When God shuts the door

I’ve been procrastinating about finishing this blog post for over a year now. Why the delay? Partly, it is the strange irony of a church song/worship leader who can no longer sing, who is also the author of a blog about church music and grace. Shouldn’t God just be giving more grace, and healing, so that I continue in this role which has been so much a part of my identity for 26 years?

My reluctance is also partly down to the enormity of the struggle in my head; having to explain it to you means I have to think about it, and try to reason with it, and accept it to some degree.

Let me fill in some of the background.

Since the end of 2015, I have been struggling with the effects of a hiatus hernia (where the top of your stomach bulges up through your diaphragm, at the place where stomach meets the end of oesophagus, and this allows acid to flow upward. Gruesome isn’t it?). The result is reflux, oesophagitis and coughing, particularly when singing – or when playing any number of wind instruments, which is something I’ve also done for almost four decades. The medication I take for this situation is reasonably effective, but not when I have to sing or project my voice. So, for the last year, I’ve contributed to church music only from behind the keyboard.

Few people know the enormous sense of loss I feel not being able to stand out the front and do what I can (do well, apparently) to lead people in enthusiastic praise of our great God. Worse still, I can’t even sing as part of the congregation, unless I want to pay for it with a tight throat, cough and stinging tongue for the rest of the day. My participation is thus reduced to lip syncing and whispers.

Now I know that some people would be quite content with this amount of involvement in congregational singing. For them, my loss would seem pretty minor. Not so for me.

And there’s more.

Moving beyond what I was originally going to describe (in that difficult blog post I’d been avoiding), I now must share another loss: the end of high school teaching.

About five weeks ago, I realised that my throat/hernia could no longer cope with the demands of the classroom. Despite six weeks symptom-free in the Christmas school holidays, I came back to Term 1 and things soon got pretty bad, brought on by full days of enthusiastic English teaching. With worsening symptoms, I made the difficult decision to leave at the end of term.

Today is the last day of term. Tough day, made more difficult by the flood emergency in Brisbane which kept students away from school for two days. I didn’t really get to say goodbye.

But I will cherish the moment with my Year 12 students a few weeks ago. When I told them of my impending departure their reaction was priceless: they stood around me in a circle, holding hands, and prayed through tears for healing and blessings for my future.

As you may imagine, I now feel like I’m in the middle of a ‘Job’ experience (you know, the guy from the Old Testament who lost everything, as a test in a spiritual battle). I feel like much of who I am is being stripped away, taken away, and I’m wondering what is left. Sure, I have a degree in journalism, so I still have a useful skill to offer. But is this really God’s perfect plan for me? Is it some test I have to endure? Is this punishment? And what is left of me when all that is gone? What happens now that the teaching and the music fades away?

I could easily choose to give in to despair at this point. In some moments, that is exactly how I feel. I’m sad for lost relationships with students, and lost opportunities to challenge them and bring out their best writing. I also grieve the many good friendships I had at work, friendships which will never quite be the same again. A Christian school is such a unique community, and across three different schools I’ve seen such a consistent witness to the grace of God which transforms lives. I’ve been blessed to see the power of Christ working in people from such diverse backgrounds, yet with a common outcome – we become more like Christ.

As I reflect on all this, I must choose my attitude, and in Christ’s strength fight the despair, and focus on the fact that our sovereign God does all things for a reason. In fact, as things are stripped away (that I have relied on to validate my existence) I more clearly see that only one thing of value remains –  Jesus Christ, Lord of my life, Ruler of my heart. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His Name!

For whatever reason, God has shut the door on this season of my life. But no matter what happens, my continuing purpose is to give him praise. Please pray for me that I will do just that. 

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” (John Piper)

Blessings, 

Ros.

(I wrote this on March 31, but I accidentally have an older publishing date. It’s just one of those enigmatic things about the internet!)

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32 thoughts on “When God shuts the door

  1. God bless you Ros. As you grieve, I just know you will grow, and your experience of loss and disappointment may be necessary as you continue to serve. Thank you for sharing what is a difficult journey, and whilst the next season may not be clear yet, you are already in it.

