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Despair to Hope: Guest post by Jo Acharya and giveaway

I’m thrilled to welcome Jo Acharya to the blog today, to talk about her new book, ‘Refresh’, and the story behind it. Jo’s words are close to my heart because we both suffer from lung disease, and this very much colours our experience of life. Refresh is a great devotional for those looking for something that is both real and hopeful – see my review at the end of this post for more.

Over to Jo!

Jo Acharya

“Lord, you’ve let me down,” I said out loud through my tears.

I was standing in my bedroom at the end of a long day. My lungs were struggling once again, and two courses of antibiotics had failed to shift the latest infection. I knew that a hospital admission was just around the corner. Yet again I would be ripped out of my normal life and all my plans for the next few weeks would go up in smoke. Yet again I’d prayed and prayed, and it had done no good.

I have cystic fibrosis. Lung infections and hospital stays are par for the course. But I’ve never really managed to get used to it. It knocks me off balance every time.

As I stood sobbing in my bedroom, I immediately thought: That was too far. I shouldn’t have said that. I’d been a Christian long enough to know that God hadn’t let me down at all. He had given me so many blessings that I didn’t deserve. And he had never promised that life would be easy. I was here to serve him, not the other way round. I had no right to be angry.

We often tread this path, don’t we? We who know our Bibles well, who hold on tight to God and his goodness. In times of trial we so quickly turn on ourselves like Job’s friends. We chastise ourselves for the theological inaccuracies in our cries to God. We trample over our emotions with corrective statements about the truth. We chide ourselves that he is sovereign, and we are dust.

There is a route to hope that is honest and healthy, but this is not it. This is the spiritual equivalent of sweeping discomfort under the rug. And if there’s one thing I have learned from the great story told through the Bible, it’s that God is not looking for yes-men. Time and again, he chooses the ones who question him, the ones who complain and even accuse him. The ones who don’t hold back, who show him who they really are.

There is a route to hope that is honest and healthy, but this is not it. This is the spiritual equivalent of sweeping discomfort under the rug.

Jo Acharya

Dealing with emotions and relating to God in suffering are two of the topics I write about in ‘Refresh’. In one section we explore the journey of Psalm 22, slowly building from despair to hope as David pours out his unfiltered heart to God. The first half of the song reads like a tug of war between David’s intense anguish and his confidence in God’s faithfulness. Gradually, his spirits are lifted as he reminds himself of the truth and eventually feels that God has heard his cry. But this is a process, a conversation. It’s not sweeping our pain under the rug but bringing it into the light of God’s creative presence, trusting him to sift the good from the bad and reshape us into something new.

Back in my bedroom, I settled under the covers and reached for my copy of The Message Bible. I had been reading a few chapters each night and my place was marked at Psalm 42, another of David’s famous laments. In verse 9 I was startled to see my own words echoed back to me:

‘Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
            “Why did you let me down?”

And just like that, I felt heard. Known. God hadn’t healed me; he hadn’t delivered me from the infection or the weeks of treatment that would follow. Instead, he had descended to sit with me in my pain. To remind me that he gets it. And that it’s always okay to tell him how I really feel.

Reading the Psalms shows us that honest expressions of sorrow, anger and disappointment with God are not only allowed, but sacred. Nothing is off-limits in our relationship with him. This place of shouting and weeping and pleading is where he meets us, comforts us, challenges us and transforms us. This place where we bring our whole selves before him, where we beat on his door and crumble in his arms – this is holy ground.

"Reading the Psalms shows us that honest expressions of sorrow, anger and disappointment with God are not only allowed, but sacred. Nothing is off-limits in our relationship with him." Guest post and giveaway of an amazing new… Click To Tweet

Jo Acharya is a writer and music therapist from Sussex. Her first book, ‘Refresh: a wellness devotional for the whole Christian life’ is available from all good bookshops and includes beautiful photography by her husband Dan. Jo and Dan help to lead a small group at their church for adults with additional learning needs. You can find more of Jo’s writing on her website, valleyofsprings.com, including her regular blog and an ‘easy read’ section with Bible studies and other resources for people who find reading hard.

Thank you so much to Jo for this honest post. It really did resonate with me and much of my own experience of living with lung disease, and I know it will with many of you, too. Here’s my review of Refresh:

So many of us find it difficult to find the time and energy to spend time exploring scripture and allowing it to feed our souls. As a person with long-term illness, I have found that ‘Refresh’ is a collection of reflections that gives me space to be with God within my daily pain. It is a delight: gentle, honest, and hopeful. The reflections can be taken at differing paces, with flexibility for those of us who struggle. It’s a devotional with a heart for wellbeing, and it admits the pain and grief in life while pointing us toward the light and truth to be found in Jesus. With content based around subjects like rest, belonging, struggle and celebration, it is a well-rounded and beautifully presented book, with images that will soothe your soul and words that will console and nourish you at every level. Highly recommended.

You can get hold of Refresh here on Amazon or here on Eden, or ask in your local Christian bookshop. Jo is also very kindly giving away a signed copy to one of my readers here today – all you have to do is sign up to my mailing list below (I promise not to bombard you with emails, you’ll get a free gift and then the odd newsletter), or if you’re already signed up just drop a comment below.

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2 Comments

  1. Danni James

    I am definitely putting the book Refresh on my want list as looks like you can meet God where you are, raw and real rather than meet God on your good dayswith Lippy on and freshly ironed clothes as that is unrealistic and forced.

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