By Jonathan Adams
God is immediately speaking to Hope Church as we enter 2022. His words are motivating and encouraging, but surprisingly one of His key focus areas for us may feel like tough love.
What is God saying? As a church we have had several words which are aligned. Early in January I preached from Jeremiah 29, that Gods’ great statements of strength and love (‘I have plans to give you a hope and a future’) are words written to a people in exile. God is literally telling his people that even though they are cut-off, removed, hurting and isolated, He is still there, still working and blessing, still planning to bring them back in His timing. Likewise when our guest speaker Simon spoke to us recently. Focussing on the life of Joseph as a mirror for our own lives, he showed us how dreams and destiny are often followed by devastation, and that God sometimes chooses to lead us through times of difficulty and disappointment until his timing is right. Adding to all this, Donal recently shared with the Leadership team about God bringing a time of shaking for different people. So if we put these different words together, it seems clear that God is openly and intentionally leading many of us through difficult times. This won’t be relevant for every single person, but enough for God to put this onto our family radar!!
How do we respond to all this? Tough love from God can be difficult to take. It is much easier to be led into green pastures and quiet waters, but these darker valleys can be unsettling, upsetting, and emotionally exhausting. We’ve all experienced that. Over the past few days as I’ve reflected on this, several great pieces of wisdom have been shared with me:
- Accept what is happening around you. God is still at work! Just because things are challenging does not mean you are out of his plans and purposes! This is Joseph’s experience, and the experience of many many Christians through history. There is a sweetness and lightness when we can accept that God’s presence is with us, and that His active love and grace are fully there, despite our situation. Oh what reassurance!
- There is a choice. One option is to become disillusioned and cut God off because He doesn’t ‘get’ what we’re going through. Another option is to try and strive our way out of difficulty. Both of these choices are negative in the end. But the positive choice is to try and grow in dependence on God. Using this time to pray, read and worship simply because you trust Him, and because He is worth it. This might feel unusual, particularly at the start, because your worship is separate from how you might be feeling, but He is there.
- Accept God’s timing. Hebrews 6:12 and James 5:7-11 encourage us to be strong in patience, as well as strong in faith.
Join me in prayer at this time. God has been gracious enough to reveal the work He is doing in us. Let us gratefully and joyfully take time to meet Him in prayer. Pray that as a body we will grow in humility and dependence on God, and that this would be a time of deep, profound, faith-building in all of us. ‘Faith so grounded and solid that nothing can shake it.’ Please oh Jesus, do that in us we pray. Amen.