Tag Archives: Brokenness

Survival strategy

I wrote this in my diary the night I missed Jon Foreman’s aftershow/solo show at the BCDO festival; it’s a survival strategy for getting through a depressive episode, so I have it to look back on the next time the ‘wolf‘ starts beating me around the head with painful thoughts. It’s the process I went through that night, and over the following couple of days, firstly to withstand the immediate assault, and then to calm myself down from it, and then to find God, and light, and hope, through it all, and eventually to recover.

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The little note at the bottom I added in the morning. It felt like sometimes you have to lose the occasional battle even when you’re winning the war, and that it’s ok that sometimes ‘chaos wins’. With no apologies for quoting a lyric, because it was one of the lyrics that shifted my perspective that night, this episode was the shadow that proved the sunshine; suddenly facing a (temporary) deep and scary darkness turned up the contrast on my life, and giving the tears to God as a desperate prayer I really did see hope, and joy, and every good thing, in a breathtaking light.

Hope is strongest set against despair.

The Light shines the brightest in the dark.*

 

*John 1:5, The Bible

Resurrecting me

Like so many of Jon Foreman’s songs, Resurrect Me has played a huge part in my story.
I stayed up till 3:30am last night watching (amongst other things in the beautiful, honest, hope-filled evening that was TWLOHA’s Heavy and Light concert) Jon singing this song. In a whole evening dedicated to being real, opening up about when life hurts, and affirming that hope is real, it struck me again that this song was what first inspired me to seek help for my own pain about a year ago.
I’d been back and forth between ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ for some time, and keeping an eye on myself, aware I needed to take my mental health seriously but not sure at what point to reach out.
And then one day last spring I found myself listening to this song. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but that day one line jumped out at me: ‘I tried to drown the pain with a friend of mine, it didn’t seem to help, ah she’s got a pretty face with her wedding lace but I’m still waking up with myself
Suddenly it was obvious; if I’m not ok now, without a job, what makes me think I will be ok when I get one? Isn’t the problem right here, in me? A line in a book I was reading that same week confirmed it: Wherever we go, ‘We take ourselves with us’. I had to find a way to be ok with that!
Here is the truth. I was ‘ok’, but I was carrying pain that previous jobs had not fixed. Neither had my marriage, my relocation or my home. Maybe it was ok for that ‘ok’ to not be enough, and to seek help.
I can testify that it was absolutely worth it! There is help and support out there, none of us are alone in our pain, and as TWLOHA will tell you, hope is real, help is real and recovery is possible. I’m now on that road; I hope that I am learning to ‘take myself with me’ now, to be able to keep my eyes on the honest reality of the state of my soul and listen to both my ‘light’ and my ‘heavy’.
I don’t know where you are at. But if you find yourself waiting for something to complete you, I’d love to encourage you to find help to discover that you can be whole already, without that thing yet in place. If you’re not ok with yourself now, you will not be ok when that job, relationship, family, move, marriage, money, or home arrives. That pain is there, in you. And that’s ok. And you can be helped to find yourself whole, now.
Resurrection is real.

You can watch the whole of Heavy and Light here, I recommend the whole thing, a really affirming and honest event.

Fighting depression with truth

Depression lies. Lately it has been making me feel like a failure, a reject, someone who breaks all she touches, that maybe I have much to offer but that the world isn’t interested. But it’s not the truth. The lies are powerful, but ultimately truth holds a greater power.

Since I last wrote on the subject I have been to my doctor, been diagnosed with mild depression and as a result been offered counselling, and referred to a self-help group for learning to manage anxiety and depression. I’ve also been reading a book with a friend, which has given me some really helpful insights and ways of dealing with my illness. I want to share what I’m learning as I figure the more information is out there for people, the more we can overcome this stuff. I hope I can help demystify the treatment process a bit, and share the things I’ve found helpful.*

Despite my really pretty low level symptoms, my doctor listened when I described them, took me seriously and told me that what I was saying sounded important. Low level as they are, the symptoms were still enough to be diagnosable and worth referring for treatment, and catching it at this early stage should stop it becoming worse. It’s SO worth knowing the symptoms of mental illness, so you know when to seek help; you don’t have to just accept these symptoms as normal and suffer in silence, there is help, and as with so many illnesses, treating it early gives the best prospects of recovery.

