I am not a stranger to fear and anxiety. In fact, there was a time when fearfulness was my constant and closest companion. Difficult personal circumstances did more than destroy my peace of mind; they stole my dreams and hopes for the future, and left me feeling isolated and hopeless.
For a long time I simply existed. I kept my problems hidden, going through the motions and doing all the usual things. That included going to church. During that time, God began to meet me in a very surprising way – through a sermon series on Exodus where He reminded me that faithfulness is an essential aspect of his character. He showed me that I was like those ancient Hebrew housewives in the desert who stored up manna, only to find it rotten the next morning. Like them, I really didn’t trust God. This wasn’t a comfortable experience, but exactly what I needed. I slowly came to see that I had to choose; either to keep looking inward, turned away from God, or to choose to bring him my despair and sense of abandonment.
But how to even begin to try to turn toward God?! I knew I couldn’t do this on my own. And that’s why coming to Journey Canada was very, very important. In the safe context of this ministry I was helped to bring my weary, wounded self to God.
I’ve asked myself why this terrible time in my life was also the best time to meet God. I think the answer is that I was no longer distracted by my plans. Up until that point, I think my prayer life had been largely one of telling God how to get on side with my good ideas. Since that clearly wasn’t working, I think I was finally ready to stop talking and begin listening to God.
I didn’t bring my fearfulness and anger quickly or easily to God. And for a while, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. But within the Journey Discipleship Course, God showed me how I could lean on the faithfulness of others (joining in the worship, listening to the talks by the leaders, and sharing in the small group prayer time). As I allowed the small group leaders to pray and claim the goodness of God on my behalf, I began to slowly believe that maybe God might love me, even if I could not feel that love. And I began to understand, again very slowly, that His love could accept my pain, anger, and disillusionment.
I was a participant in the Journey Discipleship Course several years ago. Are things better in my life? In some areas, “yes”; in others, “not yet”. But on the inside I’m a much different person! Fear and anxiety no longer control me. I am no longer a captive to my own personal plans for a happy life. For in the Journey program I discovered that my disillusionment and anger at God were fueled by my conviction that his failure to enact my good plans for my life meant all was lost. I failed to see that I, Manya, had been tragically limiting God’s work to my plans, my agenda. In Journey I began to experience the wonderful truth of Jeremiah 29, (and here I’m quoting) “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”