Why me?

Jan 302015

This is a question that’s kept popping its head up recently for me. There’s questions of why what’s happening in my life at the minute happens at all in this world? But then there’s the deeper question: why is it happening to me?

Mostly it’s not conscious. For the reasons I’ll write about here, I don’t think it’s a very good question, and one that doesn’t really help to dwell on. But that doesn’t stop me asking it, and it doesn’t stop my brain from wanting an answer to it.

why me

“Why me?” – some answers

It’s not as if there aren’t answers to the question. It’s just that none of them satisfy. Each of the following has been suggested to me in some way in the last two months.

Answer 1: God has a plan in it all. Ok. Except, hang on, what? This is God’s plan? To bring two people together in marriage, a union He designed to be lifelong, just for it to breakdown in a way like this that causes a lot of pain for a lot of people? I’m not saying God can’t work in situations He doesn’t want, but that’s very different from saying this was God’s plan in the first place.

Answer 2: I’m not a very good husband. I want to be clear. No-one has said this to me. Nobody at all, but it has been suggested to me. By me. There’s a nagging doubt sometimes. Maybe this is my fault. I’m not a good husband and I deserve this. I don’t think this is true. I’ve not been perfect, but I do believe I’ve been a good and faithful husband. That doesn’t stop doubts, though.

Answer 3: It was never meant to be. Maybe we got it wrong in the first place. She wasn’t the one for me. Only I’m utterly convinced there’s no such person as ‘the one’ we’re meant to be with. We make that choice, not God. Of course we seek to be wise when we do, but that’s different. Then we make promises to each other and we commit, with God’s help, to keeping them. I don’t buy this idea, so it doesn’t satisfy.

Answer 4: It’s spiritual attack. I’m a leader in a church, I’m seeking to serve Him and seeing fruit in that. Satan doesn’t like that, so he wants to bring me down. Ok, I have some sympathy with this, but it begs a few follow-up questions. What about Christian leaders whose marriages are fine? Are they not serving faithfully? And if this is true, doesn’t it make it my fault again? It’s not a complete answer.

So have I missed the answer? Is there something I’m not thinking of? Should I try harder and see if I can work it out? I don’t think I should. My brain will doubtless keep trying, but here’s why I’ll try not to let it too much.

“Why me?” – the wrong question

I’m not the first person to ask this question, and I won’t be the last. Maybe that’s why there’s a whole book of the Bible given basically to this theme. The book of Job.

Job, a good man, has his life completely destroyed. He loses everything. But the thing which hurts most is not knowing why it happened. He asks, simply, “Why me?”. He has some friends who come and do exactly the right thing. They come and sit with him. Just sit with him. Be there with him. By his side.

Then they open their mouths.

And suddenly it becomes a great debate, trying to work out the cause of his suffering. Maybe he has some hidden sin, and this is punishment. Maybe this is God’s way of developing his character. Maybe. Maybe. None of it satisfies.

Then God speaks.

And God asks questions of His own. Was Job there when the world was made? Does he know how it all fits together? Does he know how all of creation works? Can he give account for the behaviour of every animal? Is his brain capable of comprehending all these things that God alone knows?

Job responds: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 42:3)

“Why me?” – I don’t know

There are some things, Job realises, that are beyond our comprehension. Questions we won’t have answers to. That’s tough. It feels sometimes as though having the answers will make their cause easier to bear. If only, in the middle of all this pain, there was some reason, some order in the chaos.

It feels as though it would help. But I don’t think it would. I think that if I dwell in “Why me?” territory, it’ll just pull me down. I need to become comfortable with saying these words:

I don’t know.

And I doubt I’m the only one.

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Is God enough?

Jan 212015

Is God enough?

It’s a question that’s been prodding at me in recent days. We Christians say it and we sing it, but do we actually mean it? Do we really think God’s enough, or are we really after other stuff?

is god enough

Spoiler: I do believe God’s enough, but I want to share a little of the journey I’ve been on and why it’s been on my mind. I believe we need to be sure of what we mean when we say this, and where it might lead. It’s not just words.

What if…?

