Learning to trust

7 months pregnant

What does it mean to trust in God?

This is my story of my exploration of this issue over the past two years.

 

Before I got pregnant, I was moderately ill with M.E. This meant that I only had enough energy to work 2 hours a day (10 hours per week) and my mobility was limited to 200 metres per day.  I was a wheelchair user and spent my afternoons in bed sleeping.
 

When I got pregnant, I was overjoyed and excited, but also fearful for what this would mean for my illness, because sleep deprivation and physical exertion make M.E. worse. Having a baby meant labour (major physical overexertion) and then months of broken sleep.  Even healthy people struggled with the physical demands of having a baby – how would I cope?
 

One of the difficult decisions we had to make was whether to go through labour or have an elective Caesarean Section.  My concern wasn’t the pain of labour but the exertion required to push a baby out.  How could I spend an hour pushing when I didn’t have the strength to walk to the end of the road? I was trying to balance the risks of surgery with the risks of a major relapse (worsening of symptoms) if I went through labour.
 

We didn’t have a lot of guidance from doctors, because there is so little research done in this area.  They didn’t know what to advise. The first doctor we spoke to refused to consider a C-Section, saying, ‘Labour is not fatiguing – the uterus does all the work for you.’ (I would have liked to have seen her say that to a woman who had just given birth!) In the end we went for a compromise, of sorts: we decided to try for a labour birth, but to have an epidural as soon as possible, and if the labour was too long or if I were getting too tired then they could do an emergency C-Section.
 

When we talked about our fears to other Christians, the overwhelming message we had was ‘trust in God’.  This came in a variety of ways.  Some people just seemed to say it like it was a platitude, ‘trust in God; I’m sure it will be okay – I know someone who got pregnant and their M.E. went into permanent remission.’ (Mine didn’t; after an initial improvement I had a major relapse). Others actually prophesied healing by the end of the year, and although I wanted to be wise and weigh it up, it secretly gave me some hope. (I wasn’t healed).  Others used ‘trust in God’ as a reason to justify their advice that I shouldn’t have a C-Section, and implied that if I did, I would be showing a lack of faith.

 

Then I went to a ministry weekend away where people had pictures and words for me that were the same message: trust in God.  These words I did take more notice of; they had no agenda to push, and it felt like God was telling us that.

 

So even though I knew that most people with M.E. had a relapse 6-12 weeks after giving birth, even though I didn’t understand how pushing my baby could possibly not make me worse, I decided to go through labour. I decided to believe that it might be okay; I decided to trust God, I decided to hope.

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trusting hands

My labour was short (12 hours) and although painful, it was bearable. I had an epidural after 8 hours, which was a bit late, but it did help. But then my fears started to be realised.  I ran out of strength to push after 5 minutes; I went on pushing for 1.5 hours. Eventually I had a forceps delivery. (One can never look at salad servers in quite the same way afterwards.) Shortly after giving birth my temperature and blood pressure dropped and I was barely conscious.

 

I spent a week in hospital after the birth. It was fairly nightmarish.  My heart went into tachycardia every time I sat up, and I was gasping for air. I couldn’t stand up or support myself, I had to be accompanied to the (en suite) toilet. I was in agonising pain, which I later discovered was caused by the bones in my spine being bruised by the birth. I couldn’t sit down. It was an effort to roll over.  I couldn’t pick my baby up, dress him, change his nappy. My iron count was so low I had to have a blood transfusion.

 

To make matters worse, most of the nurses and midwives didn’t understand M.E. or my pain. They seemed to think I was lazy or didn’t want to be with my baby. There were mutterings about social services and needing to make sure I was bonding with my baby and doing things for him before I would be allowed to leave the hospital. It was only when a midwife saw me transform in the space of five minutes from being propped up, eating a sandwich, talking intelligently to lying down, unable to speak or fully comprehend what she was saying that she understood that I really was ill.

 

The nurses in the hospital kept asking,
‘But you can’t lift up your baby? How are you going to look after him?’
I wanted to say to them, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to look after him. I didn’t know this was going to happen. I’m terrified.’
What I actually said was, ‘my husband works from home’, as that’s the answer that seemed to pacify them.

 

It was such a weird time, those first few months after the birth. I loved being a Mum; I felt so blessed to have my baby, and very much in love with him. Like most new parents we had the frightening and exhilarating and incredible time of getting to know our new baby and being new parents. But we were also having to simultaneously get used to my new level of disability.  It was 3 weeks till I was well enough to change a nappy. It was 6 weeks before I was well enough to leave the house for an hour (in a wheelchair). We had to change our bedroom to the one nearest the toilet because I could only manage a few steps and it was too far for me to walk from the other one. I ate my meals upstairs because I couldn’t manage the stairs.  I was almost entirely bedbound.  Jon had to take a month off work, and for a few weeks after that he was taking our boy to his work meetings while I slept.

 
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And where was God in this? How did I process it spiritually? If I’m honest, I felt very, very angry.  I felt in many ways like I’d been tricked; tricked by those Christians who had said it was going to be fine. I felt angry that I had believed them.  Most of all, I felt tricked by God.

 

I went over and over in my head whether I’d made the wrong decision to have declined the C-section.  With all the careful research I’d done, I knew this deterioration in health was a possibility, but it was very much the ‘worst case scenario’.  People had said to me, ‘why do you expect God to give you the worst case scenario? What kind of God do you believe in?’  - and here I was, in my worst case scenario. In fact, it was worse than my worst case scenario.  I thought that I could be bedbound for months but then I would be back to the level of energy I was pre-pregnancy, but over a year on it was looking like I may be long-term or even permanently housebound. I felt like saying to God, ‘You told me to trust you – I trusted you, and you betrayed me.’

