This poor soul cried ….(@revpamsmith)

Alone by Cherie Wren rgbstock

Alone by Cherie Wren rgbstock

Having come to Christianity in my thirties, I hadnt been brought up to know the Bible, and only started to encounter the Psalms when I attended Cathedral evensong to support my chorister son. They seemed to fall into two types – psalms which praised God, and psalms which complained but then praised God. I didnt understand how a psalm of lament could turn into praise of God until I had my own psalm moment.

My father fell ill at Christmas – he was unable to keep food down, and although he kept going with his normal activities he seemed to be wasting away. My mum rang with the diagnosis while I was getting the childrens tea ready one day – tests had confirmed that he had Motor Neurone Disease (MND), an incurable condition which wastes the muscles and leads to death as the body stops working.

I couldnt react at the time, I didnt want to scare the children and I had hardly been able to take it in myself. I had dealt with death before, but not the death of a parent, and not a slow death from a cruel disease. It took me a while to understand and believe what it meant – the next months or years were going to be spent watching my dad suffering and dying.

It really hit me after Id dropped the children off at school the next day. Walking back along our road, I started to cry uncontrollably. When I got home, I ran upstairs, locked myself in the bathroom (although there was nobody else at home) and sobbed while calling God every name under the sun. I was furious with him.

How dare you do this, I asked, to my lovely father, who has never done anything  to deserve such a death?  I shouted and swore at God, telling him he had made a rotten world, a rotten universe, where such things could happen.

And in the middle of this, I suddenly felt God with me. I have never felt his presence so near to me. It sounds ridiculous but I felt as if a comforting arm had gone round my shoulders. No words of apology or explanation – just a sense of someone telling me I am here, I am always here with you, I will be here always.

Later on in my dads illness, my sister said that Psalm 34 had been coming to her in prayer. i didnt know it, but it came to mean a lot to me, especially verses 4-9 which speak of someone calling on God in a time of distress.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.

And what does this tells me about online discipleship?

Sometimes we need to express our distress, our anger and our pain to God before we can hear his response. Allow people to grieve, to be angry, to be honest before God, to move into a place where his love and connection with us becomes obvious. Weve been running discussion groups i-church for a few years now, and weve found that giving space to people to express their negative feelings about faith can open them to a new experience of God

About revpamsmith