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[ Lockdown Stories ]

A collection of personal journeys, revelations and lessons learnt through the lockdown period, compiled by one of the Life Groups at Redeemer.

The lockdown experience has been different for each of us. For some of us it has been a time of great uncertainty; with job insecurity, financial struggles and health concerns. For others it was a time when we found we had to continue working in the midst of a global pandemic, which may have bought up feelings of fear and anxiety but also a sense of reward for being able to serve others through our work.

For many of us it was a time when life as we know it was bought to a complete standstill and ‘normal’ became something very different to what we are used to! Things such as learning to home-school, working from home, finding things to occupy our days whilst we were furloughed and being confined to our homes for weeks on end, unable to see family & friends!

For many of us it gave us time to sit and reflect upon life, work, family and our relationship with God. It’s often in these times of quietness & reflection that we can simply ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10).

This is simply a collection of the things we have learnt, the revelations we have had and thoughts that we have pondered about God during the lock down period. We hope that you will be encouraged by what has been shared, that it’ll strengthen your faith and help you to grow in your relationship with God.

If there is one thing we are sure we have learnt in this time it would be that whilst life can change dramatically, we have a God who never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow!

Be blessed & encouraged.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 4:16-17

Learning to let go – Nicola Willis

 “But I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking toward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

I’ve been in Plymouth and attending Redeemer Church for 2 years now. In that time I’ve had many good things happen to me; I’ve got married, we bought a house, met some great friends, I got a job that I enjoyed and have my own business that I love doing. God has been faithful to me and given me the things He promised to me.

Prior to moving to Plymouth I was doing mission work in the Philippines for 4 years. I recount that time with mixed emotions; the joy of doing God’s work, but also the loneliness of being on my own in a different culture, the challenges I faced and situations that hurt and wounded me. We are never promised an easy life, and I realised the doing God’s work in whatever situation he has called you to doesn’t guarantee things will be easy.

I went out to the Philippines with great vision & plans of what I was going to do. But things didn’t go according to my plans. I struggled with terrible loneliness and lack of purpose after the move to the first church didn’t work out, resulting in me having to move to another church. Both churches I worked with had church splits whilst I was there, not as a result of me being there but to do with underlying issues within the church. Nothing seemed easy!

I returned back to the UK in March 2018 and for months just felt like I a failure. I felt that I had let God down because my grand plans (which I thought were also HIS grand plans!) didn’t come to fruition. I couldn’t make sense of what had happened and all I could seewas everything I hadn’t done. My relationship with God was distant and no matter what I tried to do, it felt like I couldn’t get closer.

It was during lockdown that I had time to think and process things in my heart & mind. I shared my process with my discipleship group asking them to pray for me. As they prayed, one of them felt to give me a word from Isaiah 43: “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing.” It was exactly what I needed to hearand be reminded of so that I could stop living in the feeling of failure and that I had let God down.

I began to realise that if we live too long in the past, if we dwell on the things that we didn’t do, or the things that didn’t happen as we would have liked it, we fail to see what is going on NOW. We are not present in the present, we are stuck in the past.

‘I was so busy focussing on the things that hadn’t gone well that I hadn’t seen what God had done’

For me I was living too much in the past; focussing too much on the plans that didn’thappen and too much on the difficulties I faced and therefore I failed to see 2 things: what God did actually do in that season and secondly, what he wants to do in THIS season.

I was so busy focussing on the things that hadn’t gone well that I hadn’t seen what God had done during my 4 years in the Philippines; He bought me to both churches when they were going through big challenges and he had sent me there to be a support, to pray and to help. Whilst my plans hadn’t worked out, God’s plan had! I had never seen that perspective before, and it took 2 years to see it.

As I let go of those feelings of failure, I started to feel more connected to God and to get excited about the future again. I can look back on that period with a lot more clarity and ability to see the good things that happened.

God’s Ways – Naomi Squires

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…and my ways are far beyond anything youcould imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

God’s ways are not our ways. We can have our plans, but there is no guarantee that they are his plans. They can be put on hold or changed altogether, and God has taught me that we have to trust him through the unknowns. None of it comes as a surprise to him,and he will work it all for good. Don’t panic when your plans unfold, looks for the good that he is drawing out of the situation, be rooted in him and trust him. Pray that his will be done.

Don’t let busyness stunt your spiritual growth. Don’t let all your other plans take over the time you need to spend with God. We need to remember that our heavenly treasures far outweigh our earthly ones.

Invest in that which has lasting worth. Consider, how often do you pray for yours/others physical needs (though of course this is important to do), and how often do you pray for yours/others spiritual needs. What are your priorities and do they need changing?

In all this, recognise that you will not do this by being better, but by being filled with the Spirit. Through the Spirit we will have faith in challenging times, through the Spirit we will have our eyes set on things above, through the Spirit we will be more like Jesus.

