The sneakiness of perinatal depression


Perinatal depression – that is, a depression which starts sometime between conception and your child turning one, is a concept becoming more familiar to many of us. It includes ante-natal depression (one which starts during pregnancy) and its better known cousin: postnatal depression (PND). Until this year, ‘perinatal depression’ wasn’t a term I often used, especially not in the context of my own life.

PND, on the other hand, has hung over me as a possibility since I first wanted to have children. I’ve been aware since my uni days that having had two previous episodes of clinical depression, plus a family history of PND, my own risk of post-natal depression was higher than average.

So I went in to my first pregnancy five years ago fully armed. My husband had a list of my warning symptoms. I answered “yes” when my midwife asked me routinely if I had a history of depression. I had chosen the anti-depressants I would take, if it happened. Thank God it never did. I had the baby blues: a hormonal crash when my milk set in, tears at two weeks over fears of not being able to breastfeed, the normal months of sleep deprivation but my mental health remained normal and fine, both for that pregnancy and the following.

Yet over those years I saw women around me fall ill: members of my church, acquaintances and friends. Sometimes, despite all my training, I hadn’t even noticed and it wasn’t until years later when they told me that I realised it had happened. Worst of all, some of them didn’t know themselves that what they were experiencing wasn’t normal motherhood at which they were comprehensively failing, but an illness.

Depression lies to you like that. It tells you ‘You are the problem, you are the one who doesn’t love enough/ isn’t coping enough’ and it brings guilt. It tells you ‘No-one else has this, it is your fault’ and it brings shame. It carries the word ‘depression’ with all its years of stigma and makes you want to hide it, deny it, keep it secret, even from yourself. It tells you ‘You will never get better’ and brings hopelessness. It sneaks up on you gradually over months until you finally look around in despair, asking ‘How do I go on if this is the way life is?’.

It’s hauntingly familiar because here I am, in my third pregnancy, with symptoms of depression. But this time it isn’t the postnatal depression I’ve always been prepared for – no, the incessant nausea had started pulling me down by the time I saw my midwife at 8 weeks. This time I answered “yes” not only to ‘do you have a history of depression?’ but also to ‘In the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?’ and ‘During the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?’.

Since then, my physical health seems to have gone through one thing after another -the nausea being worse than ever before,  low blood pressure, the expected pain from my pelvis rotating out of place (it’s a sort of SPD or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction), mobility problems, anaemia, feeling faint and dizzy whenever I eat, the crushing tiredness. Being tired, in pain, sick or faint every day makes me depressed.

I tried to keep running – the day my 2-year-old overtook me and I walked into the house and took paracetamol before even taking off my trainers I stopped. Swimming was fine – until I didn’t  trust myself not to faint in the pool. Seeing my friends would be great – if only I wasn’t so tired. Going to church on Sunday mornings has gone from being a comfort and a strength to  one of the most physically demanding and painful moments of my week. One by one my normal coping strategies have failed.

So with lots of reasons, and not many coping strategies, my mood hasn’t lifted and here I am – 28 weeks pregnant, with symptoms of perinatal depression and signed off work for a month. I wasn’t expecting this for my third and final pregnancy. I had hoped this would be my chance to enjoy and appreciate the wonder of growing a new life inside me and to mourn each step as it passed. Instead I celebrate each week completed and never to be done again, and moan and grumble with each new symptom and trial which comes. 11 weeks to go, and I am counting every single day…




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John Wesley : notes for a historical open bus tour of Bristol

The world of Wesley and Whitfield Is Britain in the 17 hundreds … It’s the age of empires, of the industrial revolution. The common land is enclosed and dispossessed are flocking to the cities, to centres of industry and factories. To London, to Newcastle, to Bristol.
Slum tenements are thrown up and the poor fill them. Bristol is a large thriving city, with a population of 20,000 which will treble over the coming century. Glass blowing, chocolate, tobacco, coal mining  and ship building, and most of all the slave trade will form major industries. And as with all cities, disease, poverty and starvation are daily realities.
And the Church of England, formed  2 centuries ago, has become the possession of the gentry, a suitable profession for gentlemans sons, with an Oxford or Cambridge education who speak Latin and Greek.
Some, like Wesley’s parents, follow God wholeheartedly and shepherd their flock diligently. But for many ordination is a wage and nothing more : priests who don’t turn up from one year to the next, who don’t believe, who drink and gamble. Communion is offered twice yearly at most. The poor flocking to the cities, like the migrant miners of Kingswood, often fall between parishes and are cared for by none. The people are hungry for more.

