again, with refugees or in a school. But now with the baby it will take some years.”
“War is bad. It’s when they throw bombs out of planes. Sometimes I heard bombs. But I don’t remember. I only think of good things. I have a box in my head and put all the bad things in there and keep it locked. At the start in the UK it was hard because we knew no one. I was shy at first, but I have many best friends here now. I like school. I am in Year 5. If you ask my teacher she will say I never shout out, mess about and I do my work properly. I like art best, with felt tip pens. Sometimes maths. I want to be a teacher. I want to be a teacher of everything!”
I guess what strikes me is that despite the unimaginable horrors they have left behind, there is a hope in their story – perhaps sometimes so much more than we have for the privileges we enjoy. How much more then should we be like Daniel and be absolutely 100% certain that even when we face challenges and hardship that strongly test us, God is journeying with us and encourages us to remain in Him (John 15). We know this makes sense. By doing so God has the opportunity to share His wisdom and perspective with us if we would but ask Him to, and by remaining, we can continue to grow and bear fruit for our betterment because He loves us, but ultimately, for His glory.
For reasons good and bad, there are sometimes things that are etched on our minds forever. I’ll never forget for example, one of the most complicated A level History lessons I’d ever encountered. Our teacher was trying to help us understand that whilst history is fundamentally factual, how one remembers it is entirely down to what he called, their ‘ideological predisposition’. Yep… that’s what we thought too.
As he unpicked his point, he taught us that due to a person’s viewpoint, that event in history may be remembered in an entirely different way from how someone else saw it. Obvious really when you think about it but it’s sometimes important to acknowledge that fact that this viewpoint is made up of a number of factors; often our upbringing, family life, background and education all play a part in this as well as where we live, the communities around us and some of the choices we make. These can all contribute to our perspective on things because experience varies for many of us and is impacted by the people in our lives. They are all variables that shape how we see the world.
When it comes to God however, there really are no variables. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13 v 8 that, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ His nature does not change nor does His perspective. He is not swayed by situations that can knock us for six. He does not love us less when we mess up. His compassion does not wain when we are sick or hurting and His joy over us is steadfast. ALL the time. God is God and remains the same. And within this, there is love, mercy and grace for all – incredible.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to buy in to this and have just an ounce of His perspective? I know personally that the more I focus on God and seek His face, the more ‘steady’ I become – I’m sure this is something we can all relate to. We need this perspective all the more in the times in which we’re living too don’t we. Things continuously challenge us and our way of thinking and rather than allowing these situations to skew our perspective, we need to look at how God sees it. So, as we press on in to this next season as a church community, let’s explore more of what God’s perspective is and know that as we lean in to His unwavering vantage point, we will surely learn much and be changed for the better.
Sounds so grand doesn’t it? And hey, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be! A great, big, grand miracle that transforms our life in a way that means it will never be the same again. Amen! Then there are the smaller things that we so desperately need breakthrough in because our day to day lives are so affected otherwise – we need God to move and make changes that we can’t.
Either way you look at it, big or small, the definition is the same... a miracle. An event not explicable by natural or scientific law which is therefore attributed to a divine agency!(bing.com). An extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers. (dictionary.com) A remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences. (oxforddictionary.com) It all alludes to the same thing; that God sees our needs and wants to bring change that alleviates our struggles and brings peace, resolution and healing. Why? Because He loves us. And, because He is God, all will see His power and He will be praised.
So what about when we pray and the miracles don’t come as we think they should? What then? As a mum, my instinct is to instantly fix a need that my daughter has. Sometimes this is necessary but at other times, I have to take a step back and let my ever-inquisitive, fiercely independent explorer, figure it out for herself. Not because I love her a bit less that day but because there’s something she must learn and having learnt it, she’ll have the knowhow to avoid the situation next time or be of help to someone else. She, at times, needs space to exercise and use her God-given intelligence. I also want her to know that she has a Heavenly Father to call on so that her faith may grow and sustain her and that she will know that her God, as well as her parents, is for her.
Is it so different with us and God? There are things we expect God can fix instantaneously if He so chose to and it’s hard to accept it when, for reasons unknown to us, He seems to choose not to. It doesn’t seem fair and it would be so easy to wander off believing that God hasn’t heard our most heartfelt requests. However, we know this is not the case. It tells us in Jeremiah 32 v 27, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" and whilst we may struggle with God’s timing vs. our timing, we know fundamentally that God does hear us and He can. He is able. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3 v 20) We know that we needn’t entertain fear or doubt.
I’ve been privileged enough to hear the dynamic speaker, Christine Caine, speak on a similar issue when talking about the Israelites being led out of Egypt. She used Exodus 13 v 17-18 to do so – ‘When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.’ (emphasis mine) Her illustration from these verses was of great encouragement - she said, “There’s often what we perceive to be a short cut but God may choose the long way round because He’s preparing you for what He’s prepared for you.”
Let’s stand firm on all that we have been taught of late, having been reminded of the miracles featured in the Bible and learning more about how God showed his power among His people in this way. As we hold dear these things, I hope, pray and firmly believe that in the months to come, there will be awesome changes that we won’t be able to explain in our human capacity or our own time frames but we will rejoice together and praise God for His faithfulness!