Sometimes people will say things to you and make commitments that they often never carry out. Thankfully that was not the case with the lady who contacted me months earlier and told me that God had shown her that she was to work with me in the centre when it opened. When I contacted her to tell her that God had opened the door and provided the premises for the work she did not draw back from her commitment but was excited at what God had done and what she believed God was going to do.
Once again the Lord revealed some things to me through pictures in my mind. During my quiet time one day I started to see signs with pictures and writing on them. The signs were to be hung on the black metal grills that protected the large windows of the building and each had a picture of something with a simple saying or phrase with a spiritual content that would hopefully catch people’s attention and direct them into the centre for a chat or whatever.
The first Monday that the centre was opened we prayed for Gods will to be done in the centre and just left things with him. The lady who was helping me in the centre asked me what if no one would come into the centre, we had not advertised it in any way whatsoever as I believed that God had not put that in either of our hearts. A friend kindly offered to get us a free write up in the local paper but we gratefully declined. We believed that this was Gods idea not ours and therefore he would look after it and he did.
At some time during the morning the lady working with me said that someone was walking up and down outside the centre reading the signs hanging on the grills covering the windows. She asked if perhaps we should go out and invite him in but we resisted the temptation and believed if it was Gods will for him to come in then he would. I know that some people might not work that way but that is usually the way I work. God in his sovereign will does not need my interference or advice in what is the right way to do his work. There are times when he will direct me to go and see someone or do something specific but my norm is to prayerfully wait on him to direct me.
Eventually the man came into the centre and very quickly broke down in tears. We gave him a seat and made him a cup of tea and when he had settled he began to share some things with us. I will not divulge what he shared but he was in a desperate place and needed help and we both tried to encourage him and comfort him at the same time. We asked him if it was ok to pray with him and he allowed us to. There was no doubt that God had directed him to the centre for specific purposes. To be honest I cannot remember if anyone else came into the centre that day but meeting this man for the first time and being able to comfort him and pray with him made that day worth wile.
Day two started like day one, we prayed for Gods help and blessing for the centre. The black door opened and in walked the gentleman who had come in the day before only this time he entered not in a broken desperate state but he had a calm smile on his face. From my memory he was carrying a large pack of gigantic pancakes which he kindly gave to us for the centre. He sat down and with a real sense of well being shared with us that he had asked Jesus to be his saviour and had sensed that God was really helping him and had given him a real sense of peace.
We were overjoyed with the man and thanked God for his goodness and faithfulness. Right from the start God had demonstrated to us that we were in his will doing his work and he would bless it for his name sake. Some Christian friends also started to come in and pray with us for the work and sometimes they would bring someone with them that perhaps needed help in some way or another. People from all walks of life started to come in. Some with difficulties and problems others were just lonely and wanted to be in the company of others.
A local Pastor came and introduced himself to us and he would sometimes bring people in to us and we would draw alongside them prayerfully and often practically as well. A number of people with alcohol addiction started to come in and God began to show me that my negative experiences with domestic violence and alcohol would become vitally important when drawing alongside some of these people. Someone apparently has said that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory and I began to realise how true that was. From my counselling experiences I knew that empathy was far more important to people than sympathy and I began to see that many of my difficult experiences in life had actually qualified me to be able to genuinely feel with people and better understand what they were going through.
On one occasion another trained counsellor asked me what qualifications I had obtained in counselling, I told them I had got my certificate with high commendation from Queens University and had the option of going on and doing the diploma but had decided not to. They were very pleased to tell me that they had got their diploma and were going on to do their degree, I was very pleased for them and then I stated that I had attended another university and still was attending and had found the training invaluable. They seemed very interested as to what other university I was attending for training but when I told them that it was the “University of Adversity” they seemed a little puzzled, I left them to work it out.
There is no doubt that College and University are very important in learning but there are many things about life and people where they cannot really help. The Apostle Paul was no doubt a very educated man but he realized that path could only take him so far. For the Apostle Paul God’s power was more important than human wisdom. God can work powerfully through the things that we have experienced when we see them through the light of his word and the insight that the Holy Spirit gives us.
How many of us can honestly say that when we were going through the storms of life or the dark night of the soul that somehow these things would ultimately work out for our good? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose”. The reality is that often we don’t see how some things can or will work out for our good. The story of Joseph has been a great help to me over the years. He had many negative experiences from his point of view but we need to understand that the sovereign Lord allows the things to happen to us and that he is working out his plan and not ours. Joseph had no idea at the time that the pit and prison experiences would eventually take him to the palace and from there he would rescue his family from possible starvation. I am not pretending that it is easy to grasp this but if and when we do our lives will be transformed. Some people see God’s plans as punishments.
The scripture said that “All things work together for good”, not some things. God is not in control of some things he is in absolute control of everything. If and when we grasp that then we can be confident and assured that somewhere in life God will use what perhaps others meant for evil to turn out not only for our good but also and perhaps more importantly for the good of others. When we go through experiences where God has to come to us with his comfort and care we then are in the position to confidently assure others of God’s comfort for their lives in their times of need.
The Apostle Paul put it like this. “Praise be to the God and father or our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”. It has become apparent to me that those who have been hurt the most and broken the most God uses to help others the most, after he heals their hurt and brokenness.