Overcoming Fear

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.””

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I’m stood in the middle of a field, palms are sweaty and the sound of my breath echoes around my head as of I’m standing in a cave filled with never-ending reverb. I clutch my weapon for the afternoon and can feel my heart pounding as the taste of fear pierces my dry mouth. Not to sound dramatic but this is how I often feel when I play cricket, about to bat for the first time in a year. I’m often gripped by fear thinking what if I get out or let my team down – don’t look stupid Dave.

Or at least that’s how I normally feel. I wouldn’t say I normally hear from God about to play sport but today was somewhat different. I wasn’t feeling too great, I’d been horribly ill the day before, and I’d come into the day on some bad news – the sort of news that you didn’t really want to hear and that you hoped would never come. I sat on the sideline dejected waiting for the opportunity to go and out and bat. It was there that I decided that due to the mitigating factors of life I’m not going to worry about getting out but instead play without fear – for what is fearing in cricket compared to the great meandering journey of life. Who knew that this very process God would use to challenge me.

I strode out to the wicket and played without fear. First ball I noticed the confidence in my stance. Third ball I hit to the boundary for my first four in what feels like a lifetime – I notice I feel more free than I have in long time whilst someone is throwing a hard leather ball at you trying to knock over three pieces of wood behind you. Quite remarkably I ended up hitting my best knock since secondary school and left the field unbeaten at the end of the innings. As I left the field I was quite amazed at the feeling of freedom of lacking fear and amazed at the result – it was there that God spoke to me so clearly, something that happens rarely. I suddenly felt challenged into why I lived with so much fear in my own life, far above the microcosm of a cricket field. For in cricket when I’m scared I become tepid and weak and I suddenly realised its the same for life. I felt God ask me why do I live with so much fear in my life when all it does is cripples and limits the gifts He has given me. It was there I was reminded that some of the most used words in the Bible are ‘Do not be afraid’ because we know that God is with us.

I realise that I get scared about too many things (one of them ironically is admitting that I’m scared of admitting that I’m scared) – whether it be what does the future hold? or what do people thinking of me? Will this issue be resolved or what job should I be doing? But I know from experience that when I’m confident in God rather than being crippled by fear and failure I do my best wok for him. I’m painfully aware that as a younger Christian I was amazed at what God did because I had less fear – but as I’ve become broken and Scarred through the challenges of life it has caused me to change. But perhaps like my performance in cricket I need to stop, remember that God is with me  and instead of worrying what may happen if I fail, be prepared to to step up and be amazed by what God does rather than remain bound by fear. It was this that God challenged to change right there as I left the field.  It reminds me of the story of the spies in the bible Moses sent into the promised land – most of the spies came back and said the enemy was too great. Only Joshua and Caleb lifted their eyes to God and saw he was bigger and looked what happened – it wasn’t easy but if they hadn’t of done that Isareal might never have made it to the promised land.

It doesn’t mean that we will always be successful if we lose our fear – but there is a freedom to fully express ourselves in  all that God has made us to be and when we step out in faith, no matter how hard it is, we know God is with us. I so often forget how powerful our God is and that so often my biggest failing as a Christian isn’t knowing that God is strong – it’s letting that truth seep into the actions of my life. One of my favourite pastors once said

“Better to step out in faith and get it wrong than always wonder”

Much love

Smiffy

 

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Windscreen Wipers and Broken Dreams

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s raining. In fact it’s not just raining, it’s absolutely tipping it down. I’m driving along when all of a sudden disaster strikes. The windscreen wipers stop working. For anyone that has ever experienced this, they will realise that this is terrifying when you are driving along at 60mph – the heavens raining down like sub-machine gun fire. The problem is that instead of being able to see through your windscreen, all you can see is water galloping across it like wild horses. The only thing I can see are the little cats eyes on the road, one by one peering out like tiny candles swamped by darkness. Each cats eye represents a marker that we are one step closer to home.

