I returned to Bradford on Friday after a three day retreat, in a beautiful place called Sedbergh, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, near the Lake District. We went as a group of 22 interns, together with a few CAP staff members, to spend time getting to know each other out of the confines of work. It was such a blessing to be able to go on a trip that was completely paid for by CAP, and to get away together for a few days. Throughout the trip there were games and activities aimed at building team work and relationships between the group. The most unusual had to be the ‘ghyll scrambling’ which involved donning a wetsuit and walking up a river, definitely an experience! We also had a Murder Mystery night which, with 26 characters, was quite a feat of organisation, at times a little confusing, but great fun nonetheless.
I suppose for me the trip was characterised by one word: trust. In the days running up to the trip I’d felt my anxiety levels build, and hadn’t really understood why. Then the night before we left, it hit me; I was simply afraid of history repeating itself. You see, the last trip like this that I went on, was my summer trip to Norway, where we lost a much loved friend in a hiking accident. Rationally I knew these trips were nothing alike, that just because tragedy had struck once didn’t mean it would again. But my emotions weren’t listening to reason. The hardest part for me was the morning of the outdoor activities, when we were all sat around waiting for everything to start. I looked around at all the faces, and couldn’t help thinking about Norway, and the hours before we lost James. When I had no idea that the conversation I had with him would be our last, didn’t realise I wouldn’t see his smiling face again this side of heaven.
Ultimately, as I sat there remembering, I had a choice. I could let my fear get the better of me, or I could choose to trust. To trust that God was with us and wouldn’t leave us. Trust that the activity instructors knew what they were doing. And trust other members of the group, to let them in.
Trust is truly precious and essential in every relationship, those with other people as well as with God. Once it is lost it can be difficult to rebuild, but we struggle to flourish without it. If we can’t trust in God’s goodness and purpose for our lives, then our faith is pointless. Who would follow a God who wasn’t trustworthy? We would end up loosing our faith, feeling hurt or resentful. But trusting God is costly, because trusting Him, knowing that He loves us and will work through every situation for our good, isn’t the same as trusting Him to do what we want. Sometimes in His infinite wisdom, He uses the grief and pain of life to teach and shape us.
” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
As I learnt in the heart of Norway, sometimes his purpose doesn’t make sense to our human eyes. We are refined in the heat of the fire, not in the summer sunshine. Fire hurts, God’s plans are not for the faint hearted. To trust God, is to see past the tangled mess of our emotions and circumstances, and fix our eyes on who He is and what we know about His character. The truths that don’t change with our circumstances, the reality of the Almighty God who loved us enough to send His son to die for us.
Working at CAP one of the things that strikes me the most is the faith and trust of the staff there. If you’ve read the story of CAP, written by the founder John Kirkby (you can get it for free here), then you’ll have read how just a few years ago CAP didn’t have enough money coming in to pay all the staff. They were several months behind on wages, but the staff kept working, believing in the work they were doing, trusting that God would provide. And of course God did.
Whilst the situations that force us to trust can be painful and difficult at the time, they are invaluable. It is through trusting God that He can show himself to be faithful and true, our loving Father who provides for us. It doesn’t guarantee an easy life but we can rest in the knowledge that He is always with us. We all have to learn to trust through the good and the bad, the storms and the sunshine, whichever situation we find ourselves in, knowing that God will lead us through the night into the dawn again.
And in case you’re in any doubt, this trip was a great success, with no injuries and a good time was had by all.