Difficulties in life will either drive us away from God or they drive us deeper into his arms. The worst part of suffering is the damage it can do to our view of God, our relationship with him. Feelings of abandonment creep in: Why did he let this happen? Anger. A loss of hope. Mistrust. At the very time you need him most, you will feel most compelled to pull away from Jesus, or feel that he’s pulled away from you.
There is a popular theology out there that says that a Christian can avoid suffering. (Most of us have unknowingly embraced it—simply notice your reaction when life turns on you.) It is cruel because suffering will come, and then what will you do? It shakes your faith in God because you thought it wouldn’t come and shouldn’t come.
I am reminded as I write this of these words from Isaiah 43:2,“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
God doesn’t promise us that life will be a bed of roses. He promises us that we will know what it is to suffer, we will go through fire and water as Isaiah puts it, but we do not do so alone – “I will be with you”. Many times in my life I have been conscious of the truth of this promise just at the time when things have seemed to be darkest. Sometimes that has been through an external sign or coincidence (God-incidence?), at others through an inexplicable sense of a peace that passes understanding. A few years ago I was in intensive care, fighting pneumatic and sepsis, and needing help to breathe. A desperate situation and yet the sense of God’s presence and peace in that place was tangible. Even the staff noticed it.
We have a choice. We can let suffering drive us away from God or it can lead us to depend on him more deeply as we look to him for comfort and strength. Jesus doesn’t promise us an easy life, but he does promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). Will we let the challenges of this time drive us away from God or drive us deeper into his arms.
Yours with much love in Christ,Jonathan.
Here is this weeks news….
Online Alpha got off to a great start this week and it’s still not too late to sign up. We meet via Zoom, start with a video talk and then discuss. If you have any questions please contact Jonathan (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01865 863702) or to sign up go to cumnor.org/alpha/
Sunday Service Online
This Sunday’s online service is led by Jonathan with Chris Scruby preaching and another special appearance from the St Michael’s Church Choir. It will be online at 10:30am on Sunday 19th April, https://cumnor.org/sunday-service-online-26th-april-2020/, or you can listen in by phoning 01865 920993.SelfiesThank you to everyone who has sent in a selfie.I have put together a slideshow of everyone and you can see the first results in this Sundays online service.If you’d still like to take part in this please will you send a selfie (a digital photo of yourself) to Sarah at email@example.com? We just need your head and shoulders in shot. Think passport photo but definitely more smiley than thatWe’ll need lots of you to join in for this to work, so don’t be shy!
Coping – family life during lockdown
Research shows that the stay-at-home and social isolation guidelines are putting huge pressures on family life. This helpful guide has been put together by a range of agencies including the local NHS, local authorities and the Berkshire West Safeguarding Children Partnership.
New Podcast from Bishop of Oxford
Bishop Steven has begun a regular series of reflective podcasts aiming to resource the Church in this period of lockdown. The first is an exploration of Psalm 1: Like a tree planted. Details here: https://anglican.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=14501d5eebc3e98fa3015a290&id=280834de34&e=2c2b33ffdf
Death and Life resources
Do take a moment to check out these resources for living well in the light of mortality. Includes course materials, Bible studies and meditations. https://www.deathlife.org.uk/
Following their recent resignations, Jean and Roland’s term as church wardens comes to an end today. I’d like to thank them for their willingness to serve and the good things they have contributed to our parish life. We will elect new Churchwardens at the time of the APCM which we hope to hold in September or October, restrictions permitting.
Borrow a pew bible?
Would anyone like to borrow a church bible? They are just sitting in church and it may be someone would actually like to read more, but either only has their presentation KJV in tiny script or none at all. We can deliver them to your doorstep (observing appropriate distancing and hygiene etc). Please ask your home group members and other contacts as well! Ring 01865 861541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Please pray for
- Those on the frontline in NHS and care homes.
- The families of Marjorie and Brian Tomkins, and Shelagh Roberts who have all recently passed away.
- All the key workers and their families.
- Our PM and the government
- School teachers and pupils as they continue to adapt to learning from home.
- All those feeling lonely and isolated.
- All those who are ill.
Vicar of Cumnor