So. My self-help group is basically a training course, teaching a group of us a set of techniques called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which basically aim to break the vicious cycles of self-destructive thoughts and behaviours our illnesses can lead us into. This is the main recommended treatment for mild depression and anxiety, and one of the most effective too for mental illness in general. It is front-led, and somewhat death-by-powerpoint, but as a result, none of us have to share anything personal or talk about our illness or circumstances at all unless we want to. I’m currently almost half way through the CBT course, and am already seeing some things change.

One of the most significant changes is actually that I’ve seen a massive change in the confidence of other participants. The first session I found heart-breaking; we were a room full of beautiful, broken souls, and so many were evidently completely unaware that they were not alone. People were surprised to hear that mental illnesses like theirs affect a quarter of people at any one time, and stories emerged of feelings of isolation, worries that they were ‘crazy’ or would be seen that way, years spent trying to just cope with the way they were feeling, unaware that there was help available, or that ‘help’ did not necessarily mean scary drugs and certainly did not mean being locked up, and all sorts of feelings of guilt, weakness or inadequacy in coming to this group. I realised how incredibly, unusually blessed I am to be surrounded by so many friends, family and colleagues who are open about their health and help to raise awareness and share solidarity with each other; as a result, I have experienced none of this. Four weeks in, people are no longer trying to sneak into the clinic unseen; they are talking more freely about their experiences, they are beginning to see how normal and common their experiences are, to speak of their illnesses as illnesses and not weaknesses, and there’s a general sense of solidarity, strength and pride breaking through. It’s lovely! Openness makes such a difference! Breaking stigma is one of our greatest weapons against mental illness, so please do what you can to open up the conversation around you; it truly makes a difference.

Anyway; back to the content. We have so far been learning techniques to help us improve our sleep patterns, calm us down when anxious, break cycles of destructive thinking, and motivate ourselves into getting active again when depression tries to shut us down, paralyse us into inaction, stop us enjoying the things we used to, or to regain control of tasks that seem overwhelming.

Sleep – sleep problems can be a cause and symptom of depression and anxiety, and tackling them can help recovery. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, smoking, eating too soon before bed, physical discomfort, exercising not enough and/or too soon before bed, lying awake, and using the bed for things other than sleep and sex, especially involving screens, are all detrimental to sleep. Apparently the amount of sleep we get is far less important than its quality, so it isn’t about going to bed or getting up at particular times so much as retraining ourselves to sleep well when we do sleep. We were advised to learn the difference between feeling fatigued and feeling sleepy – literally ready to fall asleep – and only go to bed when we are genuinely sleepy, and to get up and go somewhere away from the bedroom if we find ourselves lying awake, until we feel sleepy again. Keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks (no longer, don’t get too hung up on it) can help identify patterns.

Calming techniques – we were taught a breathing exercise to help us to calm down when feeling anxious. Instead of breathing quickly and shallow, it helps slow our breathing down and deepen it. Putting one hand on our chest and one on our belly we can feel the difference between breathing deeply and shallowly. When we are breathing deeply, from the diaphragm, our belly should move more than our chest, so focus on this. Count as you breathe in – maybe to four but whatever feels natural – hold the breath in for a second or two, then let the breath out slowly as you count a little longer – maybe to six, but again whatever feels natural. Focussing on breathing can help calm the mind in itself, but so does the deep breathing itself. We also learnt a relaxation technique where in your mind you think about each part of the body in turn, noticing how it feels, tensing the muscles there and then consciously relaxing them again, working down the body until we’ve noticed and relaxed all areas we’ve had tensed up.

