It was during an Easter service that I began reflecting on how God’s healing mercy and forgiveness contribute to the recoveries I have witnessed in my time with Street Connect – and it affects the lives of those we reach out to right from the start of their journey with us.
GOD USES US TO CHANGE PEOPLE WHEN HE HAS FIRST CHANGED US
The people we meet on the street are often met with rejection – “You’re a loser, a waste of space”. They are judged, often without any clue what they’ve been through or are going through. They’re put in a box and told to pull their socks up. They are met with anger and criticism. Is it so surprising when their anger grows, and their behaviour becomes even more self-destructive? When they build strong barriers and don’t trust anyone to help? But God in His mercy calls His people to reach out to the poor and the outcast just as Christ did and He equips us with the Holy Spirit to do so. For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”, Galatians 5:22. Through our outreach work we seek to follow Jesus example of reaching out to the rejected with warmth and respect. We want to show patience, gentleness, kindness and love. Many of our front-line workers are living in recovery and their self-control is an example of the strength they get from God that gives hope to others. So that others can believe: Yes, change is possible. No, I’m not stuck this way forever.
Fred tells us about his experience. “I was homeless, been on drugs for over 20 years, a serial offender and been in prison several times. I had asked for help elsewhere, but I was uncooperative and they had given up on me. The Christian outreach team met me at my place of need and didn’t require anything of me. If you are able to show some love – it is so, so powerful!” This is what we can offer to people who are hurting – a God who forgives, a God who gives second chances, a God who loves and the Holy Spirit as healer, comforter and guide.
TO SOME GOD GRANTS MIRACULOUS RELEASE
Of Christ on the cross Isaiah prophesies: “By His wounds we are healed” (53:5). It is a mystery that Jesus on the cross bore not only our sins but our grief and our pain. He took our pain on himself to release both outer and inner pain. We need to release that to Him. This is the core of what Faith based recovery does. As well as receiving forgiveness, it is releasing pain to Jesus that we couldn’t possibly carry ourselves and which can trap people in an endless cycle of self-destruction.
“I lost my mother to alcoholism. She was only 43 when she died. This left me with a lot of hurt and developed into anger and violence.” Angela became addicted, homeless and abused. At Jumping Jacks outreach she met God. “That night I was told I needed a Saviour. I wept, not just a cry but a weeping in my soul. Right then all the anger I had known disappeared and since then God has taken me on an incredible journey.”
BUT FOR MOST THEIR JOURNEY TO RECOVERY REQUIRES PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE
The Greeks gave us this concept of man as physical, mental and spiritual as if they were separate and distinct parts of our life. However, the truth is they are all inextricably linked, so to bring wholeness we need to tackle all three. In many of the people we meet, spiritual health is the missing link, the part of the puzzle they have never found when looking for recovery, but if any of these links: spiritual, physical or mental health are missing it still blocks wholeness. Sometimes it is true that introduction to the Spirit is the solution, but sometimes it’s not the whole story. This is why Street Connect fosters holistic recovery – from experience we know that all 3 needs need to be met.
Charlie had been saved through the church in Possilpark, but he was still in addiction. Addicted for 30 years, a previous attempt at rehab had left him hospitalised & deeply traumatised. He came to us for help and through our Bridge to Freedom course and the encouragement of 1-2-1 support he realised that he had to try rehab again. He spent many hours in Teen Challenge’s chapel at rehab presenting his fears and anguish to God. Praise God his prayers were answered, and he completed rehab without any physical relapse. He’s even run a half marathon since!
We do see miracles – people saved overnight from long-term drug abuse, healed from emotional & mental issues but often it’s not so straightforward. We ask – Why does God not always heal immediately/ in a miraculous way? Are those who are not healed immediately spiritually weak? No! Paul talks to us in 1 Corinthians about how we are all different parts of the body. “17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body?” We are all different, with different strengths and different needs and God has a different plan for each of us. This is why at Street Connect we don’t judge but offer patience and understanding instead. Their healing will come, but not in our timing, in God’s.
GOD’S GRACE IS NOT A ONE-OFF BUT IS CONTINUOUS, SO OURS NEEDS TO BE ALSO
Those of us who need a constant cycle of healing are a picture of the spiritual state we are all in. Yes, we are saved, but the scriptures say, “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Eph 5:18, because we drift and need to refocus on Jesus. Jesus, our Saviour, died once for all, but constantly intercedes with the Father in heaven on our behalf, because we still fall. So yes, healing can be miraculously immediate but more often it is part of a much longer journey, a process in which God is shaping us as the potter shapes the clay.
We say living recovery because each day is a fresh decision to live and not give in or give up. God is our strength because He never gives up on us. “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” Psalm 145:8. His work with us continues. Although it starts with a turning point, it is sometimes a meandering journey. But we can trust Him to keep us. As the old chorus says:
“But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”
This blog was written by Anne Walker, one of our Fundraisers at Street Connect.