All in…?

Dealing with difficult situations is not unchartered territory for me. Like many people, I have experienced life events that would be viewed as tough. Navigating these situations has resulted in the development of certain elements of my character – such as an internal strength, resilience, drive and the ability to keep calm in difficult situations. Less positively, some of the negative effects of these experiences resulted in my decision to construct an impressive fortress of protection around my heart, which stood impenetrably until I reached a point five years ago when God decided (with my full, if somewhat recklessly given, permission) to commence an intense period of wall demolition, personal reconstruction and heart awakening.

I am an ‘all in’ kind of girl. When I decide to do something, I pursue it with everything within me. Since I reignited my faith seven years ago, my pursuit of God and all that He has to reveal to me has been a truly extraordinary adventure. In every adventure though, there are periods of struggle requiring endurance and over the last two years, as I have received breakthrough, either personally or relating to the things that I feel I am called to do, victories have been accompanied by disasters impacting upon my small but very close knit family unit. Despite my tenacity to persevere regardless and to cling onto God; it has been at times exhausting. Perhaps there is space for more regular teaching in our Church communities on being equipped so as to endure battle? I have quickly realised that it is useful to have some readily accessible tools available to me in those difficult moments, rather than having to sit myself down in the middle of the battlefield and start to create new ones from scratch.

The words of Psalm 16:8, ESV state: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken”.

The shakings of the last two years are best described as a series of events which have hit each of the three family members that I am closest to in an almost relentless fashion. There has been a seemingly constant stream of negative happenings, with an out of the blue diagnosis of a terminal illness, suicidal episodes, deep depressions and an unprovoked violent physical assault as just the headline events. A terrifying rollercoaster for all involved which, despite knowing that I am seated in the lap of God, has still produced extreme waves of motion sickness making me want to hit the emergency stop button and get off. Also, somewhere in amongst all of this there has been a voice which has often tried to creep in, quietly asking me if the chaos that my family has and continues to endure could just perhaps be linked to my progress in some of the things that God has cultivated within me? Suggesting that it is somehow my fault. Staving off that voice has been an unwelcome test of my faith and there have been moments when it has been tempting to take my foot off the accelerator just to see if my family might achieve some period of respite.

Having a strong faith in an unprecedented rough patch is an odd thing. I have stood in church declaring along with the worship leader (perhaps a little too loudly for any delicate ears belonging to those around me) that I will not be shaken. I have cried out in worship that I can indeed trust in both God and in his unfailing love. In those moments, that truth is crystal clear to me and I have felt solid, rooted and warrior like. Ready to stand unafraid in the face of all adversity, supported by the full force of an angelic army – unshakeable – just as Psalm 16 declares. On other days, when the shaking has felt to be registering at the top end of my internal Richter scale, identical words from the same rousing chorus have produced a quiver in my heart, a crack in my voice and it has been a struggle to even form the words. In those days, I have had to consciously decide to choose to believe that He is at my right hand and that the eternal victory is His. Rather than retreating into myself and ignoring his presence beside me, I have had to remember to lift up my head and praise Him, learning to look above the circumstances as the bad news floods in. Deciding to trust regardless that He is in control, holding me close and that He is good.

It is not easy to trust Him when everything around me and the people I love shakes. After each new bleak bit of news, I have gone to my loved ones and tried to provide words of hope, comfort, support and peace. Despite my resolute determination to maintain my faith in God, I have been confused by the lack of evidence of Him intervening in the situations and I have definitely had moments of ungracious behaviour, where I have wondered if perhaps He might regret that journey we went on to unlock my emotions. I have at times been incensed that he dared to take the lid off this emotional capacity within me when surely he must have known that all of this distress was coming? Would this difficult period not have been the perfect time for me to be happily detached from my feelings and to apply cool logic and analysis instead? Moments when I have wanted to revert back to using my head and not my heart but no, he was intent on removing my protective walls. However, focusing my attention on the magnitude of the negative is overwhelming. Reflecting on His magnificence and greatness has on good days, been far more exhilarating. I have been surprised at the level of peace that I have experienced through it all, when I have invited Him into each situation. As I have delivered another piece of news by way of update to friends, they have commented on my peace. In the past, my ability to deliver and deal with this would have been to resort to emotional numbness but the peace and calm that I have felt recently has been a true blessing.

As for church, in truth, there have been a number of moments on a Sunday when prayer would have been welcomed but I have felt almost embarrassed to disclose the magnitude of difficulty on the well-meaning girl who is volunteering at the front as part of the prayer ministry team. I mean, it is a little intense really isn’t it? “Hi – My name is Dani and this week two members of my family almost died”.

Perhaps it is just me but that feels like too a heavy burden to just offload onto a stranger without much warning? It also requires a level of vulnerability from me which is hard when I do not have sufficient relationship with that person. In this period, the importance of a number of genuine, consistent friendships has become much more apparent to me. I am not sure how I would have dealt with some of the events without the small network of people who I know will pray when I need them to. I belong to a home group which is currently closed to new members and that decision to remain small has fostered a form of community which I have not experienced before. This communing together with God in our midst is something that we as Christians can, I believe, do extraordinarily well and is a subject that churches need to continue to cultivate, model and teach on. In the past, I would have soldiered on independently burying a lot of hurt within me and hiding it from others behind a perfect, polished veneer. Whilst recent events have been at times overwhelming, the load has been lightened both by the arms of God but also by those of the people around me who have allowed me to be messy and unpolished and stood there with me regardless, reminding me of the Father’s embrace. They have edified me and encouraged me with words and actions from both the natural and the prophetic. Our churches and communities can indeed be a place for the hurting and we need to continue to equip one another to play our part.

Danielle spends her days working as a lawyer in London but her passion lies in learning how to love people well. She is working on some non law projects at the moment, including a research project into the adult entertainment industry, seeking to understand more about the complexities of the industry from the people working within it.

Danielle has recently decided to join the world of Twitter and you can find her @DaniKGR

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