 

It took me many months to come to the following realisation:

 

When people were giving me the words, ‘trust in God’, I had heard, ‘trust in God, because your health is not going to be damaged by this.’  God had not promised that my health was not going to be damaged.  He had not even promised that my baby was going to be healthy and okay.  He had just told me to trust in Him.

 

If we trust in God whilst unconsciously putting a condition on it, we are not trusting, we are bargaining. I had not trusted God, I had bargained with Him.  I was angry with God that He had reneged on His side of the bargain; I had trusted, He had not healed.  But God had not offered that to me, and I had no right to assume that that would be the case.

 

Trusting in God does not equate to believing that God is going to give me the life that I want.  That is wishful thinking, not trust.

 

Trusting means looking to him, relying on him and his goodness, even when the situation is not as we hoped or wanted. Trusting means loving him and rejoicing in him, even when we don’t understand what he is doing. Trusting means hanging on when he is silent.  

Trusting is saying, as Job did, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ (Job 13:15).  It is saying, with Habakkuk, ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my saviour.’ (Hab 3:17-18)

 

It is one thing to say you trust God when you have plenty of figs on your tree, when your life is good, when you have plenty and security.  It is another to trust in God when you lose your job, your money, your health, your family or your friends; when you cannot imagine how you are going to cope; when God takes rather than gives.

 

Even though I still don’t really understand, I am learning what it means to trust. I do not rejoice in my illness and disability nor the uncertainty that it brings, but I am learning to trust in God, to rejoice in God my Saviour.  I am walking in the valley of the shadow of death, but I am stretching out my hand in the darkness, hoping that God will take it.

 

Over to you:

  • Have you ever been through a time in your life where God has taken rather than given? How did you process it spiritually?
  • What do you think about the difference between ‘trusting’ and ‘bargaining’?

Photo credit ‘Child in adult hand’: Phanlop88

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52 Responses to Learning to trust

  1. Beth 29th March, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Yes yes yes to this: “Trusting means looking to him, relying on him and his goodness, even when the situation is not as we hoped or wanted. Trusting means loving him and rejoicing in him, even when we don’t understand what he is doing. Trusting means hanging on when he is silent.”

    I am learning this kind of trust, too. It is terrifying. But it is (I hope) also very good.

    • Tanya 1st April, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      Giving you a hug on your journey into trust. It’s scary, isn’t it? … Thanks for coming by!

  2. James Prescott 20th September, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Just to add to/clarify the above – I know the truth. God is not a bully out to get me, He doesn’t hate me. He loves me and has blessed me in so many ways, and I am only beginning to learn to recieve His grace. The rational, mature, day-to-day self knows this completely.

    The hurt person I was describing before is this immature, hurting, irrational, emotional inner child that tries to creep out from time to time, the one I seem to be in battle with a lot of the time and am trying to overcome.

    Of course, the only way I can do this is by simply letting go and trusting God without any gurantee of the outcome. Thanks again for this post.

    • Tanya 20th September, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks for this clarification – I completely got where you were coming from – it feels very familiar to my own experience! – but it may be helpful for anyone else who reads these comments. :-)

  3. James Prescott 20th September, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Tanya,
    Wow. I am blown away by this post. Right now I feel like I’m in a valley of my own, where God is distancing Himself and compelling me to trust Him – and reading this post I realised the times I had trusted with God in the past I had in fact been bargaining with God. I said to Him that He had given me so much suffering so young – bullied terribly at school, broken home, alcoholic parent, sick parent, losing a parent at a young age and now a parent with Parkinsons, as well as my own Epilespy – and said to God “Well you dumped all this on me without me ever deserving or asking for it, therefore I shouldn’t have to do anything to get all the good things I desire”. Of course I had to sit and watch others have all these blessings simply given to them on a plate, whilst even when I made an effort nothing happened. I got very, very angry with God – and still do at times. I was bargaining with Him and I find it hard not to, because the inner child still feels unjustly treated by a God who hates him and uses him as a punchbag for his amusement (yes, inside there is a lot of hurt). I know its all irrational, I know it makes no sense, it’s not the mature adult speaking its the hurt and rejected child.

    But because of all that’s happened I simply find it almost impossible to trust God – because anytime I let go of control I get hurt.

    Trusting God is most definitely something we learn to do – its not something we can just do. Thanks for reminding me of this, and also challenging me to stop bargaining with God – no matter how difficult that is.

    • Tanya 20th September, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Wow. I am similarly blown away by this comment, and have tears in my eyes as I read it. I am totally with you – if I were you, I would also be saying, ‘hey God- I’ve had my fair share of rubbishness here – sort it out!’ I value your honesty in saying it feels like being God’s punchbag – YES! That is how I have often felt too. And I also value your honesty in recognising it comes from the deep place of a hurt and rejected child rather than the logical adult self.

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your heart – it was a privilege to read.

      • James Prescott 20th September, 2012 at 10:19 am #

        No problem Tanya – as you probably know, I’m a writer who likes to be honest (although even I keep some things private), and so honoured my comment impacted you. Nice to know there are others who have/do experience the same. Have a blessed day!

        • Tanya 20th September, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

          Thanks!

  4. tanya @ truthinweakness 16th March, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    hey there, my new friend,

    i really appreciated this post — for so many reasons. and i don’t know if you’ve ever read max lucado’s “He still moves stones,” but there’s a wonderful depiction in there about the time that Jesus healed the paralytic (whose friends lowered him down through the roof). if you remember, the first thing that Jesus says to the man is not “you are healed,” but “you are forgiven” . . . in talking about the friends, lucado says, “they want Jesus to give the man a new body so he can walk. Jesus gives grace so the man can live” . . .

