When Faith Gets Shaken
We all go through painful times but sometimes things get so hard we're not sure where God is or what he's up to. For Patrick Regan, there was pain, illness and loss in his family and community. Then he faced a series of excruciating operations that took him to the brink physically, emotionally and spiritually. Writing during his journey of recovery, Patrick takes an honest look at how we find God in these times of suffering. He wrestles with how we can know God s peace when life is anything but peaceful, what the true nature of courage is, how we allow ourselves the grace to rest when we're running on empty, and how we can stay fully present in the moment all so we can ultimately grasp the love of God at a deeper level.
Patrick Regan OBE works for 'XLP': XLP stands for “The eXceL Project”; a registered charity at the cutting edge of urban youth work in the UK. It was started by Patrick Regan in Peckham, South London, in 1996 after a stabbing in a school playground. They needed someone to speak to the kids and address the issues they were facing.
From the Foreward by Will van der Hart:
Church renewal leader John Wimber often said, "Never trust a leader who doesn't walk with a limp." I often smile when I see Patrick limp towards me when we meet for one of our regular prayer lunches, not because I like to see him in pain, but because Wimber’s words echo in my mind. I trust Patrick; his physical limp reminds me of the profoundly good character within him.
Leaders often look like they have a lot of friends, but ask them how many people they trust deeply and you will get a disappointing response. Competition, jealously, envy and projected self-image are all alive in leadership, both secular and Christian. Paradoxically the need to present oneself in a ‘victorious’ light as a Christian leader is far greater than within secular settings.
Most leaders fear revealing that their struggles are anything but conquered and tend only to offer testimonies that hark back to the ‘bad old days of their youth’, rather than the struggles they had this morning. All of this generates a perfectionistic culture that fails to give our leaders permission to struggle. At its worst we have seen the propagation of a wholly inauthentic ‘muscular Christianity’ model in some quarters of the church where, like the emperors new clothes, everyone pertains to be enjoying ‘victorious living’; free from doubt, fear and suffering.
I mention the paradoxical denial of suffering in the Christian life, since true biblical leadership is itself rooted in vulnerability and suffering. Ultimately we follow a Saviour who ministered for three years before being crucified, a Lord who wept at the magnitude of his own fate and one that makes an invitation for us to, ‘Pick up our crosses and follow him’ (Luke 9:23). The agony of Jesus own sense of abandonment in suffering, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me”, (Mat 27:46) is an authentic cry, echoed in our own lives in the face of incomprehensible suffering and loss. This is a book that simply gives a language to what we already know to be true.
One of the reasons I am excited to be writing the forward to this book is because Patrick isn’t like me. I get put into the ‘he’s a bit sensitive’ box, where you can relegate people who are into ‘emotional stuff’. Patrick, on the other hand, is a regular tough guy. He will be cross with me for saying it, but at the end of the day, his work speaks for itself: he has an OBE for his services to young people, he works on some of Britain’s toughest estates with some of its most brutal gangs. And, as you will read within these pages, he voluntarily had his own leg broken in multiple places, enduring excruciating pain in an operation with questionable prospects of success! Patrick cannot be written off, his story cannot be denied or patronized. It speaks for itself: doubt, suffering, fear, frustration and vulnerability are all part of the authentic Christian experience and are not simply the preserve of those with ‘little faith’.
The levels of vulnerability expressed in this book by Patrick and Diane, along with Andy, Liza and Hannah, demonstrates great courage. They give us an insight into some of the most private and painful struggles that any family or individual might have to bear. Patrick has nothing to gain by sharing this journey of suffering with us. He will undoubtedly face criticism: some will say he shows self-pity, others that he lacks faith or is discouraging. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I trust the man who (still) walks with a limp. These pages are not full of woes; they are full of biblical wisdom that has been refined in the furnace of experience. As a reader you are privileged to receive an insight into what truly great Christian leadership looks like; what it means to suffer in the body and still say, “Jesus is Lord.” Enjoy the journey and know that whatever you are limping through, ‘…your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
[from the forward by Will Van Der Hart]