  2. Ros I want to encourage you to consider that God may not be closing a door but redirecting you. I have been facing some challenges at work personally and have felt directed by God to walk a particular path. In my prayer time I kept laying it out before Him and I would get all these affirmations that the decisions I was making about study and direction I was moving was the right one but the path to move forward at work kept getting blocked. One day in my journaling God revealed to me to trust Him that I was moving in the right direction but the path He wanted me take would be different to what I had in my head. I learnt I need to fully surrender to Him and allow Him to direct my steps one day at a time because each day has its own troubles. Lean in on the Lord through the grieving process and allow the Holy Spirit be at work in you and He will reveal to you and direct your steps. Your 26 years would not have been for nothing. God would have been preparing you for something more powerful that He can use further for His glory. Maybe we can catch up for coffee some time and chat.

  3. God bless in this time of uncertainty and loss! It is such a battle to move forward with our limited human perspective, but I believe God still has great things in store for you.
    I just want to share a quick story, which I hope will encourage you. My mum became a school Chaplain in her early 40s, and for the first time in her life she was in the job for her. By chance (well, divine providence) she had already completed all the necessary training by doing that job here, that diploma there. And she loved it. And the children, staff and parents loved her. And every day she moved in the spirit and saw miracles.
    Then she had a severe mental break down, was hospitalised for months and has come out unlikely to ever be able to work and never able to work with children. I remember feeling confused and angry at God. She was doing His work, yet it was so devastatingly taken away from her.
    But then, every time she returned from regular hospital trips, she had a story. A testimony. A blessing when, in her brokenness, she opened her mouth to let God share His wisdom to the fellow broken. It is very hard for Christians to enter psychiatric hospitals and offer God’s loving, healing words. But there are no barriers for mum.
    And I realised, even though it was so hard and even though it is still hard, loosing the job of her desire actually lead to something far more amazing than anyone could’ve thought. Now when she goes into hospital, my church prays for her to have rest and recovery, plus opportunities to mission to some of the most broken in this world.

  4. Ros, I don’t want to say much, just to say that you are NOT being punished. Jesus bore all of that on the cross. It would seem to me that God is pointing you in a new direction, as He did with us four or so years ago. It was very hard at the time, but now we are glad with where we are.

  5. Pingback: Even If – sevennotesofgrace

  6. Ros, I finally found the time to read your blog … on holidays thousands of miles away from the hectic pace. I gained a deeper understanding of your struggle – through your words rather than as we run by each other at work (I repeat – go … write!) You are fortunate that God has given you an abundance of talents. We prayed that you wouldn’t have to wait too long to find out how God is going to use them next. Xx

  7. Amen Ros! Amen. What an encouragement. What a testimony! Yes, you too, are learning to bow to, submit to God’s plan for your life. I know that it’s not easy especially when you feel that you have found our place of service. I don’t know what this means for me, that I keep witnessing how the saints of God are responding. All don’t respond in a yieldedness. I pray I bow. I pray I submit. Keep looking to him, for only he knows the work being wrought in your life. You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God ordained that you should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

  8. Very moving blog. Thank you for sharing it with us! Since you (and I) have degrees in journalism, I wonder if the Lord won’t turn your attention more toward writing/editing. Prayer lifted for God’s mercy and design for your life. Ward

  9. Perhaps as testimony to the internet’s reach — and your potential reach for Christian witness through this medium — I wrote my post from the U.S., where local time is 11:42 a.m. April 6 only to see the posting time listed as 1:42 a.m. April 7! Blessings, WP

  10. Thank you for sharing. Will pray for God’s glory to be seen more and more through you in this time of suffering. Amen to this: “As I reflect on all this, I must choose my attitude, and in Christ’s strength fight the despair, and focus on the fact that our sovereign God does all things for a reason. In fact, as things are stripped away (that I have relied on to validate my existence) I more clearly see that only one thing of value remains – Jesus Christ, Lord of my life, Ruler of my heart. He gives and takes away. Blessed be His Name!”