    God reached beyond the man’s request to meet his deepest need. and that’s what i hear in your story here, too. God reaching beyond your initial request, to meet your deepest need of fully grasping at the deepest level that you can truly trust Him.
    come.
    what.
    may.

    “God had not promised that my health was not going to be damaged. He had not even promised that my baby was going to be healthy and okay. He had just told me to trust in Him . . . ”
    thank you for those words, in particular, tanya.

    blessings to you from the other side of the ocean.
    your friend in thorns & gold,
    tanya

    • Tanya 20th September, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      I think I only just saw this, for some reason… Your comment is a challenge to me, in the best possible way, to keep on trusting in God and to Prize my relationship with Him more highly. Thank you, dear friend. :-)

  5. Amy @ themessymiddle 7th March, 2012 at 1:25 am #

    To quote a well known movie, “you had me at the hand picture.” Writing on the hand is something God has been using this past week or two with me. I shared about it in “God is whispering to you” (http://wp.me/p1Ut5W-9E). Trust. That’s a good one too!

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Amy. Thanks for this. I’ve been checking out your blog – it’s awesome! The writing on your hand exercise sounds like an amazing and positive challenge. (and those strawberries sounded reeeeeally good…!)

  6. Bryony 28th February, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Thank you. great heartfelt post.

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks, Bryony – much appreciated.

  7. Karen 27th February, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    PS. Left out one very important point: Paul often talks of suffering on behalf of others- for their benefit. I don’t quite know how this works, but I have increasingly been comforted that my suffering will benefit others spiritually, and lead to their growth – in some profoundly mysterious way. (I don’t think that Paul was saying that it was only his suffering that benefitted others – but was saying something universal about Christian suffering. ) And I have seen that my ministry is more fruitful the more I suffer. I don’t understand how it works, or what the process is. All I know is that suffering highlights my weaknesses, and so I understand the power and riches of Christ more…and where He is able to work without us getting in the way, He will produce greater fruit….

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Thank you – this is another helpful point. My friend Tim made a similar point about Romans 8:28 (see his comment above) which I hadn’t really considered before; it is an interesting suggestion. I am pondering it…!

  8. Karen 27th February, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    How precious to see your process of learning to trust. Remember my last year in the organisation we worked for? Pretty horrific. My friend Mark and I were discussing 2 Cor 4:17. He was busy wasting away from a brain tumour – and died soon after. I was going through all I was going through – you were aware of some of it- and I was going through many of the processes you are going through now. We were looking at the words:’For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison’, and wondering if Paul was off his head!! How could he possibly call affliction ‘light’? Yet, because he was Paul, and we knew how much deep suffering he had gone through, we knew that he knew what he was talking about. And so we had to look at the passage differently. If we experience the weight of suffering, and the long agony of unending pain, then, we came to the conclusion, our Perspective needs to change. We realised that if pain SEEMS heavy now – then the comparison of the glory hereafter is so great, that our pain will be seen as light; and almost as nothing hereafter. So, whatever we were going through, we realised that our vision of it could be one of smallness.

    Secondly, Hudson Taylor’s biography in 2 volumes helped me tremendously. I almost wish they could become prescribed reading for every Christian in our day. He, of course, suffered very deeply, and yet trusted very deeply too. For instance, on hearing of the Boxer Rebellion, and all the missionaries that were killed and hounded out of China – many of whom he had worked alongside very closely – his words were: ‘I cannot read, I cannot think, I cannot even pray; but I can trust.’ I will write more of this later.

    Another book that helped tremendously was the one written by Steve Estes and Joni Eareckson Tada – have lent it out, so can’t remember the title. It is on suffering, and they have some very interesting things to say on the subject. The chapter on Hell and our current experience of it on earth was particularly interesting.

    (I am submitting my thought in bullet points, so forgive the disjointed nature of them. If I wrote properly, I might write a book.)

    I am one who forgets that we live in a sinful, EVIL world. A world in rebellion toward God, and that we are still in that world and therefore MUST experience the evil of that world.

    Further, and I think particularly in the West, we tend to forget that we are involved in spiritual warfare, and that Satan’s deep hatred and rage is directed at us …. not because of ourselves, but because he hates our Lord and Master in us. That MUST bring us under his attack, and we WILL suffer. (That of course does not mean that non-Christians do not suffer the same types of things – but they suffer for different reasons, and, most importantly, THEIR SUFFERING IS IN VAIN, AND HAS NO POINT TO IT. If I suffer, I at least want to know that there is meaning, and value in suffering, not just victimhood. )

    Rom 8:28 is often quoted by people who have no idea what suffering is all about, but those of us who do, understand that verse in a different light. It is about a gritty determination to hold onto the promise that it WILL be for the good. A teeth-clenched trust in the faithfulness and goodness of God. An act of the will to refuse to let circumstances convince me that God is not loving.

    I learn in those times that circumstances – both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are nothing/neutral (in a sense), and that Christ is all. My definition of ‘good ‘ and ‘bad’ needs to change, and I shall see that all things come from the hand of a loving Father. My answer to suffering does not come in an analysis of the problem, or in finding our the reasons for it. Nor does it come in the form of a solution. Instead it comes in the form of a Presence. (I had a lovely quote from some book on suffering demanding a Presence, but can’t find it) My experience of suffering is not so much about how I grow ( though I do), or that I change, but that my experience of Christ grows deeper. Pain is found in the suffering Christ, and when I share in His sufferings…..I experience Him in a new way. A way that initially doesn’t FEEL good – in fact, it feels terrible.

