So, do we hold onto God, or does He hold onto us? In John 10:27-28 Jesus says “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It may feel like we are desperately holding onto God, but the truth is that God is very invested in us, and we are His family. The seminar started by discussing some questions:
- What are some of the storms we face in life?
- What particular storms might we face as vets, vet nurses, partners of vets, clinical directors?
- How can we feel in a storm?
- How do we react in a storm?
Some of the feelings we can experience in a storm are fear and shock and the sense of being overwhelmed. And our reactions can be to try harder and battle on, or to withdraw and isolate ourselves. Different people will react in different ways to the same event. What seems like a storm to one, may be nothing to another. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”. How we react will depend on many things such as our character and upbringing and what else is going on in our lives. A seemingly small event to one can be the “last straw” to another. We also discussed briefly why storms happen. I always like to remember that God’s will and plan for human beings was the Garden of Eden. But we live in a fallen and broken world. In John 16:33 Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Storms can happen through other people’s sin and our sin. God has given us freewill and there is an enemy at work.
I was a vet in Chippenham, Wiltshire for 24 years. First as an assistant and latterly a partner in a busy, mixed practice.
In October 2018 we sold the practice, and I left in July 2019. At that point, I was worn out, and in leaving the practice I also left my home, my church and my community and moved to my family’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight.
The summer was hard, partly due to my poor relationship with my dad. In September 2019 I became engaged to a man I’d been seeing on and off for a few years. In October I broke off the engagement, having already planned the wedding for December. It was a very sad and painful time.
On Boxing Day of 2019 one of my nephews was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent two operations over the New Year.
Not working meant I was available to help with my nephew’s siblings and I threw myself into being the perfect aunt and sister. My nephew’s brain tumour was horribly malignant, so my brother and his wife looked into any and every treatment option to extend his life. Being medical I tried to help in this.
By the middle of January, I was having headaches every day and all day. I remember going with my brother, his wife, and my nephew to an appointment with his consultant. The consultant asked my nephew if he’d had any headaches or nausea. My nephew said no but these were symptoms I had every day. That was a scary time. Thankfully I saw a neurologist and had a brain scan. I was diagnosed with stress/tension headaches and was prescribed medication.
Lockdown then came to the country, and I was on the Isle of Wight, an enforced time of separation from my family.
In October 2020 I started the “Never Ever The Same” (NETS) course at Ellel Ministries, a Christian healing ministry I’ve been involved with for many years. NETS is a year-long discipleship course, of teaching and practical application. It goes right back to the basics of who God is and who we are, aiming to remove any faulty foundations in our faith, through teaching, prayer, and creativity.
By this time, I was off the medication for the headaches, but they had come back, which was a bit embarrassing as I was doing a course on Christian healing!!
Through the course God started to show me the wrong beliefs I had about myself, that I had to be strong, independent, and perfect. He showed me the roots of these beliefs in my childhood – when I was growing up my dad often said to me “stop snivelling, sorry is not good enough”. From this I had surmised that I had to be strong and perfect to please him. And as a single person and a vet that is what is needed too….
During the course I had lots of prayer ministry appointments. In one of them, when having prayer for the headaches, God showed me that I believed I deserved them because of my ex-fiancé and what I’d put him through. When I asked God to show me why I believed this, the words “because I should have known better” came from my mouth! I was a mature, strong Christian woman who shouldn’t have made a mistake like that. My pride, in who I believed I was, was standing in judgement over me. I couldn’t forgive myself because I was better than that. Therefore, I deserved to continue to be punished with the headaches. Crazy but true.
I confessed my pride and believing lies and forgave myself and I gave God my false identity of being strong and perfect.
Then began the process of getting in touch with the real me, the weak and needy part of me that I’d rejected. We had teaching on parental wounding, what we needed from our parents and what we did and didn’t get. It was painful to recognise new things. God was very kind and gentle, but the revelations were hard to take. At one point I realised that I was broken hearted. But, as people at Ellel love to say, you have to be real to heal.
God also started showing me what He was really like. Not distracted and hard to please like my earthly dad but a perfect father. We had teaching on the Father Heart of God, by Ken Symington. He encouraged us to write down all the adjectives we could think of that would describe a perfect father, because this is what God is like.
During this time, I was out walking one day and met a lady with two black Labradors. The older one leant against my leg. The lady said, “If you move, she will fall over”. I felt God say to me, “I want you to be like that black lab with me, to really lean on me, but I won’t move”. And a wise lady at Ellel said to me, “God’s love is like the ocean, it’s enormous and everywhere. It’s not His love that is limited but our ability to receive it”.
During the second term of NETS my headaches went – hoorah!!
In May 2021, during the third term of NETS, I found a lump in my breast. It was shortly before a mission trip to Bulgaria and my first thought was “I’m not missing the trip!”. Well praise God I didn’t. After the trip I was checked out and ended up having an operation between terms 3 and 4. It was a scary time but God gave me Isaiah 43: 1-2:
1 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
I held onto these verses as a promise that I was going to be OK, and I felt the Lord carrying me through. The day of my operation I was so full of joy and peace it was amazing. God also reminded me of an incident on a farm where a gate had hit me in the chest. The farmer had not acknowledged it and I had shrugged it off as nothing, but in doing so I had somehow rejected my femininity, who God had made me to be. I had not brought this painful situation to God and asked him to heal me. I confessed this and forgave the farmer.
God also spoke to me through Philippians 4: 6 and 7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Every day, while I was waiting for the results, I took these verses and applied them to my life, thanking God and praying very specifically about what I wanted Him to do and receiving His peace. I was very thankful for all of my body and didn’t want to lose any of it.