Letting God be God – Lydia Acutt

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Lockdown has not always been easy for me, but I feel God has been teaching me things which I will continue to grow in. I think one major thing is to be still and know God is God and to let him be God in my life. But this is SO hard.

As you probably know, I get anxious a lot and I try and do things which will make it better. I think God has been teaching me that although those things aren’t bad things to do (such as reading the Bible, going for walks, meeting people etc.), I worry so much about making sure I do the ‘best’ or ‘right’ things that I am trying to do a lot of it in my own strength.

I think that it’s all my fault if I still feel anxious and I must just try and do ‘better’ or more things to make it go away. It’s confusing because I believe God can take the anxiety away and part of it is renewing my mind, so I fight for that. But he might not take it away, so I am learning to both accept it and fight it.

I am learning to let go and trust in Gods finished work. I am learning to rejoice in that and in Him. Instead of focusing on my weaknesses, sins and struggles I am seeing the benefit more and more of looking to him every time I’m tempted to dwell on the ways I fall short, to say sorry when I start to think it’s down to me, receive his love and forgiveness and sing because He’s done all that is necessary and it is all about Him.

Through a book a friend lent me called ‘Compared to her’ I have started to gain insight into how some of the anxiety I have experienced may have been increased by me having a view that I am at the centre of my life instead of God. For example, I have struggled with the idea of making everything in my life bring glory to God. I have thought that in some ways that it is prideful of God (though I know he is not prideful) but God has been showing me that it was what we were made to do! He is so magnificent that it is not a prideful thing on his part, but it is so right, so good and in some sense, so normal. Ifhe is

God, then he should receive all the glory but also it blesses us that he does receive all the glory.

Another thing I feel God is teaching me through this time is to be in wonder at the world and to be grateful for the day to day things. I guess this has come from every day being pretty similar and mundane at times. God is showing me that things that seem normal are actually amazing when you think about it! For example, having people to love and people who love you, the flowers/nice weeds (like big daisy’s) you see around, the birds tweeting, the sun, the beach, singing, laughing, having a home and being able to make it into how you want it to be etc.

So yeah, I think God is teaching me to appreciate the ‘little’ but beautiful things of life. And when it is hard to be grateful and in wonder at those things, I am learning God is still taking us on a journey and growing us. We are on a journey of unending love!

One more thing I feel God has been teaching me is to not be afraid of failure. For so long I have avoided painting and creating (which I once loved) because I have felt I am not good enough and things won’t turn out the way I want. It is still difficult but recently I have felt more freedom in just doing something and not worrying so much about the outcome.

I have enjoyed experimenting and I hope to continue to enjoy it more and more. I was encouraged by Simon Thomas’ preach who said about letting your creativity flow. I was also listening to something recently and it said about how so many people are afraid of failure which stops them maturing. The guy compared it to preaching and said that we are free to risk and try even if we fail because we are not under judgement. The only way we learn is to try and naturally we will fail sometimes. It is scary when people judge us, but we can know God loves us and is for us. He has given us the passions and giftings that we have and so we can step out and trust he will use them for his glory.

God’s Faithfulness – Fatima Larkin

In the busyness of continuing to work/being mum/managing the home etc. life has continued in lockdown and is often just as tiring.

My reflections or encouragements on discipleship group to others but especially to myself is reminding myself that God’s grace and mercy are new every morning and that can come to him, again and again, day after day.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:23)

Reading the Bible – Katy Poyner

 “It is the same with my word. I send it out and it always produces fruit . It will accomplish all I want it to do and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Isaiah 55:11

One of the biggest things God has been speaking to me about during this lockdown period is the importance of meeting 3 basic needs every day; my spiritual, physical and emotional needs. I know it might sound simple, but God has reminded me of the importance of reading my bible daily.

This is something that I have struggled with a bit since having Bea as I found that my normal bible reading routine went out the window and a new rhythm of life took its place leaving me struggling to find time to set aside for my daily reading. Over the last 12 weeks God has changed my heart for this to see my bible reading as something that is vital to me being able to get through the day rather than another chore that I must tick off.

I have found that if I don’t set aside time to read the Word in the early part of the day (even if it’s for 5 minutes) I struggle mentally as the day progresses and I find myself feeling more downcast, irritable and less joyful. This discipline along with ensuring that I do some form of daily exercise (a home workout and/or a walk in the park) and set aside some time, however brief, for myself during the day, have been essential for getting me through this unprecedented time.

Having been a Christian for several years now, I know the importance of reading the bible daily however this simple truth has resonated with me again in a deeper way over this lockdown period. I definitely still haven’t got it all figured out and some days I do still struggle to read it but instead of beating myself up about it and feeling guilty, I know that I come to a God who loves me and who is so happy that I am choosing to spend time with Him reading His Word.

