talking about divorce

“The reason there are so many divorces is that we live in a throw away society and no one is willing to work to fix things.”

You’ve no doubt heard a version of this statement before, or possibly even repeated something like it yourself. It is often followed up with comments that start with “in my day” or “I was raised to believe that …”

Yes, the statistics on divorce are alarming at worst, disappointing at best. But not just because they seem to increase or because they might reflect a shift in attitude to marriage (or any other cultural trend that we might point to) but because each of those numbers represents two broken people, maybe a broken family and a whole lot of implications for those in the sphere of this couple … forever!

Divorce is devastating. Divorce is sad. Divorce is taking a ‘one’ that has been created by the union of two and tearing it in half. God says He HATES divorce (Malachi 2 :16) and I can totally understand why. It’s messy, it’s hurtful and its consequences are far reaching. I know this from my own experience – both as a child of divorced parents and as a divorcee myself. 

It doesn’t matter how bad a marriage was, a divorce is never good.

Our language matters.

We need to be more careful in how we talk about divorce – because, again, we’re talking about people. Not just a social trend or statistic. People. On the end of every one of our generalisations is a person who has been impacted by divorce in ways that flippant language not only fails to consider but may also compound. As I move around I hear so many stories of people being unnecessarily wounded by the careless words of others and see the easy traps people fall in when speaking about divorce. Our language matters.

No one gets married intending to be divorced.

No one.

Even people who don’t do anything to make their marriage work aren’t expecting that it won’t! Anyone who finds themselves divorced, even if it was them who initiated and actioned it, is living a different future than they expected. It might be better (safer, healthier, necessary) to not be in the marriage anymore but it still isn’t anyone’s goal to be divorced.

Divorce isn’t the easy way out.

Even when the pathway to divorce is clear – an abusive partner, an unfaithful spouse, untenable circumstances – divorce is not an easy option.

It is practically taxing. Division of assets, closing and opening bank accounts, relocating (for one or both), potential custody considerations and all manner of things required to detach and then re-establish independently and recover financially. It’s emotionally devastating. Even the most amicable of separations are founded on a level of relational fracturing that carries all sorts of implications for a sense of self and one’s view of the world – a life story is forever altered. 

It may seem easier than staying. It might seem like a cop out. But it carries its own consequences and challenges that can’t be underestimated (by those considering it or those journeying through it with others).

“We just never gave up” only works if it’s truly ‘we’.

Often, when asked the secret to a long marriage people respond “We just never gave up”. Which is undoubtedly true. Sticktoitiveness is one of the essential ingredients to longevity in anything. But it’s important to emphasise the ‘we’ in that statement. It requires BOTH people to have not given up.

The old adage applies that if only one is paddling in a two person canoe it will just go around in circles. Some divorced individuals never gave up. Some fought harder to compensate for another who didn’t fight. In the end one can’t be married alone.

A high value of marriage should be second to a high value of people.

Many people stay (or are counselled to stay) in abusive or destructive relationships because of the emphasis placed on the value or sacredness of marriage. Well might we benefit from a greater honouring of and investment in marriage – your own or those of family, friends or church community around you. Let us be champions of marriage – encouraging and supporting in anyway we can. But let that never be at the expense of the emotional or physical safety of the people in it.

Our language matters.

How you speak about divorce – in public forums (the platform at church, social media or other communications) or in casual conversations – matters to those impacted by divorce. Let’s be mindful to consider the people the statistics are referencing when we make observation of cultural trends or shift. Let’s be champions of people and places where healing and support can be sought and experienced rather than (perhaps inadvertently) communicating judgement or exclusion to people already navigating a difficult life experience.

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there’s prosperity but not as you know it

It’s a well-known, well-loved, oft-quoted and oft-shared verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In 2018, Biblegateway reported it as the most read Bible verse on its website.

It’s a personal favourite of mine. I’ve preached it, posted it, prayed it and even painted it for a friend.

