Growing in and through challenging times by Rev Stephen Brooks

Growing In and Through Challenging Times 

This year the world has changed beyond our imagination, and ushered in major transformation and challenge. In times like this, we seek to find God’s will through prayer, the Scriptures, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and seeking Christian counsel. But what happens when there is no voice from God, or time to seek counsel? 

Never before has there been a need for Mindfulness – a psychological definition is ‘the process of keeping one’s mind in the present moment, while staying non-judgmentally detached from potentially destructive thoughts and feelings’. We are encouraged by the Scripture, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). 

Many people, who experience mental illness, suffer from ‘fusion’ – where thoughts, feelings and reality are ‘fused’. If these thoughts or feelings are anxious and depressed, that is what one becomes. Mindfulness talks about ‘thinking de-fusion’ to ‘get out of your mind and into your life, being conscious of the detail of your environment and the specific characteristics of our situation’.*

Mindfulness is found, in various forms, in all religious traditions. It is intentional, enabling us to focus on the big picture without getting drawn into the impossible detail of every minute issue of our lived experience.

The Bible lets us know stillness is important too: Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!”  It’s important to stop running around, jumping to conclusions or forcing a solution. The study entitled `The Restorative Benefits of Nature` demonstrated how the brain naturally restores its own cognitive skills when environmental sounds are lowered. The study shows how the quiet stillness, found walking in nature, allows the brain to decrease its sensory guard, which helps it to release tension and strain. This gives the brain a chance to restore itself.

When you are going through pain, and you can’t see the purpose at the time, there are some things that can help to get a better perspective:

  • Remember that no one else has your life story. Your difficult circumstances aren’t fun, but they put you in a position to learn, grow and discover things no one else can. Your experiences are shaping you in ways no one else has been shaped and, in time to come will give you an advantage. 
  • Although no one else has your life story, many people do face similar circumstances, and you could be a voice to help them through their own challenges and pain. This would not have been possible if you hadn’t gone through it yourself. 
  • When you go through family drama, doubts in your faith, relationship breakdown, illness, etc., you can understand how someone else feels and become a person who can relate to the experiences of others.  The truth is, the next best thing to having something fixed for us is having someone who has been through it to walk alongside us. 

Throughout the Bible, we are reminded that Jesus was a Man acquainted with grief.

Jesus experienced hardships in life. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20). He was born in a stable and cradled in a manger (Luke 2:8). Paul wrote of Jesus as follows: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus suffered grief from His family. Jesus’ family often did not understand Him. Jesus’ own brothers in the flesh rejected Him while He was in the flesh (Mark 6:4). Jesus always placed His heavenly Father above His earthly family and domestic matters (see Matthew 10:36-39).

Jesus experienced disappointment from His friends. Jesus’ closest companions often brought Him grief. There were misunderstandings on the part of the Twelve. There appears to have been much complaining and strife among the Twelve that must have been a source of annoyance to Jesus (Matthew 18:1). Toward the end of Jesus’ life, we read: “Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

Jesus had sorrow from the temptations He faced. Jesus’ temptations were real, and covered the whole range that appealed to mankind: there was the lust of the flesh; lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (Matthew 4:1-11). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote of Jesus’ temptation thus: “(He) was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We must remember that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh (Matthew 1:23, so imagine the sorrow and grief Jesus, God incarnate, must have experienced at the indignity of temptation!

What if God used our painful situation to position us for something amazing that we haven’t even imagined? Sometimes we see the point after the fact. Apostle Paul, in his last letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6-8), is first looking round at his present situation, and then he looks back at what the grace of God has done for him, those glorious achievements of his life, and finally Paul looks ahead. He is soon to die, his life on this earth is all behind him, but he is looking ahead. He has a future. The Christian, even on his deathbed, has a future. What a wonderful assurance we have.

*Fusion of mental health and incapacity legislation

John Dawson (a1) and George Szmukler (a2) DOI: https;//doi.org/10.1192/bjp.188.6.504 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 January 2018.

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