Thought Challenging – healthy or unhealthy, we all have negative thoughts pass through our minds regularly. But when we are ill, they come at us more frequently, we lose resilience to them, and we can find ourselves in unhealthy thought spirals. Firstly, we learnt the difference between a thought and a feeling, which sounds obvious until you consider how often we might say ‘I feel…’ when describing something we actually think (for example ‘I feel stupid’). A thought you can rephrase into an ‘I think…’ statement (‘I think I am stupid’), and someone could call into question, whereas a physical or emotional feeling (‘I feel sad/hot/sick…’) no one can argue with. Secondly we learnt the different types of unhelpful thought patterns we might find ourselves in, so that we can learn to spot them. These include: Thinking in very black and white terms (that things can’t be partly good, only all good or all bad), Overgeneralising (thinking something is always the case), Taking things personally (eg thinking it must be your fault), Mind reading (thinking you know what someone else is thinking or coming up with reasons why something has happened), Fearing the worst, fixed ‘Shoulds’ that induce guilt, Focussing on the negative whilst ignoring the positive, or even Disqualifying the positive (eg putting down a compliment paid to you rather than accepting it), making Negative predictions that can be self-fulfilling (such as ‘I won’t enjoy myself’), and Mistaking feelings for facts. We were encouraged to keep a diary, noting down the negative thoughts we’d had as they come at us, to rate how bad they made us feel and how much we believed them, and through that, to identify the really problematic one that we’d most like to tackle. For me – ‘I think I’m a failure’. It should also help identify triggering situations. Finally, we challenge the thought. We were taught to put the thought on trial, to list the concrete, factual evidence for and against that thought really being true. Usually that will result in a list of points both for and against it. And from this, we can then work out a more rational statement to replace the original thought with; not an unrealistically positive statement, but a more true one, taking into account both sides of the facts. Identifying, analysing, challenging our thoughts and learning to believe the replacement thought more than the original negative thought will take practise, but I’m finding even beginning to practise is helping disrupt the unhelpful thought spirals that lead to my low moods.

Motivation – depression can easily demotivate us from doing anything; it feels like a weight pressing down on us, making even straightforward activity hard work, making us tired or overwhelmed, taking away enjoyment from things we used to enjoy doing, and adding anxiety to social situations that can make us avoid others. However, the truth is that withdrawing from activity is one of the very worst things to do; it perpetuates and deepens the illness in a vicious cycle and can lead to it becoming really serious. Breaking that cycle takes a lot of effort, but is vital to recovery. The first thing we were advised was that motivation doesn’t necessarily precede activity; activity itself is often what causes motivation to increase. The technique we were taught to regain motivation I have to admit caused me a lot of anxiety even thinking about it, as it sounds like the to-do list from hell – but I do think it makes sense in breaking the paralysing effects of depression, so I’m going to persevere with making it work:

We were taught to list all our routine tasks (everyday things like showering and cooking for example), our necessary tasks (like work, paying bills, and for me at present, freecycling all the junk that’s in our garden), and pleasurable activities (including things we used to enjoy doing but are currently finding difficult, such as social activities or hobbies). The next step is to rate them in terms of how easy or difficult we are currently finding each task, breaking down those we’ve rated hardest into the smallest chunks we can, and then re-rating those chunks for difficulty. Then we are to plan out our weeks, scheduling in the tasks for really specific times so we don’t put them off, making sure we plan in a good balance of routine, necessary and pleasurable activities, and crucially, starting small. They emphasised the need to not try to take on too much to start with, but concentrate on the tasks we’ve rated as easiest, and also not to get carried away if we achieve something and feel good, and be tempted to do too much more, overdo it, and then feel low on energy the following day. Finally, at the end of the week, we were advised to review the week’s plan before planning our next week; what worked, what didn’t, had we taken on too much, could we do a bit more..?

