In the valley

I have always veered on the side of ‘rebuke everything, don’t accept it, give it no room and be positive’. Jude (daughter) mocks me saying that as kids they were simply never allowed to be sick! I am glad for being that stubborn and equally glad that over the years literally many hundreds have found healing. One of the most unusual healings was a woman who kept looking at her hands. I was not sure what was causing her the amazement, then I found out that she was staring in amazement as she had for the first time finger prints. A remarkable sign, going beyond something physical – a restoration of identity.

As a convinced charismatic I am glad to push for healing and the intervention of heaven. There are many reasons for that – the Scriptures give an expectation for this; Paul – if his thorn in the flesh was some kind of physical impairment – pushed for intervention and a reversal UNTIL he heard God speak into the situation. That voice was so real he does not use a simple past tense but one that indicates what he heard is still audible when he wrote years later. He did not need to push forward to hear God say ‘pray for a reversal’. He went for the positive and only a word from heaven could cause him to let go of that. When there was a non-answer (twice) he pushed again. It was not ‘non-healing’ that stopped him praying, but a word from God. All the above helps me be ready to press for the intervention and not be put off when something does not shift as I wish.

However… and the however is not to cancel out the previous perspective but to add to it. In so pushing for the breakthrough we can miss out on the journey. God will be to us something during the process when there is no answer (as we wish) that he will not be when the answer (as we wish) comes. Here is the tension, if we so focus on the outcome we can miss out.

When we are through the situation God is our deliverer and thankfully there is a testimony. But when we are in it, we find a God who shows up in the midst of our inadequacy, who does not show up with the victorious ones, but alongside the conflicted, and sometimes despairing ones. We all handle those times of frustration differently. I know of those who will resort to sounding off with a good (or bad?) handful of expletives thrown in. For those people, they can discover a God who comes alongside – and this is not a theological perspective – and is happy not simply to listen to us but to swear alongside us too! The God we find in Jesus is REAL, and ‘moved into our neighbourhood’.

There is a testimony that we love to hear – the ‘God healed me, set me free’ kind of testimony. There is also the testimony that goes along the lines of ‘I am not through this, I am despairing, I am so frustrated, I don’t always feel good about myself… but I can tell you about an intimacy with the God who gets as frustrated as I do.’ A kind of paraphrase of Heb. 11, or a reflection of Psalm 23:

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

God present in the valley not simply showing up when we are out of it. To be out is wonderful, but to find God in is permanent and humbling. One might just leave us knowing the acts of God, the other goes so much deeper.

3 thoughts on “In the valley

  1. Martin: I was beginning to worry about you as things get ever more dire in Spain. So thanks for posting. Hard to understand this valley. We appear, as humans, to be intent on making it deeper and longer than needs be in many cases. Forethought and planning too frequently took a back seat to other concerns at significant moments. Good thing Jesus sticks with us though he might be annoyed at how we have handled things. Perhaps that’s the swearing you hear.

  2. Thank you for the reassurance that’s he’s with us no matter how we are dealing with situations. I’m personally not dealing well with this pandemic at times terrified as already chronically ill. I find Psalm 91 helpful where it says if someone loves me I will save them and that he protects those who know him. Another place where the conditions of his presence are not because we’ve been bold and brave but just that we know and love him. Thinking of you in Spain it’s hard to see all the suffering. Even harder to know how to pray now though when it was bad in China I did know for some reason.

  3. So true. I have never been the same since going through divorce (which was indeed the time when I learned that nice Christian words can be utterly irrelevant). Just before this current crisis kicked off our church started a preaching series on Ruth. We had questions for our midweek groups about what struck us in Ch1, and the answers were nice things like about how lovely that Naomi had Ruth stick with her and God having a plan so we don’t need to worry about the future. Which were true, but avoided the elephant in the room – a woman who had been through unspeakable loss and hadn’t yet come out the other side. I had a very strong reaction but felt I was speaking a different language to everyone else (that was nothing to do with my command of French) with what I was trying to say. The next couple of weeks they went back to themes that were terribly “sound” but frankly weren’t going to scratch where anyone was itching. I know they have to get there in their own time and way, but I’m so praying that through all of this dislocation of life there will be some grounding of the doctrines in reality, some cracking of “Christian” façades and some real growth here.

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