However, it also pops up in the lists of the most misused or misinterpreted verses of scripture. And it’s this abuse, and potentially its perceived overuse, that has many listing it as one of their least favourite verses!

Who was it written for?

Jeremiah delivered this prophetic message from God to His people, the Israelites, as they came to the end of around 70 years of captivity in Babylon. They were a broken down and scattered people. Their knowledge of God’s love and goodness towards them would often not have seemed supported by their current circumstances. And so this promise of hope, prosperity and a future beyond their present experience would’ve been so desperately needed.

How generous of God to direct Jeremiah to remind them – “I see you, I have not forsaken you, your future is in my hands and it’s better than you can perceive or imagine, I’ve got this.”

Any message to the Israelites is a message for us too.

Yes, this is a contextually specific word for then, them and there – but when God spoke historically to the Israelites it was part of the picture He was painting of His heart for His people. His plans and purposes. His generosity and grace.

It’s true for us today. His heart is for us. He desires that we would experience His truth and be filled with hope for the future that He has gone ahead of us to see and prepare. Ultimately, this scripture says more about who God is than anything else. He is the same today as He was then.

Who is defining prosperity?

The misappropriation of this verse lies largely in the definition of prosperity. By today’s dictionaries we understand it to mean “success in material terms” or “financial flourishing”. The Hebrew word used here is shalowm – which is more about safety, welfare, happiness and peace. In fact, in the majority of uses of this word in the Old Testament it is translated as peace or wellbeing.

The former definition suggests promises of the dream home, dream car and dream bank account. The latter indicates a more holistic picture of a preferred future – where God ordained peace and wellness is your experience.

For many readers, that’s a significant shift in focus and expectation.

God’s plan for our welfare might look different than our own.

God’s plans for our future are to prosper. He said it Himself and it aligns completely with His character and activity towards us. His heart is for our wellbeing, happiness and deepest sense of peace. Shalowm.

What I’ve come to understand in a limited form, and what scripture and hundreds of years of testimonies lead us to accept, is that God’s idea of prosperity for us is often different than our own.

To start with, we’re generally only concerned about just that – our own – whereas He is mindful of the prosperity of all people and how each of our experiences interplays with another’s.

Just like a parent constantly makes choices for a child that they aren’t able to make for themselves (because of a lack of foresight, wisdom and maturity) so too, God is working things for our good – our protection, our thriving, our faith development and our future – in ways that sometimes don’t feel like “prosperity” to us.

The most powerful words.

The strength in this verse is in the 3 words at the start. “For I know…”

It’s not really about prosperity. It’s not about a future that we can define and approve. It’s not about hope in circumstances or specific outcomes. It’s about the fact that creator God – all powerful, all creative, all knowing, all loving God – knows.

The message of Jeremiah 29:11 to us today? It’s exactly what it was to the exiled Israelites.

“I see you, I have not forsaken you, your future is in my hands and it’s better than you can perceive or imagine, I’ve got this.”

writing again

This year I will be writing again.

That’s a statement of commitment, of aspiration, of obedience and stewardship … but also one of hopefulness tinged with fear.

I lost my mojo in 2017. I’m not sure how to explain why (in just a few sentences) but even now, as I’m writing and re-writing and re-starting and starting over again and feeling verbally constipated and questioning every thought that comes to my mind – I’m fighting the oppression, doubt and intimidation – the voice of criticism and questioning – that comprehensively beat me (specifically in relation to my writing) in 2018.

I hate how derailed I’ve been. I hate how much power I’ve given to a voice that’s not speaking the truth and life of God. 

But this year I will be writing again.

“Your message is for ministry.”

Running parallel to the paralysis that carried over from the end of 2017, last year was the most freeing, affirming and empowering time I’ve ever known – an odd juxtaposition.