Discussing this in the group after we’d given it a go for a couple of weeks, we found that breaking down the tasks as much as possible, and celebrating and rewarding small victories rather than beating ourselves up for stuff we hadn’t managed to do were really important, and I confessed that I’d found it hard to do with a rather chaotic lifestyle; I’ve been trying to apply the principle to smaller blocks of time, maybe a day or half day at a time, planning my time so I don’t get stuck on the sofa feeling low and overwhelmed but making sure I deliberately planned in little tasks to all my time, and keeping a good balance between routine, necessary and pleasurable activities. I now have a book in which I’ve started noting down small victories, things I found difficult on the low days but did anyway, which is encouraging.

At the same time, I have been reading a book with a friend called ‘Loving God With All Your Mind’. This is a book written by Elizabeth George, a Christian who discovered a similar treatment for depression and anxiety via the Bible. Having struggled with depression and anxiety for many years, she suddenly made a breakthrough after reading the words of Phil 4:8; ‘…think about what is true and honourable, right and pure, beautiful and respected. If anything is good and worthy of praise, think about these things.’ She suddenly had a revelation that actually the way she was thinking did not match up to these criteria. The more she examined her thoughts, held them up against these virtues, and questioned ‘but is it true?’, the more she began to break her destructive thought patterns and head towards recovery.

Truth in particular is an important one; it is so easy to begin to believe or worry about untruths, about ourselves, about others, and certainly about God. Some of my own are that I am a failure, that others are better than me at everything, and feeling surplus to requirements, even to the extent of doubting whether God has a use and a plan for me. There’s a little truth behind some of this; but are these things really true..? Honestly, no.

The technique is remarkably similar to that recommended under CBT, and has helped many people overcome depression and anxiety. Learn to identify the negative thoughts underlying your low feelings, and ask yourself ‘but is it true?’. I’ve been doing this a lot over the last few weeks, and although it’s early days, I know it is already helping a little. I’m still getting into negative thought spirals that mean sometimes I just cannot lift myself out of a real low, but just beginning to ask the question, is it true, is already starting to interrupt the vicious cycle a little, and causing me to focus on what I do know to be true in fact, even if I don’t necessarily feel it at the time. Good stuff. I’m only part way into the book so I can’t say whether the whole book is helpful or not as yet, but certainly I recommend these first few chapters, and exploring how this Biblical advice could help you.

We so easily lose sight of what is actually, really, true. Bringing ourselves back into a true perspective is tough when we’re ill, and takes a lot of time and practise. But at the end of the day I do believe the truth will set us free.

(2nd half of this post here, featuring my notes on what we learnt about panic attacks and managing worry.)


 

*I figure it is in the interests of the NHS to have this shared widely to potentially help others on the way to recovery and thereby possibly help reduce pressure on the overstretched service – though please do still go to professionals for help. What you won’t get from online advice is the chance to ask questions and advice of professional therapists, share difficulties you find when using these techniques, tips for making them work for you, and the sense of solidarity from being part of a group and learning with others in the same position.

Dirt and eagles

Maybe, sometimes, face down in the dirt is the best perspective I can get

I find myself, again, hemmed in by even the tiny foothills of the great and daunting mountains, which rise higher the longer I look at them

But yet, with You, who hold the very universe in the palm of Your hand

Silence.

Sometimes there are tears or complaints.

But the truth is, I’m all out of words and attempts to find an answer.

Instead, I bring You silence, and emptiness.

In silent humility, face to the earth, You resolve form in the darkness

Love and Life itself

Closer than my breath, and big enough to hold every thing that exists

And when I open my eyes, I find us soaring, so far above the tiny landscape below…

 

Oh Come Emmanuel

This week I released my first ever song! It took a lot to get to this point, so I want to share a bit more about both the song itself, and my journey this past two years trying to overcome my fear of singing.

