This article was originally published in Edition (16) of Prayer Magazine, Jan 2009.

‘God Set Me Free’

by Sandra Smith

 Author, Christian speaker and charity worker Fiona Castle, OBE, is the epitome of calm and grace. Full of smiles, her self assured manner belies the time when, with so much self imposed pressure, her life reached a critically low point.

 At 35 years of age Fiona Castle had a loving husband, a wonderful family and a strong faith background. Yet, despite her many blessings, she was engulfed in depression. Finding it increasingly difficult to cope with life, and her impossibly high expectations, desperation overwhelmed her. One day the burden became so great she fell to her knees and prayed: ‘God, if you’re there, you’ve got to help me!’

 The Lord’s response was immediate - and life changing. As soon as Fiona had finished praying the telephone rang. Tamara, a friend of her sister’s, was on the line saying she‘d had an urge to call, sensing Fiona’s need to talk to someone. Although the two women didn’t know each other particularly well, they both recognised they were responding to God’s prompting. This became the most important event in Fiona’s life, the beginning of a new relationship with the Lord and the day she became a Christian.

Over the following week the two women met on several occasions, sharing thoughts and discussing faith, God and how He influences people’s lives.

 For Fiona it became a miracle. ‘It was like someone pouring healing oil over me, removing my tension’. Having always been a believer, gradually Fiona realised that going to church had become a ritual. God was still in her life, but this transformation of faith meant that she now had a relationship with Him. It was a revelatory change in attitude and took her faith to a deeper level which has dominated her life ever since.

‘God Set Me Free’ page 1 of 5 by Sandra Smith, sandra.smith81@btinternet.com

 Fiona was a dancer in variety theatre when she met her future husband, the entertainer Roy Castle. They married two years later. Roy was, Fiona affectionately recalls, ‘The loveliest guy in the world’. They each had a belief in God and when they moved to Buckinghamshire soon affiliated themselves with a local church. But as the family grew, Fiona had four young children to look after and, with Roy’s long absences on tour, particularly to the USA during their first years of marriage, she found her role increasingly difficult. She set herself unrealistically high standards, trying to create an idyllic home.

Ironically, as she strived to be the perfect wife and mother, Fiona was unknowingly putting her marriage under pressure.

At the time Fiona’s life changed, she didn’t rush to confide in anyone, not even Roy. Convinced her husband would think she’d gone mad, she tried to come to terms with this momentous event of new-found faith on her own. Yet within a couple of weeks Roy realised his wife was a different character: happier, relaxed and more content. When he asked what had happened, she revealed her miracle to him. He was overjoyed but joked ‘I’ve prayed for years that you’d become a reasonable woman!’ Fiona recognised that her prayer of desperation, and God’s response to it, had saved her marriage.

After God’s reaching out to Fiona, her main desire focussed on creating a cheerful atmosphere in the home. She believes that mothers are the key to happiness within a family. ‘If the mother is content, then everybody is happy’, she insists.

As Fiona’s life blossomed and she revelled in a calmer environment, she understood a most important lesson: ‘Never try to be perfect’.

Two years after becoming a Christian, Fiona was asked to speak at a local mother and toddler coffee morning. She panicked at the idea of public speaking and her immediate reply was ‘No!’ However, although apprehensive, she recognised this was God’s way of working in her life, so she prayed and asked for help in making the right decision. After a few days God guided her to say ‘Yes’.

Despite this affirmation, her first public speaking engagement was daunting. Terrified at the thought of addressing people, she hardly ate for days beforehand and was plagued with nerves. But Fiona knew she could trust the Lord. The talk went well and soon led to other, similar opportunities. She has since spoken at Christian gatherings all over the UK and her mission work now takes up much of her time. She insists that speaking is not a natural skill but considers it a gift from God. Unlike the previous Fiona whose rigid approach prevented her from developing, this one is open and willing to do His work.

When Roy became ill, their faith helped them deal with the devastating ordeal of his cancer. As Fiona prayed for help in how to deal with her husband’s illness, God told her to stand back and let Him be in control. It helped them both deal with the prognosis,  treatment and Roy’s death at the age of 62.

Fiona and Roy had been associated with various charities for many years and, after he died, Fiona was approached by several organisations in which her husband had worked to take over as their Patron. She was aware that the workload might be onerous, however, and initially limited herself to involvement with Cancer Research and Oasis Trust, a London based charity helping homeless people.

Then, a few years later, Global Care (reaching out to poor communities around the world) asked her to become their Patron. Fiona prayed for guidance but admits to accepting ‘Because I couldn’t think of an excuse not to’. Her role has been demanding with Global Care’s trips taking her to many under developed parts of the world. She finds these assignments ‘humbling’. Seeing adults and children living in extreme poverty affirms her many blessings, including those basics of having enough to eat each day and a warm bed in which to sleep.

More recently, Fiona has become a Patron, and champion, of Full Time Mothers  which encourages mothers to stay at home to look after their children. She passionately believes in the importance of the traditional role of motherhood, for which she feels God has equipped women, and is delighted to support their cause.

Four years ago Fiona received a letter informing her she’d been nominated to receive an OBE for her charity work. In her typically modest way, Fiona insisted such an accolade was totally undeserved and immediately sought guidance from her minister about how she should respond. After a lengthy discussion and much prayer, she accepted the honour.

Always mindful of the person whom God sent to help, and who nurtured her for several months after that initial telephone call, Fiona sent Tamara a card on every anniversary of her ‘birthday’ until she died last year. ‘She was always there for me’ Fiona recalls with fondness.

Fiona admits she has had a ‘fantastic life with wonderful opportunities‘. Since her desperate prayer thirty years ago she has allowed God to control her world. ‘I am where He wants me to be, wherever that is’ she vows. For Fiona, God’s response to her distress liberated her from self induced pressures. ‘God set me free to be what He wants me to be.’

 

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