with Arianna Walker
Saturday 5 August
Arianna Walker is the CEO of Mercy UK, a Christian mental health charity, specialising in helping Christians from all walks of life to live free and stay free. Find out more about Mercy UK HERE. She is an international speaker, author and leader with 25 years’ experience in developing people, leading teams and coaching individuals – especially in the area of mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Here the NH Media team brings you a summary of what Arianna had to say during the Opening Celebration of New Horizon 2023.
I was born in Holland. My parents were missionaries with Open Doors and I have wonderful memories of childhood “holidays” smuggling Bibles into countries behind the iron curtain. I now live in Yorkshire (a husband and two grown up sons). Living free and staying free is very much on my heart. It is what I feel like I’ve been put on this planet to do. Helping people to find freedom in Christ and learn what it looks like and feels like to experience that on a daily basis. I love leaving that and teaching that, seeing what only Jesus can do in people’s lives.
Reading from Psalm 142: 1- 7.
Let’s pray: Father I thank you that you are present and that your attention is turned towards us. Lord we still our minds to focus on you. We get ourselves ready to receive. I pray that your word would be like seed to take root in our hearts tonight and bear good fruit in the days and weeks to come. Amen.
A few years ago, I decided to spend new year’s eve in a cave. It was my husband and I climbing into this beautiful place in the Lake District. I thought it would be an exciting adventure and but it was a romanticised view. On the climb up to the cave, there was sideways rain. I was drenched and freezing cold. It was dark and I decided this was probably not one of my better ideas.
Caves don’t have toilets. Caves don’t have kitchens. Caves don’t have beds. And caves don’t have booking systems because four other random men turned up along with two dogs! The low point came in the middle of the night. The wind had changed direction to blow directly into the cave. The fire had died down. Everyone else was asleep but I could not sleep. I don’t think I have ever been so cold. Nothing about that experience was what I had hoped it would be. I was becoming increasingly frustrated, disappointed and downright miserable.
I was beginning to wonder if this was a metaphor for the year ahead and how bad things can be. As I was walking around trying to get comfortable. As I was there, God said:
“Remember David was king in the cave long before he was king in the castle. Do not let what you are looking out on affect your outlook.”
Many of us right now are in what we could call a “cave” season. We are experiencing life as unpredictable and disappointing. If we are honest, we are not enjoying ourselves. David had the actual experience of being in a cave. He was hiding because he was running for his life. He was alone and trapped there. He was probably there for several months before others joined him.He wrote Psalm 142 while he was there in the cave. It is a prayer.
David Acknowledges the Pain
David doesn’t bottle up his feelings. He pours out his complaint to God. David allowed himself to feel all of his feelings, unfiltered before God. If we are going to be those who experience joy from ashes, we need to acknowledge that we have ashes. We have to be real and we need to allow our emotions to have voice.
It is a really important part of being human that not all our emotions are positive. We do feel doubt, fear, depression, hurt and anger… David wasn’t afraid to be open and honest about what he felt.
When Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11). Jesus knew that joy was about to come. And yet we see that Jesus does not deny Himself the “ash moment”. I love the humanity of Jesus to allow that appropriate emotion to be seen and expressed. We can learn a lesson from that. It is not bad to feel bad. What we do with it matters but it is not bad to embrace a season of ashes. To acknowledge a difficulty or a pain.
Recently my dad passed away, a good, kind, godly man who was loved dearly. I’ve been to many funerals and very often (this is not a criticism) we’ve been told to wear colourful clothes to celebrate a life but when my dad died, I wanted to wear black so we could mourn him. Yes we would have a time to share memories and remind each other of his wonderful life but not before we mourned. Not before we acknowledged the pain. I think sometimes we have a habit of moving too quickly past the emotions that we are afraid of.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” How can we experience comfort, if we don’t allow ourselves to mourn?
Weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. Do you know that God is not afraid of your bad feelings? He knows them anyway. He knows how we really feel. We can spend years pretending that we are okay. There is so much going on for us in life, too much. If we choose to bottle it all up, it is going to start doing damage.
Imagine you are driving along in your car (before SATNAV) and all you have is some written instructions of how to get where you need to be. Along the way you get hopelessly lost and you find a payphone to call for help. They will say, “Where are you?” If I am going to give you directions, I need to know where you are.
Imagine if you make up a location because you are too embarrassed about how lost you are? If you are not being real about where you are starting from, then you can’t receive the right directions.
David Magnifies God’s Name and Not the Pain
There is another thing that David does. A cave amplifies the sounds. When you are in a cave season, when you are dealing with ashes, what you say and what you choose to do can be magnified, it echoes all around.
When David had fled from Saul into the cave in Psalm 57 he says, “Have mercy on me my God for in you I take refuge… my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music.”
He is says, “I will awaken the dawn” (even when it is still dark). Even when there is no change to the circumstances, David chooses to worship. In amongst the ashes, David lifted his voice. By exulting God, he decreased the power of the cave.
God inhabits the praises of His people.
When we feel disconnected and distant from God Psalm 22 tells us what to do. We will find Him when we praise Him. When we open our mouth and start declaring who He is, when we start raising His name above the pain.
Do you know the enemy hates it when we worship God? It repels him. If you feel yourself surrounded by enemies, raising Jesus’ name, scatters the enemies. If God inhabits the praise of His people, then sing louder. And don’t just sing the words… worship.
There was a time in my life when I was facing a cave season and everything I had worked for seemed to be under threat. I remember standing in my kitchen. I was buttering bread and I felt wave after wave of despair coming over me. I heard the voice of God saying to me, “Right now, choose joy.”
How do you choose joy? There is nothing to be joyful about. My entire life is about to be busted to smithereens. I’m feeling what I’m feeling and none of it is joy. Then out of nowhere I remembered a little song, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”
Standing in my kitchen, I started whispering it to myself. As I paced up and down the kitchen, I started to declare it. “Why are you so downcast o my soul, I will yet praise the Lord.” I was commanding myself to come into line with what God was saying. I kept saying, “Rejoice…” and suddenly something inside me shifted. I started to laugh. I started to feel the joy of the Lord.
It is God’s joy. If we are only going to get joy when there are no ashes because life as a lot more ashes. It is His joy. I can breathe. I started to remember scriptures about how we should rejoice in all things. Nothing about my situation changed. There was no magic phone call. In that moment, I no longer saw the ashes or the cave… what I felt was the joy of the Lord and it gave me strength. The situation didn’t change but the way I saw the situation shifted.
We have an opportunity to experience the highs and the lows. When we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will experience His presence. What I find so fascinating about this story is that though David was not in a castle, while he was still in a cave, people were drawn to him.
It was the disenfranchised, the outcasts, the marginalised. Anyone can go to a cave. When we are going through difficult seasons and we find joy amongst our darkness, it draws people from miles around. They are interested to see someone who is living a life with difficulties and yet finds strength and joy that are not dependent on the circumstances. A peace that passes understanding. They want to know why.
There is a supernatural joy amidst the ashes of our circumstances that carries us through.
We are going to be exploring this a little bit more over the next few nights. As people of God, how do we navigate the rough terrain of our lives and YET to praise His name and access the resources He has made available to us?