Faith on trial: How God met me in the storm
Amy Brown shares three lessons learned through fire
Growing up, I never really liked boats. The dull feeling of seasickness, the temperamental conditions and the scenario where the ground literally rolls beneath your feet. I found the experience to be altogether disconcerting. A large, solid, predictable ferry to Manly Beach to meet up with friends, I could handle. But a sailboat? No thanks.
But last year, I found myself in a metaphorical sailboat of my own. A metaphorical sailboat, in a metaphorical storm, with torn metaphorical sails, trying to navigate a very tumultuous, dark and frightening metaphorical sea.
I had to work out pretty quickly what faith really meant in the context of such a stressful, public and high-stakes situation.
You see, from out of what felt like nowhere, I found myself at the centre of what can best be described as a political firestorm, involving an intense public inquiry and an avalanche of media coverage and speculation. As a civil servant and strong believer in public accountability, I took seriously my responsibility to show up to the inquiry to answer important and valid questions. Yet at a personal level, as a leader who has always been very open about her Christian faith, I had to work out pretty quickly what that faith really meant in the context of such a stressful, public and high-stakes situation.
Well, I’ve felt God impress upon my heart on more than one occasion that he puts us through trials in the workplace not only to “refine us like silver” (Psalm 66) but so that our colleagues can see how our faith in the eternal God – who loves us unconditionally and is always in control – makes a marked difference to how we deal with tough situations. So we can “shine among them like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:15-16)
Those few months can only be described as gut-wrenching, but we all know that I didn’t have to walk through them alone. I had the God of the universe as my shepherd and saviour, and instead of falling in a heap, I needed to fall at his feet. Despite my own inadequacies and weaknesses, he – in his graciousness and mercy and love – gave me a number of tools to handle the situation I found myself in. Here are a few of them:
1. What I already knew
Because God saved me for a relationship with himself when I was just eight years old, he’s been storing up in my heart many truths about him and about who he says I am, in all likelihood for such a time as this. All the Sunday school lessons, youth group talks, sermons when I was probably only half-listening, Christian music playing in the car and books of the Bible I’d read along the way built up a source of fuel I didn’t even really know was there. And each little burst of fuel seemed to spring forth just when I needed it. As I was on my way to each hearing, clicking on a link to an unfair media article or receiving difficult news from my team (for example), statements that are real, true and eternal would spring into my heart and mind.
Truths such as God’s goodness never fails. He is greater than my greatest fear. He knows the plans he has for me and is always working for my good. He is my promise-keeper. He is faithful and able and reigns over all.
I clung to those statements as my source of peace and sanity every day through that time.
Many of these assurances came to me on long, early-morning walks while listening to the blessing of Christian music. Profound and relevant lyrics streamed through my headphones and into my heart, mind and soul. Words such as “Your Spirit lives within me, so I can walk in your peace,” and “The Lord is my Shepherd. He goes before me. Defender behind me. I won’t fear.” I clung to those statements as my source of peace and sanity every day through that time. I somehow committed to continue to sing for joy, even though my heart was heavy, and lift his name high, no matter how low the valley felt, knowing that God is bigger and more powerful than anything I could ever have to face.
2. My Christian community
I think we often take for granted the community we have as Christians. It’s so radically different from how many people live. The wonderful people of my church, my parents’ church and my siblings’ churches were all praying. The Christians who work for the public service and in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors knew of the struggles I was facing and felt compelled to uphold me in prayer.
And I took the approach that my Christian community is as close as family, and so I shouldn’t be shy about asking for support! Because I knew that if the situation was in reverse, I’d gladly do it for them. I asked one particular friend to send me a Christian song every week. I asked another friend to send me a Bible verse every week. Another brought my family a meal. When Jesus returned to heaven, he left us his Spirit and each other – and so we shouldn’t be afraid of using them both to help us along the way!
3. Working through disappointment
Once I left my job, the challenge wasn’t entirely over. I had to process the disappointment and disillusionment that came with the fact that I’d lost something I really loved. For me, being a public servant was so enlivening and purpose-filled and something I felt called towards. Eric Liddell (whose life was documented in the movie Chariots of Fire) used a phrase – “when I run I feel his pleasure” – which often came to mind when I was doing my own job (minus the part about winning an Olympic gold medal!).
One of the best things about our God is that he doesn’t stay an arm’s length from our pain.
When I left, I had to deal with a level of loss and disappointment. But one of the best things about our God is that he doesn’t stay an arm’s length from our pain. In fact, his son Jesus came into our world when it was broken and entered our pain, bearing the consequences of all the brokenness so that we don’t have to. Through his own sacrifice, he broke the yoke of disappointment and helped release me from the disillusionment, so I can focus on what might be next for me and on his promise “to give [me] hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, back to my analogy of a sailboat. It’s fair to say I was in a storm. But not only did I have a sailboat, I had a Lighthouse, an Anchor and an all-powerful Creator who’s bigger than the wind and the waves and all my troubles. The lyrics of Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson sum it up perfectly:
“In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm.”
I might not know how this part of my story ends, but I do know how the ultimate story ends – that everyone who puts their faith in Jesus will receive an eternal victory in him. And that I can “be confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Even in a sailboat.
Amy Brown is the keynote speaker for City Bible Forum’s Sydney Prayer Breakfast on 1 June 2023 at the ICC Convention Centre Sydney. For more information, visit sydneyprayerbreakfast.com.au.