Staying the course

Staying the course

Yesterday was Jacob’s dedication and we had an excellent day. A number of family, friends and godparents joined us for the service at Above Bar Church and we dedicated Jacob to the Lord together. The service was followed by a BBQ lunch at home with family and godparents and then by Open House to which 60 friends (including kids) joined with us . Even the wet and damp weather improved in the afternoon to reveal warm sunshine. Why am I am sharing this?  Because it was a huge testament to the fantastic support that we have had and to just how far we have come on our journey over the past couple of years.

From my ongoing study on Hope there is a story that stuck out to me partly because of the Norwegian link and partly because of the message of hope that shines through:

“Some psychologists decided to do an experiment on some Norwegian Wharf rats. They wanted to see how long it would take for the rats to drown. They put the rats in a huge tank of water, let them flounder and begin to go under. It took only 17 minutes for this to happen. But just before the rats went down for the last time, the psychologists rescued them, pulled them out, dried them off and took care of them for the next few days. 2 or 3 days later, the psychologists again put the same rats in another huge tank of water to see how long it would take them to drown this time. The rats survived a whopping 37 hours!”

In some ways its a pretty grim story (and it makes you wonder why they did the experiment in the first place) but the key question coming from this is what made the difference and enabled the rats to last so much longer second time round? May I suggest that the difference is accounted for by the notion of “hope”. The second time round they had hope that someone would rescue them as they had previously. Likewise the same is true of us. Once we experience God’s love and faithfulness it helps us to trust that God will do the same in the future. This is what encourages us to persevere, to stay the course when we suffer and gives us strength to endure the waiting process. I wonder what God has previously done for you which now encourages you to persevere?

Soon after Debbie was first admitted to the Mother & Baby Unit at Winchester (16th Sept 2014) I spent an afternoon at Debbie’s bedside (while she rested) thinking about Hebrews 10 esp. verses 19-25:

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The writer to the Hebrews is writing primarily to encourage young Jewish Christians to keep going and not go back to their Jewish roots and in this chapter issues a series of “Let us…” statements to encourage them to persevere. The writer encourages them to (1) draw near to God sincerely in full assurance of faith,  (2) hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, (3) consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds and (4) not give up meeting together but rather encourage one another more and more.

I thought that day about the nature of hope and prayed that God would help Debbie and I to cling to hope in Him, a hope which Paul says “does not disappoint” (Romans 5:3-6). Those were challenging days for us and our family but it is quite amazing to see how far God has brought us since then. I don’t think I ever really comprehended quite how poorly Debbie was at that time or indeed how long a journey it would be to healing and restoration. This is a journey is ongoing and will continue for some time yet. Back then it was very difficult to look forward in hope and yet when I look back now I can see that the whole time was full of hope. Recovery from mental health issues is rarely a linear process, there will be steps forward followed by steps backward. This I have learned is quite normal. Yet it’s clear to me to see how God led us forward step by step and demonstrated that “He who promised is faithful.”

There is much power in hope, indeed hope can dramatically transform our perspective on a given situation. This statement is I think generally true in life. People hope in all sorts of things and that hope can hold great power for change. Yet in our experience there is something about hoping in God which is especially powerful. He is the only “hope” which will never disappoint, He is the only “hope” which will ultimately satisfy. That does not mean that things will always work out as we would like them. Rather what it is saying is that ultimately what is more important is our knowledge and experience of God.

Many, many times (not least at the time I refer to above) have I asked God to take away or bring to an end some of the things we have experienced. God has blessed us with a remarkable story of gradual recovery but it is not exactly what I expected or had in mind. Only God knows all that He has been doing in us and through us during these times but one thing is clear…we will always remember with hope the way that God has led us and walked with us through the sufferings and adversity we have experienced these past couple of years.

What a great hope is the Lord our God, faithful, trustworthy and ultimately the only person who will truly satisfy. So let us draw near to God, hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, spur one another on to love and good deeds and encourage one another daily.

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