At the time of my operation my nephew became very ill again. I started term 4 of NETS and was trying to support my family. I was walking around the site looking like I was carrying the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Several people said to me, “Give your family to the Lord, trust Him with your nephew”. I did this and immediately felt better.
Term 4 was tough. It included teaching and praying for folk who come on courses with Ellel and a three-week mission trip. A friend gave me the verses from Lamentations 3: 22, 23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I wasn’t consumed but I needed a rest by the end of it!
Three weeks of radiotherapy and then taking my nephew to his radiotherapy, and then back to the Isle of Wight to recover! It was good to stop and take stock.
Things I’ve Learned in the Storms of Life
1. Accept God as He really is.
God has called Himself our father, not our commanding officer. His intention was that our parents would show us what He is like, but often they didn’t or couldn’t.
He is our perfect father and always present. He is good, strong, kind, compassionate, understanding and wise. Some of the ways that God is described in the Bible are that He is our rock, refuge, comforter, strong tower, safe place, protector, deliverer, help and healer. He is all we need in a storm.
Dig deep into the Bible, meditate on these truths.
2. Accept ourselves as we really are.
We are deeply loved by God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Psalm 139 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. But we are also weak and needy, sinful and broken.
It is easy to present a false identity to the world, which makes us look and feel more acceptable, and is what we think others want us to be. But it is exhausting and a lie. We can make an idol from our position or job and hide behind it. Being a vet impresses people and gives us status, and pride and fear of what others would think if they knew the truth. It stops us being real.
3. Let God accept you as you really are.
We have freewill, so we can hide from God, but He knows us inside out, better than we know ourselves. And, just like the son in the story of the Prodigal Son, He accepts us just as we are, smelly and sinful.
We can give Him all our pain and anger, even the anger we feel towards Him. God is a safe person to go to with all our emotions. Remember Jesus came to ‘bind up the broken hearted’ and to ‘carry our griefs and sorrows’.
4. Invite Jesus to be Lord of all.
Jesus wants to be in the driving seat of our lives, not in a corner of the boot. When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour it’s as if we give Him the door keys of our lives. Imagine your life is a house. Well Jesus wants to come into every room, including the bedroom and the bathroom. He wants to be Lord of our money, our relationships, our work, our thinking, our emotions, everything! And because He loves us and knows what’s best for us, the more Jesus is Lord the better life works. It does not mean there will be NO STORMS, but that Jesus will be with us in them.
I needed to keep giving Jesus my health and my relationships with my family. I couldn’t carry either.
5. Watch out for the devil.
The enemy, the devil, does have some power in the world. It is nothing like God’s power, but he is at work. John 10:10 talks about him as the thief, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The devil comes to steal away the good things God has for us, to destroy relationships. He is a tempter, liar and accuser, and his currency is fear, shame and condemnation.
He lies about God and us. “God will never forgive you”, “you are rubbish”. When we mess up, the Holy Spirit convicts us, so that we can confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness and cleansing. But the enemy condemns us and gives us no way out.
When Jesus died on the cross and rose again “He destroyed the works of the enemy” and gave us authority and power over the enemy in our lives. James 4:7 says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We submit to God by confessing sin and forgiving others and ourselves, both of which can give the enemy rights in our lives. We resist the devil by telling him to go in Jesus’ name.
We are in a battle, but Jesus has won the victory and we are on the winning side!!
In the seminar we then talked about what stops us going to God in a storm, and things which helped us to hold onto God “practically” in the storms of life.
Here are the suggestions:
• Bible reading.
• Prayer/listening/being with God.
• Journaling or writing a letter to God. Sometimes this helps us to be honest about how we really feel.
• Taking communion.
• With other people’s help “Do not giving up meeting together!” Hebrews 10:25. We are called to be part of the Body of Christ and to ‘carry one another’s burdens’. We need each other. When we are in a storm the enemy wants to isolate us and make us feel alone and defenceless. This is exactly when we need to reach out and ask for help.
• Going on a retreat, even a retreat at home. This could just be for a day, but it’s a day where we give God time and space to speak, and God really honours this. He loves to spend time with His children.
• Sometimes we need more help. If you’ve had a very hard childhood or experienced abuse or trauma, or been involved in the occult, or like me you just want to go deeper with God, then somewhere like Ellel is great. Take time to be with others who can teach and encourage and pray.
I have found the truth to be that we will all face storms in life, and that our Heavenly Father is our ‘ever present help in times of trouble’.
Veterinary practices can be stormy, fearful, hard places to be. With difficult relationships and life and death situations every day, and the pain, sadness and joy that comes with that. After work we can feel battered and bruised on the inside and sometimes on the outside too! The easiest thing to do is to reach for a glass of wine, to numb the pain, and turn on the TV to distract ourselves. But maybe another way would be to light a candle and sit with the Lord and share with Him the pain and difficulties of the day? Remember He is the wonderful counsellor, the Prince of Peace, the God of all comfort.
Maybe we will need to confess our sins and forgive ourselves and others. If something terrible has happened then we can ask Jesus to lift any shock and trauma off our spirits, and to wash us clean from anything of shame and condemnation that the enemy might want to smear us with.
But we don’t have to wait until the end of the day to cry out to the Lord. The job of a vet is one where we can find ourselves in a storm very suddenly with little or no warning. But they are no surprise to God, and Him being with us in them makes all the difference. Many a time I stopped mid job to say a prayer, the nurses were quite used to it.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight”.
The Lord is faithful to His promises.
Here are some other scriptures to meditate on, which can help us to ‘lean on the Lord’, in the storms of life:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Psalm 46:1-3, 11
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 91 – all of it!
May you know that you are held in the everlasting arms of the creator of the universe, our loving and powerful Heavenly Father, as you navigate the storms of life.