The God of Hope – Simon Poyner

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12

Right back at the beginning of lockdown you may remember me sharing a verse from Romans 12:12 which says “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” This verse has been something that has regularly popped in my head over the last few months and I have been trying to practice the three things it commands me to do. As I have done this here are a couple of lessons I have learnt;

Lockdown life has reminded me that my only confident hope is in Jesus. I have fallen more in love with Jesus and fallen more out of love with other things.

For me, one of those major ‘other’ things has been my  work.Having been forced to stop work for a long time and with the future of my profession not looking as good as it was, I have had to reflect on the role of work in my life. This has helped me realise that much of my identity and security is tied up with what I do and so in effect, I have had to lay down an idol of  mine.

Its not that I ever think I worshipped work but rather I worshipped my control of the future, and with work being a huge part of that, I have had to relinquish control. My life is in God’s hands and that is freeing to know. He is my hope. Work, health and money (3 predominant idols of the western world) aren’t going to satisfy and this lockdown I have seen more clearly than ever before how all 3 of them will let you down. This reality has also helped to re-energise my desire to tell others about Jesus because they NEED Him.

Not only have many people struggled with issues of health, money, work, etc but also I have noticed a growing unrest in society on many different issues. I hope and pray that hearts will be more open to the gospel as a result of the last few months but even if they are not, my call is to ‘Go’ …..and so is yours!

Lockdown life has taught me that slowing down is really good for your soul. In normal life, I am very busy, constantly going from one thing to another and my schedule is often full every evening. However, the slow, monotonous nature of lockdown has forced me to do less and as an extrovert this has been a challenge! But I have loved it. Not all of it. I domiss going out and socialising…. A lot.

But  I  have  loved  spending  more  time  on  fewer things/people. You can concentrate more on quality then. I have loved spending more time with Katy and it has been great to pray more with her and do things like the Marriage course together. I have loved spending more time with Bea and seeing her change is something that without lockdown I would never have been able to so that has been wonderful.

But even things like going to the local park every day, doing a daily home workout, and attempting DIY projects….these are all very simply things that are close to home and have provided an immense amount of joy (perhaps the DIY didn’t at times…just ask Katy). Sometimes in the busyness of life, I often look ‘out there’ for the next buzz of excitement but the almost ‘boring’ nature of lockdown has helped me see that thegreatest gifts God gives you are often under your nose and there is much joy to be found in doing less…and doing it well.

Lockdown Observations – Andrew Larkin

There are several observations I have about life in lockdown. Firstly, people expect to get new things done or start new habits in these times. Some may well manage to take up new things, or have renewed impetus for others, but largely it ends up like New Year’s Resolutions and people revert to type after a while or, realising this is for the long haul rather than the short term, give up. Those who have persevered have either had atask with a deadline or finish line or have managed to incorporate things into routine.

I have learned, or rather had it confirmed, that my preference with work and ministry is to see people in the morning as that energises me and then sermon prep or writing can take place in a focused way in the afternoon. Most are the other way round. As we come out of lockdown and whenever we hit the “new normal” or the “old normal” or whatever, this will be helpful as I seek to work effectively.

I have enjoyed the lesson that there is much on our doorstep which we can make the most of without spending money to enjoy when taking Carolina out. Parks, pinecones, logs and flowers – it’s a simpler life and something I don’t want to lose going forward.

The things which are not as important still matter, especially during such a time as they help you carry on. Jurgen Klopp said “football is the most important of the leastimportant things” and, as a football fan, I largely agree. On a wider level, C.S. Lewis wrote an article during World War 2 on the importance of continuing with things during such a time. Again, I believe he’s right.

People are  people.  Many  are  kind,  caring,   sensitive   and compassionate. Others are the opposite. Covid-19 just draws that out and makes it more obvious.

I had hoped identity politics had taken a long walk off a cliff during this time but, unfortunately,it seems the madness was just taking a break. It concerns me as we go on. I am now seriously curtailing my time on Facebook as it is a time and energy waster and it is frustrating to see the demonising of those with others views or opinions and how incredibly complex issues get reduced to a one liner or two. It’s maddening.

I have been grateful as a church how through the strength of our Life groups and discipleship groups people have been cared for. Sundays have been the best we can do but it’s a long way from how things should be. Technology is a great tool, but this period has shown its limitations and that it is not substitute for preaching, sung worship, fellowship and communion  physically  together. Speaking to camera has been a useful thing to learn, but it’s not preaching, not really. Still, it’s what the Lord has given to us and so we do the best we can with it and are thankful for how He has used this to bless people.

God is kind, sovereign and gracious. Jesus is Lord. The Holy Spirit continues to minister to His people and lead the lost to our loving Father. I have been able to chew over the Old Testament passages recently a bit more and have learnt helpful lessons from Chronicles about trusting the Lord in the face of difficult circumstances.

 

 

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