Fog

Today’s quiet time at my favourite spot lacked the view. Thickening fog obscured the beautiful vista that normally soothes my soul.

As I am prone to do, I immediately saw the analogy between the fog and where many of us can find ourselves.

I know the sea is still there – I can hear it even if I can’t see it. I know the horizon is there somewhere. The sky. Ships. Intellectually, I know they are there even though my direct experience – what my senses are telling me – suggests they aren’t.

I’m sure you see the parallel. As Christians, especially if we read the Scriptures or listen to Biblical teaching, know the Truth. I know God loves me. I know I have value. I know He has good plans for me. I know nothing can separate me from His love. I know He can work all things together for my good if I allow Him. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sometimes though, my “direct experience” doesn’t match what I know. Sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes there seems to be no hope. Sometimes it seems He isn’t listening. Sometimes He doesn’t even seem to be there. Sometimes I’m scared.

If you find yourself in that place, remember the fog. Remember that it isn’t sensible to only trust what you can see. To place experience over knowledge. Circumstance over Scripture.

If you were out walking and the fog came in, what would you do?

Maybe you would stay still. Stay where you know you are – where you knew you were before the fog came – and wait for it to pass.

Perhaps you are the sort of person who would get out their phone (let’s assume you had signal!) and rely on the map, the blinking dot, to tell you where you are and show you how to get where you want to be.

Perhaps you have no phone (or no signal!) and instead decide to trust in instinct and common sense. Find a road, find the edge of the field, the shoreline. Find a feature and follow it, knowing all roads lead somewhere and sooner or later you will come to a road sign.

Those are all good options for us when the fog of circumstances or our feelings cloud our trust in God’s Truth.

Stay where you are. Rest. Remember it was ok before and it will be again. This too shall pass.

Take out your Bible. See what it says about where you are and where you are going and rely on what it says instead of what you see.

Find a truth you do still believe, that you can still see, and follow it. Stay with it. Keep confessing and clinging to it until the fog clears and you can see more of the Truth.

One other part of the analogy from today’s fog… The longer I sat in the car the less vision I had. Not just because the fog thickened but because the water condensed on to the window screen and obscured my vision.

When I turned the ignition on and used the windscreen wipers to clear the screen I saw that actually the fog wasn’t as bad as I thought! The lack of vision came from where I was positioned…..

Do I need to spell it out?

Sometimes where we are is what is causing us to doubt, to fail to trust in God’s Word. That relationship. That attitude. The influence of that friend. The TV show you watch. The book you are reading. The music you listen to. That wrong teaching.

Find a friend you trust, someone you know walks closely with God, and get them to be your windscreen wiper. Ask them to pray and seek God for what is blocking your vision or, if you suspect you know the answer, deal with it.

Move from where you are currently positioned and see if your vision clears. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take an afternoon off. Sit in the prayer room. Have a holiday. Go visit someone. Anything to break the position you are in.

If you wake up feeling down and sit around all day on the sofa watching daytime TV, by the end of the day you will feel more tired, more sluggish, greyer, than if you’d got out of the house and gone for a walk or done some gardening… Where you are will affect how you feel and therefore what you can “see”.

Remember I write these words as someone who has been in all those positions, battled mental health issues, fought clinical depression, fought spiritual fatigue, been to the depths of emotions, the edge of sanity… I’ve been there and back.

If you are struggling in a place where you can identify with what I have described, I pray this post has at least wiped the windscreen for you and given you a moment where things are a little clearer. If so, please grab that moment and use that clarity to reposition yourself.

Not By Sight

Today is a rainy day.  I parked up in my usual spot and checked the app to see what ships were out there. This morning there are apparently 5 ships out there close to the shore and, if it was a clear day, another 7 visible to me. However this is my view:

Nothing to see

The wind is blowing from the south east which means the rain is driving against the right hand window which I usually have open when I am parked here, so I can hear the sound of the waves and see clearly without the slight tint of the car window. That isn’t possible today in this weather!

There is an obvious parallel with our daily walk as Christians. Sometimes the direction we are looking in is the direction of the storm. More so than that, using the “ship finder” app to see what vessels are out there – and trusting in its accuracy even when my sight can’t provide its own evidence – sounds like a certain oft-quoted Scripture:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 MEV)

When the conditions around us – circumstances, other people, the news, our health, our jobs – aren’t favourable to “clear sight” then we must, MUST trust in the accuracy of Scripture for our guidance.