This last year has been an interesting year for me – I came into 2015 brimming with hope that my whole life was set out before me. I had plans, plans to give me a future and a hope. Good, noble and Christian plans. The only problem was that 2015 saw my plans, in many different ways, seemingly fade away from my grasp. I felt as if the windscreen wipers of my life had suddenly broken and I could barely see a yard in front of me. I wonder if you have ever felt like this?

I don’t for one minute advocate driving with your wind screen wipers broken but as I journeyed I felt God remind me of a certain truth. God so often only shows us the next step, the next cats eye on the road of life if you like. As I drove, my trust in the small flickers of light on the road increased dramatically as I tried to stay on track. They were all I had. It’s the same with faith. In the adventure of following God he so often only shows us the next step in life, calling us to trust him alone whilst the rest of our view seems distorted and confused. It’s scary, it’s hard and I certainly would much rather see the future clearly so that I would be comfortable – just like last year. But, as this year has gone, it has somehow called me into a deeper trust of God.

In our heads I think we know that God has good plans for all of us, he loves to give good gifts. But over all his gifts he longs for our hearts to trust him, to walk this life with him. Believing and actually doing that is hard. It reminds me of Abraham, God promised him he would be the father of a great nation and yet God called him to sacrifice his only son – something that would humanly take away the promise God had given him. Why? To see if Abraham truly would trust him. Of course we know God stopped him from doing it – but Abraham didn’t know that.

I don’t know if you ever had to let go of something that you longed for. Not even let go, but had it wrestled out of your hands. I’ve found myself shedding tears, getting angry with God or simply doubting he is there at all.

“Why me?”

“But I thought this was right?”

But as we let go we have two choices, to give up, or to trust that God, the giver of life, has our best interests at heart. Sometimes he has to take our hopes away so that they won’t consume us.

The only thing I can relate to is that one time in my life I was consumed by football. It was all I ever thought about and loved. My life was built on it. Then one year God took it all away – I got injured  – and that dream died. But looking back God took the dream of football away so that I could enjoy it without it consuming me. For it had consumed me. Now I love it more than ever and yet am not bound to it. God knew what he was doing.

Its in that place that I find myself again. But I’m trying to trust God and look out for every cats eye that comes my way.  It’s hard, painful and confusing at times. I still feel I’m along way from home but there is deep joy in knowing that when you give your dreams and your heart to God he will never let you down. It’s this that I’m holding on to.

As I drove  I felt God whisper ‘Will you trust me, even when you cannot see?’

I think he asks the same to us all.

God must take away the heaven we create or otherwise it will become our hell’ John Eldredge

Love wins

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)

I’m surrounded by people who I know are loved so much yet they don’t see it. I see the friend who suffers with depression and know they are loved. I see the person who struggled with self worth and know that they are loved. I see the person who is in so much pain and know they are loved. I see the homeless man who appears to have mucked everything up and know they are loved. I’ve held the aids orphan who is just a statistic to the world and know they are loved. I know this because Jesus came and died to make a way for us to be with God who is love. That very act was love and it is open to all.

I am hurting and I am a broken man. Life isn’t easy and life is confusing. Yet love rises above that. What can we do but love? In a broken world where people hurt one another and we try and stick to societies standards of looking good and being somebody aren’t we all just after love.

For love conquers evil. Love conquers pain. Love conquers heartbreak. Love conquered death. God is love and love wins.

Friends it’s hard to love, especially when pain surrounds and fear is present. But love wins over these all things. Love wins over the many things we chase in life to fulfil that craving. All we can do is love. Love is not weak it is strong and it is our weapon in a hurting world. Even as I’m sat here writing this my sister who lost her beloved horse yesterday just came in and asked if she could get me some toast before work. Love wins. It truly does.

I’m rubbish at it but my prayer is that as I learn more that God loves me and I come to love myself I become an expert at love. It’s not gushy or soppy. Love is sacrificial and worthy of any man or woman.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)

Where would my faith be without Starbucks?

