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Relying on God: 5 useful facts

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The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful. I’m in the last straight line of my PhD, but there is still a fair amount to do. I’m moving to the Parisian region, where I have a job (and I’m thankful for that), but nowhere to live yet. I  had plenty of bits and bobs to sort out over these few days, including packing up everything I had accumulated over the past 4 years I’ve lived in Coventry; and trying to shed enough useless stuff so it would all fit in a few suitcases that I can carry on the train. I had to see a fair few faces to say goodbye to them (although hopefully not for the last time).

Not the best of times by a long stretch. I’ve felt very, very panicky at times, when I was contemplating how September would pan out. So I tried to remember what I preached; about finding God’s peace before moving into action. I really tried.


Photo: star5112, reused under CC license

But my brain would go into overdrive, and it took every effort to not give in to the panic. I even got physically sick one morning. Thankfully, those moments never last very long, because I immediately try to find God and His peace, and to stop being afraid.

The problem is that whenever the situation looks up – say, for instance, if I find the perfect accommodation offer, which is much much better than all I had seen so far -I use it to justify all the times that plans fizzled out before. Surely that accommodation was God’s plan all along! And when that fails too, well, I’m left with God failing.

I’m sure you can see how that sort of feeling might be an issue.

Still, there are some facts that make it all okay after all – some facts which allow me to fully rely on God:

1. God is sovereign. That means that He is in control of my circumstances – and that may be hard to see when everything goes to pot; but He also knows better than anything I can ever plan. So He is more trustworthy than anything I come up with.

2. He cares about me – as an individual. Which means He isn’t trying to get me to fail; and I’m sure that my temporary homelessness will serve another purpose than simply to get me to stress. And even if that’s the only purpose it serves, well, I’m sure that the stress itself will lead to growth and a whole new set of skills. (Although it is not helpful to read Job to affirm this  point…)

3. It’s not about what I do or did. It’s very easy to default to a karma mindset when things go wrong. Maybe I’m being punished for not reading my Bible as diligently as I should have. Maybe I’ve indulged in procrastination too much. The thought behind that mindset is that if I fix those problems, it will all get better. A karma mindset is a way for me to have a weird form of control over what is happening; and that leads to feelings of guilt and, ultimately, increases stress because it denies God’s sovereignty.

4. Being stressed is natural. It doesn’t feel nice, and I’d rather avoid it altogether; but there should be no guilt in fear of the future. Gideon was afraid; but God still reached out to him in his fear. Don’t be ashamed of your fear, and offer it up to God as well as what’s causing it.

5. Being fully reliant on God does not mean I shouldn’t search for flats through the secular means. It simply means that I should trust Him for the outcome of this search. On that note, if you know anyone renting out a place/looking for a flatmate in Saint-Denis,let me know I have now found a great place!

What does relying on God look like for you?

My greatest fear

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My greatest fear is that I end up doing church.

Photo: jcookfisher, under CC license.

Regardless of the number of activities I partake in on weekdays, of how involved I can get in church life, the risk is still there: that I consider church, small groups, Bible studies, etc. to be something that I do. Because there’s a fine line between that and those things being what I do. But also because it is much easier to constrain specific actions to specific settings. And finally because it can lead to dissatisfaction with myself and others, as there is always more that I, or they, could do.

And none of these are desirable prospects. What I want is for my faith and my belonging to the local and global church to be part of my identity. For these things to seep through everything that I do and that I am, but not to be the object of my actions. It may sound like a pedantic difference to make, but it is important to make it, because church is more than the sum of its parts: it is more than all that we do there.

That can be used as an excusenot to go on the rota. But it shouldn’t, because that in turn could lead to a reluctance to get involved – and the death of the excitement felt at first.

Rather than avoiding doing stuff for church, rather than simply trying to be church, here’s the key: remember that what you do is about, for, with and from God:

  • when you read the Bible for the congregation, don’t simply “do the reading”, thinking you have to get it done for the rest of the service to go on. Remember what it is you’re reading (it is from God). Remember why you’re reading the Bible (to tell the congregation about God). And with the help of the Holy Spirit, proclaim boldly the Word and make it alive. Take the time that is needed, because it is for God.
  • when you’re leading worship, don’t let the technicalities of keeping rhythm, etc. (I have very little clue what I’m talking about here!) overwhelm you. Remember who you’re singing about. Whom you’re praising. Where the songs come from. And that the worship is, again, with the help of the Spirit.
  • when you’re serving tea, remember what hospitality is about and whom we’re trying to emulate. Remember where the love you’re showing comes from (that, and the goodness of tea). Seek the presence of God and let it shine through you.
  • when you go out of church – keep on reminding yourself of that throughout the week, in all that you do. That way, what you do will never be about what you do.

When I remind myself of God’s hand in what I do, the words of Philippians 4 come alive:

the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guards my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.