28 May 2024

A heightened sense of God’s presence through life’s pains

By Clare Boyd-Macrae

17 November 2021

MY LIFE advice for anyone is simple, regardless of whether they are a person of faith. If you surround yourself with good people, you’ll get through the mixed bag life dishes up. Looking back on 2021, however, two other things stand out as this year’s lessons for me. 

To tackle the less positive one first, I have accepted that I am always weary. That that’s the way it is at the moment, maybe for the rest of my life as I age, and that that’s okay.

Everyone I know is struggling with tiredness. If you look at the context of the last two years, it’s not surprising. It’s COVID-19, it’s unemployment for some and overemployment for others, too many hours spent videoconferencing, and not having had a proper holiday in many months. It’s not having the shot in the arm that time with loved ones or a change of scene brings. It’s also the profound grief and despair provoked by the climate crisis, and the seeming determination of our leaders not to take it seriously. I doubt I’m alone in feeling embarrassed to be Australian when I think of our record on both the environment and on refugees.

This year I have learnt something about the wisdom of accepting my context and my age. I’ve learnt something about the relief of understanding that I can do so much, but I can’t fix everything and it would be hubris to try.

The second thing that has been the basis for everything this year has been my heightened awareness that our God – the God of the Incarnation – is with us in it all.

The last six years have been difficult for my immediate family, with more than our fair share of divorce, disease, death and a dozen other traumas that are not my story to tell. In the middle of piercing loss and anxiety, there has also been an overwhelming awareness of the love and prayers of others and a powerful conviction that God is beside us in every human experience if we let God in.

When my husband was diagnosed with incurable cancer six years ago, I mentioned to my then spiritual director that, I was astonished by the richness and immediacy of my experience of God’s everlasting arms in my intense grief. “But,” I said, “of course I ain’t seen nothing yet. He hasn’t really been ill yet, he hasn’t had all the brutal treatment.” “And what makes you think that God won’t be in those experiences just as much, waiting to meet you there?” she countered. 

She was right. Connecting deliberately and deeply with the big love that is God doesn’t shelter a person from any of life’s slings and arrows and the pain that goes with them. None. But in my experience, they come hand in hand with a heightened sense of God’s presence in every joy, every heartbreak and all the mundane moments in between.

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