Saturday, October 31, 2015

When Understanding Fails

This is not an easy weekend for a number of my close friends- nor for me really - as a young couple that we love set off for distant shores and leave us. It's always tough to say goodbye to people you care about but there's an added dimension here. They came to our church and island home to lead the youth work and serve God among us a couple of years ago and now they are moving on, feeling that God is leading them. Those left behind are struggling with letting their dear friends go and also understanding what God is doing and saying in all this.

Farewells are not the only struggles we face when trying to understand the will of God. Bereavement is heaps more difficult, as are serious long-term ill health or troubles that do not yield to persistent prayer. God knows it's hard enough to go through stuff so surely it would help a lot if we could get some explanations.  That's what is at the heart of the "Why Lord?" kind of praying we all do a lot of these days. But maybe we are not helping ourselves when we demand answers to life's tough dilemmas. Of course we want to know more - that's part of being human and made in the image of God - but the Bible teaches us that this is not helpful reasoning or praying. In the ancient book of Isaiah the Lord says to his people Israel "Do you question who or what I am making? Are you telling me what I can or cannot do? I made Earth and created man and woman to live on it!"

If the "Why Lord?" prayer is proving unhelpful or at least unfruitful, is there any alternative? Well, I was watching a video yesterday by the US Bible teacher Joyce Meyer and she said something I wrote down. "I need to live by your promises Lord and not by your explanations." She went on to argue that in all the circumstances of life God is calling us to trust him more. We need to let him be God and get on with the work of running the universe without having to interpret or explain himself to my couple of kilos of grey matter that is called a brain. If the heavens and the Earth aren't big enough to contain him, why do I think my cranium offers him an alternative!

So in the middle of all the stuff I am facing, as well as the loss of dear friends, I choose to trust God and stand on his promises. My baptismal verse comes back to me with force: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:3). It would be nice to have explanations, and at the end of the day we will have them, but till then let's take our stand on something more solid and confess "He is Lord".

Friday, October 16, 2015

In God's Waiting Room

Following on from my last post about the timing of God being so different to ours, I am learning so much this week about how hard it is to wait. In fact, despite all the pain and frustration of the last 20 years, this period of waiting is one of the toughest I've been through. In a nutshell, there is an operation being done in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for people with chronic pancreatitis that could really help me. They remove the whole pancreas and spleen, together with part of the stomach and all of the duodenum, and then transplant the bits of the pancreas that produce insulin into the liver so as to avoid the patient becoming a brittle diabetic. It has helped hundreds of patients in the USA and some here in Britain too.

The problem is that the op is not being funded and is any case outside the 'contract area' that my local health authority has with the NHS in the UK. So we are being held up in endless bureaucracy while due process is being gone through to see if I could be funded to have this done. All the medics who care for me are recommending me to get going with this, but it has now become a political and not really just a medical matter and they are being over-ruled. Meanwhile, I am quite unwell again and will have to go back to the London hospital soon to get the stent replaced and the pancreatic duct cleared - a procedure fraught with dangers for someone with my record.

I was comforted and yet challenged this week when someone sent me the verse Micah 7:7 which reads, "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me." Yes, - we may be waiting for politicians and bureaucrats, but behind them all God is in charge. He can step in any moment to provide funding some other way, or even to touch my pancreas and heal me. So, we wait, not for men, but for God.

Great! But meanwhile we mortals need some divine help here to enable us to be patient and keep trusting! Thankfully, that's where you guys come in - lifting us up by your prayers and encouragement - and we appreciate all that you have done so far. We are not alone in God's waiting room and his timing is always perfect.