Tuesday, 20 April 2021

When all feels lost, remember that God is beside you

THE coronavirus pandemic is putting everything to the test.

Almost every public institution is coming under immense pressure.

Medical services must cope with unprecedented demand. Care home providers are under enormous pressure. Public health officials have to predict how our health care system will cope.

Researchers are under increasing pressure to come up with tests and vaccines. School teachers are put on the spot planning for the safe re-opening of classrooms. Government advisors must recommend far-reaching decisions about social distancing and ministers have to manage the overall economic impact and keep the public informed and reassured.

Covid-19 puts every business to the test — facing drastically falling demand on the one hand and staff absence on the other.

Many directors must weigh up the legal, ethical and especially the relational demands on them as they make tough decisions about the survival of their organisation in a time of uncertainty.

The virus puts every household under pressure with multiple challenges — obtaining basic food supplies, accessing childcare if parents are called to work — making ends meet if someone goes unpaid.

Staying home together for a long time can itself increase tensions and strain relationships to breaking point.

We are being challenged in every way: the fabric of our society, our institutions our relationships, the quality of our leadership and the strength of our characters are all being put to the test. This is a time that is unprecedented in modern history.

One of the key areas in which we are stretched is in our mental and spiritual health. It is crucial that we own what we feel and experience. This almost certainly includes anxiety, fear and a sense of bewilderment.

For many there is a looming sense of grief and loss, not just bereavement for people losing a loved one to the virus, but also for those who are facing the loss of a job, a business, the stress of a broken relationship. Almost everyone is facing a huge challenge to the basic securities of life.

The Bible offers great encouragement to personal faith in time of crisis. One of the best-known psalms is Psalm 23. It begins “The Lord is my shepherd.”

Amidst the uncertainties of life and in the face of death, the last enemy, we all need the help of someone greater than us. King David, who wrote the psalm, wrote from experience. He had been a shepherd in his youth, and he knew God as the One who was “his shepherd”.

Through his life, God had been a guide and provider for his basic needs (just as shepherd’s lead their flocks to fresh pasture and clean water), and he knew that God would also be close beside him (and any who trust in God) when we pass through even the darkest “valley of death”.

Where we might feel most vulnerable and helpless — even hopeless — what shines through this psalm is the confidence the psalmist offers. He knows we need not be alone, at the mercy of our fears, because God has promised to be a guardian and protector.

We may feel huge anxieties. We may even “feel” our prayers bounce back off the ceiling, but the character of God remains constant and dependable. He gives us a secure hope and confidence.

David also knew that death was not the end because God, who had been his shepherd throughout his life, had promised him eternal life, “I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”

As we face huge uncertainty it is good to know there is someone who we can count on to be dependable whatever we may face.

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