I am writing this is in the middle of a difficult week. None of the difficulty comes from being a Minister at EMC, but such weeks happen in the best regulated lives. I don’t enjoy difficulties but I don’t suppose one is meant to. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources that you possess are strained, and straining hurts. The experience of pain is normal, however unpleasant, and while it must be coped with, it cannot be taken as a sign of weakness or failure. This is how humans bear things! Humans hurt at times and we’ve got pretty good at it over the millennia.
So I am having a muddle of a week with bereavement, misadventures, misfortunes and mistakes to work through (not necessarily my own!). To take such a path is to be human! To be here, however, is also to be aware of God in a particular way. It is not the easy God of the ‘green pastures and still waters’, or even the challenging God of ‘right paths’; it is the very present God of, ‘dark valleys’. Now I mustn’t overstate the muddled nature of where I am – I make no appeal for cards and flowers or oodles of sympathy. I simply acknowledge as one human being to another that sometimes life is harder than usual and that in such moments God is still here with me.
I’ve never been comfortable with a philosophy of ‘destiny’; that somehow God has sorted out your life in every detail, and that you are on a tramline known only to God that you must discover. Such a concept may say something about the extraordinary nature of God’s knowledge of me, but it says little about a creative God’s gift of free choice and love for me. I prefer to think in terms of Romans 8:28 – that God ‘works together all things for good for those that love him’. Here is the creative God who never gives up on us, who doesn’t despair at our folly or sorrow, but patiently keeps healing, reshaping, mending and working with us. The idea of ‘everything’ is hard to digest – but I do try to!
God works with what we give him, and that must include our difficulties as well as our strengths. Perhaps God will even use my confession of having a difficult week to encourage someone else that knows, ‘just what it is like at the moment!’ If you are struggling – my empathy, you too are human. But if you are truly struggling, then this encouragement; even where you are will be shaped by God into something wonderful and you with it.