N.B. I have to thank God for where He has put me this year. I think of how things might have worked out if I had had any other placement, and how marvellously He guides my life.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28 [NIV]
The sermon tonight was on the middle section of Romans 8, which includes the above verse. Phil spoke about it from the NIV version of the Bible, because it includes a small word that is vital to the understanding of what Paul was trying to get across to the Roman churches - 'IN'. IN all things, God works. This really struck a chord with me, as it goes hand in hand with many things that I have been thinking over the last few weeks.
I didn't blog to say that I had an interview coming up with Oasis College for my University application for next year. On the train up to London on the day of my interview, I sat and wrote a list of all of the strengths that I could think of, because I knew they were bound to ask. But then, thinking about the questions they were likely to ask me, I wrote a list of my weaknesses too. Doing that, I noted how they had been used to delicately by God in order to teach me so much this year - as that old song says, He turns my weaknesses into his opportunities. How true!
Throughout my teenage years, and I guess even before that, many things occurred in my life that at the time, I thought, Why God? Why is this happening to me? It is a familiar story, many children and young people have things happen in their lives that they just can't understand or appreciate the reasons why. And that can be really hard to deal with. I definately struggled for years because of certain things, and even now, as an adult, I am still learning to deal with the repercussions of that. But events recently here have made me view all that suffering and hurt that I went through in a completely different light. I am literally seeing God work IN all of that, for good. I'll give you an example:
On the 3rd October 2003, my Dad went to work. As far as me and my brothers were concerned, it was like any other evening. I can't remember why, but that night my younger brother had decided to sleep in my room, because I had a spare bed. Late that night, when my Mum thought we were asleep, she came into my room and sat down and cried. I didn't know why, but very early the next morning, she came in and told us that Dad was leaving. At first, I guess I was mostly just in a state of disbelief, but I didn't really care. I never knew how much my life was going to change from that moment on.
The years that followed were really hard for me, especially as, since becoming a teenager I had already been struggling with few other things, and the added pressure of a broken home life added to my stress and anxiety levels. Through all of that I would never have thought of those years as God preparing me for what he was calling me to do. I never knew the reason why that all had to happen. But today I realised.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
This morning I ran a session with my young people on Forgiveness. It turned out to be a really challenging session, which was totally God's work because I'm sure it wasn't that good when I planned it. At the end of the session, I decided to go around and pray with them all individually that they would have the courage or the chance to act their forgiveness out on the person that they were struggling to forgive. There were a few young people really struggling with the concept of forgiving their Dad's f or leaving.
My heart went out to them, and I spent some time praying and chatting to each of the young people involved. Normally I don't really know what to say to someone who is upset - my policy is that a hug speaks a thousand words - but this was something that through my own experiences, I knew something about, and I thought that what they probably needed more than anything was for someone to draw alongside them and say, "Yeah, this sucks, and it hurts, and it's really hard. But you ARE going to get through it. And you don't have to do it alone." But I was only able to do that because I had been in their position; not entirely, because everyone's circumstances are different; but I was able to draw on that comfort that God had given to me in those years, and pass it on.
So yeah, I have learned a lot this weekend. And I think the lesson I am learning is to see the bigger picture. Because we are each just a small part of the plan that God has for the world. And on our own, we cannot work things out. But we learn to trust that God knows what is best, and that He will work in ALL things, to do Good.
Praise the Lord!