Faith Under Pressure – A Counsel Culture Podcast

The last couple of years of rapid change and disruption have left many believers feeling disoriented and in a state of bewilderment. On this Counsel Culture podcast hosted by the Australian Institute of Family Counseling, Rev Dr Graham Hill will outline ways to grieve well in this season as your faith, under pressure, provides new opportunities for spiritual transformation and renewal.
Facing grief and loss
Rev Dr Graham Hill is no stranger to grief and loss. Prior to becoming the principal of Stirling Bible College, Graham worked for over 20 years as a pastor and church planter and has counseled many during times of distress and difficulty.
Graham has observed that the pandemic and the events of the last few years has been a double edged sword for many Christians. On one side there has been an experience of loss, grief, rapid change and trauma. However, as Graham points out:
“It’s been a period that many Christians have had to think very deeply about: How do we contribute to the world? What is really important? How do we live as people of hope and expectation?”
This time of individually and collectively re-evaluating the purpose of life has required a level of soul searching as Christians ask what is to be people who not only know the crucifixion but also be keenly aware of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that this brings to the world.
The pandemic has stopped many in their tracks, where the treadmill of materialism and the pursuit of wealth has been put on pause and many Christians are asking how they can make a difference in the world with so much need. Graham suggests the key to true transformation is becoming intentional about grieving our losses.
Lamenting around a dinner table
While Graham points out, Westerners are not good at pausing or lamenting well, there are many resources found in Christianity that believers can rely on to navigate this season.
“There’s a long tradition of lament within Christianity. We see it in the Book of Lamentations and in the Psalms and in some of the stories of the Old Testament.”
The people of God have a long tradition of stopping, reflecting, repenting and lamenting the past of the evils of the past and then seeking to change. This requires facing our mistakes and grieving our loss which is transformative and healing.
Graham unpacks four aspects of lamenting well: acknowledging the way things need to change; asking God to change our hearts; committing together to repentance, prayer and walking in new life together and in the world. Graham leads small groups in writing communal laments, or as he calls it “Table laments” that are done over an authentic communion of heart and minds over food. Graham has co-authored a book with Grace Ji-Sun Kim “Healing Our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World” where he has developed a whole chapter of how to write a lament in a small group so that you can in a constructive way acknowledge pain and loss.
Grieving our losses well
Graham refers to the faith journey of theologian Emmanuel Katongle, who was a survivior of the Rwandian Genocide to illustrate the importance of allocating a period of time to process pain and trauma. Katongle had to face the aftermath of the violence of the Hutus and Tustsis who were notionally Christians before they massacred each other. While the healing of the Rwandan Church has been a wonderful success, the renewal couldn’t have happened without the process of working through the pain and loss. In reflecting on the writings of Katongle, Graham observes,
“Reconciliation, healing and new life require a period of grief and lament. We often too quickly move to solutions without recognising how grief, lament and repentance are the foundation often for new life.”
If we don’t lament well, we put at risk the new season we move into. Graham suggests that one of the roles of Christian ministry is to help people to understand what God is doing in that messy middle. Just like the Israelites who came out of Egypt, the pandemic has made many believers face the messy middle where they become more aware of their need to let go of worldly attachments, and find a new way to live in the world as witnesses for Jesus.
Graham contends that it is in the desert of our faith that we develop a deep sense of identity. But there is also the risk, Graham warns of feeling lost in the wilderness. He explains,
“When people are in the desert experience, they often feel that they are nowhere. They have lost their identity, they’ve lost their direction, they’ve lost their hope.”
Transition expert William Bridges says the role of leadership is to say “We are not nowhere, we are now here.” This requires being present with people who are in the messy middle of a desert experience or major life transition, helping them to see that God is preparing them for the next stage of their lives as they journey towards renewal, fresh identity and a discovery of who they are in Christ.
Don’t move out of the desert too quickly
Often during a period of grief, you face feelings that are confronting and uncomfortable and you may be tempted to rush the process. Graham identifies the rollercoaster of emotions one experiences during rapid change and loss. The desert experience of moving from certainty through uncertainty, denial to blame and anxiety can make anyone feel like you are in limbo. However, giving space to properly grieve is vital, as Graham phrases it,
“Let the desert do its work.”
Graham observes that unless people can make a real ending, they will be unable to make a successful beginning. Waiting on God and sensing His presence can help believers to discern God’s horizon of good news, God’s shalom. It is in this place, Graham suggests, that hope emerges.
To listen more to Rev Dr Graham Hill on Counsel Culture, download the podcast here.
About Rev Dr Graham Hill

Reverend Associate Professor Graham Joseph Hill has served as Director of Research at Stirling Theological College (University of Divinity) since July 2019 and as Principal since February 2020. Prior to his coming to Stirling Theological College, Dr. Hill served in Baptist theological colleges in Australia from 2004–2019 in roles including senior lecturer, Vice Principal, and Provost. Dr Hill is the author of numerous books and articles. His books include Global Church (IVP Academic), Healing Our Broken Humanity (IVP), Salt, Light and a City (Cascade, two volumes), Holding Up Half the Sky (Cascade), and Hide This in Your Heart (NavPress).