    I may not be expressing myself very well…. perhaps the Puritans understood it well. They often used to talk of the severity and the mercy of God. When we only experience one side, we don’t know Him fully. But when He gives us the PRIVILEGE of sharing the side that doesn’t seem so ‘nice’; the side that we don’t really like, it is THEN that we experience Him More fully; more profoundly. And He grows sweeter and lovelier in the realisation. THEN joy does not depend on circumstances. THEN peace is in our hearts and minds. Oh, don’t misunderstand me – I have not fully begun to live this. Just glimpses now and then. And it remains a mystery to me. But I am learning to say,’ Thank you, Father, ‘ to every violent buffet, ‘because it is from Your loving Hand…and in You there is no darkness.’ Now matter what the CIRCUMSTANCE, I will TRUST that this is good, and perfect and loving.

    Yes, I still cavil at other people’s unfaithfulness and sin, especially when deep evil is directed at me. I still grumble and am angry at people when they wrong me badly, BUT I am learning to trust that God permitted it. It is under His control. The humans almost had nothing to do with it – instead God ordered that I undergo it, and He will work things out for His glory, not my comfort. ( Graciously, He has enabled me to see justice done – not of my making – but where others have sinned against me – He has shown me how He disciplines them. Perhaps He does that so that for future reference, where I don’t SEE justice, I can trust Him for it. I KNOW that it is different with physical illness. And that justice is not as big a part of the equation. But He has allowed me to see the other side just a little, so that I can learn to trust Him more. )

    The last thing I wanted to mention is that I am starting to understand how His resources are mine. Whatever the circumstance, I can face them because EVERY spiritual blessing is mine: I have the courage, the joy, the peace, the ability to see circumstances as nought – because I am in Him, and His resources flow from Him to me. As I said – BEGINNING to realize this.

    I could write so much more, but hope that you will be encouraged, and continue to write……

    • Nick 28th February, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      The book you’re referring to is called, “When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty”
      It is a great book. I love the end of the chapter on ‘The suffering God’. I’m almost tempted to type it out here…

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Thank you so much for this – there’s so much in here! I think it is good for me to hear the things that you are describing – the presence of God, the hope of heaven. They feel far away from my experience at the moment, but that is all the more reason why it is helpful to be reminded of their external reality. Thanks for the book recommendations, too.

  9. Kate 26th February, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks for your honesty and openness, Tanya. I found this very moving and wanted to respond. But I’m hesitating for fear of saying something trite.

    Last year when Daniel was temping and we were living very hand-to-mouth, often not knowing if he would have any work the next day, I realised how little I trusted God. My confidence and happiness depended on our circumstances, and not on God. It was a painful realisation, but necessary before God was able to start to teach me to trust him. And through the situation he was faithful – we had everything we needed, often more – and he showed himself to be completely trustworthy.

    The other side of the situation, I know I’m in danger of reverting to relying on myself/my circumstances for my happiness and security. I know I need to learn to trust and delight in God when things are good, as well as when they’re not. To treasure him more than any of his gifts.

    But I mainly just wanted to say that we are weeping with those who weep over the brokenness of this life. And looking forward to our future resurrection bodies, thanks to Jesus.

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Thank you so much for your own experience of trusting in God; I had wondered myself what that was like for you when Daniel didn’t have work guaranteed… It’s good to remember that loving God is not the same as loving his gifts.

      And thank you – oh, thank you! – for weeping. It helps…

  10. Vicky 25th February, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi,

    This was incredibly helpful and thought provoking. I too have been through situations in the last few years which have caused relapses, the most recent in the last couple of weeks and am also working through how to trust when God is silent. It is so true about doctors and nurses not knowing about the illness as well and can make things all the more frustrating.

    I’ll be praying for you and your family.

    Vickyx

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks so much for your support and prayers. Thinking of you too as you deal with the frustration of medics not understanding… xx

  11. Pam 24th February, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that. So helpful.

    I think sometimes what other people say to us is what they want to believe, its a much about them struggling to cope, as us. They can’t understand why we’re not getting better and they’re working that through too. For me, finding healing and hope is In God enabling me to live with what is – not necessarily taking away my physical limitations.

    And I am so with you on Habakkuk.

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, I think you’re right; often I’m a living challenge to other people’s theology! It’s great that you have got to a place where you are asking God to be able to live with what is – thanks for sharing.

  12. God Loves Women 24th February, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Hi Tanya,

    Thanks so much for this post! I’ve come to reading it a bit late, but here I am! You have been through a massive ordeal!! Thank you so much for sharing it! It must have and still must be so tough!!

    My son Joshua was born three months premature and when he was in hospital I kept praying he would live, as he was very seriously ill. At one point God said to me “I need you to love me the same whether Joshua lives or dies. To know you will praise Me the same whether he lives or dies.” And through much consideration I made the decision not to ask God to heal Joshua again, but to ask for God’s will to be done, whatever that meant and since then, I have tried to always ask God’s will to be done, not desire my own outcomes, but God’s instead. Joshua did survive and is the most beautiful healthy 6 year old you could ever meet!

    The Lord gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord eh?

    Thanks for your post!! :-)

    • Nick 24th February, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Weird … ours is called Joshua too. But is only five :) Chertsey. Amazing place.
      The name, ‘God is my salvation’ always seems a little more poignant having had the start he did.

      • God Loves Women 24th February, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Aw! Yes I thought that was interesting when I read your comment before I wrote mine! :-) He wasn’t actually called Joshua until he was 11 months old, I changed his name because he had been “strong and very courageous” and the “Lord his God was with him” :-)

        • Nick 24th February, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

          Every night, I pray with him:
          “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
          (‘scuse us having a little conversation Tanya!)

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Thanks, GLW for sharing your story too. Your courage and trust in God is a real example to me! It is an amazing thing to be able to pray ‘your will be done’.

      And so, so thankful that Joshua is alive and well and gorgeous!

