Did you miss God in the battle? – Roanna Day

A friend’s recent labour story provoked me to think back on my own and, in doing so, I realised something. I had missed something crucial in the battle. 

I spent the period between Jan 2020 and Feb 2021 devoted to God, pursuing God, but doing it feeling very much like Job. I asked daily why God wasn’t helping me. I asked Him why He had abandoned me. I asked Him why He had to do all of this to me at once, all of this refining and purifying, all of this testing. 

For some context, January 2020 saw me give birth to my daughter. My dad was in the midst of brutal treatment for incurable blood cancer and we had just moved to Monmouthshire, leaving all of our friends and comforts behind in London. 

On January 10th 2020, at around nine pm, my daughter arrived. She arrived after over 100 hours of labour, 29 of them active. Thanks to being hospitalised in a rather nightingale-esque hospital my active labour began with me not having slept, eaten properly, or drunk enough water for four days. I was exhausted. And then, they induced me. 

You may have heard before that I firmly didn’t want a c-section and so that was the line I drew with God then and there as the midwife looked me in the eye and told me I would end up having a c-section. I ignored her and instead said to God; no c-section.  

So I laboured, with gas and air, worship music (no epidural) and my amazing husband and mother with me for 29 hours before finally allowing a surgeon to assist in the end with an episiotomy and forceps. I demanded to be discharged the next day, stealing a syringe to feed my daughter colostrum if needed as she still hadn’t latched properly. 

Then began 12 months of absolutely no sleep (she slept her first chunk of longer than 2 hours 13 months later) all the while navigating the swirl of my dad’s cancer, the swirl of challenging finances, the swirl of feeling friendless, the swirl of renovating a house. 

I sobbed on my knees to God daily. I had painful revelation after painful revelation of how much of my old man I must have been keeping alive, for God to be letting so many hard things happen at once. It was a raw and refining time. Defying my human spirit and commanding my soul to find peace and joy, despite my emotions, became my daily challenge. 

Then, last week as my friend talked about her labour I realised in a flash that I had missed God in the battle. I realised that I had been taking all the credit for my labour. I’d just assumed that I was stronger, or had more endurance, than other women but in fact, of course, God was with me. He was there strengthening me. Giving me supernatural pain relief and energy, determination and boldness to defy the medical team. God heard my plea for no c-section and He stood with me to make sure that was what happened. God was with me in the battle and He has been every day since. 

He placed me in a beautiful house with my husband and family so on the toughest of days my mum was there to scoop me and my daughter up, make us delicious food and send me back to bed. He gave my dad the strength to carry on walking, every day of his treatment, so he could take my daughter for walks up the drive in the afternoon and give me and my husband a moment’s respite together. He timed our becoming parents so it lined up perfectly with our best friends over in Australia so we could cheer each other on and share war stories over Zoom. He was with us in the battle. 

Once again I find I’ve had to relearn a simple, scriptural truth. We are not promised an easy, happy life – quite the opposite actually. But we are promised company and companionship in the battle. We really are safe under the shadow of His wings. He really does send His angels to strengthen us. His timing really is perfect and He really does hear our heart cry in the midst of our great pain.

He is with us friends. Don’t let the heat of the battle trick you into thinking He’s not. 

Feeling worn down? – Andrew Price

“And he will speak against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One”

Daniel 7:25 NASB

There’s more than one way to win a war.  Sometimes when an all-out assault won’t work, a war of attrition might be more effective. Through persistent attacks over a period of time, little by little, an opponent’s morale as well as their strength can be worn away until eventually they capitulate.  Instead of being defeated by direct overwhelming force, an opponent’s resources and will to win are steadily eroded until they can fight no longer.  

We know that Satan can be like a roaring lion, using fear and intimidation to attack us.  We also know that he can appear as an angel of light, trying to disguise wrong as right, death as life.  But he has another way, more subtle and often more effective.  He wears us down.  

Our position as children of God is so strong.  After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? Equipped with God’s word and standing shoulder to shoulder with other believers, we can resist and overcome the temptations and accusations our enemy hurls at us. But our enemy’s attacks aren’t always obvious, and instead of trying to land one massive knockout punch he may be happy to probe and land little jabs here and there, until we are so tired and bruised we can’t go on.  

