Sometimes it seems that your faith is hanging on by a thread as life falls apart – a spouse deserts you, an illness is diagnosed, a loved one dies. It can be as sudden as one of those tragedies that hits you out of the blue or it can be a sustained ‘East Wind’ prevailing against you – lack of support from church, loneliness in your faith, depression.
Despite strong roots, a tree can be bent sideways by prevailing winds – and yet, they can still hold on. A limpet will cling on, but one sudden tap from a seagull when it’s not prepared and it’s history. If you’re reading this, you may identify more with the tree than the limpet. God seems to allow ‘prevailing winds’ into our lives of many sundry kinds but they do shape us. Take Jacob – using sleight of hand to deceive he was always on the move, suffering family traumas and personal insecurity, he learnt to sleep using a rock as a pillow!
A very important figure in God’s plans, yet he was so shaped by his interactions with God that he walked with a limp. Like Moses, he didn’t live to see the fulfilment of God’s promises and yet he clung on to God, hence the limp.
- ‘Sadly, I can't avoid being 75. Like many people of my age, we are all heading towards the grim reaper, and I am clinging on. I just to have to sharpen my fingernails a little so that I can hang on for longer’ – Terry Wogan
- ‘Excuse me if I'm clinging on to life, but my parents wove me from tight thread’ – Jeanne Calment
Jeanne did cling on to life till a remarkable 122 but 4th August 1977, the 164th day of her 123rd year, she let go. We all do, eventually. Yet for many of us, there are times in life, well before the final letting go where we feel like we are clinging on, holding in there and just about have our heads above water! What to do when everything is coming against you, not just an east wind, but thunderbolts, lightning and stinging rain?
- ‘Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith’ – 1 Timothy 1:18-19
- ‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good’ – Romans 12:9
- ‘You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance’ – Psalm 32:7
- ‘The world has changed and it's going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him’ – Charles R. Swindoll
That tree clings on against the winds but is shaped by it – a metaphor for those of us who hang on to God in the storms of life but are shaped a bit like Jacob. The shape tells its ‘story of faith’ and the fact it still clings on testifies to the power of its roots. We might feel like arguing about life’s circumstances but we’re better off to trust God like Isaiah who declared: ‘Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand’ – Isaiah 64:8.
Matt Redman’s dad committed suicide when Matt was 7 and he subsequently had a difficult time with ‘the guy who replaced him’. Yet out of these hard experiences came the song:
‘Blessed be Your name, When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be Your name
Every blessing you pour out, I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say, Blessed be Your name’
You may know the truth that, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28) but it still takes a decision to trust God when the darkness closes in. This was Job’s decision when he cried out in his hardships, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives … When you have refined me, I shall come forth as gold’. This side of the Fall, there is much loss and tragedy in the universal human condition. This side of the Cross of Christ, there is much to be gained through his victory over sin and death. God our Father knows we need shelter and protection whilst we walk through the fires, storms and deserts of this life and there is much comfort given in these verses for whatever you may be passing through:
- ‘Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain’ – Isaiah 4:5-6
- ‘As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him’ – 2 Samuel 22:31
- ‘But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you’ – Psalm 5:11
- ‘The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’ – Psalm 9:11
- ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’ – Psalm 18:2
- ‘Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge’ – Psalm 31:4
- ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ – Psalm 46:1
- ‘Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge’ – Psalm 62:8
- ‘He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart’ – Psalm 91:4
- ‘It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans’ – Psalm 118:8
- ‘But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death’ – Psalm 141:8
It can feel like you’ve lost your way spiritually and maybe even the ability to see the way forward. Be inspired by the story of a blind man – with no physical sight, he is able to walk in unfamiliar places because he walks alongside his wife, leaning into her and holding her arm. His wife is more than a Guide Dog to him, for she knows him, his fears, his strength, his needs and she can talk to him. God is all of this and more – he invites us to lean into him as Lou Fellingham describes in her beautiful song:
'He lavishes grace as our burdens grow greater, He sends us more strength as our labours increase
To added afflictions He offers more mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace
When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed and the day is half done
When we've reached the end of our earthly resources, Our Father's full giving is only begun
So lean hard, Lean hard
Lean on the everlasting arms'
So whatever the prevailing East Winds are throwing at you, find your refuge and security in your Father God who invites you to lean hard on his everlasting arms:
‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ – Deuteronomy 33:27
TAGS – lean, trust, clinging, help, strength, Fellingham, Redman, Father