  13. Anonymous 24th February, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    I read all the comments here and one thing stands out for me. If we trust in God or reject Him completely in our lives we still end up in exactly the same position. Still alone, Still confused, Still suffering and looking for answers. So why trust God? Aren’t we all just holding a hand out into the darkness looking for the light? But for me your next line sums it all up, we can only hope not trust that we find what we are looking for.
    Because where is this just God that is meant to love us, be with us at all times, want nothing but good for us. Where is he when there is nothing but silence and more sorrow year after year after year. Is it really so unrealistic or assuming of God to give us something, anything? Hasn’t he abandoned us? Hasn’t he broken His promise if we go a life time with no response? Why do we let God treat us in ways that we would never tolerate from our fellow human beings? and they are supposed to be the flawed ones.
    God asks us to trust him unconditionally. Is this really possible? Of course not, we are only human after all. Do you trust God because it gives you something rather that having nothing but the darkness? Can you really say that your hope will last forever if you never feel or see God work in your life?
    Just my thoughts and feelings on the matter……

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      Wow. Thank you so much for these comments and for sharing from your heart on this. Your comment and questions sound so honest and express such raw pain – I’m feeling it with you as I read it.

      I think you raise an important question – are we trusting, or are we just hoping? Do we have cause to trust, or is it actually a vain hope? Why does God not intervene? Why does he appear to be less humane than humans, when he could do something but doesn’t?

      I think these are big questions, and I have been asking these too. I don’t feel like I have an answer for the bigger, universal questions, but I am beginning to have some answers as far as my personal experience goes, so I will share them with you.

      Do I trust God because it gives you something rahter than having nothing but the darkness?
      A good question. No – I’m not trusting in God just because it’s better to have something rather than nothing. I’m not a fan of wishful thinking. I like to think of myself as intelligent and I don’t want to believe in a ‘useful construct’ – I want an actual relationship, an actual God. If there is no god, then I’d want to be honest about that.

      I think there is a God. For me, the major thing that has helped this year has been other Christians. (It seems only fair to point this out, as my post spends a lot of time moaning about other Christians!) I have experienced a lot of patience and love and practical help through other Christians. Initially I didn’t want to give God any credit for this, ‘it’s all very well all these nice people doing these things – but why don’t YOU do something?” but I do acknowledge that God can and does work through other people.

      What do we do if we go a lifetime without any response from God? I don’t know. I really hope that that won’t be true for you – to have nothing at all from God. For me, even though I don’t understand why God let things happen and get worse in my illness, I can’t say that I’ve never experienced his blessings or goodness. I have an amazing husband and son – they are blessings to me. I have seen God work in my life in the past and prayers answered. I need to remember that just because he has not answered this (major) prayer that that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t answered any.

      One thing I found helpful was praying for others rather than myself. I couldn’t pray for myself, it was too painful, and I didn’t believe that God wanted to help me. But somehow I had faith that he would want to help others, and so I prayed for them. And often I would see answers to those prayers…

      I’m torn – on the one hand I really want to give you answers and reassurances; on the other hand, I don’t want to give anything ‘cheaply’. I want to pray that God gives you a deep sense of his presence and goodness that somehow transcends all the muck and confusion and pain. I think I will pray that, because that is what I would want too.

      Thank you for taking the time to write.

  14. Claire 23rd February, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    thanks Tanya for this blog. I never realised the full extent of the condition of M.E. I have only ever read snippits of information, but having read your blog today it has truly opened my eyes. I am so sorry that you had to go through this severe lack of support and understanding from the hospital staff, clearly there is just not enough known about M.E. even to the professionals! xx

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks so much – I’m realising the importance of ‘M.E. awareness’ and I’m really grateful whenever anyone listens to my story. It means a lot to know that people have better insight into my experience – thank you so much for doing that. xx

  15. Nick 23rd February, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    I’ve got a few random thoughts buzzing around in my head, some of which I’ll try to get down and explain a little.
    First of all, as Mr Mcleod says in ‘The Man Without a Face’, “whatever else the past is, it’s gone”. I think he’s being a little defeatist in his approach, but there’s an element of truth in what he says. I’m guessing that God’s message wasn’t, “if you make the right decision, then you can trust in me”. Because that’s then you relying not just on God, but on yourself as well. Do you remember those books that we read as kids (I say ‘we’, but of course, if you didn’t, you won’t remember them)? The ones where you get to the end of the page and it says, ‘it you want to talk to the granny, turn to page 43, if you would rather talk to the man with the axe, turn to page 76′. So we turn to page 43 (who’d want to talk to the man with the axe?!) only to find that the granny kills us and the story abruptly ends (ok, so they weren’t perhaps that gruesome, but you get the drift). So then we turn on to page 76, and pretend that was our first choice (man, this comment is already rambling!). Well, sometimes I think like that in life, I think that if I make the wrong choice, it’ll be curtains, and God will be like “well, NOW you’ve screwed things up, haven’t you. You can’t seriously expect me to get you out of THAT mess”. And I think that if I turn to the wrong page, I’ll be sunk. But it’s not like that with God. Sure, Jonah had to get swallowed and puked up, but God didn’t give up on Him. Joseph was a bit cocky with sharing his annoying dreams, and got himself nearly killed and then sold by his brothers. But God didn’t give up on him either (sorry, those two examples are the wrong way around chronologically). God doesn’t have hidden clauses in the whole ‘Trust Me’ thing. [Don't get me wrong, if we decide to turn AWAY from God as a permanent thing, that's clearly a problem] God is faithful. Hugely faithful. As you say, Job was right to say, ‘though he slay me…’. Equally, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said something along the lines of, “Our God can save us from the burning fiery furnace, but even if he doesn’t, we still wouldn’t bow down to you.” Their trust wasn’t that God would do the right thing by them, but that He was completely trustworthy. So the message wouldn’t have been, ‘if you make the right choice about the C-section, then you’ll be in a position to trust Me’. Just, ‘Trust Me’.
    Of course, all that’s perhaps easier to say when you’ve not got so much ‘need’ to trust God. But God is trustworthy regardless of our needs. No needs we have will ever exceed His potential. No needs we have will ever exhaust His trustworthiness.

