Chapter 20 » 20.13

The source of our strength

There were three separate occasions when heart-felt disturbances called me back to prayer. One was entirely joyful: sitting up in bed early one summer morning nursing my week-old first child, looking out on the sunshine and being swept into a feeling of miraculous oneness with all creation and able to thank a real God with the whole of my being.

The second was in great contrast. The winter after my husband’s death, when I was physically stretched to the limit caring single-handed for six young children and emotionally in a state of bleak torpor, I came across Simone Weil’s Waiting on God and in a chapter called ‘The love of God and affliction’ recognised my own condition. I could not claim that I knew the worst that she, in her utterly clear and ruthless style, was describing, but it was near enough, and knowing that someone else recognised it brought a certain comfort. But most important, she showed a place for God in the shape of the crucified Christ, and part of my misery for some time had been the blank absence of any sense of the presence of God…

The third experience, some years later, concerned a friend who was extremely ill. She was one of the few really good people I had ever known, and I saw her in great distress. When I reached home from the hospital I went to my room and tried to lay myself alongside her suffering and bring us both before God. In the depth of affliction I had sometimes felt like Job; now I found myself wrestling like Jacob. This last episode began the process of break-up which led on by slow degrees to a time when I knew I had to try to pray again; not just in dire immediate need but as a basis for daily living.

Joan Fitch, 1980

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