I feel like God has done a Mufasa on me – you know, the scene from the Lion King where he takes Simba to the top of Pride Rock and says “Look Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom” (God often teaches me in Disney metaphors and quotes – don’t judge me – He knows my heart language.)  God has lifted my chin to cause me to look up and around and see so much possibility and opportunity, and then let me loose in it! I feel like I’m in the sweetest ministry spot; where everything that I’ve been privileged to experience and learn, is combining with all of my gifts, skills and passions, and I’m more confident than ever in my shape, call and capacity. By confident I mean, I am completely aware that anything of wisdom or value I have to offer comes from God and His resource for those things is inexhaustible – so, let’s go!!

Years ago, when I was feeling the final prompts to write the book, I was wrestling writing-doubts and commented to a friend, “Perhaps the message of this book is just for me.” She fired back, “No, when God gives you a message, it’s for ministry.” Boom!

So, this year I’m writing again. Because He keeps giving me messages, so I’ll keep handing them over for ministry.

 

leading with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’

We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” – but there can sometimes be a lot of “I” in leadership! (And I mean more than just the little one that is the second last letter!)

Of course, leadership by definition is often an individual or solo task. It’s the act of being ‘out in front’; the front bird in the geese formation, the pointy end of the arrow, the cutting edge, the trailblazer, the pioneer – all of these aspects of leadership are true and right. But more often than not, we find that our leadership plays out in teams and groups. There’s limited value in being the trailblazer if no one is actually then walking on that trail – and if you’re flying out the front of the geese formation and there’s no one else in the geese formation? You know what that makes you? That’s right, a goose!

The purpose of leadership is to take others somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. It’s to see things that are not yet and paint a picture in the imagination of others to inspire them towards future possibilities. It’s to champion gifts, skills and capacity in people that they might otherwise not have known they possessed and to lead them into actions, thought and influence that they might otherwise not have explored or experienced.

Language matters.

How we speak as leaders shapes the culture of our teams and contexts.

Here are some things that can happen when we use “we” instead of “I“.

  • We draw people in to realising their part in a broader movement; a greater purpose. We reinforce a culture of collaboration and team work. We allow others to feel part of activity and outcomes that they may not have even had direct involvement in. It generates energy and excitement around the bigger picture and grander vision.
  • We indicate that we’ve included other voices in our thought processes and decision making. It may be our spouse, parent or friend (as opposed to someone within our organisation or team) but it demonstrates a willingness to listen to other opinions and allow accountability to external input to refine and shape our actions.
  • We demonstrate the humility to share successes (that might actually be wholly ours) with our team. The idea might have been ours, the hours of preparation might have been ours, dealing with the obstacles and opposition might have been ours, but the win is the team’s. We also communicate an expectation of humility in others.
  • We create a culture that handles failure in healthy ways. When we communicate a loss in the language of ‘we’, we show our teams that they can explore, innovate and experiment with confidence because we will all share in the loss. They don’t need to fear public correction or embarrassment. Review and recovery will be handled in a shared and sensitive way.
  • We keep a separation between policy, processes and decisions, and people and emotions. The language of ‘we’ draws on a corporate code; our agreed methods of working and interacting. It reminds others of the decisions we’ve made as an organisation that are guiding our choices rather than making it about personality.
  • We reduce the need for personal defensiveness – from ourselves and the team member. This is not me against you. No one is fighting for themselves in this conflict, process or project – we are on the same team.

It’s really important to note – this is not about deflecting personal responsibility when the responsibility is ours. It’s not an ‘out’ for taking ownership of decisions that are difficult for others to process or avoiding ownership of personal mistakes and shortfall. “I” is also necessary sometimes. But our tendency towards that language first can be unnecessarily distancing, hierarchical, and contrary to building healthy team culture.

when is the right time to talk to your kids about sex?

It’s a question often wrestled with by parents and leaders, when is the right time to talk to kids about sex?

The answer is simple.

The right time to talk to your kids about sex is just before they hear it from someone or somewhere else.

