On Suffering and Safe Spaces

by Anita Zidar

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

We have all probably heard these words of Jesus especially in times when comfort is much needed. However, it is not always apparent how they may apply especially in situations where there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to our suffering. We live in a broken world. Never has it been more apparent that systems, people, and even the environment are starting to show signs of coming apart; and problems outnumber viable solutions. How then can we take hold of Jesus’ words and let them come to life for us? For these words are not mere platitudes but meant to be a living balm for the many things that ail us, and cause us to suffer in our lifetimes.


Hope Is Not Futile

“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

It is often all too easy to only see the immediate in trying times. Many of us may feel that there is no end in sight to the situations that we have had to suffer, and how it has upended and impacted our lives. It can often too be hard to see beyond the hurts, trauma, and unjust moments. This is why Jesus’ exhortation in John 16:33 is so important in times of trial.

He does not promise us smooth sailing and trouble-free lives. In fact, He tells us that there will be tribulation, almost as a certainty, but that He has not merely experienced the same in His life, but has overcome them as well. A righteous man, misunderstood, maligned, misrepresented, falsely accused, tortured, humiliated, and finally sentenced to die in the most horrendous way despite committing no crime. And yet, He embraced His suffering as necessary and redemptive. The fruits of his suffering became our redemption and the means through which we are inextricably united with Him.


God Is with Us

It says in Psalm 46,”God is our safe place and our strength. He is always our help when we are in trouble. 2 So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and the mountains fall into the centre of the sea, 3 and even if its waters go wild with storms and the mountains shake with its action.”

God is our safe place and our strength.” It often does not occur to us that the Lord is ever-present and close at hand until hard times hit, and we are faced with the reality of not only how much we need Him, but just how close at hand He is.

Two years ago, a beloved family member who lives overseas suffered a mild stroke. From the moment I heard the news, unease filled my heart and I felt an unceasing prompting in my heart to make a trip to see them and be with them. By the time I saw them, they had made a decent recovery and it seemed likely that all would be well. We spent three weeks together, and were blessed with the opportunity to express our love for each other, and gratitude for the fact that we belonged to each other as only family could. Several months later, they passed away from a second more serious stroke.

As much as the grief was acute and deep, what was even more resounding was the peace that the Lord poured out. He knew everything before I did, and was at hand to lead the way. No words or affection had been left unexpressed. My family was given the gift of closure without even knowing it at the time. But the Lord knew what He was doing then, and I for one, am grateful that I was able to listen, for I do not know how the grief would have been borne otherwise.

 

On Listening

Be quiet and know that I am God. I will be honoured among the nations. I will be honoured in the earth. 11 The Lord of All is with us. The God of Jacob is our strong place.”

Given the amount of noise that we live in, it is sometimes frightening and unnerving to stop and be quiet. We are constantly surrounded by the noise of opinions, voices of fear and anger, and a 24-hour news cycle influenced by social media that has given us a voracious appetite for consuming all manner of information. Add that to the current pandemic and the noise can all too often reach deafening heights. How then are we to nurture the quiet so that we might hear the still soft voice of the Lord?

Often when I have found it hard to discern God’s voice or the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I have taken to visualising a safe space in mind’s eye. It has helped to bring life to the concept of the Lord as a safe space especially when on a human level, this concept seems all too intangible and hard to get a grasp on. This is by no means a new concept, but something that has helped me when I feel overwhelmed, or am needing to face difficult and painful things in my own life.


Envisioning Your Own Safe Space (20mins)

Step 1:
Find a quiet place in your home and seat yourself comfortably. Open this time with a short prayer and invite Jesus to sit with you.

Step 2:
Imagine yourself in a quiet sanctuary. It can resemble a place that exists or it can be imaginary. What does it look like? Imagine yourself looking around in all directions. What do you see?

Step 3:
Is the place that you have visualised indoors or outdoors? Do you need any kind of boundary or protection to feel safe there?

Step 4:
Imagine that Jesus is sitting with you in this place you have visualised. What is He saying to you? How does it make you feel? What would you like to say to Him in return?

Step 5:
As you wrap up your time with Jesus, ask Him to hold all that has come up in your time with Him. They can be any feelings that may have arisen; good or bad. Trust that the next time you visit this safe space, Jesus will be there waiting for you. End with a prayer.

Lord Jesus, thank you for always being close at hand. Help us to ever bear in our minds that we are never truly alone for you are our refuge and comfort. Teach us how to trust you and allow to be our safe space in trials and hardships. Teach us to love you, and grow close to you in the everyday. Thank you, Lord.

I pray that this exercise will be a small step forward in helping to claim the Lord as our safe space.