Mel's Online Book Club: When We Can't, God Can By Catherine Campbell

Posted at 13:51pm on 9th March 2017

When We Can’t, God Can by Catherine Campbell was the book under discussion when we met for Book Club last night.  Having met Catherine on several occasions at Christian Resources Together conferences at Swanwick, I was not surprised to see how well her lovely, caring personality came across in the content, nor the warmth with which her style of writing was received by the group.  There were many positive comments on how she brought Old Testament stories to life, as well as those of modern day, and we all agreed that story, rather than didactic teaching, has so much value.

WALKING IN DARKNESS

The book’s title, and the topics it raised, are so relevant for today!  Beginning with the subject When we walk in darkness, we saw, in the story of Dan’s blindness (later healed by Jesus), the atrocious manner in which disablement was viewed back in those times, and asked ourselves whether that attitude still prevails.  Sadly, it does!

One member, who works with disabled children, spoke of the condemnation of those who view a tantrum thrown by an autistic child in a public place, when the child is labelled ‘naughty’ and the parent ‘inept’.  Much of this, we agreed, was ‘blindness’ in understanding – a situation which could and should be rectified.  I recalled an occasion when I was a Sunday School Superintendent, and arranged for a group of children with various disabilities to attend a family service, and then lunch, individually, with the families from our church.  The look of fear and horror on the faces of the Sunday School children’s parents as they took our little visitors home, was replaced with friendship and joy at the end of the day, when they’d got to know them.

Likewise, the modern story in the book, of a girl caught up in spiritual blindness in her interaction with Mormon faith was enlightening.  Was it the love and understanding of Christians that won her over, we asked?  If so, how might we show love to those walking in darkness?

A TASK TOO GREAT

Gideon’s fleece, and God’s subsequent delivery of Israel from the Mideonites and the downfall of the God of Baal, incited the question as to whether we should be showing the same faith about ISIL?  Brexit?  Trump?  Why, we asked, does God allow so much violence, death and destruction?  How, when we’re told that Islam will far surpass Christianity in the UK within twenty years, and will be the largest religion in the world by 2070, should we react to immigration?  Has tolerance become a god in our nation?   Will compassion be our undoing?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t know – an issue that was raised in Jeff Lucas’ Bible reading notes this morning.  Like Gideon, we have to put out our fleece and put our trust in God.  Like the evangelist, Abhid, whose story Catherine told, who suffered terrible abuse in Kathmandu, (and the street evangelists arrested in UK last month) we have to persevere.

WHEN LIFE DEVASTATES and WHEN OUR SKILLS ARE INADEQUATE

I wept reading the story of the New Testament woman who sought Jesus’ help in healing her child, begging for the crumbs from under the table; and the modern-day woman who, having lost one baby, found that her second child has Progeria, an aging condition which meant that she would die in her teens.  The persistence and perseverance shown here by both were, we said, a lesson for us all.  We should never give up.

Similarly, we saw this dogged determination present in the story of Moses and Aaron.  The younger brother, with his speech impediment being told by the voice of God in the burning bush to speak with Pharaoh to secure the release of the Israelites from Egypt, earnestly sought the help of his older brother, Aaron.  And what we noted was the humility of the older brother who was willing to be his support.  Again, in the life of Karen, a young woman who, yearning to work in China, was turned down because she failed to make the mark, but whose obstinate refusal to accept that saw her succeed in the end.  Her determination saw her achieve top marks in her language exam.

WHEN MY LIFE IS NOT MY OWN

The final stories, of trafficking, slavery and prostitution, brought forth some interesting observations from Book Club members.  Why did some of the prostitutes who had been rescued by Christians from their masters, choose to return to a life of slavery?

The reason given in the book was that they found it too hard to have to make decisions for themselves and so preferred to be under the control of their masters.  Recalling the life of my middle daughter, a heroin addict for years, I could well understand the ‘attraction’ of a life-well-known, countered by a fear of the unknown.  Isn’t this why so many women, today, remain in abusive relationships I asked?  As I commented in my book, A Painful Post Mortem, my daughter’s return to drugs, each time she gave up, was akin to the parable of the house that was swept clean and left vacant, only to be re-invaded by a further seven evil spirits.  Unless we fill that space with the love of Jesus, there is no hope for the future. 

We finished with prayer: prayer that our eyes might be opened to look beyond the obvious; that our perception might be God’s reality; that we might see through the darkness. That we might know the reality of Catherine's concept: When we can't, God can!

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