Comfort and deep sorrow.

I am grateful that I live in a country where I have been able to have my two vaccinations against covid19. I know they should help prevent the virus affecting me severely in the future, and that is a great blessing.

However, I am also cognisant of the many millions of people in other lands, who have no access to effective medical care, never mind a vaccination programme. And it means I live in a state of comfort, but also great sorrow. Although sometimes I cannot bear to watch the news, I can still see the pictures in my heart of people struggling to get medical help for their loved ones, in hospitals that are overwhelmed. Their tears and cries of lament and despair are everywhere.

This is perhaps an empathetic response. It is the same with people diagnosed with cancer or other medical condition, and that feeling of shock and bewilderment. Or being aware of the cries of wounding and terror on battlefields, echoing throughout the years. Glencoe, however hauntingly beautiful, is a place where you are conscious of the massacre that took place there.

We have to self care, to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, as it says in Philippians 4:8, but we cannot forget the cries of those living on the margins, the sick, the lonely, the traumatised, the impoverished. These are people with names and stories, and they are hurting.

Feeling it is part of our humanity. How we respond us the next step? We might pray, for particular friends, groups of people or countries in need. We might choose to give to a charity that works there, or to encourage a friend who works on the front line. In some circumstances we might be called to raise awareness, or even to go there ourselves.

I love Christianity, as it is not remotely airbrushed. The Bible shows human nature for all it us, at times brutal and nasty, at other times courageous and self sacrificial, the best and worst of humanity nature. And on the cross, Jesus saw the worst of humanity the cruelty and callousness with which he was treated, and sins of the world. And yet he said ‘ Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.’ Luke 23:34 And he showed that love can overcome even the most awful malevolence.

We remember some of the words of Desmond Tutu: ‘goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness‘.

May these words minister to our souls.

Gracious and Everlasting God, sometimes it can all seem too much, the cries of the wounded and neglected and damaged. We are in danger of being consumed by sorrow. Yet Lord Jesus, by your life and example, You call us to transform that pain, into a strength to do what we can, to pray and love and act, to love mercy and to act justly. Holy spirit, forgive us when it is too much, and we just sit in a corner and howl. Please lift us up, and inspire us to get involved, and to be on the side of the angels, Amen.

After bereavement, who are we?

Intertwined reflections.

I used to think that once you lost some one you loved, that you were sad for a while, and then felt better. However often, grieving is such a complex process, and can be confusing and circular in form. You often seem to go round in a circle, rather than making tangible progress.

One of the things I struggle with, is about identity. Often in a marriage, you get to know the other person so well, you almost become one. And when the two people are no longer together, you can’t remember who you were beforehand. Another dimension can be if you are a carer, as your energy in in supporting your loved one, and your motivation and focus is their wellbeing. When that person is gone, you miss them profoundly. But you also can realise that you have then lost your self too. The simplest decisions seem too hard.

Part of the grieving process then, is allowing your wounds to heal, and then seeking space to find out what is left in who you are. It can be hard to remember, and the old ‘you’ is gone anyway. So I pray for God to refashion me into whoever I am meant to be now, a bizarre mix of genetics, memories, learning and likes and dislikes, limitations and scars.

We can work hard on trying to work out our new priorities, praying for inspiration, seeking wise counsel. Yet I think perhaps the best thing, is to pray for God to shape our lives, to remind us that He still has a purpose for us:

In Isaiah, the prophet writes ‘Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.’ Isaiah 64:8

At times that can be what we feel like- a clump of heavy mishapen clay. Yet God is not finished with us yet, and can use even our cracks and blemishes, to make something beautiful. Though His spirit, may we each find our God given identity as His beloved child, and have courage to live in this truth, and to find our way forward.

Gracious God, You tell us in Your Word, that we are made in your image, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Help us remember this when have many questions, and we feel lost and disorientated. Lord Jesus bring healing to us, and in time help us rediscover our true self. In this season of Pentecost, may your Holy spirit bring life to dry bones, so that we might live again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

After the rain……

Black clouds and then ethereal beauty.

I was fortunate enough to be away for a few days up north. I so appreciated the change from the normal frantic pace of life, to a time of space and light and rest. I was so blessed. The weather was often amazing, but there was a particular day when you could see the black clouds gathering up ahead. There was nothing I could do, but wait for the inevitable rain. The deluge was heavy and torrential and the puddles deep.

However, after the rain, it was magical. There is a softness in the light, and the whole of creation seems to be coated with a reflective shimmer, that adds brilliance to all things. It was magnificent.

Often we question why there is so much suffering in the world, so much heartache and pain. There are no easy answers to these profound wrestlings about meaning and purpose.

Yet often on our journey, we find that after the rain and the sorrow, we develop a patience and a softness to us, that we have learned in the midst of trauma and sadness. We learn what is important, and what really doesn’t matter at all.

The temptation when skies are dark, is to become overwhelmed, to doubt, to become full of self pity or resentment. Why has God allowed this to happen, we shout.

Yet, even in the darkest and coldest experiences, we discover the tender presence of Jesus alongside us, we find a flicker of light, an act of kindness that brings comfort and a deep sense of connection. And these moments transform all things, and help us trust that God is still good.

I was thinking of the verse from Leviticus 26:4 ‘ I will send you rain in season, and the ground will yield its crops, and the trees their fruit.’ Even the rain has a purpose, and can bring new life and growth.

Creator God, You have created a beautiful world of light and shadow, rain and sunshine, heat and cold. Every experience can have significance and purpose, and we learn from each one. Lord Jesus, you teach us that after the most terrifying storm, can come peace, and that after rain can come a deep calm and serenity. Whatever adversity we have faced, or are facing, may your holy spirit help us to find a deeper insight and new perspective, which brings us wisdom which we can share with others, and draws us closer to You, Amen.