Im sat with a Starbucks cup in hand, the cream of my caramel hot chocolate gently beginning to caress the outside of my mug as it overflows and gently warms my fingers. The smell flirts with my senses as I go for another gulp and I’m now desperately trying to hide the fact I’ve now nose planted the cream full on. The awkward moment lasts a second as I expertly lick away the offending bit of cream – as you can tell I’ve still not quite perfected the art of drinking a hot drink through the cream mountain. But in truth this experience isn’t about me combating my drinking insecurities or maintaining my love of hot drinks, no matter how great the drink it doesn’t satisfy my being here. For what I’m after is the community that is facilitated by the simple venture to a Starbucks on a sunny afternoon.

For me there aren’t many things quite like the experience of sharing life with other people. As I sit and listen to the guy opposite a story emerges, like a painter painting on a blank canvas the fuller picture comes slightly more into view with every second I listen. As we share our dreams and our failures we stop to ponder the stories that we have painted so far, almost unaware that what we are describing is that in itself, a story. As we part our separate ways I’m left with a subtle smile on my face and an ever increasing thought echoes around my head – how glad I am God created us to be in community.

The journey of faith has almost become deeply personal, not by means of us being personal with God, but by how we integrate those journeys with other people. All too often we think that we can live it by ourselves, dismissing the need for others as a sign of weakness. Yet God never intended us to walk as lone rangers in the battle of faith and ive definitely learnt it is a battle. As I reflect on my own story I’m buoyed by the stories I hear from my fellow Christians. For in the storytelling I’ve learnt that encouragement and peace flow from those relationships I hold so dear. For every story I hear the same message comes back. God is faithful, God is the best option and his love never ends. These aren’t fairy tales either, for the stories I share and hear are laced with pain, confusion, hurt and doubt, of heartbreak, loss of life and personal insecurities. Yet still God has the victory and they are lifted by moments of joy, overcoming and the ability to cope in every situation because of a God who loves and sustains.

This is why I love community, because in those moments where life seems too much, where pain is all I see and I feel overwhelmed by life’s wind and waves there are people there who have shared the same stories but God has pulled them through. I can think of a few moments in my life where that has been the case and I’ve begrudgingly gone to some wise couples house and shared a meal. In my moment of weakness they share their journeys of hope and pain and proclaim that God is good through it all, he will see you through. In the same way when joy abounds and hope bursts through the same community celebrates together as one, celebrating the goodness of God. I remember Cycling the South Downs way and reaching a point where I felt I could no longer continue, the pain and the rain seemed too much. We passed an older man and as he shared his stories on the trail we were encouraged to hear that he had been through far worse in his journey and yet he had still completed his trek. It’s the same in the journey of faith. I often doubt God can pull me through the current situation or that I have the strength to overcome a difficulty – yet the stories of the people around me tell that through every hardship God sustains and pulls us through. Community brings hope even in the darkest of days.

Maybe that’s why we leave the safety of our beds and houses on a Sunday morning, or stay up later in the evening to meet with our fellow Christians. For when we gather together to sing songs, listen to the bible and share bacon sandwiches we are meeting as individuals with our own stories, hopes and fears, meeting together as one family in one big story, Gods story. For in his story we all have a part to play and we are all united in the truth that we are saved by God and that we are called to be in relationship with him as individuals and as a family. As we remind each other of that and share each others pain and joy as we seek to live out the story he has destined for us we can rejoice that we do not face this battle alone, but in the company of loving brothers and sisters. For ever story is significant and has a message to bring, from the lowest and to the greatest. Jesus preached to the masses but focused on the individuals. How often I think my story is a failure and is insignificant. Yet as I grow up and live alongside fellow Christians I’ve learnt that no-ones story is unimportant in the kingdom and to God. For every story brings a unique experience with its own wisdom and power to shape not just the storyteller, but the community that exists around them.

I don’t trust God

A few years ago crutches seemingly became a part of my body as I managed to damage the ligaments on both my knees simultaneously. One of the hardest parts of this drama was football on Wednesday nights. Every Wednesday I religiously hobbled up to watch my beloved football team play as we battled for the prize of footballing glory, something I’d risked my limbs for every Wednesday previously. Yet as the football unfolded I felt powerless as I watched our team scrape to a win or drop points with a silly draw to the bottom placed team. Essentially I could do nothing to help the cause and I had to put my trust in my team mates as they kept the promotion dream alive. Not having an influence was so hard especially when I trust myself to do a job.

