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Our relationship with God has gone to new depths

It’s easy to talk about faith in the pulpit, but the real test comes when you have to live it out, say Adam and Joelle Brian.

Adam Brian’s faith has been put to the test in the last few years. The associate minister at Formby Elim grew up in a Christian home, but recently his relationship with God has gone to new depths.

Brian’s daughter Helena was born with severe medical issues and had to have 30 operations shortly after her birth. Then, more recently, his wife Joelle had to have open-heart surgery.

It’s been a lot to manage for the couple – who are both 31 – but their faith in Christ is stronger than ever.

Adam says he clung to a famous Bible story to help him through the fiery trials.

“There is a really hard passage in Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are told they will be thrown into a furnace if they don’t bow down to the idol King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They answer the king, ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your majesty’s hand.

“But even if he does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Faith in an outcome is very different to faith in God despite the outcome!

“We found out last November that Jo would need surgery to correct a faulty valve in her heart. There were days leading up to the operation where I’d just find myself crying over a cheese sandwich or rehearsing through my head the best way of breaking the bad news to our children.

“For me, my faith was not in an outcome. I was scared of losing Jo and I don’t see that we always get what we want just because we really want it. The truth is that sometimes really faithful people die and it’s not easy.

“Of course, God can heal Jo and he doesn’t like to see his children suffer, but he is still good and faithful even if things don’t go how we would like.

“Remember the Lord was the fourth man in the fire – not the king who pulled them out.”

Jo survived her operation in May this year and says it was a complete success.

“As I was in the anaesthetic room before the operation I started discussing children’s names with the surgical practitioner. I told him that our son is called Barnabas and he mentioned that Barnabas is his favourite person in the Bible. Just before I went to sleep, he held my hand and told me he would be praying for me throughout the operation.

“It was such a comfort that God had provided someone to speak words of peace and encouragement to me. The surgery was successful. I can tell the difference already. I don’t get out of breath when lying down or carrying my two-yearold. My heart rate is still high and I get tired easily but nevertheless I can notice my improvement on a weekly basis.”

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Jo says God is able to use painful seasons of our lives for the good of others.

She says, “I now know what it is like to experience major surgery. I now fully understand the importance of visitors and prayer when someone is ill. I can talk of God’s goodness and love in a new way. I can talk of a journey through depression and anxiety in the run-up to the operation.

“God’s love shown through the words and actions of the people around us has been so apparent to us and I pray that I can bless other people in the way we have been blessed.

“I don’t know if there is a secret to how to keep your faith in hard times, but I have always tried to be honest with people around me. I don’t know how we would have coped if we didn’t have a church that treated us like members of their own family, not just leaders.”

The Brians’ latest trial was equally as daunting as when their eldest girl Helena, known as Nell, was born with a damaged oesophagus and needed 30 surgeries to correct it.

Adam says, “At just three days old she was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for surgery and spent the next six weeks recovering. It was in that situation that I really learned that suffering is a sad and inevitable part of the human race which prepared me for the idea that I have to hold everything I have with a very light grip.

“We could have lost Nell and I could have lost Jo but through all of that, Jesus is still on the throne.” Jo adds, “I became serious about my faith as a teenager when I joined a youth group. My dad died when I was ten and my mum set a very firm example of unwavering faith in God during difficult times. I saw God provide for us on many occasions.

“When Helena was born, I didn’t pray for six months; I let everyone else pray and I ignored God. Now I can see that he has been with us all the way through and will continue to be.

“Helena is such a blessing to everyone around her and faces her challenges with incredible bravery. Challenges arise regularly but we navigate them as a family with the support of the wider family and friends.”

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