Into this world Wesley comes. He follows God wholeheartedly, legalistically, attempting purity, working hard and at 37, with his degrees, ordination, compassionate works and a disastrous mission to the new colonies in America behind him, he finally understands salvation by grace. Up until this point this point ‘his vast theological reading, love of worship, knowledge of bible, self discipline and compassion hadn’t saved him but (now they ) were at the service of the gospel.’

For the next 50 years he would work hard, ride 280,000 miles, preach 54 thousand times. From his first prison visits as a student grows a vast number of compassionate works : orphanages, schools, pharmacies, surgeries, prisons changed and poor clothed.

Never appointed to a parish by the C of E , by his death 79,000 count themselves Methodists : men and women saved by faith in the gospel alone and built into societies for discipleship and accountability, whose desire for the word of God and taking of communion would lead to an inevitable break with Wesley’s beloved Church of England.

He was no saint : arrogant, self centred, unable to accept he was wrong and disastrous with women, yet God used him. As we travel to the New Rooms and the first ever Methodist chapel, I will tell you a couple of stories about this master builder, starting with his impact on individuals, then how he changed towns, especially Bristol, and finally our nation.

Firstly : Impact on individuals

I think the effect Wesley had on people is beautifully illustrated by a story he tells in this in his journal of a cartload of the new converts being carried before their justice of peace. When the Justice asked what they had done one man replied “Why they pretended to be better than other people and besides, they prayed from morning to night “. The justice asked “but have they done nothing besides?” “Yes sire, said an old man, ant please your worship, they have convarted my wife, till she went among them she had such a tongue! And now she is quiet as a lamb.” “Carry them Back, carry them back” replied the justice. “And let them Convert all the scolds in town.”

Another person was the Bristolian Abel Dagge. 0ne of Whitfield”s first converts, he was encouraged and supported by Wesley, who often visited the Newgate prison in Bristol where Dagge worked. We will pass the site of the prison as we drive through the centre of town. Over the years, Dagge singlehanded reformed the prison from the inside and in 1761 Wesley wrote to the London Chronicale listing the improvements Abel Dagge had made:

Due to prisoners cleaning their cells, the whole prison was physically clean. There was no fighting or brawling as Dagge settled disputes on the spot having listened to both sides. He had eradicated cheating, drunkeness abd prostition. He enabled men to carry o their professions, providing tools and materials for employment. Services of worship were compulsory ,and a Bible made available for the prisoners to read. Wesley finished the letter :

By the blessing of God on these regulations the prison now has a new face: nothing offends either the eye or ear, and the whole has the appearance of a quiet, serious family. And does not the keeper of Newgate deserve to be remembered full well? May the Lord remember him in that day! Meantime, will no one follow his example?

One Bristolian, saved by grace, discipled and encouraged by his local church community, changed a whole institution.
Not every individual Wesley came into contact with had such a good story to tell. He was a charismatic, likeable, impressive man – and he had a disastrous history with women.

Throughout his life Wesley confused discipleship, and spiritual encouragement, with romantic love.  Or possibly the other way round. As a young man he had a pattern of becoming intimately involved, both spiritually and romantically, with women, and yet wouldn’t commit because he could not settle himself that his life would involve marriage. Out in the new colony of Georgia, one such relationship and his inability to cope with the young woman in question’s decision to marry another man led to him being hounded out of the country and fleeing tail between his legs to England.

In his forties he met and fell in love with Grace Murray, who could have been the helpmeet for his life …. But again he dithered and lost her to another man.

