Any position of Christian service demands a confrontation with weakness. Things become exceedingly clear as things carry on, as the ramifications of certain decisions play out, as plans rest precariously without any promise of fulfilment. Coming before God entails a fresh conviction of one's sin and the grief of repentance. The same things have continued to beleaguer me – pride, being controlling, vanity, hypocrisy. For every plan we've made, fear has cast its shadow over my sense of self-worth as a leader. Uncertainty has manifested in immense worry and long periods of prayer. Early on in my term of service, I'd born witness to the pain that poor decisions can cause.
Yet, each of these moments have led me back to the recognition that it is fruitless to depend on ourselves. Wisdom entails recognising what is and what is not within our control, and it is in coming to terms with the latter that we find ourselves able to lean into God yet again.
In 2nd Corinthians, while imprisoned, Paul writes of a 'thorn in [his] flesh, a messenger of Satan' who was sent to torment him. He pleads with the Lord for it to be taken away, but it remains, for God says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." The past few bible studies on 1 Peter have been reminders that faith is refined amid difficult circumstances, which can result in suffering and hardship at their most extreme. Thankfully, most of us are buttressed by material stability in Cambridge. Our weaknesses manifest differently in the challenges that are set before us here: how do we manage our time? How do we uphold and honour our friends and loved ones? How do we cultivate a healthy relationship with work and rest? How do we deal with our idols?
Every time we stumble we are reminded of the need to return to God, to hear from His still small voice, to remember that His grace is sufficient for us and that fullness comes from walking alongside Him. This is even more urgent in times of relative seamlessness, for we must remember that God carries us through every high and every low. As a speaker once said at a Christmas service here in 2017, 'Christianity is not a crutch- it's the entire stretcher.'
A practice of gratitude helps in remembering where God has carried us each day. It is a reminder that self-dependence is self-defeating and that we live in the glorious paradox of finding ourselves only when we lose ourselves to Christ. Sanctification is a process to be worked out daily, for it is a struggle to help our faith grow with the arrival of every morning. We can take comfort that our hope in Him can and will endure. These are lessons that will stay with me as I think back on God's faithfulness to the CF in the past year. I look forward to hearing more of His mercy and steadfast love in the CF once He's led me on from Cambridge.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)