That might not be the answer you were hoping for. In fact, that probably opens up more questions than anything. How can you know when they’re going to be exposed to content on television, scribbled on a bathroom wall, stumbled across on a computer or device, conspiratorially whispered about amongst friends at a sleep over, or joked about in a locker room? It seems impossible to predict, and therefore difficult to pre-empt, but it is undeniably the ‘best time’.

The power of first exposure.

Our brains are wired to attach knowledge about a subject to the person who first introduced it to us in an informative or useful way. So, whoever first exposes us to information is solidified, subconsciously, in our minds as the expert on that topic. We are far more likely to return to that source if we find ourselves needing more details or, if we get data from an alternate source, we are likely to come back to the original source to verify or test it.

What an incredible opportunity that presents as parents or people of influence in the lives of young people. If they are introduced to concepts of sexual biology, reproduction, arousal, intimacy, consent, masturbation, boundaries, gender, safety, identity and responsibility by you, they are more likely to see you as a source of useful information and understanding on these topics. How much more preferable is it that YOU be in this position of influence than a child’s school friends, bus pals or anything that might spew out of a television or smart phone?

This doesn’t completely address the question of timing, but I believe it ought to create a sense of urgency and boldness driven by the value of equipping our young people to adequately navigate their own sexuality, understanding and expression in a highly sexualised culture.

“I don’t want to talk to my children too early because I don’t want to introduce them to concepts before they need to be … and I don’t want to arouse their curiosity, which might lead them to further (potentially unhelpful) exploration.”

This is a hybrid of commonly expressed concerns by parents when wrestling with decisions around timing.

The myth of early exposure.

It goes without saying (which generally means it needs to be said!) that when we reference ‘early’ conversations (as in, prior to when they might otherwise be exposed) those need to happen in age appropriate and ongoing ways.

It’s not just ‘the talk’ it’s a lot of talks. It’s a continuing conversation. Any thoughts you have, as a parent or leader, of having one conversation that articulately (and in completely non-awkward ways) covers all of the necessary topics and concepts your child needs to successfully land them in sexually educated, adjusted and healthy adulthood need to be banquished! Sorry! 😉

In light of this, any topics you broach ought to be couched in language and cover information that is able to be helpfully processed and absorbed by the individual child. It will be different at every stage of development, but it will most likely be different from child to child. Their level of maturity, sensitivity, social awareness, personal experiences, personality and intellect will all impact what they need to know and what they are able to absorb.

Tips

  • You need to talk about everything in order to be able to talk about anything. Developing a relationship of open dialogue with your child (about Minecraft and puppies and football teams and complicated school/friendship dramas and …)  will grow their confidence that you are someone they can trust to handle conversations about particularly uncomfortable or uncertain topics.
  • Ask your child to ask questions – and then ask more questions. “What do YOU want to know? What do you understand and what more can we learn about together?” Respond to only the questions that are asked and check understanding as you go. “Does that make sense? Does that settle what you were thinking about?”
  • Capitalise on ‘teachable moments’. Interact with books they’re reading or things they see on television – “Why do you think she/he reacted like that?” If your child says or does something that indicates a wrong understanding (like the Gr 5 child wrestling with a peer in the playground I overheard exclaiming “stop it, or you’ll catch puberty!”) or an awareness or exposure to something – speak to it, ask about it, clarify it.
  • Act normal! Even if you don’t feel normal, ACT IT! It is counterproductive to try and explain the ‘naturalness’ of sexuality and intimacy while you stumble over words, don’t look anyone in the eye and scurry off as soon as there’s the slightest break in conversation. So …
  • Practice! Practice what you might say, what words you might use, how you might describe certain acts, attributes or attitudes. Read articles or listen to speakers who can help you develop your language – it will help your child as well as increasing your confidence.

The myth of aroused curiosity.

Curiosity only exists in a void. It’s true, right? You are only curious about what you don’t know. Speaking about pornography or masturbation isn’t a guarantee that your child is going to go off and explore that more for themselves. They are far more likely to if there’s a gap in their understanding. If they haven’t asked the questions that they still have or if they haven’t fully understood what you’ve explained.

