The calm after a storm
The calm after a storm
It had been a difficult year. Living and working in an area notorious for crime and deprivation can sometimes take its toll. A close friend…
It had been a difficult year. Living and working in an area notorious for crime and deprivation can sometimes take its toll. A close friend of ours had died suddenly, and around the same time, my wife Esther had a miscarriage. There were some difficult pastoral issues going on in the church. I was getting regular migraines and tension headaches.
We had a two-week holiday coming up, so I asked my trustees if I could have two extra weeks off and turn it into a month-long sabbatical. They agreed and I decided this could be just what I needed to get me back on track.
About half way through the month off, I began to realise what a state I was in. Physically I felt even worse than when I had begun the sabbatical. Headaches, dizziness and tiredness were the daily norm. I felt fearful about my future, about my health, and I could barely think straight. I told Esther that I couldn’t possibly imagine how I could get to a stage where I would feel ready to return to work. Even the thought of it made me feel afraid and deeply inadequate. I called it my ‘year of fear’.
More than six years later, I look back and think of what carried me through that time. I did manage to return to work, stronger and wiser than before and have avoided that kind of crash ever since.
God was very kind to me during that time and spoke to me through scripture and friends, but also to me personally. Shortly after the conversation with Esther about giving up, I went off to Holy Island in Northumberland for three-day retreat. On the way I stopped off in Durham to see a friend, and while I was waiting to see him I decided to go into Durham Cathedral, voted Britain’s favourite building in 2001. It is a magnificent, awe-inspiring building and a World Heritage Site. I decided to have the whole experience and go up the tower. To get to the top you have to climb 325 steps. Not only that, but they make you pay for the privilege!
As I reached the top I didn’t regret it. The views are stunning. As I caught my breath I noticed a dark cloud blowing in. It was a snow cloud, as I soon discovered. The arctic wind swirled around and the snow covered the top of the tower, as people ran for the exit and down the stairs. I started to follow them and then thought ‘Wait a minute, I’ve just paid £3.50 for this. I’m going nowhere!’ So I pulled my hat down over my face and slouched in a corner until the cloud blew over. The snow was falling so thickly I couldn’t even see to the other side of the tower.
After 10 freezing cold minutes the cloud had gone and the sun came out. I stood up and looked out at the views. You could see for miles again, but everything was different. It was all white, sparkling and beautiful, with that magical stillness that only comes when the snow has fallen, when it feels almost holy, and you are compelled to speak in a whisper. In that moment, and totally unexpectedly, God spoke to me. It was a voice in my mind, not an audible voice, that said ‘Chris, this is a picture of your life right now, and if you will just keep going — if you pull your hat down over your face and just sit it out through this storm — the views when it’s over will be more beautiful than any you have seen before’. Wow. Thanks God. £3.50 well spent. A bit of frostbite on my bottom was worth it!
God is so kind. Perhaps you are going through a different time right now, and you need to hear this encouragement from God, ‘Keep going. Hold on. Trust me. I will be with you.’ Perhaps he is doing something in you during this time that will equip you for a new phase in your life. Don’t run away. When you emerge from this, you might see something beautiful that you would never have seen otherwise — a view that could only have come about because of the freezing storm that you are enduring right now. Hear the encouragement, look for the work of the Spirit in your life. If you can’t see anything, trust God. Pull your hat over your face and refuse to be beaten by the storm. God is with you.
Chris Lane leads Langworthy Community Church in inner city Salford, and is a tutor and lecturer in theology at St Mellitus College, North West. He will be leading the morning Bible teaching in the Impact venue at United Week 2, 5–11 August 2018.