Daniel – Integrity in a godless culture

The quote at the start of this article is from the book of Daniel.  Daniel had been forcibly taken into exile.  His people were defeated; their promised land had been lost.  He lived and worked in the greatest city of the time, confronted every day by evidence of the immense wealth and power of Babylon.  The intended message was clear:  Babylon and its gods are supreme.  From the start of his career in Babylon, Daniel was under pressure to submit and conform to the pagan culture that surrounded him.  Sometimes the pressure was direct and life threatening, but there was also a more subtle continuous pressure aimed at wearing him down.  “Why do you worship a God who couldn’t save his people?”, Daniel’s masters may have asked, “can’t you see that our Gods are winning?”.  We in the West might feel some sympathy with Daniel.  A godless culture is in the ascendancy, and Christians are portrayed as losers or bigots.  Government, media and the educational system are increasingly influenced by secular or even anti-Christian ideas and the pressure to conform or despair is relentless.  What can we learn from Daniel?  In Chapter 6, we find that he prayed three times a day, and that he still did this even when it could cost him his life.  The disciplines of prayer and scripture reading are an anchor to reality and a space for hearing God.  And God certainly spoke.  He spoke through scripture, dreams, visions and angelic messengers.  This regular communication with heaven was a lifeline for Daniel, keeping him rooted in truth and life.  We also find that he prayed towards Jerusalem, the city of God.  His orientation was always toward God’s Kingdom.  His refusal to compromise, his devotion to the disciplines of prayer, fasting and scripture, and his awareness of the unseen realm kept him faithful to the end.  Today, the people of Daniel’s God are growing even in the most hostile of environments while Babylon and its gods are just a memory. 

Solomon – when desire defeats wisdom

Solomon was less successful.  At the start he had everything including wisdom and wealth.  Despite all this, Solomon ended his life following other gods.  1 Kings chapter 11 tells us what happened.  Solomon disobeyed God.  He married women from the surrounding pagan nations – against God’s instruction – and eventually they turned his heart to other Gods.  Why did he take this disastrous course?   It seems his desire overrode his wisdom.  I wonder if he thought he could handle the temptation presented by these wives.  I wonder if he said to himself  “I’m the king, I’m so wise, I’m so powerful, these laws don’t really apply to me”.  Certainly it seems that people in positions of power are prone to see themselves as above the rules that apply to others.  Sadly even Christian leaders, misled by their pride, sometimes disobey God’s clear commands.  And when leaders allow themselves to be put on a pedestal, this limits the chances of anyone challenging their foolish behaviour.  Solomon was wise but became foolish, allowing himself to be worn down by putting himself into temptation. 

Ephesus – activity without love

In Revelation we find a whole church that had been worn down.  When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, sometime between 53 and 62AD, they had a reputation for faith and love.  But around 30 years later, in the book of Revelation, Jesus is rebuking them for their lack of love.  We don’t know exactly what happened in the intervening years but we do know that when Revelation was written, they were working hard, enduring suffering and seeing through the deceptions of false apostles, all good and praiseworthy things.  But they had lost the love they had when Paul wrote to them as a young church.  By then, Paul and his generation were gone.  The Church was still going and, on the surface, still strong.  But the fervent love that had been their first response to God’s saving love and mercy had gone.  And without love, as Paul wrote elsewhere, they were nothing.   

Churches can do many good things, but without love they are empty.  Hard work and resilience only benefit if they are animated by love for God and our neighbour.  Sound teaching and discernment are essential but without love, useless. The radical love of the first generation had given way to the loveless work of the second. Churches must engage with the world around them, but without God’s love as the motivator, they are no different to any other social service agency.  As generation gives way to generation, we must make sure that, above all, love is our legacy.  

Learning from their example

What can we take from all of this?  None of us want to lose our edge or be worn down into irrelevance.  No Church wants to find that, despite their training programmes, social justice projects and well-run meetings, they have lost the love that make them worthwhile. Daniel’s refusal to compromise and his devotion to prayer and scripture are an important message to us as we live in an age which wants to squeeze our faith into a tiny private corner of our lives where its explosive truth cannot offend our intolerant culture.  Even when it was likely to cost him not just his job but his life, Daniels’ faith was lived out in public.  Although discipline like Daniel’s is unfashionable, having a routine of prayer and study means that even when we don’t feel like it, we make time to hear God.  And it’s probably when we don’t feel like it that we most need to hear him.    

Solomon’s tragic fall teaches us that humility and obedience are for all of us, without exception.  If we flirt with temptation or fool ourselves that we can ignore what scripture says about how we should live, we will find ourselves in thrall to other gods, such as public approval or career success.  

Above all let’s nurture love.  Love, first for Jesus and also for each other.  If we lose our joy, affection and gratitude to God it’s only a matter of time before we are worn down.  Even in the busiest day, making time to be grateful, and to worship is vital. Our Church community has adopted the discipline of breaking bread every day.  It’s a biblical and practical way of remembering the unlimited love that Jesus has for us and his promise of a new creation.  

Activation

Do you feel worn down?  Take a moment to reflect.  Remember your first love for Jesus, your response to the one who gave up everything for us.  Consciously lay everything on the altar – your work, your relationships, your dreams, and your worries – and worship him just as you are.  He will not reject you.  If he brings to your attention things you need to turn from, trust him.  He knows what is best for you.  Then tell a trusted fellow-disciple what you’ve done and ask them to hold you accountable.  Even though you may feel weak and worn out, God will renew you.  

“Create in me a clean heart, O God

And renew a steadfast spirit within me

Do not cast me away from your presence

And do not take your Holy Spirit from me

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

And sustain me with a willing spirit” 

Psalm 51