About 6 months ago, I was talking with someone about suffering and why bad things happen in this world. I don’t claim to have a watertight answer to that. There are some things I feel I can say and hold onto, but I can’t give a perfect answer by any means.

After that conversation, I found myself asking a question: what if it were me? You see, up until recently my life has been pretty easy. There are ups and downs for all of us, but when I look around at the world I can say with thanks to God that my journey hadn’t been too tough. So, what if that changed? What if the idea of suffering wasn’t about other people, but was a deep deep reality in my own life. What then? Could I still say the things I said before? Would my faith be uprooted? Would I be able still to stand?

This was an important question for me, because I want to have integrity. I don’t want to say I believe something if it’s really just my circumstances that let me say it.

Is God really enough?

Really, it boils down to the question I started with: is God enough? Really enough? If He is, if it’s really that I just want Him then whatever happens around me doesn’t change that. But if He’s not, it’s a different story.

If God’s not enough, and really what I want is all the things I believe He gives me, that’s pretty shaky. What if I lose everything? What if I no longer have security? What if my life falls apart? What if I can no longer see God’s blessing in any way? What if all the ‘stuff’ I’ve always said was from God just disappeared? I’m not talking about salvation and adoption into His family. I don’t believe those will ever be taken away. I’m talking about the stuff in my life. Shelter. Money. Friendships. Employment. Purpose. Marriage.

Well, as I’ve shared recently, my life has had a turn, and pain has become a deep reality for me. I want to be clear that I’ve not lost everything, not by a VERY long way. But I have tasted very clearly the pain this life can bring.

And I’ve discovered that God really is enough.

He really, really is.

What do we really want?

There’s one thing that I think makes the difference and it’s what I want from God. My pastor talks about the difference between a relationship with God and a transaction with Him. What he means is that lots of folk are willing to start a business relationship with God. I’ll follow you, God, serve you, pray, give and do all the stuff, and you’ll keep me safe, keep my family safe, my job, my money, my happiness.

That kind of transaction mentality – wanting the gifts God gives – is very easy to fall into, but so very dangerous. And I don’t want to say for a second that God doesn’t give good things to those who love Him. He does! But He never promises things will be easy. In fact He says the opposite…

Do I want a transaction with God, or a relationship? Do I want the gifts, or the Giver? Is God really enough, or am I in it for the upsides?

A week ago I was in an elders meeting at our church, and we set aside the business of the evening to talk about what our overarching aim should be as a church for 2015. God spoke very simply but clearly to and through us, and very quickly we came to this consensus: in 2015, we are going to seek God’s face, not His hand.

That’s my goal for 2015. I am resolved. I will be more interested in seeking God Himself, drawing closer to Him, than I will be in seeking what He offers, be that restoration, healing, direction, security or anything else. I want all those things, but I’ve decided to want God more.

I’ve decided that this year, God will be enough, no matter what.

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What I’m learning about hope

Jan 192015

I shared last night with some people at one of our church gatherings about my current situation. As I talked it through with my colleague who would be interviewing me, the theme that surprisingly came through very clearly was this: I have hope.


What hope isn’t

I want to be very clear about what I don’t mean when I say I have hope. I don’t mean that I have a sure and certain hope that my situation will change, that my marriage will be restored. I would like that to happen, and the door is open for that to happen. But that’s not what my hope, ultimately, is in.

Nor am I swinging completely to the other extreme. I’m not just saying “I know that one day everything will be perfect, I’ll see Jesus face to face and all will be restored, and I have hope in that.” I am saying that, and I believe it will all my heart, but my hope is not just a statement that while in this life things may be awful they won’t be one day.

I have hope for my life, not just for my death.

Hopeful thinking

Another thing I want to be clear about: the hope I have is not predominantly something I feel. Day to day at the minute, I don’t feel good. There are times every day when I feel despondent, low, confused, angry, sad, lost or all of the above. When I say I have hope I don’t mean I’m now looking into a future that appears bright and beautiful and full of promise. I don’t feel that way at all. At all.

Hope is not first and foremost a feeling. It is a choice and a state of mind.

I have hopeful thinking. Not wishful thinking, not pie-in-the-sky fantasy with no basis, not fooling myself, not optimistic self-deception. That’s not what I mean by hopeful thinking.