Fundamentally I hate being out of control. I want to be able to influence the way my life goes in every area, whether it be my future, a relationship, a friendship or what some people may say an unimportant football match. Most of the time I sit pretty easily as I gently guide the way my life goes, putting in effort when effort is required and remaining confident in my own character and abilities when I want to take my life somewhere else. As I so often seem to mention in my blogs it’s when problems arise that I start to struggle and the once confident David Smith starts to flounder amongst the unease life sometimes brings. It’s when the things in life I have control over start to slip from my grasp that I become uneasy and worry becomes a dominant force in my life. Like a good Christian I tend to turn to God in these times of difficulty and pray that he would be close. It was as I stood back in a recent storm though that I realised a rather disturbing truth.

I don’t trust God.

I don’t trust God? Maybe I’m over exaggerating or being hard on myself….Yet every time I pray in these situations I pray essentially the same thing, perhaps in a different way but still the same thing….

God give me back control of my life.

Because God I rather like it when I’m in control.

Though I love God and know he is the saviour of the world, the mighty warrior for his people and the maker of all I’d still much prefer it if I was in control of my life and it’s direction because I can see the future or at least determine where it goes. Almost sub-consciously I live life through my Christian lens and when I come off the rails I ask God to put me back on them in the direction I want them to go. It seems a good thing to do, a lot of people probably don’t pray when the train of life falls of the rails. Yet Jesus calls us to follow him not the other way around. When he called his disciples he didn’t say “hey guys, do you mind If I follow you about for a bit and if you get into a spot of bother don’t worry I’m here!” He asked them to follow him. They must have had to have so much trust to stop and leave everything they had to follow this crazy guy.

When I stop and think about it my thought process seems stupid. As a Christian and someone who genuinely believes that God is real and alive I know that I should trust him. I mean he is God and I know he is mighty. I know he is on my side. I know he loves me. Yet when life gets hard I wish I was back in control because I know where I’m going and I discover that deep down its as if I don’t trust God; in the confusion and chaos life throws at me I just wish I was back in the driving seat even though deep down I know that the best place for me to be is in the arms of God as he lights up my path with a lamp. How I wish that lamp was a beacon illuminating my whole life. I’m scared of not knowing what the future holds.

Yet God seems to only lead us on just that one step further, calling us to trust and love him. The story of Jericho comes to mind as I think about it. We all know the outcome. God shines through, knocks down the walls and the Israelites progress. We can all go home happy knowing God is our super sub. But I wonder what it must have been like for a foot soldier in Joshua’s army, here I stand with weapons in hand and God seems to be telling us to walk around the walls of this city in silence and then shout lots. It would be like a football team who needed to win a match 4-0 starting the game with 10 defenders and a goalkeeper. It’s absurd. As a good Christian I read it and think well you just need to trust God right? He’s all powerful so why doubt? Yet when I find myself in a Jericho situation of my own I quickly turn to my own strength and long to be in control. How often do I say to others trust God in the times of hopelessness yet crumble in my own distress and doubt? Too often.

To step into Gods strength is to become completely vulnerable and to surrender everything I have. My dreams, my failures, my loved ones, my belongings, my status, my insecurities, my longings and my desires. To say God have your way. It sounds like the hardest thing to do because I have so much to lose. I love my family, my girlfriend, my dreams, my friends, my belongings, my iPad, my safety and comfort. Why would I want to put them into the trust of someone else when they could take them away?

And then I look at who we are putting our trust in? Is this not the God of all, the God of power and might. The God who has the power to give and take away. Isn’t this the God so rich in love that he allowed his son to die a criminals death in order that we could be in a relationship with him despite our unfaithfulness and unreliability? Our father who says how more abundant his gifts are to his children than any other fathers gifts. This is the God who longs for us to put our trust in him. Yet when push comes to shove I can’t quite trust him. I know it just I don’t go the whole way and sit in my safe Christian bubble hoping that me and God remain friends and that when I get into trouble he’ll put me back in control even though my life tells me that when I put God in control he is secure. So many times I’ve had to put my trust in God and not once in hindsight as he let me down. Never once has he left me on my own. Yet still I struggle to trust?

