“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.Romans 5:3-5
“How long must we hold on? How much more can we bear?” The common cries of those in crisis. Questions that demand answers, go unanswered. In times like these the uncertain resort to prayers to the God they have thought little about. “Please God!”, “If you can hear me God”, “Heal my mum”, “Don’t let my friend die”.
Realising our own mortality, the tenuousness, the thinness of life, touches our spirits and shakes our certainty and faith in life itself. The optimists continue to look forward to better times but the realists remind us that even something we cannot see, can take a life, can fill our hospitals and can bring normality to a stop.
My heart breaks, when I hear of people dying alone, as my Mum did, she, not from covid, but yet it troubles me still. The pressures faced by those working to save lives, in hospitals and the community go far beyond that which a reasonable person may expect another to work under, and yet we need them to keep working. They are at the ‘front line’, they are our saviours, persevering in the place between the living and the dead.
The hope of many is placed upon the promised vaccines. Protection, safety, normality comes through the point of the needle, but the queue is long and the wait uncertain. “When I get my vaccine, I will be alright!” But I am not sure that that is true. The Health Service serves the nation, not just the individual, this is a national and an international emergency. We will be ‘alright’, but this will be when everyone who needs a vaccine has received it and the chance of our passing it on to another who is not immune recedes.
And in the meanwhile, another winter’s day dawns, and we are faced with the day ahead. Do we hide ourselves away, keep our heads down, stay safe and hope that time will pass? Do we do our best to carry on ‘as normal’, as if anyone can remember what ‘normal’ is like? Do we try our best to work within, work around the rules? Reasoning that we will be ok, though reason says that the reverse may be more true. Do we ‘grin and bear it’, ‘making do’ as older generations did in the past, though our grins may look more like grimaces.
In a time when many choices are taken away from us, we do still have the choice, to choose how we will face the day, even though that choice may involve no contact with another human. To make this choice well, however, some help, some guidance from someone else who has been there would be good. It might help us feel less alone.
At the start of each day, my habit is to reach for, and to read some words from my bible. It has been said that the bible was written by people going through hard times, for people in hard times, and I am certain that is true. In it there are letters written by prisoners, songs written by outcasts and visions of the future seen by refugees. They cry out with us, “How much longer, how much more must we bear?”.
The first followers of Jesus, spent long periods in prison, exile and under house arrest. They knew the pain of state sanctioned brutality and of isolation, kept from family and friends. But they talk of something better than just, ‘getting through’. They tell us of a hope, not just for the future, but a hope that can change today.
No less than 32 times in the New Testament alone do we read the words perseverance, endurance and patience, together speaking of a hope filled, cheerful, constancy seen as a mark of character. Peter, James, John, Luke and Paul together exhort us to persevere, knowing that the ability to do so is a gift, itself from God.
The Bible tells us that in Jesus, God has not left us here to suffer, death and despair in isolation. He tells us that this world, as we experience it now, is not as it was at its start, nor how it will be again in the future. It tells us that we are individually and collectively, loved and valued, beyond any value we can see in ourselves. It says that for those who give up our fight for independence and instead who realise that God has made provision for all our failures, there is a better ‘here and now’ and a better still, life beyond the death we once feared.
It is this hope, this certainty, active today, that allows us to persevere. To keep going, to keep striving for good things, to use our days well and to carry the pain that we are feeling because we are being constantly strengthened by the one who walks through life beside us. He is the one we know who has suffered far worse than what we face even now.
May I then encourage you today to persevere. To keep holding on, and to keep bearing up. It may not change our circumstances but we might find ourselves changed, as we hope for better things in the future and for some joy today.
Below is a song which I pray will inspire and lift you!
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