Ten years ago, I wrote a book called ‘In Pursuit of the Miraculous’. I reckon I could write a follow up based on the past two weeks alone! It has been nothing short of miraculous.
It all started when my wife Lydia gave birth to our beautiful baby daughter Sophia Hope at 11:27am on a balmy Monday morning in mid August. All seemed to be going well at first. However, later that evening, Lydia had a faint whilst she was on a short walk to freshen herself up. The medical people initially put it down to sheer exhaustion. But the following day, she had two more similar episodes, the latter of which resulted in a complete loss of colour from her face. As I held my little daughter in my arms and watched my wife slump to the ground surrounded by nurses and doctors, an uncomfortable lump formed in the back of my throat that I could hardly bear to swallow. It was an unbelievably shocking situation, the gravity of which I was more than aware of. I will never forget the feeling of absolute vulnerability as I wondered whether my little girl might lose her mum. It was heart breaking to see.
Further tests showed that Lydia had developed internal bleeding during which she lost 3 litres of blood. They carried out two blood transfusions, none of which were successful. In fact, her blood count afterwards was even lower than before. Furthermore, her blood pressure continued to drop dramatically while her pulse rate raced dangerously high beyond 150 bpm. These were all the signs of continued internal bleeding. That night, the consultant told me in no uncertain terms how serious the situation was if the bleeding should continue. The medical team then proceeded to administer two more blood transfusions. ‘The next 12 hours are critical’ were the parting words of one consultant.
It was around this time that I sent out a message asking people to pray. So many agreed with us for a miraculous breakthrough. We were certainly in miracle territory. I personally called out to God and laid my hands on Lydia’s head, believing for complete healing. This was no time for nice prayers. It was the cry of a broken & desperate man claiming healing over his wife’s life. I remember feeling a powerful sense of God’s presence in that moment.
The next day, Lydia began to slowly stabilise. Her blood pressure rose, her pulse rate dropped and her haemoglobin levels were higher. These were all signs that the internal bleed had stopped. It truly was a miracle. God had answered our prayers.
Over the next few days, there were a few more drama’s including threats of further internal clotting and a lot more calling out to God (those stories are for another day). However, time and again, God answered. Eventually after 11 days in hospital, all her levels normalised and we were allowed home. That was an emotional journey for sure (ok, playing disney tunes didn’t help!).
Archbishop Temple once said ‘When we pray, coincidences happen’. I am in no doubt whatsoever that God did a series of miracles in my wife’s situation in August 2018. I don’t understand it all, but I just know that God was at work.
Having had some time to reflect on what happened, it has not dented my confidence in God. The very opposite is true. There’s a growing conviction in my heart to believe like never before for God’s miraculous power in others. With him, all things are possible. I totally believe it.
To all those who stood in agreement with us, thank you. To the medical team who cared for us, we salute you. To Jehovah Rapha who intervened and heard our cries for healing, we honour you. God is real.
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, not here on earth anyway. All of us have areas of challenge and struggle which we have to face. For me, I had to come to terms with a less than ideal situation pretty early on. This meant I was fostered from the age of 5 right up until my 18th birthday. So it’s been an interesting journey, complex and way beyond my control.
Thing is, sympathy is not the answer to hardship. Most people detest the idea of others feeling sorry for them. It’s disempowering and pitiful. Actually, I’ve discovered for myself that God’s grace not only saves me but empowers my life too. It’s upon this truth where true freedom is found.
In a less than perfect world, God is totally worth trusting. That’s exactly what I’ve chosen to do. He has made a universe of difference to me. This doesn’t mean I suddenly have answers to all the complicated questions of life. I don’t. We’re all born into a unique set of circumstances. Everyone has struggles. Just because someone else might have been brought up differently to me doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of issues too. These normally just take a different form. That’s why it’s a mistake to measure a person’s inward wellbeing by their outward appearance. The two don’t necessarily equate. No-matter how good somebody’s life may look, the truth is that none of us are perfect.
So whoever you are and whatever you’ve been through, lean into God’s grace. Why? Because none of us are THAT good. But God’s grace really is THAT good. It has saved me. It can save you too. Lean in. Keep trusting. Allow God’s grace to shape your life. This is what will make a difference.
When powerful people take advantage of those under their authority, it poses serious questions for all of society to think about.
Recent revelations about the behaviour of certain TV producers & some of our elected politicians is a sobering wake up call. Sadly, the Church has not always been exempt from such accusations either. How tragic for the victims of this conduct that they’ve felt nobody would listen and they were powerless to speak up. Maybe what is currently unfolding is the beginning of a shift in culture? Here’s hoping. But it begs the question….how much of this stuff is still happening today?
