As I write the Prime Minister has just set out a road map to come out of national lockdown with hopes for various stages in the easing of restrictions.
While this gives us hope for the future, if we are honest, many of us still feel anxious about what that future will hold: what will be the impact of this on our children’s education, what will job opportunities look like, what state will our finances be after all this? Added to this are concerns about people’s mental health with the onset of problems during these periods of isolation or maybe worsening of existing ones. The future is still not certain and there will be no immediate return to pre-Coronavirus ways of living.
So how can we have real hope in these uncertain times? I think we have learnt a hard lesson that things can change: significantly and suddenly. Previous generations have learnt this during times of war and we too have been learning this with the pandemic – a real shake up of everything. What have we been learning about where we place our hope, what we place our hope on and who we place our hope in?
Firstly, I think we have been learning that where we can traditionally place our hope i.e. in studying hard, working hard, getting good jobs, getting a large house and accumulating wealth, are not completely stable and can be shaken to the core - even some of the most secure jobs are now under threat. Society can change in an instant and for business owners what was once a secure place of income can suddenly change: for instance some in the hospitality industry have had to face massive changes with people now working from home – many of whom may continue to do so long-term. We have learnt that we cannot put our security in material possessions which are so subject to change. Psalm 46 (verses 1-2) in the Bible reminds us where we can put our hope: ‘God is a very present help in times of trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake’. Jesus speaks about having good foundations for our life – trusting in God – and that there will be troubles but that He will be with us in them.
Secondly, I think we have been learning the importance of looking out for each other and <span style="font-size: 1rem;">making sacrifices for each other. Many people have made sacrifices at this time e.g. not doing things we would like to do (visiting places & people) and continuing to serve in different ways (key workers). We have recognised and been reminded that if we just carry on as individuals or just look after our own interests then we all suffer e.g. if the poorest in our communities are not adequately cared for (through poor accommodation or having to go into work when they shouldn’t) then they are more susceptible to this virus which then has an impact on us all – our community is interlocked. We have learnt the importance of not being a ‘me first’ society in our church and community. In the Bible in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (12:26) he writes on the subject of community: ‘If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it’. Let’s express our hope in God in how we love each other.</span>
Thirdly, I think we have been learning to value people more. We have missed our contact with people and value them more as a result. I wonder if we can reflect this in how we treat people in future, in being more kind and tolerant. Society can be very harsh at times – just look at how people can be crippled mentally and emotionally through posts via social media. In the Bible (Colossians 3:13) it says, ‘Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another... just as the Lord has forgiven you’. These are the principles our faith is based on and give us hope in the midst of change, as we learn to value one another.
As we seek to have a genuinely hopeful future, can I encourage us to keep learning about where we place our hope, what we place our hope on and who we place our hope in, as we seek to trust in God, love our neighbour and value each other. If you would like to find out more do join us in our services – our Explore services in particular give opportunity to ask questions and learn about faith.