Tips

  • Ask comprehension questions “Can you tell me in your own words what I just explained?”.
  • Encourage active listening “Nod at me if you are following but stop me if I’ve said something that was a bit weird or confusing.”
  • Plan a follow up chat. “That seems like enough for now. How about we check in later once you’ve had a chance to process that some more?”
  • Monitor your child. If they have been disturbed or discomforted by what they’ve heard you might notice that in their behaviour, body language or responses.

What do you think? What have you found helpful or unhelpful in your own experience? What further information or discussion do you require to help you keep this conversation going (or to start it!)?

3 things generations pastors need from their senior pastor

So, you’ve hired (or inherited) a Children’s Pastor, or a Youth Coordinator or an Associate Pastor for Generations (or any version of a Generations staffer) – what do you do next? One of the most significant relationships that will shape ministry effectiveness and a truly generational culture in your faith community is the relationship between the Senior Pastor and key leaders in the Generational ministries.

1. Access

Leaders immersed in ministry to emerging generations (or who are ’emerging’ themselves) will place a very high value on relational connection. Your time, your encouragement, your wisdom and experience, your clear articulation of the church’s vision or direction and the provision of a sounding board for innovative thinking and problem solving will all happen best through growing relational connection.

The offer of an open door is a start – a genuine invitation to come to you whenever they might need to process something, gain approval or seek advice that is supported by the reception they receive when they do.

Better still, a regularly scheduled meeting time communicates a high value from you. It also provides the consistency of contact and interaction that is necessary for a relationship of trust, open dialogue and true understanding to be fostered. Personally, I would be wary of employing someone who was unwilling to meet regularly with me. Just as I would be equally cautious about working for someone who didn’t appear willing to invest the time and intentional development into me as a leader.

Action points: Make space in your schedule for a regular time with your Generations pastor/leader – it doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be too frequent – it just needs to be regular and it needs to be locked in to your calendars as an event (saying ‘we should catch up some’ time really doesn’t count!). Invest time to know your staff personally.

2. Awareness (& accountability)

Generational ministry finds a great deal of its expression outside of regular work or office hours. Youth pastors are doing some of their most intense hours on a Friday (or other) night, Kids Ministry workers are often squirreled away in largely unseen rooms, Young Adult small groups and events happen in evenings or on weekends, team meetings are scheduled outside regular hours to accommodate the volunteers that serve on them and, on top of all that, many Generations leaders are only working part-time hours. Left unchecked, it is easy for Generations workers to operate off the grid for large amounts of time. This is, of course, entirely practical but it is also fodder for doubt or mistrust to form when there are too many times when other staff or members of the church community ask, “Where is Sarah or Josh?” and no one can answer.

This can also extend to the question of ‘what’ – “What are they doing in Kids Ministry?” “What are the Youth studying this term?” “What is the strategy for connecting with families?”. Again, the more times the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ the more disconnected and untethered those Generational ministries can appear. And in time, that appearance can translate to reality.

In the context of regular access and strong relational links, a Senior Leader can be abreast of enough information to feel confidently aware as well as being able to communicate that awareness and confidence to other staff and members of the church community. This also provides a level of accountability to Generations staff as they are required to account for the spend of their time. In this way, they can also be monitored for ‘over-working’ – something that is easily done if their unseen hours aren’t being considered in their work-life rhythm.

Action points: Create a visual or open-access system of sign in/sign out and a way of communicating when staff can be next expected in the office. This is useful for all staff – particularly in environments when many are working part time or irregular hours. (And speaking as a person who lives alone, I like the idea that my work place might notice if I’m not there and check on me at some point!! 🙂 )
Ask for copies of term plans for Generations ministries. Dates of events, themes of study or any other broad information about the activity of a ministry area will help you to ask informed questions when you are speaking with Generations staff.