His Word is our compass, our “sat nav”.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, and our comfort amidst the storm, His presence a reassurance that we will come through as long as we stay close.

Three of my children are on the autistic spectrum and they don’t do very well in crowds. In particular, when they were young if we needed to go somewhere crowded I was mindful of how this would make them feel. “Stay close” I’d tell them “keep hold of my hand, or hold on to my coat, don’t let go”. Sometimes they would close their eyes to make it bearable, clinging tightly to me and trusting not only that I wouldn’t let them go but that I wouldn’t let them walk into any obstacles or get hurt.

[There’s that childlike faith again]

How much more so is our Father in Heaven like that (Matthew 7:11)?  When I am overwhelmed, when it is too hard for me to see clearly, I just need to close my eyes and put my hand into His Hand.  Listen only for the sound of His voice telling me the way to go.  Rely on the comfort of His nearness, the assurance of His presence, to quieten all that is within me.

Rest.

Trust.

Peace.

When the fear has subsided and the way is clear again, I can open my eyes again and rejoice that He has brought me safely through the trouble.

See how the rain has eased?  How the visibility is clearing?  The ships whose presence I had to take on faith now visible?

After the rain

In a world where we rely on electronic devices and pieces of software to tell us about the weather, where we are, and how to get where we are going, it is distressing to see how little trust we sometimes put in the inspired Word of God.

Holy Spirit, help me today and always to use God’s Word as the only true compass in my life, the only true oracle, and for it to be the first (and never the last) place I turn for comfort.

A Matter of Perspective

As I drive to “my spot” there is a moment when I turn off the main road and on to the road that leads steeply down the hill on to the sea front promenade.  I always have a “and relax!” feeling as I catch my first glimpse of the vista that will be before me for the next hour or so.

I quickly assess the number and type of ships that are out there (it is both a busy stretch of water and a marine “lay-by” so there are usually plenty) and then, once I am parked, I clear my mind of the distraction by first looking up the ships on a ship finder app (yes, I’m that sad!).

One thing that surprises me afresh each time is how my perspective drastically alters what I think I see.

As I round the hill, in that first glance, I “see” the position of the ships in relation to where I am.  I can “see” a ship right in front of me perhaps, not far from the shore.

Once I am parked however – just a few hundred yards further than where I was for that first glance – the ship now appears to be far to my right and, when I look it up on the app, it is actually quite some distance away from the shore.

Other times I think I can see the order of the ships – which are nearest and guess the distance to the next one – but then when I look them up I am completely wrong! Most surprisingly, ships between me and the horizon that I think are close can actually be very many miles away.  On a day with good visibility it is possible to see 20km (12 miles) off the shore to the London Array windfarm, which is a distance that (in our fairly built up country) isn’t a distance we are used to looking at and therefore appreciating the distance is hard.

It makes me very aware that our perspective can change what is “real” to us.  I could confidently and honestly assert that a ship was in a certain position or at a certain distance and I would not be lying.  That would be my honest and true view.

However someone placed further a long the coast would equally “honestly” assert something quite different.  The truth of the location of the ship was not actually related to our experience of it. Or rather, our experience, our perception, affected how near to the truth our truth was.

Does that sound familiar?

My husband (whom I respect greatly as a teacher of the Gospel) has been teaching us as a family for many years now to stand fully on The Word regardless of our experience.  When that experience doesn’t match the Word (whether it be on the subject of healing, freedom, prosperity or anything else) he exhorts himself and us to seek to bring our experience UP to the Truth of the Word rather than drag the Word DOWN to our level.

A favourite phrase he uses is just because it is true doesn’t mean it is the Truth.

Just because it is true that my body may be experiencing the symptoms of sickness, the Truth is that I am healed, that my full health has been purchased by the blood of Christ, so I focus on receiving the full experience of the Truth into the truth of my daily life.

Bearing in my the visual analogy of the ships helps me to even more fully grasp that lesson and drives me to seek more and more to base my perceptions, my reality, on the one true view – the one from the Cross – from which position I am righteous, healed, whole, saved, victorious.