Wednesday, 12 May 2021

I’m counting my blessings to help get through crisis

“COUNT your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done ...” It’s an old song, and even older advice.

Part of the world of suffering and struggle is to relate the bad times to the rest of life and to faith if you have it. There is still goodness, beauty, truth and love around even if you can’t currently feel them very clearly at the moment.

There has been joy in your life and there can be again — beyond the grave if not before it — misery is not eternal. This is what some of us celebrated at Easter — the hope of the resurrection. Death, disease, doom and gloom are not all, though you cannot at the moment see beyond them.

So in the meanwhile, I’m counting blessings — what are they?

Above all people: family, wife, children — how can they can bear incarceration with me? But they do! It’s a miracle in itself. Friends who keep in touch, who will listen to me as I listen to them. Church — we can’t meet at the moment except online, but we are very definitely in touch and watching out for those likely to be struggling.

The carers — most certainly NHS staff and those employed in social care — I’ve been out clapping with the rest on Thursday evenings, but also the wonderful Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group, Nomad and the foodbank.

There are the good neighbours doing their best for those near them, those who pick up the phone and ring someone they fear might be lonely, pick up shopping, walk dogs. Mostly unseen, doing their good by stealth, there are the “systems people” who keep the water flowing, the power turned on, supermarket shelves supplied and stocked up, the bins emptied, law and order maintained, the good folk in local and national government.

Mostly we take them for granted, they are small cogs in huge machines, but we owe them a lot. And, last but by no means least, there’s you, dear reader. The good folk of Henley and far beyond doing their best to limit the spread of covd-19 by standing back and staying in. It’s frustrating, at times boring, but you are doing it and we all benefit.

I’m especially grateful for those who give a nod and a smile or even risk a socially-distanced greeting when we pass as I’m taking my daily constitutional. They and many more are genuine blessings.

People are marvellous aren’t they? No more so than when we are all in trouble. Yes, there are pools of panic and paranoia, swamps of selfishness, stagnant ponds of idiocy around, as always, but oceans of kindness, concern and thoughtfulness.

It reinforces my faith in the old Bible teaching that people are made in the image of God. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that you can see that image most clearly in Jesus. He could be stern in his truthfulness, angry against wickedness and hypocrisy, but when he was not just locked down but literally nailed down, he was kindness itself.

Look again at his words on the cross: About those who were crucifying him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” To the dying thief: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” To his family and friends: “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” In his agony: “I thirst.” To God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (But to whom is he talking?) In trust: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And at the end: “It is finished.” Not just a trial endured but a battle won — the struggle against bitterness, fear, anger, despair won by faith, hope and love.

We can win too!

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