His eventual marriage to Mary Vazeille, a rich widow with two sons, has gone down in history as one of the worst of a notable christian leader. He wouldn’t contemplate slowing down his ministry for marriage. She didn’t like the travelling, the hardship, the mobs, and wasn’t equipped to lead the Methodist women. In return his closest friends and advisors didn’t like her and let her know it. Mary would take wesley’s letters, reword them so as to be damaging, and get them published. As well as vicious, the marriage was violent : Once she was seen dragging him around the floor by  his characteristic long hair.  Wesley continued his over involved relationships with young women who he considered in need of spiritual discipleship – on reading his private letters, Mary accused him publically of having affairs.

He wrote about her and his disastrous marriage to Sarah Ryan – one of the woman Mary had accused him of an affair with. In his letter he describes Mary’s fury at finding an as yet unsent letter to Sarah which ‘broke her heart’ and put her in ‘such as temper as I have not seen her in for several years’. This, he concluded, was God’s way of showing that his correspondence to Sarah was blessed and he should continue with it.

Continually separating and arguing, his marriage continued unhappily until her death 30 years later.
However he was capable of amazing friendships : his closeness with his brother and partner in his work Charles Wesley survived despite their disagreement on how to remain within the Church of England. Charles who wrote ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’ amongst thousands of others, lived here in Bristol too.

And his relationship with Whitfield too lasted till his death despite many predictions it could not.  Whitfield was a Calvinist – he believed In predestination and that God has already called and chosen his elect who would be saved. Wesley was an Arminian – he believed that God desired all to be saved and that anyone could respond and be saved, and also that they had then to hold on and pursue God to the end.

This was the big issue of its day – and similar perhaps to today, the disagreement was more fierce between their followers than the men themselves. Nowadays we have Twitter and blogs- back then theological disputes happened through the printing of pamphlets, public letters and preaches. Whitfield and Wesley agreed not to preach and print their differences in public, because of the impact that could have on the work of God.

But in Bristol Wesley is put under pressure and finally agrees to print on his theology. Whilst Whitfield is in America, misunderstandings abound on both sides. Whitfield feels compelled to respond publically, but also writes privately to Wesley to tell him what he is about to do.

As things do, a copy of Whitfield’s public letter  condemning Wesley’s theology arrives in the UK before the private letter does and, it is copied and distributed at a meeting where Wesley is due to preach. Wesley enters the meeting, gets hold of a copy and makes his way to the front where he holds it up. ‘A private letter, wrote to me by Mr Whitefiled, has been printed without his leave or mine. I will do just what I believe Mr Whitefield would were he here himself’  and tears it up.  The congregation do the same, and Wesley prevents a private disagreement  from ruining forever his relationship with Whitfield and worse, derailing the whole revival in England.

By believing the best of each other, and by talking face to face, by not listening to the twittering of followers and the public gossip, by agreeing to do God’s work in their own way, Wesley and Whitfield managed to hold fast to their friendship and work together despite their irreconcilable theological differences and the eventual going of separate ways of their movements.
So what was Wesley’s impact on Bristol?

Wesley was first entreated to come to Bristol, by Whitfield amongst others. He says ‘This I was not at all forward to do.’ And his brother Charles says ‘we dissuaded my brother from going to Bristol, from an unaccountable fear that it would prove fatal to him’
But come he did, and here he found not only the minors of Kinsgwood, but thousands of Bristolians who would gather to hear him preach. On one occasion so many people crowded into the room that the floor collapsed beneath them : thankfully it was supported by the barrels of tobacco the owner had recently invested in and only dropped 6 inches… Welsey just kept on preaching and the crowd continued to listen.

Welsey was welcomed by the societies in Bristol : these were small groups of committed christians who met together weekly to serve as an inspiration to ministers and examples to others. Here in Bristol, under Wesley,s leadership and with converts being added weekly, they were confident enough to  join together and invest in land and property, to build permanent premises – Wesley’s room which we are travelling to see. Their confidence wasn’t misplaced : two and a half centuries later, the rooms are here and used for their original function – a claim which can’t be made for any other building in Broadmead.

