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.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Firstly let me say that it is good to finally back in a place where I am able to concentrate enough to start writing again! I am back at work on reduced hours and restricted duties and have started to engage in CPA work which is already proving very positive! If you are passing Stevenage I am in the office and am allowed to make the tea- yes that is an invite!
It has been frankly the seven months from hell; but as Winston Churchill once said:
‘If you are going through hell- keep going!’
So where to begin! For those of you who are not fully up to speed on my situation I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and have been really put through the mill, suffering with severe Anxiety issues, Panic attacks and a list of other symptoms that were not very pleasant!
I wanted to take this opportunity of writing a reflection to both share the good news of my return and to encourage those who are going through tough times! So I hear you ask how you can have been encouraged by being ill. Well obviously the illness hasn’t been the thing that has encouraged me- Gods Gracious provision for me has!
From day one of being ill looking back I have been able to see Gods provision for me in the midst of the worst possible time!
I believe that our Lord plays the ultimate ‘Long Game’ and without us knowing it moves people into our lives and creates situations that support us or provide for us when we really need it!
So where to start- I have been blessed with a strong support network- my wife Natasha and my two daughters who knew when to just listen or to give me that all important hug, my wider family who rang just at the right moment and good friends have been there for me; whether of Faith or not. Those around me who really know me have shown me so much love and kindness that I feel truly blessed; whether from down the road for a chat on the school run, from further afield across England and Scotland from Hertfordshire to Lincolnshire and north to Moray in Scotland you were there- Thank you and know I consider you a blessing!
On the day I became ill I returned to Stevenage Police station in floods of tears not knowing what to do or how to cope- the very first person I saw was my boss- a Christian who looked after me and has offered so much support that again I am truly blessed….. I believe God placed her in Inspectors role to be that positive Christian leader for our unit.
But the blessings didn’t stop there for me I am pleased to say! I managed to make it to the CVM Gathering despite some serious misgivings about going at all due to my illness and not dealing with noise or crowds very well. Whilst I was there representing the CPA I was able to have conversations with a number of men who had been through similar pain and was blown away by an ex-offender who prayed for me!
It was while I was there Carl Beech the UK Director of The Message Trust and the face of the Gathering stood on the stage and said words to the effect that ‘For you blokes out there who are going through tough times I want to tell you that God has got your back’.
I can say that those words have stuck with me from that day and I have had the absolute certainty that Beechy was right- So Carl God Bless you and thank you- The Gathering was one of the few high points for me in the past seven months- so much so I am booked in already for next year!
But the blessings didn’t stop there- shortly after returning from the Gathering I was contacted by a trauma specialist to arrange treatment for my illness. On meeting her it was clear from moment one that she was vastly experienced and extremely positive about the prospect of me making a full recovery given the correct treatment and time- and yes it was very quickly established that she like me is a Christian….. Gods perfect and timely provision once again!
God provides us with the people around us as we have already seen but he also provides us with situations and opportunities to ‘feel normal’- when we are given those situations I can tell you that it is so overpowering that it feels like God’s Grace and Love is spilling out of you. I was asked by two very good friends if I felt up to delivering the address at their wedding in August….
Well as a preacher and speaker I immediately said yes without hesitation…. Only to hang up the phone and think ‘I am ill; what have I done’! Well preparing for that day in August felt so normal and natural that I think I read my address every day for a couple of weeks before the big day- and on the day for that 15 minutes standing at the front I was me again- it was almost as if The Lord was saying to me- you will get better, this is the real you! So thank you Mr and Mrs Hicklin for the absolute blessing of being part of your day- it helped me more than I can ever say!
The truth is that God has a plan for us- it is a plan for us all to prosper- we may not see it when things seem dark and painful- but I can say absolutely that God has got your back. It may seem right now that you have more questions than answers and that nothing seems to be going right- be encouraged and don’t be afraid- God has got you back! In the midst of my illness I honestly couldn’t see a way forwards some days- but that is when God revealed himself to me in so many ways- some I have mentioned above and some that I haven’t.
A good friend from my church gave me the following scripture which I have as the screen saver on my phone-
‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’
2 Timothy 1:7
God has got your back- he is there I promise- I know because I have had to rely on his blessings to get me through! So be encouraged, be blessed and know that if you are going through hell God is telling you to ‘keep going’ he is there and he will get you through because he has your back!
So as I am now back at work and back in the saddle when it comes to CPA I look forward to catching up with as many of you as I can! I would like to thank Andy Robinson for his support and keeping things on track in my absence- Well Done! We are off to the national leader’s conference next week with lots to discuss so please remember to pray for us and watch out for live updates on Twitter and Facebook!!
So God Bless and I look forward to seeing you all very soon!