    The other main thing I’d say is perhaps dangerous ground. I’m not trying to say that sufferings rock and we should embrace them, even though there’s a danger of it sounding like that’s what I mean. But I think sometimes, when God takes away, we can also find something that he’s given. I don’t mean He took away Job’s sheep and then replaced them with more, but rather that, through His dealings with Job, Job was given something he otherwise wouldn’t have had.
    For me, I guess an example I could give (which, I know, is in many ways utterly different from your blog post, and therefore, feel free to shoot down the link) would be Joshua’s birth. He was born by emergency C-section, following a failed induction, and it was all a bit stressful. The bit before the birth was the easy bit though. I remember sitting on a stool in the operating theatre, thinking to myself that it didn’t seem right that one of the midwives, immediately following the delivery, was tapping the soles of his feet saying, ‘Come on baby’. Turns out he didn’t start breathing, and it was all very wrong. (Are you familiar with the APGAR test? He was 2 at both the first and second readings…). That night, after I’d left the hospital, phoned friends and was crying myself to sleep, I guess I had a taste of grief for the loss of a child, as that was, at the time, a very real possibility. (He’d been ambulanced up to London in a special neonatal ambulance). I think that’s given me a greater appreciation of God’s sacrifice. I can’t even properly describe the sensation, but it’s not great. I’ve got a perfectly healthy Big Boy now, but that night, maybe God gave me a sense of sorrow that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. An understanding that I’d otherwise lack. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being sanctimonious or glib about it, and, a lot of the time, I think I’d rather be ignorant of that particular aspect of the crucifixion and its affect on the relationships in the Trinity. But there it is, God, in almost taking something away, gave me something else in return.
    Now, please don’t think I’m saying we should all just spend our time cheerily looking for the silver linings in life. I don’t want to belittle any experience or pain or grief or suffering. It’s just that, sometimes (on a good day perhaps?) I wonder if maybe God ‘taking away’ isn’t the only perspective to my experience.

    Very worried about clicking ‘Submit’ here. Don’t want people to think I’m being insensitive or trite or anything like that, because I’m really not. I’m just trying to give my perspective on some of the things you’ve raised…

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      Wow – this is worthy of a whole post in its own right!

      I LOVE your analogy about those books with the alternative endings! (I used to love those books as a kid…) Yes, if it’s about making the right decision with little or no guidance, then it makes God into a cruel quiz master and it becomes all-dependent on our decisions rather than God’s will. (Although you put it very much better than that).

      Your example of Shadrach et al is a very helpful one. I think that’s where I arrived at; God CAN heal, but even if he doesn’t, we trust him because he is trustworthy. “God is trustworthy regardless of our needs” – yes. (Or at least – yes, that is what I believe).

      Thanks so much for sharing your story about Joshua. I didn’t know that you had been through that. That whole experience sounds fairly horrendous. I’m so, so glad that your boy was okay in the end. It’s scary to think how fragile life is at moments like that…

      I’m pondering what you say about God giving something when he takes away. I think you could be right, but it’s a tricky one to get into. If you were given the choice between having to go through that traumatic experience and gaining an insight on the cross, or not going through it and not having the insight, there’s a chance that you might actually choose to go through it. But if it were a choice of gaining an even greater insight into what it feels to losing a baby by not having Joshua at all…?

      I think part of the problem is that sometimes the ‘gains’ of what we learn through suffering (and there are significant gains, I agree) don’t really seem to make up for those losses. In a way I would like to say there is an equation where the more God asks you to suffer, the more you will gain spiritually and therefore it all comes out okay in the end, but I just don’t think that’s true. I think the Bible allows us to say that suffering is crumby and won’t be answered in this world – it’s not like a karma-balance thing. (Although as I write that I remember that Rom 5 says we rejoice in our sufferings because of their effects, and that Paul says that he rejoices in his weaknesses and sufferings. Hmmm.) I think that may be the limit of my profound response to this!

      Thanks for helping me think through this.

  16. Kevin 23rd February, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Thank you so much Tanya for your refreshing honesty; your experience is a reality check for all of us who tend to preach a sort of ‘Pollyannarised’ Christian faith to others and possibly ourselves when difficulties are upon us. Pollyanna was infectiously optimistic, she always looked on the up-side but she was never ‘real’ but despite good intentions at heart. You however are being real and we are being blessed by helping us to see through your experience what true trust and faith in God really means and costs. Keep the reflections coming
    Blessings,
    Kevin

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      Thanks so much for your encouragement to be honest! It can be a scary thing at times…

  17. Karmen White 23rd February, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    WOW, I bet this blog was a little painful!! Thanks for sharing it. I can’t imagine what it was like to have suffered the prejudice of the hospital staff, on top of everything else. I will always evaluate my ‘trust in God’ and make sure I’m not bargaining from now on!!