3. Advocacy

Generations ministry leaders are on the front line of feedback and engagement. Parents love their kids and are often quite zealous in their desire to see programs and opportunities meet their individual needs and expectations. Many people have opinions about how these ministries should operate and will be quick to vocalise them to anyone they deem able to influence a ministry’s direction.

Your Generations Pastors need to know that you have their back. They need to be confident in your confidence in them. They need to be assured that complaints or criticisms are not being entertained by you without you seeking out the full information and without you doing anything to undermine their authority or currency amongst those they minister to.

Raging fan in public – honest critic in private.” This is the mantra of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church staff culture. They covenant to always support one another publically – in the moment of leadership activity and/or to anyone who might take an opportunity to question or challenge. “I’m sure they have a good reason for that decision or action, let me find out what it is and get back to you.” Assuming the best of your leaders is the only way to nurture a trust-infused environment that allows innovation and personal development to take place. Through that lens of trust and belief, honest questions of critique or concern can be processed in healthy and helpful ways.

Action points: Resolve to always have your staff’s back as they lead and when others might come to you to ‘complain’. Affirm the Biblical practice of resolving conflict directly with the person involved rather than permitting a climate of back talking or conflict avoidance. Ensure your Generations leader knows they have your full support in all things and the guarantee of your honest review and feedback. Knowing that no news truly is good news will give them greater confidence to lead boldly. Speak plainly to your Generations pastors about areas of work and create a grace-filled way back after failure or misfire.

***

Of course, all of these actions and ideas won’t guarantee a successful ministry tenure for your Generations leader – but the absence of these things will make it all the more improbable! When a Generations Leader can rely on their Senior Pastor (or up-line) to be available to them, to be aware of their ministry movements and personal development trajectory, and to advocate for them they are best positioned to thrive in their role. And everyone wins when that happens. Senior leadership, the Generational culture of the church (and the many families and young people impacted for the Kingdom) and the Generations Pastor themselves.

I am responsible!


After a trip to Rwanda to visit her sponsor child, Brooke Fraser, a Christian musician wrote a song that included the lyric “Now that I have seen I am responsible.” 


This became something of the theme for the “Thai Team 2017” – a group of people from my local church who signed up for a Short Term Mission trip to Thailand.  They considered it as they were exposed to experiences that were heartbreaking and confronting. Dark places that most need the shining Light of Hope and Truth.

As a team, one of our greatest fears is that the impact of the confrontation and inspiration of this trip might fade as time and distance increases. It happens a lot. People are confronted or deeply moved, but then life settles back to its normal rhythm and nothing much has changed. 

So we repeat that phrase – now that I have seen, I am responsible! I can’t unknow what I know or un-see what I’ve seen. I can’t walk away from the need without asking God to show me the part He’d have me play in meeting it. I can’t enjoy the privilege of wealth and circumstance without considering how I might leverage it for those without.

We are responsible. 

It is just as true for us here in our day-to-day as it is for the Thai Team. We believe that God brings people and circumstances across our path for a reason. When He leads HIS people into the spaces where there is need it’s because something of His activity in those people is the answer. We can trust that He will supply what we require to respond as He asks.

How about you?

Who has God led you to? To what need has He opened your eyes? What’s the passion of your heart? What hurt do you feel or injustice do you find intolerable?

Now that we have seen – we are responsible.

Listen TO THIS PODCAST to hear more reflections from the Thai Team 2017 trip. 

 

5 ways to build up your kids min team


Kids Ministry is an exciting and exhausting place to serve. Those who do it well will absolutely love it and give their all to it – but that doesn’t mean they are immune to feelings of doubt or fatigue.

Here are 5 very simple yet super effective ways you can make your Kids Min Team better – building them up in their sense of purpose and energy to continue to invest in our kids and community.

1. Thank them

Give them a high five at sign in. Tell them you appreciate their commitment to your children. Help them understand the impact their serving has on you and your family. Remind them of the important part they play in your church community. Drop them a note, give them a FaceBook shout out, or speak it out loud.