Working  from Bristol and his other two apostolic bases in London and Newcastle, Wesley would replicate the pattern of Bristol. In each town and village he and his itinerant ministers would preach to the working class poor, gather them into the already existing societies or set up new ones, and they would build their own chapel or meeting house.

Here in Kingswood you can see his effect by the number of Methodist buildings we

Kingswood became a by word for a place where the word of God was received: Wesley writes :

kingswood does not now, as a year ago, resound with city cursing and blasphemy, it is no more filled with drunkeness and uncleaness. No longer full of wars and fightings, of wrath and envying. Peace and love are there, great numbers of the people are mild, gentle and easy to be entreated. Hardly is their ‘voice heard in the streets’ or indeed, in their own wood, unless they are at their usual evening diversion, singing praise unto God their saviour’

From Bristol Wesley preached in Bath, in Two Mile Hills, Baptist Mills, Pensford, Clifton and Kingswood. And then further afield : to Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, to Wales, and to Ireland. In the future he would also travel to Europe, and send ministers to America. After one such journey he wrote ‘I came back safe, blessed be God, to Bristol. I found both my soul and body much refreshed in this peaceful place’

Bristol also benefitted from Wesley’s emphasis on good works. From his early days as a student, when Wesley set up a school for hearing children read, much like our Homework Help, charitable works were part of the principles of Methodism.

In 1740, at Lawfords Gate a few miles from here, Wesley and the Bristol congregations   helped at least 150 people who were on the verge of starvation due to the severe frosts preventing them working.

And like many other people in our city’s  history Wesley wasn’t scared to confront the status quo. It was in Bristol, whose fortune was built on the slave trade, that he first chose to preach against Slavery. And indeed the last letter he ever wrote was to William Wilberforce, to encourage him in his fight to make slavery illegal.
So we’ve seen the impact Wesley had on individuals, and on cities. Looking even further out, what was his legacy in our nation?

Methodism started at uni on Oxford with his brother and a handful of fellow students. It spread to London, then to Bristol, to Newcastle and across the Uk. By his death, 79000 people in Britain were on the membership rolls of his ‘connexion’.

Although called the great revival, and thousands saved, It wasn’t within his lifetime that spiritual renewal of Britain or his desired reformation of the Church of England happened (although some commentators attribute it to Wesley that Britain didn’t fall in to the bloody revolutions of France during the same time period.)

But Methodism didn’t stop with wesley’s death. 25 years later at the start of the 19th century, the membership in the UK was 230000 (5%of the population ) with another 210,000 in North America and it continued to grow. The working poor, under Methodism were encouraged to be ambitious, industrious and respectable. By giving up former sins of violence and drunkeness, by working hard to earn and to give, by learning to read, They became the backbone of industrial and imperial England. Wesley’s influence was seen throughout Philanthropic Victorian Britain, with changes to child labour, slavery, buildings, medicine, hospitals and prisons. And as one biographer commented, after Welsey, the ‘man in the street’s view of Christianity was of Methodism. From singing hymns, to taking communion, an expectation that both priesthood and laity believed what they preached and lived what they believed, full of good works : this was now the perception of Christianity.

Wesley was a great man, and you can read more about his tremendous works at the New room. But I’m encouraged most by his faults : unable to have good relationships  with women, arrogant, constantly changing his theology but never able to admit he could be or had been wrong, the master at using the Bible or church tradition to support his changing thoughts, unable to receive criticism or to hand over power… And yet he said yes to God, and God used him, powerfully and wonderfully, to save thousands and influence a nation. God is good.

Hughes write ‘Wesley has demonstrated that a true prophet of God has more influence than all the politicians and soldiers and millionaires put together, he is the incalculable and enexpected element that is always putting all the devices of the clever to naught.’

