God is kind
Three words, so simple, yet seldom have I known it like I do right now.
A little background – all my life I’ve been plagued by what I guess I’d term “salvation anxiety”. The Bible verses that stick out to me are the ones that seem condemning, the ones that make me feel unworthy. I don’t know why I’m this way, but I know that I’m not the only one who feels like this from time to time.
Because, in part, of the fear, I’ve been “shackled” most of my life. I have not been even close to the person I should be. Things play on my mind, I think and think, and at time I been gotten so terrified I can’t eat or sleep.
God, though, is wonderful and beautiful. Like St Paul says, we see this world in a distorted way, we have glimpses of the truth, we have signs but we don’t really know it all. I guess this should keep us humble.
Recently, I’ve been going back to church after several wilderness years. I felt too afraid to go for a long time; I felt I could just about cope with life and kept God at kind of arms length for a while. A couple of years ago, I returned to the church where a lot of my problems began, and a miracle happened. I don’t use that term lightly at all. As I felt at my lowest, someone stood up and said “there’s somebody here who has been just robbed blind of their peace”. The preacher called us to stand if we felt it applied to us, then suddenly he pointed at me, and told me stuff he couldn’t have known. This was no cold reading – I’m the biggest cynic out there, believe me! – this hit right to the core of who I was. He told me how I’ve felt lost, alone and afraid, but that God would lead me on. I cried and cried; my Father still loved me, was still looking out for me! How incredible this was! After all I’ve done!
Well, after that, I was never so afraid again, although there have been bad patches. I wandered again (I seem to be prone to that) and “backslid” once more. I began to feel afraid again, but then went back to church and a similar thing happened.
I attend church when I’m feeling strong enough, usually with my girlfriend, who is a great support to me and holds my hand when I get afraid in the service. Tonight, though, I got thinking and suddenly became really really scared, that heart-stopping terror feeling. Just as I felt that, my mother called me, saying “I just suddenly felt anxious about you”, and she reminded me that God loves me. She sent me the following verses:
Isaiah 43:1-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Israel’s Only Savior
1 But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush [a] and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
I’d say that was God tipping mum off that I was scared, sad and lonely. I’d say that was His way of reminding me that He won’t let me be plucked from His hand. More than ever, I want to help this world, to make it a better place, to be loving.
I hope that this post can maybe bring somebody some hope! Perhaps it can. Perhaps my story is something that somebody else can draw encouragement from. If it is, then truly, all I’ve ever been through is worthwhile. If St Paul said he was the worst of sinners 2,000 odd years ago, then I guess I’m at least as bad now. Love casts out fear. Whenever God shows me He loves me and I notice it, I feel love for Him. Love has to work two ways. A vicar friend of mine says that the trinity of God is three in one and ever in community, sharing love amongst the Godhead. I think that’s beautiful. To love someone, you love them with your will and your heart and your actions.
God is kind. Isn’t is silly that this realisation should come almost as a surprise to me? He is though. God is kind.
It’s long past time for me to start making my actions match my beliefs.