  11. Even as a singer, teacher and preacher, I can barely imagine the grief and probable loss of a sense of identity… But thank you for the example of sharing, grieving and trust in His will for your life. You are already bearing fruit from this new branch!

  12. Hi Ros,
    You dropped by my blog site today (thanks) & so I decided to drop in to you as well. Like you, I haven’t posted for quite a while, so when someone visits – I notice.
    I’m going to respond to your post in a way that mat seem against the stream – so please feel free to ignore it / or delete it, as you like.
    I agree, losing anything we value in life is tough, very tough – and I feel your pain.This issue is clearly giving you a real hammering, and it isn’t letting up.
    Where my view is different from the crowd is that I don’t agree with your statement “For whatever reason, God has shut the door on this season of my life”. Ros; I’m not convinced we can lay the calamities and disappointments of our lives at God’s feet – as if everything that happens to us is determined by the will of God. We live in a world that was delivered to satan’s dominion when Adam stepped away from his union with God – Jesus said; ‘in this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world’.
    I believe he was saying that “the world will do it’s best to cause us to interpret the events of this life as God’s plans & purposes for us – but God’s plans and purposes are not contained in the hardships of life – they are contained in the blood of Christ”.
    When hardship comes we go looking for the thing God is doing – but he is doing only one thing (and always has) – he is revealing the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, and calling us to rest in it’s power.
    I’m not sure if any of this seems relevant in your present situation – all I can say is that about 8 years ago I lost a life’s work in property development during the global financial crisis – but God wasn’t in that / he didn’t have a different plan for me – but he did show me something beyond my wildest dreams… “when I rest in Jesus, when I stake my life on the fact that his blood was enough for me, then the circumstances of life must yield to the power of his work on the cross”.
    Ros, I hope I haven’t added to your burden… look to Jesus.
    cheers Graeme

    • Certainly won’t ignore your perspective. Thanks for your comment. And yes I have shared this elsewhere and had a few other people say similar to you. I am absolutely not upset and I am glad to hear it again from someone else. Thanks so much!

  13. Thank you for sharing your heart. I get it. I have been through times where I am not leading worship, vocally, and have been told that it shouldn’t matter so much. I disagree. It is a gift that we long to share. A gift we are called to share. Hang in there. Also, please never whisper. That is the worst thing you can do to your vocal chords.
    Blessings!
    Psalm 40:3

  14. Dear brother, it is difficult when you have found something that seems complete, or that place in worship where you feel expanded. in a previous church I attended, for a short while I was part of the worship team lead by an anointed leader – I manned the overhead projector a difficult job as, as the spirit took the singers, they would flit back or forth to repeat verses -impossible to predict or guess. the amazing thing, was through prayer together and good leadership , a unity , guided by the Holy Spirit built – I didn’t need to anticipate …the worship opened up, buoyed me, took me like a river in its turns and eddys, echoed verses, and I found myself simultaneously putting the verses up which the worship team re-sang. I felt i’d arrived at where God wanted me. It didn’t last – Church politics and other events brought it to a close, and the worship leader moved on. Music, and Song are powerful communicators, and can be a great joy to share …. however, may be god desires you learn more than mere musicianship. Have you ever realised your heart and your spirit are like a harp, with notes that go beyond mere earthly hearing? There are notes in heaven no earthly instrument can play: now embrace worship fully in your spirit. God doesn’t want technically correct concerts- the harmony he seeks is a unity of the spirit …worship ‘in spirit and in truth’.. grieve for what was, but be open to the new blessings God is asking you to receive: trust his guidance, be patient in His silences, never stop believing, worshipping or praying. I realise though enrapt in worship doing the projector, I was taking too great an enjoyment in that worship: it became a selfish “high” and thus, with-held a deeper level of worship which was God’s due. ((((much unconditional love))))

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