References and further reading

Hattersley, Roy. (2002). A Brand From The Burning
Peterson, William. (1983). Martin Luther had a Wife
Pollock, John. (1989), Wesley the Preacher
Waller, Ralph. (2003). John Wesley: A Personal Portrait
Welsey, John. (Ed. Parker 1953). The Journal of John Wesley

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Patience in Pain

I am recovering well from the surgery, thank you all for your concern (and food and flowers and help).

I tend to ‘boom and bust’ (more on that another day) which means that after a great day  yesterday doing all the things I could have done pre-surgery, today I achieved very few of the things I had planned for today and ended up back on the codeine and back in bed.

My eldest daughter is finding this time hard – she is four, and her need for consistent, patient, loving attention doesn’t change according to my pain levels. My ability to meet that need does. I get grumpy, snappy and want to be alone which unsurprisingly doesn’t help the situation.

I prayed at church on Sunday for help with this – I don’t want to be bad at being in pain. I want to be one of those Spirit-filled gracious generous people who out of the depths of suffering bring peace. There’s an image Jesus used, of two men building their houses. One built on sand and his house collapsed in the flood – the other, wiser, man built on rock and it stood firm against the storm. My ‘flood’ at the moment is one of pain and tiredness and it shakes my house: every day I see the effect of my bad temper and quick words echoing throughout my home.  I’d rather be the wise man.

Jesus said the wise man was someone who heard his words and obeyed them. Give me a list then God! 10 good things to do today, and I will go and do them and then I can be like that man on the rock instead.

But it doesn’t work like that. I can’t earn my wisdom, earn my grace, my patience, my peace.
After all, how can one earn what has already been given? Only five minutes before the story of the builders Jesus had said that it’s out of the heart that words come, like fruit from a tree. A good tree produces good fruit.  A good heart produces good words.

And the joy of the gospel is that my heart is already ‘good’. I have been given all these things: grace and peace and joy and generosity and kindness and self control as a gift from God through Jesus’ own death and resurrection.  He is making me like himself. He has given me his Spirit – the very essence of godliness- and continues to give me his Spirit, freely and generously.

Which means tomorrow, when I desire to hide away and nurse my wounds but I can not, he will be there. He will be helping me, giving me grace, and reminding me I can be me. In the moment of my pain I have an opportunity to let my words overflow from the unending boundless gracious love he felt for me in the moment of his pain.
Thank you Father.

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The End of Health Anxiety

Well, that’s the positive way of looking at it. My keyhole gallbladder removal is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Every time I think about it I get pain in my chest. It’s funny that until last year I never really worried about being ill, and when I was anxious I never had chest pain (a common symptom of anxiety) – and yet now, it happens daily.

There’s so much about this process I can’t control – how well the laparoscopic cholecystectomy goes, how much discomfort I will be in afterwards, the running of the house and the looking after the children whilst I’m out of action. I am trying to remember January’s lesson – that actually there is very little in my life I am in control over and that’s ok, because it’s God in charge and He is good.  But every time I think about it that chest pain belies my faith and shows me how scared I am.

Till tomorrow anyway – because after surgery, not only will I not be anxious about the operation, but I also won’t have any gall stones. So when my chest hurts, I won’t be afraid of it turning into biliary colic. It’ll just be plain old fashioned fear, and that, as the Doctor says, is a super power.

Apparently, it can even make me run faster ;)

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Gallstones Revisited


pearl necklace


  1. God obviously hasn’t miraculously healed me by removing the stones and voiding my need for surgery.
  2. There’s no inflammation (so no reason as to why I should get the chest ache/ nausea/ back pain which I had been attributing to inflammation and scarring).
  3. The sonographer ignored the comment I made about believing in a God who heals.
My gallstones ‘line up like a pearl necklace’ inside my gall bladder.

So to match my faith in a God who heals, I have not been healed.


To match the value I place in the NHS, I have wasted the time and resources required for a second scan, another GP visit, a second surgeon consultation and another sit on the surgery waiting list.


And to match my faith in a God who works all things for the good of those who love him, who has plans and purposes and designs and meaning for every part of our lives, I have an apparently meaningless and pointless painful condition.