    Thanks Tanya x

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Karmen – you are wonderfully encouraging! Yes – that post was a little painful to write – and I felt more hesitation than usual at pressing ‘publish’! Thanks for encouraging me that I did the right thing. xx

  18. Treenz 23rd February, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Tanya… you are amazing….

    Sadly this type of thing is happening more and more and it’s not right and it scares me. I don’t know why God is silent/passive when His word says He is the opposite. We’re meant to take His word as fact and believe what it says… it speaks of everything good for us… that He will never abandon us, that He blesses the righteous, etc. It’s full of that all the way through pretty much. My question is, that is unanswerable, I know, but still I will voice it – why is He letting His children that are reaching out to Him in faith and living by His word and trying to do all the right things…suffer? We have nothing but Him, He is our everything and yet sometimes it seems He turns a blind eye? It’s so scary…. He says He is like a father to us… yet so many times I hear stories of situations His children are in, that if an earthly father knew about it, he would move mountains to intervene… .yet God seems to remain at a distance and just ignore their cries? I know people who believe God doesn’t love them and favors others above them….because though they’ve cried out to him for over 20 years in illness, bedridden, He has seemingly done nothing at all. It’s heartbreaking… it really is…. because it is so inconsistent with God’s character it seems.
    I don’t understand. For me, I too am sick of ‘pat christian’ answers about this as in the end we take God at His word and His Word is not void. It’s meant to be so much more…and He’s meant to back it up and be all it says He is….otherwise what is the point of having it?
    I know He is still God and can do what He wants… but if we are to be His children, it would great to see Him helping us like a father would I guess (as that’s how He wants us to see Him isn’t it?). I know we have limited understanding and I mean no disrespect in what I’m saying, just frustration about your situation and many others I know of… that’s all. I guess we will understand some day??

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Thanks so much for this comment. I know what you mean about not understanding why God allows people to go through suffering, and that seeming incompatible with his character as a loving Father. I also feel frustration and powerlessness when I look at others’ situations (sometimes that’s even harder than dealing with something yourself).

      I don’t want to resort to pat Christian answers myself, but the only thing I would want to say is that although there is a lot in the Bible about God wanting good for us and not abandoning us and blessing the righteous, there is also a lot in there about God being silent. Job is a huge one for this (though it all ends very happily!) God abandons Jesus on the cross (Jesus is separated from God the Father – I believe this is because he bears our sin and God is pouring out his wrath at our sin). So, although I don’t really completely understand why it feels like God abandons us, I do know that Jesus also felt that way when he was at his lowest. Sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn’t.

      One book that has been brilliantly helpful to me is ‘God on Mute’ by Pete Greig. It is written by someone whose ministry is centred on the 24/7 prayer movement which has seeen countless miraculous instances of healing – and yet his wife has not been healed of debilitating epilepsy. It is a brilliant, pastorally gentle, theologically deep, Biblically faithful book about the search to reconcile that tension – I can thoroughly recommend it.

  19. Anna Wood 23rd February, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Brilliant post Tanya – such great insights. I do think though that there is a danger in simply trusting God, in the ‘throwing your hands in the air and not taking responsibility type way’. I’m not saying you do that here – but this is a two way relationship – God is trusting in US to make the right decision (however right is defined), to use the skills he has given us to think things through, and to take responsibility for our actions. That doesn’t mean not trusting in God ofcourse. But it does mean understanding our role in the course of our lives.

    Like you I am very much wondering what it means to trust in a God who leaves me housebound, takes away my job, etc. I pushed through extreme exhaustion for over a year to stay in my job, until eventually four years ago I crashed, and have never recovered. Was I trusting in God during that year, that it would all be ok, or was I failing God by not recognising the symptoms and acting on them? Much to ponder…

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      Hi – thanks so much for you comments – nice to see you on here! Yes – trusting God does not exclude decision-making and taking responsiblity for those decisions. I think I felt that a lot with the C-section vs labour question, especially the people telling me that trusting God = not having a C-section. Jon points out that it was very much my decision to go for labour rather than C-section; we were eventually given a completely free choice by the doctors and not pushed into anything.

      Interesting questions about your experience (did you make the wrong decision? etc) I thought Nick’s comment on here was really helpful for this (about those books with the alternative endings) – do check it out. xx

  20. Kath 23rd February, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Love this post, totally resonates, I remember the first time I realised that trusting God wouldn’t always mean that I was safe, secure and comfortable, or rather more scary that those I love wouldn’t always be safe, secure and pain free. It brings a whole new depth to working out what on earth we are trusting God for… and hints that he might be up to something more significant that a pain free life.

    Strangely I feel this way with my new job, it’s hard and most of the time I don’t like it and majorly want out (best hope my boss doesn’t read your blog eh).

    When God gets tied up with the things and stuff in our life it all becomes tricky doesn’t it? I majorly wrestle with remembering all the voices from those around me (and myself) who told me that God had given me this job, it was clearly from him. But it sucks. Does that mean God gives me what sucks. Maybe? I’m wrestling with wanting to take God out of the picture and then be left with some vague sense of karma about the circumstances of our lives. It is tiring believing that God really is in some way in the events of our lives because they feel so crazy random. And because my comfort is the most important thing to me and I don’t see how else God can be good if he’s not giving me my definition of a Good Thing. I fully hold to the reality that God is more interested in our relationship with him and how we respond to the circumstances of our lives, rather than giving us what we want, I’m just not sure why we then bother to pray to ask him to make things ok. (unless that’s about relationship with him again)

    Sorry, overly long comment a go go. Anyways. Much food for thought!

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Thanks so much for this, Kath. That’s so funny – I totally expected that your new job would be great and fun, just because it sounds sorta Christian. Isn’t it weird the expectations that we have of other people?

      ‘I fully hold to the reality that God is more interested in our relationship with him’ – I have an uncomfortable feeling that this may be true. My instinctive reaction to that is, ‘but I’d rather have a comfortable life!’ Which I guess is idolatry…

      These issues are hard. In my head, when I’m holding court with God in the dock, I can argue both for prosecution and defence. Of course, a relationship with God is more significant than our comfort. But when does our discomfort slide into the levels of suffering? And why does God want us to suffer? These are not questions that I ask about suffering so much as questions that I feel in times of suffering.