I mean that my hope is borne out of what I think, what I believe, what I am convinced to be true. I have convictions, and those convictions give me hope.

Here are some. I believe God transforms lives. I’ve seen it and I believe it. I believe God has purposes for people’s lives. I believe God has given me gifts and He intends for me to use them, and that when I do He works through them. I believe that a person who is in Christ is not defined by their situations, but in the status and standing God has given them.

I have believed these things for some time. I still believe them. What’s happening to me has massively changed my feelings, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed my beliefs.

Again, I don’t feel these things a lot. I don’t feel day to day that my life is showing signs of being transformed. It still feels like rubble. I don’t feel full of purpose. I feel lost. I don’t feel as though the gifts I have are worth much, or that the world would miss much if I didn’t do what I do. I don’t feel my status as a child of God trumps the messiness of my life.

I don’t feel these things. But I do believe them. I choose still to believe them.

Hopeful living

My convictions give me hope. When I have no energy or strength of will, when I have no control over what I feel one minute to the next, I still have control over what I think, what I believe.

And in the last two months, I’ve chosen to live based not on what I feel, but what I think.

If I acted and lived based on my feelings, I would have done things I’d regret, said hurtful things I could never take back, hidden away in a dark room, never got out of bed some mornings, become very bitter.

Instead, I believe God has purposes for my work and my ministry, so I get up and go to work. I preach. I do things I know matter, even though I don’t feel it sometimes. If God has purposes for me, I can’t just quit, so I don’t. I believe God made me for relationships and friendships, so I choose to go to the pub, to see people who mean a lot to me, not just to shut myself away because it can feel safer.

I’ll be honest, a month ago I had to force myself do a lot of that. Not all of it, but some of it. What I’ve found, though, is that living out of the hope I have helps make the hope feel more real. I make myself invest in my work, and God has reminded me how much it means to me. I deliberately spend time with friends, and God reminds me how much I love them and how much I need them.

Hopeful thinking has turned to hopeful living. Hopeful living has helped build hope. I’m not perfect at this by any means and still have a long way to go.

But I do have hope.

And even in the darkest times, you can too.

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Jan 052015

In the midst of a world of New Year’s Resolutions and and positivity about ‘fresh starts’, I must confess I am a lot less upbeat at the minute.

A year ago I did an end-of-year post on here that looked back over my first year of blogging. This year I’m not going to do that because there’s something else I need to do instead. Those who follow this blog more closely will have noticed I’ve not blogged much at all recently. This post will explain why, and also explain why my third year of blogging will likely be a little different.

It needs to be different because my life is very different. I’ve had the hardest two months of my life, and the next period of my life isn’t going to be easy either.

A little over 6 weeks ago, my wife Mel left me. She had begun an extra-marital relationship and when it came to light she left.

I’m not doing very well.

I have a truly fantastic family, the best friends I could pray for, the most supportive church family, and pastors at that church who have been phenomenal. But I’m still not doing very well. Some days are very dark. Some are not.

I will write another post soon explaining a little more about where I’m at. This blog has become very important to me, and as I journey along an unknown path ahead, I will continue to do so in this online space. Some might question why. I don’t have complicated answers, but here are three simple ones: I find it helpful, it seems others find it helpful that I do, and I believe that at this point in my life God has called me to do this. So I will carry on. Not every post will be about my situation, because the things I was passionate enough about to blog on before still matter to me.

So how I’m feeling will be for another post. For now, I want to make two commitments.

First, I am not going to talk in more detail about what happened. The fourth paragraph of this post is all I will write explaining what happened.

Second, I will not speak negatively about Mel or anyone else involved. If I want to rant and rave (and sometimes I do) I will not do so on here. I will do so in private with people I trust to respond in a good way, and hold me to account for what I’m saying and how. This blog will not become a place of bitterness or hate, because I do not want my heart to become a place of bitterness or hate.

I don’t want to say much more for now, but there are two things I want to say before closing, and the first is this: thank you so so much to the people who have been supporting me the last six weeks. You have made an impossible time possible.

The second: God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.

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