God help me to trust you. Because when we give our all to God we are giving our lives to the one who is Good. Sometimes I really believe the problems I go through in life is God longing for me to my trust in him, longing for my attention and love. God longed to give the Israelites the promised land yet they kept turning to idols. I so often think why when you’ve got God yet do exactly the same today turning to money, status, female attention, success, power, drink and short term pleasure to satisfy life when the very giver of life wants me to see it out to the full. I go against my beliefs and values just so people will accept me. I hurt others in the attempt to be in control of my securities. Yet God just keeps knocking on the door of my heart longing for me to allow him to love me for who I really am. I know I should trust God and I need him to help me to do it. I forget that his ways are greater, more abundant than any. So often I think of the Christian life as a list of don’t s when it really is God freeing us from the chains of the world to live life in fullness, goodness and abundance. I only need to look at my own life and see the blessings God has given me.

Friends I know deep down I don’t quite trust God but I know I want to. Not because I should but because from experience it is the best and most amazing place to be and I pray this prayer out of complete sincerity.

God I know you are good. You are powerful and you long to be in relationship with us, giving us good gifts and seeing us live life in complete fullness. Yet so often I see the future and the storms, the unknown and my fears and I long to be in control despite knowing you want the very best for us and that your kingdom far outweighs anything this world could offer us. Help me to trust you even if that means challenging my control so that you would be king of my life. Help me to trust and love you with all my heart.

I end with some verses on trust I found on the Internet, not to be cheesy but as an encouragement for us to put our trust in God.

Also sorry to all those football haters….. I genuinely see life through the lens of football hence all the football analogies. I hope this encourages you that you are not alone and inspires us to live for God knowing he is rich in power and love.

Big love

Deuteronomy 1:30-33

30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” 32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

2 Samuel 7:28

28 O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.

Psalm 9:10

10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 13:5

5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Psalm 20:7

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 25:1-3

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

Psalm 28:7

7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Psalm 31:14

14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

Psalm 37:3

3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Psalm 37:5-6(#10 of 40 Bible Verses About Trust and Trusting)
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Psalm 40:4

4 Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Psalm 52:8

8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Psalm 56:3

3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Psalm 56:4

4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Psalm 62:8

8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah

Psalm 84:12

12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

Psalm 86:2

2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.

Psalm 91:2

2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 111:7

7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

Psalm 112:7

7 He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

Psalm 143:8

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 118:8

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

Proverbs 3:5

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Proverbs 11:13

13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

Proverbs 11:28

28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 28:25

25 A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.

Proverbs 28:26

26 He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

Isaiah 2:22

22 Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?

Isaiah 12:2

2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 26:4

4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 50:10

10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

Jeremiah 7:8

8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Ezekiel 33:13

13 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.

Daniel 6:23

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Luke 16:10-12

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

John 14:1

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

Romans 9:33

33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 13:6-7

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Revelation 21:5
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Source

Biblegateway.com; New International Version

Storms

If my life was to be equated to that of a boat I’d spend most of it in the quiet shallows of a safe harbour, bobbing up and down on the cusp of a gentle wave and light breeze. Yet sometimes the storm brews and I feel lost and confused in a world where all I see is the next huge wave threatening to destroy the fragile little boat that looked so grand and shiny in the safety of port.

When all I have is out of my control and the waves of life coming crashing in I realise just how fragile life can be, whether its a broken friendship, an ill relative or a worry about the future my security starts to fail. In these moments I tend to try and claw back control of those areas that overwhelm me, often fighting the storm head on and never quite overcoming it. In these moments I forget the true power of who God is.

I remember one time recently lying on my bed worrying about certain things and feeling overwhelmed by different aspects of life and questions on the future. In these moments I often play music on my Ipad and so naturally went to my favourite playlist. It was as I was listening that the song mighty to save came on and the words “My God is mighty to save” hit me in a new way. Here I was in a moment of desperation and I had forgotten that the author of life who is strong in battle was with me, and I was blinded by the storm I was in.