The song is an adaptation of the Advent carol ‘O Come, o come Emmanuel’; I have always loved the haunting tune and message of hope of this song. However, I struggle with the lyrics; full of ‘dayspring’s and ‘rods of Jesse’, it’s not just ‘christianese’, but archaic christianese! Beautiful, poetic, and meaningful too once you dig into it, but requiring a lot of explanation. I also feel, as do many others, that there’s a place for more lament in worship. We sing a lot of celebration songs, rightly as we have so much to be thankful for and to celebrate as Christians. But we live in a broken world, where the promised Kingdom of God, and restored relationships between all things, is still yet to come in full. Sometimes it feels impossibly far off. We shouldn’t gloss over the pain of this in our prayers and worship. In fact I believe part of the process of bringing in the Kingdom is to open ourselves up to feel the chasm between how things currently are, and the potential they have in God’s restored order.

The fasting, waiting, preparation seasons of Lent and Advent in the traditional church calendar are good times to refocus on this before throwing ourselves too heavily back into the celebrations of Christmas and Easter. At Lent we often focus on ourselves, the gap between our own failure and frailty, and where our salvation is headed through Christ. So Advent is the perfect time to look at the wider world, to see our current state of pain, feel ourselves far from home and longing for the promised coming of a restored world, offer the pain to God in prayer and be encouraged by the reality of the promised hope, foreshadowed by the first coming of Jesus as a baby in fulfilment of the ancient messianic prophecies. We spend a lot of time imagining ourselves into the pre-Jesus world, looking towards his first coming as a baby, but not so much time thinking about the in-between state we are in today and looking towards what His return will mean for the world. I decided to rewrite the carol as a modern-day Advent lament, drawing myself as a worshipper to lament the brokenness in our lives and world, how far we feel from God at times, and from being the bringers of the Kingdom… and yet drawing myself to the hope that, as Christ once arrived in this world to begin its salvation, so He will come again to complete it.

That’s a lot to try to achieve in a song! And I’m well aware my lyrics are a little contrived, not as poetic as the original, and are a long way off capturing the hugeness of the modern Advent waiting. But I’m nonetheless, as a beginner songwriter, pleased with how it came out.

Here’s the song; my lyrics are released under a creative commons license so feel free to use or adapt them yourself.


Lyrics:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

Creation groans in agony
We hold the keys to liberty
But so worn down by cares of life
We e’en neglect our own in strife
(rejoice…)

O God, we feel so far from Thee
Thy presence, Thy eternity
This fallen world is far from home
And You seem hid by cloud, unknown
(rejoice…)

And on that day when God shall dwell
With man in our new ‘Israel’
Thy kingdom come, our fall undone
And all creation joined as one
(rejoice…)

https://broomsofdestruction.bandcamp.com/track/o-come-emmanuel-a-lament


And learning to sing? That has been a long process! Singing solo has been a paralysing fear as long as I can remember; I’m not sure why but there’s something incredibly, uncomfortably vulnerable about singing, and I just couldn’t make myself do it. Over the past couple of years, since I find these qualities in pretty much everyone I admire, I’ve challenged myself to push out of my comfort zone and become more real, open and vulnerable in as many ways as I can, step by step.

Learning to share my imperfect poetry was a first step; it makes me cringe! But how else can I grow, and how else can I inspire others to share their hearts too if I myself want to wait till I have things perfectly sorted out before sharing? So, I slowly began sharing poetry.

Sharing song lyrics seemed for some reason an extra step of vulnerability, so I began with this, sharing it with my bandmates. The tune already exists, so it wasn’t as painful as sharing an original tune as well as lyrics. And they decided they liked it and wanted to record it for our Christmas album – with me singing it! :O Terrifying!

