Amy Brown, who lost her job in the Barilaro scandal, on navigating life’s catastrophe

Sydney Prayer Breakfast

A very practical application for prayer in a time of crisis was recounted by Amy Brown, who lost her job as a result of the attempt by National Party leader John Barilaro get a top job as trade commissioner for NSW in the US. at this year’s Sydney Prayer Breakfast.

Drawing on many “months of 5am walks”, Amy Brown told the prayer breakfast how being a believer made a difference in her very public catastrophe.

“‘When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers and sisters don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends.’ That’s James chapter one, verse two, Phillip’s edition . Now you’ll no doubt notice the sentiment of that verse is not ‘if you’re having a hard time, put up with it because you know it’s good for you.’ But ‘welcome trials as friends.’ So I thought I’d consider the role of prayer in times of trial and whether it’s even possible in the midst of our troubles to actually find peace. Now, I went through a time of trial last year. I’ll spare you the details except to say that early on I worked out I was gonna have to put my own words into practice all the speaking at school chapels and words of wisdom to friends and youth groups and Bible studies.”

She was put to the test about whether identity was based in being a high flyer. “If you looked at my life from the outside, you may well have gotten the impression that my job or my career gave me a sense of identity, satisfaction, and purpose. And that if that were compromised, I could very well fall into a heap. And maybe you can relate to that because there’s an element of truth in it. We’re called to work as though working for the Lord and we are made in the image of our God who works. So there’s a purpose to work. And I’m not limiting the definition of work to paid employment, by the way. It includes caring for kids and other loved ones serving at church…”

“Where do your true identity, satisfaction and purpose come from? Well, as it so happened when God put us all in a big timeout during Covid, he helped me re-anchor, quite possibly in preparation for what was about to happen, around what it means to be created by God in his image and loved enough to die for now. I didn’t deserve anything about that. None of us do. But that wonderful, never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love that the Bible talks about and that sent Jesus to the cross to take our place and had him rise again. Because, in the end, death never wins. That’s who we are at our core. So no matter what happens in this world, even if we lose our job, our true identity, satisfaction and purpose are unchangeable and unshakable because it’s based on Jesus and the very God who made us.

“And that changes everything about the ground we are standing on during tough times during my darkest point of 2022. And it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

But Amy Brown found there was one big question she could not duck: Why was God letting it happen? “We know that God has sovereignty over all things, and that includes the good things and the awful things. Nothing can happen to us by chance, but only with the divine arrangement of our loving heavenly Father. Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find that a comfort and sometimes I find that petrifying. But when I went back to what I knew, well, we know that God is good all of the time, but if God is always good, why would he choose affliction for us? 

“Well, I did a bit of reading and Lamentations 3 33 says that God does not afflict from the heart. Or another translation says that he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. So there’s almost a dilemma or a reluctance in him doing so. But you’ll remember Exodus 34 when Moses asked God to show him his glory, and Moses and God revealed himself to Moses so that Moses could only see his back, for mortals are literally incapable of absorbing so much light. And God proclaimed who he is. In this way, the compassionate and greatest God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin that is who he is on the edge of his seat, to love us and bless us and give us good things. And while he doesn’t desire affliction for us, he, as the perfect sculptor, is using those times to chip away at the bits of us that are not like Jesus. 

“He’s refining us like a precious metal.

“A very old-school 1787 hymn by John Rippon puts it this way:
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace or sufficient shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt the I only design
they draw to consume and thy goal to refine.

Brown concludes that life only makes total sense in reverse.

“What looks different on the other side? Well, I feel like I’ve let go of the misconception that we’re somehow in charge of our own destinies or writing our own stories. Because if I wrote the story, it’d be about a girl in a job, but it’d be in the form of a flimsy puppet show. But when God writes the story, it’s got its twists and turns but will turn out to be immeasurably better than anything we could ask or imagine. And the theme of God’s story is triumphant hope, the kind of hope where all things will be right in the end because God wins. Revelation 21 talks about no more death or mourning or crying or pain in us, drinking from the spring of life and God dwelling with us forever. And then everything will finally make sense. And faith in this life means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

Image: the Sydney Prayer Breakfast 2023 via Dominic Steele’s facebook