Sadly, it has nothing to say about surviving Brexit, a pandemic, or the rising cost of living. It seems that in the last few years, we have bounced from one crisis to another, and things seem to have gone from bad to worse even as I write, the press is already talking of a winter of discontent marked with industrial action on a scale not seen since the late ’70s.
But I am oddly comforted by these times we find ourselves living, not least because I see them as a fulfilment of scripture. Scripture demonstrates the fragility of this sinful world; it reminds us that when we place our faith in humanity and sophisticated systems built on a foundation of sand, it could all be wiped away in an instant.
Bear Grylls was 22 years old when he climbed Everest, and that was after having been told by doctors, only a few years before, that he would likely never walk again, having had his back broken in a parachuting accident. In his book, ‘Facing Up’, he recounts the planning that went into preparing to climb the summit and the doubts he had about whether he could do it. But also, in his mind, he knew that not everyone who climbed Everest came back. While ascending Everest, he had his brush with death, and on his return to base camp, he wrote in his journal, “The more time I spend here (Everest), the more I believe the only way to survive is to stay close to Jesus.”
The Bible has many words of assurance for God’s people when life gets tough, and one of those passages can be found amid the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5, where Jesus reminds us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I like how Peterson paraphrases this verse, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” It is precisely at times like this that we realise our need for God; at times like this, we can become living testimonies to God’s faithfulness.
Daniel 3 tells the story of three young Hebrew men who remained faithful to God despite death. They were cast into a fiery furnace when they refused to cooperate with the demand to worship an idol. While we are told of the bravery of these three men, it is the testimony of those who witnessed that bravery that stands out, and it is as much their story as it is of those three young men.
With every crisis comes opportunity, and God has called us not only to share the Gospel with our communities, but He has also called us to a life of service to the world in which we live. We have a remarkable opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives throughout this crisis by helping the vulnerable and feeding the poor. I pray that as we embrace this crisis, we will do it in a manner that befits a disciple of Christ.
Douglas McCormac is the Executive Secretary of the South England Conference