Here in the UK we are now in the ninth week of lockdown. It has been a long haul and looking ahead there is much uncertainty. Many of us are beginning to realise and come to terms with the fact that we may not get a summer holiday, something that this year, more than any, seems particularly needed. I never imagined nine weeks ago when we had seven months of ministry and meetings cancelled, that my wife Killy and I would be busier now than at any other time during our forty years of ministry – the doors of opportunity have flung open and we are seizing them. The weeks are full and fruitful and occasionally we wonder, how long can we sustain this pace?
Today, prior to writing this, I had just returned from taking my next-door-neighbour’s funeral and, sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, I contemplated my friend’s life. I also pondered on three positive thoughts.
First, I think we need to remind ourselves of God’s grace in our lives. You see, there is the temptation to think of what we have as our own. We think of our time as our own, our property as our own, our lives as our own. But they aren’t. We don’t own our lives; we are merely tenants and the Landlord has a perfect right to give notice of eviction at any time and without warning. Everything we have and enjoy is something that has been given to us. As St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’ That is true of everybody in some sense, but it is particularly true for those of us who have put our faith in Christ. Paul again, writing in Romans 8:32, says, ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ So let’s not focus on the loss of what was never really ours to keep and instead give God thanks for what we have been given and enjoy it. That we have so many rich memories of times with family, friends and freedom is an act of grace from a God who gives freely out of love. Let’s rejoice in what we have, not grumble over what we haven’t. Let’s be grateful!
Second, I think we need to remind ourselves of God’s governing over our lives. Psalm 31:15 says, ‘My times are in your hands.’ One of the merits of this COVID catastrophe is that it has been a nudge in the ribs about how vulnerable we all are. That’s no bad thing: whenever we use the words ‘the Lord’ we should recall that it is an acknowledgement that God is in charge of all that we are and have. There are many Bible verses that remind us of this; for example, Job 1:21, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In the New Testament we read, ‘For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it’ (1 Timothy 6:7). In these difficult days, it’s absolutely vital to remind ourselves that God is in control. If you have put your faith in Christ, then you have not been robbed of good things by some evil power, you have instead had your access to them restricted by a heavenly Father who intends good for you. In these days of isolation many parents are wisely limiting the time children spend in front of screens: they are doing it not out of malice or because they want to ‘rob’ their children, but for their benefit. So it is with God. He rules over us in love and acts for the very best of reasons: love. We need to trust him. Let’s be faithful!
Finally, I think we need to remind ourselves of God’s goodness for our lives. One of our weaknesses is that we focus on the here and now which, for most of us at the moment, is frustrating. But to borrow a phrase of politics and negotiation, God is ‘playing a long game’. His goals for us who have put our faith in Christ do not focus on providing temporary and limited blessings for today, but on ensuring that we are fit for tomorrow’s unlimited existence in the glory of eternity. Let’s be hopeful!
No, on reflection I do feel reminded of God’s grace, God’s governing and God’s goodness and I can live with that. Mind you, I wouldn’t say no to a summer holiday!
Revd Canon J.John