When an abuser says ‘I may have done that, but I don’t remember‘, this should send a shudder down the spine of our society. It speaks of a culture which has either turned a blind eye to abusive behaviour, or even unwittingly encouraged it with frivolous dismissal. In any case, as a nation, we would do well to ask ‘why?’. What on earth would create the impression that these dispicable actions are somehow ok? Why is it considered ‘fair game’ for some men to treat women as objects rather than human beings? What kind of environment espouses such utterly disrespectful treatment towards others? These are VERY serious questions which require an honest conversation. Yet too often, it seems like there’s only a willingness to discuss the symptoms, but not the cause.
The flurry of horrid stories which have been reported in the news are just the tip of the iceberg. Yet as we look ahead, wisdom asks where do we go from here? Will culture really shift…or will todays lured headlines just become tomorrow’s junk? And what about God in all this? Maybe the Bible’s wisdom has been too contemptuously discarded by secularism? Perhaps we have missed the point of a loving God who actually REALLY cares about the world and genuinely wants what’s best for us?
In the midst of the mess which greed & selfishness has left behind, society would do well to revisit what the Bible has to say. More than ever before, we need God’s healing grace. After all, that’s what the big story of the Bible is all about.
Have you ever found yourself feeling lonely and abandoned? If so, well…you’re actually in good company. The bible is full of characters who experienced just that. One of them is the apostle Paul.
Today, Paul is celebrated as a hero of the faith, and rightly so. The former persecutor of Christianity became the man who wrote two thirds of the New Testament. His accomplishments for the cause of Christ are formidable, including pioneering churches all over the then known world and giving intellectual gravitas to theological principles. What a legend.
Yet despite his ‘success’, Paul was a lonely man. He often found himself isolated and misunderstood. For example, his most encouraging friend Barnabas left him in disagreement because of the latter’s cousin John Mark (Acts 15). On another occasion, Paul writes about his dear friend Demus who forsook him in order to pursue a selfish agenda (2 Tim 4:10). These are just two incidents of many.
Paul was clearly hurt by disappointments like this. He was human after all. Yet, there is never any sense of him moping around in self pity. He simply got on with serving God and fulfilling his calling in life, such was the measure of the man. You’d have to wonder if those who deserted Paul might not have done so if only they’d realised the magnitude of Paul’s influence both in time and eternity? Of course, hindsight is helpful…but foresight is far better.
I am personally grateful for the people in my life who’ve stuck by me when others haven’t, especially in times which were challenging and lean. Faithfulness is a virtue that is grossly underrated in 21st Century living. So many people just seem to give up at the first hurdle they encounter. Yet those who remain committed are rare…and more of an inspiration than they can possibly imagine. They know the worst, yet believe the best. They stay the course and live selflessly for God’s purpose.
If you ever feel abandoned and lonely, then resist the temptation to spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself. Throw yourself into the service of God. Turn your pain into purpose. The most fulfilled people are those who live for a cause that is bigger than themselves. Life is too short to be bitter & offended. Make every day count. Remember, what happens today echoes in eternity.
It is human to feel lots of emotions in life. But when emotionalism sits in the driving seat, a world of fickleness beckons. It is subjective rather than objective. It is impetuous rather than principled. It is careless rather than considerate. But wise people don’t allow their lives to be driven by the immediacy of raw emotion. They afford themselves time to reflect & read the road ahead – beyond the path of sentiment.
It seems that too many people in life are quick to believe the first thing their emotions tell them. Take a quick glance over a Facebook timeline and you’ll soon discover this. Yes, feelings can inform us about what we’re experiencing in the here and now. But whilst we don’t have to deny what we might feel, it’s never good to give it too much credence. It has a habit of changing very quickly. Besides, the foundation on which God wants our lives to be built is the truth of his word, not the strength of our emotions. This is what will keep us standing during the storm. This is what will sustain us through challenges. This is what will guard our hearts when we feel hurt, disappointment and pain – all of which are inevitable.
Paul encourages us to be very intentional about ‘taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ‘ (2 Cor 5:10). In other words, we need to think about HOW we think. Instead of allowing our feelings to think for us, it’s important to develop disciplined thoughtfulness. The bench mark is how it lines up with the truth of God’s word. Interestingly, Paul encourages us to take ‘captive‘ those thoughts which are off the mark. This conveys the idea of capturing invading lies and then incarcerating them. In a world in which we are bombarded by ‘fake news’, this is particularly relevant advice.
