Boris may have promised us Christmas, but nothing feels certain at the moment. Concious that many of us are struggling with the idea of potential lockdowns, restrictions and the risk of illness, author Kate Patterson reminds us that, while the world is uncertain, God’s love isn’t.
Have you ever climbed a hillside in a storm, when the grass is like pondweed, the path is squelchy mud and your foot slips. The Psalmist says: ‘When I said my foot is slipping, your love O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.’ (Psalm 94:18-19). I love this Psalm because there have been times in my life when it has felt like my footholds have been washed away.
We live in uncertain times when our old footholds no longer hold firm. Omicron is yet another reminder that a microscopic virus can destabilise us. What will this next wave of Covid bring? Will it be serious? Will there be yet more loss? Will the NHS be overwhelmed? Should I cancel my plans? A dear friend just messaged me to say that her nephew has Covid and her sister has cancer. Life can be heart-breakingly unpredictable.
Omicron comes on top of all the other uncertainties of life. The world is changing with scary speed and the way ahead is murky. Brexit is still not settled. Politics is angry. Old authorities no longer carry the same weight. Whether it’s government, the police, the church or even the BBC - for many, trust has been compromised. The old guard is changing. As if that isn’t enough, we’re living through a technological revolution, global shifts and the fear of climate change. We are coping with a transitional world and change is uncertain and uncomfortable. No wonder we are in an anxiety epidemic.
It is for exactly these times that we have the promises of God: ‘When I said my foot is slipping, your love O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.’
These verses have meant a lot to me following the loss of my husband, not least because they allow us to express those moments where we feel as if everything is slipping away – and instead we find that God is beside us to catch us.
I’m struck that God promises that we will be comforted, not necessarily comfortable, peaceful not storm-free, hope-carriers not immune to disappointment, joy-filled not escaping all life’s sorrows. I’m most likely to slip when I make the mistake of thinking it was all supposed to be easy, when I absorb culture’s lie that the aim of life is to feel good, that if something makes me feel good, then it’s right. That’s not Christianity – there are no promises of ease; there is a promise of a Cross. Jesus told us we will face trouble.
BUT and this really matters – Jesus didn’t stop there, he continued: ‘Take heart, I have overcome the world!’ (John 16:33). Here, right in our troubles, in our worries, God wants to meet us, to hold us secure with his love and to bring us deep joy.
In all life’s uncertainties, there is certainty to be had – the certainty of God’s great love, shown us in the most glorious way in the greatest gift of all – the gift of his own Son, the ultimate reassurance that we can know and rely on his love.