Be strong and courageous – do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I imagine that many of you are feeling rather fed up and despondent at the moment. If you are not, I apologise for the assumption!
However much we might acknowledge the reasons for the latest lockdowns, there is a sense that we are almost back to where we were four months ago … only this time the weather is cold and dreary, and we are dispirited and weary.
We’ve probably read a lot about how people respond to trauma (which is what this situation has been) and initially we saw a tremendous release of energy as we kept busy, phoning friends to keep up their spirits, supporting those who were isolating with their shopping and errands, and borrowing good ideas from other people’s creativity and innovations. Being busy was, of course, a natural response to the various needs we saw around us, but at the same time, it was necessary for us to be occupied in order to establish a routine and pattern to our day.
And perhaps we feel we did quite well!
And then, in August, we were able to take some little steps towards a more normal life, venturing into shops, even meeting friends in restaurants, and enjoying welcome visits from members of our families. Some of us had plucked up the resolve to attend church again, and appreciated the simple joy of being together in worship – even without the hymn singing! We tentatively began to think about how to live in this ‘new normal’, which didn’t feel normal at all. It felt very transitory and strange, but we were hopeful.
Now casual shopping trips and family visits and Sunday services have been stopped again – and we wonder how long it will be this time.
And it is at this point, when energy levels are depleted, that we need our resilience more than ever. We need to reach deep into our reserves and find that inner strength we never imagined we had.
It will be important to be kind to ourselves and thoughtful of one another. We probably need more rest than we are allowing ourselves. Time to read. To appreciate beauty. To sit with quietness.
Do you make lists? I find I have to – or I forget what I’m doing!
How about making a different sort of list…
Of everything you are thankful for
Of all your favourite people
Of your favourite songs
Of your best memories
One of my favourite passages of Scripture is the account in 1 Samuel 7 of Samuel calling the people back to God at Mizpah. He offered a sacrifice on behalf of the people, and offered prayers for them. Then verse 12 says: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’
Although the words are updated in later hymn books, in the Methodist Hymn Book version of the old hymn ‘Come thou Fount of every blessing’, this action is remembered in the words of verse 2, which says:
‘Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.’
In other words, Samuel reminded himself and others of the faithful presence of God by the setting up of a memorial – a stone in his case.
What I am encouraging us to do is to set up markers for ourselves to remind ourselves of God’s presence and strength ‘thus far’, so that we are encouraged to remain strong and unafraid in this strange uncharted territory.
It doesn’t have to be a stone memorial – just anything which will be a symbol of hope, and remind you of God with you. A candle in your window that you light each evening (away from the curtains, of course!), plant some bulbs to flower in January, put a Bible on the table beside where you sit, or some little item that has a meaningful association for you when you look at it, anything really, as long as it is significant for you.
We will come through this, but in the meantime, care for yourself, smile, phone a friend – or someone who needs one, rest, imagine, pray, notice joy, hold onto hope.
And finally….just a reminder that if you are in need of any kind, please phone me (01823 334854) or one of the stewards of the church and ask for help. We can arrange for shopping or prescriptions to be collected, or a listening ear, or have a chat, or share a supportive prayer. Don’t be alone and lonely. We are here to help.