In the end, what matters is that which is true. Jesus is the personification of truth. That’s why wise people submit their thoughts, feelings and emotions to him. After all, he is ‘the way, the truth and the life‘ (John 14:6).
The most poignant music is marked by subtlety. Things happen in the background which aren’t entirely obvious, yet when included in the overall score, help create a meaningful sound. The same is true with art. For me, the finest artwork is layered with subtleties rather than glaringly obvious. They create an experience which provokes thoughtfulness and adds perspective to life.
God is an artist. He is the true original whose creative brilliance surpasses the very meaning of ‘genius’. Yet his work is often subtle, weaved deep into the fabric of his creation.
On one occasion when Elijah the prophet was struggling with dabilitating discouragement, God surprised him by bypassing all expectations. Instead of ministering through fire, wind or earth quake, he chose the intimacy of a still small voice. It was so perfectly pitched to Elijah’s ear that only the prophet himself could hear it. Not many words where spoken by the Almighty – but the means by which he spoke was as much a message as what was spoken. The moment exuded grace, love, gentleness and kindness. Brilliance lovingly rained down on the dreariness of desert land – refreshing, beautiful, subtle. (1 Kings 19)
It’s wise to resist the temptation of over-spiritualising the extra-ordinary and under-spiritualising the ordinary. The supernatural is rarely spectacular. It’s in the ordinary, everyday stuff of life where God’s power is most at work – subtle, hidden, profound. Most miracles don’t feel like miracles. It’s only hindsight which tells the tale. That’s why it’s vitally important to hold your nerve. Often, your greatest need is just a miracle in disguise.
One of the most priceless gifts you can give yourself on any given day is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He’s always at work, even when you don’t realise it. Learn the art of sensitivity and suddenly your eyes will be opened to a new perspective of God’s amazing grace…in the ordinary. That’s where His best work is.
The question of God and suffering is one which perplexes many hearts and minds. While the predicament is nothing new, it is always current. Why do evil things happen in the world, and yet God seems either unwilling or unable to do something about it?
Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy answers to this apparant conundrum. For the person who is experiencing their own valley of pain, it is an immense challenge to provide any kind of answer that can sooth the rawness of bitter experience. Glib retorts like ‘it was God’s will‘ are not only deeply unhelpful, but totally unrepresentative of the heart of God. Though well intended, it unwittingly portrays him as uncaring, aloof, distant and un-compassionate. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The whole point of the biblical narrative is that God has personally intervened in our fallen world. He is more familiar with suffering than we will ever know, and he has the scars to prove it. His intervention cost him everything. It is a stupendous mystery to think that the immortal God was not only born as a man, but died a death so cruel that it is beyond comprehension what he endured. The latter was the price Jesus paid for the falleness of humanity, and to bring about the hope of his Kingdom on earth.
Yet, even after 2000 years since the events of the cross, we still live in a profound tension: the world as it is today (fallen) – and the world as it will be one day (renewed). That’s why Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven‘ (Matthew 6:10).
One day, everything will make sense. However, as we await the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth, suffering is part of our pilgrimage because of the fallen state of our world. This is not a defeatist reflection, rather an exhortation to lean into the protection of God’s grace. Surely this is one of the reasons why Jesus taught so much about faith? As believers, we are not exempt from suffering – but we journey through life in the confident hope that God will renew all things (Matthew 19:28-30). Our posture is one of trust. This means we can ask the difficult questions during times of suffering and God is not offended by them. He simply longs for us to follow him, even through the darkest valley’s of our lives.
After Jesus had risen from the dead, a disciple called Thomas was racked with doubt, and adamant in his refusal to believe unless he saw Christ’s scars for himself. A whole week passed before Thomas eventually got to meet Jesus. Those seven days must have felt like a life time. However, when Thomas finally saw the wounds, his hardened heart melted in an instant as he cried ‘My Lord and my God‘ (John 20:28). How utterly compelling this moment must have been.
God has wounds. Far from being distant and aloof, he is acquainted with suffering more than any of us could possibly grasp. His scars are the proof of his love for us. Interestingly, Jesus said to Thomas ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed‘ (John 20:29).
In times of challenge, our greatest act of faith is to keep following Jesus. That’s why Hebrews 10:35 says ‘Do not throw away your confidence‘. Suffering is temporary, even though it sometimes feels like an eternity. But one day, we will meet Jesus face to face. When we see his wounds, our hearts will melt, just like Thomas. In that single moment, everything will make sense.