Psalm 147:3 He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. That’s why we can’t trust feelings. This Psalm (and loads of other verses) tell us with total clarity, that God cares about us, but that’s something we have to know by faith, trust by grace, and then claim as our own. So that’s what I’m doing now. I am stating quite simply to myself as much as to you, God cares about me. Hmmm. That takes a dollop of trust. Let’s not pretend it’s always easy to believe that. Sometimes it isn’t. It takes a few minutes, a bit of discipline, to ‘take every thought captive’ and believe.
Christianity is not a walk in the park. But who wants to walk in a park every day of their life? Christianity is a walk of trust.
I’ve been thinking a lot about trust this last couple of weeks, mulling over ‘stepping out in faith’ and all the questions around understanding God’s leading, all the big things like that. Deep stuff. But then, this morning, as I walked back into my home after a few errands and snatched conversations, wow, forget the big theological stuff….. my alone-ness hit me. Another whole bloody weekend stretching in front of me of alone-ness. I had a clarion thought, as loud and piercing as any bell echoing all through my house ” If God is with you, this is where the rubber hits the road. Do you trust Him to be with you, to never forsake you, or don’t you?”
Loneliness is painful and no one would volunteer for it. We all like being alone, but the ache and the distress of loneliness…. no. No one would volunteer for that. But here’s the thing, my sugar ducks (I’ll tell you a story about sugar ducks one day), loneliness is only damaging when it brings other things alongside, things like bitterness, a sense of unfairness, rejection and doubting God’s goodness. And His presence.
I can suddenly lose the sense of God being present, but this is a common human condition apparently; In Psalm 25, we hear
‘My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart‘
So, on a day like this, that’s what I have to do. Turn my eyes to God.
When my husband died very suddenly, I was working with a lovely producer who was married to a Freudian analyst. He (and she) were HUGE believers in counselling and therapy, and I was persuaded to see a grief counsellor. Maybe I went in there with the wrong expectations, but honestly, chums – it was laughable! As she took a brief history of my experiences of death (quite a few) she looked at me with compassion (never look at me putting your head on one side and speaking in a soft voice) and said “Do you feel as if you’ve been abandoned?” I was a bit nonplussed. How to answer such a stupid, banal question? Anthony didn’t decide to up and die, or my mother, or Peter, or my husband…. so I just said “No” (heroically resisting the temptation to poke her in the eye). After a few minutes of similarly inane questions, never the most patient person in the world, I said “I’m sorry. This isn’t for me. I could write this scene better than we’re living it.” and I left. That was the end of grief counselling. For me, there have never been any feelings of unfairness in grief. Why ask ‘Why me?’ when it’s as easy to ask ‘Why not me?’
A few months after George died, my agent held a writer’s dinner and she carefully arranged the seating plan so that I would be sitting next to a Very Very Famous Writer who had been widowed for about two years. She thought we would understand each other. We didn’t! This poor bloke had been serially unfaithful to his wife and for the last couple of years of her life they had lived apart. There had been a brief reconciliation, just a few months I think, and then she died. Now he was coping with not just the loss but his own bitter regrets and he was raging that he had thrown away so much, so lightly. Whilst she had forgiven him, too many things had been left unsaid and the story for him was, and would always be, incomplete. But there were no regrets between George and me. On the very day he died there was a lovely shiny opportunity for a blazing bloody row (all his fault, of course!) but we had both stepped back from it… held hands…. and even smiled at our mutual crossness. My last memory of George is him standing on our drive, waggling an empty milk bottle at me as I drove away (“We need milk”) and even in the mirror I could see the silly face he was pulling. I think I gave him a cheerful V sign. An hour later he was dead. We parted the best of friends, the very best. There were no secrets between us. There was nothing left untold in our story. So, I had nothing in common with this VVF writer.
That dinner party for me was exciting – all I wanted to do was drink robust red wine, eat too much, share some daft anecdotes, laugh a lot and have a bloody good time. And I did. I left the party with another writer, a delightfully drunk one, a lovely lovely Irish man, and we ended up sleeping on my agent’s floor (no, nothing like that – behave yourselves) and in the morning we were both very fragile and couldn’t remember paying the taxi driver. I hope one of us did. The bitter widower? I doubt if he woke up on anyone’s floor, just in his own cold bed.
So. There is loneliness and there is bitter loneliness. Sometimes, chums, I find myself edging towards the bitterness. And that’s when I have to turn to the promises of God. Sometimes I look at marrieds and I resent them. Bloody hell, I resent them. Sometimes I look at families and I feel rejected. Bloody hell, I feel rejected. Sometimes I look at me and I see only dying alone. And that’s when I have to ask myself “Do you trust God to never leave you or forsake you? Really?“.
Did you know that there is a higher death rate among the lonely than in the general population? It makes sense when you compare the lives of couples with those of single people. Couples prop each other up. Give each other reason to live. They warm each other’s bones with their love. If I had come back this morning to my lovely George and told him about my errands and the people I met, he would have laughed, chivvied me… made a cup of coffee, said something really annoying, and the morning would have slipped by unnoticed… as it was, there was just me, and two dogs who aren’t the greatest conversationalists and that lonely lonely feeling.
Oh. And you. Bloggies.
What am I saying, so ineptly? Here’s what I’m trying to say: life is choice. The choice is not always easy. Sometimes it’s bloody bloody bloody hard. Like today. But if we claim to believe in the living Word of God, in Jesus, then we make that choice. We choose joy. It doesn’t mean there aren’t tears along the way, or that we’re always skipping along with light-heartedness echoing in our wake. But we choose joy. We choose not to believe the voice that says we are rejected, unwanted, superfluous, irrelevant. Instead we choose to hear and to believe the voice that says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
One day there will be no more weeping. Until then I will trust in God, not just for the big things like where He wants me, the mission He’s giving me, the direction of the church, the future of life on earth (!), and Brexit, but I choose to trust my lovely Lord in the little things too, like this sudden engulfing, overwhelming feeling of alone-ness. One day there will be no more weeping.
And until then, there are blogs! Yay! I am so glad there are blogs.
Shall I tell you about sugar ducks? We had a close friend, also called George, who came over from India to the Midlands as a teenager. This George is from a very well educated Indian family, and he and his parents were met at the East Midlands Airport by the larger family, and they all went to the food mall for that lovely time of catch-up and celebration. After a while George went to the counter to get another cup of tea and the woman serving said “Do you want sugar, ducks?” George thought this was a fabulous suggestion – sugar ducks! “Oh, yes, please.” he said “And could I have one for my mother?” The woman plainly didn’t understand so George thought it might be his accent causing the problem, and he said as loud and as slowly and clearly as he could “Yes. I would like a sugar duck for my mother, please.”