      Thanks so much for your input!

  21. Tim Carlisle 23rd February, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Romans 8 : 28
    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.

    It’s a well known verse, its used a lot and we bandy it about when we see anyone suffering and say “Hey, it’s for your own good” in a rather trite fashion. We say to each other and to ourselves that this illness, this situation, this disability, this depressive mind, is God working his purpose out for my good, and that somehow I’ll be better off because of it. I cling to those words and imagine that somehow when I suffer, God is doing a little bit of refining – and once it’s done he’ll polish me up again and set me back on the course that I think I should be taking.
    But you are so right – we bargain with God – but more than that – we somehow think we know better than God. Why do I suffer? Lot’s of people will give lots of answers to that, there are the generic ones – “Because Christ suffered first”, “Because of sin”, “Because God is teaching you something” – this last one is one that I can really get attached to, but I know that whilst it may be true in some situations (remembering that I don’t want to limit what God can and cannot do) I’m not sure the Bible tells us that we’ll have a hard time (persecution being different) to learn things.

    I think we have to look back at the Romans passage and see that in all things (good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant) God is working for the good of those who love him.
    So when God says ‘Trust Me’ we are to trust him – as you say unconditional trust – not to do something but to trust him and his promises. He has said he will do things, and he will.

    It kind of reminds me of those films where two sides are against each other, and someone from the good side says to his friends and cohorts “Remember, whatever may appear, whatever you see or hear, whatever it looks like I’m doing – trust me” and then appears later in the film to have switched sides and be working against his friends, doing them harm, and many of his friends decide he’s a bad egg, a traitor and turn their back on him and try to kill him. Only later in the movie do we find out that he’s been working to bring down the enemy from within and has been totally faithful and loyal to his friends. He has done what he said he would – been trustworthy – nothing more than that, nothing less than that.

    I wonder too whether we need to look at those words in Romans and fell more universal about it, it’s not going to help you, and will probably feel trite but….
    Is it possible that you suffer, that you go through all this – not necessarily for the good of you, but others who love Him? For others who have been called according to his purpose.

    You say “People had said to me, ‘why do you expect God to give you the worst case scenario? What kind of God do you believe in?’ – and here I was, in my worst case scenario. In fact, it was worse than my worst case scenario.” Yes it was worse than your worst case scenario – but I still wonder whether it is right to EXPECT God to give us the worst case scenario? BUT I also don’t think we should EXPECT God to give us the best case scenario (remember this is coming from someone who generally expects the worst) rather we should expect God to be God, to keep his promises, to do the things he has said he will. To be faithful, unchanging, trustworthy, good, powerful, majestic, sovereign, loving, compassionate, merciful, righteous, just, holy, pure, loving and that he will grant us sufficient grace.

    Your blog is becoming a really useful and helpful thought tool, it helps me to think through things but also to correct myself where I have foolish thoughts – but it’s also challenging. I’m aware that we talk sometimes when we all meet up – and that its both usually after wine and unprepared. That means that as you go back through past events I can hear my own words and worry about them having been unhelpful or worse damaging. Sorry.

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

      Wow. As ever, your comments are really rich and in-depth, and help me continue my thinking on these issues.
      – God teaching us something through hard times. Yes, I’m in two minds on that. On the one hand, I think there is something hopeful about the fact that our suffering is productive. It is comforting to think that God is bringing fruit out of suffering, that it isn’t pointless. I’d say that was a biblical principle and one that I can see generally over time in my life and in others. But you’re also right to sound a note of caution in over-using it as a ‘go-to’ comfort line when talking to people who are suffering. Particularly as Westerners we jump very quickly to the ‘so what can we learn from this?’ as though it’s a tick box that we can move on from. Even if there are lessons to be learnt, some lessons take a long time to learn. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, but by its very nature patience can only be learnt over a long period of time…

      – films with the ‘trust me’ goody. Yes, I had half been thinking of a Spooks episode where that happens! That’s a really helpful illustration to help process what God might be doing in times when we don’t understand what he’s doing.

      – re Romans 8:28 I’ve NEVER considered that interpretation of that verse before as God working good for the whole community rather than the individual who’s undergoing the suffering, but that is a really interesting suggestion. It makes a lot of sense, and is a useful corrective to our individualised thinking about faith. I shall ponder it.

      – is it right to EXPECT GOd to give us the worst case scenario? I think you are right in this as well; that even if God does end up giving us the ‘worst case scenario’ it would be faithless to go around expecting that of Him. We shouldn’t be trying to second-guess God or doubting his goodness. Conversely, we shouldn’t expect God to give us the best-case scenario, as though somehow we’re entitled to it. Where does that leave us? Not sure! Not knowing what to expect, I guess! Maybe trusting in God’s character rather than any particular outcome; I think that’s what I was trying to express in the post.

      – don’t worry AT ALL about words said in the past. Even the ones I’ve jumped on you for saying! The thing is, that I know all the words you say come with the depth of understanding our situation and a commitment and a love to us in it – and that makes all the difference in the world. You have both helped me more than you will know. So keep talking truth – even when I yell at you! ;-)

  22. Jo Royal 23rd February, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Brilliant (not the M.E. bit!) – but the understanding of Trust. You are right – Trusting in God doesn’t mean everything will be as WE want it to be. It means putting our Trust in a God who is all knowing – who see’s the bigger picture and knows where we are going.
    Jo

    • Tanya 23rd February, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks so much Jo. It’s good to remember that God does see the bigger picture – this chapter is not over yet, and I need to remember that He sees the whole thing! Blessings. x

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