Sometimes the lives of two people who would normally not have met touch each other and memories are made. Some years ago, a pastor rang us quite out of the blue and said that his church would like to pay for a young lady to stay with us on a little break. The lady, who was probably in her late-twenties, was a former Muslim who had turned to the Christian faith, leading to ostracism from her community.
When Sophia (not her real name) arrived at Blenheim Lodge, she was a bundle of nerves. It was obvious that she was very depressed and unable to cope adequately with the hatred she now experienced from her community. Now, the Bible encourages Christians to take joy in the Lord; and when one does this, it is possible to know a deep peace despite unspeakably horrid circumstances.
In John 14:27, Jesus says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (NIV) And in John 16:33, as an addendum to His teaching on what would happen to His disciples, Jesus added, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (NIV) Sophia, unfortunately, did not seem to be experiencing any deep peace of mind.
During Sophia’s time with us, she opened up her heart to me, and I hope that my being there was a help to her. She talked about her loneliness, her sometimes wavering faith, and her sadness because she felt an outcast. Her reason for staying at Blenheim Lodge was to make quiet time a priority with God. She wanted a peaceful retreat where she could spend time in prayer and to refresh herself in the Lord. She wanted the Lord’s special peace.
I truly empathised with Sophia, and prayed fervently that she would find rest in her soul. Like most everyone else, I have experienced some tough times; and it is awful to have a broken record in one’s consciousness that simply goes round and round. As one matures as a Christian and gives over more and more of one’s life to the Lord, the broken records that play in one’s life do become less prolonged and insistent. That, of course, is not to say that Christians do not worry. Of course we worry, just like anyone else. However, we know that we are in the capable hands of a Saviour who went so far as to die for us, and who was resurrected to save us and give us life abundantly.
One of my favourite verses is Rom 8:32: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ Indeed. I am not a believer of Christianity as the religion of monetary prosperity. There is a lovely benediction in Rom 15:13: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Joy, peace, hope and the power of the Holy Spirit – these are some of the fruits of the Christian life, and as far as I am concerned, they represent a spiritual prosperity that is both abundant and ever multiplying when we walk with the Lord.
Being there for Sophia affected me because I was afforded insight into what it must mean for new Christians whose families disown them. Here was someone just commencing her journey with the Lord, and already the metaphorical stones had been thrown at her. Her bravery in the light of such abuse touched me.
As I write this post, I am reminded of an old hymn, which words must surely impart comfort and cheer to Christians worldwide. Certainly, I do so hope that Sammis’ lyrics encouraged Sophia especially when she most needed self and spiritual affirmation. The hymn is entitled ‘Trust and Obey’. The first three verses and refrain are reproduced below.
1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy with Jesus, but to trust and obey
2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies
But His smile quickly drives it away
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear
Can abide while we trust and obey
3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share
But our toil He doth richly repay
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross
But is blessed if we trust and obey
(Lyrics by John Sammis, with music by Daniel Towner.)
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