This whole time I’ve been pushing myself more and more to sing; I’ve been singing group backing vocals for a little while, which is fine if I think noone can hear me individually! I’ve more and more this past couple of years been learning to sing louder so I can be heard, allowing myself to be given a microphone when performing live. Last year for the first time, the band persuaded me to record a harmony part for a song, which although mixed into the finished track would be behind other vocals, it had to be recorded solo; that involved a lot of persuasion, sugar and adrenaline!!

But this year something clicked; M and I were asked to perform at a wedding, and somehow I managed to just take a microphone, set to full volume, and sing a duet with him, with almost no nerves! I’ve since managed to repeat it at a couple of small festivals. At one of the festivals, we had a prophetic prayer session, and the leader came and spent some time praying for me. He began praying for me to find my voice, and though he had no idea he was doing so or the significance of the words to me, his prayers over me began to quote the Switchfoot song ‘Let It Out‘! It changed things for me. Though I was still horrified at the thought of singing a lead vocal on Oh Come Emmanuel, worse, in my own lyrics, I managed it!

Next: Learn to sing solo live, and well 😉

More Christmas music from my band can be found here (a mix of choral, rock and folk carols, original songs silly and serious, and much festivity!), free to download; happy Christmas! 🙂

My mess, God’s grace

I’ve had an interesting few weeks lately. It began with me getting into a situation I shouldn’t have, and the result has been a crazy journey through temptation, failure, and God’s amazing grace. I feel like I’m at a point now where I’ve learnt a lot from the whole mess, so I’m writing about it now partly in the interests of honesty and partly so that I have it to return to next time I screw things up!

Let’s get it out there to start with; it’s slightly complicated but, having so far managed to avoid the obvious, I managed to find a whole new way to be unfaithful to my husband. Friends and family – we’re fine, I’ve been backtracking furiously ever since I realised what I was getting into, I think I’ve caught it before any real harm was done, and we’ve talked about it and although I’ve definitely crossed the line of what I think is ok, thankfully he doesn’t see it that way. We’re fine, and I’m an idiot. But it has been a shock to see what I’m actually capable of, that after almost 16 years as a Christian, just when I was beginning to see some progress in other areas I’ve struggled with, I’ve found a whole new way to sin that I hadn’t even anticipated being a problem. And it’s shaken me that I could let it get out of control.

However, I’m beginning to feel the whole experience has actually been good for me. It’s highlighted my weakness. I know myself better, and I also know God’s grace better, and my dependence on it. This last couple of weeks I’ve been working at a Christian festival, mostly on my own, so have had a lot of time to process this through with God, and it’s been a powerful experience of grace.

What I did was not ok, not good for me. Sin is a serious matter – Jesus went so far as to say if your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, and though He was exaggerating, He did it to make a point about how seriously we need to take it. I’m not cutting out the external cause, but I have to cut out the sin. I’ve found the aforementioned ‘siren’ was not the external source of temptation so much as my internal response to it. Sometimes the best response to temptation is to run from it, especially if the source of it is something unhealthy, which in this case it definitely isn’t, but this time I feel I need to stand up to it and face it down – otherwise I know it’ll only pop up elsewhere. The problem is what’s going on in me.

This new awareness of my weakness has caused heartbreak, contrition, repentance, and ultimately a little more salvation; it’s breaking a bit of me down, bringing more humility, saving me. The more I walk with, struggle with, this issue, the more the heartbreak and humility bring me closer to God.

Losing faith in myself is essential to faith. We can’t fully have faith in God whilst we still have faith in ourselves, and sometimes we don’t realise we do have faith in ourselves until something shakes us and causes us to lose it. We cannot know God’s undeserved love and how incredible that is until we’ve grasped how much we don’t deserve it, and sometimes that understanding can only come through our failures.

I’m rejecting giving in to guilt in all this. Guilt lies, and tells us we’re failures and should just give up. Shame on the other hand leads to the contrition and heartbreak that bring us back to grace; we find ourselves a wreck we have no faith in, and find God accepting and loving us even at our lowest point, giving us a second chance even when we feel we’ve just blown our 100th chance and have no hope of changing in our own strength.