If our God is for us who can be against us? In the midst of a storm it’s hard to put our trust in God, especially when it seems like he has deserted us. It’s easy to say everything will be ok, but when your heart is on the line it’s one of the hardest things. All I can say is this poem reflects wonderfully the experience I’ve had of God in my life. God hasn’t always taken me out of the storm straight away but he has been like a lifeboat gently steering me to safer waters and I know I’m safe.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during
the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one
set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have
seen only one set of footprints,
is when I carried you.”

Lord help me through the storm. Keep me safe and keep my trust in you. Help me to lift my eyes to you, the God who is mighty to save, amen.

Pursuit of God or good?

I think we’ve all had those teachers where we’ve over stepped the mark and the once friendly and encouraging teacher turns into a vicious viper waiting to devour you. For me it was the day I somewhat foolishly pinged a recently captured hair band effortlessly across the room and out the window right in front of my history teacher. Before i could boast of my achievements to my classmates the once nice demeanour i was used to of that teacher had left her face and as she marched towards me I swear in that second I understood what it must be like to be Frodo Baggins up against the armies of mordor in middle earth. The rest of my one and a half years of secondary education were spent ensuring that I never made that teacher upset again.

The same can be said about my relationship with God too I think. I so often slip into the trap of basing my relationship with God on my goodness, as if all I’m trying to do is to ensure that I don’t upset God – fearing an angry swipe of his arms in a moment of uncontrolled anger. I effectively become religious, basing my level of spirituality on whether I’ve managed to avoid that thing that I constantly do wrong over and over again or whether I’ve made God happy by leading worship with an extra cheesy smile on my face. Obviously it’s important to note that goodness is not a bad thing. I think we’d all agree it was better that I was loving people and helping the old lady across the road than being a trouble maker or a failure.

And yet…

And yet so often in my journey of faith, when I stop, pause and consider the path I’ve been walking I find that in my pursuit of being good I’ve actually left God behind or forgotten him altogether. The people who Jesus challenged the most were the people who were the most religious, the professional Jews if you like. They would be the ones who did all the right things in the right way. Yet he challenged them on their religion and reminded them that the journey of life was all about God. What better way to illustrate this than his summary of the law, it’s all about loving God and his people (Matthew 22:37).

I’m pretty sure that what Jesus doesn’t mean is that it’s ok to do whatever we want but that the key goal of life is not just to be really good and keep an angry God happy, but to pursue a relationship with our God. Who before addressed their God as Dad? We see it throughout the Old Testament where the people of God in there religious ways completely forget about God and all that God wants is to know his people. (Malachi is great!)

So what does this look like? Being honest so often if someone said all that to me I’d stand behind them nodding in complete agreement as if I have all my life sorted – when the reality is often that I’ve become comfortable in my reputation, good works or positions of authority. The reality that there really is a God who loves me and wants to journey with me through my life irrespective of my past and failures is mind blowing. It’s alarming how I might have the most amazing Sunday service and commit my whole being to God in sincere worship and yet reach Wednesday not living as if he existed at all. My prayer for this year is that everyday I’m pursuing God and not just goodness and will probably end up becoming less judgemental in the process. Throughout my experience I find that when I pursue God first goodness follows because Im growing in my love for God and I naturally want to do Good things.

C.S Lewis illustrates this perfectly when he said “relying on God has to start all over everyday, as if nothing has yet been done.” It’s about growing a relationship not gaining brownie points within church circles – we cant lie to God, he sees our heart.

So is the thing that I strive for everyday to know and walk with our maker, lover and saviour. Probably not. But I hope when I look back over my life I can say yes for many more days than not and come home to God not as awkward friends but like that of a son who has walked in the strength of his fathers love. For what else can be better than knowing God in his fullness. Walking truly with God has been hard, painful and damn right confusing. I’ve had doubts and fears and considered walking away. Yet I can truly say I’ve never regretted starting that journey…. Why do I not follow him everyday!?

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39 ESV)