 

2. Know their names

Make the effort to learn and remember their names. Get to know them. Find out what year they’re doing at school, what they’re studying at Uni or where they work. Try and discover what they do for fun, what their favourite chocolate is, what music they listen to or what sport they follow. Your effort will communicate such high value to them.

 

3. Bring them coffee

Because Sunday mornings are hard y’all!! Surprise them with coffee or breakfast donuts and fruit. Buy the night team a pizza for supper or bring slurpees on a hot day.

 

4. Give them feedback

When your kids remember something they learned at Kids Min or when they tell a story about something their leader did – pass it on. Help them understand how their influence reaches beyond the scheduled ministry times. Encourage them to know the impact they are having in your kids’ lives.

 

5. Serve with them

Join the team – Kids Min teams ALWAYS need more members – and multiply their ministry effectiveness by adding your own gifts and skills. If you can’t be part of the scheduled ministry times, find ways to serve from home or during the week.

PICK ONE (or more) – and do it NOW!

the light is IN the tunnel


You’ve no doubt heard the saying before – ‘there’s light at the end of the tunnel’. Say it around the right (or wrong) kind of person and your attempts at positivity might be squashed by the response “hopefully it’s not a train coming to run you down!” (Hilarious!)

It’s a well used sentiment. When times are tough, when we’re in seasons of difficulty or despair, when we are swamped with busyness or challenging circumstances – we feel like we’re in the darkness of a tunnel. The idea that there is light at the end of it can be our best attempt at a more hopeful outlook. The notion that at some point, this time will be over and on the other side of it there will be a time of brightness or lightness – where this heaviness will be lifted and there is a new day to be experienced and enjoyed.

I’ve used it myself. I’ve heard it myself. It seemed to make sense enough.

Until one particularly difficult ‘tunnel’ season about 15 years ago. I was recently separated from a difficult and damaging marriage. I was completely messed up in terms of how I saw myself and what I was expecting from life and relationships and my future. It was so dark. Trying to process my way through it all was intensely overwhelming. There wasn’t hope IN my relationship and outside of it there was so much fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. Of course, it came in waves. Sometimes I was ‘ok’ but then others times it just felt like ALL despair and hopelessness. The grief and pain seemed all consuming.

In one of those more harrowing times I was talking to a good friend and ministry pal, Jeff. He remembers the conversation as well because it became quite significant for him too. He was trying to speak something positive or life-filled into my circumstances. Wanting to tell me it would ‘be ok’ – to paint a picture of something more hopeful for my future than what I was able to see for myself. And he went to use that phrase “the light is at the end of the tunnel” – but he felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to a greater truth and instead, what he said out loud to me was. “Mate, the light is IN the tunnel!”

Despite my grief and my despair, God was present and active – right ‘here’ and right ‘now’. He wasn’t out there waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. He was with me IN the tunnel. The light of His truth was not just a thing off in the distance or somewhere in the future or on the other side of the hurt and hardship. Here and now. His hope, His peace, His joy, His grace and His love, were all present here IN the tunnel. It was so powerful.

It’s 15 years ago now and I remember it with clarity. Because not only did it start to immediately change my focus, attitude and expectation; to shift what I was looking at and looking for. But it also became a picture that has stuck with me and that God used to shape my attitude and posture during the intensity of that time but also – from that – to be something of my life message.

God’s presence IN our tunnels and IN our hardships means that they aren’t wasted times, or times of abandonment and rejection. He is present and active.

The message of my book and that I get to preach all across the country on the topic of Singleness is birthed in this concept. These seasons are never wasted. They’re not just the dark tunnel on the way to the light. They’re not just waiting times. God is present and active in every moment. He is working all things for our good and His glory. He is turning even what was intended for evil into something good and purposeful.

The light is IN the tunnel.

How might that encourage you or someone around you today? How might that truth shift the way we experience our dark tunnel times?