The amazing truth is that as far as God is concerned, every single time we come back to God with our mess and ask God’s help, we have a totally new start. Our next mess up is effectively our first ever, it doesn’t add to the pile. We are not condemned. God’s mercy is new each morning. God is with us even whilst we are wading through things that would bring us death.

I find it so hard to get a right perspective on myself. I tend to think of myself as more innocent than I am, and then when I screw up, and God declares me forgiven and innocent, I carry on beating myself up! My challenge is to truly believe both that I am capable of terrible things, worse than I’ve yet fallen into, but simultaneously to believe that I am innocent in God’s eyes and that I genuinely have a new chance at getting it right every single moment, regardless of how many times I’ve in reality got it wrong in the past.

So I think this really has been good for me; I may not have gained any of this perspective or understanding without getting into a mess (though I wish I had!), and being honest about it with my friends, my husband, and most of all with God has actually strengthened my relationships and helped me get my priorities the right way up. Jesus definitely has ways of making good come of bad situations if we let him.

Finally I think I’ve found two ways to break temptation’s power; the first is to be open about it and bring it all out into the light. Keeping this stuff secret allows guilt to creep in and keeps me from being accountable to others, so that the mess can build up in secret until it takes hold. In the open it looks smaller, and others can help me through it. It really deepens relationships when we can be real with one another rather than pretending to have it all sorted. Plus it isn’t going to become a scandal that makes a hypocrite of me. Secondly, God’s total forgiveness and grace breaks temptation’s power like nothing else, we really do have a true clean start and do not have to feel a failure. All our past mistakes are gone; let them go and move on.

Tracking down hope

Am I hopeful about climate change? Am I hopeful about making a difference?

These questions have come to me a lot recently, asked implicitly or explicitly by fellow activists, and recurring at the back of my own mind.

I think I am. And it’s really hard to pin down why, and exactly where this hope is pinned.

I have no faith in people, or the political process. I don’t see that we can fix this on our own, or without us all changing in fundamental ways. I believe what we do does have a significance, but I’m under no illusions that myself or any of us can really turn things around in a big way; we’re too small. My hope isn’t in our plans, efforts or campaigns. But neither is my hope in some vague idea that God will intervene, or that everything will be alright ‘once we get to heaven’. I am hopeful for this world, and I don’t believe that God (usually) intervenes with our mess.

That rules out pretty much everything! So why am I hopeful, and where?

There is an ultimate hope in the coming of God’s kingdom of restored relationships, when relationships between God and humans and all things will be set right, which I honestly believe is coming (see Romans 8, Colossians 1). But my hope now in how we get there from here is far beyond anything our plans could achieve.

I think my hope is in Jesus, at work in the world through the Church*; that as we are faithful to Him and work hard at serving Him and getting to know Him, gradually, collectively we will ‘get it’, and that some day the Church will come through and the world will be restored. So the answer in a way is ‘end times’ and ‘God’ – but not in a straightforward way, instead via a process, and through us, collectively. It depends on me, and all of us, but not as individuals. Not one of us individually can grasp it and get it right or have the answer, or even make all that much of a difference, but we are all part of the searching and the faithfulness that will lead us there.

We’re a long way off this today. It’s a long process, and I don’t think the early Church realised how long it could take for us to be changed as a body into what we were made to be. Whilst the process continues, there will be a lot more pain, brokenness and disasters, but I really believe God is working through the Church, leading us in the direction that will one day mean that God can set the world right through us.

So probably I am not too hopeful in the short term, nor in myself being able to directly make too much of a difference. But I am hopeful in a long term sense, and I believe it’s for me to stay faithful in actively following and seeking God in this, and doing all I can in response to what I see God doing, even when it means sacrifice. If I do, I will be part of the process that will eventually see us, collectively, make this and everything well.

*in its broadest sense