Answers on a postcard please. This evening, I have none.


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Emotional Distress and the Bible

This article is based on my teaching notes from the ‘Helping us to help others’ equipping day at City Church
I’d like you to imagine four people, each struggling with their emotions. 
The Anxious Business Man
The first is a member of your church: he is a successful middle aged man who in was the national manager for a multi national company. He experienced a very difficult time at work where he felt his CEO was bullying him and deliberately trying to get rid of him. He became increasingly more and more anxious, and eventually resigned through ill health. Currently he has completely withdrawn from public life and isn’t working.  It seems obvious why he’s anxious, from the bullying he’s experienced. But maybe he had put too much of his identity in his job, to be affected so badly. You’d like to help, and maybe someone needs to be his friend, to pray with him. Maybe he needs to face the work situation, and have mediation.
The Grieving Mother
The second couldn’t be more a different : an older lady, a single mother who doesn’t have a career.  She contacted the church to ask for help with funeral arrangements for her 25yr old son who recently died from a serious illness. She is clearly distraught, crying, unable to keep herself together, visually  unkempt, and also suffering financially. Part of you think she’s reacting fairly normally to the situation, after all she’s grieving. But perhaps it’s deeper than that… And maybe she needs help in other areas, like her finance. Maybe she just needs to know Jesus.
The Angry Gifted Man
Number 3 is a confident, loud and very gifted man in your church.  He has a quick temper and small things can escalate in to big issues.  Recently in his anger over being teased about his receding hair line he said some incredibly hurtful things to some of the youth group.  Now, it seems obvious that he needs to apologise. And deal with his anger issues. And probably some counselling to deal with the things underlying his anger issues. 
Someone with Suicidal Thoughts
And our final person has been praying in secret to God to kill them as they would rather be dead. Which is terrifying. And if they ever told someone, maybe you’d tell him to get professional help – or maybe you wouldn’t know what to say at all.
Did you recognise anyone?  Do you know someone like them, or who is dealing with similar things, or perhaps they remind you of people you once read about in the Bible. 
Because our Anxious Business Man is a modern day David.  David: shepherd boy who slayed a giant. David: King of Israel. David: psalmist and man after God’s own heart. David, who said once : 
“Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! 
Attend to me, and answer me; 
I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. 
For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. 
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. 
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness;  I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” (Psalm 55:1-8 ESV)
He knew what it was to run scared and end up all alone, jobless, friendless, persecuted, afraid. 
Our Grieving Mother lived in Nain, in Israel, and had the privilege of meeting Jesus who offered her a solution I wouldn’t dream of: to raise her son from the dead. (Luke 7:12-15 ESV)
The older Gifted Angry Man was drawn from a rather unusual and unpleasant story about Elisha: 
[Elisha] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. (2 Kings 2:23, 24 ESV)
I don’t pretend to understand this tale, nor what it tells me other than even the best of us can struggle to manage our temper in constructive ways
And finally, our Person with Suicidal Thoughts could have been a number of great men at a point in their lives: the prophet Elijah after his huge triumph at Mt Carmel suddenly had to run for his life and he ‘went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4 ESV)
Jonah prayed, again after an incredibly successful ministry : “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3 ESV)
Job in all his sufferings said : “Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!” (Job 6:8, 9 ESV)
And Jeremiah cursed his own mothers womb: Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, “A son is born to you,” making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14-18 ESV)
It is uncomfortable and distressing, perhaps alarming, to hear people express suicidal thoughts – believe me, when it is happening in your own head it can be even more so. I take great comfort from knowing that these amazing men of God also came to points in their lives where they had these thoughts, and that they were not ashamed to say it aloud, nor to tell others they had them – as Elijah must have done for us to see it. 
I’m not saying we all need to blog every dark thought. But it is important to say that these thoughts can come into the light and we needn’t be scared of them. 
Let’s bring our worst thoughts and fears to God as so many of the men and women in the Bible did. And one day, maybe we could form a community where we can voice them to each other, and be heard with acceptance and love.
So from all of this I want to make 5 points:


  • Experiencing emotions and a whole range of emotions is normal and part of who God has created us to be.
  • Experiencing emotional distress isn’t sinful, just like experiencing physical ill health isn’t sinful. ( How we respond to our distress, and what we do with it can be, of course)
  •  We can be open and honest about our darkest thoughts
  • It’s good to be willing to ask about and  ready to listen to other’s thoughts and feelings.
  • We don’t need to have answers nor solutions: it’s enough to come alongside  alongside people in their particular journey, just as through their stories in the Bible Elijah,Elisha, David, Job, Jonah, Jeremiah, and the widow come alongside us in ours.


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Living in the Not Yet

I have gallstones and God hasn’t healed me.

It isn’t the world’s worst complaint, but given that a year ago mine were causing me to have bouts of biliary colic* every 3 weeks or so, it certainly isn’t fun.

It’s easily cured by routine keyhole surgery- and I don’t want surgery. It means 4 weeks not running (so not happening during marathon training) and someone taking out my entire gallbladder.  Frankly it scares me.

 ‘I believe. Help me in my unbelief’

I’d rather be miraculously healed by God. My brother in law, with a known gift of healing, has prayed for me. My church family have prayed for me. And when the pain has coursed through my body at 3am even after taking every pain killer I am prescribed (and some I’m not) and my fingers ready to dial 999 I  have cried out for healing with all I have.

But did I believe? I don’t think so. I believe God can heal. I believe he does heal. I just didn’t know if he would heal me. I felt like the centurion in the Bible calling ‘I believe. Help me in my unbelief’.

The marathon over, I finally agreed to do the sensible thing and ask for the surgery. But counting up the attacks I realised I hadn’t really had one since Jan. Of course, I’ve been getting much fitter. And I have learnt and avoided all my trigger foods. So last week I tested it : ate eggs, copious coffee, even pork crackling. Nothing.

mustard seed faith

So I summoned up all my courage and self confidence and asked the surgeon if I could have a scan before committing to surgery. Just in case the stones had gone. ‘Gall stones don’t go’ was her reply, and she suggested that my lack of reaction to trigger foods was more likely due to huge inflammation causing so much scarring the stones couldn’t push through anymore.

But (thank you Lord for the NHS and patient choice) she agreed I could have a scan first.

Leaving the appointment I was 98% sure that the inflammation and scarring made sense and explained my chest pains. And 2% daring to hope, to believe, to trust that I’ve been healed, and the stones had gone.

I’m glad I acted on my 2%. I was a little bit proud of myself for stepping out in my tiny mustard seed faith and delaying my operation.   I imagined asking for copies of my scans before and after : stones there, stones miraculously gone: real proper medical evidence of God healing.

As I daydreamed in church this morning, imagining all the people I could tell and the blogs I could write about my miraculous healing I was reminded of a story in the Bible.

It’s about three men who in a far away time and land were commanded to worship the king or face being burnt alive. ‘We don’t even have to answer you,’ they said. ‘Our God can save us from the flames, and even if he doesn’t, we won’t bow down to you.’

2 hours later I had a biliary colic attack. So I’m not healed. The surgeon was right. And I’ve delayed my surgery and had an attack today and put myself at risk of this pain again and feel a bit of a fool and a bit disappointed and I could cry because I had hoped.

‘Even if he doesn’t’

So I am back where I started. I believe in Jesus Christ, in a God who can heal, has healed, does heal. And maybe he will heal me miraculously and take away my need for surgery. But even if he doesn’t then my faith doesn’t change : it’s not based in what he does for me now, but who he is and what he has already done.  It’s based in the fact that once upon a time he died and was resurrected, that he ascended to heaven and will one day come again.

And on that day, I will have no gallstones.




*imagine excruciating indigestion, radiating through your body in a band between your sternum and your back, scoring at a 9 /10 for pain, coming in waves, accompanied by vomiting.

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