I’ve recently started a new job in which I’ve been tasked with helping people share their ‘lived experience’ of a circumstance they find themselves in.

Lived experience brings a perspective that theory alone cannot, the ‘what does this look like in reality’–ness of something.

Several years ago, in my late 30s, I was widowed and left to raise a toddler alone. Throughout previous life challenges, my faith had strengthened me to focus on the wider purpose and growth such trials can bring.

Death was different, however.

The finality of its catastrophic effect was (and remains) too far reaching to wrap up in a neat life lesson and move on from. Suffering tests the foundations of our faith in asking questions of us that require authentic soul-searching.

What does God’s faithfulness, trustworthiness, and goodness look like in the face of significant personal challenge, for example?

It’s one thing to have these answers in the sunshine, quite another to understand them in the storm. Lived experience becomes the litmus test for one’s own, and the broader theology.

It was through meditating on Christ’s suffering that I began to reshape my understanding of pain, to see that it can, paradoxically, birth great soul strength.

Whilst I long to change what has happened, I am at the mercy of the same broken world Christ was and I am learning, through witnessing the transitory nature of what I treasure most, that valuable change goes beyond my circumstances and serves to change me.

Stella, Ulverston Parish Church