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Trust in troubled times

Tuesday, 3 October 2017  | Gina Cahill

In 2013, I got to do something I’d dreamed about for 20 years. I went to France with my husband for 6 weeks to be immersed in French so that I could improve my speaking ability. I loved it! I felt like I was in a dream. It was so much fun and the people we lived with and met were so accepting of us. It was so easy and peaceful there that I seriously thought we could live there. France felt as safe and peaceful as home.

Two years later our French Aussie friend Jenny was putting up ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banners at her windows in a town in France, after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo building where 12 people were killed and 11 injured. After that, life in France changed. People going about everyday lives, eating at cafes in Paris, going to music concerts, supermarkets and schools never knew whether they might be killed next.

This year we were back in Paris visiting our daughter April. A young policeman was killed at the Arc de Triomphe protecting tourists like us. We live in troubled times. While these attacks happen more frequently in the Northern Hemisphere, they are happening close to us, too. A plan to bring down a plane full of Australians was uncovered and stopped in July this year. And then there is this article in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘116,692 people arrived in Europe by sea in 2017’ and ‘2,408 migrant deaths in the Mediterranean so far this year’! At Warrawong High school, I am teaching students who come from places like Damascus in Syria. What troubles they have lived through in their young lives!

What things are you troubled about in your life? A difficult relationship in your family? A child who pushes the boundaries of safety and morality and has lost their way in life or broken your heart? Cancer in all its many forms causing suffering, fear, pain and grief to those you hold most dear? Or is it the stress of work, having too little or too much of it? The worry of ever being able to save to buy a home of your own? The weekly fear of whether you will be able to pay the unaffordable rent where you live, and the possibility of homelessness? Mental health issues are also a struggle for many of us.

Trouble is all around us. Eccl. 12:1 says: ‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and you will say: “I find no pleasure in them”’. The bible has a lot to say about trouble. There are verses like ‘you do not know what disaster may come upon the land’ (Eccl. 11:12); ’better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife’ Prov. 17:1); and ‘He whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble’ (Prov. 17:20).

John 16:33 says: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’. Who said that? The person who knew more about trouble than you or I. Jesus Christ who was betrayed by His closest friends and His community, who was constantly having to walk away from angry religious leaders who wanted Him dead, whose family abandoned Him and thought He was crazy. He lived His life under constant pressure. He said to His best friends in John 14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me’.

So how do we trust in God when we are surrounded by trouble?

Firstly, we need to get to know Him so that, even if we find it very hard to trust any person, we can trust Him. I was very blessed as a child, not because I had great parents but because my brother gave me a fun book called ‘Keynotes’ when I was 12 years old. Each day I read a short bible passage, usually about Jesus, and I realised that He was the greatest person that had ever lived and that He loved me! His faithfulness and trustworthiness showed in everything He did and said. So I trusted Him and I asked Him to help me in my life. I found that He did. I kept reading the bible and also praying to Jesus each day.

My life hasn’t been easy or easier because I follow Jesus, but I’m sure I’ve been more at peace in myself than I would have been without God in my life, even in the toughest times: tough times in my marriage and family life, raising young kids and then adolescents with minimal extended family support; tough times when my mentally ill mother who had schizoaffective disorder would need me to care for her while I was caring for my young kids; my own ill health in West Africa where we were missionaries in the 90s, including typhoid fever when I was 6 months pregnant and a bad bout of malaria that caused me to pray to God to let me go home to die in Australia and not in Senegal.

God didn’t take away those tough times, but He did strengthen me through them; and He says ‘I will be with you always...’. He has suffered, too. I don’t enjoy it! I will gladly choose fun and comfort, but Jesus chose to come to this world full of trouble from Paradise, from heaven. He understands what it’s like here. Eph 3:16-19 says these encouraging words:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you

with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

and to know this love that surpasses knowledge –

that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This is a prayer that we can pray for ourselves and our loved ones. How wonderful to be filled with Christ’s love and power in our day-to-day lives.

King David in the bible started out trusting God. When he was a teenager, he fought the Philistine, saying: ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’ (1 Sam. 17:37).

And God did deliver David from Goliath, which meant that God’s people were delivered, too. Then, after this victory, there were many difficult and dangerous times for David, but he kept trusting in God. For years he was pursued by Saul and had to run for his life, but he continued to trust God, obey Him and not use his own power against Saul: ‘The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble’ (1 Sam. 26:23-24).

However, some years later, when things were going well for David and he was a powerful and successful king, blessed by God, he lost his way and didn’t follow God’s laws. He committed adultery and then murder! Then later he repented, and became the great songwriter of the bible, including the famous Psalm 23.

God said that David was a man after His own heart. If you ever think you are too far away from God, too evil, look again at King David’s life! He had so much trouble and he caused a lot of trouble. One of his sons, Absalom, became a rebellious son who later tried to kill his father. I find David’s messy, tumultuous life such an encouragement; and his family life is so dysfunctional that it reads like a modern novel or Netflix drama! So it makes my family life - which has all sorts of ups and downs and twists, turns and disappointments - look really quite good! Yet this sinful man trusted God, writing Psalm 124:8 and Psalm 103:1-5.

No one is perfect. We are all like David; we turn away sometimes and our lives have circumstances in them that are the results of our sinful choices and actions. But, like David, we can trust God, too. He promises to forgive us when we repent and He will not disappoint us.

Jesus was not a sinner like David, His forefather. Jesus is the only person who has never sinned. His death paid the price for our sin and His resurrection from the dead on the first Easter Sunday broke the power of death so that we can enter eternity and live forever with Him (Romans 8:31b-38).

How can we trust God in troubled times?

In my last few weeks in Senegal, West Africa, 23 years ago, a tragedy happened. I had given birth to our 3rd child, a daughter, April, at a hospital in Dakar on June 13th. While I was in labour, our friends, a German/French couple, walked into my room to show us their newborn son who had been born there a few days previously. We became good friends, enjoying our babies together. When their son was 2 years old, he developed acute Leukaemia and, within 5 days of the first symptoms, he died. I really loved that friend and her son. They had been older parents and were so thrilled to have a baby. We were shocked. I can still remember sitting on my bed crying out to God in tears: ‘Why God, did you take their son, their first born son?’

Then God gently spoke to me by His Holy Spirit. He also had lost a son, His first born and only son. He understood their suffering because He had chosen to suffer. His son dying on a cross is why I can trust God. His love is so great for us that He gave up His life for us. That little boy, who died from Leukaemia, is with Jesus, and his Mum and Dad spoke of their trust in God that they will meet Him one day. No trouble you or I go through is too much for God to handle. When I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about someone or something, I can pray all my worries to God. It’s a wonderful remedy for sleeplessness! He cares about us and He cares about those we worry about.

Isaiah 50:10 says: ‘Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God’. Amen.

Gina Cahill lived in Senegal for 5 years and has been teaching English to refugees in Wollongong, NSW, for 10 years. She and her husband recently moved to Gerringong, NSW, to be closer to their grandchildren.

This article is based on a talk given at a Women's Breakfast at Gerringong Anglican Church on Saturday 16th August 2017.

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