"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

Letting God Drive: Pain, prayer and the Holy Spirit

Posted by Anne Witton on Sunday, May 21, 2017 Under: Reflections


I suffer from Bipolar Disorder and have to be careful about my routine in order to keep my mood stable. I definitely overdid things in the first few months of this year, which led to me feeling burnt out and struggling with low mood. The doctor signed me off work so that I could rest and recuperate and my colleagues and friends have been very supportive in recognising this need to regroup.

The first few weeks were very difficult and I didn’t feel capable of much, but I very clearly felt held by God in my weakness. It is very humbling not to be able to ‘perform’ or ‘achieve’ but to come to Jesus in frailty and allow him to pour out his love. As I’ve been recovering, I’ve been able to read a range of Christian books by authors of many different persuasions which have blessed me enormously (list below if you're interested). I have been re-discovering the joy of contemplative prayer, the power of silence and simplicity and the wonder of engaging with God’s word with both my mind and emotions. I have enjoyed grappling with theology and dancing in the rain in Spirit-filled worship in equal measure.

One thing that's really helped re-set my priorities is a challenge that came in a Student Life Hub on addiction. In the discussion group afterwards, Delvin shared how he realised he'd been watching too much TV and he'd tried to ration it but realised that his self-control wasn't great so he'd got rid of his TV. For a while, I'd been struggling with the temptation to waste time playing silly games on my phone, so that night I deleted all my mobile games. Since then, I have found it much easier to spend time in prayer, reading the Bible and reading other books, and it's made me more determined to cut out anything that is hindering my walk with God. 

One of the humbling things about being ill is learning to receive from others. An important lesson about discipleship is that it's two-way. The students that I work with have as much to teach me as I have to teach them, and I'm so grateful for their friendship. A friend recently gave me a helpful insight into the story of the Good Samaritan. We pretty much always read it as an example of how we are to help others in need, whatever their background or affiliation, (which is an important thing to learn), but it can also be a challenge to us to receive help from others. It is actually a blessing to other people to let them see our weaknesses and allow them to help, even if they're not the people we would have chosen or expected to come to our aid. 

One of the things that God has been challenging me on for a while is the need to live a Spirit-filled life. I recognise how easy it is to try and live the Christian life in my own efforts and how quickly this can lead to a resentful sense of duty. The humbling experience of being ill and ‘unproductive’ has reminded me that ministry and service is an overflow of the love and grace that God has lavished on me. If Jesus is not my number one priority in everything then everything else I do in life is essentially pointless. And yet I know I can’t even make Jesus number one without him. I can’t conjure up more faith or better discipline. So I’ve abandoned myself to the Holy Spirit and asked Him to do what I can’t - to live the Jesus life in me. It's like I have been driving a rally car and Jesus has been in the passenger seat. I've been asking him for directions and instructions on what I need to do, but I've only just realised that what he's been saying to me is 'Let me drive'. What's needed isn't more effort from me, but more surrender to God.

I have re-discovered the beauty of contemplative prayer in recent times and find it has drawn me much closer to Jesus and given me a new spiritual joy and love for God and others. Spending time alone with God, often on a beach or in a park is a real tonic to the soul. I believe that prayer is absolutely fundamental to spiritual growth and is not so much a Christian duty as a huge privilege. The fact that we can be in constant intimate communion with our Lord and Saviour, without any intermediary, is a source of true comfort and wonder.

I've needed to repent of my busyness as I've realised that lots of it has been driven by pride - a desire to be needed, to be valued, to be in control. It's very dangerous to try and do God's job for him, and such a relief to relearn the fact that I can trust him to be God so that I can just be me.

It's amazing how often the story of Martha and Mary has popped up recently. I've always identified much more with Martha and thought that she was a bit hard done by when she gets gently rebuked by Jesus. For the first time ever, I've read that passage and thought 'Yes, Mary really had got it right.'. We so often justtify our busyness and activity, but if it means that we don't have time to spend with Jesus, then it's idolatry. There simply is NOTHING more important than sitting at the feet of our Lord and spending time with him. 

Selected Bibliography

  1. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
  2. Enjoy Your Prayer Life - Michael Reeves
  3. Personality and Prayer - Ruth Fowke
  4. Heaven in Ordinary: Contemplative Prayer in Ordinary Life - Angela Ashwin
  5. The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy - Timothy Keller
  6. The Father Heart of God: Experiencing the Depths of His Love for You - Floyd McClung
  7. The Renewed Mind - Larry Christenson
  8. Will you be my Facebook Friend? - Tim Chester
  9. Prayer in the Shadows - Angela Ashwin
  10. The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness - Tim Chester
  11. Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book About a (really) Big Problem - Kevin DeYoung
  12. The Plausibility Problem: The Church and Same-Sex Attraction - Ed Shaw
  13. The Voice of the Father - Tracy Williamson
  14. Listening To God - Joyce Huggett
  15. Unweaving the Web: Beginning to Think Theologically About the Internet - David Clough
  16. Delighting in the Trinity - Tim Chester

In : Reflections 


Tags: "holy spirit" health prayer books repentance busyness 
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